22 October 2013

Beer Growlers

My first beer growlers
Less than a year ago, my brother-in-law brought a glass jug to our house; I asked what it was and he said, "It's a beer growler."  I didn't think anything of it until April of this year when, at a pot-luck beer event I held, someone brought a beer growler.  I asked what it was and he said, "It's a beer growler."  I asked how he got it and he said that he got it filled at a local brewery.  
Beer growler that was a birthday gift

After getting into beer this year, I finally purchased my first beer growler(s) three months ago.  So what is a beer growler?  It is a jug (typically, two liters) that can be taken to a brewery and filled up.  It is called a growler, because, as the story goes, people would tote their beer growler with them and the carbon dioxide coming out of the jug would emit a growling sound.  Thus, it's called a growler.
(If you are interested in finding out more about beer growlers, here is an interesting historic perspective.)

Typically, the pricing for the amount of beer one acquires is cheaper than what one would pay for the same amount of beer purchased in bottles (or cans).  Now, the major drawback to filling up a beer growler is that it is best consumed within a day or two of its filling.  While there might be some people out there who are strict to follow this requirement, I will consume the beer even several days following its filling. 

I have since purchased another growler at a brewery that has a very lovely IPA and also received a growler of a local brewery as a birthday gift from my brother-in-law.  So, at this present date, I now have three 2-liter growlers (from different breweries) and a 1-liter growler.  I may decide to get a plain growler, since it can be used to fill up at multiple breweries.  However, at this time, according to California state law, beer growlers of one brewery are not permitted to be filled up at other breweries.  

I am glad to have discovered beer growlers and look forward to further growler fills!

17 October 2013

Star Wars Taking Over Tomorrowland? Definitely an Improvement

Tomorrowland may turn into Star Wars-land?
Being a regular visitor to Disneyland, we frequently ride in on the Monorail and stop off in Tomorrowland, visiting Buzz Lightyear's AstroBlasters, which is really fun.  Then we leave Tomorrowland, since there's nothing else that we enjoy in Tomorrowland (although I like going on Star Tours, because I am Star Wars fan, but it's not anything I can ride with my children (so I only ride it when I go to Disneyland for a midday break from work)).  One of the major disappointments with Tomorrowland is that it has the potential for so much great energy.  When you first come in from the circle (with the Partner's Statue), you've got AstroBlasters to your left and Star Tours to the right, and then you pass by the shutdown WED People Mover (and the rockets ride that's ride in the middle that congests foot traffic, you have to go off to the right for a couple hundred yards before coming to the next set of attractions.  Sure, Captain Eo is fun to watch the first time or two, but does anyone go back?  Also, Innoventions could be neat, but we never go. 

Lastly, Autopia is HORRIBLY outdated, not to mention really smelly.  Although we try avoiding passing by it, given the choice, but when we ride in on (or headed out on) the monorail, we have to pass it and the fumes, which are always an unpleasant piece of the Disneyland experience.  If it's REALLY about tomorrow, then make the cars run on batteries or something that does not pollute our environment and our olfactory senses.  What needs to happen is get rid of Autopia.  

Although I know there are other rides in Tomorrowland, we rarely ride them (e.g. Nemo has long lines and we don't ride Space Mountain).  So, when I read reports that came out last week that there are serious Disney considerations for the Imagineers to removing some of the rides and installing Star Wars rides, I was/am super excited!  Yes, yes, I know: it won't be completed for a few years and, in the interim, there will be annoying construction going on, but even the construction will be an improvement! 

As MiceAge reported last week, the "aesthetic of most of the land will change to take on the appearance of the Star Wars universe, particularly in the back eastern half of the land."  Not only am I excited that the the Imagineers are going to be improving Tomorrowland, which is a good thing in and of itself, they are going to be doing so with Star Wars attractions!!!  I am so excited!!  Having written nearly a year-and-a-half ago on the great desire (on behalf of not just me, but many thousands of fans) for an entire theme park for Star Wars, this is certainly a happy move in that direction.  While I (and others) might be upset that Disney is not just setting aside space for a separate theme park dedicated to Star Wars, this is certainly a very welcome move!   

MiceAge further writes that 
Disneyland fans will cheer when they learn that the Astro Orbiter will be torn out and removed from its current location at the front of the land, which only served to make that area of the park feel more congested and claustrophobic instead of kinetic and full of energy. The re-Imagineered Rocket Jets spinner is currently planned to land up on top of the Space Mountain Concourse, tying in with a repurposed Starcade upper level next door.
Uh, YES, please!!! As a Disneyland fan, this is a great move! MiceAge goes on:
And the old Rocket Jets spinner and PeopleMover platform gets an extreme makeover, as a landing pad in the Star Wars spaceport that forms the loose theme for the new land. And what’s a landing pad without a spaceship, right? The craft that will have landed there won’t be any old spaceship however, but will be the famous Millennium Falcon that will act as an elaborate walk-through attraction and meet ‘n greet location for your favorite Wookie co-pilot.
Ooooh - nice! Lastly,
The back of the land is where the big new headliner attraction sits, in the place of the existing Innoventions and Autopia. After abandoning previous attempts to utilize the existing PeopleMover track and loading area, the Innoventions building gets gutted and in its place is the pre-show and boarding area for the new Speeder Bike thrill ride. The majority of the track heads outdoors and to the north, demolishing the Autopia freeways and taking over most of that area for the new ride. The outdoor Speeder Bike course is set on the forest moon of Endor where the Ewoks live, and an Ewok village and walk-through attraction will house dining and shops as the Speeder Bike ride zooms nearby.
Soooo smart and sooo looking forward to all of this! All brilliant moves!! Upon the changes taking place, Eric Goldman wrote [a week ago] on IGN that
Tomorrowland is already home to Star Tours and also to the Jedi Academy experience for kids, so with these additions, this would be turning a notable portion of the park into a Star Wars area. In fact, so much of Tomorrowland would now be Star Wars related, with the exceptions of rides like Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters and Space Mountain, it does the raise the question of whether they would even keep the name Tomorrowland (technically, Star Wars takes place in the past after all!).
Of course, this was made possible by Disney's acquisition of Star Wars to install a bunch of Star Wars attractions, but perhaps Disney will see that the demand is so huge for just Star Wars rides/attractions, that they will see this mini-Star Wars Land as a trial project to develop an entirely separate theme park (but I know this is merely a dream that is not likely in the next decade or so).  In the meantime, us Star Wars fans can be happy with a few rides.

16 October 2013

Growing in Appreciation: A Year of Beer

This past year, my appreciation for beer was deepened, broadened, and enhanced.  While I did not like/drink beer in college (I liked wine, though (not that I consumed it much), I did start liking to drink it in rabbinical school (it primarily began in the summer of 2005 (because by October 2005, when we threw our apartment-warming party in Washington Heights, we had stocked our refrigerator full of beers (Coronas and Heinekens))).  While I stuck to lagers, such as Corona, Heineken, and my economical favorite, Budweiser, I didn't venture much beyond that (although I do recall liking Stella Artois, at some point).
When I got into exploring cocktails after turning 30 (about which I will blog soon)), I didn't care much for beer, although I would have it on occasion.  I mainly felt that beers were so filling compared to cocktails (and to their alcoholic content).  Also, beers weren't that exciting.  I remembered seeing shirts with the Benjamin Franklin quote "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy", and thinking "Why does it have to beer?  Maybe that can be extrapolate to any alcohol-consumption...."
Belgian Ales at a BevMo tasting
Last August, while shopping at our local BevMo, I overheard a cashier responding to a customer that they offer $2 wine-tastings on Saturdays and $1 beer-tastings on Friday afternoons from 2pm-7pm.  Since I couldn't go there on Shabbat (even though it is on my way to shul), I realized that I could go on Fridays.  Not being much of a beer fan, per se, I decided I was an alcohol pluralist and wanted to expand my alcohol horizons and not only was it an inexpensive way to do so, but it's also a nice way to get into the Shabbas mindset. So, I went last September to a beer-tasting one Friday afternoon to try it out (at $1, it's not going to be a waste of money).  I thought it was good and went back the next Friday afternoon.  Then the next Friday afternoon, then the next.  Then I started recommending it to  other people then brought some with me (some of whom (primarily a neighbor, though) would pay for my tasting (not that $1 is a lot of money to shell out for someone else, but it's still a nice gesture)).  

Imported beers at BevMo beer-tasting
I was then going every week, even when Shabbat would come in earlier.  Although some BevMo locations began their beer-tasting only at 4pm, fortunately, our local BevMo began the beer-tastings at 2pm, so Shabbat was not an issue for me to go every Friday afternoon even in the winter.

One of the biggest lessons was that I liked more than just lagers and that there was quite a variety of ale types (including IPAs, which were disgusting (how could anyone drink what seemed to be pine needles (ugh!!!)))!  By November, I had started to really enjoy Belgian ales, such as Golden Ales, but particularly Trippels.  I really enjoyed the sourness of it(?).  That was my preferred beer style for a few months.

However, a change began to occur in December.  At a meeting in mid-December to discuss Jewlicious Festival 9, my predecessor, Rabbi Yonah, offered me a pale ale to accompany a burger (from the delicious Jeff's) and I actually thought it was tasty.  Moreover, the taste of it made me think it would go well with pizza.  So, that evening, I went out and got a pale ale and had some pizza.  Wow!  It worked really well :)

I then picked up Flying Fish's American Trippel.  I really enjoyed the yeastiness of it that was very Tripel-y, but was shockingly enamored with the hoppiness of it.  My tastebuds' curiosity was certainly piqued!  Thus began my interest with hoppiness.  My tastebuds wanted more!!
Some very enjoyably hoppy beers I picked up :)

So, I began to experiment and have IPAs to try to quench my tastebuds' thirst for the hoppiness.  Throughout the spring, I began to have IPAs, then it got to a point where even some IPAs seemed to entirely lack a hoppiness!  
Fortunately, because I do a fair amount of activities with young adults (20s-30s), I was able to incorporate beer and beer-exploration into some of my work. The primary example I use is that of my "Jews, Brews, and Rabbi Drew" series, which are potluck beer events at which I lead discussions on Jewish topics for 20s-30s Jews. It's a great concept!

My quest for hoppiness continued until Passover, at which point I had to take a beer hiatus, so my palate for hops dried up a little bit, but it started to return.  Then, in a late-May visit to Las Vegas, my wife challenged me to see if I could go a whole month without alcohol-consumption, so I agreed.  I chose June to just get it out of the way (that, and my wife was going to be gone for half of the month (I find that I drink less with her not around (no, it's not because she drives me to drink; rather, I enjoy her company and presence and am in a happy mood and want to enjoy it))); when I resumed consuming beer, I found that my palate had changed and that my hoppiness barrier was not as high as it had been.  In the last few months, however, it has returned :)
As a post-script to the BevMo's tastings: I was saddened when, in May, I found out that BevMo would be putting their Friday afternoon beer-tastings on hold for the summer (no tastings between Memorial Day and Labor Day) - (especially bizarre for me, considering that those months are when Shabbat enters the latest and a Friday afternoon activity of any sort is much easier to do!). However, after it returned this fall, I went once and they changed many things: 1) the hours were no longer 2-7, but 4-7 (which makes it tougher on us because it's erev Shabbat and I need to be home to help with the Shabbat preparations), 2) the price went from $1 to $2, and 3) they went from having 5-8 beers to having only three! It might not come as a surprise, but I don't know how much I will be returning to BevMo on Friday afternoons with these changes. However, I am still thankful to BevMo for their $1 beer-tastings last year. Anyways, I am looking forward to the next year of beer in my life :)  I now understand those shirts with Benjamin Franklin on them - beer is certainly a special beverage - differently enjoyable than bourbon or cocktails.  I think it is an especially happy-making beverage :)
Addendum: One thing I began enjoying (perhaps spring/summer of 2012 (after the football season)) was to watch "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" episodes accompanied with beer & pizza. At the time, I drank lagers (for some reason, I really enjoyed drinking Sapporo (which Rabbi Yonah got me into) and Asahi, the dry-ness of which went - to my palate - went really well with pizza), which was great. When the football season ended and I resumed watching the series in the spring/summer of 2013, it was markedly different the styles of beers I was enjoying to accompany my pizza and "Clone Wars" experience (e.g. here and here)!

09 October 2013

The Lack of Interest of Young Adults and Synagogues: A Two-Way Street? - A Local Example

There is an article in one of the local Jewish magazines this month, there is an article in which executive directors of one Conservative synagogue and four Reform synagogues in Orange County are asked four questions ("Q & A", Orange County Jewish Life (October 2013), 48-50 (available online here)).  The first three are questions that would one expect to be asked: "What do you think is the key reason why people join a congregation?", "What do you think is the key reason people join your congregation?", and "How has your congregation changed its marketing efforts in the face of changing demographics?".  

However, I was surprised and elated that the following question was posed to them: "Do you have special programs for younger people (21-39)?"  Not only because I know a lot of Jews in that demographic, because I work a lot with that demographic, or even because I am right in the midst of that age range, but also because that is the age range that affiliates the least with synagogues across the country and could use some outreach.  Granted, Jews in this range are rather loathe to join anything, let alone synagogues (furthermore, the pay-to-pray model does not seem to me to be good for this age demographic).  However, I did like the question that did not ask about dues or membership, but about programming (perhaps even outreach to this age demographic), since this age is an opportune moment in young Jews' lives to engage them.
While the first respondent did say something about a special membership category, which sounds great, since this age group doesn't feel particularly compelled to join in the first place.  They also say that they "have several young staff members that bring an exciting vibe to our programming", which sounds great.  The second respondent then discusses programming for parents with kids, but then says outright that they have "no specific programs for 21-39-year-olds" and then they go on to say how they have a variety of programming, except they mention that they have programs such as Mah Jongg and "adult education and book clubs", because those totally draw 20s-30s (not).
It goes downhill from there: the third respondent says "we have special programs for younger people", but instead of specifying any programming, they continue on to say that they "challenge the easy categorization via age", which clearly indicates two things: 1) that they have no idea of the different needs/interests of that age group and 2) that they are BS'ing about having special programs for 20s-30s (especially when they conclude that "we feel that we are uniquely positioned to work with "younger people" of all ages to determine what they feel they would like us to provide to their personal and family lives, and then create the programs and activities that meet those needs.").
The fourth respondent says "our programs are integrated; however, we have revised the point of entry, i.e., dues, for young families."  In other words, "No, we do not have programming for 20s-30s."  Ditto for the fifth and final respondent: "we offer a diverse menu of programs for all of the varied demographic groups within our community."  Which really just means, "We don't cater to the 20s-30s crowd."  
I wonder if these executive directors didn't understand the opportunity that was placed before them: they had a perfect place for a free sales pitch on what made their synagogue attractive and interesting for Jews in their 20s-30s, perhaps attracting interest from other age groups, as well.  Instead, they decided to largely squander this opportunity in not talking about their programming for this age group.  Yes, I understand that this age group is the main child-bearing age demographic and that is why some of the respondents discussed programming for children and parents, but many Jews in their 20s and 30s in Orange County do not [yet] have kids (or even married)....   I want to give these executive directors the benefit of the doubt and hope that they just didn't understand the question and thus, lose out on this great opportunity.  The alternative, of course, is that they did understand, but they don't offer programming for this age demographic (hopefully, because they don't have the critical mass for such programming and not because they simply don't care to program for 20s-30s).
Before I read this article, I thought simply that young adults don't join synagogues because they often wait until they're married and/or have kids, because they don't think that they're relevant to their lives (but once they have kids, perhaps they would join).  However, I now realize that many synagogues (or executive directors) may not have the interest in doing outreach programs for young adults; perhaps, it's a two-way street.