Sunday, February 28, 2010


When I started this blog last year I expected to find several other local bloggers writing about the area and keeping in touch with the local community.  I figured I was late to the blogging party, but the reality is there are only a handful of local bloggers in this area.  I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of them.  They have really good information and a personal view our towns.  I may not always agree but I always prefer to hear someone else's thoughts rather then marketing speak.   I do occasionally check out some of the Metrowest blogs, but for me, the Boroughs are not the Metrowest.  we have our own area, with unique communities and focuses.  Here are the Boroughs Area Blogs:

At the top of the list -  If you haven't already read this one you are missing out. This blog is amazing.  So much information and constantly updated.  And not exclusively Southborough.  Just like the Boroughs Review,  there seems to be a blurring of the geographic lines.  The blog is written by Susan Fitzgerald.

I am amazed at how on top of the area Susan is.  She knows what events are coming up, she talks to public officials about the town, and she obviously cares about the community and how things are going.  I am occasionally jealous (not in a bad way) of her insight and connections.  I am just happy ot benefit from her dedication and hard work.  In discussions I have had with other community members, MySouthborough always comes up as the best site to visit.  MySouthborough is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Moving through the Boroughs lets visit  NorthboroNews is a great collective blog.  Several wirters and user submitted information.  Kim Henderson-Lee does a great job as editor and moderator.  When I was researching locations for my sledding review Northboro news helped point out a couple that I had missed.  Northboro New is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Several times I stumbled onto  This site has amazing photo journalism.  Some of the shots Chris Wright and Linda Hubley have are astounding.  So beautiful and amble to capture the moment story though a photo.  There is a lot of information on, but I sometimes feel the words miss the personal relationship with the subjects.  The photos however never seem to.  Honestly I don't really read Southboroughnews as much as I read mysouthborough.  Maybe it is style or some weird website design preference, but I prefer writing with a personal touch.

Recently I started reading The Greater Grafton Blog and I have really enjoyed it.  A great personal touch and the author also works for the Grafton Times so there is a ton of information with that personal touch.  I don't have much more to say on this one yet, I found the blog as I was following the vote for the new school.  Looking through some of the old posts it has a nice flare so I will watch for awhile and hopefully continue to enjoy.

One other "blog" that I often check is only on Facebook.  The group "Southborough, MA" often catches and publishes a lot of the interesting things going on in the area.  There were tons of updates with Adam Sandler was filming in Southborough and even ways to be an extra.  Social media is the way now and Facebook is so easy to keep people updated.

It is impressive to see this local talent writing about our area.  I commend all of these and the countless other blogs out there on their efforts to contribute to the information available to others.  Reading about our area through the eyes of our neighbors brings us all closer as a community.  I for one am proud to be part of this community.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Big Game Beverage Selection

The Patriots have been out of the playoffs for some time but that doesn't mean that you can't invite friends over to watch the big game. I admit my  Superbowl watching habits are traditionally more focused on commercials then the actual game, but I enjoy having some friends over and as the host I always look to supply the best in terms of beverages.

Next year I may try to time a Deja Brew trip to be completed just before the game but this year, like so many others, I headed off to the pick up supplies from a local package store.  For me this means a trip to Julio's Liquors.  I got to talking with my friends over at Julio's and asked if they wanted to star in this edition of the blog.  I use the word star as I shot a bunch of video that really conveys my points about Julio's and I wanted to include them in with this post.

Lets start with the beer...
As I mentioned I like craft beers. Unique brews that have some complexity. But in a store as vast as Julio's it is easy to get lost in the beer aisle.  Thankfully, there's a blog for that.  Lost in the Beer Aisle is a local blog tirelessly researching and evaluating beers.  When you approach a store like Julio's this blog can be a great help.  I for one appreciate the suffering "Lost" must endure to provide this service to all of us.  :-)  In all seriousness, there are a lot of beers out there.  It is hard to know what to choose.

Julio's carries an unbelievable selection of beers.  Imports, domestic, micros, and majors.  All side by side waiting to be chosen.  An I have gotten 1/6 kegs of Dogfish 90 and other less standard brews without pre-ordering.  Now if you didn't take the time to check in with Lost, you may need some help selecting the best option.  Luckily Julio's has Tom and Joe.  Guys who understand beer and care about matching your tastes.  On more then one occasion I have left my selection up to Tom, and I have yet to be disappointed.  See for yourself:

I sometimes enjoy a good cigar...
And if I am not at Havana House raiding their humidors, I need to find a place to buy great cigars.  Julio's smoke shop has over 300 different cigars kept at the perfect humidity.  I think the most impressive aspect to the cigar shop is Dan's (Julio's tobacco manager) willingness to add customer recommendations to the regular inventory.  It all comes back to service again.  I can walk in, tell Dan about a great cigar I had and if he doesn't have it he understands enough to recommend a similar cigar.  Then usually by the next time I am visit, he has my original request in stock.  This kind of commitment to customers explains why Julio's continues to grow.

But what about the community?
I started writing this blog because, among other reasons, I like this area.  I am proud of this area.  And I want to highlight when businesses in this area do good things.  I don't write a lot of negative blogs, unless the business is not serving the community.  We are a community, sometimes in competition, most of the time working together.  Julio's is partnering with a lot of the community.  They like the Vin Bin have picked up the Original Beer Cookie.  They also support several other local companies by carrying local vodka, local cheese spreads, and local condiments.  This is huge to me, you can be part of a chain or a private business, supporting other local businesses is important to me.

As I was shooting these video I took a moment to really look at Julio's.  I have still not tried or benefited from a majority of the store.  The loch and key society, the wine tastings, the burn center.  There is still a lot for me to try out.  I enjoy and respect the managers and the service they provide so I expect the same quality form these other departments.  Julio's knows the community supports them and shows their support back.  I put together one last video trying to capture the major departments.  It is available on the Boroughs Review YouTube channel.  I think I will finish off the Fallen Angel (The exclusively made for Julio's beer) that I picked up on my last trip tomorrow during the game.  And maybe I'll see you at a future tasting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Custom Brew

When I moved to Massachusetts in 1999 I had drank a total of 2 full beers in my life.  And both were after several other drinks.  With a username like Stolimadras you can imagine that vodka was more the drink of choice.  But when I moved here, it seemed EVERYONE drank beer.  I mean everyone.  I felt odd ordering a screwdriver... and whiskey was just a recipe for disaster.

Luckily, I started to hang out with a group of people who knew a lot about microbrews, one was even a brewer for Smuttynose beer at the time.  And then I found the Sunset Grill in Alston, that really broadened my beer horizons, and I will now say that I am a beer drinker, but I remain selective.  I like a custom brew, I like something unique.  Much like when I try a new wine, I want to enjoy and experience different tastes and flavors.

All this history, leading up to an enjoyable hobby...Home Brewing.  I have several friends that are regular home brewers.  Some of their stuff is amazing.  Some of it also tastes horrible, but just like other culinary attempts there are often failures on the path to success.  They chalk up the bad tastings to gaining experience.  As I learned more about beer, I wanted to try to brew a batch myself.  I don't expect to be converting a section of the basement into a brewery but I would like to experience creating a craft beer myself.  We are lucky in the Boroughs to have two businesses close by catering to these types efforts, Strange Brew in Marlborough and Deja Brew in Shrewsbury.

First the path not taken.  After visiting and talking with several local friends everyone agreed Strange Brew is probably the best options for brewing supplies. They have just about everything in stock that you need for all different styles of beer. They also have a lot of pre-packaged kits that to help the novice brewer get their feet wet without too much risk of failure.  I have been onto Strange Brew a few times with friends collecting supplies and the beers they have brewed have come out great...but brewing at home had major flaws in my mind.  I have never done it, and I know I like unique beers.  The odds of my pulling of a good batch my first time out were pretty slim.  Also, I am not always the most patient.  Without someone guiding me I doubt I would wait the correct number of minutes at each step.  And finally, if I brew at home, I get to be the one who has to clean it up, that definitely doesn't seem like extra fun.
So after some though, I decided that the best option for me was to try Deja Brew.  I am going to take you through the whole experience but before I start, let me say the Saturday morning I spent making my batch of beer at Deja Brew was AWESOME.  I cannot believe how much fun I had, ever single moment was great, the mixing, the cooking, the tasting, the general atmosphere.  What an amazing business, I am so happy that I tried it.  And now I am excitedly awaiting my batch of custom brew to be ready.  Here is how the day went.

10:00 AM
I arrived at Deja Brew without any real expectations.  I did bring my cameras so that I could record some of the events for the blog.  My first task was to choose a recipe.  What type of beer would I like to make?  I told Nick, one of the brewers, that I like high alcohol content flavorful beers, but I don't like it to be too hoppy or have a bitter aftertaste.  I mentioned that I enjoy, Delirium Tremens, Dogfish 90, and several of the Berkshire brewery line.  After some discussion on flavors and options, I selected the 12 honey ale.  To confirm this was a good selection I sampled some of the 12 honey ale that last brewed.

10:15 AM
Time to start measuring out grain.  The first task on the recipe was to measure out 6 pounds of grain.  I like the fact that they aren't doing the work for you.  Nick pointed me at a table with several grains on the shelves and pointed at the scale.

After the grain is measured, it is time to grind.  I ran the grain through the mill and into a container to be brewed.  I added the grain to the kettle and was shown where to gather my other ingredients.  I would have a little time as the kettle needed to reach 180 degrees.

I spent the next 30 minutes collecting the proper amounts pale malt, honey, and hops for my recipe.  Every few minutes I stopped back at my kettle to lift and shake the grain.  This was to increase the flavor of the beer.  And I started talking with some of the other brewers there to get their impressions of Deja Brew.

10:50 AM
The rest of the ingredients are collected and the kettle has reached 180 degrees.  Time to begin the cooking.

For the next hour plus I was adding ingredients, timing how long they cooked and tasting some of the other brews being bottled by other brewers.  It was a very social experience, people talking and hanging out.  I met one couple who was a brewing a batch of beer together as an anniversary activity.  One family had purchased the brewing for the father and the wife and kids were there to help.  It was a room full of great local people having a good time.

12:00 PM
The brewing was complete.  It was now time to cool the mixture and add yeast.  With the help of the brewers we piped my 12 Honey Ale into a lined fermenting drum and added yeast.  I labeled this batch Big Boroughs Brew in honor of the blog and helped move it to the back room where it will sit until February 20th, when it is ready to be bottled.

The staff at Deja Brew then cleaned the kettles, the bowls, and any other items I used so they are ready for the next brewer.  All the fun, with no clean up or mess.  While it was brewing it smelled great.  I can't wait for it to be ready to taste later this month.

Even though I have yet to taste my specific brew, I have a good idea on how it will come out.  The samples were very tasty.  Deja Brew is an amazing business.  A fun activity for couples, great father son bonding, and I can see it being a perfect place to have a corporate team building event.  I am still amazed at how much fun it was.  The following videos are just a sample of my day.  I hope you take the time to try it for yourself.  And if you want company...just let me know.