Pacific Northwest Beer Chick

Breweries, Beers & Good Times

Great Britain and Ireland (part 4) March 11, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 4:01 pm
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Kilmacanogue, Ireland

I was looking forward to my first morning in Ireland. I had a nice sleep, didn’t have too much trouble figuring out the shower or light switches, and had a yummy breakfast. Today, we were to board the bus and drive out to Glendalough Monastery. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I adore graveyards. Glendalough is an early medieval monastic settlement that dates from the 6th century and has an AMAZING graveyard. So much history!

Walking through the monastery gates, I was immediately excited and humbled. I can only imagine how many souls have walked through these gate over the past 1,500 years. Everyone from criminals and beggars, sick and infirm, souls seeking asylum have

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The oldest known headstone in Glendalough Monastery.

crossed into this sacred place. Some moved on, and some never left as evidenced by the thousands of headstones and markers that blanket the grounds. I came across what is believed to be the oldest headstone in the monastery. I was told by our guide that it dates back to possibly 600 AD. No one knows who is buried there as it only has an early Celtic cross carved into the stone. I was fascinated.

 

The monastery ruins still stand and are every bit as fascinating and beautiful as one could image. After our guided tour of the grounds, we were given time to explore on our own. I took this time to separate from my travel companions and spend some quite moments alone appreciating the souls that were buried there. Again, I was humbled.

Later that afternoon, we had a chance to spend the afternoon in downtown Dublin. Another gorgeous city, Dublin is teaming with history and architecture. Sue, Buttons, Lauren and I had lunch at the Mansion House. This eclectic pub is chock full of odd obscurities and memorabilia from decades past. It was a lot of fun to hang out. I enjoyed Hop House 13 Lager made by Guinness. Side note: I noticed that almost every “local” beer I had in Ireland was made by Guinness. I asked for the “local beer” everywhere I went. But, upon further inspection of the tap handles, the small print always read “Made by Guinness” or has Arthur Guinness’ signature. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every beer I had. It was just surprising that many of the “local beer” is actually a big beer company.

img_4690This is a perfect transition to our next stop on the tour: the Guinness Storehouse St. James Gate in Dublin. Yes, it’s “touristy.” Yes, Guinness is considered “big beer.” So what? Any beer lover SHOULD visit the Storehouse when in Dublin. I learned how to pour the “perfect pint” and learned a bit of history about this beer giant. It was a fun place to visit. And, of course, I spared no expense in the gift shop.

Later that night we were treated to a lovely Irish dinner show complete with step dancing and traditional Irish music. It was great fun. Then…the whiskey came out. Not being a hard alcohol girl, I smiled and choked down what I could. The saving grace was the delicious Irish coffee being served with dessert. Things had a chance to go sideways, but we all kept it together…except for Plee. He over indulged, just a bit. Ha!

We got back to the hotel and I thought I was done drinking for the night. But, the beer was calling so I stepped back into the hotel pub. I started with a McGargles Pale Ale and ended with Cute Hoor by Heineken. Both were pretty darn tasty but when it comes to names, the prize goes to Cute Hoor.

The next day we boarded our bus and headed to our next stop for the night. We passed

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Me & Plee in Kilkenny.

through the pretty village of Kilkenny for lunch. Staying true to form, Lauren and I headed to the local pub. I can’t say enough good things about the pubs in the U.K. And Ireland. They are all exactly how I envision a pub should be. Warm and inviting, beautifully adorned in history, rustic food, and great beer. I enjoyed a Kilkenny Irish Draught. This creamy Irish Ale went well with my fish and chips. Very smooth and creamy. This is another beer brewed by Guinness. They’re EVERYWHERE.

 

Waterford is the Ireland’s oldest city having been founded by the Vikings around 914 AD. Some of the ancient Viking ruins dot the city. Before heading to our hotel, we stopped off at the Waterford Crystal factory and witnessed first hand how the famous crystal masterpieces are made. Quite fascinating.

Once we hit our hotel in Waterford , Lauren, another trip mate Chris, and I headed down to the hotel bar for a few drinks before walking the waterfront for dinner. I enjoyed a delicious ale brewed by Metalman Brewing. This was another of my favorites on the trip. Hoppier than most of the other beers I’ve tried while in the U.K. And Ireland, it was crisp and had a lovely finish.

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Waterford, Ireland

The three of us headed off along the waterfront to a local pub called The Reg. This darling pub is exactly how you would picture an Irish pub to be. Warm, inviting, and cozy. Live Irish bands play in the corner. The food is outstanding. The three of us enjoyed the food, beer and conversation. But, this night would end on a bit of a tragic note…

 

The next morning as I was packing my suitcase, I began looking for Pleepleus. I looked in my jacket, my purse, the suitcase, all over the room. He was no where to be found. Silly enough, I went into panic mode. I packed as quickly as I could and decided to retrace my steps from the night before. I walked the two blocks back to The Reg looking all along the sidewalks wondering if I had dropped him somewhere. Sadly, he was no where in sight.

I lost him. I was very sad. My numerous travel companions were also very sad. They grew to love the little guy and many volunteered to walk along the streets to look for him. But, time was of the essence so I had to accept that I lost him, and jump on the bus. After all, we had a ferry to catch to Wales. I tearfully hoped that someone would find Plee and take good care of him. Later in the day, a lady traveling with us brought me a new monkey she found in a local shop. He’s a darling little guy and wears a sweater with a large “L” on the front. I named him Larry. Thus, began the last leg of my trip with Larry, Pleeplues’ Irish cousin.

Wales is an absolutely breathtaking country! In fact, in my opinion, Wales rivals Ireland in beauty. Rolling green hills, tiny villages, breathtaking views. Today’s tour was a winery in the Welsh countryside. Glyndwr Vineyard is family owned and operated and is the oldest and largest vineyard in Wales. This gorgeous vineyard is surrounded by picturesque landscapes and dotted with tiny lakes and gardens. We took a tour of the vineyards, stopped off to feed the winery’s family of alpacas and sheep, and then dined on a beautiful lunch lovingly prepared on the grounds. Our lunch consisted of local cheeses, quiche, local sausages, and colorful veggies. It was delicious!

During lunch, I sat with the usual motley crew of Sue, Buttons and Lauren. Joining us at our table were some of our other travel mates also from Australia and New Zealand. I was the only non-Aussie/non-New Zealander at the table. During our lunch Sue took over the conversation, looked at me and stated “we have all decided to make you an honorary Kiwi Aussie.” I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PROUD! I love my new friends!

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Carmarthen, Wales

 

We boarded the bus for our next stop for the night in the capital city of Cardiff. Unfortunately, the weather was ghastly, so there was no sight seeing to be had in Cardiff so I have no comments about the sights and sounds of the city. We arrived after dark and the rain was coming down sideways. I elected to spend the evening in the hotel pub and unwind. I took Larry down with me. Again, with the great beer name, I ordered a pint (or a few) of Brains Smooth by Brains Brewery right there in Cardiff. This incredibly smooth, easy to drink, low ABV was perfect to end a long day.

While sitting in the pub, I observed what was a gaggle of young lads prepping for a bachelor party. They joked, bantered back and forth and laughed, a lot. They were pooling their money looking for “singles” for what I could only imagine was for some sort of scantly clad female that was to be their evening’s entertainment. Over all of the masculine voices I suddenly heard “well, it’s better than a fist up the arse!” I did my best to muzzle my chuckling. I looked at my bartender (also a female) and she looked back at me, shrugged, and said “welcome to Cardiff.” Yes, welcome indeed…

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Great Britain and Ireland (part 3) February 10, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 11:00 am

Funny thing I found out about hotel life in the U.K….one must have an advanced degree in order to figure out how to work light switches, showers, and hair dryers. I awoke early the next morning to have everything ready and outside my hotel room door in time to load it on the bus. I did not want to be late again today. Well, when it came time to figure out to turn the shower on, I had to step back a second and play with the knobs before getting it right. The hairdryer on the other hand, stressed me to the point of tears. No matter what I tried, I could not get the hotel hairdryer to work. I plugged it into every socket in the room, pushed the reset buttons on the outlets, everything! But, could not get the bloody thing to work. I could have thrown my hair in a ponytail and called it a day, but, I had nothing to tie it back with. I have naturally curly, frizzy hair so letting it dry naturally was out of the question. At this point, I’m starting to run late again and I’m panicking. I called down to room service, choked back my silly, vain tears and ask for another hair dryer. The desk clerk, feeling my pain (I’m obviously not the first tourist he has had to explain this too), explained to me in the kindest voice that I simply had to switch the dryer on, then push the button on the side of the handle, and hold it down the entire time I’m drying my hair. Oy vey.flag

With my hair dry, my bags packed and in the hotel lobby, I climbed into my bus seat only to hear my travel mates complain about experiencing the same problems with he hair dryer and the shower. Now, I didn’t feel so ditsy.

The next leg of our adventure took us up to my ancestral homeland: Scotland. The countryside on the way up was postcard perfect. Rolling green hills and tiny Tudor villages kept me glued to the window. How I wished we could have stopped off into these darling villages, even only for a few minutes, just to check out the quant English country life. But, having to keep to the schedule, we pressed on.

Our first stop was right across the Scottish boarder to the tourist trap know as Gretna Green. Famous for runaway weddings, Gretna Green’s blacksmith shop hosts weddings complete with anvil to make the union “official.” There is the tiny chapel, a museum, and, of course, gift shops. It took us all of 30 minutes to see everything Gretna Green had to offer and Lauren and I spent most of that time in the gift shop. The saving grace? A

Me and Plee

Me and Plee

tiny bar inside the gift shop giving out free gin tastings!! Now, I’m not a hard alcohol kind of gal. To me, hard alcohol tastes like gasoline. But, how could I say “no” to a free tasting? The gin I tried was a blackberry gin made right there in Scotland. I was so impressed with the yumminess, that I actually bought a bottle!

We hopped back on the bus, but as we were backing out of the parking lot we noticed we were missing one passenger: Sue hadn’t made it back yet! So, we promptly alerted John and Simon and pulled back into our parking space. A few minutes later, Sue boarded the bus and took her short “walk of shame.”

Now in my first post, I mentioned my little friend Pleepleus. It felt strange when I first started taking photos with him. I noticed many a strange look from the other travelers. But, by the second day of our tour, if the others didn’t see him right way, they were asking where he was and smiling when I pulled him out to take photos with him. One day I left him on the tray table of my seat while we made a quick “pit stop.” Lauren stayed behind on the bus and said that every person that walked off the bus gave Plee a petting. She wished she would have taken a photo for me. For something I thought was childish and silly, Plee has become an ice-breaker and conversation starter. I’m so happy I decided to bring him. I highly suggest anyone who travels, take along a little friend. It’s amazing how many people you will meet and how much fun you will have!

Crossing over the Scottish border was eventful. Suddenly, all of the road signs were in written in English and Gaelic. So cool! We drove through tiny Scottish villages until we reached our destination for the next two days: Glasgow. Unfortunately, Glasgow was a huge disappointment. I got such a weird vibe from the moment we pulled into the city. The only way I can describe it…Imagine walking into a warehouse and there are boxes stacked in the corner because no one knew what else to do with them. That is the feeling I got when we pulled into Glasgow. Very cold, industrial, like everything there was not where it was supposed to be. I was uneasy the entire time we were in the city. Odd.

Luckily, we had dinner in neighboring Stirling. What an amazing little village! This tiny medieval village sits about 20 minutes outside of Glasgow. Cobblestone streets wind through he village with a mix of centuries old and turn of the century structures. There are a few old ruins dating back 500 years standing throughout the village. The cobblestone roads wind up a hill to the infamous Stirling Castle.

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Blessed haggis

 

We were to meet our guide for the night at the castle. He was the epitome of Scottish gentleman, right down to the kilt! We had a clear view of The Wallace memorial in the distance. I only wish we would have been able to visit the memorial. Instead, we all stood at the foot of the Robert the Bruce memorial statue as our guide told us the history of the area, including the famous Battle of Stirling and of Scotland’s favorite son: William Wallace. Freedoooooooom!!!! When the history lesson came to a close, our guide grabbed his bagpipes (real ones, not metaphoric) and like the pied piper started playing a gorgeous tune leading us down the cobblestone road to the place where we would dine for the night.

As we settled in for our meal, our guide began to tell the tale of the haggis. He stood with a large platter in hand and upon that platter was the dreaded clump of oaty, mincemeaty goodness. I don’t know about you, kids, but I LOVE haggis. But, in all honesty, I’ve only had the American version of it. So, to have real Scottish haggis was something I was looking forward to on this trip. In a booming voice, our guide held the platter up high while giving a blessing to the haggis in the old Scottish speak. He warned us ahead of time that when giving the story and blessing that we may not understand what he was saying due to the old world pronunciation, and he was right! We couldn’t understand most of what he was saying, but it was interesting nonetheless. Then, he pulled out a large dagger and plunged it into the haggis. We were each given a small portion wth our meal. It did not disappoint! One hasn’t truly lived until they have dined on haggis. I won’t go into too much detail about it other than it’s like eating a mushy sausage. I HIGHLY recommend trying it if you have the chance! It looks disgusting, but, it’s yummy! Promise, cross my heart!

The beer choices with dinner were quite nice. Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Golden Ale and Harviestoun Schiehallion Craft Lager. Both were very smooth, malty. I couldn’t decide which I liked better. Both were perfect with our dinner, both were easy to drink. Let’s call it a draw.

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Edinburgh Castle

 

The next day we were off on a field trip to the most amazing city I have ever been to: Edinburgh! This gorgeous city is a mixture of 13th century structures and modern 20thand 21st century architecture. Sitting on top of a hill in the middle of the city like a crown jewel is Edinburgh Castle. The closer you get to the castle, the older the structures. Once at the castle, my mind started wondering to what Scottish life was like 600 years ago. We walked through the castle walls and were greeted with a breathtaking view of the entire city! I walked through the open rooms of the castle and couldn’t believe I was walking in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots! It was a remarkable moment.

After touring the castle, Lauren and I exited the castle walls and walked through the ancient streets to a delightful tavern for lunch. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, just steps from the castle walls, was charming and inviting. The ceilings were adorned with painted thistles and flowers. The food was delightful. I had my second helping of haggis (I love the stuff) along with mash (mashed potatoes) and some sort of mashed concoction called “mashed swede.” I took a couple bites of the swede (rutabaga) and left the remainder on my plate. Turns out, I’m not a fan of the mashed swede. But, at least I can mark it off my list of stuff to try.

Lauren and I did some shopping in this old section and I purchased a quaich

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Edinburgh, Scotland

(pronounced “quake” with extra phlegm in your throat). It’s a piece of my Scottish history that I’ve wanted for many years. I now proudly possess one.

Once our shopping (and drinking) were complete, we boarded the bus and headed back to Glasgow. Once back at the hotel we got ready for dinner and headed out to our restaurant. I enjoyed a pint of Tennent’s and a lovely dinner. Unfortunately, our beer selection at dinner was limited to just this one beer but, I made up for it back at the hotel lounge. Calendonian Brewing (owned by Heineken UK) produces Three Hop Lager. This is a lovely beer, and probably one of my favorites of the trip! Most of the beers I’ve had on my trip up to now have been on the malty side. I LOVE malty beers, but this one was a bit crisper with a slight spice to it. Quite nice!

The next day we all boarded the bus on our way to the Scottish coast. We were to board a ferry to Belfast, Ireland, but, the largest hurricane to hit Ireland in over 50 years landed the day before throwing off all of the ferry schedules. The original plan was to take the Ferry to Belfast, tour the city for a few hours, then make our way to Dublin for the night. The hurricane delayed our ferry ride for four hours. So, to pass the time, our tour guide took us to the Scottish coastal village of Stranraer. What a darling village! Lauren and I walked through the village, did some light shopping, and then found a tiny, out-of-the-way tavern called The Arkhouse Inn.

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Me and The Arkhouse Inn

It’s odd, when in the larger cities in Scotland, the brogue isn’t very thick and I can understand pretty much everything everyone says. These smaller villages…not so much. I felt incredibly obtuse asking the locals to repeat what they said so I could understand them. But, everyone I met was incredibly kind and patient with this dense American. Lunch at the Inn was simple and pleasurable. I had a Belhaven Best with lunch and enjoyed listening to the locals discuss their day (from what I could understand of the conversation).

 

Our time to board the ferry came and I have to admit, I boarded with a bit of trepidation. I knew I was possibly going to be seasick. I took some seasick pills and hoped for the best for the 2hr ride across the Irish Sea. Turns out, I fared pretty OK. We landed in Belfast 4hrs past schedule so a tour of the city was out. However, our tour guide was able to give us about 20 minutes at the Maritime Museum in Belfast. The museum sits at the site where the fated Titanic was launched. The museum building site was built to represent the Titanic’s icon bow. Each corner of the building is built to scale of the ship’s bow and demonstrates how massive the ship was. It’s quite breathtaking and awe inspiring!

We jumped back on the bus and made our way down to Dublin. I was fascinated by the signage along the highways. The names of the streets, highways and towns were written in English and Irish. I learned quite early that the Irish do not call their native tongue “Gaelic.” They speak “Irish.” Please, remember that!!!

We made it to Dublin and were quite exhausted. Luckily, our hotel had a pub. Lauren, Sue, Buttons and I grabbed a table, a couple of pint and chilled for the night. Tomorrow we hit he Irish countryside. But, fingers crossed I can figure out the shower and hair dryer. Ha!

 

Great Britain and Ireland (part 2) December 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 11:56 am

I struggled to get a sound night’s sleep. Excitement, I imagine. But, I had to have my bags packed and ready by 7:00am to load onto the bus. The next morning I dragged myself out of bed, showered, and staggered downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. The typical fare was being served: sausage, eggs, cereals, etc. I noticed that British “bacon” is nothing like American bacon. British bacon is actually a small, thin slice of ham. Yummy!

I woofed down what I could (I was running a bit late) and headed down to the bus. There I met our guide for the duration of the trip: John. He is quite handsome and his New Zealand accent is too adorable. Anyway, I looked at the seating chart and boarded the

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Shakespeare’s birthplace

bus. My seat was the first seat right behind our driver Simon. Both gentlemen were wonderfully patient and very entertaining. My seat mate was a tall, witty lady from Australia. Lauren proved to be a great seat mate and travel companion! She was quite funny and always kept me entertained. Sitting across from us was a sweet lady named Sue and her very hilarious husband “Buttons.” They are originally from New Zealand but now live in Australia. They are grandparents taking a whirlwind tour all over Europe. I adore all three of these fine folks and we spent a great deal of time together on this 10 day tour.

So, we all took our seats and started off on our journey. Our first stop was Stratford-Upon-Avon. Located on the banks of the River Avon, this darling Tudor village is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. His childhood home is a beautifully preserved two-story cottage turned museum. We walked through each room of the home and I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful yet simple rooms. Exposed beam ceilings and uneven floors revealed the age of this home. The period furnishings are not original to the house but you still get a feel for what life was like 400 years ago. It was amazing to think that I was standing in the home where one of the world’s greatest writers was actually born and raised.

After the tour we had about an hour to grab some lunch and head back to the bus. Rebel that I am, I decided that I would flip lunch the bird, set out on my own, take a quick stroll through the village and head over to the church where Shakespeare is buried. I walked through the busy village admiring the centuries old structures that still housed shops, apartments, and pubs. I made my way to the outskirts of the village to the Church of the Holy Trinity. This gorgeous gothic church is surrounded by large, shady trees and a graveyard with headstones almost as tall as I am!

I stepped inside the church and right away was in awe of the beauty of the architecture. Giant vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and intricately carved pews filled the room from top to bottom. I was overtaken by the beauty in the craftsmanship. I thought of the men that painstakingly carved, chiseled, hammered, and nailed this amazing structure and all that it housed. I was in awe.

I made my way through the other tourists to the chancel where Shakespeare and his wife Anne are buried. For a donation of £3 I was able to step into the chancel and stand

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“The Shambles”

literally inches from the grave of the greatest playwright that ever lived. William and Anne are buried side-by-side in the floor of the chancel. As I stood and studied these graves, it hit me as to where I was and what I was looking at. It was a humbling moment.

Suddenly, I glanced at my watch and realized I only had about 10 minutes to find my way back to the bus! But, where the heck was I in conjunction to the bus lot?!?! I RAN all the way back while navigating the streets trying to remember which ones I took to get to the church. I made it to the bus just in time. I took my “walk of shame” down the aisle as I was playfully harassed by my travel mates for almost missing the bus. Our next stop was the medieval town of York, AKA “The Shambles.”

This amazing city is the oldest medieval city in England. Though many of the structures date back to the 1300’s, the history of York begins around 71 AD with occupation of the Romans. All of the buildings are still in full use today and rumor has it that J.K. Rowling fashioned Daigon Alley after the town. After seeing for myself, I think those rumors are true! What a whimsical place!

The city is surrounded by ancient stone walls for protection from invaders. The streets are narrow and paved with the original cobblestones and have become a bit uneven over time making walking on them a bit of a challenge. The centuries old structures are two to three stories high and hidden alleyways are sprinkled throughout the village. Crowds of tourists, shoppers and residents fill the streets making it a bit hard to see all of the details, but, it was exciting to see a town this old still fully in use. It was also refreshing to notice that there was not a Starbucks or other “big name” shop in the village. Just “mom & pop” shops and pubs. Some having been in the same spot for centuries!

The heart of York is it’s minster. Construction of this gorgeous, gothic structure began in 1080 by Archbishop Thomas. Again, due to time constraints (and the fact that it cost £10 to walk inside) I decided not go go any further than the minster’s massive front doors. Perhaps I will on my next visit.

There clearly wasn’t enough time to see everything in York. This is a city I must (and will) visit again.

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The Pine Marten

We hopped back on the bus and headed to our dinner stop for the night in Beckwithshaw. The Pine Marten is a pretty, stone restaurant surrounded by mature trees. The sun was setting as we arrived and the pink and orange sky highlighted the structure beautifully. Lauren, Buttons, Sue and I sat down to our “Welcome Dinner” (as part of our tour package) and enjoyed a lovely traditional meal of Yorkshire pudding and bangers & mash. I ordered two of the local beers on tap. Tonight, I had Black Sheep Best Bitter from Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, Yorkshire and Leeds Pale Session Bitter from Leeds Brewery in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Both are 3.8% ABV, both are quite nice and easy to drink. Malty, smooth, and complimented my meal rather nicely.

After our dinner and pints, we headed off to our hotel in Harrogate for the night. I remembered my age as soreness crept into my legs and back from walking on uneven cobblestones and sidewalks for the last day and a half. But, I wasn’t going to complain. So far, my dream trip was off to an amazing start! Day 1 of the tour comes to end as I do my best to calm my mind and get some rest. The day held more amazing sights than I could have ever dreamed of. And this is only my 2nd day in England!

Tomorrow…off to bonnie Scotland!

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October 11, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 10:58 am

Making final preparations for my trip to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales! Stay tuned, gang!

You can follow my trip on my Facebook and Twitter pages!

 

Hey, kids! I’ve been taking a bit of a break. But, new postings are coming soon!!! August 15, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 11:02 am
 

January 27, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 10:20 pm

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December 24, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — pnwbeerchick @ 5:51 pm

Merry Christmas, everyone! Thank you for your support through the years!

More postings coming soon!!

 

 

 
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