All Mancation Articles Mon, 01 Sep 2014 22:24:24 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Man Tripping) Review of NewAir AW-121E Wine Cooler Usually when I talk about wine here it is me traveling to find some or enjoying a glass at a fine restaurant. Today though I am going to share my experience with the NewAir AW-121E wine cooler. I have been thinking about getting something like this for quite a while but it was always one of those things that was "nice to have" but the money would be better spent elsewhere. However about 3 weeks ago I was lucky to have someone from NewAir contact me and ask if I wanted to check a unit out - so I said SURE!

The NewAir AW-121E is a very compact unit that is stylish and for someone like me who doesn't have a huge wine collection the 12-bottle capacity is perfect. In fact, I currently have 6 bottles in there as well as a couple boxes of chocolates and the size is perfect for my loft.


As I mentioned in the review, setup / installation was a breeze though it operates a bit differently than a standard refrigerator. Instead of a compressor and chemical coolant, the unit relies on a thermoelectric cooling system. It's really too complicated for me to relate here (but here is the Wikipedia article on thermoelectric cooling). Instead, the key takeaways are that it allows for a very compact size, no moving parts, no chlorofluorocarbons, precise temperature control / stability and a long life. These aren't necessarily the same for every device but in general that's what thermoelectric cooling offers. However the downside is it isn't as efficient and you aren't going to get the deep chill needed for beer or soda.


However, with a target range of 50-65 degrees it is perfect for storing wine, chocolate, and cigars.

As you can see from the unit you can adjust the temperature up and down and there is also an LED light to help illuminate the bottles if you can't remember what's inside the wine cooler.

One thing to note though is that it takes a long while to cool down - when it started, my loft was about 84 degrees and in the past 8 hours the temperature has dropped to the mid-50s degrees in the wine cooler. It is disappointing that it didn't cool faster but considering that it is super hot in my loft with no AC I am pretty happy.


At the end of the day, this is a great addition to my apartment as it allows me to move bottles of wine from the fridge and countertop to it's own unit tucked neatly next to my liquor cabinet. Additionally, since it is warmer than the refrigerator, I can store chocolate here so it won't melt - but also wont be hard and negatively impact the flavors the way it does in the fridge.

The AW-121E that we reviewed is currently available for about $170 at most retailers and at that price I think it is a great accessory for your home or apartment.

I received product for this review, but all opinions are my own.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Sun, 31 Aug 2014 11:55:04 +0000
Fun, Friends, and High Spirits at San Diego Spirits Festival! You've been to beer fests and wine festivals but there aren't that many spirits festivals that are open to the public unfortunately. If you are a fan of spirits and craft cocktails it seems that you're passion is best explored at a bar buying expensive cocktails and new liquors only to find out that you made an expensive mistake and are forced to either finish or let it go to waste.

The San Diego Spirits Festival on the other hand offers new as well as seasoned fans a chance to explore spirits brand new to the market as well as celebrate with friends over tasters of familiar friends like Don Julio, Stoli, and Woodford Reserve. 


The festival is once again at the Broadway Pier along the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego. However, unlike last year where we sat in a parking lot for a few hours after the festival closed, this year we were able to take the trolley to and from the San Diego Spirits Festival. While cars are convenient, this is a much better way to go since it is safe, clean, and cheap with the ability to enjoy your buzz all the way home!

Plus, the festival location is only a block from the Santa Fe Depot where all of the trolley lines go as well as the Surfliner and Coaster if you plan to come down from North County, Orange County, or even make the trip down from Los Angeles. 


Outside of the festival while waiting to get in were a variety of vendors selling things ranging from arts and crafts to timeshares. These guys were here last year as well and it just didn't seem to fit the rest of the festival but oh well - in a few moments we were passing through the ID check area and ready to explore!


This year's festival was a lot bigger than last year and one of the great additions was the Don Julio Airstream Speakeasy with a bartender dishing out "Cocktails on Tap" including this absolutely delicious Lavender Daisy made from Don Julio Reposado, Yellow Chartreuse, and Lavender.

They also had other delicious cocktails including the Fresa En Fuego - Don Julio Reposado, Habanero, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Strawberry.

Frankly we could have just hung out here all day getting happy but we were on a mission to try everything!


Kraken Rum has made some waves recently and it has a great name, a great taste that is as fun to drink as it is to order! Plus this was just the start of our swag fest.

Check in at the Kraken booth for a free shirt, roll a ball at the Fire Eater booth for free sunglasses, or like a page on Facebook for a free loaf of delicious San Luis Sourdough bread (which btw is PERFECT for soaking up alcohol!). There was definitely no shortage of chances to win free stuff at this year's Spirits Festival and that just made the experience that much more fun.


At the Fire Eater Whiskey (by Early Times) they had a similar booth to last year with various carnival games giving people a chance to win free stuff including hats, sunglasses, and shirts


Of course, one of the most fun things about the event was the fun people we got to meet. At festivals like this there is a kinship as people who simply love to have fun tend to gravitate to events like this and with a fun atmosphere and free-flowing alcohol it tends to be easy to make new friends - if only for a few hours though who knows if we'll run into these people in the future!

Of course, beyond the social aspects of a festival like this it is my mission to try new spirits and explore new ways to enjoy them, so let's start with COLDCOCK Whiskey, a brand that I had seen around town but just completely blew off as a "all marketing, no quality" spirit.


While YES this is clearly a party spirit that is sure to be a hit with frat boys and biker bars from Daytona to Seattle, COLDCOCK Whiskey is actually pretty good! They start with high quality bourbon from a heavenly distillery in Kentucky and then infuse it with a blend of herbs that makes it almost like an American version of Jaegermeister but MUCH MUCH more approachable for the American palate. 

According to their website, the blend of herbs includes: green tea, hibiscus, ginger, eucalyptus and that is all blended into an already top-shelf bourbon to create a smooth, drinking experience that is equally good for shooting, sipping, or mixing. 


Next up was Don Loco Tequila, also local to San Diego (but the spirit comes directly from Jalisco in Mexico). Their focus is making an ultra-premium tequila and having a great time while doing it. Their market is clearly the bars and clubs and frankly their marketing was a bit tacky but the spirit was good and at the end of the day that's all that matters!

While we only had a chance to try the Blanco, I look forward to trying the Reposado and Anejo at some point in the future and with a clear palate to taste how the spirit is transformed by resting for 14 months in French and American oak barrels.


While Don Loco was focused on creating the best "pure" tequila, Dirty Tequila was working to create an infusion featuring a blended tequila that is almost a cocktail in a bottle featuring a silver tequila blended with extra agave nectar, cinnamon, and pineapple and then packaged in a fun bottle that is deceiving since it almost looks more like a beer bottle than a spirit.



To those of you who are close to me, you already know my perspective on clear spirits (except Pisco and Tequila) and in particular gin. I frankly don't like most of them. However, I have been searching for a gin that I like. Unlike vodka, gin is different - while it is a clear spirit it always has a character that similar to Pisco is often better on the nose than the actual flavor on the tongue.

This summer though I think I have discovered that there are gins that I like and Gompers is one of them!


Above is the founder of Gompers Gin and his wife. The couple is from Bend Oregon and it is clear that this spirit is a work of passion for the couple who have invested it with their love for spirits as well as the love for their town by using pure Oregon juniper and crystal clear mountain water.

Kudos to these guys as well as others that are starting to re-think what gin is about and focusing on flavor and aromatics!


Not everything at the festival is about new and local West Coast distilleries though. I was frankly shocked to see Usquaebach scotches at the festival including this guy handing out samples of their $125+ bottle. 

Sadly though, serving up one of the top rare scotches in the world at a spirits festival was like serving Kobe at a football game. It is just simply not the environment where I can savor something truly special.

Regardless though - it isn't every day that I get a chance to try something like this, so it was definitely a welcome addition to the crew at the San Diego Spirits Festival!


Our old friends at Woodford Reserve were also on hand serving up cocktails and samples of their new Double Oaked to let people compare it to their standard spirit. As you can see from the sample cups, it is clearly a much darker and more oaky spirit but while I normally love wood I prefered the standard spirit this time. However, that might just be a familiarity issue vs anything else.


Not surprisingly, their cocktails were delicious and had a great classy presentation that served the spirit well!



Sammy Hagar is back and instead of tequila he is working to shake up the rum world now with Hawaiian rums. While I felt that the Beach Bar Rum white rum was good - but standard, the Red Head macadamia nut rum was outstanding as a unique spirit. Only time will tell how it goes but from the coloring, to the flavoring it was fun and unique and I can't wait to get my hands on a bottle to add to my collection!



Last both not least - while I typically avoid sugary cocktails because they tend to give me headaches the next morning, there is absolutely a market for an adult freeze pop and that's what the folks at Slim Chillers are serving up. 

With flavors like Cosmopolitan, Watermelon Lemonade, Appletini, and Lemon Drop and a promise of being "The Premium Low-Calorie Cocktail" their market is clearly women but I can see a few guys stashing them in a cooler to enjoy on the beach too!


One area that the folks behind the San Diego Spirits Festival did great this year is added more food and water than they had last year. This ranged from bottles of ice cold Don Julio water to tastes from local restaurants.


Hydration is key!




We have a review of Gaslamp kettle corn coming up shortly (hint - it's delicious!) but they did a great job of roaming the festival handing out bags of popcorn. This was a great benefit to the attendees, so on behalf of hundreds of people, thank you!



Food vendors this year ranged from The Blind Burro handing out a sashimi with avocado cup, the Melting Pot dishing out chocolate fondu, Crazee Burger slinging wild game sliders (I had the camel!), and of course ... no festival in San Diego is complete without tacos!

So thank you to Mr Peabody's who was dishing up amazing tacos that were the perfect compliment to a sunny afternoon on the bay drinking delicious spirits. There is something about tacos and tequila that just goes together extremely well. Oh and BTW that salsa was perfect too!


Of course, there was entertainment too, with the San Diego International Spirits Competition and mixology competitions, dancers, burlesque, and more.



Sadly, all great things have to come to and end and so did this year's San Diego Spirits Festival but I am sure that they will be back again next year. If you missed this year then shame on you! If you didn't then I am sure you will agree this is one of the NOT TO MISS events in San Diego and I can't wait for the 2015 San Diego Spirits Fest details to come out soon!

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Mon, 25 Aug 2014 09:20:55 +0000
2015 Dodge Challenger Review Driving down any highway in America, it's clear that the classic muscle car is no longer just an object to be restored to former glory, but a modern machine to be enjoyed today. For the last several years, car manufacturers have been bringing the best of the old body styles together with the latest in technology and engineering. The most recent, and quite possibly the BEST modern muscle car is the 2015 Dodge Challenger.

We were invited out to Portland, along with other media members, to test drive the new 2015 Dodge Challenger line. Our trip began at Team Challenger's temporary home base, the Hotel Lucia. The Hotel Lucia is an historic building in downtown Portland, built in 1909. Hotel Lucia is chic and stylish and houses an incredible photography collection from Pulitzer Prize winner and Portland native, David Hume Kennerly. The images found throughout the hallways draw you in and transport you to the 60's and 70's. It was only fitting that this is where the Challenger team decided to house their media guests.

Challenger Hotel Lucia King Room

The day of our drive, we woke up to unfortunate news: 100% chance of rain. What this meant was that we'd still be able to drive, but under stricter controls than on a dry track. After breakfast, we jumped into the vans and headed over to a nondescript location across one of the cities many bridges. We shuffled in past a row of umbrellas that we still didn't need and into the warehouse. Waiting inside were several boxes of Portland's very own, VooDoo Doughnuts. Ignoring the fact that we just had breakfast, I grabbed one of my favorites, the M&M minis doughnut. You can't not have VooDoo Doughnuts.

Challenger VooDoo Doughnuts

We were given a great overview of the planning and execution of the 2015 Dodge Challenger and Challenger SRT line of modern muscle cars. New for 2015, the Dodge Challenger now offers 485 Best-in-Class Horsepower, all-new 6.4-liter Scat Pack and 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker models, all-new interior, and segment-first standard Torqueflite 8-Speed Automatic Transmission. The Dodge Challenger SRT HEMI Hellcat boasts an amazing 707 Horsepower, 650 lb.-ft of torque that will make the quarter mile in 11.2 seconds, 10.8 on drags. The Challenger lineup

Challenger HEMI Hellcat 707 HP

The design team looked to the iconic 1971 Challenger for inspiration, inside and out. 

Challenger - Design Team Designers - Dan Zimmerman, Dodge Challenger Design, and Mark Trostle, Head of SRT & Mopar Design

The all-new interior features a 1971-inspired high-sill center console and driver-focused instrument panel. Available color and trim selections include: Houndstooth cloth to Ruby Red, and Tungsten or Pearl with black leather performance seats. The exterior features heritage muscle-car looks with refined exterior styling, including a tougher, more menacing looking front end with LED halo headlamps.

Challenger grill


After the presentation, we paired up with a driving partner and went out into the drizzle to grab some umbrellas and choose our cars for the two hour loop through the local wilds where Louis & Clark once traversed the land with Sacagawea. The surroundings, though cloudy and gray, were breathtaking. The curving roads were a lot of fun, but would have been more enjoyable on a sunny day. Still feeling the power of the car under my seat and at my hands more than made up for all the rain on the windshield. I made a mental note to return someday soon to take that drive again.

At the halfway mark, we stopped to switch up and had a chance to chat up some of the other drivers. The consensus was that the Challenger was one hell of a car and nobody could wait to get out to the track. We crossed our fingers that it would clear up by the time we got there, but the foreboding sky wasn't letting up.


When we arrived at Portland International Raceway, the rain was still falling, but not as hard at it had been earlier in the day. Still... a wet track is a wet track and that meant extra care was going to need to be taken. The drive team gave us some strict instructions and reminded us of some rules and courtesies of driving on a track. When it came time to ask questions, no one raised a hand. Everyone was just chomping at the bit to get out on the track, wet or not. 

We were given the opportunity to drive alone, with a pro in the passenger seat giving us some instruction, or with a pro at the wheel giving us a thrill ride. We got a tour of the track in a van with one of the pro drivers. He gave us some tips on where to speed up and slow down and what to do at the different cones. As soon as we got back to the pit, we grabbed our helmets and lined up to choose a car.


For my first drive, I chose the new 6.4-liter HEMI V-8. I'm not afraid to admit that I was slightly intimidated by the power of that machine. It didn't take much to get the car up to track speed and the back down to a safe turning speed. Some of the sharper turns were challenging, but getting up to 120 on the longer sections of the track was incredible! By the third and final lap, I was feeling like such a pro. I was managing the throttle, braking just right at the brake zones, hugging the wall with ease... I was starting to get a little cocky. Naturally, I forgot to come in to the pit at the end of Lap 3.

Yeah, I was "that guy."

My second go on the track was a lot better. I wasn't as nervous and I was finally getting familiar with the crazy hairpin turn that was tripping me up on the first go round. It was still a lot more car than I was used to, but I found myself getting used to the idea of that car being mine! The sun started to peak out towards the end of the day and everyone jumped at the chance to drive a few more laps while the weather let up. Rather than risk not having the chance to see what the car could REALLY do, I grabbed one of the pros and dragged him over to a Hellcat to take me for a spin. We made it around the track in just a few seconds under 2:00. My driver looked disappointed. "I usually do it in 1:35." Sun or no, a wet track is a wet track. Still... this was pretty cool:


The 2015 Dodge Challenger is a beast of a car. It's a powerful machine that should be respected as much as it's celebrated. It's definitely a car that enthusiasts will love to drive. Rain or shine, this car will blow your doors off!

]]> (Sugar Jones) Mancation Blog Sat, 23 Aug 2014 06:01:00 +0000
Salmon Fishing Adventures in Alaska Who said that taking a cruise is the only way to enjoy the coastline of Alaska? For the ultimate adventure, we highly recommend looking into an Alaskan salmon fishing expedition!

From rustic camping to luxury lodges there is something for almost every budget in Alaska. One of the most popular lodges is the Waterfall Resort, which was original founded as a cannery in 1912. Today, that historic cannery has been fully renovated into an all-inclusive resort that has hosted more than 50,000 guests! It is located on Prince of Wales Island, adjacent to the Alaskan Inside Passage, a spot know to generations of native american fishermen.

Of course, if your idea of a fishing adventure is to be able to come back to the lodge and get a massage and five-star dinner there are those options in Alaska too. If that's more your style, check out the Alyeska Resort where amenities include a full spa, business center, even a sushi bar!

Typically, the best time to visit Alaska for a fishing adventure is May through October, but different types of salmon have different peaks throughout that time period.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Sun, 17 Aug 2014 13:22:03 +0000
See the Red Bull Air Race! After a few years away, the Red Bull Air Race is back and touring the globe! While we'll have to wait a bit longer for it to make it's way here to the United States, the race starts today at the Ascot Racecourse just outside London. If you are looking for a better excuse for a mancation or guys weekend, visiting one of the upcoming locations would be an awesome experience.

In September, the race comes over to the United States with a stop in Fort Worth on September 6 and 7. Then it arrives in Las Vegas on October 11 and 12 before wrapping things up in Spielberg, Austria.

For fans of auto-racing, this is taking things to the next level. Just imagine some of the most exceptional pilots in the world competing through a combination of high speed, low altitude, and extreme maneuverability tests as they compete for the honor of being the fastest around the course filled with inflatable pylons that form the "air gates".

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Sat, 16 Aug 2014 15:24:29 +0000
Camping in Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone National Park has some of the most awe-inspiring landscape in the entire world. From geysers that shoot water hundreds of feet into the air as well as rainbow hued pools of boiling water and even cold mountain streams that run through lush grasslands where elk, bison, and other animals feed. While there are plenty of lodges such as the grand Yellowstone lodge, to get the full back to nature experience we recommend checking into one of the park's 12 campgrounds

Be aware though, we aren't the only ones that think this is a great summer camping idea, so make sure to make reservations early. This is especially true if you are looking to make reservations during the summer.

Of the 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone, 5 are operated by Xanterra Parks and REsorts with 1,700+ sites and take reservations. However the National Park Service operates 7 that are first-come, first-served basis those spots are often filled by 11 a.m., so plan to arrive early to get a good spot!

If lodges are more your style, there are more than 2,000 rooms available in the park as well.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Fri, 15 Aug 2014 14:45:27 +0000
Hiking and Camping in Olympic National Park With terrain ranging from rugged windswept seashore to temperate rainforest where ancient trees grow and even jagged mountains with stunning views, Olympic National Park in Washington state has something for everyone. Don't forget your rain coat though - while you won't find any tropical vegetation, the rainforest here gets an average of 150 inches of precipitation each year and up on Hurricane Ridge they get as much as 10 feet of snow during the winter months.

From a quick guys weekend getaway to a longer hiking mancation, this is a spot that shouldn't be ignored!


Photo Credit: "Lake Crescent spring" by Adbar - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Thu, 14 Aug 2014 05:32:05 +0000
Celebrating National Rum Day with Bacardi 8 Anos! Happy National Rum Day! It seems like there is a "national _____ day" just about every time we turn around, but when it comes to something as delicious as aged rum we really don't mind! The nice folks over at Bacardi sent over a bottle of their new 8 Anos rum to help us celebrate and we hope you can get in the mood too with their recipe for "Old Cuban".

To many aficionados of fine spirits, a brand such as Bacardi may be too mass market for them to consider but that's just good news for the rest of us as this Bacardi 8 Anos is a delicious spirit that is as tasty and beautiful to look at as any long aged craft rum that I have tried.

The coloring of Bacardi 8 Anos is a nice deep amber that looks almost like a bourbon at first glance and has a strong nose with aromas of fresh fruit, oak, caramel, and vanilla. My initial sip was thwarted though as though it is only 80 proof, the alcohol was a bit overpowering, after the spirit relaxed following a drop of water and a few minutes to rest it was much more approachable.

On my first sip, it was clear that this was not just a rum intended for mixing, but something that was equally delicious to sip straight when you want to relax and take a mental vacation to the Caribbean. For someone like me that loves bourbons and aged tequilas with strong oaky flavor this was a welcome experience as often rums can be a bit weak and overly sweet since they are intended to be mixers and nothing more.

Following the initial sip, I was able to discern a bit more balanced flavor that danced between oak, sweet caramel, and a bit of spiciness.

At $25, the rum is a good buy for something with lots of flavor but not too expensive to find out you just wasted money buying something you didn't like. If nothing else, the bottle is extremely attractive and will look sophisticated on your bar shelf.

Though, if you aren't ready to drink it straight, don't worry - you can always use it in this recipe ...

Bacardi Old Cuban Cocktail Recipe

Old Cuban cocktail recipe from @Bacardi #Bacardi #rum


  • 1 3/5 parts BACARDÍ 8 Años Rum
  • 2 dashes Angostura™ bitters
  • 3/5 parts Lime Juice
  • 1 part Simple Syrup
  • 6 whole leaves mint
  • 2 2/5 parts Champagne


Muddle lime juice, syrup and mint in a mixing glass. Add rum, bitters and ice and shake well. Strain into cocktail glass and top with champagne.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Mon, 11 Aug 2014 10:09:49 +0000
Introducing Laphroaig Select! Some love Laphroaig as the flag bearer for Islay Single Malt Scotches because they love the peaty, smokey, almost overpowering flavor profile and other's don't. But this is certainly a unique manly spirit that I like to celebrate as part of my personal collection. The folks at Laphroaig know that I have been a long time fan of the various releases (especially the Laphroaig Triple Wood released last year) so they shared their latest with me as well, Laphroaig Select!

This new release takes the classic Laphroaig expression and extends it by first blending together the best of the other styles of Laphroaig - Quarter Cask, PX Cask, Triple Wood and Ten Year and then finishing it off in new American Oak casks that are placed in the highest, warmest months of the Scottish summer.

John Campbell, Laphroaig Distillery Manager can take you through more of the background as well as the official tasting notes for the spirit in the video below.


As you can see, the complex blending of maturation techniques gives Laphroaig Select a flavor that is both classic as well as unique that while still retaining the classic peat smoke heritage, delivers a more oaky, drier flavors that I find softer and more refined, allowing more of the sweet and floral notes of the scotch to come through.

Ultimately, this results in a spirit that is both familiar but less overpowering to uninitiated Islay Scotch drinkers. Don't just take my word for it though! Laphroaig has fully embraced social media and wants your opinion so you can share it by using #OpinionsWelcome or visiting to read more.

Laphroaig Select is 80 proof and priced at $55 for a standard 750ml bottle.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Mon, 11 Aug 2014 11:30:07 +0000
Hanging out at Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour in San Diego There's no shortage of awesome beer festivals in San Diego and since we have some of the most talented brewers in the world it is never boring to see the same cast of characters week after week.

However, it is always exciting to see something different and that's exactly what Sierra Nevada delivered with their Beer Camp Across America tour this summer.

It was truly a regional brew fest as well as a chance to check out some of the best beers from around the country including those from Russian River, Cigar City, Bells, and Ballast Point.


We have our pretzel necklaces and sample glasses ready. Before we dive in though, here's a video that gives a great overview of why Beer Camp Tour was created ...


As you can see, this isn't just any old brewfest but is almost like a rock and roll tour featuring some of the best beer-stars. 

IMG 9993

Of particular interest for me was checking out the representatives from the Beer Camp Across America 12-pack, featuring beers brewed in collaboration with various leading breweries including:

  • There and Back: English-Style Bitter (New Glarus Brewing Company)
  • Canfusion: Rye Bock (Oskar Blues Brewery)
  • Tater Ridge; Scottish Ale (Asheville Brewers Alliance)
  • Yvan The Great: Belgian-Style Blonde (Russian River Brewing Company)
  • Chico King: Pale Ale (3 Floyds Brewing Co.)
  • Torpedo Pilsner (Firestone Walker Brewing Co.)
  • Double Latte: Coffee Milk Stout (Ninkasi Brewing Company)
  • Myron's Walk: Belgian-Style Pale Ale (Allagash Brewing Company)
  • Electric Ray: India Pale Lager (Ballast Point Brewing Company)
  • Yonder Bock: Tropical Maibock (Cigar City Brewing, LLC)
  • Alt Route: Altbier (Victory Brewing Company)
  • Maillard's Odyssey: Imperial Dark Ale (Bell's Brewery, Inc.)

IMG 9906

As we began our drinking tour across the country it was thrilling to experience some unique tastes and while not everything was exactly what I loved, that's part of the fun of a beer fest like this one. It's about the comradery of talking with strangers, making new friends, and sharing a passion for exploring new things.

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One of the breweries that I am sad to say I didn't get a chance to try was Russian River who's line as you can see above was ridiculously long.

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Brewers are becoming rockstars and it was clear that the fans had their favorites but each and every brewer that I met at the festival was really cool to talk with and it was clear that even as some are getting bigger and more corporate they haven't lost that sense of personality that led to their success in the first place.

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While clearly Russian River is a crowd favorite for the mostly West Coast crew I was thrilled to see that Bell's from Michigan was there too with their Two Hearted Ale.

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Beyond seeing old friends and familiar favorites one of the things that I always love about brewfests is trying unique new things such as this ridiculously hoppy Hop Juice Double IPA weighing in at 100 IBU's and 9.7% ABV from Left Coast Brewing Co. out of San Clemente, CA.

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Of course, familiar San Diego beers were there as well like Islander IPA from Coronado Brewing Co.

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And then there were standouts like this special Citrus IPA from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company out of Fresno, which featured citrus notes including grapefruit and lemon that complemented the hops to create a perfect drink for a hot summer day.

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While many in the crowd at beer fests tend to be more advanced in their understanding of craft beer than the average person, this tour was the exception as there were many people who haven't dived that deep into the craft and so brewers such as Bootlegger's Brewery from Fullerton, CA were happy to showcase the different elements that go into making the beers.

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While the majority of beers were on tap, there is something deliciously inviting about a tub full of ice cold cans  such as these cans of Devil's Ale from SanTan Brewing out of Chandler, AZ.

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Another surprise that I haven't had the pleasure of trying before was Coachella Valley Brewing Co from Thousand Palms, CA who brought their Desert Swarm Honey Double Wit featuring locally grown kumquats and killer bee honey to create a sweet and refreshing beverage with a story as great as the taste.

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After a long afternoon sampling tastes from nearly 100 breweries we hit the food truck area where there was everything from BBQ to Grilled Cheese.

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From San Diego, the Beer Camp Tour headed off to Denver and Chicago with stops still coming up in Portland, ME this weekend (8/1/2014) featuring 119 regional brewers and Philadelphia on 8/2/2014 with 82 brewers, followed by Mills River, NC on 8/3/2014 with 90 brewers. 

IMG 9999

Beer Camp Tour is a phenomenal concept both for Sierra Nevada as a promotional vehicle to make their brand even more of a national force, but also for craft beer fans around the country that might only be exposed to the brewers right around the corner.

Remember though, while there are unlimited samples, do like we did an take a cab home so you can stay safe!

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:30:33 +0000
The Centurion Lounge at DFW Do you fly often? Sick of grabbing crappy overpriced airport food before jumping back on another flight? Yeah ... me too! Airport lounges have evolved over the years from the old days when you got some complimentary orange juice and maybe a stale cinnamon roll. 

A couple weeks ago I was privileged to be invited to visit the new The Centurion Lounge at the Dallas Fort Worth airport and what I found was pretty impressive.


Located on Concourse D, opposite of Gate D17, the lounge is easily accessible from the Skylink train. 

The Centurion Lounge is open to all American Express card members for a $50 fee (one-day pass) but for those Platinum or Centurion members, access is complimentary.


I had heard great things about their bar and the signature cocktails developed by mixologist Jim Meehan who as well as having served at some of the top clubs in the country is also the deputy editor of Food & Wine's annual cocktail guide. As such, it was no surprise to find an exciting and unique cocktail menu, but I didn't realize how wide a menu of other services awaited members in the lounge.

In addition to the bar, buffet, and snacks there is also a concierge able to assist with travel bookings, dinner reservations and entertainment requests as well as a private shower suite - perfect for cleaning up after a long flight before heading home.

Even more remarkable is that there are limited spa services including massages and manicures that are offered on a first-come-first-served basis.

Of course - there are also semi-private work spaces and a family room.


The night I visited I was treated to a Tex-Mex themed buffet complete with smoked BBQ brisket tacos and enchiladas.

The food was good, with brisket that was probably as good as any I would have at a restaurant outside the airport. One gentleman I ran into said he eats here 3-4 times per week and said the food was generally very good.


To continue the Texas-themed dinner I ordered a Tex/Mex featuring Tito's Vodka, Cabeza Blanco Tequila, Corn, Honey, Lime, and Jalapeno. It tasted essentially like a spicy jalapeno margarita.

The menu in Dallas was created by Dean Fearing who has been honored as Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation and who's restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas was named "Restaurant of the Year" by Esquire Magazine and #1 in Hotel Dining in the US by Zagat.

Service was excellent and the waitresses were extremely efficient at helping to make sure guests were taken care of - whether that was a magazine, a fresh drink, or pretty much anything you could ask for.


Overall it was a great experience and certainly something that impressed me enough to look forward to checking out the other locations around the country.


American Express has plans to build other locations in the near future. Currently the other lounge is located in Las Vegas where the food and beverage menu is designed to match. 

For instance, instead of tacos, the dinner buffet there was designed by Scott Conant, chef and owner of Scarpetta restaurants and the Enoteca wine bar at the Cosmopolitan and features Lamb and Beef Borek with Sicillian Spices.

This is a very cool touch that should keep The Centurion Lounge concept fresh and unique as a destination.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Wed, 30 Jul 2014 06:17:13 +0000
Awesome Alabama Mancation Ideas Alabama has no shortage of great mancation ideas, from white sand beaches on the Gulf Shores to motorsports in the north, gold panning and auto factories in the center, and some great historic sites sprinkled throughout the state.

While Alabama might not be the first state that comes to mind when planning your next vacation here are some ideas that could change that for you!


Let's start at the Talladega Super Speedway, one of the most legendary race tracks in the world and NASCAR's longest oval with a length of 2.66 miles. Built in 1960, the track was designed to be longer and faster than Daytona and it has earned that reputation over the years including June 9, 2004 when Rusty Wallace set the all time NASCAR fastest speed at 216.309 mph. 

To enable this extremely high speed, Talladega's bank angle is a whopping 36 degrees vs Daytona's 31!


What you may not know about Alabama is that just before the famous California gold rush there was an Alabama gold rush in the 1830s. Frankly, I had no idea about this until I had the opportunity to drive through a small down in Alabama on our Hyundai Sonata review and discovered the store above where not only could I buy ice and beer but also prospecting supplies!

While there are several spots around the state where you can go prospecting, you might want to start at the Alabama Gold Camp where you can rent a prospecting shack for $65 / night and search for gold on their 179 acres featuring 34 mine sites and creeks where you can pan for gold as well.


Now that you have tested your prospecting skills in Alabama's backwoods, let's test your your abilities on some of the best golf courses in the country. One of the top courses in Alabama and part of the Robert Trent Golf Trail is Silver Lakes in Glencoe (above) that features three championship 9-hole courses: the Backbreaker, Heartbreaker, and Mindbreaker.


Over in Montgomery is one of the coolest destinations you may ever have a chance to visit, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing factory tours. While reservations are required, this is a must visit on your mancation tour through Alabama or even if you are doing a quick guys weekend getaway. 

During the factory tour, you'll see how they build more than 1,500 cars each day and follow the process from stamping the metal to watching some awesome robots weld them together and finally how the cars drive off the line at the end.


Depending on your preference, there is also no shortage of historic sites to visit from the Alabama Civil War trail complete with sites commemorating the battle of Mobile Bay, to Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, and the site where the Confederate States of America was born when Jefferson Davis took the oath of office in Montgomery to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuscaloosa.

Beyond wartime history, Alabama of course is also the home of numerous destinations where civil rights history was made including the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery.


One thing you MUST absolutely do while in Alabama is try some BBQ!

From BBQ shacks located on country roads to legendary joints like Dreamland BBQ with locations across the state, you are certain to find some of the best BBQ in the country. In the north part of the state you'll also find a unique white BBQ sauce that is a tangy mayonnaise base usually used for chicken but is pretty tasty for dipping other Q' in as well.


In Birmingham you'll find the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum located in the Barber Motorsports Park. 

George Barber started in the 1960's by racing modified Porsches during which time he collected 63 first-place wins and later began restoring classic sports cars and then motorcycles. Today, that collection has grown to be one of the largest collection of classic motorsports vehicles.


Finally, but certainly not least is a visit to Alabama's Gulf Shores where you'll find beautiful white sand beaches, delicious fresh seafood, and of course some awesome offshore fishing.

Ready to head down south for a mancation adventure you won't soon forget?

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Tue, 29 Jul 2014 09:06:30 +0000
Happy National Tequila Day, Let's Celebrate! Happy National Tequila Day!

Not sure about your plans, but we're celebrating with some delicious margaritas and tequila cocktail recipes that we've rounded up from around the world. Which is your favorite?

The here are a few of our favorite margarita recipes ...


Margarita Blanco

• 3 oz. of Jenni Rivera La Gran Señora Tequila Blanco
• Simple Syrup (1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water)
• 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
• 2 oz. of Triple Sec
• 1 Jalapeño, cut in half lengthwise

Put 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a saucepan to boil, stir occasionally to dissolve sugar. After the simple syrup cools combine it with 3 ounces of Jenni Rivera La Gran Señora Tequila Blanco, 1 ounce Fresh Lime Juice, 2 ounces of Triple Sec and 1 Jalapeño, cut in half lengthwise. Let the mix chill for 30 minutes- 3 hours. Be sure to taste it until it's spiced to your preference.
Once ready to serve, remove the jalapeno and serve with ice in a glass and garnish with sliced cucumber.



Don Julio Este Lado

1 1/2 ounces Tequila Don Julio Blanco
1/2 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
Slice of English Cucumber
Mint Sprig
Mint and Cucumber Wheel Garnish

*To create Simple Syrup:
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Water

Bring water to a boil and dissolve sugar into boiling water.
Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat.
Allow to cool completely. Can be prepared one day ahead.

Muddle English Cucumber and mint sprig in simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
Add Tequila Don Julio Blanco, fresh lime juice and ice. Shake well.
Strain contents over ice into a rocks glass.
Garnish with mint sprig and cucumber wheel.

Ideal Serving:
Rocks Glass

1 drink, no drink contains more than 0.6 fl oz alcohol


Cucumber Mint Margarita

Makes 2 servings

1/2 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup key lime juice
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup tequila reposado
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco brand Original Red Sauce
6 ice cubes

Salt to rim glasses
2 cucumber slices

Blend ingredients in a blender for one minute. Divide between two 6-ounce salt-rimmed glasses. Garnish each glass with a cucumber slice.

Seven Peaks Margarita recipe from @TequilaDonJulio and @ManTripping

Seven Peaks Margarita

1 1/4 oz Tequila Don Julio Añejo
1/4 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
1 Ginger Slice
1 Apple Wedge
1 Persimmon Wedge
Apple and Persimmon Fan for Garnish

Muddle ginger, apple and persimmon with the lime and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
Add Tequila Don Julio Añejo and Grand Marnier to the shaker with ice and shake well.
Double strain into double rocks glass filled with ice.
Garnish with an apple and persimmon fan.


Key Lime Raspberry Margarita

1 cup Laughing Glass Cocktails Margarita
1½ cup orange liquor
½ cup frozen raspberries
1 cup key lime juice
1/3 cup superfine sugar

Blend until raspberry seeds have disappeared, pour into a chilled, salt rimmed glass.

cruz citrus margarita @mantripping

tres agaves organic margarita @mantripping

spicy raspberry margarita with el jimador @mantripping

scotch bonnet pepper margarita @mantripping

classic Partida margarita recipe @TequilaPartida and @mantripping

Ruby Red Grapefruit margarita recipe @TequilaPartida and  @mantripping

Pineapple "Pina" Margarita recipe by @TequilaPartida and @mantripping

More recipes will be added over the next few day!

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Thu, 24 Jul 2014 04:29:10 +0000
2015 Hyundai Sonata Road Trip Review Last month the folks at Hyundai invited me out to Montgomery, Alabama to tour their amazing factory as well as put the brand new 2015 Hyundai Sonata through its paces. While honestly the family sedan market is traditionally boring with cars that end up being more similar than they are different as they compete for the heart of the American consumer, Hyundai typically has some special tactics to help make ownership fun. 

This has continued as they took the existing Sonata and made a more refined look continuing their "Fluidic Sculpture" theme with a 2.0 design. With 2015 Sonata trim levels ranging from the SE featuring a 2.4L 6-speed transmission for $21,150 to the Sport 2.0T with a 2.0L Turbo that fully loaded tops out at $33,525 there is something for everyone as it spans the gamut from "practical family sedan" to "junior executive".


Safety is a primary focus for Hyundai with all models coming standard with seven airbags including a new driver's knee airbag to help prevent the driver from sliding down during an accident. Other safety features such as forward collision warning, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, and a lane departure warning system.

Probably the coolest feature we tested was the smart cruise control that would slow the car down to even a complete stop in traffic should the car in front of you be going slower than your set speed. While we were nervous to test this out in real traffic we were able to get comfortable with it very quickly even in traffic though it will take some trust in the technology at first.

Unfortunately, the downside of this advanced feature is that there is a big ugly black piece of plastic in the otherwise stylish grill. That being said though, it is a small sacrifice for potentially reducing the otherwise high stress situation of having to keep your foot on the accelerator during stop and go traffic.


Hyundai engineers are similarly focused on bringing some of the luxury technology and comfort features found on the Genesis and other mid-size luxury sedans and bringing it to a mass-market platform. This is especially apparent in the Sport 2.0T model that while it isn't going to fool anyone into thinking you are driving a luxury or sports sedan certainly has features like paddle shifters, a kickass 400 watt sound system.


In the back, the feeling of luxury continues with 60/40 split seats that feature an armrest with dual cup holders.


From a handling perspective, both the 2.0T and the standard version felt very stable including a very smooth ride with minimal wind buffeting or noise even at above typical highway speeds.


Despite this stability, the 2.0T felt a bit sluggish with an engine and transmission that didn't match how the car felt and is positioned. However, I can honestly say that it was fun to drive through the backwoods of Alabama while jamming out to hip hop on the 400 watt sound system.

However, for those of you in a situation where you want the Genesis and she wants something more practical, this is a great compromise so you can get something that is completely practical during the week but fun to drive on weekends.


On the other hand, the surprise of the trip was the preview we got of the 2015 Sonata Eco, which is positioned to be more eco-friendly with higher gas milage etc. What impressed me about this trim-level is that it retained most of the features from the mid-range model it's engine felt MUCH peppier and fun to drive around the city.

When I drive, I like to have good pep accelerating around corners or off the line at a stop sign and that's where the Eco really delivered (though presumably at the sacrifice of overall top speed).


During our tour we also got a sneak peak of Apple Airplay, which will available as part of the navigation system later in the 2015 model year. This will allow the Sonata to leverage the ease of using Siri voice commands to access Maps, listen to music, and play messages as well as other features.

Hyundai's Blue Link continues to be one of the most advanced in the industry and among other features allows for remote start / unlock, remote Horn and Lights and the ability to slow or stop the vehicle in the event that it is stolen. Most interestingly though is the integration with the Hyundai mobile app which will allow people to monitor the performance of the Sonata and ensure that scheduled maintenance is taken care of for those of you would tend to forget those things.


Overall, the Sonata is a great choice for those looking for a technologically advanced family sedan that is stylish enough to be fun to drive when you head out on a guys weekend and very comfortable on a road trip.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Sun, 20 Jul 2014 08:24:00 +0000
Happy National Daiquiri Day from Cruzan! As you know, I LOVE daiquiris and so when the folks at Cruzan sent over a recipe and some rum I just had to try it out I just had to give it a whirl!

Cruzan® Sunset Daiquiri


  • 3 parts Cruzan® Aged Dark Rum
  • 2 parts Passion Fruit Syrup
  • 1/2 part Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 part Grenadine

Add all ingredients to a blender with ice. Blend until smooth. Pour into a hurricane glass. Garnish with a Cherry.

Passion Fruit Syrup

  • 12 parts White Sugar
  • 10 parts Water
  • 8 Ripe Passion Fruits

Cut Passion Fruit in half and scoop out the juice, pulp & seeds into your sauce pot. Add the sugar and lightly muddle to combine. Add the water and stir cold, until sugar is mostly dissolved. Bring to a soft boil while stirring continuously then reduce to low heat for three minutes. Fine strain & chill.

]]> (James Hills) Mancation Blog Sun, 20 Jul 2014 05:31:30 +0000