Bird 1963-2017

My dad could have lived to be 200 and it’d be too soon. He gave me my sense of humor, zeal for life and all around swagger.

Here is his obituary in full.

dadfingerRonald Ashley Zoerner Sr., better known as Bird to his family and friends, passed away on December 26, 2017 at the age of 54. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 14, 1963. His family is briefly summed up as follows: He is the biological child of Albinus Zoerner II and Nellie Arnold and is survived by his siblings Michael Zoerner, Tonya Chatman, Albinus Zoerner III and Andrew Zoerner. He also has half and step-siblings; Iva Buchanan, Chris Wilson, Barbara-Jean Gray, Jenny Box and Mary Rush.

His proudest role in life was as a father to Ashley Zoerner, Misty Fitts (husband, Keenan Fitts), Ronald Zoerner Jr. and Frank Zoerner, as well as a Paw-Paw to Javen, Rome, Payden, Jace, Bryson, Alivia and Liam.

He was divorced from Suzette Flores but both will tell you that they remained the best of friends until the end. Suzette’s current (and hopefully last) husband, Jesse Flores, couldn’t help but also fall for Bird’s charming personality and they developed a strong friendship, which resulted in labeling each other “husband-in-law”. Bird also considered his ex-wife’s step-daughter, Jessica Flores, as his very own. Long story short, he had a wonderful, quirky, unconventional family and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

In retirement, Bird lived his perfect life. Everything he owned fit in a backpack and he traveled via plane, train or automobile, splitting his time between his kids. In fact, the joke was always that when he left this earth the only thing his kids would have to divvy up would be his awesome T-shirt collection and maybe a bag of weed.

He was extraordinary. He wasn’t a conventional father and for that, his kids will forever be grateful. He was whatever they needed him to be at any given moment: a babysitter, handyman, confidant, cook, motivational speaker and always a friend.

Bird lived how he wanted and didn’t care what anyone else thought. He always said, “If it makes you happy and isn’t hurting anyone else, do it.” If you loved him, then there’s a good chance he loved you back. If you didn’t, he’d shrug you off seemingly without a second thought

He was laid back and didn’t see the point of being any other way. He figured that everything turns out the way it’s supposed to. “Don’t stress. Things always work out in the end,” he’d say.

He was a hard worker as a sheet rock finisher and his handiwork can be found in homes and businesses across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, New Orleans, Louisiana, Florida and beyond. Each of his kids grew up working beside him on job sites. He taught his kids to take pride in their work and the benefit of doing it right the first time. He was proud that anyone of his kids could texture a ceiling, spot nails, fix a patch and paint an entire house with ease.

He loved Popeyes Fried Chicken, Barq’s Rootbeer, Hubig’s Pies, Yuengling Lager, and if you ever offered him anything other than Blue Plate Mayo, he’d lose a little respect for you. He hated pickles and didn’t understand what all of the fuss was with sushi.

It’s tough to sum up anyone’s life in a few paragraphs but even more so with someone who had such a big personality and spirit. Bird was what most would call “a character,” and for many, there will forever be a void with him gone.

Bird wasn’t much for formalities, so close friends and family will be celebrating his life at Suzette’s home on Saturday December 30, 2017. There will be lots of tears and laughter. A few middle fingers will be tossed up in jest and many beers raised to a great man who is gone far too soon.

 

 

Ireland Beer Trip – Day 4 – Irish AF

On the fourth day of our trip, our group of super awesome beer nerds was headed northwest to Galway for a few days. A little over 3 hours of driving was broken up the best way possible, with castles and beer.

Our first stop was a stroll around Cahir Castle in County Tipperary. Situated on an island on the River Suir, this castle was pretty legit. I’m talking towers, winding stairways, a drawbridge – the whole shebang.

Having been built in 1142, Cahir Castle (like Jlo) doesn’t appear to age. In fact, it is one of the best-preserved castles in Ireland. In its Heyday, Cahir Castle was a state-of-the-art structure but that didn’t stop it from being pillaged and plundered several times over. Most recently, it was used to film a battle scene for Excalibur in 1981 and can be spotted in Showtime’s The Tudors.

Quite frankly, the whole experience was but a sharp reminder that I didn’t marry Prince William and become a princess (I told myself I wouldn’t cry).

I quickly gathered myself and made peace with my pheasant status because the group was now headed to Eight Degrees Brewing and boy could I use a beer.

Eight Degrees is located in Mitchelstown County Cork, Ireland and is run by two friends, Scott and Cam. They’re from New Zealand and Australia but two Irish beauties lured them to the Ballyhoura Region of the Emerald Isle where they decided that craft beer selections were lacking. Fast forward six years, and the remedy to that problems is their very own brewery.

The hospitality from everyone at Eight Degrees was amazing. Beer was drank, questions were answered, pizza was eaten and a good time was had by all.

My favorite brew was The Full Irish Single Malt IPA, brewed with local malted barley. It was fruity, floral and most importantly – super hoppy!

In addition to my stamp of approval, this beer has also won several awards including a silver medal at the 2017 Dublin Beer Cup, Best IPA in Ireland at the 2016 World Beer Cup Awards and Beer of the Year in 2015 by independent consumer group Beoir. So yeah, good stuff.

You can check out the complete line-up of beers here.

Later in the day, we arrived to a very rainy and dreary Galway. However, we were all hopped up on good brews and carbs so the weather was no match for our good spirits.

After checking into our hotel we were headed to Olso Bar, the self-proclaimed mother ship of Galway Bay Brewery. It was here that we were going to meet up with head brewer, Will Avery. I had heard a lot about Will over the past year and almost none of it was bad (I know him now so I can make jokes).

Will moved to Ireland from Georgia the year before with his lovely wife, Laurien, and two adorable kids – who somehow look Irish AF. Seriously, they look like they were birthed in a neon green pasture as sheep grazed nearby.

Anyway, Will welcomed us and enjoyed the company of old and new friends as we ate and were all around merry.

It was a long day and everyone was visibly tired but when the opportunity to check out a micro-distillery located in the back of the bar, home of Micil Poitin (pronounced poo-teen or poo-cheen depending on who you ask), we all perked up.

I had become enamored with this spirit a week before while I was exploring Ireland solo. The first I had heard of it was at the Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin and the nerd in me took over. I went back to my Airbnb that night and researched everything I could about poitin and made a point to try different brands when available during the duration of my visit.

So here is a brief history:

Like anything worth indulging in, Poitin (aka Irish moonshine) was once illegal. For centuries, it was homemade in rural areas of Ireland and could vary in quality depending on the availability of ingredients and the attention paid by its creator. It became legal in 1997 and is gaining popularity world-wide.

Pouitn can be sipped straight up or enjoyed in a cocktail (I prefer the first) but be warned, it is strong at 40-90% ABV.

The founder of Micil, Padraic O Griallais, explained that his product is named after his great-great-great grandfather, Micil Mac Chearra and is derived from a family recipe that has been preserved and enjoyed for five generations. It’s a smooth liquor with a nice balance of spicy and sweet. The burn was expected but welcome, not as harsh as you’d expect from a clear, high-gravity liquor.

Padraic was very gracious in explaining the distilling process and equipment to us and I’m  still kicking myself for not bringing a bottle of Micil Poitin home with me.

NOTE: I am a novice in the world of poitin but there is plenty of information online if you’d like to learn more about this Irish spirit. I highly recommend it.

I’m sure that the more awesome youngsters in our group showed Galway a good time as the night went on but I am a mere mortal and headed back to my hotel to dream of my would-be life as a princess.

And with that, Day 4 was a done deal. Stay tuned for Day 5!

P.S. There is no proof that Oslo Bar, meeting Will Avery or touring Micil Poitin ever happened. It was a long day and I was tired hence no photographic evidence. You’ll Just have to believe me. However, there are some lovely pics of the Avery family that were provided by the wonderful Laurien Avery below.

If you’d like to go on a super cool beer adventure led by the one and only Owen Ogletree then find out how here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Botanical Gardens – Photo Gallery

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It’s spring in Atlanta and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate then by taking a stroll through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

I loved looking at the flowers and plants through my camera lens and experimenting with different angles and perspectives. I hope you enjoy the images that I compiled in the photo gallery below.

Wherever you live, look up your local garden and make a point to stop in soon. It’s a great way to say goodbye to winter and welcome in the spring season!

 

Ireland Beer Trip – Day 3 – Wexford, I hardly knew ya’!

Day 3 was pretty chill. This is the day that we left good ‘ole Dublin for greener pastures. We had our bags packed and were ready to board our bus at 8am. That’s where Barry (the bus driver) entered our lives and he’ll be a better man for it, I’m sure.

This bus is the coolest place you’ll ever experience for several reasons:

1) It is not uncommon to start popping bottles of delicious beer by 8:15 am

2) There is no class system on the bus. Unlike high school, everyone is cool

3) We’re got some pretty funny people so the laughter is boisterous and often.

Our first stop was Carlow Brewing Company, better known as O’Hara’s. This is a family owned brewery that opened in 1996 with the vision of brewing traditional Irish styles with quality ingredients. This isn’t a hard task as the brewery is located in the heart of Ireland’s malt and hop-growing “Barrow Valley” region.

The O’Hara’s team was extremely welcoming with a table of food and beer flowing freely from the taps. My favorite style was the Irish Red. The sweet caramel notes balanced nicely with the maltiness. At 4.3% ABV it’s an easy drinking beer with lots of flavor. A perfect combination! You can check out the complete O’Hara’s line-up here.

After about an hour of riding, we arrived in Wexford, Ireland. This small town is located in southeast Ireland, at the mouth of the River Slaney. We didn’t have much time to explore before dinner but I fell in love with its windy, cobblestone streets and vow to return one day.

Dinner was at Simon Lamert & Sons Pub and Brewery. This pub features its own beers, which are brewed on site. The brewery is called Yellowbelly and produces award-winning brews that can be found all over Ireland.

I had already tried several Yellowbelly beers at bars across Dublin and was an instant fan. I honestly had not had one beer of theirs that I didn’t like. My favorite was a Berliner Weisse called “Jack Bauer’s Power Shower” – aside from the awesome name this was a very mild, approachable sour with hints of orange peel. You can check out Yellowbelly’s full list of beers here.

After a delicious dinner and many beers, we took the bus to check out Yellowbelly’s brand spankin’ new brewery. Just a few minutes drive from the restaurant, the new digs were coming together nicely. They had yet to begin brewing so that “new brewery smell” was ever present with squeaky-clean fermenters and a canning line ready to be fired up.

They were scheduled to begin production shortly after our visit and I think I can speak for the entire group in saying that we wish them the best and hope everything is running smoothly.

Fun Fact: This month, Simon Lamber & Sons Brewpub was named “Pub of the Year 2017” for Co. Wexford at the Irish Restaurant Awards. Congrats!

With a full belly and heavy eyes, we headed to our hotel. The next day we were headed to Galway to see old friends and make new one’s. Stay tuned!

If you’d like to go on a super cool beer adventure led by the one and only Owen Ogletree then find out how here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ireland Beer Trip – Day 2 – Oscar and Molly Sittin’ in a Tree…..

It’s day two! Everyone is well rested and fatigue is but a distant memory. We’re ready to hit the ground running – for the most part – and the biggest item on our itinerary for the day is visiting the infamous Guinness Brewery. We’re ready.

On the way, we took a leisurely walk through St. Stephen’s Green. At twenty-two acres, this is Dublin’s largest public park. Originally, only well-to-do locals had access to the park but in 1877, at the urging of Sir A.E. Guinness, parliament passed an Act to re-open it to the public. Guinness paid to have the park laid out as it is today before giving to the people in 1880.

Many of us took a moment to admire the swans and ducks at the lake before heading to nearby Merrion Square see the statue of Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was  an Irish playwright, novelist, essayist and poet. In the early 1890’s, he was London’s most popular playwright who was best known for his works The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Despite being married to a wealthy Englishwoman, which resulted in two sons, Wilde carried on an affair with a young man named Lord Alfred Douglas. When Douglas’ father found out about the affair he left a card at Wild’s home addressed to “Oscar Wilde; Posing Somdomite” misspelling Sodomite. Wilde was so enraged that he sued the man for libel. During the trail, evidence of Wild’s homosexuality was presented which resulted is the dismissal of the original case and the arrest of Wilde for “gross indecency”. Wilde was convicted on May 25, 1895 and sentenced to two years in prison.

Upon his release, Wilde exiled himself to France where he died three years later, at the age of 46, of meningitis.

While Wilde fled Ireland a broken man, he is hailed as a national treasure today. His statue rests atop a rock just across from his childhood home and is as unique as he was.

What stands out most about the Oscar Wilde statue are the colors. His jacket is carved from green nephrite jade and collar from pink Norwegian thulite. His pants were created with blue pearl granite. It truly is a unique work of art. A small bronze statue of his pregnant wife is nearby.

We then took a quick romp through the grounds of Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university, before heading to see the Molly Malone statue.

The Molly Malone statue depicts a busty woman pushing a cart along the streets on Dublin. Molly Malone is a popular song which has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin.

Here are the lyrics:

In Dublin’s fair city,

Where the girls are so pretty,

I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,

As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,

Through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

“Alive, alive, oh,

Alive, alive, oh,”

Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

She was a fishmonger,

But sure ’twas no wonder,

For so were her father and mother before,

And they wheeled their barrows,

Through the streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

(chorus)

She died of a fever,

And no one could save her,

And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.

But her ghost wheels her barrow,

Through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

 There is no evidence that Molly Malone was an actual person but her fame among Dubliners is so great that when her statue was revealed by Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Ben Briscoe on June 13, 1988 he declared it Molly Malone Day.

Disclaimer: The Molly Malone statue is temporarily situated on Suffolk but set to return to its original location of Grafton Street by the end of 2017.

The group finally meandered to the St. James Gate Brewery AKA Guinness. This brewery was founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness and became the largest brewery in the world by 1886. While it is no longer the largest in the world, it still holds the record as the largest brewer of stout in the world.

Fun fact: Group member, Dan Rosen, went to school with Arthur Guinness’ grandson-Rupert Guinness.

During our tour, we got to view the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin’s most popular tourist attraction. It was originally a brewing factory and has since been converted into a museum, which houses some of the old brewing equipment as well as brewing ingredients and insight into brewing techniques. The Storehouse is massive at seven stories and is in the shape of a 14-million-pint glass of Guinness.

After learning about the Guinness family and their beer, we were ready to learn how to pour the perfect pint.

Now that I am an expert at this (I have the certificate to prove it!) I’ll fill you in on how to pour like a pro:

Step 1: Start with a clean, dry 20-ounce tulip pint glass

Step 2: Place the glass under the tap at a 45-degree angle

Step 3: Pull the nozzle forward and allow beer to flow into the glass until it is three quarters of the way full

Step 4: Let the beer settle for 119.5 seconds

Step 5: Top off the glass

Step 5: Enjoy

You’re welcome.

While I enjoyed the visit to Guinness it fueled my desire to see the small craft breweries of Ireland, the little guys who are reinventing the beer scene and challenging the status quo. I knew they were on the schedule in the coming days and my excitement about it was growing.

We continued with the theme of Irish history with a visit to The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub dating back to 1198. Stepping into the Brazen Pub is like stepping back in time. You can’t help but imagine Irishmen of every century throwing back a pint and sharing a limerick or two.

Dinner was at J.W. Sweetman’s Craft Brewery. With its dark and ornate woodwork, fireplace and tapestries you wouldn’t necessarily think “Craft Brewery” when you walk into this place. It has the feel of a good old-fashioned Irish Pub where you’d order a Guinness and leave well enough alone.

However, J.W. Sweetman’s is the only pub in Dublin with its own micro-brewery. That means local craft beer! We were given a tasting of all five beers. My favorite was the porter, which was thick with notes of chocolate and tobacco giving it a subtle and enjoyable smokiness.

That was day 2. It was a long but interesting look at the city and how the Guinness family helped shape Ireland it into what it is today as well as how craft beer is emerging into a force to be reckoned with.

If you haven’t checked out my recap of Day 1 click here.

Cheers!

If you’d like to go on a super cool beer adventure led by the one and only Owen Ogletree then find out how here.

 

 

 

Ireland Beer Trip – Day 1- Jet Lag, Whiskey & Booze

Every year, Owen Ogletree of Brewtopia Events organizes a special trip comprised of Craft Beer Professionals and enthusiasts. While this has been a tradition for quite sometime, I have only been privy to these heavenly getaways for the last two years.

The goal is to explore the craft beer culture of another country. It’s a way to see how each place is making it their own. On these trips, it has truly been exciting to venture into different brew houses, pubs & bars and seeing how craft beer is both universal yet unique to its surroundings.

These trips make it apparent that the United States is a leader in the craft beer industry. Being such a young country, we can’t say that about many things but it’s undeniable that brewers in America have been studious in resurrecting and perfecting long forgotten styles as well as with being adventurous with new ones.

For instance, last year’s trip was to Italy. It was fascinating to be in a country that has trumped the United States in so many areas; art, culture, industry (to be fair, they have a few thousand years on us) yet when it came to Craft Beer they were behind us by at least a decade. That’s not to say that the beer wasn’t fantastic just that they are still figuring things out and have only recently developed the loyal followers that we’ve been enjoying for quite some time.

This year, our group was lucky enough to explore the beautiful island of Ireland. Along with amazing craft beer, we also toured a few distilleries. I thought it’d be fun to recap the trip here as a way to reminisce as well as share the experience with my readers.

Day 1

The first day of any trip is pretty laid back. People are jetlagged and running on adrenaline, which tends to wear thin pretty quick.

The group met in the lobby of our hotel in Dublin before walking to Teeling Distillery for a tour. I know, a whiskey tour on a beer trip? Crazy! However, keep in mind that with barrel aging becoming more and more popular in craft beer there are many intersections of beer and whisky (as well as wine, sherry and bourbon) so it’s all good. I for one will never turn my nose to anything that been fermented for my enjoyment.

The Teeling Distillery opened in 2015 and is the only operational distillery in the city. On the tour, you learn about the Teeling family and their history with whiskey along with the distilling process. As a beer nerd it’s always fun to compare and contrast brewing beer and distilling spirits.

Owen does a great job at providing an extensive list of the best beer bars wherever we go and it’s common to break off into groups to explore them. Later in the day, a few of us decided to grab a few drinks at The Long Hall. This is one of the oldest pubs in Dublin and is like taking a trip back in time. Pints of Guinness, settling and waiting for a second fill, line the bar as patrons squeeze in to made room for one another. You’re sure to make a friend here.

Our first group dinner was at Galway Bay’s Alfie Byrnes where we enjoyed even more pints. Being the first day of the trip, the meal was short for many as we slowly began breaking away to get back to the hotel and sleep.

Day one was the perfect prelude to what was sure to be an exciting romp through Ireland’s craft beer scene.

Check out the photo gallery below. Disclaimer: The first day was not well documented and all pictures are from my iPhone. It gets better, I promise!

If you’d like to go on a super cool beer adventure led by the one and only Owen Ogletree then find out how here.

 

 

I’ve Got The Post Trip Blues

 

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Me living it up in Ireland.

Cue the guitar cause I’ve got the blues.

I’m home after two wonderful weeks in Ireland and I’m a little bummed. This is normal, right?

When you’re planning a trip the anticipation is overwhelming. Anything is possible. Oh, the things you’ll do and see!

When you’re on the trip you’re blown away. Each day is packed with excitement. New places, new people, the food, the buildings; everything is magical.

And then it’s all over.

Sure, you have your memories but you also have spoiled milk and dirty laundry. You’re playing catch-up and fighting fatigue. You spend the first few days thinking about what time it is where you were and what you’d be doing if you were there now.

I’ve very fortunate to have been to so many awesome places and am sure that another adventure is right around the corner. Until then, excuse me while I load the washing machine……