Monday, June 29, 2015

Huff Brewing Company – A Texas Craft Beer Find!

           Sometimes I get lucky and find an interesting place to visit just by accident. On a recent day trip to get Suzanne out of the house when she’s feeling better after chemo, we were driving through Bellville. This is a route we take often through the back roads when we head out west of Houston. Bellville is a typical Texas small town with old historic buildings, a town square and numerous small businesses dotting the roads. I asked Suzanne to check and see if there would be anything interesting for us to do in town.

One of the internet searches brought up Huff Brewing Company. Since it was a hot late afternoon, I commented to Suzanne that these small craft brewery entrepreneurs reminded me of the pioneering Texian spirit of days long past, when pioneers left their homes and families to search for a better life. I mentioned to her how difficult it must be to sink your savings and hard labor into such an endeavor. Fortunately for me, she took the bait and asked if I would like to stop and try their beers. I replied, “OK, if you think it’s a good idea.” Deep inside I was excited about the idea of having a couple of ice cold beers at a new craft brewery, while making it seem like it was Suzanne’s idea.  Quite an accomplishment considering the fact that she can’t have alcohol right now!

While Huff Brewing is currently not always open on Saturdays, this particular Saturday afternoon they were open. (You have to check their Facebook page for Saturday times.) The brewery is nestled in a barbwire community outside of Bellville.  Although the brew house is unassuming on the outside, once inside, it was easy to see that these country boys are serious about producing quality beer. The brewery setup is very professional and similar to some of the larger breweries we have visited.

Once inside, we met our hostess, Susan, who is also one of the owners of the brewery. Suzanne asked her why she wanted to own a craft brewery. Her quick and short answer came with a big smile, “I love to drink beer!” Sounds like a good reason to me to own a brewery. Made me think of Blue Bell, “we drink all we can and sell the rest!” While Suzanne’s inquiry was interesting, she missed the most important question.  “How good does the beer taste?” So, I put them to the test. Drinking a short glass of each of their four beers, I treated them like a wine tasting. I looked at the color, swirled the beer in my glass, felt the coldness of the brew, and sipped slowly, while embracing my foam mustache. Without laughing out loud, our hostess Susan kept a straight face and answered all our questions about the brews and the brewery. Little did she know that I am a seasoned beer drinker who thought to have a little fun while enjoying the beers!

Huff’s four brews are: Huff’s Original, Huffmiester, Overture and Troilis. The light lager Huffmiester was my personal favorite.  Troilis was the most interesting.  It is aged in Cognac barrels for up to sixteen weeks to infuse the Cognac flavors with the amber lager. As far as where to buy these tasty brews, they are just now getting into the Houston markets and have plans to introduce a canned beer soon. They are on tap at The Farm Drinkery at Louetta and Champions Forest and soon you will be able to find them at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.  For other locations and the brewery hours, check their website and Facebook page.

The best bet in my opinion is to visit the brewery near Bellville and have a few brews while soaking up the country ambiance. Ask for Susan and tell her Suzanne and I sent you! She will treat you right. Ask your favorite watering hole to add the Huff Brewing Company tap beers to their stable of brews. The pioneering entrepreneur spirit is alive and still kicking. Let’s keep it that way as we see Texas Thru My Back Door!

We challenge our readers to join in our fight against breast cancer.  Visit Suzanne's new blog "My Equations for Life" as she reflects on life B.C. (before cancer) and A.D. (after diagnosis) and help support new early cancer detection research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with our Go Fund Me project below.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The San Jacinto Monument

Located on the east side of Houston is a monument which should be dear to all the people who live in Texas. It is at this location where an unruly, tattered band of brothers led by a brave commander who was determined to overcome overwhelming odds against a larger, more powerful army made his last stand. 

With the defeats at the Alamo and Goliad deeply burned in his mind, General Sam Houston gave the order to burn the bridges behind them. No one would be leaving this battle until one side was totally defeated. In the meantime, his nemesis, General Santa Anna, decided to give his troops a little rest and relaxation. He was so sure that the Texians would not attack his larger and more highly trained army, few guards were posted. They would be ready to line up and battle the Texians the next day if the Texians dared to show up. 

General Sam Houston decided on another game plan. He knew his smaller army was outmanned, so with the cunningness of a Cherokee Indian and the wisdom earned from the fighting the British at the Battle of New Orleans, Sam Houston decided on an afternoon surprise. It worked! The Texians routed the larger, more experienced Mexican Army in a record 18 minutes! With General Santa Anna’s capture the next day, the Republic of Texas was saved from early extinction and leaped into prominence with the powers of the world.

It is only fitting that in 1939 Texas erected the world’s tallest war memorial obelisk monument at the location of the battle. In Texas fashion, against the wishes of Washington D.C., the monument was built higher than the George Washington Monument. At the bottom of the monument, there is a fascinating Republic of Texas museum filled with artifacts and other items of interest. The museum is free of charge for all who are curious to learn more about our state’s history. At the top of the monument is an observation deck where you get a birds-eye view of the battlefield and see the scores of refineries and petrochemical plants that surround the site. 

If you never been to this historic site, it’s a must see “Bucket List” place in Texas. If you been before as a child like me, you will find it’s a great place to return and learn more about Texas history.

We challenge our readers to join in our fight against breast cancer.  Visit Suzanne's new blog "My Equations for Life" as she reflects on life B.C. (before cancer) and A.D. (after diagnosis) and help support new early cancer detection research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with our Go Fund Me project below.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nanotechnology at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Suzanne and I have been traveling around Texas seeking out unique Texas products, places and Texans to share with you for the past couple of years. Texas history is so rich that we feel we will never learn all there is to know about Texas. The folks we have met along the way have shared their passions about what they do and their insights have been fascinating. The food and drinks have been fabulous to say the least. Although Suzanne thinks I seek out too many craft breweries, wineries and distilleries; I keep telling her these are the current entrepreneurs that will reenergize the pioneering spirit that Texas was built on. Plus, I get to have a few adult beverages along the way! Hope she keeps buying into this message.

So to satisfy Suzanne, I’ve wandered over to something different. Since Suzanne found out recently she has breast cancer, I have been researching the latest information and treatments for cancer. Here in Houston, we have some of the best cancer treatment centers in the world. One of the little known gems I discovered is a research project at MD Anderson called Magnetic Relaxometry. Like the inquisitive blogger I am, I reached out to the Lead Investigator of the project to see if Suzanne and I could come by for a visit to learn more about their research. To my surprise, the researcher said “Yes!”

Suzanne and I were excited about the meeting. Many people don’t know that the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a research center in addition to being a cancer hospital. Suzanne was able to participate in a Stage 2 trial called “I SPY 2” that allows her to take an additional specific targeting drug along with her normal treatment.  She believes research is crucial to finding better treatments and hopefully a cure. 

The research building we were visiting was away from the main MD Anderson Cancer Center and looked like a shiny new penny. We waited patiently in the lobby like grandparents waiting on their grandbaby to be born. Soon, a young lady approached us with a large smile and introduced herself. Her name is Kelsey Mathieu, PHD Instructor, Imaging Physics and Lead Investigator. She led us to a room where the cutting edge imaging device is located. This device is called a SQUID, short for Superconducting Quantum Interference Device. The name sounded like something said by Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory TV Show!

This approach, called “NanoMagnetic Relaxometry”, is based on the premise of attaching superparamagnetic nanoparticles to antibodies that will adhere to specifically identified cancer cells, applying a brief magnetic pulse and then detecting and determining the number of cancer cells present in the body if any.

Kelsey explained the process known as Nanomagnetic Relaxometry to us in detail and answered all our questions. Basically they add a nanomagnetic particle to a targeting agent that will adhere to cancer cells only. Then a brief magnetic pulse is applied and the SQUID detects the signal of the location of the cancer cells, if any exist. This technology which is 200 times more sensitive than current methods could replace MRI scans, sonograms and mammograms. Also, it would be cheaper and less invasive than the methods used to detect cancer now. Another use would be in verification of cancer-free existence after chemotherapy or surgery or radiation. In Suzanne’s case, the doctors will use surgery and radiation to make sure they killed all the cancer cells after chemotherapy. One day these duplications of treatment will be a thing of the past if this method works.

Suzanne and I were so impressed by the promise of this new technology, we wanted to help out. Believing small research projects like this one lack the funding that the higher profile projects get, we decided to create a “Go Fund Me” Account called Suzanne’s Cancer Adventure. Our goal is to donate as much money as we can raise for The Magnetic Relaxometry Research Laboratory at MD Anderson. We hope you will agree with us and give to our “Go Fund Me” account. I’ve even decided to give to you as a thank you gift, a copy of my book “The Second Coming – The Republic of Texas” signed by Suzanne with her Mind/Matter > cancer catchphrase,  to those who donate $25 or more. Suzanne has also created another blog appropriately titled “My Equations For Life”. Here you will learn about Suzanne’s Cancer Adventure as she navigates MD Anderson. She wants it to be informative yet lighthearted. Hope you will enjoy! We would also appreciate any feedback or questions you might have.

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