We love learning. It’s why we started blogging. I wanted to make my own soap, which led to late nights on Google, sit-ins at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks with a latte and piles of soapmaking books, and a whole lot of recipe testing until I finally achieved my first successful batch. Once I had it down, the first thing I wanted to do was share what I learned. All of our recipes, DIYs and styling posts are examples of this learning/sharing merry-go-round. We’re not content to broaden our own horizons and leave it at that. We want to help you broaden yours, and be inspired by you to broaden ours even more.
One of the most valuable things we’ve gained from blogging is the creative community it has introduced us to. We’ve met people we never would have met otherwise, and we’ve been exposed to perspectives, industries and cultures that have inspired and challenged us to the core. I would never have called myself a coffee drinker before we launched offbeat + inspired, but since we started working with FreshGround Roasting and began frequenting cafes like A Cup of Common Wealth, I’ve learned how to properly identify, grind and brew top quality coffee beans. I can now take my coffee black (something I never thought I’d say), and I take it daily. I wouldn’t have been classified as a craft beer drinker either, but after meeting the crew at Solemn Oath Brewery, visiting local taphouses like The Beer Trappe and reading the stunningly photographed and informative articles on GoodBeerHunting.com, I now know that craft beer is insanely artistic, and that I’m a big fan of Witbier.
All of this has pushed us outside of our comfort zone and taught us that in the vast world of creatives, passion alone can make you relevant. This is why it seemed only natural to merge the passions of world-class spirits, beer and baking a few weeks ago when Sarah and I found ourselves on the scene of a Scotch whisky tasting at the Chicago studio of Michael Kiser (author and photographer at Good Beer Hunting). We were attending as guests, bloggers and bakers. When Michael originally e-mailed me with our invite and the event details, I was ecstatic. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, represented by the lovely Georgie Bell, would be providing 4 whiskies labeled by number with no information on what distilleries, regions or barrels they came from. SMWS’s mission is to undo the biases that come with knowing the origins of a particular whisky, and educate people on how to appreciate the true flavors and qualities of each drink. I love that whole concept because it brings attention to the craft itself and gives all the subtleties and details a chance to shine.
Our role as bakers at this little shindig started with being given a flavor description for each of the 4 whiskies. I pulled the notes that stood out to me, then came up with 4 sweets that I thought would complement those flavors best and provide some good balance (we’ll be posting all the recipes in the near future!). Below is the gorgeous, hand-lettered backdrop (by the incredibly talented Hillary Schuster of hillaryschuster.com) with the tasting menu including the whisky number, SMWS-designated name and dessert pairing.
We loved presenting each dessert and watching as people swirled their glasses, savored maple madeleines and chocolate bark, made new friends, connected with old ones and learned a little more about whisky, food and each other.
Georgie did a flawless job making a room full of amateurs, connoisseurs, photographers, writers, bakers, brewers and tasters feel like we were all part of the whisky family. Whether we preferred to use phrases like “tennis balls” to describe the flavors we were pulling from our glasses, or even if we would rather water our whisky down because we’d like it just a little sweeter — it didn’t matter. All were welcome, and all was enjoyed.
At the end of the night, as Georgie gathered sherry glasses and Michael collected the empty, well-loved bottles of his prized beer collection, I couldn’t help but think about how crazy it was that soapmaking was the beginning that brought us there. The thread of creativity that takes us through life can lead to such unlikely places, and to people that motivate us to keep chasing our mismatched, beautiful dreams. It allows us to leave those places truly inspired.
Check out Michael Kiser’s coverage of the event on Good Beer Hunting here!