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Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Recipe and a Dream...

An Inside Look into the Unicorn Wine Guild

Dreams are not always easy to follow. As sad as that is to say, people usually have some conflict, be it financial issues or just sheer improbability of success, which prevents them from ever getting the opportunity to fulfill their ambitions. However, for a couple in Belpre, Ohio, nothing was going to stand in their way as they strived to make their longtime dream become a tangible reality.

In March 2009, Barbara and Joel Whitaker opened the Unicorn Wine Guild. The couple had been talking about opening their own winery for years, but it wasn’t until recently that they took the initiative to go out and do it. After traveling to vineyards and sampling wines from all over the world, the couple decided that it was their turn to give something back to the world of wine.

Located at 1816 Washington Boulevard (right across from the Hardee’s), the establishment itself is very different from the conventional winery. Set-up inside an old drug store, the neutral colors and homelike features (i.e. couches and an aquarium) make the Unicorn Wine Guild seem more like someone’s house than a wine manufactory.

Inside this old drugstore, the couple produces all of their own wines and they even teach courses on how to create homemade wine.

The whole process began one Christmas several years ago when the couple was given the supplies needed to make their own wine.

“My nephew would always give us books on wine, or wine appreciation guides, and then one Christmas he gave us a three gallon glass carboy and a fermenting pail,” says Joel.

Joel admits that he had a basic idea of the winemaking process, but had never actually tried to make wine himself.

“Let me note, I didn’t have an actual wine making kit when I first started,” says Joel. “I had a wine recipe."

That proved to be all he needed.

Despite knowing little about the winemaking procedure, Joel says that the first batch he ever made turned out to be delectable. So good, in fact, that he bottled some of it up and gave it away to friends as gifts.

“When I heard that my friends actually enjoyed the wine I made, that’s when I began thinking that this could be more than just a simple hobby."

The couple has spent the last few years trying to figure out what they want to do when they retire. Joel is currently a Dentist while his wife, Barbara, works as a nurse anesthetist, but the two felt they wanted to do more once they retired from their jobs.

This is how the idea to create the wine guild began. A little inspiration from some friends and some self-determination was all the couple needed to follow their passion.

-A shelf displaying several of the wines produced
at the Unicorn Wine Guild

Barbara says that the hardest part about starting up was finding a reasonable location to open the business.

“We looked everywhere in and around Belpre,” she said. “I could tell you any vacancy in the area and exactly how much it cost.”

But finding an empty lot to place their business into wasn’t their only problem.

It is actually illegal to sell alcohol in Belpre ever since prohibition began in 1920. The reason why Barbara and Joel are able to maintain their store is because their business permits them to be labeled as a manufactory.

According to Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce president Teresa Turner, manufactories in Belpre are allowed to sell alcohol within a commercial zone under the condition that they produce all of the alcohol themselves within the establishment.

Knowing this, Joel thought that it would be a great idea to set up several winemaking stations, not only to make wine to sell to customers, but also so that customers can come in and make their own wine.

- Several of the winemaking stations.

“It was actually my wife’s idea to come in here and take a shot at making some wine,” says David Mallitz. “We just finished making a merlot and are currently waiting for our pinot grigio to ferment.”

Mallitz is one of many people excited about the wine that they’ve been able to create here.

“We really had no idea just how many people would be interested in making there own wine,” says Joel. “But as more people began showing up, we knew that we had to start setting up more stations.”

While Joel and Barbara teach the patrons how to make their own wine, they say that it is completely up to the customer how much involvement they want to have in the process.

“There is only one stipulation that we cannot help our patrons with,” says Barbara. “The customers are only allowed to take their finished product home if they sprinkle the yeast in themselves. It’s a legal requirement in all dry counties.”

But, why unicorns?

Well, it’s a mixture of Joel’s first effort at making wine and Barbara’s childhood infatuation.

As a child, Barbara Whitaker loved unicorns. She grew up on a farm and was constantly surrounded by horses, but it was the aspect of fantasy that attracted her to the mystical creature. Her love for unicorns eventually proved to be an instrumental part in helping the couples wine find its’ own identity.

“When we were first starting out, the wine would always overflow and get all over my kitchen,” says Barbara. “We eventually decided to put the carboys in the bathtub so that if they did happen to flood, they could easily drain out.”

As the wine spilled into the bathtub it stained the bathtub with a hue that resembled blood. Because of this, the couple frequently referred to the wine as “unicorn blood”. They both chuckled as they explained the reason for calling it this was because the first batch was “oh, so magical.”

Though initially just a joke, the name stuck around and that’s how the couple came up with the name of their business.

-Image courtesy of

The Unicorn Wine Guild has only been open for a year, yet the business is beginning to blossom. At this rate, the couple may be able to retire a bit sooner than they had thought.

"Even if it isn't the greatest winery in the world, we took a risk and I can't explain how happy I am that we did," says Joel. "The future of the Unicorn Wine Guild is hard to predict, but I'm excited for the ride."

Friday, March 12, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, today may feature my most unique beverage review to date.

The reason why I say this is because this is a beverage that cannot be purchased in any bar or store in the area. Hell, there's only one place that it can be purchased; and that my friends, is from Mr. Tyler Sutherland.

Sutherland has been producing his own wine here at Ohio University ever since his freshman year. He says that he originally began the process out of interest for the subject, but had no idea that others may be interested in his product.

"Initially, I just wanted to make my own wine so that I wouldn't have to break the bank if I wanted a drink," says Sutherland. "I had no idea that anyone would ever be interested in purchasing and consuming something that I made myself."

He was kind enough to let me try some of his latest work.

As I stepped into the residence of photojournalism student Tyler Sutherland, he kindly offered me a sample of his latest product. He walked over to a large, orange container that featured a spigot allowing for easy dispensing, filled a coffee mug and handed it over to me. My lips puckered as I consumed my first sip of what he called his more “fruity batch,” and I did my best to determine the contents that made up this particular batch of wine.

This was unlike any wine I had ever had before. It featured a dark, luscious red hue and tasted like a combination of red wine and sour raspberries. It was good though, in a “wow, this was manufactured in a closet” kind of way. Sutherland chose to use grape juice for this particular batch but added that any fruit juice will work, as long as it’s not a citrus juice. “Yeah, I probably should have warned you before you took a sip of that. This is one of my stronger batches,” laughed Sutherland.

I'm by no means a wine expert, but this was good. Real good. Others have taken notice to his work as well as he now has a steady range of customers to which he sells bottles for five dollars a piece.

So if you have a spare five dollars laying around, why not help keep Sutherland in business? The town (because you're buying local), your palate and Tyler will all be gracious for your purchase.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Alternative Uses for Your Unused Natty Light! (Part Two)

The time has come friends.

But, before we dive into my list of the 'top four alternative uses for beer', I wanted to first make a little side note.

My step-mother is also a fellow blogger. She blogs about her art and really has a beautiful thing going for her. Her blog is much more intricate and well, better, than mine so you all should really check it out.

The reason why I'm saying this is because my parents now often visit my blog and since they've started reading, nearly all my posts have been alcohol-related. I didn't even realize that until I started writing this particular post today.....they must be so proud.

So on that note, it's time for the top four uses for beer!


#4. Bee Distractor

There are three things that I cannot stand in this world - Traffic, crumbs and insects. I find bees to be particularly nauseating. Thankfully this world also features beer, and it turns out bees love it just as much as we do. So, before your next backyard BBQ, put a few containers of beer around the perimeter of the yard. This way, the bees will be distracted with the beer and feel no need to come over to the party and be annoying. (No offense bee lovers. I do enjoy honey.)

#3. Hair Cleaner

No shampoo? No problem. Believe it or not, washing your hair with beer can actually make your hair shinier and also give it more body. Even though I have no idea what the hell "body" means in hair terms, I know some people strive for it and beer might just be the ticket there. Some shampoos even use beer in their product! Don't believe me? Check out this REAL (and hilarious) commercial for Body on Tap shampoo from 1978.

#2. Fight Fire

Although a real fire extinguisher might be slightly better, a beer is the next best thing to have around if something in front of you just happens to go up in flames. Shake that bad boy up and then spray onto said fire. There is even a russian beer designed to look like a fire extinguisher. The directions on the side of the bottle even show you how to effectively put out the fire!

#1. Just Drink It

This is no cheap copout ladies and gentlemen, beer actually has many health benefits; if it's consumed in moderation of coarse. According to a researcher at Texas Southwestern Medical Center, those who consume one or two beers a day have a 30-40% lower rate of coronary heart disease compared to those who don't drink. This is due to the polyphenols found in the beer. Beer features about the same amount of these antioxidants as red wine does and about 4-5 times more than white wine.

While drinking beer is obviously not a healthy alternative, to say, drinking water, let's think about all the simple benefits that come from it. It has a relaxing effect on the body that can reduce stress, it can help you sleep, it is fat-free and cholesterol free, it improves the blood circulation and well, it tastes good. (real beer that is. Sorry Natty Light but, nevermind, you guys get my point)

So that's the list. Whew, well I'm impressed. I think it's time we all raise our glasses and toast to this magnificently useful beverage.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Alternative Uses for Your Unused Natty Light! (Part One)

The reason why I'm writing this post is for my fellow college students. We're not made of money, so, many students have to make that "Do I buy laundry detergent or do I buy beer for the party?" decision. Unfortunately for our parents knowledge, it seems the latter is much more often the final decision. I figure, if students are going to purchase beer over having clean socks, then it's my job to inform my student body of some alternative uses for beer so that they can stretch their dollar just that much further.

Not long ago, a few of my buddies made one of those "two-cans-connected-with-a-string" telephones using old beer cans. This got me thinking, what are some other ways that people can efficiently use beer?

Now, being a college student, I've seen my fair share of unique uses for beer (i.e. beersicles - cubes of beer with toothpicks stuck in them or the ever popular beer lamp) but, it wasn't until I did some research that I found out just how useful some spare beers can really be.

The amount of information that I found on this subject was actually pretty breathtaking, so, instead of simply stating all the uses, I'm going to count down my top 8 list of the best alternatives (at least in my mind) for beer that I could find. I'm going to do the # 5-8 in this post and then save the final four the next post. So, without any further delay birds and gents...Here's the list!

#8. Take a Beer Bath

You may need more than just a couple of spare cans for this one, but if you can scrounge enough beers together to fill a tub, you're skin will thank you later. According to this article that I found online, the yeast and other ingredients actually work as great skin-softeners. (Note: you should probably shower after the bath. With water, that is.)

#7. Stain Removal

I'm very capable of spilling anything at any place. Thankfully for people like me, I can just use my beer to clean up! Simply pour a fresh beer on the stain, let it sit for a minute and then blot that stain right out of there.

#6. Marinating

Beer makes an excellent marinade. Not only will it add a distinct flavor to the meat, but it will also soften it up. Here's a great recipe for a beer marinade.

#5. Plant Fertilizer

For all those green-thumbs out there, this use is right up your alley. A little beer splashed around the base of the plants will provide them with extra nutrients, just make sure not to give them too much (as we all know, too much beer never leads to good things). For further interest in this use, check out this website and read Madeline Wajda's tale.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Take a Delicious Journey

Hey guys, today I'm posting a map that I made for you all.

On the map are 10 different location, all with their own brief descriptions about them. I color coordinated the spots according to a sort of, delich-o-meter if you will, using red and blue markers. The red markers symbolize "Must Visit" spots in Athens as they offer both a unique environment and, of coarse, quite palatable potations.

I also recommended a particular drink for each location, just in case you have some trouble deciding.

Have a great sunday all. USA!

View Delectable Doyle's Tour of Athens in a larger map

Friday, February 26, 2010

An Ode to A Fallen Establishment

Please don't tell me that any of you have forgotten about Skipper's Bar and Grill (I wanted to put a link here but unfortunately the business no longer has a website). Yes, Skipper's, the place that offered over 45 different beers, some of the finest burgers in town and above all, 25 cent drafts on Tuesday nights. That's right, there's no typo there. (Even if you're not much of a beer drinker, 25 cent drafts of anything is pretty spectacular.)

It boggles my mind that this place was closed down. Every time that I ever ventured inside the place was always packed to the walls. The people were friendly, the food was great, and the prices were very reasonable. (Did I mention yet that Tuesday was 25 cent draft night!?) But, I guess that's just the restaurant business for's obviously no easy task.

Jackie O's has recently taken over the vacant establishment that, at one time, used to be my dear Skipper's. Jackie O's has completely renovated the inside, and turned the establishment into an annex version of their bar. This is nice for Jackie O's goers because the new venue offers a much larger stage for musicians to perform...

...I want to keep going on about the great changes Jackie O's has made to the place because I really do love Jackie O's, but I can't. I feel like an impostor every time I go inside the place now. Like one of those people who shaves their hair off then says that they've always been punk. It's just different now. If I were to go up to the bar and ask for a draft of the finest "Natural Light" (The only draft they featured on Tuesdays) and gave them nothing but a quarter....Not only would I be laughed at, but I'd probably be banned for life for such outlandish behavior. I guess it's just important to remember all the good times.

So, here's to you Skipper's Bar and Grill. The amount of smiles that you put on faces (and wallets) across Athens would take decades to count. May whomever you're serving these days be thankful and fully aware of how special you are. Bless you Skipper's, you will not be forgotten.