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Maker Stories

Spread the Word: A Conversation with Eliza Todd about Art, Language, and Life

February 20, 2017

For Eliza Todd, creating art is so much more than a career. “It’s a way of figuring out life,” the artist says. On a plot of conserved prairie, the Illinois maker creates her one-of-a-kind designs from calendars to dining ware. Most days, she wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and works up to 14 hours, taking breaks for walks with her husband or to spend time with her two sons. “I’m still in the process of turning this into a life… For years I didn’t do art.” Twenty of them to be exact. She was in the computer industry, but when her younger son was born, Eliza stayed home and decided to go back to her artistic roots. “It’s a risk. Like anything when you try something new, putting myself out there was terrifying.” For her first project, she gathered blocks of wood and covered them with a thick resin that created a cool effect. Other people thought they were pretty cool, too, and so she took her works to some local Lake County shop owners who immediately fell for the designs as well. “It was scary,” she said, “but fortunately, worth it.”

Eliza Todd

The more Eliza practiced, the more her creativity wheels spun, and they’ve taken her from local painter to national glassware designer. It’s a love story that began, as many of them do, with words. “I started collecting these antiquated words,” she recalls. “Some of them are morbid or sick. Some are from the 1800s or 1600s. It was a dark time! But there’s a lot that are really interesting or funny or beautiful. I leaned toward the positive and collected them in a journal.” Then she thought, “I need to incorporate these into art!” The first word she really took to was efflorescence, a word she describes as “blooming, coming into your own.” Then came crapulous which, Eliza admits, still makes her giggle. The adjective means “tipsy,” which made her think, “This would be perfect on a glass.”

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Design, The Uncommon Life

Home Run Beer Pong:
A Design Double Header

October 10, 2016

Home Run Beer Pong


Ah, two of America’s greatest pastimes: playing baseball and crushin’ brewskis. Our ever-innovative product development team had the genius idea to combine them in our latest original product: Home Run Beer Pong. When our team is working on something new for our assortment, they typically need some guinea pigs to test it out – and lucky for us on the blog squad, people to document the process! I’ll admit, I’m no sports expert. But since I have played a fair amount of beer pong in my day, I figured I was qualified enough to tackle the reporting of this product-testing event while Cassie, our blog editor, handled the photos.

Allow me to set the scene for you. It all went down in Conference Room A-2 – the table free of it’s usual keyboards and mouse pads, instead replaced with a mini paper baseball diamond (the real game has a board, not just a sheet of paper – remember we were product testing). Our single can of Canada Dry was cracked and ready, and our two opposing teams were eager to show off their baseball playing, soda slugging skills. Another disclaimer: the real game is meant to be played with beer, obviously, but we were playing at 11 AM on a Thursday and we only had the conference room booked for an hour, so we kept it low-key. But, you’re free to chug ginger ale instead if that’s what you’re into.

From left: Team Ken (Red Team), Team Craig and Jackie (Blue Team)

Let’s meet the players. We had many statistical minds on the field/conference table, including two whole Kens! Ken “The Elder” is our Data Scientist, and Ken “The Younger” (also known as “Yung Ken” in some underground rap circles) is our Jr. Data Scientist. They obviously formed a team. Team Ken. AKA the Red Team. Next up is Craig, our Data Analyst, and Jackie, our PR Intern who did double duty slugging it out and documenting the process on the UGoods Insta. Craig and Jackie don’t have the same name (bummer) but still made a fine Blue Team.

After a brief review of the rules from the brains behind it all, Senior Product Developer Tiffany, the game commenced.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Does Beer Make Everything Better? (Even Pretzels and Mustard?)

October 5, 2016
Emily Gift Lab Pretzels and MustardResearch

I’ve always been a fan of pretzels. From your standard UTZ variety, which were often packed away in ZipLocs in my elementary school lunches, to the inimitable Auntie Anne’s (cinnamon, obviously) which have suckered me in at shopping malls and train stations alike, I’ve loved ‘em all. Something about fall makes pretzels seem like especially appropriate snacks, and I’ve been craving them as the air has gotten chillier. Maybe my small sliver of German ancestry has me feeling some lingering Oktoberfest vibes all the way on Long Island – in which case, this experiment is all the better, since it involves a fair amount of beer. I’ll be using the Craft Beer Pretzel Mix as well as the Make Your Own Mustard Kit, which also calls for beer as an ingredient, because what goes better with beer pretzels than beer mustard? I’m hungry. Let’s try it.


Beer will make everything better, including homemade pretzels and mustard.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with David and Christopher Steinrueck

November 10, 2015

Christopher and David Steinrueck | UncommonGoods

 David and Christopher Steinrueck, Photos by Emily Hodges

Brother duo, David and Christopher Steinrueck, work out of their woodshop in the heart of San Francisco.  After spending just a few moments inside a space that invites noise from wood slicing tools and is spotted with patches of fallen saw dust, it’s not hard to see that sustainability, craftsmanship, and community are the values that build the very foundation of their business, Wood Thumb. David, Chris, and their team salvage reclaimed wood’s natural beauty when crafting it into everyday function and modern design. From their Wooden Beer Caddy to their Magnetic Bottle Opener – their beautiful craftsmanship is obvious and “there is no part that is unnecessary and everything is created with intention.” Read on to find out what community means to David and Chris and why you might want to pop in for one of the woodworking classes that they offer the next time you find yourself in San Francisco.

Wooden Beer Caddies by Christopher and David Steinrueck

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The Uncommon Life

Brews You Can Use: 10 Uncommon Facts About Beer

October 2, 2015


14th Century Beer Stein | UncommonGoods14th Century Beer Stein 

With evidence of brewing dating from 9500 BCE, beer is an ancient elixir with an ancestry almost as old as civilization itself. After water and tea, it’s the third most consumed liquid in the world. So, with a history encompassing over 11,000 years and billions of barrels, it should come as no surprise that the story of beer includes many fascinating facts, astounding ingredients, and colorful characters.

In honor of Oktoberfest, when Munich welcomes thousands of revelers to quaff its best brews, here’s an uncommon look at the history of beer in the form of ten trivial draughts:

Oktoberfest Ale Beer Brewing Kit | UncommonGoods


Oktoberfest Ale Beer Brewing Kit

1) Beer was your best beverage bet in medieval Europe, when a drink of contaminated water could be fatal. Beer slogans at the time almost wrote themselves—“Beer: the Cholera-Free Alternative!” But the rise of beer as an everyday staple meant that unscrupulous brewers were prone to cut corners. Enter the Reinheitsgebot—a family of laws governing brewing first introduced in Bavaria in 1516. The best-known part of the law dictates that beer must contain only three ingredients: water, hops, and barley (yeast is essential, but hadn’t been discovered yet). While brewers through the centuries have continued to experiment with other ingredients seeking either distinctive results or cheaper production, the Reinheitsgebot set the gold standard for beer purists, with the diversity of styles stemming mainly from the types of malt and hops used.

Magnificent Multitude of Beer | UncommonGoods


The Magnificent Multitude of Beer Wood Engraving

2) But is it healthy? Citizens of the Czech Republic, who consume the most beer year after year (an impressive 150 liters per capita in 2014), would answer with a resounding “YES!” Along with their caloric content, many beers are good sources of B vitamins, which aid metabolism, and silicon, which helps improve bone matrix quality. Also, hops contain an antioxidant that’s been shown to ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. So, a beer a day can help keep the doctor away…but everything in moderation, of course.

Beer Tasting Flight | UncommonGoods

Beer Tasting Flight

3) Now, about those calories. Because about 75% of the calories in beer come from its alcohol content (ABV, or alcohol by volume), lower alcohol beers are generally lower in calories. Dry stouts like Guinness (with an ABV of 4.2%), are less likely to make you stout than Belgian ales with higher ABVs. It’s a common misconception that darker beers are “stronger,” and therefore more calorie-laden, when in fact the opposite is often true. On the extreme end of the caloric / ABV spectrum is a barleywine with the intimidating name Snake Venom which boasts an ABV of 67.5% and a yellow warning flag on each bottle neck that resembles police caution tape (for good reason).

HTML Beer Glasses | UncommonGoods

HTML Beer Glasses

4) Drink-on-a-dare beers aside, how do you get your daily dose of restorative, relatively healthy pilsner, lager, or stout? Beer delivery systems themselves provide some fascinating facts. Danish brewer Carlsberg established an “honorary residence” next to its brewery to laud “a man or a woman deserving of esteem from the community by reason of services to science, literature, or art…” Along with his Nobel Prize, physicist Niels Bohr received an invitation to occupy the residence, and lived there for thirty years (1932-62). Better still, the house came with an awesome amenity: a perpetual supply of beer, piped into the home directly from the brewery. Who says science has to be dry?

Beer Towel | UncommonGoods

Beer Towel

5) There are other, longer examples of beer pipelines. The Veltins-Arena, a German football stadium in Gelsenkirchen, boasts a 5 kilometer-long pipeline to supply beer to over 60,000 thirsty spectators at its 100 eateries. And in ale-loving Belgium, the city of Bruges plans a 3 kilometer-long underground pipeline to connect the De Halve Maan brewery to a bottling plant, diverting disruptive trucks from its historic cobblestone streets.

Tankard Stein | UncommonGoods

Tankard Stein

6) Still not convinced that beer should be your beverage of choice? Looking for a divine sign? How about a blessing from a beloved American “Founding Father?” These impulses have encouraged the conviction that Benjamin Franklin once said “beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.” Healthy, historic, and encouraged by such an august figure—how perfect is that? Unfortunately, this beer drinker t-shirt favorite has little basis in fact. Franklin did write a similar sentiment about wine, musing on the miracle of the Biblical wedding at Cana: “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” (letter to André Morellet, 1779). Apparently, this statement has been paraphrased through the years, and “wine” replaced with “beer”—perhaps by someone in the beer lobby with a love of colonial wit.

Das Horn | UncommonGoods

Das Horn

7) Short of “proof that god wants us to be happy (beer drinkers),” there’s a surprisingly long list of saints who bless beer culture. The roster includes Augustine of Hippo, Luke the Apostle, and Nicholas of Myra. If that last one sounds familiar, it’s the St. Nicholas—aka Santa Claus. Other saints have more specific, local associations, such as Arnold of Soissons, the Belgian patron saint of hop pickers. But if there’s one saint-like figure beloved by brewers, it’s Gambrinus. Likely an amalgamation of a Flemish king and other historic figures, Gambrinus is depicted as a jovial, bearded monarch of malt, often bearing a stein or a keg as attributes. The renowned Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell (originator of pilsner beer) honors Gambrinus with their beers of the same name.

Home Brew Journal | UncommonGoods

Home Brew Journal

8) Back to that Bavarian assertion that beer should only have a four-ingredient recipe. For reasons good and bad, brewers through the centuries have thrown other things into their worts. Early American brewers had to improvise with what they had available, adding pumpkin, spruce tips, and verboten adjuncts like corn and rice to their beer. More recently, the craft beer revival has encouraged experimentation that’s scrapped the Reinheitsgebot—with mixed results. This pursuit of novelty includes ingredients from the questionable to the downright revolting: chili peppers, wasabi, mustard seeds, oysters, pizza crust, and coffee brewed from beans recovered from the droppings of a civet. But the grand prize for off-putting beer ingredients must go to the Oregon brewery that used a yeast strain cultivated from the brewmaster’s own beard. Waiter, there’s beard yeast in my beer…

Gold Leaf Upcycled Beer Bottle Tumbler Set | UncommonGoods

Gold Leaf Upcycled Beer Bottle Tumbler Set

9) Whatever its unusual ingredients, no beer can promise everlasting life, but at least one fictional tale casts a beer as a powerful potion and plot device. In Tim Powers’ fantasy The Drawing of the Dark, an inn in Vienna brews a mystical beer called Herzwesten (“the heart of the west”). Tapped only once every 700 years, the beer is a sort of earthy eau de vie, which ultimately helps revive the Fisher King, spiritual protector of the West against an impending Ottoman invasion. This portrayal of beer as a sort of alchemical avatar is a reflection of how highly prized it is European lore, history, and culture.

Beer Jelly Set | UncommonGoods

Beer Jelly Set

10) Bonus: the brewmaster in The Drawing of the Dark is the aptly-named Gambrinus.

Beer Gifts | UncommonGoods


Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Month is Oktoberfest?

October 1, 2015

Glass Beer Steins | UncommonGoods

Around the world, Oktoberfest is synonymous with beer, brass bands, free-flowing beer, jolly men in lederhosen, hearty German fare, and…strong, stick-to-your-ribs, autumnal beer. Over 200 years old, the Munich Oktoberfest has grown into a huge harvest celebration of Bavarian culture, starting the third week in September and…What the fest?! Have the Bavarians lost their murmeln? Isn’t Oktoberfest in October?

While it does wrap up on the first Sunday in October, the majority of Oktoberfesting occurs in September. Is there a method to this madness? Of course! Simply put, September weather is more conducive to the many open-air activities of Oktoberfest (with nightly lows in Munich around 50 °F, versus the chilly 40 °F of October). The first ‘Fest began on October 12, 1810, with the festive marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. But the annual autumn festival that grew out of those royal nuptials shifted to take advantage of September’s temperatures—more comfortable for strolling (or stumbling) about in Lederhosen and Dirndl dresses. And, despite the calendar, the name Oktoberfest stuck because “Late Septemberfest” just doesn’t have the same ring to it…

Glass Beer Steins – Set of 2 | $60

The Uncommon Life

5 Beer & Food Pairings That Will Rock Your Summer

July 29, 2015

beer-sign (2)

Last summer I created the Home Brew Journal; a journal that brings back the simplicity of logging craft beer recipes with ink and paper. The more I researched about hops, yeast, beer styles and other formulas for the journal, the more I learned about the art of making beer. There is still a lot to learn, but once I started to understand more about beer styles, choosing the right beer for the right meal became a lot easier.


With the number of craft breweries booming around the country, it is safe to say that pairing beer with food is a newer concept than pairing wine with food. Wine and beer are not the same thing so there in no point in comparing them. This is what I know from personal experience; well-crafted beers offer a wide range of truly unique flavors and aromas. Hoppy, malty, fruity, chocolaty, earthy, citrus, sour, the list goes on. America (and the world) has been through a food revolution in the last few decades and the craft beer industry followed by creating unique beer flavors to go alongside the delicious food truck fish taco or a Vietnamese chicken salad.

statistics (2)

     Image via Brewers Association 


Flavors, Aromas & Ingredients

Some brewers understand the ingredients so well that if you close your eyes and just smell the beer, it smells almost like food. I was lucky enough to try a PB&J Brown Ale by Catawba Brewing Co. in North Carolina that literally smelled like the real sandwich. A brew like that definitely has split opinions about it but I loved it. Not to mention the Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout, or their Voodoo Doughnut series (Pretzel Raspberry & Chocolate Ale, Lemon Chiffon Crueller Ale, Bacon Maple Ale.)

Because of the complexity of each ingredient necessary to make beer, it’s possible to find a beer that will fit your personal preference. Often times than not, flavors and aromas come from the basic ingredients themselves. If you pick up a citrus aroma, it’s likely from the hops. Biscuity flavor probably comes from malts. Clove notes are likely from the yeast. The combinations are endless, that’s why many brewers usually keep a logbook of their brewing experiments. But…

How many types of beer are there?

Two. Ales and lagers. The difference between them is the yeast strain used during the fermentation process. Lager yeasts require colder fermentation temperatures which results in a “cleaner” and “crisper” flavor than ale yeasts. Warmer fermentation temperatures produce beers that are usually high in esters and other fermentation by-products. These by-products can be both desired or undesired depending on the beer style.


Beer styles

Now it’s time to keep an open mind and try different beer styles until you find a few styles that you really like. The Beer Pop Chart is a beautiful graphic representation of beer styles and their break down. For example, the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is a double IPA; that is part of the India Pale Ale category; that’s part of Pale Ale style and that is a type of Ale. (pff after this I need a beer myself!)


If you would like to know more about beer styles, I strongly recommend downloading the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines. There’s a pdf version and an app. That is a great resource with detailed notes on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, overall impression and history of each style.

For this article, I will focus on beer styles that are more popular during the summer time. While lighter beers are more popular during the warmer months, slightly darker beers pair really well with smoky and grilled flavors. Think Maibock, Munich Dunkel, American Brown Ale. These malty-forward, medium body, moderate carbonation and relatively low hop bitterness beers will enhance the flavors of grilled steak and roasted pork like a champ.

The Pairings

I like how Mark Dredge, author of Beer and Food, approaches beer and food pairing. It’s a concept easy to remember. Here it is: Bridge, Balance, or Boost. That’s it. You wouldn’t want to overpower a fillet of fish on lemon butter sauce with an imperial stout for example.

To bridge is to find similarities between the food and the beer. The brown ale and grilled steak is a good example. The roastiness of the beer harmonizes well with the burnt flavors of the steak.

To balance is to avoid flavors to overpower themselves. That’s why India Pale Ales go so well with French fries. It’s because the smooth alcohol warmth balances well with fatty and salty dishes.

To boost is to enhance flavors of both the food and the beer. It’s probably easier to understand the beer style before trying to pick the food to go with your pint. For some reason, strawberry enhances the sweetness of chocolate so a creamy sweet stout would pair really well with homemade strawberry pie.

I know this is all probably a lot of information to digest at once, so to make a long story short: here are 5 summertime beer and food pairings to try before fall season rolls in.


[Boost] Tacos & Session IPA
Session beers vary between 3 – 5% alcohol by volume. That means you can drink more without getting too… buzzed. A “standard” IPA varies between 5 – 7.5% ABV, while double IPAs fall between 7.5 – 10%. Sometimes the high bitterness and dry finish of a standard or double IPA overpowers the creaminess and freshness of some Mexican dishes like tacos or a chicken quesadilla.

tacos_ipa (2)

Beef, tortilla, salsa, cheese, guacamole and sour cream – that’s a typical taco. While the avocado and sour cream will balance the bitterness of the IPA; the smooth alcohol warmth, citrusy aroma and medium carbonation will boost the salsa spiciness. This is probably the most common beer and food pairing in America and it’s easy to understand why: it’s delicious!

[Bridge] Marinated Lemon Chicken & Belgian Wheat

Blue Moon is such a versatile beer. Brewed with orange peel and coriander, it’s an easy-drinking vastly available brew.

chicken_wheat (2)

There are numerous aromatic and flavor cross overs between the chicken and the Belgian Wheat beer. The orange peel and coriander aromas, with slight spicy notes from the Belgian yeast bridges really well with the texture of the chicken and the flavor of the lemon sauce.

[Balance] Pretzels and Cheese Dip & American Pilsner

pretzels_pilsner (2)

Salt balances bitterness and carbonation balances richness. The high carbonation the American Pilsner balances well with the chewy texture and bready flavor of the pretzels while the salty flavor of the cheese dip harmonizes well with the rounded bitterness of the beer.

[Balance] Caesar Salad & Blonde Ale

Blonde Ales are refreshing and Caesar Salad is a light dish. That makes this pairing a well-balanced option.

salad_blonde (2)

The initial soft malty sweetness from the beer balances well with the Parmesan cheese from the salad, while the low hop aroma complements the freshness of the lettuce.

[Boost] French Fries w/ Cheese & Pale Lager

fries_lager (2)

The crisp and dry bitterness of this beer brings forward the saltiness and richness of the French fries. The refreshing low citrus hop aroma call for warm and fresh potato fries topped with cheese and salt.

Host Your Own Beer & Food Pairing Party

setup (3)

If you are the kind of person who likes to host (and go) to themed events, the beer & food pairing party might be a good call for your next get together with friends. It’s different and that’s why people like it so much. At the end of the day everyone will have fun but here are a few tips to help you get started:

In case you feel like having the same pairings of this post, feel free to download all the signs here >>


Gift Guides

Have a Fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!

October 13, 2014

Oktoberfest Song

Brew some beer. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Fill your stein. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Make today a celebration by design. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Fill your day (Oom-pa-pa!)
With the best. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Have a fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!

There’s beer to taste,
And beer to tote,
And beer to take a bath in.
There’s beer to whiff,
And beer to wear,
And beer you try to splash in.

There’s cider, too,
And Moscow mules,
And even mead’s a-flowing.
So strap your lederhosen on,
And get this party going!
Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!

Grab a pint. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Grab a cup. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Grab some big ol’ Viking horn and fill it up. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Here’s a toast. (Oom-pa-pa!)
May you be blessed (Oom-pa-pa!)
With a fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest Beer Gifts | UncommonGoods

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