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A year ago, I would never have predicted that I would  be where I am today. If someone was to tell me that I would have met all of the people that I met, traveled to all of the places that I traveled, and experienced all of the things that I did, I would not have believed it.

Let us rewind it back and look at 2009:

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Still living in Orlando, in MASSIVE transition, working at Seasons 52 — high-end seasonally inspired fresh grill and wine bar. At this time, The Wench seriously studies for Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications. At this point, wine is The Wench’s profession and beer remains her hobby.

The last weekend of January, The Wench travels to California for the ZAP Zinfandel Festival. Met SEVERAL of my twitter followers over the course of a few days. Drank lots of amazing vino, took a day trip to Napa. Trip was way too short.

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Drink with the Wench turns ONE on February 7th!

Towards the end of the month, The Wench attends the first dinner in a series of Twitter Taste Live dinner party tweetups at Dolce Debbie’s house in Tampa, FL. The theme was Italian wines & Italian foods and was co-hosted with Matt Horbund from A Good Time With Wine.

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At the beginning of the month, The Wench co-hosts a Twitter Taste Live with Dogfish Head.

The rest of the month is rather uneventful.

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The beginning of the month starts out with a BANG. The Wench tri-hosts THE FIRST EVER Twitter Taste Live Beer vs. Wine Dinner at Dolce Debbie’s house in Tampa, FL. Dolce Debbie planned and cooked a beautiful five course menu, Matt Horbund paired four of the dishes with a wine and The Wench paired the same dishes with a beer. The verdict? A tie.

The Wench announces her desire to work in the beer industry by announcing The Wenchternship. No one bites and the project is quickly abandoned.

Things take a turn for the worse when The Wench gets in a bad car accident. Car accident results in several weeks off from work and 2 months of daily physical therapy.

Car accident results in a mini-depressive episode and a significant reduction of blog posts.

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Plagued by a series of unfortunate an undesirable events in Orlando (including the car accident), The Wench is “saved” when she gets invited to live with Dolce Debbie and her husband Barry Frangipane in Tampa, FL. Without hesitation, The Wench moves to Tampa.

Things begin to look better for The Wench. She begins to gain momentum.

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Happy Birthday to The Wench. Ashley turns 26 on June 13th. Dolce Debbie hosts the party of a lifetime in honor of the birthday twins — The Wench and Aging Backwards.

Early in the month, The Wench attempts to enter what she calls “No Man’s Land” by writing a series of posts featuring linear pairings between beer and wine. Although widely popular, the series is short lived — with potential to be revived in the new year.

The end of the month brings an invite by Samuel Adams to attend an expense paid trip to Charleston, SC in July to attend a beer dinner at The Culinary Institute.

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Things get REALLY exciting this month.

The Wench flies to Charleston, SC to attend a Samuel Adams beer dinner at The Culinary Institute of Charleston. She has the honor of sitting next to Samuel Adam’s head brewer, Bob Cannon, for the duration of the dinner. Following the dinner, The Wench lands her very first brewer interview with Bob Cannon. She also interviews the head Chef of the beer dinner.

At the end of the month, Ashley find herself back in Wine Country, CA for the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference.

While in California, Ashley takes her first trip to Twisted Oak Winery in Murphy’s. It is here where she develops an obsession for the River of Skulls and meets the love of her life, her rubber chicken aptly named “Don Quixote.” After a day full of wine tasting in the town of Murphy’s, drinking gueze, feasting on tri-tip, swimming in the creek and wine blending, The Wench spends a wonderful night sleeping underneath the Twisted Oak Winery Twisted Oak Tree.

It is in this moment that The Wench has an epiphany and starts thinking about moving to CA.

Day one of the Wine Bloggers Conference reunites Ashley with many of her Twitter friends from across the country as well as gives her the opportunity to meet new followers. She also gets to meet the boys from Mutineer Magazine.

Day two of the Wine Bloggers Conference is EPIC. The day starts with Bloody Marys and ends with Absinthe. Bus Number Four becomes legendary.

Day three of the Wine Bloggers Conference gives Ashley the confidence she needs to make her declaration to move to CA. The gears start turning and she starts plotting a cross country trip with instant BFF Shana Ray.

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This month is one of complete chaos and absolute insanity.

The Wench officially decides on a whim to pick up everything and move across country — with no job, prospect of a job or place to live.

Burnt out and needing an adventure, Shana Ray makes the spontaneous decision to book a flight to Florida and make the drive across country with Ashley. After hours of brainstorming, the ambitous pair create PROJECT Y-INEthe first social media expose focused on researching the beer & wine consumption behaviors of Generation Y.

After analyzing all possible routes across country, The Wench decides that the southern route would be the most ideal. She reaches out to her Twitter & beer blogger contacts in each city, setting up as many events allow the way as possible.

Even before the trip details are complete solidified, Ashley makes the spontaneous decision to plan a trip to the Midwest just days after her assumed arrival in California.

Shana flies in to Tampa on the 14th. Dolce Debbie hosts a bon-voyage dinner for The Wench at her favorite Tampa restaurant, Pellagia.

With tears in her eyes and a Starbucks gift card in hand, The Wench packs up her car, hugs her “parents” Debbie and Barry goodbye and embarks upon the cross country adventure of a lifetime.

First stop: New Orleans. The Wench meets up with fellow beer blogger, The Beer Buddha at The Avenue Pub. There she also meets Matt Austin and the entire team of NOLA Brewing Co. The first night took a turn for the more awesome (and worst in Shana’s case) when the ladies found themselves visiting the “exclusive” favorite watering hole of the NOLA locals — Snake and Jakes Christmas Club Lounge.

Day two in NOLA started out slow. The girls did not find themselves leaving the house until late afternoon. Matt Austin plays tour guide through the French Quarter. The Wench gets her palm read and buys the most kickass pirate hat. Dylan Lintern of NOLA Brewing Co. invites The Wench and posse to join him and his brother for a potluck beer tasting at their house — complete with a full L shaped bar, 6 taps and a digital karaoke machine. The tasting is epic. Events from that night inspire Matt to start writing his own beer blog: I’m Pouring.

Second stop: Houston, TX. The girls spend the night eating pizza and drinking local beer with Amy and Joe Power from Another Wine Blog. The night is capped off with chess, chocolate and vino. The next morning, the ladies find themselves visiting NASA.

Third stop: Austin. The girls almost never leave. Here they meet the most infamous @baconator from Twitter. He foolishly allows the girls to take over his house for 3 days. The trio of trouble makers then proceed to take Austin by storm. Local beer blogger, Chris Troutman of Beer Town Austin, organizes two beer events for The Wench: The Draught House Over A Pint Episode and Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que tour and tasting. Local food blogger, Jennie Chen of MisoHungry Makes it With Moonshine concocts some amazing beer desserts for the events.

The girls decide to stay in Austin and extra night and, as a result, spend 16 hours on the road driving to the Fourth stop: Phoenix. The Wench’s Uncle Terry Simpson hosts the girls for two nights.

Fifth stop: Los Angeles. Here The Wench meets up with fellow beer blogger, Chris Spradley of Breweries, Bars and Beer Food. Chris organizes a beer dinner at The Library Ale House which is followed by amazing beers at the Daily Pint. The next day, Chris hooks The Wench up with a video interview with Brian Lenzo at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood. The ladies cap the L.A. experience with a wenchmade (Whole Foods style) dinner party with Twisted Oak wines for Chris and the lovely bloggers from Hipster Enology.

After a scenic drive up Highway 1, the girls finally end the trip with beers at the Russian River Brewpub in Santa Rosa. They are joined by several wine country celebrities, including Rick Bakas of St Supery, Hardy Wallace of Dirty South Wine and Josh Hershberger of Pinot Blogger.

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Whereas August was legendary, September is monumental.

With barely two weeks of California sunshine under her belt, The Wench whisks off to the Midwest for a 10 day beer extravaganza. The trip begins in Chicago and then works it way up to Wisconsin for Milwaukee beer week, a few beer dinners and The Great Lakes Brew Fest — where The Wench serves as a “mini mascot” and gets to lead the Pirate Parade.

The trip ends in Chicago where The Wench has the opportunity of a lifetime to have dinner at The Hop Leaf with Ray Daniels of the Cicerone Certification Program. Right before she jets back to California, Ashley grabs a few beers and a pizza with a small group of dudes (who would ultimately come good friends) that call themselves the #gents. One #gent in presence was the one and only Mr. Ken Hunnemeder from HopCast.

After less than 3 days back in California, the jet-setting Wench finds herself on yet another plane — this time to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. Over a 5 day span, The Wench drinks her body weight (and then some) in amazing American beer from all over the country. She is reunited with old friends as well as has the opportunity to meet many of her Twitter friends in real life.

It is in Denver where Ashley first meets for the first time in person one of her best friends and fellow beer bloggers, PJ Hoberman from Starting a Brewery. She also meets Tim Cigeleske of Draft Magazine’s blog The Beer Runner, Chipper Dave of Fermentedly Challenged, Larry McIntosh of Madhouse Larry, Stef Ferrari of Girls For The Advancement of Craft Beer, Sarah Huska and many many others.

In addition to meeting several bloggers and tweeters, Ashley is honored when she gets to meet industry celebrities such as Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, Rob Tod from Allagash, Vinnie & Natalie Chilurzo from Russian River, Greg Koch from Stone, Steve Parkes from the American Brewers Guild, Dan Del Grande from Bison Brewing, Joey Redner from Cigar City, Patrick Rue from The Bruery and so on and so forth.

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October is the month of wine. Thanks to her amazing friends Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes and Shana Ray of Breathe Media, Ashley attends several wine blogger events all over Sonoma & Napa Counties. The wineries include, but are not limited to: KAZ Winery, Micheal Schlumberger, Benziger, BV Vineyards (where Ashley partakes in a grape stomping competition), Arista, Rubissow (where Ashley helps harvest grapes), Conn Creek, Bella, Rodney Strong, Papa Pietro Perry, ZD, Titus and several more.

Ashley even gets the honor of sitting in on an episode of Wine Biz Radio — where she is deemed “The Being of Pure Id” by its host Randy Hall.

Mid month, Hardy Wallace of Dirty South Wine hosts his annual Taco-Toberfest. Ashley also takes a trip into San Francisco where she attends a Tequila tasting for the U.S. launch of Don Roberto Tequilas.

Later in the month, Sondra Bernstein from the girl and the fig rolls out the red carpet for The Wench and posse at her restaurant. The group follows up an epic lunch by attending a book signing with Gary Vee from Wine Library TV. Ashley proceeds to drink lots of wine and molest Gary Vee with her rubber chicken — Don Quixote. Oddly enough, Gary Vee doesn’t seem to mind and, in fact, seems to like it.

After a few weeks choked full of wine and food events, The Wench finds herself back on a plane to the Midwest — this time for the Great Lakes Craft Brewers and Water Conservation Conference organized by Lucy Saunders of BeerCook.Com. There she gets to rub elbows with many brewers and beer industry movers and shakers.

October ends with a St Supery tweetup on The Napa Valley Wine Train. Costumes optional.

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There is only one word for November — EPIC.

Hardy Wallace kicks off the month by hosting two of the finalists from Top Chef Season 6 — Eli Kershtien and Kevin Gillespie — for a few nights of food & wine debauchery in Sonoma County.

Early month, Ashley finally gets to meet her “big sister” from Twitter, Taylor Shaw aka The Art of Beer. This fateful meeting ultimately triggers Ashley to book a flight to San Diego for beer week.

On November 8th, Ashley experiences a major climax in her life as a beer writer while attending the Life & Limb Release Beer Dinner in San Francisco. At the dinner, Ashley gets the once in a lifetime opportunity to interview one of her greatest and most respected beer mentors, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. She also gets to spend some quality time with one of the most respected and successful craft brewers in the industry, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada.

Mid month, The Wench finds herself jet setting yet again in the name of beer. She heads down to San Diego for some of the most epic beer events of her “young” life. In San Diego, she meets up with her big sister Taylor Shaw and new best friend PJ Hoberman as well as many of her other great Twitter friends such as Alex P Davis, Jordan & Renee Rounds, Kristen & Martin Emde and the super sexy team of boys from New Brew Thursday: Stephen Johnson, John Holzer, Brad Kohlenburg.

The event highlights of San Diego Beer Week include: Meeting Dr. Bill Sysak, the 10 year vertical tasting of Double Bastard at Stone World Bistro, Lost Abbey Art Show & Beer Tasting, Firestone Walker 13th Anniversary tapping at Stone World Bistro, special VIP Twitter dinner with Greg Koch at Suite and Tender, Green Flash 7th Anniversary Festival, a VIP tasting of rare beers from Dr. Bill’s collection at Stone World Bistro, Belgian Beer & Cheese Pairing at Stone World Bistro and the Lost Abbey Rare Beer Tasting & Dinner.

At the end of the month, Ashley is invited to spend Thanksgiving with two of her amazing wine maker friends: Alan Baker and Serena Lourie of Cartograph Wines. Thanksgiving is a tremendous gourmet feast complimented by a stellar lineup of wine and beer.

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Times, they are a changing. REALLY REALLY fast.

First of the month, Ashley gets the opportunity to meet the one and only Shaun O’ Sullivan of 21st Amendment. He brings samples of his newly released Monk’s Blood.

On a whim, Ashley throws caution to the wind and takes the first level of the Cicerone Certification Program. Without studying or any preparation, The Wench passes the test and becomes an Certified Beer Server.

Early in the month, good friend Baconator visits Ashley & Shana for a week. Lots of wine, beer & food debauchery go down. Ashley gets the rare opportunity of a lifetime to have dinner at The French Laundry. Here she has the most intense food and beverage experience of her life. The Master Sommeler, Christopher Hoel, pairs 7 our of the 9 courses with both beer and wine. He chooses wine from her two most favorite regions in the world — Chateauneuf Du Pape and Piedmont — as well as two of her favorite beers of ALL time — Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and Consecration. That night will go down in history.

Drink With The Wench begins to heat up and gain momentum when Ashley decides to do a series of articles featuring interviews with fellow beer bloggers. The series is tremendously successful and will continue into the new year!

Things get really exciting around mid-month when Ashley’s “little brother” Brian Kropf of Mutineer Magazine visits from the East Coast on an Army leave. Taylor Shaw and Stephen Johnson travel up from Southern California to attend a series of beer events hosted in Brian’s honor. The group starts by reeking havoc on 21st Amendment on the 21st. They then take the North Bay by storm: Lunch at Russian River Brewing Company followed by a tour and tasting of Lagunitas Brewpub. Many “celebrity” beer writers come out for the Lagunitas event. They include: Shawn Paxton of The Home Brew Chef, Mario Rubio of Brewed For Thought and Jay Brooks of Brookston Bulletin.

After almost three months of “dating” a Berkeley Brewpub – Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse – Ashley finally gets an official offer on December 30th to become the new Assistant General Manager.

On New Years Eve, The Wench is officially moving to Berkeley. And on New Year’s Day, The Wench will officially kickoff her career as Assistant General Manager of Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse. As fate would have it, Ohio State is also playing in the Rose Bowl that day. January first is shaping up to be the most monumental launch to a new year in the life of The Beer Wench.

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Special THANKS to my girl, Shana Ray. Without here, I might not be where I am at today. Our cross country trip was legendary. I’ve enjoyed every moment with her since then and look forward to more in the future! Cheers!

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Also, big thanks to everyone who has made an impact in my life in 2009. I would not be the person I am today without meeting all of you — whether our friendship be in the virtual realm, the real world — or both. I love each and every person that has touched my life in some way shape or form. Thank you!


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