It’s here. The week you’ve been waiting for. The companionship you been thriving. It’s American Craft Beer Week!

The week-long national event was the inspiration of the Brewers Association in 2006. It allows craft brewers to unite with craft beer fans across America. Jointly they celebrate being part of a greater community who share passion for the beverage they love.

     American Craft Beer Week

What’s so special about a craft brewer?  The industry defines them as "small, independent and traditional." That’s true, but they are more than that.  In fact, when you think about it; they’re a lot like Sunset Hill Stoneware

A craft brewer’s beer-making style is based on old world traditions and personal values. They pour their heart, soul and life savings into product development in hope that the passion they feel will be felt and enjoyed with others. They’re artisans, driven by passion, learning their craft to meet their level of perfection prior to sharing it with the community around them.  Fundamental to the code of craftsmanship is the desire to do something right, no matter the cost – or the time taken to do it.

Doing Things the Right Way
A craft brewer has the drive to do things right. And when they can connect with another craftsman who can convey their message in a creative, sustainable way – it builds their personal legacy. Doing business this way isn’t the least expensive or easiest way to conduct business – but for a craftsman, it is the right way.

                    American Craft Beer Week

Check out the American Craft Beer Week event calendar; all 50 states are participating.  Exclusive brewery tours, special releases, food and beer pairing. Did you know that the average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery?  We’ve got 5 great spots locally!

American Craft Beer Week with Red Branch Sunset Hill Stoneware SteinAmerican Craft Beer Week with Reformation Brewery Sunset Hill Stoneware SteinAmerican Craft Beer Week with Founders Sunset Hill Stoneware Stein

As Reformation Brewery promotes, they set beer free! And freedom is as American as you can get. Contact us to learn about our new brewery style offerings.

Keeping watch. Pat

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The coffee industry uses a colorful flavor wheel. Created by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) in 1995, it helped to define what specialty coffee was and at the same time helped position it away from commercial coffee. The flavor wheel describes some of coffee’s unique fragrances and aromas, along with helping cuppers to identify characteristics that could be ‘off’ in coffee flavor.

How does the wheel work?
After 21 years, the SCAA released an updated Flavor Wheel earlier this year. The wheel maintains its beautiful kaleidoscopic appearance of comprehensive data that makes an outsider marvel at the complexity of a simple cup of coffee. Starting at the center of the wheel, a taster can determine if it tastes fruity, nutty, green, etc, work outwardly from there to hone in on other flavors. This is the basic function of the flavor wheel.

To dig deeper, you need to grab the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon. This tool is used as the universal language of coffee’s sensory qualities and measurements. It’s a step in understanding what causes coffee to taste, smell and maintain its texture. Created by sensory experts and coffee industry leaders, the lexicon uses sensory science to understand a coffee’s primary quality with a way to replicate those measurements.

Coffee is one of the most chemically complex things we consume and it all starts with the bean. Inside that coffee bean is a complex molecular and genetic code determined by the seed. That seed’s genes are affected by how and where the coffee was grown, and by everything it has experienced since leaving the tree, including the processing, drying, milling, storage, transport, roasting, brewing and so on.


Coffee Drinking Quick Stats

  • Total percentage of Americans over the age of 18 that drink coffee everyday          54%
  • Total amount of cups of coffee (9 ounces) a coffee drinker consumes daily              3.1

Read more about how Hugh Jackman is changing lives one cup of coffee at time while you fill your Sunset Hill Stoneware, American made coffee mug with your favorite coffee house brew. Browse our gallery today.

Until next time. Pat

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A child’s best friend can be their first two-wheeled bicycle. It becomes their most trusted transportation and many a child finds their pursuit of happiness while riding their bike. It gets them away from home and chores; it gives them an escape from life.

A child can hop on a bike and gain instant confidence and elation as the wind blows through their hair. For a short time, they have complete control. Biking where they want and pretending to be the fastest vehicle on wheels as they pass cars while cruising the neighborhood sidewalks. While on that bike, a child can fantasize about being their favorite superhero and rescuing good from evil. They can escape dogs, jump sidewalk bumps and speed as fast as their legs will take them.  It’s that feeling of escape and lack of responsibility that we yearn for as we grow older.

In 2012, Ole Kassow started a European organization called Cycling Without Age. His goal was to help the elderly get mobile. He started by offering free bike rides on a rickshaw vehicle to local nursing home residents – then the movement caught on spreading to more countries, including America. Watch the 15-minute video; it is time well worth spent.

Buy Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Caramel Crisp & Cafe where Cycling without Age riders stop for coffee Buy Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Caramel Crisp & Cafe where Cycling without Age riders stop for coffee 

Locally, Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh is the first long-term care organization in America to obtain a license and implement the program. Residents can sign up and cruise the city by trained Cycling Without Age pilots. The program simply creates joy for residents.  It gives them an escape from their troubles, pains and/or depression and exposes them to fresh air, sunshine, rosy cheeks and sites that bring back memories. Riding that rickshaw gives them mobility and allows them to be the superhero once again as the wind blows through their hair.  

"We are proud to have launched this amazing program in Oshkosh, Wisconsin”, reinforces Bonnie Behnke, director of development for Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh, Inc. “There are smiles all around, pilots, elders, staff, family, bystanders, every time you come in contact with a rickshaw! We love creating joy in our elders lives!" 

                                       Buy Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Caramel Crisp & Cafe where Cycling without Age riders stop for coffee 

                    Buy Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at Caramel Crisp & Cafe where Cycling without Age riders stop for coffee

Thank you to the trained pilots, the Oshkosh Police Department and Caramel Crisp & Café for opening your doors to this program and serving the weary travelers their favorite beverage in Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs. You’re helping others live their life – for the rickshaw pilots, you're taking a priceless journey.

Keeping watch. Pat

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Ever notice that the places where you grow up never seem that interesting until you move away? I grew up in a small town on the other side of the lake. Whenever I travel home and drive past the rolling farmlands and through the historic towns, it’s refreshing to see these communities thrive in new ways.

The drive takes me through Chilton, Wisconsin; population under 4,000. It’s a city that has everything you need – hardware, furniture, grocery stores, post office – even their own Dairy Queen. It also has a nice coffee shop called Terra Verde Coffee, located right on the main highway.

      Terra Verde Coffee mugs  Terra Verde Coffee mugs

Owned by Marko and his wife Melissa, the business was created to give locals a worldly experience. The owners import organic coffee from around the globe and roast them on site to create the most environmentally friendly product available. Each month they feature a seasonal variety – this month, it’s their Nutty Irishman just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!  In addition to coffee, tea and expressos, they also serve fresh bakery warm Paninis and handmade soups.

                                  Terra Verde Coffee mugs

Once a month, you’ll find a video of Marko promoting their monthly favorite with a Sunset Hill Stoneware mug. It reminds us that people can develop an obsession for the mug they use. It’s that emotional attachment that makes our team happy to be a part of the story.

Keeping watch. Pat

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Back in the 60’s Batman and Robin taught us that crime doesn’t pay. Looking back at the series, it’s interesting that the dual team never thought of partnering with a crime-fighting dog.

Canines have been used for hunting and providing security since the Middle Ages; they have certainly have played an active role for the US military. In the 1970’s, law enforcement agencies in the United States started partnering with highly trained canines. Today these specially trained dogs are considered part of the police force with many of them having their own badge numbers.

Across the country, there are many canine training centers.  Unlike other programs that focus on a variety of K9 disciplines, the Georgia K9 NTC Track School program is dedicated to pure tracking, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  Located on the beaches of Edisto Island in South Carolina, Georgia K9 NTC produces and develops proven man-hunters.  There is no other K9 Training Company in the world that trains more professional military and police K9 trackers – and of course, they do more. 

They offer basic and advanced handler courses, detector programs, even obedience training for high caliber breeds.  Jeff Schettler, a police K9 trainer and a retired police K9 handler, along with Kelli Collins, co-founder and general manager are setting new trails.  Jeff and Kim are taking their vast law enforcement knowledge and expanding into service dog training serving children with autism and special needs.

         Buy Georgia K9 NTC mugs!

Sunset Hill Stoneware is pleased to be their partner in crime.

Keeping watch.  Pat

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There’s a movement in America that screams red, white and blue. Established in 2007, this crusade started with a small band of brothers who were passionate about United States National Soccer. It began at Captain Jack’s, a local bar in Lincoln, Nebraska. Three fans began throwing viewing parties and traveled to as many games as possible.

As they trekked across the country, they became frustrated with the lack of support for fans to meet together. American baseball, football and NASCAR fans all gathered, tailgated and cheered for a common good. The three soccer fans felt like the outlaws of American sports and within a short time, they banded together to create a nationwide, non-profit supporter group called the American Outlaws (AO).

AO members are honored to be Americans and proud to be soccer fans in America. They are loud, passionate – and organized. In 2013, they celebrated their 100th chapter; in 2014 they announced their first international chapter. Today they have more than 175 official chapters with more than 30,000 members.

          Click to buy this American Outlaws stein  Click to buy this American Outlaws stein

The goal of the American Outlaws is to unite their fans, create a large presence and give more visibility to the sport. They unite supporters locally and nationally – and they ask for you to join their movement.

          Click to buy this American Outlaws stein  Click to buy this American Outlaws stein

AO started with three fans working together to unite America. That’s something for everyone to cheer about.

Keeping watch. Pat

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It’s easy to get sentimental as we look back at accomplishments. Certainly being recognized for our landmark safe, clean air initiatives this past year stands out. There’s another milestone that makes us proud – and that’s you!                                          

On a daily basis, we receive validation of our work. People from all over this great country write to tell their story of how they found their first SHS mug, how they broke the handle off their Mom’s favorite mug after 12 years and they need to have it replaced immediately, how they collect our mugs as they travel the country. Retailers comment on how nicely packaged our pieces are, how they sell out the same day the shipment arrives, how easy we are to work with.






We log many of these endorsements on our testimonial page – in fact, we’ve been logging and dating your comments since 2011. Why? It makes us proud of the product we hand produce and the high level of services we provide. It is simply a privilege to serve you and America’s best.

Our team is forever grateful for you taking the time to be kind. Making the effort to tell someone they are doing well is a fantastic reflection on you.

Thank you.  We'll catch up in the New Year.

Keeping watch. Pat

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Some say that a typical friendship will last about 7 years. The reason is simple. People change over time, so it’s realistic that friendships change too.

Years ago when I traveled for corporate America, a woman I was sitting next to (we had never met before) and I shared some very personal thoughts during our two-hour flight. By the time we had reached the terminal, she had invited me to visit with her on my next trip out. I hesitated realizing how much had been shared with a complete stranger and how it would be a difficult commitment to keep as I was typically pulled in many directions when on business. As I wavered in my reply, she took my hand and said ‘sometimes people are friends for a lifetime, sometimes for a few years and sometimes for two hours; it depends what we need in life.’ While I can’t recall her name and we never connected again, I’ve never forgotten that during that short time together, we were the BFF needed at the time. I also learned that being kind to a stranger, even if it’s for 3 minutes is sometimes all that is needed.


Friendships happen in business too. Almost 10 years ago we worked with Jim Roark at Elk River Coffee Company. Our Sunset Hill Stoneware team handcrafted hundreds of high-quality branded mugs for his business before he sold it four years later. Fast forward another 5 years and Jim’s son Ryan and his wife returned to America from spending the last 4 years doing mission work in Ireland. Upon settling in Richmond, VA, they decide to open Ironclad Coffee Roasters and we had the good fortune to be reconnected with another generation of the O’Rourke family.


While living in Europe, the couple learned what made America stand out; it was the passion for quality – in product and service. While some consumers are ok with purchasing an inexpensive cup of coffee, Ironclad Coffee Roasters will focus on environmental sustainability that does not cut corners during cultivation and making sure that farmers are paid a ‘fair trade’ wage for their hard work. Their ‘ironclad’ name also reflects their commitment to unwavering customer service.

The deal was sealed with Ironclad Coffee Roasters when they connected with Sandra, one of our SHS account specialists. “Sandra is not only knowledgeable about the SHS products, services and processes, she is passionate about the products and providing great services’ states Jim. “If I were starting a business, I'd hire people just like Sandra because I know 'my customers' would be well taken care of…every day and in every way.”


We hope friendships like these last a lifetime.

Keeping Watch. Pat

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Still looking for the perfect gift? Many of our customers ask us how they can buy our branded products; literally there are thousands of places across America from tiny coffee shops to America’s historical landmarks. 

Featured below are a few of our favorite places and spaces. There’s plenty more organizations that carry our hand thrown stoneware, but these have ecommerce sites that make it easy to buy today.

Do you know of other ecommerce sites that sell Sunset Hill Stoneware that you think should be on the list? Please contact me and we’ll continue to get the word out. 

Want to design your own stoneware – visit to customize (your pieces will ship in 2016); or purchase ready-made pieces today that will ship in time for the holidays. 

Keeping watch. Pat

The Local Store
Located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, The Local Store’s gift-worthy offering evokes a sense of place in the Chippewa Valley and Wisconsin. Remind your family and friends of home when shopping online or their catalog for outstanding Wisconsin-made gifts.

Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum brings Walt Disney’s legacy to life. Bring his artistry to life when gifting a handmade stoneware mug.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
Share your family’s secret chili recipe when purchasing this hand thrown crock. Available exclusively online at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

Mystic Monk Coffee
In the solitude and silence of the Wyoming mountain wilderness, the Carmelite monks drive for perfection into every roast of coffee and every coffee blend they produce. Support this monastic, cloistered Roman Catholic community by shopping online for Mystic Monk Coffee, tea and unique double-handled stoneware mugs.

Grand Canyon Association
This non-profit partner of the Grand Canyon National Park is the hub for private fundraising. Buy an exclusively handcrafted mug to forward their mission and remind of you of America’s finest.

Packer Pro Shop
Of course, every home needs green and gold for the holidays! The Packer Pro Shop is the official retailer of the Green Bay Packers.You can shop for Vince Lombardi branded mugs at Lambeau Field and online.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Founded in 1966, Peet’s Coffee & Tea is the grandfather of specialty coffee. Join the Peetnik’s around the country as you shop for holiday gifts.

Yellowstone National Park
You’ll find the world’s greatest concentration of geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Extend your visit when selecting from a stunning array of gifts, including eco-friendly thrown stoneware mugs that match the national parks environmental initiatives.

Grateful Dead
Catch the vibe and think of your favorite Deadhead this holiday. Limited edition Grateful Dead stoneware available now.

Deering Banjo Company
Founded in 1975, Deering Banjo Company is the nation’s only American-made manufacturer of hand built banjos. Buy hand quality stoneware for your Deering Banjo lover. 

The Experimental Aircraft Association provides expert advice and inspiration for aviation enthusiasts. Support your aviation friends with a hand built stoneware mug. 

Left Hand Brewing
Need a gift for your left-handed friends? Shop Left Hand Brewing in Colorado for the perfectly balanced handmade stein.

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This time of year causes people to be more reflective and grateful. Not everyone is going through good times, but sometimes it’s what you make of a situation. It’s that way with Keith and Kari.

The couple met through Keith's company, Drakes Adventures. Keith is 50 years old; Kari is 48. Both had been married before and had experienced life’s ups and downs. For some reason they were drawn to each other – and on their first date, they discovered the connection. Kari’s daughter was born on October 4, 1994; it was the same day that Keith’s son had passed. It instantly became their awakening with the ‘Circle of Life’.


Together they believe the moment we are born, we face the hourglass of life. It is in this moment that life’s ‘play’ button is depressed and each second, granules of sand pass through it. Our life doesn’t have a pause button, we can’t rewind, we can’t fast forward. We have to live in the moment or that moment is gone. Thus their motto: In Life… There is NO Pause, NO Rewind, No Fast Forward, JUST PLAY™.

During Keith’s dark moments of losing his son, his brother and then his father – Keith realized that while he was grieving, life for others continued to carry on. The traffic outside his world never slowed down. There was no pause button, there was no rewind. Life simply kept going. It was a learning that stayed within him then and that Kari shares with him today.

Keith and Kari planned to marry on their ‘Circle of Life’ day – Sunday, October 4, 2015. Two days before their wedding, Kari’s father passed away unexpectedly. Of course, her father was supposed to walk her down the aisle. They couldn’t rewind, fast forward or pause. Traffic didn’t stop, the world kept turning. The hourglass granules continued to pass. They simply decided to live their motto and played on. They wedded in a private ceremony in front of their fireplace on October 4.


Stories like Keith and Kari are why our artisans and SHS team are so passionate about what we do. We’re not simply selling mugs; our mugs are telling stories and becoming part of people’s lives. Our artistry communicates the passion for doing things right. It connects people with America. It gives us hope that everything will be ok. Our mugs and your stories will live on much longer than you and I – and for that we are forever grateful. Find Just Play mugs online at Trending Now Promotions.

Happy Thanksgiving from our entire SHS Team. Pat

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