Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beer Quest (the conclusion, part 2): Bell's Expedition Stout

So this beer quest nonsense has been going on for nearly a month and I am failing miserably.  Shit is getting desperate.  Yes, drive 45 minutes to Bethlehem for a six pack desperate.  Actually, I was already headed that direction so it was only 10 minutes out of my way.  The place, Abe's, is pretty cool.  Lots of choices.  The guy was whistling and singing Christmas carols the whole time I was there so that prompted thoughts of the movie Gremlins and horrific chimney accidents.  When I asked if they had Bell’s Expedition Stout, the guy basically walked around the store with me and pointed out all the other Bell’s products they had.  Helpful?  Yes.  A picture perfect representation of the failure of this Beer Quest?  Yes, couldn’t have scripted it any better.  Mildly irritating?  An understatement.  Did they have Expedition Stout?  You’re a dick for asking.

Dear Beer Quest:  you suck, I quit.

Instead I got a bomber (beer geek talk for large bottle, like 25 oz. maybe a little more or less) of Rogue Ale’s Double Mocha Porter and Avery Brewing’s Dugana IPA.  The Double Mocha Porter I wrote about before and this bomber just reaffirmed that it is delicious and I love it.  The Dugana IPA I had never had before and it was honestly one of the best Double IPA’s I‘ve ever had.  Nice and hoppy with very clean, dry, and distinct flavors of citrus and pine that were well balanced.  Not a whole lot of sweetness to hide the hops like in Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA (another favorite of mine) but also not overbearingly hoppy like some double IPA’s I’ve had.  I will be drinking this again - it was awesome.

Now, fast forward to Christmas Eve.  I spent it with Wife’s side of the family and our tradition the past few years has been to pick names for a gift exchange.  They call it “Pollyanna”.  Unfortunately, this year when we picked names I was a bit drunk on the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and was unable to commit to memory who’s name I picked.  And I just so happened to have misplaced the slip of paper with said name written on it.  I won’t go into detail about how I rectified this mishap, but other than the family pictures that we had to take wearing red scarves, things worked out well in the end. 

During the gift exchange, my “Pollyanna” was revealed to be Wife’s Sister.  Wife’s Sister left the room, I think she went outside, and returned with two cold, heavy gift bags.  As I opened one bag I saw a six pack of Green Flash’s Hop Head Red and it was at this moment I realized that perhaps I had quit the beer quest prematurely.  I quickly moved on to bag number two and there it was - a mix and match six pack with 2 Expedition Stouts, 2 Celebration Ales, and 2 Racer 5 IPA’s.  A Christmas miracle - my beer quest was complete.  Thank You, Wife’s Sister.

Obviously, I poured myself a glass.  I was worried that no beer could live up to all the hype I have put into this so I tried to clear my mind and treat it like just another beer.  It poured out of the bottle like an overdue oil change and smelled like the movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie.  And it was pretty darn good.  Coffee, chocolate, molasses, and hints of fruit blended all together in a beer that went down real smooth, tasting a lot like the song “Oh, You Pretty Things.”  And just like the chorus of that rump shaker, Bell’s Expedition Stout was worth the wait. 



And then things got weird…

Wife and I got home around midnight, so technically it was Christmas morning, to find, oddly enough, two empty bottles of Expedition Stout on our kitchen counter.  I had just woken up from an hour long nap in the car so I had very little understanding of what was happening around me.  I looked in the fridge to see if there were more Expedition Stouts but I saw nothing.  I asked Wife what was happening.  Apparently, Wife’s Friend came over to let out our dog while we were gone and brought two Expedition Stouts and drank them and left them as a monument to my wretched inability to accomplish anything.

Luckily, just as I was about to completely lose my shit, take off my glasses, and smash those two empties together and ram the splintered shards of bottle necks into my sleep boogered eyes, I came out of my nap fog and remembered that I had completed my Beer Quest just a few hours ago and that I had one more bottle of Expedition Stout to drink at my leisure.  So whatever, I thought, a dick move by Wife’s Friend, but I admired it for the way it went for the jugular of my soul on Christmas morning.  No holds barred, steel cage, ladder match, and I liked it.

It wasn’t until I was putting away the beer from Wife’s Sister that I noticed tucked way in the back of the fridge was a six pack of Expedition Stout along with another mix and match six pack that included Bell’s Two Hearted, something from Flying Dog, and some Acme IPA by North Coast Brewing.  Another Christmas miracle! 

And wait, there is more: my younger brother Joe bought me a Bell’s variety case!  Christmas miracle number 3!  I went through the six pack of Bell’s Pale Ale before Christmas was over because it was that good.  Nothing crazy hoppy or imperial or Belgian, it was just a good drinking beer that tasted great - like a fancy Rolling Rock that tasted more like beer than strange water.  This may be my new go to beer whenever I plan on putting in a solid shift of drinking.  It will definitely be the next case I buy. 

Well, obviously I had a very Merry Christmas and I hope you did too.  I could get all sappy here about how all the gifts I got really meant a lot and how I feel like I have some of the best family and friends anyone could ever have and how spending time with them was the best gift of all but it would probably come off as sarcasm or pussy-footed nonsense, so I won’t.  If you want sappy bullshit click here.

Quest Complete. No One Cares. (QCNOC)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Beer Quest (the conclusion, part 1): Bell's Expedition Stout

December 18th has come and gone.  Yes, I went to Union Jack’s for the 12 Bell’s of Christmas, as I mentioned here.  And yes, the whole purpose of going to this event was to complete my epic beer quest for Bell’s Expedition Stout.  And yes, I threw the menu off the table and buried my head in my hands when the waitress informed me that Expedition Stout was the one keg that they weren’t able to get.  And yes, a very large and heavy Acme safe fell on Wife’s head right after she admonished me with the words “I told you, you should have called.”  And yes, I morphed into Randy Quaid and immediately came up with several conspiracy theories to help me cope with the horrible direction my career, I mean my life, has gone. 

Number 1:  The people at Bell’s read my blog and it filled them with hate so they have been using all their power in the craft beer world to keep this beer as far from my lips as humanly possible.

Number 2:  The people at Union Jack’s read my blog and it filled them with hate so they lied to my face and said they didn’t have a beer that they actually had.  This theory also  explains all the laughing and good times happening around me.

Number 3:  I am a government cyborg in training and this is just a test to see how I handle adversity. 

Number 4:  I am a civilian cyborg suffering from the cyborg equivalent of a venereal disease - half syphilis and half computer virus - and Expedition Stout and this beer quest are merely my way of coping with my ever-loosening grip on sanity.

So they didn’t have it.  I should have known.  Earlier in the week, a Tuesday, I went to the Tap n’ Table under the premise (it was posted on their bullshit Facebook page) that they were tapping Nebraska Brewing Company’s Hop God.  When I got there - no Hop God - just a horribly disappointing meal that I finished with a Southern Tier Oat, an imperial stout made with oatmeal (obviously) that I just didn’t care for.  The sweetness from the oatmeal was just too much, at least I think that was what the strange flavor was from.  Maybe someone with more experience in the oatmeal brew realm could leave a fucking comment so that I might gain some insight.  Either way, whether it was from oatmeal or goat nuts it made me grimace in the same way the Lancaster Milk Stout did (such an unsettling foreign sweetness) and I didn’t even finish it.  Later I found out that they didn’t tap the Hop God until that Friday.  Dickbags.

Anyway, the 12 Bell’s of Christmas at Union Jacks did have some other wonderful brews from Bell’s - my favorite being the Batch 9000 (12.5% ABV).  This was awesome.  Dark like a stout with some real nice roasty tastes to it.  It smelled like a roasted black licorice caramel coffee, if such a thing existed.  I don’t like black licorice but the roasty-ness of it made it smell very appealing.  The taste was similar to the smell, minus the coffee, and finished with the fruity heat of a wine.  This beer made me forget all about my disappointment.

I also tried the Batch 10,000 (9.2% ABV), which is the last of the Batch series from Bell’s.  The description of this beer on the Bell’s Website makes it sound like a hodge-podge of whatever ingredients were laying around and then thrown together - in an artful and deliberate way of course.  And that’s what this beer tasted like.  You could pick out different things in the flavor and feel that reminded you of other beers you’ve had.  It had a nice brown color and what seemed like an easy-drinking feel to it compared to the 9000.  In retrospect, it may have been better to have the 10,000 first and then the 9000 (even though that makes less sense than the movie title “Back to the Future”); I think I would have appreciated it more.  Definitely worth trying if you see it anywhere. 

Basically, everything I tried that evening was pretty dang good, with the exception of the porter - just kind of watery and bland - but even that I would give another try because it is Bell’s and Bell’s makes really good beer.  Smoke that, pipe face.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Beer Quest (day 3): Bell's Expedition Stout

(Click here for Day 1 or here for Day 2 of the Bell's Expedition Stout Beer Quest)


So far this beer quest (which all started with this review) has taught me one thing: the universe despises me.  Expedition Stout appears to be everywhere except where I go.  If the place is more than 30 minutes from me, it seems they have it.  Shangy’s, my favorite beer distributor, let me know via Facebook that they have it - but do I want to drive 30 minutes to buy a case of a beer I’ve never tasted?  I’m not that desperate yet.  Also, Abe’s, a six pack store in Bethlehem, has the Expedition Stout listed on their website.  But now we’re talking a 45 minute drive for a six pack.  I hate myself, but not that much, not yet.

Even Wife has noticed how this sinking ship of a beer quest has turned the twinkle in my eye to more of a twankle and a twitch.  In my infinite sadness, I convinced Wife that a dinner out at Union Jack’s Inn on the Manatawny would help raise my spirits.  I love this place: decent food, amazing bottled beer menu, good stuff always on tap, a staff with great beer knowledge, and for the summer months there is awesome outdoor seating.  The fact that Wife agreed to go without me begging leads me to believe that perhaps the stars are aligning and tonight may just be the night that I put this little beer quest to bed.

But the universe wants me miserable and unhappy.  So of course they don’t have Bell’s Expedition Stout on tap this night.  But a man-child in an elf hat happily informs me that they will have it on tap on Saturday, December 18th.  Well that’s just great, keep taunting me world.  I thought of clapping my hands, rubbing them together quickly and repeatedly and then reiki-ing that elf to death.  At least now I know I can expect some sort of Final Destination horrible accident to happen to me on December 17th.  Mental note: sleep in on the 17th and avoid hanging self in the shower like an idiot.

Buddy the Elf goes on to suggest several alternatives for me and eventually I agree to a New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk because I vaguely remember reading a blog post where the author said this was one of his favorite beers.  I like bold statements so I will give it a shot.  The Dragon’s Milk (10% ABV)  is an oak-aged stout that poured black, had a little tan head and smelled like booze.  Hardly carbonated, I liked some of the flavors that the first sip started with: some chocolate, vanilla, and roasted coffee.  However, it finished with a bourbon taste and like I’ve said before, I am not a fan of the taste of bourbon.  For this reason, Wife says my Roman Emperor name would be Vaginitus.  Whatever, I drank it but grimaced a bit at the end of each gulp.   After a brief chat with  Buddy it is confirmed that any oak-aged ale is going to come with those same hints of bourbon, so I can pretty much cross those off the list.  Good to know.  Lesson learned.

Unable to decide what to drink next, I followed my elf hat wearing waiter’s advice and got a few 5 ounce samples: Victory’s Yakima Glory, Rogue’s Double Mocha Porter, and some sour that I can’t remember the name of unfortunately.

Victory’s Yakima Glory (formerly Yakima Twilight) has a great description (from the Victory website):

The tenacious grip of big, juicy hop aroma and character slides smoothly into rich, dark malts. This heavyweight battle between fresh, Yakima Valley hops and dark, roasted malts is resolved harmoniously as the flavors merge to deliver complex satisfaction with a warming edge.  Bask in the "glory" of the bright and brassy hops!

Who wouldn’t want to drink that?  That might be the best description I’ve ever read.  Unfortunately, the brew doesn’t deliver.  There was a nice hoppiness up front, a good aroma with a mild taste but then not much else.  No heavyweight battle here.  This beer finished pretty watery and I got not warming edge.  Maybe my palate isn’t complex enough to pick up on some of the subtler notes of the malts but according to the description, I wasn’t expecting subtle.  But this beer might be nice for a hearty night of drinking with some buddies as it goes down real easy and packs a 8.7% ABV.

The Rogue Double Mocha Porter ( 8.2% ABV) was really good and the 5 oz disappeared quickly.  I would drink this again in a heart beat but I think it is pretty limited so I may not get the chance.  This has a pretty mild finish - a dry cocoa kind of bitterness that you might expect - but I almost want more of a bite at the end, almost like your expecting something more and it is not quite there.  Still delicious though. 

My last 5 ounce sample was the sour (Buddy the elf recommended it be last to minimize the impact on my palette for the other two samples).  Sours are beers that are, well, sour - like a cross between beer and candy and cheap wine and fruit that makes your lips pucker.  Not something I would recommend to a new craft beer drinker right out of the gate but something that, now that I've finally had one, I think everyone should try.  I wish I could remember which brewery it was.  I believe it was a mash up between an American microbrewer and a Belgium brewer but I could also be making that up.  I still had not eaten at this point and I was drinking rather quickly with no breaks or water so things were starting to get a little silly.  I really liked this sour.  It reminded me of a more sour, more tart, more fruity tasting Troeg’s Mad Elf - which, by the way, is an amazing holiday beer that everyone should try.  The 5 ounce sample was gone in around 30 seconds.  I thought about ordering another but wasn’t sure if I could handle a whole glass of the sour.  I also thought about another Rogue Double Mocha Porter but was afraid that the sour had messed with my palate and that I wouldn’t appreciate it as much as I did the first time.  So, I asked Buddy the elf to get me something good and hoppy to burn the sour off my tongue.

He brought me a draft of Green Flash’s Imperial IPA (9.4% ABV).  This was super-hoppy like an imperial IPA should be - as imperial apparently means very hoppy.  Very bitter, perhaps a little too bitter, with out much sweetness so it helped me forget the sour rather quickly.  I liked it but it didn’t blow me away.  I would definitely give it another try because I don’t remember a whole lot about it.  Maybe it wasn’t that memorable or maybe I was further on my way than I care to admit.  Based on this night and this “Evolution of the Beer Geek” at Beer and Whiskey Brothers, I think I have achieved Craftus Erectus (that just sounds perverse and I want to delete that sentence but I won’t).

Regardless, I still need the try this Bell’s Expedition Stout.  So after another unsuccessful stop at Wegman’s, I called Union Jack’s and made a reservation for the evening of December 18th for their 12 Bell’s of Christmas event.  All Bell’s brews on tap including the Expedition Stout.  With my luck, that keg will probably be kicked before I get there. 

Or a plate glass window will fall on my head from absurd heights.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Beer Quest (day two): Bell's Expedition Stout


It’s Day 2 of my beer quest for Bell’s Expedition Stout and I feel the next logical step is to go Wegman’s - a high end grocery store/food court that also sells six packs of beer, and mostly micro-brews at that. I know they sell the Bell’s, so maybe I have a chance. I entered the beer area and slowly scanned the selection. I saw Bell’s Two Hearted, Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout, Bell’s Pale Ale, but very much like how the magic mirror on Romper Room saw everybody but me, I was seeing every Bell’s beer except The Expedition Stout. I walked around and around hoping I missed it, but like a potential classic rusting away in tall grass or boat resting on its side 4 miles inland, shit was clearly not going the way I hoped it would.



So instead I put together a little variety six pack/potential beer quest suicide note. I threw in two Troeg’s Java Head Stouts, a Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, and 3 Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve and headed home depressed, dejected, and slightly gassy.

The Troeg’s Java Head Stout (7.5% ABV) went down easy. Not a whole lot to it. Low carbonation, nice coffee taste but not much else. It had little bit a of a kick at the end like a birch beer. I would drink it again but it would not be at the top of my list for a Stout choice, but not at the bottom either. Definitely worth trying if you like coffee - as this is pretty much a beer that tastes like coffee. And the label is pretty great.


The Dogfish Head Chicory Stout (5.2% ABV) was a little better. This one had more of a malt back bone to it, which I liked. Also, this had strong hints of coffee and a nice roastiness to it with some sweetness (chocolate!). However, the aroma was not that pleasing. As I put my nose in the glass to drink it, it smelled like something my dog had been laying on all day. But I easily got passed that and enjoyed it quite a bit.

The next night I went for the Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve (6% ABV) and it was awesome. This hoppy red ale drank like a mellow IPA with a nice combo of malt and spice to finish the way a holiday beer should. I plan on buying more of this. The three I had went down way to quickly and I wanted more. For those of you that have had Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, this is like a milder version. A little brother or younger cousin to maybe put it in perspective. I love them both.

But the quest must go on. I must find me some Bell’s Expedition Stout…

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beer Quest (day one): Bell's Expedition Stout

After reading this amazing review for Bell’s Expedition Stout, I felt like I must try this in order to be complete.  First of all, if you don’t want to try that beer after reading that post then you don’t actually know how to read - you’re just faking it to fit in, staring and nodding when it feels appropriate.  Secondly, what I’ve had from Bell’s is pretty good, especially the Two-Hearted Ale.  And so begins my beer quest for Bell’s Expedition Stout.


Day 1 of my beer quest led me back to the Liberty Street Tavern.  I knew they had a great selection and had some Bell’s brews so it seemed like a good place to start.  But, alas, no Expedition Stout. 

So instead I tried Founder’s Old Curmudgeon (9.8 % ABV).  I really like the Founder Centennial IPA and this curmudgeon stuff was on tap so why not, and saying “give me the Old Curmudgeon“ gave me 0.8 seconds of joy, like I was a fan of professional wrestling again at some city fairgrounds standing on my chair red in the face screaming “give him the Ol‘Curmudgeon!” as the fat masked villain climbed the turnbuckles.  It, the beer not the daydream, had a floral hop component to it, some spice, low carbonation and kind of a syrupy finish.  Overall, good flavor but not what I was looking for. 

Still disappointed at the failure of my expedition for Expedition, I thought about going with another stout. But, with my mind was so set on this particular stout, I couldn’t even begin to consider where to start, a rain man moment if you will - Expedition is my Wapner - so I went another direction and settled on the Racer 5, by Bear Republic (which I already wrote about here).  I love this beer.  It was like a get well soon bouquet of flowers for my taste buds and finished smooth like a mylar balloon that had “keep your head up” printed on it.  I stuck with the Racer 5 the rest of the night while silently vowing to continue my beer quest tomorrow.

To be continued…

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Check this out: Hungover Owls

I was searching for some images of the beach party scene from Point Break by typing "Point Break Movie Party Scene" into Google and for some reason this caught my eye in the second row of images.


This is obviously the kind of image you investigate further, so I did.  It led me to a blog called Hungover Owls. Some pretty funny stuff.  Had to share it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tales of Summer Part 3: "What did you have to go and wave for!?”

The shower is probably the worst place to experience an earthquake. First of all, your probably naked. Second, there is a much higher probability of you having soap in your eyes then say if you were sitting on your couch. Shampoo bottles are falling on your head, water is everywhere and the only thing to hold onto is slippery tile or a curtain not known for it’s strength. Then there is the whole drying off process you’d have to go through before you could run for your life, unless of course it were already raining outside. And do you put clothes on? Maybe a robe (mental note: get a robe)? Or would your naked body go unnoticed as you ran into the streets due to all the natural disastering that is going on around you?

I don’t feel other calamities would pose the same kind of problems if in the shower. If a tornado were happening then you wouldn’t have to worry about drying off - all the wind would take care of that. And I think in a tornado I would go to my basement, where being wet and naked is readily accepted. During a hurricane it is already raining so who cares, I probably would just keep showering. Same with a tsunami - no sense drying off in that situation. But the earthquake - that adds a real fear element to the whole showering process.

ATTENTION STINKY WEST COAST HIPPIES - I now understand why you smell! I, too, would be afraid of the shower and the cleanliness it provides if I lived out there.

Luckily, I do not live along the dreaded ring of fire so I have very few worries that could be filed under earthquake. Although I would not forgo the shower process entirely I would probably drastically shorten my time in the shower if earthquakes were a concern. That might be a good thing because according to Wife I am in there for “way too long”. When I ask her if the words “fortress of solitude” mean anything to her, she just looks at me and blows a smoke ring, an uncanny talent that she has maintained even after quitting smoking (congrats honey). Either she is part dragon like the woman behind the curtain in The Golden Child or she ate our Christmas Cookie scented Yankee candle (cause it smells so good).

ATTENTION ALL OTHER STINKY HIPPIES - I don’t understand why you stink. What are you afraid of? And don’t give me that whole “I wanna smell like the earth” line of crap. I just went outside and smelled the earth in my back yard and guess what - the earth does not smell like dirty hippies!

Regardless, in an effort to further identify with my west coast counterparts I felt it was time to try some of those west coast beers I’ve heard so much about. So a lunch date was set with Ponytail Phil (not to be confused with ponytail guy at the beer distributor) and his wife at the quaint Liberty Street Tavern, chosen for it’s outdoor seating and wide selection of beers.

Normally, Wife would be excited for such an outing on a nice summer Saturday. But just few days before this particular Saturday, Wife took a home pregnancy test and while they seem simple enough to read you still walk away thinking “Are we pregnant? I guess so…” So until she could see her doctor, which was happening on Monday, we were operating under the assumption that Wife was indeed pregnant. This meant she had not had a cigarette in several days and also would not be able to drink any beer, which is a key component in Wife’s ability/motivation to interact socially with others. To say that Wife was a bit on edge would have been a mild understatement.

Labor Day was fast approaching so Wife saw this outing as an opportunity to wear white one last time and had it not been for the seasonal outfit aspect of the lunch date she probably would have stayed home. So in her finest pair of white Capri pants, Wife is prepared to face the world stone cold sober for the first time since she her ninth birthday. The tension in the car driving there could only be compared to the intense look of Tom Cruise’s eyes during a dramatic role.


As we approached the tavern, I spotted Ponytail Phil and his wife (whose name I am omitting due to the fact that I forgot to ask her if I could use it or if I did ask I can’t recall what she said) sitting at a table outside. At this moment I decided to do a drive by and act as if seeing them there was a chance encounter rather than pre-determined. I thought the other people sitting outside would find the situation very movie-like and hence might provide them with some incidental afternoon entertainment. I will regret this decision for the rest of my life. Never again will I make a decision based on the entertainment value it may hold for absolute strangers.

As we drove by their table, I slowed to snails pace and started to shout to them, “Hey, what are you guys doing here?” I wanted to preface my fake excitement at this fake chance encounter with an odd but endearing soft-wristed hand wave I had been working on that I thought would be perfect for this situation. Unfortunately, as I started the waving process I bumped Wife’s hand which, to my horror, was in the midst of applying lip-liner or lip-stick or some type of lip make-up. And while my signature drive-by hand wave was soft-wristed in nature, it had enough power to knock said lip-coloring device from Wife’s hand and directly onto her white capri-panted lap.

And then all hell broke loose (cue the Misfits).

Wife: “What did you have to go and wave for!?”

Me: “We know them so I waved”

Wife: “What the f--- for, they know were coming.”

Me: “Because its funny.”

Wife: “What the motherf--- is funny about that?”

Me: “Well, the fact that they are expecting us makes it funny, and the wave itself is a funny wave…”

I tried to explain the whole acting like it’s a chance encounter rather then a planned meeting, and how the wave was crafted for precisely this type of situation, and how the dropped make-up aspect makes the situation even funnier, and basically she wasn’t seeing the humor in any of it.

She called me a lot of names. I parked the car (I thought about circling the block for another wave by opted not to). She tried to clean up the mark on her pants, unsuccessfully, actually making it worse. She called me more names. And then we went and had lunch with our friends.

Again, my goal for this lunch date was to try some beers for the West Coast. I started with Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA (7.0% ABV). This was the kind of IPA that you could drink all day. Tastey, hoppy, lots of flavor, but very drinkable because the flavors are nice and balanced so there isn‘t much of a bite. I recommend this if you like hops and even if you don’t - this beer might change your mind. I order this every time I see it on a menu, which has been exactly 3 times. Loved it every time.


I’ve also tried their Racer X (8.3% ABV), which is the double IPA version of this beer. Also very good but probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone who isn’t too into hops. I had one of these, it was on tap, and they served in a heavy glass chalice. This is more of a beer that you drink slow and enjoy each sip as it has great flavor up front with the hops and then smooth maltiness at the end.


The last beer I tried was Green Flash’s Hop Head Red (6.0% ABV). At the tavern I loved it. A hoppy red ale with all kinds of stuff floating around it that smelled delicious. I liked it so much that when I saw a six pack of it at my grocery store I had to buy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it so much the second time around. It was good but has a pretty bitter bite to it and not as good as I remembered it. But that happens sometimes. Maybe my palate was subdued by the flavor of the Racer 5 so I didn’t notice the bite that Hop Head Red had. Who knows, maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it the second time around.

Does that happen to anyone else? You try a beer and get one impression of it, either good or bad, and then you have it again another time and that impression changes? Maybe you really liked it the first time and then were disappointed the second time or maybe you weren’t too fond of it initially but then pleasantly surprised the second go round. I wonder if it has more to do with your mood or your palate. Either way, I’ve found it is usually a good idea to give a beer more than one chance before you form a solid opinion.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Only In Dreams...

Due to a late dinner last night, I have a case of the 5 a.m. farts (maybe it was the Bell‘s Two Hearted Ale - which was very very tasty by the way - a mild, very drinkable, citrusy IPA - or maybe it was the asparagus and gorgonzola cheese).  But as the fart type implies, it is 5 a.m. and it is Saturday so I am fast asleep and dreaming.  In my dream state there is only a Voice and it is saying “Don’t worry, it will be a sweet smell.”  And in my dream state this seems like a perfectly logical statement, even though after about 3.5 million farts in my lifetime, exactly 4 farts have had a sweet smell.  The odds are stacked against me, however, in dream world I have the decision making ability of a rabid raccoon and the Voice sounded pretty sure of itself. 

So I let one rip. 

This wakes me up a little bit but barely.  I still have one foot in dream world.

Contrary to the Voice's statement, the smell is not sweet.

Regardless, farts are funny in the real world AND dream world so the Voice and I start laughing.  Then the Voice says, “I can’t believe you fell for that one,” as if it is the oldest trick in the book or something, so I am like “Oh, you got me again, Dream Voice,” and we both continue to have a good chuckle.  Now the interesting thing about this is that while the Voice is only laughing in dream world, I am in fact laughing in the dream world and the real world.  I am sleep-laughing about a practical joke played on me by a Voice in a dream, in which the Voice convinced me to fart by ensuring me that it would smell sweet.  How do you explain that to Wife when she shakes you awake and asks you “Are you laughing…and why does it smell so bad in here?” 

But seriously, the Bell's Two Hearted Ale was very good.  I highly recommend it.  I was so impressed that today I decided to buy another Bell's beer to see what that was like.  I got a six pack of Bell's White Winter Ale - a very light wheat beer with some spice to it and a lot of carbonation - like a "warmer" hefeweizen - which is nice for the chilly nights.  Pretty good but doesn't get the glowing recommendation that the Two Hearted got.  However, it is a nice change of pace from the heavier winter seasonals.

Thanks for reading, recommend a beer on my Suggest a Beer page.  

Coming Soon:  The last installment of the Tales of Summer series!  Wife tries to wear white one last time before Labor Day and I ruin everything with a simple wave of my hand.  Also, I drink some beers from the West Coast.

G9CBGQQWGXYB

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Will somebody buy this guy a beer already?

LIKES: sour mix, Cancún.    DISLIKES: hair, squinting.                            





Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tales of Summer Part 2: Five Pounds of Pabst versus the Rattlesnake

I like a good, strenuous hike.  What white person doesn’t?  Oh wait, just checked the list, and camping is there but hiking isn’t.  It should be.  I, a whitey, went hiking several times this summer.  A good, strenuous hike is exercise that is actually somewhat enjoyable.  And unlike a gym, I can take beer into the woods without getting stared at by 15 spin class junkies.  The woods, as opposed to the gym, frowns on few things.  I can pee anywhere in the woods.  Not true for a gym, unless your in the pool.  I can spit freely in the woods, not in the gym.  I can tell horribly grotesque jokes of a sexual/religious nature in the woods.  I can do this in the gym as well, but in the woods people actually laugh.  At the gym people move to another stationary bike on the other side of the room.

I feel the woods, and nature in general, let most things roll off their back.  With the exception of littering and racism, and probably poaching and animal cruelty in general, along with deforestation and misuse of natural resources, nature is pretty much an anything goes kinda girl.  Nature hears a sexist remark from a few macho hikers and thinks, “oh you silly boys” or maybe “oh you pretty things” depending on whether or not nature is heterosexual and/or into David Bowie. 

So when I hike, I take beer with me, as do my hiking companions.  This may seem counterproductive to the whole exercise aspect of hiking, but as mentioned earlier, if I wanted exercise I would go to a gym.  Most men go hiking for such luxuries as outdoor drinking, uninhibited pissing and spitting, and to say things that only rocks and trees should hear.  My beer of choice while hiking is the Pabst Blue Ribbon Pounders.  Steve, my main hiking companion, prefers the Schmidt’s Pounders, which with its pictures of seasonal wildlife on the can is a great choice.
 

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a beer that tastes great when your sweating.  It tastes okay in normal situations, but if sweat is pouring down your face and your wearing a bandanna like Bruce Springsteen a la BITUSA, then Pabst Blue Ribbon is more delicious than life itself.  And like I said earlier, the hike we take is strenuous.  While only 0.6 miles to our destination, a lovely lookout over Berks County called Owls Head, in the first half-mile we climb up almost 1,500 feet in elevation (I tracked it on my iphone’s North Face Trailhead app).  And while I’m not sure how extreme that really is or isn’t, it amounts to a rather steep hike on a rather narrow and sometimes quite slippery barely there sort of trail.

Pabst Brewing has a rather interesting confusing situation going on.  It is independently owned but according to what I read here, it does not brew any of its beer.  Apparently, Pabst outsources its brewing to be done by the beer giant MillerCoorsMolson breweries.  So it is independently owned but not independently brewed.  I’m not sure what any of that really means.  If you, like me, need to clear your head to move on then just click below to watch Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days video.  If that doesn’t reset your system then nothing will (what a strange, strange intro).



For most trips, the first leg of our hike, approximately the first 0.5 miles or so, is done while drinking water and swearing up a storm wondering why we put ourselves through such an ordeal on a 90 degree day with 90% humidity.  It is not until we reach the bottom of the rock formation that we intend to climb to get to the lookout, that we take a rest and crack our first beer.  Once that is finished, we crack another to carry and add to the challenge of climbing the rocks.  Once we are at the top, we finish that second beer, crack a third and enjoy the view for 30 minutes to an hour.  We crack a fourth beer upon our descent with the goal of not spilling a drop as we crawl back down the rocks and then basically run from tree to tree to get back down the trail.


While the trip up takes about 30 minutes, the trip down takes about 12, maybe 15 minutes.  Usually, someone falls or nearly falls, which is just fine as long as not a drop is spilled.  I’m not sure what exactly happens if someone spills beer - I have not seen it happen.  However, I have seen some rather amazing athletic feats performed by not all that athletic of people in remarkably successful attempts to avoid spilling beer, so I imagine the punishment for spilling is something akin to Deliverance, or at least that is what Steve has led me to believe.

On most days, according to the above itinerary, the hike is about 4 pounds of beer long.  However, on one particular trip we decided to journey further than our normal lookout spot and head to place that Steve called Hemlock Heights.  Steve had been there before and so had Steve’s Uncle Mike, who, along with some others, was along for this hike.  This is a decision that I will regret for the rest of my life and should have known to turn back the first time I heard Uncle Mike yell ahead to Steve, “Are you sure this is the way?”


Trails? Where we're going we don't need trails
What Uncle Mike was really saying was, “If you value life, turn back now.”

But we each continued on, following Steve’s lead through the type of trail-less underbrush that you are warned to stay out of if your trying to avoid dying a lonely death on a cold soul-less mountain.  Again, Uncle Mike called out to Steve, “Are you sure we are headed in the right direction? I remember a path.”

What Uncle Mike was really saying was, “Steve, have we done something to upset you?  Do you wish to do us harm?”

But finally we arrived at another rock formation that Steve assured us was Hemlock Heights.  Uncle Mike arrived a few steps behind me and ominously proclaimed, “I don’t think this is where we are supposed to be.”  In all my life I have never heard a more true statement. 

What he should have said was, “Welcome to the Gates of Hell.”

Regardless of where we were, I was pleased to be somewhere so that I could open my fifth and final pound of Pabst (I was one short of a six pack  because I had given one away to a fellow traveler).  At this point I would say the beers were catching up to me  because I began to announce that I was going to walk along the rocks and look for a good rock to poop on.  This is a strange thing to announce considering I only had to pee and had no poop urge whatsoever.  But regardless, I continued to announce that I was looking for a good poop rock as I set my beer down and walked about 15 feet away from the others and started to relieve myself next to some sort of vegetation.  And then someone said it:

The den
Do you hear that?

And then Steve said, “ Yeah, what is that, is that a rattler?”

Now, Steve can be jerk sometimes and really play on peoples’ fears.  My fear, which he is more than aware of, is snakes.  Particularly snakes with poison.  I had mentioned my concerns about snakes several times while we trekked through the trail-less overgrown forest on our way to this very destination.  So with my back to Steve, because I am taking the type of piss that only happens after four pounds of Pabst, I tell him to shut the hell up. 

Now that Steve has shut his trap, I too hear the noise.  But it doesn’t not sound like a rattle at all.  For a moment I think it sounds almost like locusts, rather high pitched.  For a minute I even think what everyone is hearing is the sound of my monster piss, but then I realize I am no longer relieving myself.  At this point, Steve says “ Hey, it sounds like it is over by you man, be careful.”

I start to say, “ Steve it does not sound like it is over here, it sounds like it is over….” and I start to turn around and point in the direction that I hear it coming from, which is in the direction of Steve.  As I turn and point, I realize I am pointing directly at a Timber Rattle Snake curled up on a rock about 6-8 feet away from me.  It was at this moment that I said “Holy shit” and dematerialized and then rematerialized about 15 feet away.  I had never moved so fast in my life. 

While I did not see its head, I did see the thick part of its body and its rattle up in the air.  It was a big mother sucker.  About as thick around as my bicep, which I just measured to be about 14 inches around.  This may not be big for a bicep but it is quite large for a rattlesnake.  For some reason, as I ran away from the beast the others moved towards it, trying to catch a glimpse.  Turns out there were rattlesnakes everywhere.  Every time someone went to move more than five feet from our original location, another rattle would sound off.  Apparently Steve had lead us directly to a rattlesnake den.  For the full rattlesnake den experience watch this video:



Eventually we had enough sense to finish our beers and leave.  We made the hike back to the cars with out anything eventful happening.  I think without the liquid courage of the 5 pounds of Pabst in my system, I would not have been able to take another step - never in my life have I been so dizzy from the near lethal combo of fear and beer.  I literally had nightmares for 12 straight nights.


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Monday, September 20, 2010

Tales of Summer Part 1: The IPA Taste Test 2010

As I write this, my face is red from some of summer’s last rays of sunshine. By the time you read this, the skin on my forehead will be horribly peeling and I will either look like a participant of some plastic surgery reality show on the E! network, two days removed from a chemical peel/age-defying laser treatment, or like someone you might see scratching his head, looking at the options Head and Shoulders has to offer, at your local CVS.

The idea of my future wretchedness, along with the sexy tan lines that my spectacles have provided me, has inspired me to celebrate my favorite season by recounting a few beer related stories from this past summer. I will call this series “Tales of Summer” and it will consist of three parts: “The IPA Taste Test 2010“, “Five Pounds of Pabst versus the Rattlesnake“, and “Whadya have to go and wave for?!”.

The IPA Taste Test 2010

The idea behind the IPA Taste Test was to see if other people held similar opinions of beers that I had been trying. Was my palate tasting the same things as other people, specifically people similar to me (because who really cares what people not like yourself really think anyway, if they had any thoughts at all they would clearly be more like you)? Or were my mental descriptions of what I was tasting way off? Please don’t mistake this need for assurance as a lack of confidence - it is actually due to a lack of olfactory senses.

My sense of smell is weak, to say the least. A summer of raking asphalt while in college left me smelling nothing but blacktop well after that season’s ship had sailed. Once that scent had finally dissipated, I found that I was now down to only 4 senses. This obviously was followed by a period of depression as I was expecting to gain senses (and superpowers) as I moved into adulthood, not lose them. My depression was marked with frequent listens to Social Distortion’s “Born to Lose”, along with the Bouncing Souls cover of Ted Daffan’s “Born to Lose”, while intently gazing into eyes of Mike Ness as he hung mid-air on my “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” poster, all while dreading that at any moment I may lose more senses such as listening and intently gazing.



Thankfully, my sense of smell has started to return over the last few years, which has been both a confusing and exciting process - think Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry but with more of a focus on being able to smell Ritz crackers rather than paint pictures of them.

For the IPA Taste Test, I went out and purchased four IPAs that are easily obtainable in the Eastern PA area and invited my brother T-Bone (an avid Rolling Rock drinker), Dave (an avid drinker), and Dave’s brother Dan (a former brewer for Appalachian Brewing Co.). For the taste testing, I split a bottle evenly between 4 plastic cups, we each tasted it, discussed for a minute and then moved on. Wife filmed the process for posterity. I would have included some clips here but the video quality was not good due to the lighting and the settings on my digital camera. No worries, I have since changed the settings on my camera and purchased a lamp. Only Wife and I knew what beers were being served, so the testing was essentially blind for T-Bone, Dave, and Dan.

Before I get into the beers and the reactions they elicited, perhaps a quick explanation of what IPA stands for is in needed:

IPA = India Pale Ale

Why the name? Well back in the day when the sun never set on the British Empire, brewers needed to ship beer all over, specifically India. Because the trip was such a lengthy one, the British stationed or living in India were frequently the recipients of skunky beer. To solve the problem, brewers added more hops, which essentially act as preservatives, to their brews so that they could make the journey without going rotten. This increase in hops had the side effect of increasing the overall bitterness, among other things, such as flavor and aroma, depending on the hops being used.

After drinking these hoppy beers in India for years, Brits returning home probably found the less hoppy brews of the homeland to be lacking and a demand for IPAs began to grow in the pubs of England. And now IPAs can be found all over the place, with most American craft brewing companies offering at least one IPA. I, for one, am a fan, however not everyone finds the bitter floral flavors as appealing. These people generally have sore vaginas, short attention spans, and nicknames like T-Bone. Perhaps it is more of an acquired taste. 

Beer #1: Victory Hop Devil 6.7% ABV

Brewed in Downingtown, PA, this IPA by Victory is an award winner both nationally and internationally. It has a very aromatic hop taste up front, more of a floral flavor than grassy like some IPAs, that is followed by a rich, well rounded, big flavor the whole way through. After sampling the Hop Devil, our taste test participants had the following to say:

Dave: “Good head.”

T-Bone: “Thanks.”

Dan: “Nice bite.”

T-Bone: “I don’t think you gave me enough.”

Me: “You weren’t supposed to chug it, it’s a taste test.”

T-Bone: “Oh yeah, I forgot what we were doing.”

Dan: “I’ve had better.”

Dave: “I wouldn’t get drunk on it.”

T-Bone: “It’s not Rolling Rock.”

Dan: “The end has a skunky edge.”

Dave: “Yeah.”

I agree with all of the above. The beer is very flavorful and it does have a bit a finish that might make it difficult to drink this for a full session. I was out this past weekend and was pleased to see it on tap but after 3 (or was it 4?) I was ready for something else. Overall, Dave, who insisted on a rating system, gave this a B-. Flavor-wise, I’d give an A-, and C+ or B- for drinkability.

Beer #2: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA 6.0% ABV

Like Victory’s Hop Devil, Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA is pretty easy to find around the East Coast. Brewed in Milton, Delaware, the 60 minute IPA, according to the Dogfish website, “is continuously hopped - more than 60 hop additions over a 60 minute boil,” hence the name. The flavor is less robust than the Hop-Devil, offering a more citrus hop flavor along with a more grassy aroma.

Someone (not sure who): “This one is brighter up front.”

Dan: “Doesn’t finish as funky.”

T-Bone: “Not as much going on (compared to Hop Devil).”

Dave: “I could drink more of these.”

Dave: “There is a taste here that I recognize…Jasmine? No…”

T-Bone: “Vinegar?”

Dave: “No…I can’t put my finger on it but I… (trails off).”

It turns out that Dave had bought a case of this a few days prior so perhaps the flavor he is recognizing is just the beer itself…who knows. In the end, Dave rated this a C. After tasting the Hop Devil, the flavor of the 60 minute can seems a bit lacking. However, the flavor is still very good, I’m thinking B, and the drinkability is definitely an A. I love a good beer that I can drink a lot of and this is that beer.

At this point this in the Taste Test, the participants began discussing the merits of the last Indiana Jones movie. I believe this began by either Dave or Dan relating that originally they gave The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a C rating but after a second viewing they had felt it was more deserving. T-Bone would not have any part of any rating higher than a C for the film, and when asked why, he brought up the part of the movie with all the ants. And while we all acknowledged that the scene with the ants was not the strongest part of the movie, the ant scenes that T-Bone described were not actually from The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but rather from a fictional movie called “The Ants” that he had been thinking about. No one was fooled. Incidentally, the movie on the TV throughout the entire Taste Test was Coyote Ugly. Don’t judge.

Beer #3: Lancaster Brewing Co. Hop Hog 7.9% ABV

Let’s just get right to the dialogue:

Dan: “Very mild for an IPA, creamy.”

Dave: “Very drinkable.”

Dan: “I think this is my favorite so far.”

Dave: “Me, too.”

Me: “It has a toastiness with the hoppiness.”

T-Bone: “I don’t think I’m an IPA guy.”

T-Bone: “I am hammered right now.”

So impressed was Dave that he changed his rating system for this beer, giving it 4 stars (I’m assuming this is either a 4 or 5 star system, however this was never specified). Considering this is an IPA with an ABV of almost 8%, this beer is pretty mild but also has a lot of nice flavors, like caramel, that go very well together. Very drinkable as nothing here is too overpowering. I agree with Dave’s 4 star rating.

Beer #4: Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA 9.0% ABV

I wrote about this beer a little bit in a previous post, so again, let’s get right to our Taste Testers:

Dave: “Whoa. Wha. Whoa.”

Dan: “Hoppy ending.”

Me: “Happy ending.” (Awkward forced laughter followed this comment, both from myself and my friends. We are nothing if not polite.)

Dan: “Is this Hops Infusion?” (another Weyerbacher beer I wrote about here.)

Dave: “My favorite.”

Dan: “Me too.”

T-Bone was absent from this conversation because he was scouting places in my house to do pull ups. We found him in the kitchen eyeing up my backdoor. Literally, the back door of my house, not my backside, you perverts. I revealed the beers we had sampled and offered everyone another. T-Bone took a Victory Hop Devil. Dan, Dave, and myself went for the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe. We finished those, Dan and Dave went on their way and T-Bone and I headed over to our local fire company social quarters where we drank Rolling Rock all night. T-Bone had this final bit of wisdom say about the Taste Testing:

“For me, if I could come to the bar, order a water, catch a buzz and hang out for awhile, then that’s what I would do. But I can’t. So I drink Rolling Rock.”

Spoken like a sunflower among dandelions. Amen.


General information about IPAs and their origins was found in The Naked Pint by Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune.  Thank you.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Childhood Realizations: The Toilet and The Mail

WARNING!: The following post has nothing to do with beer. These stories were already posted on the Childhood Realizations page of this website but in an effort to provide my readers with a continuous blog-like experience I've re-posted them here. Enjoy.

The day I realized how the toilet works:

Bobo and Nanny lived in Alpha, NJ, and they were my grandparents.  Inside their home was a pool table and many family get togethers orbited around that pool table.  On this particular day, I will estimate I was between the ages of 4 and 6, there was a sizable gathering of family members at Nanny and Bobo’s house and I was having a great time rolling balls on the pool table.  So great is my joy that I am holding in a monster poop as long as possible so that I may continue to roll those balls.  It took quite the emergency to pull me away from a solo game of hand billiards and my trip to the bathroom would have to wait.

So I wrap up my game with a sweet come-from-behind victory, reclaiming the world championship from myself, and after many handshakes and congratulatory hugs I head upstairs to drop bombs. 

Nan’s bathroom had this countertop with all these different colored boomerang shapes that hypnotized me every time I went in there.  I would get lost in all those boomerangs.  Just staring deeper and deeper into those magical shapes, wishing that I had hundreds of boomerangs so that I could make the sky look like this countertop, wishing that a boomerang storm would come and rain boomerangs, wishing that I lived in Australia where boomerangs were more common.  You know, your typical maddening obsession set off by bathroom décor.  I’m not even going to tell you about all the strange faces I saw in my parents down stairs shower curtain.

A knock-knock-knock on the door pulls me out of Boomerangtown and back to reality.  It’s my Mom checking on me.  Yes, Mom, I’m fine and no I don‘t need any help.  Stop staring at the counter top, she says, and come down stairs.  I’m working on it, I say. 

And work it was.  I hop down from the toilet, grab a suitable amount of TP and get to wiping.  Satisfied with a reasonably clean backside, I put my shirt back on and bend down to pull up my under-roos and pants.  It is at this moment that I realize that we have a problem.  Brown town, Hershey highway, call it what you will - bacon strips doesn’t really fit this scenario due to its magnitude.  What I have in my underpants is a brown map of the brown capital of a brown state; A topographical map of the Crap Mountains on Planet Poop; Brown rings from the brown trunk of a Brown Oak that is 160 years old.  Apparently, somewhere between the second and third overtime period of the hand billiard match, my turtle popped out more than its head, or it has a really long neck.

As difficult as it may be to believe, this was actually a re-occurring problem for me.  I knew that if my Mom found another pair of underwear in this kind of condition that I may be back in diapers.  These underwear needed to disappear and fast.  I took them off and pulled my pants up - my first real experience with the commando style, by the way - while I searched for an answer.  The hamper?  Under the sink?  Under the towel on the towel rack?  All of these options seemed only temporary and I needed these undies to be gone for good.  And then it hit me - there is only one device that I am aware of that makes things disappear permanently:  the Toilet.  For all I know, the word ‘toilet’ is French for disappearing machine.  So in they went.  I pulled the magic lever and watched them swirl around and disappear.  Problem solved.  Back to the party.

What happened next is a little unclear to me.  I’m not sure how much time passed - was it 15 minutes or an hour?  But at some point, water began to drip on the pool table and it appeared that some sort of leak had developed upstairs.  I did not find this alarming in the least - in fact, I did not even suspect that it could be related to my ordeal.  My plan was so fool-proof, I had practically forgotten about it.  Then I heard my name.  Then I heard my name again.  Then my Aunt comes down stairs with a pair of children’s underwear in her hand.  How the hell did she get my underwear, I’m thinking.  This can’t be good.

Are these your underwear?

No.

Really?

Yes, really, those are He-Man and I don’t even like He-Man
(a total lie, and I apologized to He-Man a million times in my mind as soon as those words left my mouth).

Well, then whose underwear could it be?

I don’t know.
 

I was the only child at the party, hence the solo hand billiards, and this fact was quite the smoking gun.  Had I known that the toilet was not going to disappear my underwear I would have had time to come up with some sort of logical diversion.  I put all my eggs in one basket and the basket was exploding in my face.

Well, then let me see your underwear.

Well, that is a fucked up question to ask a little kid, I thought.
Well, I’m not wearing any today, I said matter of factly.

This response elicited a mixture of shock and laughter from the crowd of adults that had gathered to watch my demise.  It was at this point that Mom chimed in, her mental state was a perfect mixture of confusion, rage, and humor (this would become her signature mental state over the next few years).  She said:

What do you mean your not wearing any underwear?  Who doesn’t wear underwear?

At this point I believe exactly three uncles and one aunt raised their hands.  And somehow, I was off the hook.  That was the end of it.  Apparently any damage done was nothing worth murdering an underpantless child over.  


Over the next few years I slowly compiled a list of things that the toilet made disappear and a list of things that the toilet did not make disappear.  This was also the first incident of many that has led me to discover a toilet’s true intentions.  Modern convenience or not, toilets have an agenda and that agenda is to embarrass me every chance they get.  I guess it is only fair, considering all the horrible things I’ve done to them over the years




The day I realized how the mail works:

So I’m in kindergarten and it is the last day of school prior to the Christmas break. Kids have been bringing Christmas cards for our teacher all week and I am so excited because today is the day that the teacher is going to open all the cards and read them to the class. I am also feeling mighty proud of myself because I actually remembered to put a card in my book bag before I left the house that morning.  This may have been the first day ever I actually remembered something. I was a very forgetful child: Once I got lost in the mall and when a women asked me my first name I told her it was Webster because I forgot what my real first name was (and because Webster had the coolest house ever with all those secret passages).

So I put my card in the basket on the teacher’s desk, returned to my seat, and tried as hard as I could to keep my shit together. I colored something. Somebody threw up. And finally it was time - everybody over to the reading rug. The teacher is reading cards and I know my card has got to be coming up soon and the excitement is just building up like crazy. I didn’t know if I was gonna sneeze, pee my pants, or smack myself in the head. And then finally, there it was - I could recognize that envelope from a mile away. I lean over to my buddy, maybe he was imaginary, maybe he wasn’t, and I whisper as fast as I could, “thatsmycard!” The teacher looks at the front of the envelope and for a moment, just a moment, she looks confused. In my mind time has stopped and I am screaming to myself, “whydidshemakethatface? whatthefuckiswrongwithmycard?” But then she smiles and says, “It looks like this card is from Justin.” I immediately feel reassured and so proud of myself that I swear for a moment I turned into pure sunshine shining right there on that reading rug.

She opens the envelope, reads the front - “Merry Christmas” (or some holiday nonsense), and shows everyone the picture. She opens the card and continues to read the inside, “and a Happy New Year. (pause) Love Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom.”

The record playing in my head (Kool and the Gang - Celebration”) came to a screeching halt. “Wait, what did she just say? That’s MY card,” I thought to myself. Even my buddy leaned over and asked, “I thought you said that was your card?” And just like a Martin Scorsese film, the events started to play back in slow motion in my mind as Derek and The Dominoes’ “Layla” started to play. I back-tracked through memories I didn’t even know I had until it was all too clear to me - I had brought my teacher a Christmas card that I had received in the mail from my Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom. Kids were bringing cards in all week and I happened to have some cards on my dresser and that morning I said, “why not me,” and I grabbed that card and put it back in it’s envelope and went to school to join in the holiday cheer.

The teacher moved on to next card like nothing had even happened. As the dust settled from the demolition of my self-esteem, I thought to myself, “So that’s how the mail works.” Incidentally, this was also the day I realized that I needed to learn how to read.


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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beer on my Poncho: Yuengling Lager and the Musikfest

For those of you not in the know, Musikfest is a ten day long event in the city of Bethlehem, PA, where streets are closed and people are allowed to walk around with alcoholic beverages. There are vendors with great food, vendors with not so great food, bands like Styx that you pay a pretty penny to see, and lots of bands that play for free. Generally, your beer options are pretty limited in the beer tents - where you’ll pay the equivalent of 6 dollars in tickets for a mug filled with beer (I’m not even going to get into the whole tickets-as-currency thing). You do have some other options, like the Bethlehem Brew Works - who will fill your mug with their brews for cash, or at least they used to and I‘m assuming they still do. Personally, my favorite spot to fill the mug is Hotel Bethlehem, where they will fill my mug with Yuengling Lager for a mere 4 dollars cash!

Again, for those of you not in the know, Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery. They have been a family owned brewing operation since 1829. Located in Pottsville, PA, and now also in Tampa, FL, Yuengling makes several different varieties - Premium, Lager, Lord Chesterfield Ale, Porter, Black and Tan, Light, Light Lager, and a new winter seasonal Bock.

Unlike most of the beers discussed on this blog, Yuengling is not considered a craft beer by the Brewer’s Association because they do not have an all malt product. This means that they put adjuncts - Yuengling uses corn - in their beer to lighten flavor (not to enhance the flavor) and cut costs. Similarly, Budweiser and most other big name light American lagers use rice as an adjunct. Regardless, they are an independent brewer, i.e. not owned by some foreign conglomerate like 90% of the beers out there. And Pabst and Boston Brewing (Sam Adams) are the only independent breweries in America that sell more beer than Yuengling.

The Yuengling Lager is my favorite of their brews and it still blows my mind when I drink it out of an ice cold can. However, I do avoid drinking it in bottles because I don’t think it is the same Yuengling Lager I went to college with. My theory is that the lager in those bottles is no longer brewed at the Pottsville location. In fact, the lager brewed at the Pottsville location, according to my theory, is only put into kegs and cans. My theory goes even further to say that the can is really the only trusted source of good Yuengling Lager because who knows what location the keg came from - Tampa? St. Clair? Is their even a St. Clair location? According to my theory there is. According to my theory, the can is a guarantee that the lager inside came from Pottsville. What I’m saying is that if you used like the Lager and now you could take it or leave it - try it in an ice cold can. It will be like your first time all over again. You’ll probably want to drink at least eleven more.

Unfortunately, the Lager at the Hotel Bethlehem for Musikfest is not in a can. However, the keg of Lager I encountered this past Sunday at the fest must have come from Pottsville because it was delicious. Wife, myself, and Neighbor Steve arrived around 1:30 and we decided to immediately head to the Hotel to fill our mugs. Mother Nature decided to immediately start dumping buckets of water on Bethlehem. So there we were, the three of us, with mugs full of Lager, under an umbrella at a table outside of the Hotel Bethlehem. Oh, and it’s raining so hard that people are screaming their faces off.

So I throw the obvious question out to the group - “What do you want to do?” - as if there was some other option besides huddling under the umbrella of a café table.

“I brought an umbrella.” Wife says proudly. She proceeds to pull out a pastel lavender umbrella that when open has the same diameter as the head of a 4 year old. And not a freakishly large-headed 4 year old, either. Wife has had drinks with bigger umbrellas.

It is around this time that Neighbor Steve notices that the underside of the table umbrella is printed with the image of a lovely blue sky with a few nice fluffy clouds. “Well, it’s nice under here,” he says, “I guess we just stay here until it passes.”

So we did. Neighbor Steve ran the first mug filling mission after about ten minutes. I ran the next one about 15 minutes later, around the same time that we noticed that the shop across the street was selling plastic rain ponchos. Wife made that trip, and 18 dollars later we had three ponchos.

Now we are three people wearing white ponchos, standing under the umbrella of a café table, drinking Lager out of oversized plastic mugs, in the middle of Hurricane Musikfest. We looked like a trio of drunk ghosts on vacation. I felt like Alec Baldwin in Beetle Juice. I asked Wife if she felt like Geena Davis. She responded by drinking from her mug. I took that as a yes.

Why did we remain under the umbrella even now that we had ponchos, you ask? Because it was raining - cats, dogs, bison, giraffes - the only thing that would have kept us dry was an ark. That's why.

SIDENOTE: When it is pouring rain the sound is deafening. So even though we were standing within inches of one another, unless you were using what I like to call your “Katrina Voice”, no one was going to be able to hear a thing. Just a lot of shouting, a lot of “WHAT?”, and 600 million gallons of water crashing down all around us. So the scene to an outside observer was as follows:

Three people wearing white ponchos, standing under the umbrella of a café table, drinking Lager out of oversized plastic mugs, in the middle of Hurricane Musikfest, and one of them is shouting, “DO YOU FEEL LIKE GEENA DAVIS?”

By the time the downpour stopped, I had no idea what was going on. The Lager got me. It got me good. We filled the mugs again and went up the street to meet some friends and watch a band. It was around this time that the phrase “I need to eat something” kept popping into conversations.

“Hey, how you been?”

“I need to eat something.”

“Oh yeah, right, haven’t seen you in years…”

“I need to eat.”

“Did you here about so and so blah blah blah?”

“I need to eat something.”

“….well, they, they died…”

“I'm going to die too if I don't eat something.”

It was also right around this time that I started to document memorable moments from the day using my iPhone’s Notes App. I quickly realized that this was utterly inefficient after typing my first note, which read:

“Steve likes the one with beard. The beard and the camera.”


This is referring to the band we watched. The Parkington Sisters are a band of five sisters - none of which have beards. So when Neighbor Steve leaned over and said, “I like the one with the beard,” I was perplexed. However, when I realized that Neighbor Steve was referring to the guy standing on the corner of the stage taking pictures of the band, I found this to be the funniest thing I have ever heard. Hence the documentation.

From there I moved on the Voice Memo App of my iPhone. For some reason (I call this reason “Lager”) it never occurred to me to document any of the day using the Camera or Video Camera feature of my phone. I found exactly 2 voice memos waiting for me the next day:

4:10 PM:

“We should go sell ponchos.”
“But I don’t want to walk in the rain.”


The above was recorded after thinking about the pro’s and con’s of starting a poncho selling business (that second line was said in slightly different voice, kinda feminine, still my voice, but ridiculous).

5:43 PM:

“What if gangbangers volunteered to do face-painting at festivals?”


I have absolutely no idea. Remember, I got there at 1:30 and was drinking Yuengling Lager out of a 24 ounce mug.

Brother T-bone doing his very best Mary Poppins impersonation. 
The one photo from the day, taken by Wife.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Don't Forget Your Roots (part 2): How to win an argument and the Weyerbacher Brewery

My first college roommate, Ghostface Miller, was an interesting fellow. Technically, Charles the Chronic Masturbator was my first roommate but we didn’t make it through a semester together for obvious reasons. Ghostface was the kind of guy that was really into punk rock, had a bad-ass leather jacket, played drums, and was generally a lot of fun. Ghostface was also the kind of guy that regularly wore an olive green army surplus zip-up flight suit coverall (dare I call it a jumpsuit?). In fact, on his birthday one year I woke up to him wearing said flight suit and saluting himself in the mirror. Classic.

One morning Ghostface, the Bza, and myself are waking up after what was probably a long night of drinking. For some reason, on this particular morning, as we each lay in our respective bunks, Ghostface starts to talk to the Bza and I about weightlifting. Ghostface likes the weight machines while the Bza and I feel that free weights are better. Why this is our topic of conversation as we wake up - I have no idea. None of us were avid weightlifters. The closest I came to lifting weights in college was hooking up with a girl that was a bit on the heavy side. But for whatever reason, this rise-and-shine discussion turns into a heated argument. Well, as heated as an argument can get when everyone is laying down either looking at the ceiling or the bunk above them, which is in fact pretty darn heated.

Suddenly, Ghostface jumps out of the top bunk, wearing the flight suit, and points at the Bza and yells “Don’t forget you roots!” and storms out of the room. Silence. Argument over.

After a few minutes pass and we’re sure he’s not coming back to murder us, the Bza said, “Don’t forget your roots? Who says that?”

“When did he put that flight suit on?” I whispered in reply. “I don’t think he was wearing that last night.”

Moral of the story #1: To effectively end an argument you need 3 things: some sort of higher ground from which to jump down from, an army surplus flight suit, and a catchy phrase that doesn’t apply to the current argument but causes immediate introspection by all within earshot.

Moral of the story #2: Don’t forget your roots. This sticks with me to this day.

It is “Moral of the story #2” that led me to purchase a case Weyerbacher’s Big Beers a few months ago. I grew up in Easton; Weyerbacher is located in Easton; and so it seemed like the logical next step in my journey through the world of craft beer. The Big Beers sampler contains 4 beers that all come in at 8% ABV or higher. Initially, I was a bit intimidated and figured that I would be getting rather drunk. I also thought that perhaps I would lose some weight by drinking the higher ABV beers because, unlike Rolling Rock, I wouldn’t need to drink 12 of them to catch a buzz. Less beers equals less calories equals less poundage next time I step on the scale (please don’t ask how this weight loss plan is working out for me so far). Anyway, the Big Beers sampler, which I highly recommend, comes with the following:




Blithering Idiot 11.1% ABV: This a Barley Wine-Style ale, which made me not too excited about this one because I’m not a wine drinker. When I finally did build up the courage to try it I was pleasantly surprised. Nothing like a wine at all. Just beer here. Good beer. If your wife or girlfriend has to throw those silly wine and cheese parties, this will still fit right in - great with fine cheeses (and dancing, as brother Joe would say). It has a muted sweetness that develops. Overall, very smooth with a warm little bite, but barely any bitterness. It seems to have considerably less carbonation than other beers. Weyerbacher recommends to drink it from a snifter or wine glass but it is just fine out of the bottle. Usually, I pour it into a pilsner glass (there are probably some wine glasses in the house but I have no idea where Wife keeps them - perhaps I should check under the bed) and that does change the character a bit for the better I think.

Merry Monks 9.3%: Weyerbacher calls this a Belgian style Abby Tripel. Tripels are a style that followed from the Trappist breweries (of which there are only seven, more on that topic at a later date) and the Abbey style ales. Fruity, complex, and very yellow in color for all the flavor it packs, the Merry Monks is something special. This beer has some of the flavors you’d expect from a Belgian like cookies and bananas but with a bit of citrus and even creaminess. This beer has a lot going on. A definite must try. Although in terms of drinkability it may be difficult to get past two in a row. At least at first….

Old Heathen 8% ABV: This is Weyerbacher’s Imperial Stout. Roasty, silky, a little chocolately, with a slight booze bite. This is a good stout that I love having in my fridge.

Double Simcoe IPA 9.0% ABV: Obviously a Double IPA, so if your not into IPAs this probably isn’t for you. But if you are so inclined then this may just be the best IPA you’ve had in a long time. Hands down, this is the best double IPA I’ve had. And overall just an amazing beer. Like the Merry Monks, this has a lot happening - a clean sweetness up front, a nice malty ale in the middle, and then that kick at the end that cleans up. What I like about this beer is that the kick doesn’t build - in other words, it doesn’t leave an aftertaste that builds up - it comes, it goes, and then you take another taste to repeat the process. If my craft beer adventure ended today, as an IPA lover, this is the beer I would put at the top. Also, this won PA beer of the year (2006) from PA beer author Lew Bryson - he’s Philly local so he gets the nod here, check out his blog.

Some things I’ve learned from the Big Beers Sampler:

#1: DON’T drink the Merry Monks after you’ve been drinking the Double Simcoe, and probably vice versa. They are just too different and complex to be enjoyed one after the other. Technically, I had two Simcoe’s and then went for the Monk’s and just thought is was too sweet. I’ve had the Monks since then and now find it quite enjoyable

#2: DO mix the Simcoe and the Old Heathen for an amazing black and tan. I read this in some comment on the Weyerbacher site and it is my new favorite thing to do. Highly recommend this whether you like IPAs or not.

From here, the next logical step was to return to Easton for a trip to the Weyerbacher Brewery. This was suggested to me via the Beer on my Shirt… Facebook by my old friend Matt. Matt and I grew up together in the rural expanses outside of Easton, practically neighbors, brought together by a common love of baseball cards, comic books, flammable household chemicals, and Faith No More. As adults it turned out that we both loved Weyerbacher brews: Matt and the Merry Monks, me and the Double Simcoe IPA. So Wife and I met Matt there on a boiling summer Saturday for a tour of the brewery and many free tastes of their many beers.


Highlights from the brewery:

The tour was nice and short: basically walking past a couple tanks, a bottling line, and couple of more tanks. About 15 minutes total with all the pertinent info about their beer making process. Seeing the actual tanks that some of my favorite beers are made in was a nice experience and the vibe of the place was fun. Even though Weyerbacher is still a relatively small brewer in the craft beer world, it is hard to put into words the feeling associated with the idea that just 15 or so years ago this guy just made beer at his house and now look at all this. America.


Weyerbacher barrels about 6,800 barrels (31 gallons of beer per barrel) of beer each year, I think. I don’t remember the exact figures, but the guy taking us on the tour (I would say “tour guide” but it doesn’t quite fit the experience) mentioned that Troeg’s has a higher barrelage, and in comparison, Dogfish Head is over 100,000 barrels. I believe I also read that Sam Adams (Boston Brewing Co.) is over the 2 million barrels mark. Considering that Weyerbacher makes so many different beers, I found their barrel number surprisingly low.


And now the beers I sampled:

Verboten 5.9% ABV: This is another favorite of mine from Weyerbacher that I’ve had prior to my trip to the brewery. It’s a Belgian Pale Ale with a mild earthy hop bite and some fruity tastes as well. Very drinkable unless you hate anything with a taste of hops. I highly recommend it. I could drink this all day.

Hops Infusion 6.2% ABV: This is their year round IPA and it is delicious. Made with seven different types of hops, it has nice zesty crispness/bitterness as opposed to just a piney or earthy bitterness that some of the more popular IPA’s have. Very bright tasting and refreshing. I love this.

Juliet 8.5% ABV: From their Brewer Select Series, this is a once and done offering - once their out, it’s gone. The Juliet is considered an Altbier, which is basically an ale/lager hybrid that has characteristics of darker ale but with a lighter body. So it has copper color and some flavors associated with a heavier beer but is surprisingly light in feel. It has some hints, I stress hints, of earthy hop bitterness but with nice caramel tastes and some light fruit hints. Very easy to drink with the flavors associated with something more filling. It was great for the heat of summer and at 8.5% it packed a punch that most beers that go down this easy don’t have. It you see it grab as it probably won’t be around much longer.

Imperial Pumpkin Ale 8.0% ABV: This is a seasonal offering available around August every year. I do not like the taste of pumpkin. I don’t like the smell of pumpkin. I’ve never had pumpkin pie. I like to carve pumpkins and that’s about as far as I’ll go. Therefore, I did not like this.

QUAD 11.8%: Quad has won some major awards as it is the first Quadrupel style beer brewed commercially in the US. The Merry Monks is a Tripel and has a lot going on, so it follows that a quadrupel has even more complexity. Weyerbacher says that this is best enjoyed after it has aged for 12 months. I would be interested to try it after it has been aged. I don’t believe the tastes I had were aged and I know the bottles we brought home barely lasted 12 hours. True to the style this has a lot going on. It has a sweetness that combined with the carbonation reminds me of champagne. Wife loved it. It was a bit much for me wrap my head around but definitely something I would try again.

I may have also tasted the Autumnfest but can’t really remember for sure. Also, I had the Insanity (which I wrote about here) which is the Blithering Idiot aged in bourbon oak barrels. I lost my affinity for anything bourbon or whiskey many years ago so this was not for me. Overall, I would highly recommend that you try any Weyerbacher brew you get your hands on - I’ve only been drinking my way through the world of craft beers for a few months but I’m pretty sure Weyerbacher is something special.

A tape that changed my life.  I dubbed this from Matt when I was in 9th or 10th grade.  I copied over a Steve Vai tape.  This tape still blows my mind.

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