23 December 2009

Short's Kind Ale

Short's Kind Ale (bottle)
Elk Rapids, MI
Unknown ABV

So after a flubbed beer and a day off, we're back to the Short's Limited Edition brews. Today I decided to try their wet-hopped pale ale, just go give myself a bit of a respite from the stouts.

But first, since this is a wet-hopped beer, a word about wet hopping. Since wet-hopping and dry-hopping are both terms used in the production of beer, it is a logical assumption for the uninitiated to believe that they are just different forms of the same basic process, or that they are at least related in some way. Other than both terms describing ways of using hops, this is actually not the case.

Dry-hopping refers to using hops after the end of the boil (and generally after the end of primary fermentation) to add aroma to the finished beer. These hops tend not to add any alpha acids to the finished brew, but are generally only present in the nose of the beer. Wet-hopping, on the other hand, refers to any use of freshly-picked (i.e., not dried or otherwise processed) hops, usually in the boil. (I suppose it's possible to dry-hop with freshly-picked hops, thereby wet-dry-hopping, but that would probably only be done by brewers with a sense of the paradoxical that would rival Joseph Heller's.)

Short's Kind Ale is a wet-hopped ale, and it definitely makes a difference to the flavor. It's earthier and more floral than you'd get from a standard pale, which helps to add complexity to what is generally a pretty standard style of beer. Hoppy, citrusy, a touch of yeast... what else can a boy ask for from a bottle of American Pale Ale? It's a well-made pale that has a nice mix of malt and hops, starts of sweet and finishes dry. I could definitely handle two or three of these if I could ever find it on-tap somewhere.

My overall BA review: 3.8/5

21 December 2009

Short's Uncle Steve's Irish Stout

Short's Uncle Steve's Irish Stout
Elk Rapids, MI
Unknown ABV

After work, errands, dinner, and more errands I was in no mood to take a second shot at Short's Mystery Stout, so instead I had a nice bottle of Uncle Steve's Irish Stout. I tend to not be a huge fan of massively dry beers, although I can recognize the beauty of the style, so I didn't exactly have massively high hopes. Most dry stouts are almost oppressively dry, but this one has some nice sweet maltiness and strong notes of caramelized malt up-front before hitting you with a relatively mild dryness. It's really a pretty well-balanced beer, and would make a pretty good intro to dry stouts for those who can't handle Guinness.

The color on this one's a little light, more a dark brown than black, and the head is pretty minuscule, but I can overlook that. I could definitely put back a few of these if I was in a place to do so.

I wish I had more to say, but really... meh. It's a good beer, likely a nice session choice, but nothing that really demands my detailed attention.

My overall BA rating: 4.05/5

20 December 2009

Atwater Block Brewery Michigan Lager

Atwater Block Brewery Michigan Lager (bottle)
Detroit, MI
Unknown ABV

So I'm trying to drink some beers that aren't necessarily in my normal range of enjoyable styles, just trying to stretch the palate a little. Atwater Block Brewing is best known for making Kid Rock's branded beer, so needless to say I wasn't exactly excited to give this one a whirl around the tongue.

I looked it up on BA prior to tasting it, and found it's a Vienna Lager. Since I've got a homebrewed Vienna Lager in my garage right now (it's, er, lagering at the moment) and Sam Adams Boston Lager is a Vienna, the style has mostly positive associations for me. Viennas tend to have more caramel and malt complexity than an adjunct lager (or even an all-malt lager like Brooklyn Lager), and they tend to be a bit more layered in aroma and overall character.

How does this one stack up? Well, as a Vienna it seems a bit weak. You can taste the corn adjuncts (especially as the beer warms) and there's none of that delicious caramel maltiness that I expect from the style. But as an answer to the big macros, this is actually pretty nice: it has a citrus character in the nose and the flavor that was unexpected but far from unpleasant. It finishes clean and has a bit more hoppy complexity than you'd expect from a general-issue lager.

Would I buy this again? Actually, yeah -- it's far from amazing but it's a decent beer that proves Detroit can make a lager that stands up next to anything the macros can offer. It's not a beer-geek kinda beer, but I'd hand this to someone used to macros knowing that it'd at least be consumed.

But as a replacement for Sam Adams... are you kidding me?

Short's Mystery Oatmeal Stout.... Take 1

Short's Mystery Oatmeal Stout (bottle)
Elk Rapids, MI
12.5% ABV

Holy shit, 12.5% ABV? That's what BA listed, and since Short's website doesn't have any of the technical specs on their beers, I guess that's what I'm going for. I opened a bottle of this about ten minutes after finishing an eight-hour-plus day at work, and these were my immediate reactions:

A: Dark, mostly black but with a slight brownish tinge on the bottom. No significant head. 4.0

S: Lots of roasted oats, very bready. Slight alcohol astringency, strangely since it's not a very high ABV beer. 4.0

T: Malty, very astringent for the ABV of the beer. Some caramel on the aftertaste. It's way too heavy on the alcohol flavor for the style of beer. 3.0

M: Moderate thickness, very creamy, probably bottled with lactose. Very nice. 4.0

D: I'd have this again, but it seems just too hot for the style. This might age well, but it's a bit undercooked at present. 3.5

Which, you know, is actually incredibly unfair of me. BA was down yesterday evening when I wrote that, and I had no idea of the ABV of this sucker. I mean, look at the way I'm phrasing things there: I could taste the extremely high alcohol, but couldn't really allow myself to understand what I was tasting. I expected a nice mild Oatmeal Stout before dinner, and ended up with a major booze-bomb. It's still no excuse for not having my head on straight enough to realize just how strong the beer was. I blame the tiredness that comes from working retail during this season.

So anyway, it's a bit unfair to post a review of the beer based on that tasting. I'll buy another bottle and give it a second try a little later in the week. I still think the brew's a bit "hot" for regular consumption, but it might age absolutely beautifully.

(Maybe I should just buy a sixer and call it a day....)

18 December 2009

Short's Cup A Joe Coffee Creme Stout

Short's Cup A Joe Coffee Creme Stout (bottle)
Elk Rapids, MI
8.0% ABV

Like any other self-respecting Kalamazoo-based beer geek, I subscribe to Kalamabrew's RSS feed. And what did I find the other day but this, telling me about several new limited releases from Short's Brewing in Elk Rapids. Their Soft Parade is one of the best Fruit Beers I've tasted, and Huma-Lupa-Licious is a really fine floral IPA, so my appetite was immediately whetted.

Apparently mine were not the only ones. We got these beers in Thursday morning, and by noon we'd already gotten a few calls asking which ones we had. I didn't have the space to put out all the beers in the cooler, but I made sure each one had a spot on the single shelf and made sure the sixers were at least reachable, so I could pull them out upon request.

I bought one of each of the six beers we got yesterday, with the intention of trying as many as I could last night. But it turned out that Shana's AGES end-of-semester party was last night, and who am I to turn my nose up at a trip to Bell's. The bottled beer would wait a night.

So now my tentative plan is to try one beer a day for the next six days (eight, if we get in the last two that the distributor didn't have in stock this week) and review each one here. Tonight I tried the Cup A Joe Coffee Creme Stout, and holy shit is it well-balanced. Most coffee beers either go too far in the sweet direction or have too much bitterness, but this brew has an almost perfect balance of sweet and bitter, of malt, hops, and coffee, and really makes me jealous that Joe Short is only a year older than I am. It's a rich coffee-flavored stout with a nice roasted malt backbone, and has a residual sweetness that gives the drying aftertaste a nice balance. It's dangerously drinkable, and totally worth seeking out.

(Oh, and as of this moment it's listed at number 62 in the world on BA's Best of BA list. That'll probably change as the beer gets more reviews and the nay-sayers start piling on, but as of this moment I'm not going to say that the beer is obviously unsuited for that kind of placement.)

I'm going to have to get a sixer of this one. After I drink each of the other singles, unless it looks like the last of them are going to be gone before I get through the week of tasting.

My overall BA review: 4.5/5

12 December 2009

How Those Cosmo Sex Tips Really Get Written

This is non-beer related content, so sue me.

I really love the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. It's a comic filled with dark humor, sex jokes, and science -- what's not to love? Recently, the creators of the comic have been making short sketch comedy videos, most of which are pretty golden. Here's the most recent (probably NSFW):

The Silent Strike!

Now to head to work. Hopefully more beery content later tonight. I'm bottling my Vienna Lager tomorrow, so I've also got to make up some sterilizing solution for my bottling bucket, et al....

10 December 2009

Winter in Michigan

Why is snowblowing better than mowing grass? Because you can stash some warm beer in a snowbank, take care of the snow, and drink some nice cold beer when you're done.

Which beer? Fuller's London Pride, which according to BA I've never reviewed, but I'm a bit too tired from nine hours of work and the aforementioned snowblowing to worry about. I'll definitely write it up soon, though.

09 December 2009

Rogue XS in 7oz bottles?

Beer News is reporting that Rogue Ales is going to start packaging their XS series in smaller, 7oz bottles instead of the 750mL ceramic bottles they've been using for the last few years. This may be in response to the perceived cost of the existing XS line, which in many places can be over $20 for a single 750mL bottle.

The linked article claims that Rogue is intending to keep the cost per ounce of the affected beers about the same, which means we'll probably be paying between five and seven dollars for a seven ounce bottle as opposed to 18-20 for a larger one. Either way, these are still going to be expensive beers, but perhaps Rogue is betting that people would rather pay for a small quantity for tasting purposes, especially since most of these beers are high-gravity.

Personally, I'm not nearly as offended by the cost of the XS ceramic bottles (although the prices are pretty high) as I am by the cost of an ordinary sixer of Rogue's standard beers these days. I used to be able to get six Dead Guys for nine or ten dollars -- now that same beer runs me fourteen or fifteen. Granted that Rogue makes amazing beers, but not so amazing that they're worth those kinds of prices.

Rogue's ordinary bombers, though, I've always felt were reasonably priced. Had a 22 of Chocolate Stout last night for less than seven dollars, and I may pick up a bottle of Shakespeare to keep me company for the blizzard tonight.

08 December 2009

A Long Enough Lever, and Firm Enough Place to Stand...

Saw this on Mike the Mad Biologist today:

A guy from right here in Michigan has figured out how to move several-ton blocks into place using extremely simple and non-mechanical implements. If the ancients didn't actually build Stonehenge using these or similar techniques, I'd say the joke is on them.

05 December 2009

Bell's Eccentric Ale 2008 (Released 2009)

Bell's Eccentric Ale 2008 (Released 2009) (on-tap)
Comstock, MI
10.1% ABV

I didn't make it to Eccentric Day this year. I wanted to go, but I had to work 9-5 yesterday and then Shana's MFA program had a graduate reading that we went to, and by the time we had stopped by after a quick after-reading drink with some friends in the program, Bell's was packed. College kid crowd. Not exactly the kind of environment for checking out such an awesome brew.

But after an amazing lunch at Juanita's today, wherein we befriended an adorable 4-year old who was the granddaughter of one of the cooks (that's really how you know that a place is really and truly locally-owned and -operated -- you can't help but befriend the small children of the owners), Shana asked, "Hey, did you want to stop at Bell's?"

"Ah, well, I guess it's on the way home," I replied laconically, demonstrating my great skill at understatement.

I really wanted to stop in and check for some homebrew supplies, although I'm waiting another paycheck or so before I buy my grains for my next brewing session, but when I went in I noticed they had a handful of bottles of this year's Eccentric Ale in their cooler. Five bucks a bottle is steep, sure, but it's a once-brewed release, barely in bottles at all, and you could get six bottles for $25.00. So I sucked it up, decided I'd just be eating cheap this week, and bought a sixer.

When I got to the register I asked the guy behind the counter if they had any of the Eccentric left over at the bar. He said, basically, "I don't know, but you could always stop in and find out..."

So Shana and I ended up having a couple of 8oz glasses of Eccentric Ale as a kind of post-lunch binge. It's a bit parsimonious that Eccentric Day fell on the same day as the first major snowfall of the year, because it's hard to think of another beer that would've been a better way to stave off the icy cold. If there's another beer that better-deserved to be described as "milky" than this year's Eccentric, I don't know what it is -- a dark brown milky body with a minuscule head was what appeared in my 8oz snifter glass.

The aroma was heavenly (and got a perfect 5.0/5 in my BA review) -- it's full of chocolate-covered cherries, a Belgian tartiness and yeastiness, and even a bit of sourness. After I had composed my notes on the aroma and read it back to Shana, she replied that she thought it smelled like apples. Well, of course, I thought, since the cherry aroma that I got with the tarty yeastiness could easily add together as "apples" to anyone not totally obsessed with beer manufacture; it's entirely possible that some persons not as wholly involved in the craft beer scene are actually better at picking out concrete flavors than those of us with years-old BeerAdvocate profiles. A topic for another day, perhaps.

The flavor on this one is very similar to the aroma, with a nice roasty caramelized sugar flavor and lots of fruity deliciousness. I can't say for absolute certain that Belgian yeast strains were used on this beer, but if they weren't I will be very surprised. This has the same kind of complexity that I'd expect from a high-quality Belgian, and it has the same ability to change slightly in character with almost every sip.

Mouthfeel is thick, luxurious, and amazing. The "milk" character really comes through here. And for a beer with this much alcohol, it's remarkable how drinkable it is. I've heard that other years' offerings have been a bit overly sweet, but this one seemed very balanced and quite clean.

So now I've got six bottles of Eccentric Ale to drink. I think I'm going to store them in my garage for awhile and let them age a bit -- I'll bet this is just as good in five years as it is today.

My overall BA rating: 4.55/5

04 December 2009

The Session: Stumbling Home

So I've decided to join The Session. This month's subject is about "your favorite watering hole." Which is a cool topic, except....

When I first started drinking beer, I wasn't much of a fan of bars. Pay two or three times as much for so-so beer (keep in mind, I started my beer life in Ala-fucking-bama, of all places!), inhale the horrible smoke of others and generally have to put up with noise from the kinds of assholes that I normally stay at home to avoid? No thanks.

As I've progressed in the hobby, I've come to appreciate the bar experience a lot more. Partly this is because I live in Kalamazoo, now, where my local (yeah, my fucking local) is fucking Bell's. How can it get better than that? And besides that, Shakespeare's is right next door and there are probably a dozen great beer places in town, including Gallagher's, O'Duffy's, Harvey's... I mean, hell, in Kalamazoo even the ratty-ass college bar The Up-and-Under serves great wings and offers specials on Bell's Two-Hearted. Good beer's just part of the atmosphere here, and believe me, it's something I have learned to appreciate.

But for this post I want to highlight something else. Something a bit more... elusive. Or if not elusive at least under-appreciated. It's one thing for great beer bars to exist, for great location to offer an ever-rotating list of amazing taps for us beer geeks to enjoy. (And on that note, let me mention that even in the beer hellhole that is the Heart of Dixie, The Nook offers an unparalleled beer selection and amazing beer-geek atmosphere -- anyone living in the area or just passing through should definitely stop in for a pint or four of some amazing brew.) No, what I want to talk about is that little hole-in-the-wall, that little spot that could care less about us, the beers geeks, but serve something better than expected for us anyway.

In particular, I want to talk about Huntsville's own Thirsty Turtle.

Something of an institution, this place is a tiny bar in a strip mall on the corner of Whitesburg and Airport. Last I was there (it's been over a year since I've been in), it was sandwiched between a Mailboxes Etc. and a sub shop. Stepping in, it's a smoky little dive that serves as a sports bar for those looking for a little alcoholic diversion. The food? Standard pub fare, although I must admit that their burgers are about the biggest, greasiest slices of heaven I can imagine. Not the kind of place that would ever serve the beer geek clientele or would really care to court our business.

And yet this location served Yuengling draft 20oz'ers for prices that I'd normally expect to be paying for BMC products. Sure, Yuengling isn't exactly beer geek heaven, but it's a fine amber lager with a great mouthfeel and a clean finish, and so much better than Bud-Miller-Coors that it's not even a contest, really. Those used to wide availability of great beer may not realize how nice that is, but when I worked at the bookstore a quarter-mile away, those of us on the closing shift used to go by pretty regularly to unwind and bitch about customers, corporate, and other random craziness. To go in expecting to have to get by on a few mixed drinks (or, even worse, macrobrew products) and find a nice quality lager waiting was the kind of treat that not even the finest of beer establishments can really duplicate.

So the next time you're hoisting an 8oz sample of high-end barleywine or the finest treat from Belgium at your local beer-geek haven, remember to drink to those spots that don't have to cater to beer geeks to stay in business, but choose to sell some better-quality stuff anyway. These places don't cater to us, but they tolerate us and make sure they've got a tap or two that we can live with, even if it's not the spectacular brew that we'd really rather have. Cheers to the Turtle, and to a thousand other places like it, for offering something a little better than they have to so that beer geeks like me can have something decent. For spending a little bit more on that "specialty" keg even though it may not be the most obvious choice.

To the Turtle, and a thousand other places like it: Thanks.

02 December 2009

Meantime India Pale Ale

Meantime India Pale Ale
London, England
7.5% ABV

What is it with corked beers always trying to cover me with foam? I admittedly have to store them on their sides in the fridge as the shelves aren't quite high enough to allow a bomber or 750mL bottle to sit upright, but lately it seems that every corked beer I open wants to jump out of the bottle. I've come to the point of making sure I have my glass very close just in case of inadvertent foam explosion.

Anyway. Because I'm a Stupid American Beer Drinker, English IPAs tend not to be among my favorite of beers. I've just become accustomed to the brilliance of their American cousins, and my palate is attuned to the beautiful allure of hops, hops, hops. Which isn't to say that I'm a complete lover of hop-bombs -- far from it, for I love a nice balance of malt and hop to form a complete whole. But by American standards most English IPAs are really just Pale Ales, which fits into a whole other category altogether....

So when I bought this bottle on our trip to the South this summer, it was really more for completeness' sake than out of a genuine desire to try the beer. "Hey, look," I said to myself, "a beer that I haven't tried that I can't get in Michigan. Let's get a bottle so I can try it." But just one bottle, you know, no need to buy more when my budget could easily cover an extra bottle or two of Stone or some other beer.

Drinking this one, I'm thinking that was a mistake. Meantime IPA is an amazing beer, with a near-perfect malt/hop balance. Grapefruit sweetness dominates the malt, with a crisp Kent Goldings hoppiness on the finish. I can't find any reference to it on the bottle or the brewery's website, but I swear I get faint but persistent notes of oakiness in the finish, enough to give a nice tannin complexity, but nowhere near overpowering of the bitter finish. Even as I get near the bottom of the bottle, the foam leaves significant and pleasing lacing on the inside of my pint glass. Is this the best EIPA ever? I'll have to wait until that hypothetical trip to the pubs of London to really put that to the test, but for now this is a damn close approximation of what it must be like.

My overall BA rating: 4.5/5

30 November 2009

Avery 14'er ESB

Avery 14'er ESB
Denver, CO
5.1% ABV

I've been drinking a lot of high-end stuff lately.

I found a bottle of the '08 Stone RIS in a box in my garage a couple of days ago, and it was every bit as amazing as I remembered it. I've visited Bell's a couple of times in the last couple of weeks, enjoying their world-class ales like the Golden Funk and their Mild. I've had bottles of New Holland Golden Cap Saison, Unibroue Trois Pistoles, and BrewDog's Punk IPA.

And it's not like I'm complaining, exactly. But sometimes you need something a little more... accessible. A beers that isn't exactly average, but something that isn't exactly trying to blow you away. And for me there's nothing that fills that bill (call it a "can drink while playing XBox without feeling guilty) than a nice high-quality ESB.

Enter Avery's 14'er ESB.

Avery's an incredibly well-respected nationally-distributed brewery, of course, so it's not exactly like I'm slumming it, but the 14'er was exactly what I needed for this evening after a long day at work. Smooth malty texture, somewhat bready flavor, with a dry finish and a hoppy afteraste -- I'd finished two before I even finished making dinner. At 5.1% ABV it's a bit heavy for a bog-standard "session beer," but otherwise this fits the bill for me just about perfectly: I could easily see myself making and evening of it with these either at a bar or just with a sixer.

My Overall BA Rating: 4.05/5

25 November 2009

Screamin' Pumpkin

Michigan Brewing Screamin' Pumpkin Spiced Ale
Webberville, MI
5.0% ABV

Pumpkin beers tend not to be beers that excite us geeks, and for good reason. All too often they're basically just pale ales with a hint of pumpkin and some other spices added to give a bit of texture and flavor. But working in a beer store for the first time this season showed me that pumpkin beers have a lot of admirers, particularly in people who either don't drink other types of beer at all, or among those who'd really only otherwise drink one of the macros.

Michigan Brewing's Screamin' Pumpkin was probably our most requested pumpkin ale, so I definitely wanted to give it a try. And what did I find but a pretty decent pale with a nice pumpkin spiciness? This doesn't have the mouthfeel or the spicy complexity of New Holland's Ichabod, or the sheer tastiness and quality of ingredients that clearly went into DFH's Punkin, but that's not really an issue here. For fans of this product, drinkability is key, and this beer's clean pumpkin flavor with only a touch of cloves and nutmeg to balance out the sweetness really fits the bill. No real carbonation to speak of, and no real hoppiness -- this brew goes down smooth and is a great introduction to the style.

Would I drink this before some of the other Pumpkin Ales I've had? No, but it's a got a smoothness that some of the others lack, and is probably the most accessible example I've had of the style.

My overall BA rating: 4.0/5

23 November 2009

An Evening at Bell's

A great book, a great beer, great company... it makes a great evening,wouldn't you say?

Drinking Bell's Mild Ale, so far as I know only available at the brewery. A nice relaxing English-style Bitter -- I'll be having it again next time I make it over.

20 November 2009

Van Twee Belgian Ale

De Proef Brouweru Brewmaster's Collaboration Van Twee Belgian Ale (bottle)
7.5% ABV

Brewmaster's collaboration withe Bell's Brewery Inc.

When I heard about this collaboration between Bell's own John Mallett and a respected Belgian brewery on Kalamabrew, I knew I had to have it. And when Tiffany's got a couple of half-cases, I probably bought the very first bottle purchased in Kalamazoo. It took me a few days to review because, as we all know, Life Intervenes, but here goes:

Sour aroma, more like a Flanders Red than a Belgian Strong Dark, with a nice nutty flavor and a tart-sour aftertaste. Lots of cherries. It's an interesting beer with an (obviously) fascinating provenance, but is it really worth the cost? It'll sell to fans of Bell's for the novelty value alone, but at this price point I really expected something that would be a lot more complex and innovative. Just not getting the complexity that I'd get from even a more straightforward Belgian -- it's not a scratch against Abbaye des Rocs Triple Imperial, for instance.

I'm being a bit harsh here, for this is a really nice Belgian-style dark ale that is probably worth a try for anyone who loves Belgians and Bell's, but I'm so used to Bell's blowing me away with the quality of their beers that I found myself disappointed with this one. And, again, for what I spent on this bottle I could've gotten two bottles of a standard Belgian (well, almost....). I like the cherries, I like the nuttiness, I like the yeast, but ultimately I find myself asking, "Is that it?"

And it is. Sad to be disappointed by such a good beer.

My overall BA rating: 4.15/5

18 November 2009

Founder's Backwoods Bastard

Founders Backwoods Bastard (bottle)
Grand Rapids, MI
10.2% ABV

I'm going to play with some different ways to do this other than just cutting and pasting my BA review. Anyone with a BA account can look at my profile and read all of these, anyway.

Just picked this up from the store where I work and wanted to give it a shot. It was on the warm shelf so I stuck it in my fridge for about twenty minutes before popping the top. (Gotta love these new Founders non-threaded bottles.) Pours clean reddish-amber with a thick off-white head that sticks around for a while but eventually fades. Smells of caramel malt and some significant astringency, which is also borne out in the taste. Lots of malty esters in the flavor, with a dry astringency in the finish due to alcohol and a slight bite from the wood.

I'm not always a huge fan of bourbon-aged beers, but this one is really really drinkable, very clean and smooth. It seems a bit more like an Old Ale than a Scotch Ale to me, but it does have the kind of sweetness that you'd get from a Scotch rather than an Old.

I could definitely handle more of these.

My overall rating on BA: 4.4/5

16 November 2009

Top 25 Breweries

Paste Magazine has a list of the Top 25 American breweries of the decade. Overall it's a pretty good list, at least of those breweries I've tried, and three breweries from Michigan made it onto the list: Jolly Pumpkin, Bell's, and Founders. Not sure I'd put Founders above Bell's, but that may just be a bit of local pride on my part.

Dogfish Head at number one seems like a decent choice, especially as DFH is one of the more inspired breweries out there, although I'd like it better if their specialty stuff wasn't as insanely high-priced as it is.

15 November 2009

Homebrew, Vienna Lager

Yep, I decided to try a lager on for size. I don't have a refrigeration system large enough for temperature control, so instead I'm just using the fall weather and my garage for fermentation purposes. I'll probably leave the bottles to clear for at least a month once the weather turns cold enough. It's an exciting change from all these ales...

Anyway, here's my recipe.

2 lbs Breiss Munich Malt
1 lb Breiss Vienna Malt
6 lbs Breiss Pilsen Dry Malt Extract
.5 oz Tradition (60 min)
.5 oz Tettnang (60 min)
.5 oz Tradition (30 min)
.5 oz Tettnang (30 min)
1 oz Strisselspalt (15 min)

1 vial White Labs San Fransisco Lager Yeast (WLP810) in yeast starter made three days ago

I'm going to keep an eye on this one and probably let it stay in the primary for about two weeks, then move to a secondary for two weeks, then a month or two in bottles for conditioning. I'll post with more details as they come.

23 October 2009

Beer Review, Hopf Dunkel Weisse

Hopf Dunkel Weisse (bottle)
5.0% ABV

Appearance: Dark brown/black appearance, thick brown foamy head that sticks around. Very nice presentation for a dunkel. 4.5/5

Smell: Dark roasty aroma. Malty, slightly nutty. Hints of citrus in the back. 4.0/5

Taste: Strong citrusy yeast up-front, with a dark roast back end and a dry aftertaste. Sweet, refreshing. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thin body, low carbonation, low hops. Pretty standard for a dunkelweizen. 3.5/5

Drinkability: Pretty drinkable. Not as nice as some other dunkelweizens, but decent. 3.5/5

Overall: 3.8/5

22 October 2009

Beer Review, Brasserie des Rocs Triple Imperiale

Brasserie des Rocs Triple Imperiale (bottle)
10.0% ABV

Appearance: Dark coloration, amber-brown, with a thick off-white head that dissipates slowly. Significant sediment in the glass. 4.5/5

Smell: Very yeasty, strong notes of rich nuttiness. Somewhat bready, with a strong Belgian funk. Rich, complex, inviting. 5.0/5

Taste: Dark maltiness, nutty, almost chocolatey in flavor. Perhaps a touch of caramel? On the back-end a nice yeast character, rich with the best of Belgium. A slight tarty fruitiness on the finish, notes of cherries. Slightly dry on the aftertaste. Delicious. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Heavy body, coating the palate well. No significant hoppiness or carbonation. Very chewy as one gets to the bottom of the bottle where the yeast resides. 4.0/5

Drinkability: A very drinkable, delicious Belgian Ale. Worth a try by anyone who loves a good Belgian. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.55/5

17 October 2009

Beer Review, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (bottle)
Milton, DE
6.0% ABV

How is it I've never reviewed 60 minute? Time to rectify that.

Appearance: Yellow body, quite a bit of effervescence, with a thin white head that dissipates quickly. Somewhat hazy. 4.0/5

Smell: Sweet oranges up front, nice citrus aroma, with a clean hoppiness underneath. Quite inviting. 4.0/5

Taste: Hops are more prevalent in the flavor than the nose. Strong crisp hop bite on the tip of the tongue, with a slight citrus fruitiness on the back end. Hops fade in the finish leaving a dry, almost yeasty aftertaste. Quite nice. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Highly carbonated, high hops, otherwise moderate thickness. Coats the palate. A bit thick for a standard IPA, but not unpleasantly so. 3.5/5

Drinkability: A very drinkable IPA. Worthy of its reputation. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.15/5

11 October 2009

Beer Review, Dogfish Head Sah'tea

Dogfish Head Sah'tea (bottle)

(What do you know? A whole style I didn't know even existed.)

Appearance: Very hazy translucent yellow-orange body, thin white head that dissipates quickly in my snifter. 4.0/5

Smell: Strongly citrus (think oranges), hints of grapefruit and berries. Very strong black tea underneath. 4.5/5

Taste: When cold, this has a orangey citrus flavor, but as it warms the citrus fades completely into the background, leaving a strong black tea flavor with a nice yeasty tart finish. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, slight carbonation, very slight hoppiness. Tartness leaves its effect on the palate. 4.5/5

Drinkability: Very drinkable, high in alcohol but very much worth a try. Not worth $27+ a bottle, but decent. I may buy again someday. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.35/5

10 October 2009

Beer Review, Capital Brewing U.S. Pale Ale

Capital Brewing U.S. Pale Ale (bottle)
Middleton, WI
5.0% ABV

Appearance: Slightly hazy yellow body (a tinge of orange) with a thin white bubbly head that sticks around for a bit. Not bad for an APA, but I usually expect a bit more red. 3.5/5

Smell: Pale maltiness, piney citrus hops. 3.0/5

Taste: Much like the aroma, a strong citrus flavor with a hint of dry piney hops on the finish and a dry aftertaste. This is better when it's a bit colder. Almost reminds me of a lager at times. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thin body, heavy hops, moderate carbonation. Actually quite pleasant. 4.0/5

Drinkability: This is a bog-standard APA. Worth drinking, but nothing special. 3.5/5

Overall: 3.45/5

09 October 2009

Beer Review, North Coast Old Rasputin XII

North Coast Old Rasputin XII (bottle)
Fort Bragg, CA
11.2% ABV

Appearance: Black, completely opaque, not even showing light through when held up to a light source. Very thick brown head that sticks around and leaves significant lacing. Amazing. 5.0/5

Smell: Strangely sweet, highly astringent, strong with coffee and rich with chocolate malt. Rich, malty, very good. 4.5/5

Taste: Dry roasted malt on the front with a sweet chocolate-coffee backbone and a malty finish. The dryness is perfectly balanced so as to remove much of the alcohol astringency. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thick but not syrupy, with a moderate hop bite. The alcohol burns the palate a bit. 4.0/5

Drinkability: This is an amazing beer. I'd love to age a couple of these for a few years to see if the alcohol fades a bit -- I'd bet it'd be even more amazing down the line. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.55/5

08 October 2009

My Homebrew: India Amber Ale

I'm trying for a nice hoppy amber this time. Here's the recipe.

1lb Gambrinus Honey Malt
1lb Vienna Malt
6.6lb Sparkling Amber Malt Extract
1 oz Chinook (60 min)
1 oz Centennial (30 min)
0.5 oz Centennial (5 min)
0.5 oz Centennial (0 min)
1 vial White Labs California V Yeast

I added the honey malt so that it will hopefully have a bit of residual sweetness. I'm calling it a "India Amber Ale" because I'm wanting it to have a nice hop bite.

07 October 2009

Physics and Beer

Sometimes the Onion just rocks, man.

Did you hear that, everybody? Please don't serve Nobel Prize–winning physicist Douglas Osheroff over here any lukewarm alcoholic beverages or he might go crying into his antiferromagnetic resonance data conducted for Bell Laboratories in 1979!

Okay, so they're baiting me by combining my love for beer with my love for obscure physics, but I still think this bit is pretty awesome.

06 October 2009

Beer Review, Arcadia Jaw-Jacker Ale

Arcadia Jaw-Jacker Ale
Battle Creek, MI
6.0% ABV

Appearance: Transparent reddish-orange body, thin white head that dissipates immediately. Some effervescence. 3.5/5

Smell: Sweet spicy pumpkin aroma, slight malt, hints of dry hops. A nice sweet aroma, welcoming for the beer to come. 4.0/5

Taste: Nice spiced ale. Hints of orange rind and coriander. Maybe some nutmeg? Otherwise a decent pumpkin backbone with a sweet finish. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thin-to-moderate thickness, with a very low amount of carbonation and hops. 3.5/5

Drinkability: Not the greatest pumpkin ever, but definitely quite drinkable. 3.0/5

Overall: 3.55/5

05 October 2009

Beer Review, Bell's Rye Stout

Bell's Rye Stout (bottle)
Comstock, MI
6.7% ABV

Appearance: Dark black color, slight reddish hue at the bottom, moderately-sized brown head that sticks around. Head is rich and creamy. Nice presentation. 4.0/5

Smell: Smells almost like a nitro stout. Dry malty aromatics, slight notes of chocolate. 3.5/5

Taste: Nice rye flavor up front with a significant chocolate malt presence on the backend. Slightly astringent finish, dry aftertaste. A bit cloying. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, slightly chewy. 4.0/5

Drinkability: A rye stout is an interesting concept, and this is good, but it's not quite up to the standards of most Bell's beer. Definitely worth a try for fans of Bell's or those who love rye, but a bit lacking for my palate. 4.0/5

Overall: 3.7/5

01 October 2009

Beer Review, Lagunitas Lucky 13

Lagunitas Lucky 13 (bottle)
Petaluma, CA
8.3% ABV

Appearance: Red-orange body, transparent, with a thin off-white head that dissipates to soapscum rather quickly. Very slight effervescence. 4.0/5

Smell: Rich fruity amber aroma, crisp white hops. Very floral, very inviting. 4.5/5

Taste: Rich amber flavor, thick with apples and syrupy goodness, with a hoppy backbone and a very dry finish. The alcohol is present in the aftertaste, along with a strong floral hoppiness. Very very nice. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thick, heavy with hops and with high carbonation. 4.5/5

Drinkability: The beer I'd describe as the closest to this is Arrogant Bastard, which has got to be one of my all-time favorite beers. This is higher in alcohol and may be even smoother than the Bastard, although it's not quite as well-balanced. Highly recommended. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.4/5

30 September 2009

Beer Review, Amber Tease

Schmohz Amber Tease (bottle)
Grand Rapids, MI
5.3% ABV

This is a brewery that is clearly new to bottling. Cheap six-pack holders with a label stuck on, inexpensive bottle labels. I say we cut them a bit of slack.

Appearance: Reddish-orange body, thin pink-white head that dissipates quickly. Hazy, no effervescence. 3.0/5

Smell: Sweet with that classic "amber" aroma, but with a slight tinge of sourness. Notes of apples. 3.0/5

Taste: More complexity here. A nice bready malt backbone with a sweet (but still tarty/sour) finish and a very dry aftertaste. No hops to balance. Very slight yeastiness as the beer warms. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, no significant carbonation, no hops. 4.0/5

Drinkability: I can't tell if the sourness here is intentional or a flaw in the brewing/shipping process. Their website claims that their beer is unpasteurized, so it's possible that infection set in between the bottling process and the store, but given the relatively minor distances and times involved this can't be good for the average consumer finding this beer on the shelf. The sourness isn't unpleasant, but it is unexpected and not quite true-to-style, but I'm cutting the brewery a bit of slack since I like to root for the little guy. 4.0/5

(Cute label, though -- almost worth buying just for the artwork.)

Overall: 3.6/5

28 September 2009

Beer Review, Terrapin India Brown Ale

Terrapin India Brown Ale (bottle)
Athens, GA
6.2% ABV

Appearance: Dark brown hazy body, thin brown head that dissipates quickly. Translucent. 4.0/5

Smell: Surprisingly hoppy, a nice crisp bitterness over a nutty malt backbone. Dark and roasty. Very interesting. 4.5/5

Taste: A nice balance of malt and hops. Sweet nutty flavors with a delicate hop bite to finish it off. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, high hops, and a nice carbonation. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Quite drinkable. If this India Brown Ale concept takes off, I will for one be a very happy man. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.1/5

27 September 2009

Beer Review, Stoudt's Oktoberfest

Stoudt's Oktoberfest (bottle)
Adamstown, PA
5.0% ABV

Appearance: Yellow-orange, transparent, with a thin white head that sticks around. Nice. 4.0/5

Smell: Sweet, malty, slightly nutty. Hints of yeast. 3.5/5

Taste: Syrupy sweetness up front with a bitter back-end. Harsh. Slightly cloying. Hints of yeast. Leaves a dry aftertaste. Disappointing. 2.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thin, with somewhat heavy carbonation. 3.0/5

Drinkability: A disappointing example of the style. I usually enjoy Stoudt's, but this Oktoberfest isn't one of my favorites. 2.5/5

Overall: 3.05/5

26 September 2009

Beer Review, Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (bottle)
Milton, DE
7.0% ABV

Appearance: Orange body, completely transparent, no head at all. No effervescence. 3.5/5

Smell: Strong with pumpkin, slightly sweet, hints of spices. Notes of citrus. Inviting. 4.0/5

Taste: Hmm... surprisingly yeasty up front, sweet pumpkin in the middle, with a somewhat bitter aftertaste. Less pumpkin than expected. Slightly hoppy on the finish. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, slightly chewy. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Very mild pumpkin ale, the alcohol is high but barely apparent. Very drinkable. One of the better pumpkin ales. 4.5/5

Overall: 3.95/5

18 September 2009

Beer Review, New Holland Ichabod Ale

New Holland Ichabod Ale (bottle)
Holland, MI
5.5% ABV

Appearance: Very clear, orange/red, with a thin white head that sticks around. Slight lacing. Very slight effervescence. 3.0/5

Smell: Pumpkin. Lots of pumpkin. Also crisp spices, maybe some cinnamon, hints of cloves. Inviting. 4.0/5

Taste: Mmm... very sweet. Pumpkin is definitely there, but much less pronounced than expected. A nice malt backbone and a finish of coriander and cloves round out this beer. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, slightly chewy. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Pumpkin beers tend to not be very exciting, but this one is quite nice. Can't wait to have more when it gets a little cooler outside. 3.5/5

Overall: 3.75/5

17 September 2009

Beer Review, Point Oktoberfest

Point Oktoberfest (bottle)
Stevens Point, WI
5.15% ABV

Appearance: Transparent, orange/red, with thin white head that dissipates quickly. 3.5/5

Smell: Sweet, malty, slightly nutty. 3.0/5

Taste: Rich, heavy with malt, strongly yeasty. Slightly dry on the finish. Actually quite good. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, no particular hoppiness or carbonation. Good, clean. 4.0/5

Drinkability: A nice Oktoberfest. Definitely worth a try for fans of the style. 4.0/5

Overall: 3.7/5

16 September 2009

Beer Review, R.J. King Wingwalker Amber Ale

R. J. King Wingwalker Amber Ale (bottle)
Rochester, NY
5.7% ABV

Appearance: Transparent orangeish red body, white soapscum head. Very slight effervescence. 2.5/5

Smell: Malty. Corny. Somewhat sweet. Pretty much what an amber is supposed to taste like, but I get the distinct impression of adjuncts used here... 3.0/5

Taste: Sweet on front, some fruity apple flavors. Slightly cloying on the finish and dry on the aftertaste. A bit sweet for my taste, but not terrible. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thin body, but it does coat the palate. Low carbonation. 3.0/5

Drinkability: This beer has a lackluster presentation, but is really fairly drinkable. This is the last of a six-pack I bought in Chicago, and I remember drinking the first five fairly quickly. I was probably just drinking them straight from the bottle... 3.5/5

Overall: 3.15/5

15 September 2009

A Modernizing of a TV Show I Can Live With

Yeah, sure, we've got new versions of 90210 and Melrose Place and all the rest... but I say the times are just right for a new version of an old TV show from the eighties and nineties that might actually be good.

Murphy Brown. I watched this show when I was a kid and remember finding it funny even when I didn't know why. This episode was linked by driftglass earlier today, and it's amazing how much of it still holds up. I'd love to see NBC pair a new version of this with The Office and 30 Rock.

(If you don't want to watch the whole video, just skip to the last eight minutes or so for a classic bit with Wallace Shawn.)

13 September 2009

Beer Review, Stone Vertical Epic 09.09.09

Stone Vertical Epic 09.09.09 (bottle)
San Diego, CA
8.9% ABV

Appearance: Black body, very thin brown head that dissipates quickly. Body is completely opaque and allows no light through. Head should be much greater for a Belgian-style ale. 3.5/5

Smell: Rich chocolate backbone, some spices (coriander?) on top. Notes of chocolate-covered cherries, sweet, inviting. Some alcohol astringency. 4.0/5

Taste: Alcohol astringency is very present in the flavor, particularly in the finish. Otherwise strong flavors of chocolate malt, with a nice bitterness and some vanilla-like spicy undertones. Finish is strongly of vanilla. No tartness present at all, which leads me to suspect that an American-style yeast was used. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thick, luxurious. Low carbonation, mild hops. Slightly chewy. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Very nice beer, although perhaps slightly misclassified as a Belgian-style. It'd be interesting to see how it ages (which is, after all, the point). 4.0/5

Overall: 4.1/5

12 September 2009

Beer Review, Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA

Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA (bottle)
Boston, MA
9.3% ABV

Appearance: Orange, hazy, thick with carbonation. Thin but persistent white head. 4.5/5

Smell: Crisp hops, some citrus. Notes of orange and grapefruit. 4.0/5

Taste: Hoppy, hugely alcoholic, slightly yeasty on the finish. Slightly cloying with oranges. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thick, coats the palate. Moderate-to-heavy carbonation, heavy hops. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Harpoon seems to be the kings of making the "eh" beer for me. This isn't terrible -- it isn't even bad -- but it's just "eh." I like it fine, worth a try, yadda yadda, but there are much more impressive DIPAs out there. 3.5/5

Overall: 3.85/5

10 September 2009

Science is Real

I may just have to buy the new They Might Be Giants album.

Catchy, isn't it?

Beer Review, Weihenstephaner Vitus

Weihenstephaner Vitus (bottle)
Freising, Germany
7.7% ABV

Appearance: Yellow-orange body, very thick white foamy head. Hazy, with some effervescence. Lighter than expected. 4.0/5

Smell: Strong yeasty citrus up-front. Some hints of malt and grains buried beneath. 4.0/5

Taste: This is fascinating. At first this tastes like a standard hefe, with a citrus yeastiness and a sweet aftertaste, but very quickly the beer changes character, leaving a maltier and roastier aftertaste. Delicious. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, some chewiness due to yeast, about as expected. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Quite enjoyable. Weihenstephaner's clearly been doing this a while... 4.5/5

Overall: 4.25/5

08 September 2009

Beer Review, Unibroue 15

Unibroue 15 (bottle)
Chambly, Quebec, Canada
10% ABV

Appearance: Orange/yellow body, thin white head that dissipates quickly. Hazy to the point of opacity. 4.0/5

Smell: Sweet, tarty, hints of raisins, grapefruit, almost jammy. Very interesting. 4.0/5

Taste: Strong with Belgian yeast. Again, very tarty. A nice alcohol burn on the way down, but without astringency, almost more like a liqueur than a beer. Smooth. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, low carbonation, low hops. Coats the palate, though. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Definitely worth a try if you can find it. Soon I'll try the 17. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.2/5

07 September 2009

Beer Review, Stone Smoked Porter

Stone Smoked Porter (bottle)
San Diego, CA
5.9% ABV

Appearance: An aggressive pour gives a reddish-black body, slightly translucent, with a very thick foamy brown head. Significant lacing. 4.5/5

Smell: Malty, heavy with grains and bread, chocolate. Very highly aromatic, an amazing scent. Gotta give it full points. 5.0/5

Taste: Amazingly well-executed porter. Strong notes of coffee and chocolate, with a rich velvety dry finish. And yes, you can taste the smoke. Somewhat sweet on the aftertaste, hints of dried fruits. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate. Again, velvety, low carbonation, mild hops. Coats the palate well. 4.5/5

Drinkability: Another amazing winner from Stone. I didn't expect to like this one as much as I do. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.6/5

06 September 2009

Beer Review, Round Barn Oak-Aged IPA

Round Barn Oak-Aged IPA (bottle)
Baroda, MI
Unknown ABV

Appearance: Somewhat hazy yellow-orange body, thin white head that leaves some foam on the sides of the glass. 4.0/5

Smell: Citrusy, slightly hoppy. Seems sweet and well-balanced from the nose. Somewhat dry. 4.0/5

Taste: Sweet on the up-front, with a dry hoppy middle, and whoa! here comes the oak on the finish. Strongly woody aftertaste, very dry, but somehow it works together with the rest of the beer. The oak is present but not quite overwhelming. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, no real carbonation, hops a little lower than expected. 4.0/5

Drinkability: This would be more of an occasional treat for me. It's a weird idea, an oak-aged IPA, but the execution makes good on the promise. Worth a try for any fan of IPAs, and those who are also a fan of oaked beers will find a nice treat. 3.5/5

Overall: 3.95/5

05 September 2009

Beer Review, Lost Coast Eightball Stout

Lost Coast Eightball Stout (12 oz bottle)
Eureka, CA
6.3% ABV

Appearance: Dark black, opaque, slight reddish tinge to the bottom, thin brown head that dissipates quickly. 4.0/5

Smell: Sweet, malty, hints of raisins and chocolate. Tartier than expected. 4.0/5

Taste: Sweet, slightly astringent. Some tartiness. Strong flavors of coffee and dark chocolate. Tastes more like a porter than a stout. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Reasonable thick, coats the palate nicely. 4.0/5

Drinkability: This is a good beer, but feels slightly misclassified. Enjoyable, but a bit too sweet and tarty for my taste. 3.5/5

Overall: 3.75/5

04 September 2009

Beer Review, Highland Black Mountain Bitter

Highland Black Mountain Bitter
Asheville, NC
Unknown ABV

Appearance: Very clear, slightly yellow body. No effervescence. Soapscum on top is the whole of the head. Disappointing. 2.5/5

Smell: Bitter, dry, slightly hoppy, with a malt backbone. Very much like a standard English bitter. 3.5/5

Taste: Very clean, almost tasteless. Notes of malt, strong aftertaste of corn. 3.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thin, low carbonation, no particular hop presence. Bog-standard for a bitter. 3.5/5

Drinkability: Lacks character. It's drinkable, but it's just not all that great. 2.5/5

Overall: 3.0/5

03 September 2009

Beer Review, Boont ESB

Anderson Valley Boont ESB
Boonville, CA
6.8% ABV

Appearance: Hazy orange-red with a thick foamy white head that leaves significant lacing. Very nice for the style, very engaging. 4.5/5

Smell: Rich, malty, bitter, grainy, with a hint of hops. Notes of caramel. 4.0/5

Taste: Somewhat sweet, notes of caramel, rich with grainy malt. Yeasty on the finish. Almost a primer on what a good American-made ESB can taste like. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, low on carbonation, very moderate hops. Somewhat chewy. 4.0/5

Drinkability: This is an amazingly drinkable ESB, a very pleasant surprise. Worth a purchase for fans of the style. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.15/5

02 September 2009

Beer Review, Witkap-Pater Abbey Singel Ale

Witkap-Pater Abbey Singel Ale
Ninove, Belgium
6.0% ABV

Appearance: Very aggressive out of the bottle, a little too aggressive. Slightly hazy whitish-yellow body with a very thick foamy white head that leaves significant lacing. Head is way too thick due to the aggression of the beer. 3.5/5

Smell: Sweet, with a clear Belgian "funk." Hints of banana. 4.0/5

Taste: Very yeasty, very tart, hints of citrus and a touch of cloves. Tasted a bit like a witbier, a very slight bit of oranges and coriander here. Interesting. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, slightly chewy. Low carbonation, very low hops. 3.5/5

Drinkability: Not a bad Belgian Pale. I could see putting these away quite handily if I ever get to Belgium and this sort of thing is widely available. 4.0/5

Overall: 3.85/5

01 September 2009

Beer Review, Longshot Traditional Bock

Samuel Adams Longshot Traditional Bock
Boston, MA
6.8% ABV

Appearance: Transparent brown body, one-finger foamy khaki-colored head. No effervescence. 4.0/5

Smell: Nutty, sweet, more like a brown ale than a bock. Some coffee and hoppy notes buried deep down. 3.5/5

Taste: Very sweet, syrupy, a bit cloying. Finish is tarty and nutty. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Very thick, again syrupy. Carbonation heavier than expected. 4.0/5

Drinkability: This is a very good beer, but it definitely tastes like someone's homebrew. Good, worthy of inclusion, but not spectacular. 4.0/5

Overall: 3.7/5

31 August 2009

Beer Review, Untouchable Pale Ale

Speakeasy Untouchable Pale Ale
San Francisco, CA
5.5% ABV

Appearance: Orange-yellow with a slight reddish tinge, very hazy with suspended particles, small white foamy head. 4.0/5

Smell: Sweet, slightly citrus, strong clean hops. Cascade perhaps? 4.0/5

Taste: Yeastier than expected, somewhat sweet on the tongue. Notes of citrus. Actually quite refreshing. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thick for an APA, moderate carbonation, moderate-to-heavy on hops. 3.5/5

Drinkability: A pretty classic West Coast APA, perhaps a little yeasty for the style, but quite good, very drinkable. 4.0/5

Overall: 3.95/5

30 August 2009

Beer Review, Bosco's London Porter

Bosco's London Porter
Bosco's Brewpub, Cool Springs, TN
Unknown ABV

(Beer tasted on my recent vacation to the south. Notes transcribed verbatim.)

Appearance: BLack, opaque, slightly red at bottom. Minimal head leaves some lacing. 4.0/5

Smell: Somewhat sweet with chocolate malt, significant chocolate presence, slight dry roasty maltiness. 4.5/5

Taste: Sweet chocolate malt, roasted barley, hints of coffee, dry on finish. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, some hops, very dry. 3.5/5

Drinkability: Quite good, very drinkable. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.05/5

29 August 2009

Beer Review, Bosco's Wee Heavy

Bosco's Wee Heavy
Bosco's Brewpub, Cool Springs, TN
Unknown ABV

(Tasted on my vacation to the south. Notes transcribed verbatim below.)

Appearance: Amber, clean, slightly hazy. Small head. 3.5/5

Smell: Sweet, fruity, malty. Slight hints of yeast. 3.5/5

Taste: Very sweet, grainy, hints of cherries. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, low on carbonation, mild hops. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Very good. Not complex, but good. 4.0/5

Overall: 3.8/5

28 August 2009

Beer Review, Terminal Brewhouse O.P.P. ESB

Terminal Brewhouse O.P.P. ESB
Chattanooga, TN
Unknown ABV

(Tasted on my vacation to the south, on-tap at the Terminal Brewhouse. Tasting notes verbatim below.)

Appearance: Amber-orange, hazy. Head is foamy and leaves lacing. 4.0/5

Smell: Sweet, malty, hints of caramel, lots of grain. 4.0/5

Taste: Grainy, hints of barley and significant hop bite. Loads of sweet caramel. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, heavy carbonation, significant hops. 3.5/5

Drinkability: Very good, a nice stiff ESB. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.15/5

27 August 2009

Coburn on Health Care

"...ask your neighbors for help.

Want to know what's really disgusting about this video? The applause from that audience to those canned remarks he makes about government and healthcare. A woman in tears because she can't get the health coverage she desperately needs so that her ailing husband can eat and drink, and the Republican base cheers for the kind of response that would be inappropriate if she'd told him she had pneumonia.

Oh, and by the way, all of us are this woman's neighbors. What we're trying to do is to set up a system whereby there is a system in place where this woman can get assistance from her community, that is, from the collective weal of the USA. It's called "citizenship," and I think I know a few people who should give it a try.

Beer Review, Keweenaw Red Jacket Amber Ale

Keweenaw Red Jacket Amber Ale
South Range, MI
Unknown ABV

(Note: BA calls this an American Amber, but the can refers to itself as an "Octoberfest-style ale.)

Appearance: Hazy brown/orange body with slight yellow tinge at the bottom. Thick brownish head that dissipates to soapscum quickly. 4.0/5

Smell: Rich, malty, nutty. Quite dry. Very strong grains. 4.5/5

Taste: Sweet nutty grains on the front-end, with a bit of syrup on the finish. Some nice bitter hops, as well, and a dry aftertaste. Kind of a weird amalgam of styles, but somehow it works. Very much more like an Octoberfest than an Amber, so take that for what you will. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thicker than anticipated, very low carbonation, with no particular hop bite. Smooth but a bit thick. 3.5/5

Drinkability: I'm tempted to pound these straight from the can. A nice beer, very good at what it does. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.05/5

26 August 2009

Beer Review, Sweetwater IPA (Growler)

Sweetwater IPA
Atlanta, GA
6.7% ABV

(Had this years ago in bottles, reviewing the growler I purchased at Riverside Beverages in Chattanooga.)

Appearance: Dark red-yellow body, almost brown, with a thin white head that dissipates quickly. Nice presentation. I'm not taking any points off for the smaller head than the bottle, as that's almost certainly an artifact of the growler. 4.5/5

Smell: Nice crisp dry hops, strong citrus backbone. 4.0/5

Taste: Very sweet, fruity, with a dry hop finish that lets you know this is a nice IPA. Much more grapefruit than I remember from the bottles, but still delicious. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, coats the tongue, low carbonation. 4.0/5

Drinkability: This is a very different beer than I remember. Whether this is due to my changed palate since October 2005, or whether the brewery has tweaked the recipe, or whether it's just an artifact of the growler vs. the bottle, I can't say. In any case, this is a very good IPA, although the characteristics seem to vary widely between the bottle and the growler. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.3/5

24 August 2009

Beer Review, The Short Parade

Short's The Soft Parade
Belaire, MI
7.2% ABV

Appearance: Dark-hued amber appearance, more pink than red (due to the fruit), with a thick foamy pinkish-colored head that sticks around for a bit. 4.0/5

Smell: Yeastier than expected on the nose, with only hints of the raspberries and cherries. Slightly bready. 3.5/5

Taste: Ah, there's the fruit. Very tart, almost lambic-like, with a raspberry backbone and a strong sour finish. The alcohol is hidden nicely, and there's no real hop bite to speak of. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thick, foamy. 4.5/5

Drinkability: For a Fruit/Vegetable beer, this is top-notch. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.0/5

17 August 2009

Beer Review, Dragon's Milk Ale

New Holland Dragon's Milk
Holland, MI
9.0% ABV

Appearance: Opaque. Really opaque. Dark black body, no light shows through even when held up to a light source. Moderate head that dissipates quickly. 4.5/5

Smell: Hm, interesting. Lots of malt on the nose, hints of cherries with strong coffee and black malt undertones. Some astringency from the alcohol. 4.0/5

Taste: Intensely alcoholic, stings the tip of the tongue. Strong bready malts, lots of grains and a nice roasty dryness on the finish. Some malt sweetness present upon further sipping, hints of black cherries and other fruity esters. Very appealing. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thick, but not overwhelmingly so. Carbonation is low, so are the hops. The alcohol gives it a bit of a burn on the way down, though. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Once you get used to it, this is actually a very drinkable beer. I think I'd like it with a touch more hoppiness for balance, but this beer's stellar reputation is pretty well-deserved. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.3/5

15 August 2009

Beer Review, Cold Hop British-Style Ale

Boulder Beer Company Cold Hop British-Style Ale
Boulder, CO
6.5% ABV

Appearance: Dingy red body, very hazy with suspended yeast, with a thin head that dissipates quickly. 4.0/5

Smell: Very malty, serious grains, with a very aromatic hop bite. Strong with caramel. 4.5/5

Taste: Very bready, grainy. Slightly sweet, hints of apples and with a dry finish. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thick and malty, moderate-to-heavy carbonation. 4.0/5

Drinkability: A good beer, solid and easy to drink, but doesn't really overwhelm the senses. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.1/5

14 August 2009

Beer Review, Denver Pale Ale

Great Divide Denver Pale Ale
Denver, CO
5.6% ABV

Appearance: Reddish-orange hue, very hazy with suspended carbonation, with a thick white bubbly head. Makes my mouth water just looking at it. 4.5/5

Smell: Crisp malts and hops, hints of caramel and probably Kent Goldings on the hop front. Some hints of citrus. 4.0/5

Taste: Some malty sweetness up-front, with a caramel backbone and a dry hoppy finish. Very nice, very clean, very refreshing. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Thicker than anticipated, heavy with carbonation. Hops tickle the mouth. Probably a bit thick as per style, but still quite nice. 4.0/5

Drinkability: One of my all-time favorite English Pale Ales, for sure. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.35/5

11 August 2009

Beer Review, Affligem Blond

Affligem Blond
Flanders, Belgium
6.8% ABV

Appearance: Yellow-orange body, very hazy, some effervescence from the bottom of the glass. Thick foamy white head that sticks around, leaves some lacing. 4.5/5

Smell: Sweet, tart, heavy with Belgian "funk." Some corn maltiness, which is odd for the style, but not at all unpleasant. 3.5/5

Taste: Very sweet up-front, nice Belgian tartness, some hints of citrus. A bit drying on the finish and strong with oranges on the aftertaste. It's actually quite refreshing and relaxing. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thick and foamy, but with only a slight carbonation. Somewhat chewy with suspended yeast. 4.0/5

Drinkability: I usually don't think of Belgians as "summer beers," but this one is a pretty good example of that concept. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.0/5

10 August 2009

Beer Review, Maharaja Premium

Maharaja Premium
Bangalore, India
5.0% ABV

My first beer from India. At least that's a milestone of a sort.

Appearance: Transparent yellow body, very slight orange tinge. Very minimal head that dissipates immediately, leaving only slight traces of soapscum. Not an auspicious start. 1.5/5

Smell: Very sweet, strong notes of corn. Uncomplex, but decent. Not spectacular, but sets the stage for what might be a decent pils. 2.5/5

Taste: This one is way off. Too sweet on the up-front, almost lip-puckeringly so. Unpleasant corn aftertaste. 1.5/5

Mouthfeel: Decent. Thin body, goes down clean like a pilsner should. Flat, with almost no carbonation. 3.0/5

Drinkability: Maybe this would go better with curry, or maybe it just doesn't travel well, but I'm very unimpressed. 2.0/5

Overall: 1.9/5

09 August 2009

Beer Review, New Holland Night Tripper Imperial Stout

New Holland Night Tripper Imperial Stout
Holland, MI
10.8% ABV

Appearance: Rich dark velvet color, slightly reddish tinge. Thin brown foamy head that dissipates fairly quickly. 4.0/5

Smell: Very dry, roasty, heavy with dark chocolate malts. Some hoppy bitterness buried in the backbone of the aroma. Hints of an almost caramel sweetness. Very rich, aromatic. 4.5/5

Taste: Strong with grains and malt. Some alcohol astringency on the tip of the tongue, especially on the finish and aftertaste. Sweet backbone, rich with chocolate and very heavy with coffee. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, no real carbonation, with that aforementioned alcohol astringency on the finish. Coats the palate. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Quite a nice beer. Very drinkable, especially considering the alcohol. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.3/5

04 August 2009

ESB Recipe

6.6 lb Amber Malt Extract
1 lb Vienna Malt
1 lb 60L Crystal Malt
1 oz Kent Goldings (60 min)
.5 oz Liberty (30 min)
.5 oz Liberty (15 min)
1 vial White Labs Burton Ale Yeast

I boiled the crystal malt and the Vienna malt for 30 minutes at 170F, then added the extract and the Kent Goldings. After thirty minutes, I added half of my Liberty hops, then after another fifteen, I added the other half. I let the wort cool, then added the yeast starter I made a couple of days ago with Pilsner DME in a half-gallon growler.

I'm aiming for something rich and malty, not too alcoholic and overall pretty relaxing.

03 August 2009

Beer Review, Lake Effect Pale Ale

Mishawaka Brewing Lake Effect Pale Ale
Mishawaka, IN
5.8% ABV

Appearance: Transparent yellow body, some bubbles from carbonation, but with absolutely zero head. 2.0/5

Smell: Much better here. Rich, malty, with caramel undertones. Strong hoppy aroma. Reminds me more of Dead Guy than any pale ale I've ever had. High marks for impressiveness, though. 4.5/5

Taste: Sweet with apples but quite tart, borderline sour, with a dry yeasty aftertaste. There's a lot going on here, but it's a cacaphony rather than a symphony. 3.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thin, but it does coat the palate on the finish. 3.0/5

Drinkability: This doesn't really work as a pale ale. I'd rather think of this as an amber. 3.0/5

Overall: 3.1/5

13 July 2009

My Gaming Life

This is how I feel pretty much all the time.

I've been obsessed with Dead Rising for the last few months, and the game came out in 2006, so I am clearly not on the bleeding edge of video game culture. And yet I am okay with that.

23 June 2009

Shorter Vox Day

Shorter Vox Day: "You should judge a book by its cover."

(There are so many levels of horseshit in that small post of Vox's that I was originally tempted to write out an entire post drawing out the threads of the utter dumbosity -- but why waste my time pointing out such obvious flaws in the writings of the intellectually blinkered?

22 June 2009

Beer Review, Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout

Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout
Dublin, Ireland
5% ABV

Appearance: Very dark coloration, black/brown with a slight reddish tinge on the bottom. Thick off-white head that leaves significant lacing. 4.5/5

Smell: Dry aromatic maltiness, lots of breadiness, hints of mild hops. Has an almost bock-like aroma. Interesting. 4.0/5

Taste: Sweeter than expected. I'm drinking this warmer than usual, having left it out of the fridge longer than I intended, and the extra warmth is bringing a lot of sweet malty complexity to the forefront. Astringent on the finish, dry on the aftertaste. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Perhaps a touch thicker than ordinary Guinness (which is very watery to my palate), with a touch of carbonation. No hop bite at all. 4.0/5

Drinkability: I'll probably get a bottle of Guinness and a bottle of Extra Stout and do a three-way side-by-side at some point. I think this is a better beer than either of those, but whether it's just my mind playing tricks on my tastebuds I can't say. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.1/5

21 June 2009

Beer Review, Founders Imperial Stout

Founders Imperial Stout
Grand Rapids, MI
10.5% ABV

Appearance: Very dark, black, with a thick tan-colored smooth head. Head sticks around and leaves significant lacing. 4.5/5

Smell: Sweet, malty, chocolatey, but with a bit of a fruity undertone. Hints of chocolate-covered cherries and... grapes. Very nice aroma. 5.0/5

Taste: Highly astringent, very strong with the alcohol. Underneath the astringency is a strong malt presence and a touch of breadiness. Finishes dry. It's pretty unbalanced for my palate -- I'd prefer this with either a stronger malt to overcome the astringency or less alcohol. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thick, velvety. Leaves the tongue coated. No significant carbonation. 4.5/5

Drinkability: A good RIS, but not quite a great one. Maybe if I let one cellar for awhile... 4.0/5

Overall: 4.35/5

20 June 2009

Non-Nude Playboy

So. Olivia Munn, one of the hosts of G4's Attack of the Show and generally considered my gamer geeks across the world as a numero uno piece of fapping material*, is appearing in Playboy. She's done it before, but now she's the cover model.

Good for her, I say. She's funny and bright, at least based on the bits of her show that I've seen, and over the past couple of years has leveraged her obvious good looks into a kind of cult sex-symboldom, appearing in numerous sexy magazine shoots just like any other celebrity-model would. Appearing nude in Playboy isn't exactly the kind of career-changing scandal that it was when Drew Barrymore showed she wasn't a kid anymore in 1995, but it certainly gives her fans a little of what they want and shows that Munn's willing to treat her fans like adults who can take her seriously (or, at least as seriously as AOTS deserves) even after they've seen her areolae.

Except that Munn won't be appearing nude. She'll be in the red bikini you see above, covering all that naughty naughty nipple-flesh, and basically showing no more skin than you'd see in an issue of Maxim. Maybe Munn is uncomfortable showing her ta-tas, or has some moral issue with it. Maybe she (or her publicists) have decided that it's better for her career to never appear nude, to give her fanbase yet another tease when they were hoping for full nudity. Whatever the reason, I personally don't really give a shit -- Munn isn't a celebrity crush of mine, and since I have access to this little thing called the Internet, I can see all the boobies I could ever want, free of charge.

No, I'm more interested in what this means for the future of Playboy. Say what you will about the magazine, about its history or its current incarnation, but Hefner's creation was revolutionary when it appeared in 1953. Even if you feel that pornography of any kind harms women or society in general, the very existence of high-gloss quality nudity like Playboy, with the social acceptance that Hefner fought for over the decades, helped to make it possible for modern-day depictions of sex and sensuality to be much more free than those of decades past. Do you really think it would be possible to hand out pamphlets depicting realistic images of home mammograms, for instance, without Playboy or something similar paving the way? I doubt it.

So for five decades or so Playboy was the place you went for celebrity nudes. Drew Barrymore, the little darling girl from E.T., appeared nude in the magazine and proved that she wasn't a little girl anymore. Barrymore launched her adult career, fans of attractive celebrities got their rocks off, and pretty much everyone involved made money hand over fist. (No pun intended.) Seeing a celebrity on the cover of Hefner's magazine was a guarantee that you'd get to see that chick nekkid, tastefully so and with a healthy dollop of wholesome that you didn't get in the magazine's more hardcore competitors (Penthouse, Hustler). But the nudity kept it a slice above such "lad-mags" as Maxim -- a magazine accessible enough to have jewelry sold at Hot Topic, but "dirty" enough to be sold in a package with a black plastic wrapper.

So the news that Munn's Playboy appearance is being hyped on her TV show and on the celebrity blogs, but without any nudity, signals a bit of a sea change in the magazine's operation. Playboy has been suffering the last decade or so from the easy access to pornography provided by the Internet -- they've been battling falling sales numbers with the Girls Next Door reality show and significant branding. In the era of Kendra, Playboy isn't so much a dirty magazine as a place for goofy blonde celebriboobs to jiggle.

I've long felt that Playboy's future would look a lot like Andrew Blake or Kink.com, that pressure from the net would force the publication to do hardcore material, but material with a high-gloss sheen and with that fun girl-next-door perspective it's always offered. Instead it looks like the runners of the magazine have decided to go more for Maxim with a pedigree. Which is fine for them, I suppose -- I'm sure the editorial staff of the magazine and the beancounters in the home office have a lot more data to judge the future direction of Playboy than some dude in Kalamazoo. But it's a shame to me that a name that used to stand for the kind of quality product is now making moves to a watered-down future irrelevance.

19 June 2009

Sumatra Stout Recipe

I forgot to post this the other day. Recipe for the Coffee Stout I brewed on Wednesday.

1/2 lb Black Patent Malt
1/2 lb Chocolate Malt
1 lb Munton's Roasted Non-malted Black Barley
3/4 lb Water Street Sumatra Coffee
6.6 lbs Dark LME
1 oz Northern Brewer (45 min)
0.5 oz Liberty (5 min)
0.5 oz Liberty (0 min)

The wort came out dark as fuck on this one, and the aroma was heavenly. I made a Coffee Oatmeal Stout before, which turned out fine, but I didn't add enough coffee and the beer turned out a lot lighter than I wanted. I'm hoping this is going to be a nice roasty jet-black stout with a malty backbone.

I guess we'll see in a couple of weeks. The plan is to move it to glass this Wednesday, leave it in the secondary for another week, then bottle around July 1.

11 June 2009

Beer Review, Double Crooked Tree IPA

Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA
Marshall, MI
13.6% ABV

Appearance: Pours darker than expected, a ruddy brown more like a malty lager than a DIPA, with a thick slightly-off-white head that reduces to about a quarter-inch fairly quickly. Very nice impression from the appearance. 4.5/5

Smell: Oooh. Sweet, malty, but with a nice dollop of crisp grassy hops. (Perhaps Centennial?) Rich, invigorating, very well-executed. 4.5/5

Taste: Sweet with unfermented sugar, slightly "hot" with alcohol. Hoppy but balanced with a nice sweet malt backbone, intense but not overwhelming. These would probably age very well, although true hopfiends will probably find this a bit underpowered for their liking. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Thick, coats the tongue, with a nice wallop of hops and high carbonation. 4.0/5

Drinkability: For thirteen+ percent, this is amazingly smooth. Fans of the style should at least give it a once-over. 4.5/5

Overall: 4.25/5

02 June 2009

Beer Review, Founders Double Trouble

Founders Double Trouble Imperial IPA
Grand Rapids, MI
9.4% ABV

Appearance: Hazy yellow-orange appearance, thin white head that dissipates quickly. 4.0/5

Smell: Sweet citrus, heavy with grapefruit, with a strong dose of crisp white hops. Very nice aroma. 4.5/5

Taste: Hops. Lots of clean hops. All over the entire body of the beer, with a strongly alcoholic finish and a drying aftertaste. Some notes of citrus. It's good, but very strong. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate. Heavy with hops (obviously) and a high carbonation (not quite so obviously). 4.0/5

Drinkability: Quite a good DIPA. Not the greatest ever, ends up a bit one-note, but not bad at all. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.1/5

01 June 2009

Beer Review, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Cleveland, OH
5.8% ABV

Appearance: Dark, nearly black velvet, but not opaque like a stout (slight transparency to the body) and with a reddish tinge to the liquid. Half-inch khaki-colored head. Amazing appearance. 4.5/5

Smell: Dark malts, lots of sweet grapes and raisins, very bready. 4.0/5

Taste: Delicious dry malts, roasted grains, slightly dry on the finish. A touch of raisin sweetness, but not too much. Basically a note-perfect American Porter. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness, mild carbonation, no significant hops. Smooth. 3.5/5

Drinkability: This may be my all-time favorite porter. 4.0/5

Overall: 4.25/5

(And that's probably being a bit too harsh on it, numerically speaking.)

12 May 2009

IPA Update

Just a quick status update on the homebrewed IPA.

The Pacific Ale Yeast didn't want to activate after two days, so I sterilized a plastic stirring spoon and stirred up the batch, aerating the yeast. There was a nice thick layer of yeast on top of the beer already (unlike my last yeast problem with the hefeweizen, when upon opening the batch I found it exactly as I left it), so stirring the yeasty muck back into the wort was a simple process. I re-sterilized the lid and the airlock, and sealed the batch back up, leaving it on my warm enclosed porch so it would stay a bit warmer than my house, which stays around 65F most of the time.

Sure enough, within a few hours the fermentation process was chugging along nicely. It stopped after another day, though, so I repeated the process a day later. Then I moved it inside to my basement where I could keep a closer eye on it and let the attenuation process go forward.

Yesterday I moved the batch into the secondary fermenter (glass carboy). I sterlized my racking cane and plastic tubing, as well as a plastic funnel. I racked several gallons of hot water mixed with no-rinse cleanser into the carboy, and let the whole thing sit for about an hour. Then I moved the primary fermenter outside, setting it on a small outdoor table. The carboy went out next, and I carefully poured the sterlizing solution out onto the dirt underneath the wooden deck. I put the plastic funnel into the top of the carboy (in case of spillage) and ran the tubing into the hole. Then I carefully opened the primary and enjoyed the sweet grassy aroma of Centennials.

The racking tube went into the beer and was attached to the plastic tubing. I racked the contents of the plastic fermenter into the glass, leaving the trub behind. Then I removed the plastic tubing and poured two ounces of Centennial hops into the funnel, shaking slightly to get them all down the tube. A sterilized airlock and bung was placed onto the carboy, and then it was moved inside and placed in a black garbage bag in a dark area of my basement.

Then I cleaned the tubing, plastic fermenter, lid, racking cane, and funnel, and stored them in my garage. I'll have to sterilize the whole mess before I can use it again, anyway, so I figure leaving it in the garage isn't the worst idea I've ever had, but I like to get the sticky beer off immediately so it doesn't set and become impossible to clean.

I'm planning on leaving the IPA in the secondary for about two weeks to give time for the dry-hopping to be effective and for the leftover yeast to have time to clear the beer. The color was a bit darker than I was expecting, probably because of the large volume of Vienna malt, but it's probably within reasonable bounds of expectation given an IPA. It smelled delicious even now, so hopefully it'll turn out well.

03 May 2009


So it's no secret that this blog has been pretty damned silent as of late. Which is more-or-less de rigeur of my blogging life -- periods of furious updating on a variety of subjects punctuated by long droopy silences. When no one reads you, it's easy to just let yourself forget about updating for awhile.

Also, I've been spending my energies in other pursuits. I've been playing Dead Rising obsessively, and may actually end up writing a three-years-too-late walkthrough just for my own amusement. And since the end of March I've been homebrewing, and just a few minutes ago finished my fourth batch, an American IPA.

Since the blog has been so silent, I figured I'd go ahead and put up the recipe I've used today for reference, and will eventually write up the resulting product and link it back here.


1 lb 10L Crystal Malt
1 lb Breiss Vienna Malt

6.6 lbs light LME


1 oz Chinook 60 mins
1 oz Centennial 30 min
.5 oz Centennial 5 min
.5 oz Centennial 0 min

Original Gravity: 1.043 at 85F.

I boiled the grains in a bag for thirty minutes at 160-170, then boiled the LME for an hour. Hops were added according to the listed schedule. I'm planning on moving the beer into a glass carboy in a week, and dry-hopping it with another ounce of Centennial for aroma. We'll see how that works out as the brewing process goes on.

16 April 2009

Beer Review, Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock
Boston, MA
5.6% ABV

Appearance: Mostly black body, slightly red-orange-tinged towards the bottom, with a thick brown head that dissipates over time but leaves some significant lacing. 4.0/5

Smell: Very nutty, chocolatey, malty. Slight astringency and very dry. 3.5/5

Taste: Interesting. Dry malty roastiness up-front, with a syrupy chocolate texture on the back. Aftertaste strongly of chocolate. Almost doesn't quite taste like beer, it's so sweet and syrupy, but it's very interesting. 4.0/5

Mouthfeel: Very thick, as above, syrupy. Low carbonation. 4.0/5

Drinkability: Well, this isn't worth eighteen dollars. I wish it was a little higher alcohol and had a bit more balance. But it's fascinating the things that Sam Adams will try, and it's amazing that they even got something drinkable out of this kind of mix. 3.5/5

Overall: 3.85/5

02 April 2009

Beer Review, Arcadia Imperial Stout

Arcadia Imperial Stout
Battle Creek, MI
8.4% ABV

Appearance: Jet-black, completely opaque body with a thin brown head that sticks around. 4.5/5

Smell: Dark malt, some hints of red grapes, very bready, sweet. Perhaps some chocolate-covered cherries? Very complex, very inviting. 5.0/5

Taste: Ooh, a bit of a misfire. Very "hot" with alcohol, pretty much overpowers the palate. Underneath are some nice dry bready malts, some nice bittering hops, and a sweet (but astringent) aftertaste. If the alcohol was a bit less prominent this would get a much higher rating. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Not as thick as you'd expect for an RIS. Still heavy, but not exactly super-thick. Coats the palate well. 4.0/5

Drinkability: I may buy a couple of these and try them in six months or so. It's a good beer, but there are much better examples of an RIS out there -- anyplace that has this should also have Bell's Expedition. 3.5/5

Overall: 4.05/5

01 April 2009

Booklog, Pandora's Star

Pandora's Star, 2004
Written by Peter F. Hamilton
988 pages (Mass-Market Paperback)

I feel like I've been reading a lot of space opera lately. Partly this is because, well, I've been reading (or at least flipping through) a lot of space opera lately. But mostly I feel this way because I've read Pandora's Star, which is all by itself a hell of a lot of fucking space opera. It's 988 pages of fairly dense mass-market text, covering dozens of worlds and characters, with about half a dozen narrative arcs subsumed into one long one, that ends on a literal cliffhanger that leads into an equally-long (and likely equally-dense -- I haven't read it yet) sequel.

So how does it hold up? Pretty well, considering. It's the year 2380, and a series of wormholes connects humanity into an interstellar Commonwealth. Rejuvenation technology and memory backup have made death a thing of the past. The story is kicked off by the discovery by an astronomer at a small university that a distant pair of suns long-known to be enclosed by Dyson Spheres actually vanished behind those spheres instantaneously. This being the kind of engineering project that is astonishing in what it portends of the species instigating it, an FTL starship --the first ever built-- is commissioned to investigate.

This sounds like the premise for a Big Dumb Object SF novel, but Hamilton has other agendas on his mind. He intersperses the main plot with stories from around the Commonwealth that seem tenuously connected to one another, if they are connected at all. There's a group of anarchists bent on destroying the FTL vessel before it can be completed, and an investigative officer seeking to catch the perpetrators. One of the inventors of wormhole technology visits an elflike species of aliens and travels along their forest paths through the stars. And a long series of supporting characters is revealed, each surrounding the project, the investigation, or some combination of the two -- at least a dozen characters become extended viewpoint characters, and huge sections of the book cover their backgrounds and the history of the individual planets on which they live.

All of this is immersive, and Hamilton is clearly at his best when he's throwing out the details of his fictional worlds. The characters are often a bit stock, though, and many of the secondary characters blend into one another so it's difficult to tell them apart, especially during the plot-heavy second half, but it's all pretty competently done. The novel has many of the problems of any Big Fat Book, most notably the fact that any reader is going to find some sections of the book far more interesting or entertaining than others -- personally, I felt the book kind of stopped in its tracks whenever it spent more than a couple of pages on the political conflicts of the Commonwealth. But for the most part the author keeps the characters interesting enough and the stories compelling enough to engage reader interest.

As it turns out the first half of Pandora's Star is mostly stage-setting, for what is revealed once the starship reaches the Dyson Pair kicks the narrative into high gear. At the risk of including spoilers, the alien species encountered there is brilliantly conceived and the menace it poses to the Commonwealth is clear. Hamilton spends one long section of the novel learning of the details of the species' history and psychology, and by the end I was convinced that the coming conflict would be epic and fraught with real danger for the future of humanity. And I was not disappointed. Hamilton wisely mostly steps out of the way during the last few hundred pages of the novel and lets the events speak for themselves, which helps keep the pace up. There's still a lot of intercutting, but by dealing mostly with the characters' individual reactions to a small number of Big Events, all the background work helps to enrichen the reading experience by providing a broader scope through which the view them.

Overall, Pandora's Star is mostly a success, and I'll definitely be picking up Judas Unchained soon. The prose is a bit flat and the characters are unfortunately a bit interchangeable, but it's a fun ride and, as said before, a hell of a lot of space opera. Not many writers can entertain for a thousand pages, but with this novel Hamilton proves that he is one of those authors.

Rating: B+