Saturday, December 19, 2009

Home Brewin

A few weeks ago, The Baker and I visited the St. Louis Brews, a home brewing club. It was awesome.
There were about 80 men there, 12 guests. We each paid $3 and were able to sample 10 different home brews (about a 3 oz. sample of each) and eat plenty of delicious snacks from Costco. Everybody sampled the same batch at the same time, made comments, and then heard from the brewer. THIS is beer club. These guys knew their stuff, the styles, what to look for, smell for, and taste. They could predict how long the brewer did this or at what temperature he did that. Amazing. All the announcements were about beer, brewing competitions, beer parties. They had raffles with brewing supplies as the prize.
And because I love and appreciate the art of beer, I have decided to start brewing my own beer, too. The Baker has already purchased a Mr. Beer kit (kind of a weenie way to start but at least he's got a start). I'm still shopping around (aka, waiting on the thumbs up from the wife).
Wish me luck

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rockin with Sam Smith

I recently went to a Guitar Hero/Rock Band party. It was a lot of fun, never had played the games before. Knowing that a little fermented courage would boost my overall performance (vocals, guitar, bass, and drums) I stopped by Bob's Liquor Store - Bob wasn't there.

As I was leaving the house the little woman, looking out for me I guess, asked how many I would drink this night and what time I would be home. "Two and not too late". Walking around the store it hit me, I didn't say how many OUNCES I would drink. So I started looking at the tall boys. I stopped at Samuel Smith's India Ale and the Porter. I went for it.

At the party, I rocked. I was on a mission, I had to deliver. I had to jam on every instrument, drink the two beers, and still be home at a decent time.

What I remember:
Both beers were good. I'll get another India Ale before the Porter. I drank them too fast.
I was good at the bass, ok at the lead guitar, struggled with the drums, and just nasty on the microphone.
The rest of the party people seemed to be enjoying themselves...I couldn't tell, I was too busy rockin

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wild Game in a Bottle

Is it a Duck or is it a Rabbit? I guess it depends on what mood you are in, or maybe what you are eating for dinner. I was having neither, but instead layed on a hard bed in a cheap hotel room in Asheville, NC. Duck-Rabbit brewing co. sits comfortably nestled in the Smoky Mountains in Farmville, NC.

I had never had anything from this brewery nor had i heard of them. But, that's the great thing about traveling--getting to try new things. The label is intriguing in its own right with the long standing picture that looks like both a rabbit and a duck, depending on how you look at it. This particular one is a Milk Stout, and the lable boasts that they are the dark beer specialists. Some research revealed that they only brew dark beers...amber ales, brown ales, porters and stouts.

A full glass is coal black and has a very light aroma of cream and sugar. This is a very rich and sweet stout. It is very similar to the Left Hand Milk Stout, but is a bit heavier and the flavor lasts longer. This beer tastes like blended up roasted nuts, malt, and chocolate. If it could be a solid, it would be a batch of brownies.

I enjoyed this enough to grab a sixer to take home. I am finishing the last of them right now. I consider it my afternoon snack which puts it into a particular category of beers for me. Just yesterday i had a Founder's Porter which i would consider in the same genereal league.

Is this beer good or very good? I suppose it depends on how you look at it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


To follow up on the Baker's comment to the previous post...yes, I'm slackin. Maybe we all are. I'm feeling lazy about it all. Right now there's a Schlafly Saison in the big fridge just calling my name. I've ignored it for a week already. What's up with that? I did have a Schlafly Octoberfest. Not bad. It was over dinner (food with chatty wife and kid) so I don't remember much.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unplugged fridge

In my basement I have MY fridge, a dorm size fridge for my beers and chilled mugs. The past few months I've noticed that there was not much happening with the fridge -a few Buds, a Sam Adams, and some Schlafly. Now it's just 3 Buds (actually 2, 1 was used for a BBQ marinade last Saturday). In an effort to conserve energy...I unplugged the beer fridge. When spring arrives with all the parties I'll plug her back up. It seemed to be a waste of cool air, all those nice frosty mugs and only 2 beers. I knew I wouldn't be buying more on a regular basis to justify the beer fridge. It was a hard decision.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


i tried a pint of this mothertrucker at the flying saucer in austin last night. earlier in the day, i checked the bar menu on the saucer's homepage and found them serving the kaiser - one of avery's bomber bottle exclusives - on tap. i sketched a note in my pocketsize moleskin and fantasized all day about getting my mouth on the kaiser. 

when i finally made it to the saucer, i could not find a seat in the place. no tables. no barstools. the patio was filthy with yuppies hauling puppies on leashes. so i copped my squat 
near a bloke on a sofa. he said it was cool. i believed him. my waitress introduced herself as marcy. very sweet kid. her right bicep plumed with bold aqua-blue peacock feathers. great tattoo work. the words beneath the feathers looked like "MAD COUNTY," scrawled out in a fancy script. later i asked her if she had a crush on flannery o'connor. she seemed to think that was hilarious because she laughed with her head back and her hand over her mouth. i thought the whole display a bit exaggerated, but i had already paid the bill. after she recovered from her laughter, she said she had never heard of flannery o'connor. i told her i was sorry to hear that. then she said showed me that the words said, "MAD BEAUTY." she then said, "i think that peacocks are the perfect balance of pure beauty and zero aggression, kinda like me."

go head, girl, go head get down. 

back to the kaiser: holy smokes, a full day's longing was ne'er spent in vain. this stuff came out in a brandy sniffer blazing as orangey-red as a glass full of pissed off wasps. the kaiser is no joke, nor is it any old octoberfest: this bastard is an IMPERIAL octoberfest. who ever head of such a thing? well, avery brewing company heard the void and created a gnarly glass full of pissed off wasps. 

at 9.3% ABV, this beer is a solid 10 german war helmets out of 10. huge malts. huge spices. red and orange and swirling leaves. wasps and piss and vinegar go into this beer. it felt like sipping Rage Against the Machine's debut album. angry and f-bombs and still kinda beautiful at the same time. the perfect balance of pure beauty and hella lotta aggression.

go head, girl, go head get down.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


one of the many sins we've committed on this site (besides not writing much) has been the avoidance to chatting up beer styles. for that, and as the rodent of the group, i would like to apologize. to kick things off the category department, i would like to start with a style of ale that is fairly new to me: the american blonde ale. 

when i've mentioned blonde ales around my midwest beer-fiendly friends, i'm usually met with blank stares and shrugged shoulders. when i mention blonde ales around my friends from the republic, they immediately begin naming any number of native texas varieties. the geographical difference makes sense only when one takes into account that texas has a long history of german settlement and influence. combine this with the fact that blondes are reminiscent of traditional german kolsch lagers and pilsners, then one has to wonder how the damn shiner bock got so famous. it's sad to realize that we could have been drinking blondes instead of bocks this whole time. 

as mentioned, american blonde ales are nearly synonymous with traditional german kolsches and pilsners; however, where the kolsch and pilsners might have a stronger dry-grass like flavor, blondes will more often swell around the hips with sweet notes dangling a citrus fruitiness. consider the difference between a dry white wine, such as a riesling, to something a bit fuller and fruitier, perhaps a muscato. tinged with noble style hops, the american blonde ale washes with pure maltiness, offering a mellow, lager like refreshment. bubbling with flavors as light as its appearance, the blonde is a perfect beer for sweltering texas summers (and springs and falls and even some days of winter). plus, weighing in with ABV levels in between 4 - 5%, it's easy to kick back several of these puppies guilt free.  

with all that said, i'd like to give a run down of five very promising american blonde ales, in no particular order except that i shall boldly state my favorite at the bottom of the list.

5.) TRUE BLONDE ALE (5.3% ABV) from SKA BREWING CO. (Durango, CO) - made with a dash of honey, i actually found this beer a bit too sweet. markymark pepe-guzman guzzled it like a german bear, but this is a man who will take malts over hops anyday of the week. a good ale, but not my personal favorite. 

4.) SKINNY DIP (4.2% ABV) from NEW BELGIUM BREWING CO. (Fort Collins, CO) - i go chatting up blondes as a texas favorite and then lead off the list with two colorado brews. ironically, most midwest and mountainous beer nerds would probably refer to skinny dip as a wheat. but, no sir, skinny dip is no wheat. we have ourselves here a fine citrusy, golden pot treasure pour of sleek goodness, enough so to douse the nudities and brag about it on facebook. excellent bottled, better on tap . . . . . there's no reason to say anymore about this.

3.) BOMBSHELL BOMB (5.2% ABV) from SOUTHERN STAR BREWING CO. (Conroe, TX) - the republic is starting to earn a name for its beer, and with small shot breweries like southern star sprouting up, it's no wonder. this is a great beer. sold only in cans for now, i try to push this beer on every shiner fan i can find. 

4.) SHINER BLONDE (4.4% ABV) from SPOETZL BREWING CO. (Shiner, TX) - hands down, this is my most favorite beer from shiner. it's great. very light. very crisp. just enough sweetness to refresh, but just enough dry to keep you sipping for a long time.

5.) FIREMAN'S #4 (5.1% ABV) from REAL ALE BREWING CO. (Blanco, TX) - in my opinion, this is the best beer brewed in texas. i really like this stuff. any chance i find to chug this stuff on tap, i grab it. had it a few days ago from the tap in a frosted mug with ice chips hunkering down under the tiny white cap. splendid. had another just for bragging purposes. i can't talk this beer up enough. sailors into the region: this is what i'll serve on your next visit. 

Friday, August 28, 2009


okay. so i've been lax in my beer reviewing. which is a damn shame because i've been tasting some great beers and also having some fantastic drinking experiences. allow me to mention the names of a few beers i've failed to review, along with a quick numeric rating out of top level 10 to quantify each ale. please feel free to ask for more detailed notes on any of these ales. i'm always up for writing or retasting beers.

- Great Divide Chocolate Imperial Stout (10/10)
- Stone 13th Anniversary Ale (7/10)
- Stone Russian Imperial Stout (9/10)
- Otter Creek Imperial Stout (5/10 - needs at least a year cellaring)
- Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter (7/10)
- Allagash White Ale (10/10)
- Delirium Tremens (10/10) 
- Avery The Reverend (8/10)
- Avery Salvation (8/10)
- Avery Maharaja (10/10)
- Leffe Blonde (8/10)
- Shiner Smokehaus Series (6/10 - unique, but barely drinkable)
- Bristol Brewing Company Laughing Lab Scottish Ale (9/10 - best scottish ale i've had yet)
- Flying Dog Imperial Porter (10/10)
- Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale (8/10)
- Flying Dog Horn Dog Barleywine Style Ale (8/10)
- Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel (9/10)
- Dogfish Head 120 Minute (4/10 - not drinkable, i don't care how "delicate" or "rare" it is)
- UFO Hefeweizen (3/10)
- UFO White (4/10)
- LeftHand Polestar Pilsener (2/10)
- Full Sail Session Lager (8/10 - this is a very good lager and totally worth the money)

- not to mention, ben and i had a side-by-side tasting of Boulder's Mojo IPA and O'Dell's IPA. amazing. the tasting deserves a full review. we nearly lost ourselves on the front porch.

but i'm not drinking those beers tonight. tonight i'm sipping some Modus Hoperandi India Pale Ale (from a bottle) by Ska Brewing Company (Durango, CO). i feel like i should be listening to the Supertones, but i do not own any. instead, i have access to this

Modus Hoperandi IPA weighs in a 6.8% ABV and 65 IBUs. tons of pine grove. a nice wash of grapefruit. i taste more citrus than anything. overall, Ska Brewing's Modus Hoperandi is big. i've had three, and i'm losing words. the hops are larger than life - great for a tasting, not so much for longevity drinking. after the several here, i'm relying on the "delete" key to revise nearly every sentence. 

also, i drank these Modus Hoperandi while writing a review of A PERFECT GETAWAY. 

find some Modus Hoperandi. buy it. consume it with zero regard. 

and bless your brass section.

Modus Hoperandi is surprisingly good. very citrusy. big, big, big grapefruit hop flavors over a light biscuit lay. i finished the third bottle with an intense desire for Dos XX Amber or Miller Lite. somethings, like japanese instrumental rock, are too big for words.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Something New

I was recently delivered a sampler pack from a brewery called New Glarus out of Wisconsin. I know next to nothing about them. I have 4 different beers to test; two wheats and two ales.

I will be posting soon my thoughts on all four.

Also, give it up for The Church Key turning 45 yesterday.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Crocodile Dundee 1 and 2

I actually have nothing to say about the Crocodile Dundee movies. I DO have something to say about Dundee Pale Ale.
One afternoon on my way home from work, the wife calls and asks if I can go pay for a dollhouse that she just bought from a lady on Craigslist. "Asks" is not the right word, more like "...I need you to..."
Anywho, the dollhouse is $18 and I have to pay in exact change. The wife suggests going to a gas station to buy a pack of gum and get cash back, then break the 20. On my way to a gas station I see a Dirt Cheap Liquor store. This sounds better to me than a gas station. I look around the store, most of the brew I've had before or know of a guy who had tried it before, or I could guess by the name and packaging exactly what it would taste like. I saw Dundee Pale Ale, never tried that. Nervously I picked it up. Unfortunately the store didn't do the ole cash back game but I still bought the beer.
Later that night when things had calmed down I read some reviews on BeerAdvocate about this Pale Ale. The highest rating was B-. Ouch. Most reviews pointed out that though the package says "Be Hoppy", the hops were quite minimal.
I took a deep breath and cracked one open. It's a Pale Ale. What more can I say. It wasn't horrible. I've had worse but it wasn't THE BEST BEER EVER! But what is?
$5.73 (w/tax) for a 6er of Pale Ale, I like it. When I'm feeling like drinking more than a PBR or Bud but don't want to pay $10 for O'Dells, Dundee will be an option.

I did eventually get the $18 to buy the dollhouse, in case you were wondering.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


it is sunday morning here in austin. the house is quiet. my dad and debi and aunt doris just left for a pool party. latonya is upstairs laughing on the phone with her cousin. butch, the still family chihuahua, pecks his little toenails on the tile around my feet. it's quiet here, and the sun has remained mostly shy this morning. as for me, i'm drowning in classwork, overwhelmed with another week of planning and delivering a decently coherent lesson plan that covers transition phrases and organizational patterns of expository texts. i've had four small cups of coffee this morning. it Is time for a porter. 

otter creek brewing company, straight from the green mountains of vermont, is new to the texas beer market. i'm usually a bit reluctant to jump both feet into a new england brewery because, go figure, so many new england beers are british in nature. i don't like the english beers. never have. and i'm shocked anytime i do find an english style ale that i actually enjoy. however, vermont is a filthy with the french, and i know nothing about how the french drink their biere. so, with all this ethno-cautious baggage stifling my beer shopping, i was relieved to find a single 12 ounce bottle of otter creek's stovepipe porter on a local liquor shelf. one itty-bitty bottle is so much less daunting - and expensive - than six.

my only other exposure to otter creek was their imperial stout. too big. too bold. too much hop and heat to waddle down smoothly. probably a fantastic stout after a year or two in the cellar, but who has that kind of discipline and patience anymore? it's 2009. i'm pissed that my computer doesn't type my thoughts for me automatically. this whole thing needs to move way faster to meet my busy lifestyle.

with that said, i am pleasantly surprised by the accessibility of this porter. weighing in at 30 IBUs with a 5.4% ABV, this is good medium range porter: perfect for baby bear and goldilocks all at the same time. the bright hop background does not blaze out the deeper coffee and cocoa notes, although i would prefer for more of the latter two. the overly carbonated mouthfeel distracts from the weight of the porter. porters should be thicker, creamier, anchored in minor keys and flavor notes. but this is nice. this is good early morning porter. this is good pre-lunch on a lazy sunday sipping. when the palate wants something bigger and gnarlier and nastier, there is always the flying dog gonzo imperial porter; however, when we just need a hint of desperation on our tongues, otter creek's stovepipe porter ranks right up there alongside great divide's saint bridget's porter and boulder's planet porter. heck, i think clint newlan and i even agree that boulevard's bully porter ain't all that bad, even if it ain't all that good. in the grand scheme, it seems that otter creek saddles up right nicely beside other american porters: washing down more like a soft-drink than the revolutionary pint of damnation it was designed to become. 

perhaps in the world of pale ales and IPAs, america carries the trumping flags of permanent settlement, but in the parishes of fine porters, there's a good chance that england holds ultimate nobility. it's a theory worth testing and a survey worth conducting. any takers are welcome to join me in the venture. i like a good porter, but a good porter is hard to find. i'll be revisiting this otter creek stovepipe a single bottle at a time. a six pack is a huge commitment for something that's barely stretching the tent pegs of world domination.

Thursday, July 16, 2009



later tonight ben's gonna call me and i'm gonna ride with him to return some machine that he had to rent to get some work done. he's had a long day of manual labor, doing things i don't know how to do. i've had a long day of mental labor, teaching folks he just plain don't know. so we're gonna ride on down there and get that machine returned so ben don't have to look at it no more. and then we're gonna stop at that beverage place and pick up a couple-three bottles of whatever they got for cheap. we'll make some conversation with the selling people and then head on back to the house. that's where we'll pour the suds and commence to the conversating. it'll get magical about right there, what with suds and conversating and long days behind us. and we'll have some time there together that would look completely inconsequential to passerbys and bystanders, but we'll know that them moments are meant to be taken to the grave and beyond. and that's why we do it. 

let's try to get that going on together soon, alright?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


today was my second day teaching at a junior college three towns away. i will be teaching a 3 hour reading class every afternoon for the next month. three towns away. a 45 minute drive through texas farm and cattle land. 

a phenomenal amount of activity happens in this small stretch of texas highway. down around a bend near bryan, texas the US department of agriculture houses a pecan regeneration station. then down around another bend, independence, texas curates the texas baptist history museum. and then, once more, down on around that other bend the antique rose emporium sells a particular strand of roses whose roots thrive in clay. a bit further towards the school, there's a patch of gravel that's been recently rolled back like stained carpet, leaving a pitch of dusty air and utility trucks that guide drivers back and forth over soot-like grey dirt. this construction adds nearly ten minutes to my drive towards class. the construction workers are cleaned up and drinking lagers by the time i head back home over 45 minutes of livestock and mutant roses and baptist heritage and military pecans.

drinking lagers. that's nearly all i think about driving home. oh look, there's a grey cow mounting a brown cow. (drink a lager.) oh look, a fat man in a blue and red plaid shirt is buying roses. (drink a lager.) oh why the hell won't the cd player eject? (drink a lager.) should i flunk the one kid in the skull cap on principle alone? (drink a lager.)

tonight i'm drinking a lager i purchased from a liquor store four blocks away from my house. i stop by nearly every afternoon to purchase a single bottle of whatever is on the $0.99 rack. it's my way of trying new beers and building relationships with the townsfolks. who are the people in your neighborhood? cody sells me the beers, he studies algebra. the other dude in the glasses, who i refuse to ask his name because sometimes a little mystery makes everyone more beautiful, is the movie buff who runs the joint. and i think about these fellars on the drive back into town. and i speak swell things over them and their endeavors and their parents and cody's algebra. and then i show up and buy my lager: the punctuation point to the long and arduous day driving past cattle to drive more cattle. 

perhaps i should tip a hat towards the lager: the reason we are all here in the first place. 

this here is the steam engine lager by steamworks brewing company. they have two locations: durango, california and bayfield, colorado. seems a bit like cheating, like a bivocational minister who still takes personal funds from the church offering. but steamworks made this lager fancy and good. these malts stretch out a thick caramel underlay that props up a vibrantly flickering hop marquee. bright. bubbling with pop and flare. flashy on the side bars of the tongue. i like this beer. one time i drank an entire six pack of this stuff. started at noon. lost my tastebuds about three. finished it off in the evening. that was a long time ago. i've already confessed that to the necessary brethren, so now it's just bragging. point is: i like this lager better than i didn't remember. 

that's all i want to say for now. 

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

In addition to visiting with family and grilling some meat I think I will drink some Sam Adams. Seems like a patriotic brew doesn't it?

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
—Samuel Adams

Monday, June 29, 2009

What does Branson/Ruby Tuesday know about beer?

I still cannot believe it...
I was in Branson this past weekend (not to see a show but to buy several pair of GAP no stress pants)

After buying the pants I took the fam to Ruby Tuesday.

- little factoid, the guy who founded Ruby Tuesday worked in the same restaurant (Regas) at the same time as Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's. Regas is in Knoxville, TN.

Just out of curiosity I flipped to the beer section of the menu. I still can't believe this.
From the craft menu was DOGFISH HEAD 60 min IPA! Are you freakin kidding me? RUBY TUESDAY? It doesn't stop there. No. Underneath was YUENGLING! YUENGLING! America's oldest brewery. I thought you could only get that sh*t in the East. What the flip is going on at Ruby Tuesday in Branson, MO?

Branson? Ruby Tuesday? I still can't believe it. Did Dogfish Head drop a couple cool points or did Ruby Tuesday just turn it up to 11?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Wilderness makes a Saison

Not too long ago I had the privilege of tasting another home brew by The Wilderness. The Wilderness tried his hand at a Saison. Interesting. I don't know if I would have tried my hand at a Saison so early on in my home brewing journey but The Wilderness did and he did a great job.
Though I don't like this style of beer, I have to applaud the The Wilderness. It had a very professional taste - I can see people paying for this.

My tongue was going crazy from the overload of herbs, spices, fruits, and hops. I was impressed that this complex chaotic yet united and balanced beer came from a rookie home brewer.

Hats off

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dogfish Head vs. Flying Fish

Tonight I had a friend help me officiate a friendly competition between Delaware's Dogfish Head (60 min IPA) and New Jersey's Flying Fish (HopFish IPA). My friend doesn't mind IPAs. He'll drink anything and the only comment you'll get out of him is "wow". No one knows how to measure the "wow".
Is it "wow":
-this is really shit*y?
-this is perfect?
-this is totally average?

no tellin.

We drank Flying Fish first. My friend made no comment. I REALLY enjoyed the Flying Fish. It was one of my favorites that I tried in Baltimore a few weeks ago. I was really looking forward to drinking this one again. Loved it. So well balanced.

We ate a few more chips and dip, finished a brat, had a little macaroni salad, told the kids to shut it, then had Dogfish Head. "Wow", said my friend. He began talking about how he liked trying different craft brews and how superior they were to Bud, etc. (I let him ramble, sometimes it's best to, don't want to start an argument). I'm guessing this was a good "wow".

The Dogfish Head, though it is a good beer, is way off balance on MY palate. It needs to be polished up a bit; it's quite raw. When I drink Dogfish Head, I want to take a buffer to the beer for about 15min to smooth it out.

In it's current raw state, it's like one of those bad tasting delicacies that everyone eats because everyone else is and it's a "delicacy" and they don't want everyone to know they don't like it even though everyone else hates it too so they eat it and tell everyone how much they love it because everyone else is.

So I say Flying Fish wins...I don't have a friggin-glue what my friend's opinion is. He went home already so I can't ask him.


Flying Fish HopFish IPA: 6.2% ABV; IBU not given

DogFish Head 60 min: 6% ABV; IBU not given

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Let me throw this down before I have to wash the dishes...

Magic Hat's Lucky Kat (Irresistible Pale Ale they say). Brewed in South Burlington, VT. Magic Hat Brewery reminds me of 3 Floyd's in that they have the same type of wacky marketing approach.
Anywho, this is one of the brews I brought from the MO-PA-NC Beer Club convention. It is a silly beer as you can see in the picture. Under the cap it has silly sayings like "Hiding a fart is an age old art" or "Happy Beer-Thirty". I appreciate the silliness. I also understand it's all part of the business plan to build a strong cult base. Nothing wrong with that. I'm a fan.

I didn't know what to expect with Lucky Kat. I was afraid that it was going to be an artsy-fartsy impression of an IPA tasting like hay and horse piss. I was wrong.

Lucky Kat filled me up in one course. It was smooth too. While drinking I kept thinking to myself, 'is this an IPA?' It had the grapefruit taste but not as prevalent as other IPAs. It didn't make me beg for water like the Two Hearted or the O'Dells IPA. I could not make up my mind. I did like it though. I have one more in the beer fridge that I'm saving for Friday.

Lucky Kat: ABV 5.8% Bitterness: 58
Alpha King: ABV 6% Bitterness: 66
Single Wide: ABV 5.7% Bitterness: 59
2 Hearted: ABV 7% Bitterness: unknown
O'Dells IPA: ABV 7% Bitterness: 60

Thursday, June 4, 2009


seriously, this pabst right here, straight out of the can and answering to the activities that finally stretched my back and salted my brow, tastes better than anticipated. here's to more moments like this.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - The Beer Choice of Innovative Musicians

Last Sunday i had an experience that i will not soon forget. I was at The Pageant in St. Louis. I was 8 feet below and about 20 feet back from the edge of the stage. Blind Pilot came up and played. I was happy to find another band from Portland that i can explore later. It was a combination of bluegrass and indie rock. The lead singer wore a pearl snap short-sleeved western shirt, there was an electric xylophone player, and a girl who plunked on a banjo and danced a little.
The lights died. Out came 6 people to take their positions in front of a meager yet depth enhancing backdrop. The people around me screamed and so did i. The Decemberists have been a band i appreciated for some time now but this was my first time to see them. Colin Meloy made his way out in a full suit and he wasn't half-assing the tie either, he had the top button in place. He nonchalantly placed his beer on a back speaker and as he moved forward, a ray of light like a God's golden ray spot-lighted the bottle. Sierra Nevada if you please.
I don't know why he chose it. Maybe the selection is poor. St. Louis has some good brews, but usually you feel like someone is trying to cram Bud down your throat. Maybe it's the beer that fit best with the music we would hear; i'd like to think Meloy is that intentional with all that he does. If the other members are the Pinky, Meloy is the Brain.
If you haven't heard their newest album, The Hazards of Love, then you've been sittin' on an Ozarkian hill thinking you are somebody with Everest looming behind you ass! I have listened to the album straight through countless times and i believe without any fear of rebuke that it is the best album i have heard in at least 5 years, probably more. From genius lyrics, to creative storytelling, to a 17 song composition with no stops, to perfectly placed musical transitions paralleling and enhancing the emotions of the characters, who by the way, are also sung by Meloy and 2 new women (1 from My Brightest Diamond, and 1 from Lavender Diamond) whose voices beautifully express the intended character personalities, to some fucking awesome rock which i have never heard from this band until now, to 20 + instrument changes during the set by Meloy alone, to..........................................the list goes on.
The Decemberists walked out and played the album from start to finish. They did not say a word. An hour went by and they were done with it. They took a 15 minute break and then came back to play for another hour and a half of old stuff as well as a fantastic cover of "Crazy on You" by Heart. The female vocalists as new additions gave me goosy bumps in places i'd rather not mention.
I went home with my mind made up to buy Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to celebrate the victory which i had no part of creating but fantasized taking part in for over 2 hours. When i arrived at the store, however, Boulevard's Single-wide IPA was cheaper and i bought it and it was good. I'm drinking one right now.
I hope Colin and the crew can forgive me. Maybe if i drink more SN Pale Ale i can write and play and sing like him. Maybe he is trying to take over the world one Baker at a time. But, the Brain never did really get anywhere. Eventually he was cancelled. it's a shame.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


here goes my hamsterian take on the three 2008 SAM ADAMS' LONGSHOT WINNERS:

first off, i don't mean to be sexist, but isn't it a bit cool when the ladies win the sam adams' homebrew competition? i'm not sure why that's so exciting to me. maybe it's because, other than ashley brock and e sue young and faith scott, i have not met many female beer geeks. so when carissa sweigart wins with a cranberry wit, of all things, i feel my power - my woman-power - bristle on the edges. 

okay, enough politics: let's get to the beer. this cranberry wit pours unfiltered and cloudy. very light with deep pink hues enlivened by a constant and steady stream of carbonation bubbles, looking like prom night on speed. a thin, fully laid white cap covers the top of the glass, through which no significant aromas pass. i'm sniffing for fruit, tartness, some spices, but i get nothing. the first sip is pure wit beer: light and spiced on the edges. the bottle declares "cinnamon, orange peel, coriander and grains of paradise," all before a "touch of cranberry." the first sip only reveals cinnamon in the background, like a box of red hots accidentally fell into the mash. after a little bottle-swirling, in an effort to agitate all those spices and yeasts in the bottom, the beer looks like a glass of grapefruit juice: dark pink fleshy-juice and thick cloudy yeast haze. more complex flavors shine through now. orange peels and coriander are mostly prevalent. little sign of cranberry, even tartness. however, some small wash of brightness does flow along the sides of the tongue, mellowing out the overt spiciness and making this wit extremely light and more drinkable than most beers in this genre. although i would never buy a sixer of this, i like having these two bottles for the trial. 

NOTE: my second bottle was much better. this is a very exciting beer, an amusement park of spices and fruits all crammed and roller coastering around in one glass. i told my dear friend, sir jason scott, that this beer is like a good m. night shabalabahonda film: too much to take in the first time. bright, spicy, refreshing, cloudy and full-bodied - yes, ma'am, i would definitely buy this beer in sixers and serve it at dinner parties.

so mike from california says he tossed in "over six pounds of hops per barrel" in his double-IPA (9% ABV). i'm not sure if that's a lot or not, but the aroma is as hairy as liquid sasquatch. smells like a walk in the northern woods: lots of pine, lots of earthy pitch, lots of tree-sap and bursting green. this is a transcendental aroma in a beer that wants to jump out of the glass and live as deliberately as thoreau. first sip: whitman whiskers! this thing is mowing me down. thick, thick biscuit bottom under a spicy, piney hopped top. this is a great double IPA: not too much, but definitely earning its 9% alcohol ranking. i would buy sixers and twelvers of this. hound it and hide it in my little cellar closet down here on the first floor. my hat is off to mike in california - this beer is lovely.

unfortunately, i've had my fill of german beers around these parts. and, equally unfortunate for alex drobshoff from california, texas has depleted its ideal cool evenings where such a thick and heavy beer stakes claim. still, i will come with open olfactories and taste buds. pours dark leather brown. very little head or carbonation: nothing's alive on the inside. plus, i'm not getting any aroma here. even sniffed the coffee in the kitchen to double check my sniffer, and it works, but i can't smell anything on this beer. (same as shiner bock). the first sip of drobshoff's traditional bock (6.8% ABV) weighs in syrup heavy. also, it's sweet, sweet, sweet and more sweet. lots of malt, with small gushes of cherry. why anyone would brew (or drink) a bock is beyond me. they are heavy, sticky, chewy beers. the beverage equivalent of creamed corn, without all the lumps. i'll be giving the extra bottle of this to marky-mark pepe-guzman who just loves-loves-loves him some bock. he be german, i suppose.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


so my friends ryan and kelly urban came over tonight and we're being really cool and saying stuff that regular people wish they could say on a totally awesome day but they can't but we totally just mouth-off like it's nothing cause we're awesome even on mediocre days and stuff like that and whatever, man, yo.

then we decide to have dessert. so ryan and i drive over to the mart and talk about the UNDERWORLD films which are awesome if you love them. and then at the store all the blue bell pints, which are usually $3 a piece are $1 a piece, and me and ryan totally flip. so we buy four of them. i can't remember all the ones we bought cause we were so jazzed at the time that my memory was blitzed. 

then we got home and busted open some ice cream. then i popped the top on some otter creek russian imperial stout (10.6% ABV / 65 IBUs). the bottle boasts that otter creek brews their russian imperial with "double the malt and four times the hops of regular stouts, this ale offers a robust and intense flavor experience." all crafts breweries love to throw junk like that on their bottles: whether it lives up to the hype is another matter of tastes altogether. to find out, i poured myself and ryan a (room-temperature) draught in wine glasses, and then we started sniffing. 

the otter creek russian imperial stout pours oily black, darker than big-rig engine drool. the stuff allows zero light, a liquified spelunking expedition top-side and glass-tamed. it also pours thick, more like plasma than liquid. the head holds the darkest brown cap i have ever seen on a stout, more kin to a fudge brownie than most of the frothy-cappuccino tan heads i have normally seen. this beer screams the absence of hope.

ryan swears, right off the bat, that the stuff smells like olives - and green olives at that. oddly enough, his wife confirmed the aroma. i never noticed a single olive whiff in the whole batch. after a few more sniffs, ryan declared a significant molasses aroma, cooked and maybe smoky. in the meantime, i immediately smelled raisins and anise - and tons of both. this thing smelled like a licorice bomb with a burning fuse. there may have been hearty rummagings of fig and prune notes wolloshing about in there, as well. we both agreed that this aroma was huge and somewhat threatening.

the first sip, for both of us, was overwhelming and ash-trayish. all the possible complexities and enjoyment were burned out by an intense throat-bottomed alcohol burn. ryan suggested flavors of smoked gouda lingering in the aftertaste. i agreed, but maybe more out of concentration than actual taste-budderings. 

my overall verdict for otter creek russian imperial stout is that this may be a fantastic cellar beer. those uber-hops, as declared by the label, may need 3 or 4 years to mellow out. i'm sure that in time, seasoned in dark and discipline in someone's basement, this beer could eventually emerge as a beautifully enjoyable celebration stout. however, until then, this bottle is not worth the required $7. it did not even pair well or simmer its offensiveness next to cookies-n-cream ice cream. as a result, ryan and i both agreed that this beer tasted more like a punishment than a treat. otter creek russian imperial stout lived up to its bottle-printed claims (more than i could have expected) and left me feigning for a bright and fizzy pale ale: something on the lighter side, for heaven's sake. 

in the meantime, i'm chomping at the bits to break into the 2008 sam adam's longshot sixer, newly released in these parts. that review will come very soon. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009


i'm doing some research on texas breweries for a friend of mine. spent some time reading about shiner beers today. there's a feature on the shiner website where viewers can post stories about themselves drinking shiner beer, kinda like what we do here at beer club only it's all texans and they all think shiner bock is the way into God's Kingdom. (i got tough news for them). anywho, i took a moment here just now, sipping on this PBR and feeling fine, to write up my shiner story. here's a copy of it. it ain't good and all, but it's true. and it needs more umph eventually.

ps. do NOT drink a shiner bock while reading this.


my friend mark said sometime early last summer, right around the time that we were all standing on the concrete of his bryan, texas driverway, that he'd like to celebrate his birthday by driving on down to shiner, texas and seeing that spoetzl brewery first-hand. i liked that kinda notion. as a beer-nerd, i kinda wondered if he might be trying to celebrate my birthday as well. he said no to that, but i still felt rather important coming on down to shiner in the middle of wednesday in july.

to be honest, i am not a fan of that bock that shiner sells. tastes like sweet tea with a touch of vodka in it, if you asked me. never been a bock fan. never might be a bock fan. my tasters don't lean towards the malts as much as to the hops. still, i fancy a shiner hefeweizen, when it's poured right, and i can't stop at just two shiner blondes when the sun goes to boasting even through the trees. not to mention, shiner black pours a nice glass of late night, book-reading beer when the hour ain't rightly fit to a pot of coffee but the pages need some grease to keep turning.

so, back to my buddy's birthday: we loaded up tim's car, the three of us - mark and tim and me - and we headed to gonzalez first. them boys i was with thought it might be novel to climb around in the gonzalez old-timey jail there. and we did. climbed on up the ladder and touched the noose dangling from the ceiling. i didn't like the feel in that place. felt a bit like racist ghosts were walking shouting "COME AND TAKE IT" all over the place. i think the klan might live heavy in gonzalez. not to mention, i never seen a town with so many churches. that many churches seem a sign of trying to cover a multitude of sins, like racism and running off other races and hating people who ain't white. i mean, that's just what i felt in gonzalez, particularly in that jail and when i looked at the flag they got. not good. my hair was standing up, and i was ready to get on to the beer, which i know for a fact ain't racist beer, nor is it brewed for racists. unless people in gonzalez drink shiner beer, in which case it weren't brewed for them.

drove over to shiner and found the brewery. biggest building in that part of the state. sat right over there in the corner pocket like it'd been there a hundred years or more. guess it has. and we walked in and got a nice tour. you know, the land out there in shiner is conducive to wind, and wind is conducive to dust, and dust it conducive to making things dirty. and while i may have toured half a dozen beer breweries in half a dozen states, that shiner brewery was the cleanest, most sterile beer place i ever forgot to wipe my shoes off for. felt a bit like a hospital in there. but the factory they got going, i mean, that's really impressive. my friend mark was standing there looking down into the factory, all those bottles rolling circles around the place. i said, "happy birthday, bro." he said, "i suppose so."

then they let us drink the beer. gave us three tokens each. some tall drink of scotch walks up and says, "i don't even drink beer. don't know why i'm here." and he hands me six tokens. i drank a lot of beer that day. never once touched the bock tap handle.

all in all, it was a good day. met some ghosts, saw beer get made in the cleanest facility i ever seen, and then drank half a tank of shiner black label straight off the factory tap. it was good. and i hope to on back that way soon enough.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Will shovel dirt for beer"

...towards the end of the huge dirt pile it looked like I had ordered too much dirt. A neighbor drove by and I asked if he needed some, "sure" he replied. I talked with his wife to determine where the dirt should be dumped. Baker and I hauled 5 wheelbarrow loads to their backyard.
The wife insisted that she compensate us for the hard work and the dirt. Eventually I gave in and allowed her to pay us $20 and a 6 pack of beer.

A few days later while I was mowing the lawn, my neighbor walked over with a 6er of Schlafly's Pilsner. Interesting.

I have never had their Pilsner but given the circumstances-free beer, hot outside, sweaty brow-I couldn't wait.

I enjoyed it. It tasted like a slightly better version of a Budweiser. BUT, even though there are more hops present, it has a crisper taste, and overall better flavor I think I will still stick to the Bud after a long day working in the sun. Why? $

I would rather use the money spent on a Schlafly Pilsner towards an O'Dells IPA any day.

More current news... I'm heading to Baltimore tomorrow for a wedding. While there I'll be connecting with several other beer club representatives for a taste of East Coast brews. I can't wait to post.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sometimes the best beer is Budweiser - or Miller Lite if your a Hamster

The past few days I have been breaking my back under the hot sun shoveling dirt and stacking bricks. I'm working on some landscaping. When I moved into my house a few years ago, the front yard was a blank canvas. I could do anything I wanted...from scratch. This year I'm doing something. I'm building a retaining wall that will remain level despite the slope of the earth. So one end is two blocks high, the other end is 7 blocks high. Follow me. I unloaded a 126 blocks (with help) from a truck to my garage. I had a truck load of dirt dumped in the middle of my street. I shoveled and lugged 9 cu. yards of garden mix dirt from my street to the final destination. I had too much dirt. So I found other places for the dirt (prior to having the dirt delivered I removed the top layer of earth and used the sod to build up the slop in the back of my house). Then I started to build the wall. Today I got 1/4 of the wall built.

After I unloaded the bricks, Baker and I had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was great. Hit the spot. Wonderful flavor.
Today after working on the wall, I had a Bud. Even better.

If I'm working in the sun doing some good ol' manual labor, I need a Bud. If I'm looking for something to drink after a long day at the office I need an IPA.

Sorry, this was rushed. The wife was telling me that it was her turn to get on the computer.
It made sense in my head. I had it all planned out until she came along.
I'll do better next time.

Do you agree? Bud in the sun?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


holy midwestern tap handles, batman! i got a load of reviews to report from this recent trip my smokin' hot wife and i made to kansas city. after tossing back some cold ones with mike redmond, i hit the tap handles and sixers with nathan and emily jones, kelly jackson, and thom and tracy fox. then i capped off the week's bottle by back porching, home brewing, and chihuahua sunbathing alongside sir jason scott. it was a grand few days, full of many beers, little sleep, and bookoos of trees taller than one story buildings. (texans know what i mean). 

while i recover from the travels, i'll lean on the words of the good and lovely nathan jones to review one of the beers we collected but did not sip together. lost coast's 8 ball stout (5.9% ABV) received a collected review of B+ on beeradvocate, while the ratebeer crowd (of which i'm an active member) awarded it 97/100. that's a drastic difference in populace opinion, making this stout a controversial little number, giving me one more reason to regret not sharing this brew with my friend. 

honestly, i've steered away from the lost coast line after tasting their alleycat amber, downtown brown, and great white ???????. none of these beers did anything for me except spit remorse into my pocketbook. however, beer is an odd concoction, and breweries can boil up some strange worts from time to time. also, nathan jones is a good man with a trusted palate. you'd like him. and he has great tastes in film. send him some love back on his first beerclub review when you get the chance.

(the following letter was edited by the publisher. y'all ain't gots to know all we gots to say. damn.)

*     *     *

Kevin -

I drank the Eight Ball Stout made by Lost Coast Brewery out of Eureka, CA.  I will say that I am now very disappointed that we did not get to share it.  It was not like a traditional stout.  The first taste was not the 'stout' coffee flavor that you normally get from a beer like that.  As I went through it, it just got better.  The beer was extremely smooth and flavorful.  I will say that if someone is on the fence about liking a stout, this is the one to drink to get on the wagon about loving a stout.  It was a stout with training wheels.  Anyways, I recommend you try this one and tell me what you think. 

- Nathan Jones

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I SHOT A WHALE WITH THIS BEER: edited for mixed gender viewing

if you need me, i'll be at mike's house. upstairs. at the dining table with latonya and sarah. mike is already in bed. he has to open the coffeeshop tomorrow morning. he will need to put the key in the door by 4:54 a.m. so that he can dim the alarm by 4:57 and hit "store open" on the computer by 4:59. that's his job. that's how he gets the dough to run me to the price chopper in liberty, missouri, allowing me to purchase a sixer of sierra nevada torpedo extra pale ale. and then we sip the sixer, talking about bigfoot and werewolves and God and oscar wilde and my own take on politics as evolved since the last time we discussed my take on politics. 

i told mike i voted this past year. he was surprised. rightfully so.

shit. this sierra nevada torpedo extra pale ale (7.2% ABV / 70 IBUs)  is good. really good. sierra nevada has never made a bad beer. seriously, i cut my hopped-up mandibular bilateral tori on sierra nevada pale ale, and i will love this company forever for that fact alone. sierra nevada, unfortunately, makes very few over-the-top beers to write about on websites late at night on vacation. their bigfoot barleywine comes to mind as kingish and kongish, as well as their harvest ale something-something style ale (the latter was hoppy as fruit rind, but i can't remember the full profile), but that's about it for big beers. sierra nevada saddles up next to several good american craft breweries with a consistency of okay beers and the occasional gleam of and excellent beer. 

"Utilizing the 'Hop Torpedo,' our unique method of dry-hopping, we harness precious oils and resins to showcase the complex citrus, pine and herbal flavor and aromas that hops have to offer." - as quoted from the barn-door ends of the Sierra Nevada Torpedo sixer package

did you guys know that i work at the writing center in a local community college? yes'r, i do. and there is an english teacher there that hates the word "utilize." she says, "come off it, and just say 'uses'." honestly, i can see her point. why say, as a fiction writer, "bill said emphatically . . . " when you could just say, "bill said . . . . " and then write better dialogue? it's a good question. one to consider. so it makes one wonder, when a craft brewery uses words like "utilizes," are they trying to compensate for something lacking in the magnitude of their torpedo? 

personally, i do not see that sierra nevada's torpedo lacks anything in girth of flavor. this is a big flavor beer, flushed with gushes rustic pine and citrus rinds. i like the grapefruittiness. i like the bitterness. i like the mouthfeel and the exclamation of outer-fruit cores surrounding the edges of every sip - heavy in the front, loaded in the back.

my dear and beautiful friend, sir jason scott, made my ear sweat with his description of this ale. i liked it from that conversation on. however, we do not get the biz down in bryan-f'bombing, tejas. tonight, finally, i got my taste of sierra nevada torpedo, and it was well worth the wait. i'm sad that mike is passed out for the night, and the ladies are unapplying their days make-up and hair together: this is a beer to share, a book to tote in a small nylon bag, a story to hold out extended to friends and say, "no, really, devour this, as if your life depended on it, even though you have the luxury of it not."  

i would like to sip this beer all night long, even in my sleep, and then, if i were lucky, instead of waking up with dream-dragon-poo on my tongue, like my morning breath usually lays on me, i'd wake up with this beer, solidified and blanketed across my palate, like firmly baked cheese, and i would taste this beer, naturally, in my own mouth, all f'n' day long. such an extravagance would feel like my birthday come early.

i think i will go watch DANCE OF THE DEAD now.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


CONFESSION: i'm not a big guinness fan. well, i'm not a fan of their regular irish stout, particularly the kind that sells on tap at every dedgum bar and grill from here to timbuktu. i don't like the stuff. guinness on tap tastes like a good stout that got watered down. i am, however, quite a big fan of the guinness extra stout, the one that sells without the little nitrogen widget, but that's a different post. 

so the story goes that tonight i'm waltzing around the liquor store with two smokin' black women - my wife and our dear friend leida, in from saint louis for latonya's birfday - and all the white dudes in the store are craning their necks and saying, "damn! what kinda karma is that dude pulling to be with them?" and leida's buying lambic. and latonya's buying sweet tea flavored vodka. and i found sixers of new belgium's mighty arrow on for $5 so i nearly pee myself. 

then i found a bottle of this guinness 250th anniversary stout. poured in a small taster glass, i'm seeing a stout that is phenomenally darker in appearance than the regular guinness. with carbonation decreased (by the lack of a widget), the blackness sits heavy in the glass, allowing a small purplish cola-tinted ring of light at the bottom and near the top of the glass. the aroma tells of deeply roasted malts with small hints of coffee. nothing sweet rears in the aroma - no anise or caramel, no cocoa or even raisin: just small coffee notes and a heavy malt burn. smells more like bread than beverage. the aroma does not rightly prepare the palate for the depth of flavor. again, nothing spectacular or specific stands out in the palate or the mouthfeel, just the roast of dark barley and slightly smokey grains. that's all. this is a good stout if you like the flavor of ashes. honestly, after developing a passion for the russian imperial stout, what with all her complexities of warring sweets and stringencies, this guinness 250th anniversary pales in comparison to the new possibilities i know of stouts. 

overall verdict: guinness 250, while way better than guinness draught, doesn't hold a candle to guinness extra stout or, especially, american craft stouts. the typical argument goes that, since the irish invented stouts, guinness is the consummate stout. well, fine then. drink all the guinness you want, me lad. but, as for the me and my palate, i will bask in the dark and sinister russky imperial stouts of america

and also dreamy black women. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


i am here to talk about stone brewing company because i have a paper that i am procrastinating and also because i love talking about stone beers. moreso, i love drinking them. in fact, ooooh, what's this? i am drinking a stone beer as i type! yes'r! YES'R! i am a prince! i am bulletproof for the rest of today!

honestly, i have never sipped a stone beer that was not grand. some craft breweries (new belgium, boulevard, sierra nevada, bridgeport, bear republic) set their par at good and occasionally beat their own odds with something extraordinary. other breweries (stone, bells, pabst brewing company) set the par at great and seldom deviate. yes'r, stone is just such a brewery, and everything is write-homeable.

however, there is an odd conundrum that i've discovered with stone. and it is this: stone's pale ale is a finer, more solid, more drinkably hoppy ale than their regular IPA. schyea, i know: that's crazy talk. that's why breweries build pale ales and IPAs, to build a hoppy medium in the pale and then imperialize it in the IPA. but stone seems to be an exception to this rule. (i've also found a similar phenomena with the laguintas brewing company between their new dogtown pale ale and their regular IPA. but that's a different post). 

first and foremost, when chatting up stone and hops, the place to begin is the STONE RUINATION IPA. this is stone's imperial IPA, and it's the muthaload. weighing it at a pithy 7.7% ABV, this sucka boasts over 100 IBUs felt on every inch of the tongue. huge citrus. huge bristling fruit peels. huge mouthfeel and blistering burn. i love this beer. and i'm not shooting for anything eloquent here, i'm just bragging that i've had one and maybe you haven't. if you can only taste one more beer before getting slammed by a bus, make it the RUINATION. this is a beer to prolong martyrdom for, if even just once. after a ruination, everything else tastes like a shiner. 

secondly, STONE IPA, for all purposes, is a great ipa. again, this company does not make a paltry beer. running up close behind the ruination, stone ipa bubbles with a 6.9% ABV and boasts over 70 IBUs. not a small ale by any means. still, this is not an ipa that i run to. there is something overly floral and perfumey in the stone ipa, something not quiet balanced. i find myself half way through a pint of stone ipa always thinking, "shite, i wish i liked this more, even half as much as the pale or a quarter as much as the ruination." that's right: i think in fractions. i taught beginning math at sylvan learning center for over three years. the numbers get into you like those little ear wig thingies in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. anyway. so, yes, this is a good ipa, but i can think of half a dozen ipas that i would put above the stone ipa. don't ask me what they are right now. 

thirdly, STONE PALE ALE takes the gold for, hands down, the best pale ale i have ever tasted. bringing up the rear with a 5.4% ABV and a mere 41 IBUs, stone's pale ale, by the numbers, is stone's weakest hop optional ale; however, that is not the case on my palate whatsoever. i love this beer. and, upon several occasions recently, i reached for stone pale ale over stone ipa at the liquor store and pint shop. this is a good beer. big and burly. balanced on all sides, but still aggressively hopped in all the right places. i find this beer a frustrating single-bottle-beer: i want several of these right in row. the first sets up for the second, sets up for a third and reason to confess to my brothers in the community. i've not experienced such a thing with a pale ale before. usually, i turn to pales when IPAs are not available. not in the stone case. it's just good. damn good. cuss words and soapy candy good. 

this has been my stone brewing company hoppy beer run down. thank you. 

PS. on the STONE RUINATION and STONE IPA, look down the ratebeer page for "hamsterglory." that's me. i left those reviews. haven't gotten around to STONE PALE. will do. just pimping my old reviews.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is it really worth it?

I'll make it quick...went to a Cardinals game today, awesome game. 7-1 Cards over Cubbies - is it September already?

So many plastic beer bottles floating around, all AB products.
I love beer. When I'm at a game I want to drink a beer. But is it really worth $7.50 for ONE Bud Select? People will down several in a game!

I will sacrifice 3 hours of no beer during a game to have $22.50 for good beer after the game.



last night i sat on a friend's porch, littered in white people, and i watched a bottle of sam adams cherry wheat orbit a small caucasian solar system on this side of the porch. the bottle had accidentally fallen into blake and josh's sixer of sam adams honey porter. at first, when blake pulled the cherry wheat out of the sixer of honey porter, he glowed, holding it up triumphantly like a child's grand toy from the bottom of an adult cereal box. "look, a general lee was in the box of mom's fruit and fiber!" blake had that kind of excitement. and then blake opened the bottle. and then he sipped the cherry wheat. and then all the orange faded off the hood of his general lee, and blake suddenly tasted the fiber on the other side of the fruit. 

one saturday night live skit that often runs loops in my head is the one where this family feels overly compelled to share in one another's misfortunes. at first it's rather simple: one person tastes their fish and declares, "ooooo, it's rotten!" and then all the others say, "let me try!" and they all groan together. then they pass around curdled milk, all exclaiming it's rancidness, but all tasting for themselves. finally, the skit ends with one person running down the basement stairs and falling through a broken board half way down. another person at the top of stairs says, "oh my gosh, that board is broken!" and then they all take turns running and plummeting through the stairs into the basement. skit ends. pure genius.

i thought of that skit last night as this bottle of putrid sam adams cherry wheat touched the lips of every caucasian on this side of the porch. blake declared it's badness, then david said, "let me try." he scrunched his face, saying, "that's really terrible." then faith held out her hand for the bottle. she never said anything, just shook her head at the flavor like running into an unexpected mask of cobwebs. eventually the bottle came to me, but i just held up my hand. i know what cough syrup tastes like. my mother poured the shit down me as a bucking little bronco. i didn't need the reminder. 


faith recently scored a gift card to world market. i'm not sure if you've seen this place, but it's somewhat boss. not totally boss, but like associate-to-the-boss kinda boss. i remember once, during a fairly dark period of my life, world market had the largest beer selection for burgeoning beer nerds in south kansas city. my buddy andrew botsford and i would drive over to world market, half tanked on red stripe (we were young), and we'd shimmy through all the candle buyers and rug dealers and giraffe statuaries, finally finding the beer aisle where we'd buy up schlafly no. 15 and bridgeport ipa. those were good days, followed by better days when the lukas liquor superstore moved in closer to the house.

so yeah, faith scored this world market gift card and wisely spent it on a build-your-own sixer as opposed to some lame audrey hepburn poster or wine bottle painting. the sixer she built consisted of

- abita purple haze
- sierra nevada pale ale
- new castle brown ale
- new belgium sunshine wheat
- new belgium fat tire
- woodchuck granny smith cider 

when i saw this sixer, built by faith, i instantaneously thought three separate thoughts all at once: 1) how can i score that sunshine wheat; 2) thank God, no shiners; 3) other than the woodchuck granny smith, this is a damn near perfect sixer for a Beer 101 class. personally, i'd replace the cider with a sam adams boston lager, for beginners and for the hops, but that's if i were teaching the course. admittedly, i struggled to restrain my beer geek from wolfing out on the porch there. the educational opportunities alone made me near spastic. 

faith opened the sunshine wheat. she liked it. i mentioned to her that i like the sunshine. "it's a good wheat," i believe i said. "you want it?" she said. "i ain't taking your beer," i said. "you said the purple haze was nice. maybe i'll sip that and you can have this," she said. so i scored the sunshine wheat. and i held it with two hands.

faith then opened the purple haze and passed it around the porch. abita received much higher praise than sam adams for fruitty wheatness. david said, "it tastes like candy." felix said, "it's alright." josh said, "i like that." the enthusiasm was overwhelming. 


andrew came home with a 24 pack of lone star cars, inspiring this poem:

my texas sized lawn chair held me cradled like a beach
beauty in sun worship bikini spread, though
it was night and our state is landlocked and porch
lights do not brazen me quite like the tiki tan 
salon. the sunshine wheat tasted good, tasted
like a supermodel tan on the insides of my 
taster buds and gullet and belching bullhorns.
then kilzer arrived, bellowing out of a large car,
an SUV screw the earth (i drive one, too). my 
sunshine wheat had two sips left. i felt myself 
leaning towards a zeigenbock, then i saw kilzer's
hand - his left hand, dominant or not, couldn't tell, 
he weren't working calligraphy or chop sticks or
the golden scraper award from dental hygiene school, 
so i can't be sure if were his dominant hand - holding
a suitcase labeled LONE STAR BEER. 24 separate 
drinking experiences canned like aunt faye's preserves
boxed up and bumping against kilzer's thigh - his
dominant thigh, the better looking of the two - and then, 
right there in one fail swoop, i felt my taste buds reach 
for the lone star, while my entire bodied being
seceded from the republic of the beach chair 
and followed andrew through the front door. 

- the hamster / april 26, 2009

*** me and all these white folks were at the house andrew shares with this guy's: ian c. nelson. please listen. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Not Shaken, Not Stirred

I picked up Quantum of Solace this weekend because i like Bond movies. I like Bond movies even though i am usually disappointed, or have been with the last few i have seen. Anyways, my wife and i have very different tastes in films; she wanting drama or something foriegn and I wanting action or cheesy comedy. This causes troubles, but luckily this time i put up a slight protest to Seven Pounds or Changeling which were Ashley's choices. She wasn't particularly intersted in pushing it so she gave me the go-aheah, and this was mostly because i let her get what she wants nearly every time and reserve ones i want for when she is gone babysitting or out of town for something school-related.

Before going home we went to Whole Foods to use a gift card. As i stood in front of the beer, which sat tempting me, i had to ask myself a question: What do i want to drink while watching Bond? I prefer IPA's as a general rule, but also find them a bit intense in comparison to other types. I initially wanted to get something easygoing. This was determined because i would be digesting action packed suspense and needed to wash it down with something light. But, then i see ODell's IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, and Boulevard Single Wide IPA.

Crap, i say to myself. How can i be ok with passing one of these up for a light ale or lager? Then it catches my eye....Bell's Oberon. Ok, i like this stuff. I look at the IPA's and then at the Oberon, then back at the Elephant kicking on the ODell's box, then at that friendly and cheery sun with bright contrast over a beautiful blue.

I thought about what my friends would think as i drove home with a cool 6er of Oberon and Daniel Craig looking back at me with a gun and a nasty semi grin.

The movie had action, sure. Bond did a girl or two, and that was to be expected. Did he crash cars? yes. Did he disregard other people and throw a friend's dead body into a trash can explaining to an attractive brunette "he wouldn't care." Oh, yes. Did i feel in the least bit bad about it? Hells no, because i didn't have to look down and say, "Shit, why didn't i get something less punchy and a bit more mellow?"

I was as happy as a baby, a little princess baby. And that Odell Elephant can kick up a storm if she wants to but I felt the sun of Oberon on my face and warmth in my belly.

Beer + Pole = Beer Poll

PS: The pole has moved up north and east. That means it is underneath the values section now.


You guys are kicking ass on here. Keep up the great stuff. I am more and more impressed with what i am seeing.

The Baker

Friday, April 10, 2009


the wife and i watched ALMOST FAMOUS last night. i like that film. it moves the ol' hamster here in the ticker-box and the tear-ducts. it makes me simultaneously want to jump off rooftops and land in the past, while also being very grateful that i survived pubescence the first time around. (i did have cancer during pubescence, so, you know, that wasn't a totally dramatic statement there.) so, yeah, fun film that ALMOST FAMOUS. i highly recommend it.

so what does this film have to do with beer? nothing really, except that during a few of the party scenes i realized that the actors in the film were sipping bottles of schlitz while i was, at that very moment in real life, sipping cans of schlitz in my living room scene. it was, like, whoa-man! i mean, i was totally drinking a schiltz and all these dudes in the film were totally drinking schlitz, and right then and there, i like knew: we could totally party. me and stillwater - we could party with some schlitz! 

seriously, i love me some two-hearted ale as much as the baker and more than prescription, but how often do you sip two-hearted and see the actors in the film you are watching grab up some two-hearted AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT? especially a film set in 1973? seriously, i'm thinking about becoming a rock-n-roll god. get your tickets early, people. i feel good things on this hamsterian horizon.

see you on tour, piz-unks! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


We needed to do a proper IPA shootout.  Not a “tasting”, but an actual shootout.  How is that done?  

Step 1: Gather some hopefully worthy brews.  Check.  We even managed to sneak in an elusive (for Kansas, anyway) Three Floyds Alpha King.  

Step 2: Gather some beer nerds to taste and subjectively judge.  The beer nerds part is easy. The four nerds for this shootout are all avid homebrewers… a combined 35 years of brewing experience, and a collective 5 trips to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.  The “subjectively judge” part would be the hard part.  For this shootout, we’ve rated in a very unorthodox manner, and it exposes some of our personal biases. We’re familiar with the traditional beer rating system, where you take things such as nose, mouthfeel, and appearance into consideration.  That’s all fine and dandy.  But for me (and the friends in this shootout), there’s really only ONE thing that matters most in the end… DID WE LIKE THIS BEER?  A really nasty beer could have a GREAT mouthfeel or appearance.  But why rate it high on those fronts if I think it sucks and I have no intention of buying it?  With that in mind, we decided on an arbitrary scale of 1 – 100.  100 is the best beer the world could ever produce (there were none given), and 1 is an undrinkable beer.  50 is the “utterly average” mark.  It’s that beer that just makes you wonder why they even bothered brewing it.  So typical, so average, it just doesn’t move you, but at least isn’t BAD.  Anything below the 50 mark gets on the verge of nasty, and anything above 50 is where you start to consider buying the stuff. 

Perhaps the most important part of this scale is that helps us get a handle on the overall “greatness” of the beer.  For instance, if a beer comes in 3rd place, that doesn’t tell us much.  Was it a distant third, or was it a photo finish, where you can’t go wrong with ANY of the top-3?  Our system helps quantify that. 

The 16 beers were blindly poured, so during the tasting, we only knew a beer by number, not name.  This removed any possible chance of bias for (or against) a brand name.  There are very valid concerns that a lot of hops kill the taste buds.  We also tried to combat this by having each of the four judges start with a different set of four beers.  This way, if later tastings tended to judge a beer more harshly (or favorably), it would all average out in the end.  Furthermore, we had water and crackers to help cleanse the palette between tastings.  Finally, this wasn’t a “run through once and rate” type of thing.  After the initial tasting, we went back to re-taste similarly scored beers to further hone the scores.  In the end, every one of us had ratings that were very accurate.  I then averaged all of the numbers to come up with the final results.  Some might surprise you.  Averaged scores are in parenthesis.  Here goes:


16th Place: Southampton IPA (45) – Unanimously voted the worst of the whole bunch, and by a pretty good margin.  I think it was the only beer in the tasting where every person either coughed, gasped, or had some type of negative comment about it.  All malt and devoid of any hop character.  I wouldn’t buy this for $1/6-pack, simply because I wouldn’t enjoy drinking ANY of it. 


15th Place: Three Floyds Alpha King (57.5) – This was a shocker, and I hope it doesn’t offend some of the Three Floyds faithful here.  Again, this was a totally blind taste test done by some knowledgeable beer nerds.  Overall, this one just didn’t have what it takes.  Some specific comments from the tasting… “Is this even an IPA?  Tastes like a British Pale.”  “All malt, no hops.”  “No hop smell, too dark, too malty.”  DISCLAIMER – This beer was 8 months old.  In my opinion, NOT old enough to noticeably detract from the flavor profile, but if anyone wants to mail me a fresh one, I’ll gladly taste it. 


14th Place: Bear Republic Extra Pale Ale (61.25) – Granted, it’s not even fair to throw a pale in with a bunch of IPAs and expect it to do well.  I think this one must have been on sale for it to make this group.  Regardless, the fact that this mere pale beat out two other IPA’s says something about how weak the last 2 places really were. 


13th Place: Pyramid Thunderhead IPA (66.25) – Not much to say about it.  Nothing offensive, but nothing that stood out as overly memorable.


12th Place: Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA (66.75) – Comes in at the lower end of our scale, but it’s worth noting that ONE judge ranked this as his #1 beer (giving it a 94).  Think about what a 94 does to the average of this beer.  By the other three judges, this one was given a score of 45, 60, and 68.  It was not well-received.  Why the division?  The taster who gave it a 94 admitted that he loved the nutty, malty taste.  To which everyone else responded something to the effect of, “We aren’t rating nut brown ales here!!!”  In the end, he admitted that as an IPA, this one was WAY off the mark, but as a tasty brown ale, pretty darn good.  Just don’t go into this one expecting hops. 


11th Place: Mojo IPA (67) – We’ve rated this one in the past, and our opinion hasn’t shifted too much.  Just doesn’t carry enough hop “BAM” for our tastes. 


10th Place: Mongoose IPA (67.5) – We had LOW hopes for this one, mainly because a bomber of it was only $2.99, but overall, it wasn’t a bad IPA.  “Crisp start, bad finish”.  “A solid, if average, IPA.”


9th Place: O’Fallon 5-Day IPA (70) – Here’s where we really start getting to some of the solid IPAs.  This one didn’t have many noteworthy comments, but all judged it fairly well.


8th Place: Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye (72.75) – Noted as having a “peppery” taste, perhaps due to the rye? 


6th Place (tie): Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA (73.75) “Great smell, excellent hop bitterness at the end.” “Clean color, crisp taste backs it up.”


6th Place (tie): Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA (73.75) – I’ll admit that I’ve always been biased AGAINST this company because I think the pencil-scratched labels make it look cheap.  However, they actually backed it up with a solid beer that I’d gladly buy again.


5th Place: Bridgeport IPA (74.5) – This was, for me, the gold standard of IPAs at one time.  I still think it’s a fantastic IPA.  It’s just been eclipsed in recent years by some real hop bombs.  Crisp, citrusy, drinkable.


4th Place: Boulevard Singlewide IPA (78.5) – This was my personal second-favorite of the shootout.  Stunning when I consider the fact that I’ve had this beer before, and was underwhelmed at the time.  But when blindly put side-by-side with some of the kings of IPA’s, this fared VERY well.  Universally liked.


3rd Place: Bell’s 2-Hearted Ale (83) – It’s all been said before on this one.  “Best smell of all beers here.” “Well balanced malt and hops.” 


2nd Place: Sierra Nevada Torpedo (85.75) – One taster’s hands-down favorite, while ranking 3rd – 5th by others.  Not a citrus bomb like the 2-Hearted Ale, but a DEFINITE hop bitterness that stands out as unique in this crowd… not an easy task when you look at the sheer number of competitors. 


1st Place: O’Dell IPA (90.25)  - Shocker here.  It won our last IPA shootout with only 3 other competitors.  Apparently, adding 12 more competitors can’t de-throne this king.  I realized on this tasting that I’ve mistakenly called the hops “grapefruity” in the past.  It’s not grapefruit.  It’s pine.  All pine.  One taster couldn’t keep his comments to himself when he stumbled upon this one… “Smelled like I’ve walked into a Nordic pine forest!” “Most unique beer of the day… tastes like a pine tree.” “Good color, aroma.” “A unique standout in this crowd.”


What I actually find great about these overall results is that the O’Dell IPA and the Sierra Nevada Torpedo couldn’t be more different.  This isn’t a “citrus hop” bias coming out, or anything like that.  These two beers simply manage to stand out dramatically from a lot of the others, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to do that in the crowded IPA field.  Feel free to talk amongst yourselves, berate us as judges, condemn our scoring system, or do anything else that helps you feel better about a beer that you wanted to score higher.  Most importantly, cheers to whatever beer you personally love.