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. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009


for the record: i fumbled my way through a 12-pack of schlitz, with the help of felix landry, this past weekend. and it was good. and it made me feel as classy and upper-crust as the schmoe in that pic up there. and i do not regret giving my tastebuds to schlitz or for asking the kiss-of-the-hops into my gullet. if you like corn, you'll like schlitz. if you like smooching slight hints of hops, you'll like schlitz. if you like purchasing 12 beers for the price of 6, you'll like schlitz. if the current economic depression is depressing you but you'd rather stop eating food than drinking lagers, then ask schlitz into your gullet as well. you will thank me and milwaukee.