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March 26, 2004

Rate The Stupor

How drunk does a man have to be before deciding that taking a nap in the currently occupied bed of the house he's busy burglarizing is a good idea?

Ted Kennedy Drunk? Boris Yeltsin Drunk? Glen Campbell Drunk?

I can recall two occasion in college where drunks wandered into my dorm room insisting it was theirs. All they wanted to do was pass out on the couch. None had the entreprenurial spirit Mr. Johnson showed in pocketing a few items first.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

Beer of The Night

Old Peculier. We're off to an ACC Tourney party. Look for the maudlin Bigwig upon our return.

Posted by Bigwig at 06:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

Note To Self

Try not to drink Scotch until three in the morning.

Posted by Bigwig at 08:56 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

Auchentoshan Select

No beer of the night tonight. After the Carolina/St. Louis game, no beer would do. SW is already on her second Bacardi Silver. She doesn't drink more than one at a sitting very often, but the second overtime drove her to it tonight.

No review of the Auchentoshan from me--I don't think my scotch palate is developed enough (i.e., I like everything), but the Tasting Room has one, and I see nothing in it to disagree with.

Glad I have it, though. SW has control of the remote now, so it appears the rest of our evening will be devoted to coverage of ice skating, unless Scotty or the Ngnat starts to stir.


Posted by Bigwig at 09:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

In Their Cups

What do the Australian police have against this poor woman?

photo via Yahoo

After all, she's just trying to earn a living.

Fans pay the women up to 70 dollars an hour to buy drinks so they can concentrate on the game but police fear the practice contributes to binge drinking and drunkenness.

The women first appeared at Test matches last year and police believe they will be offering their services at the one-dayers, which traditionally attract a more rowdy crowd than the five-day version of the game.

While authorities are powerless to ban the women outright, they can prosecute them if they are found to be serving alcohol to anyone who is intoxicated.

Binge drinking and drunkenness are a function of the drinker, not the ease of access to the drink. Ban the beer wenches, and those who patronized them will buy two or three beers at a go rather than make extra trips. They'll get just as drunk, and just as disruptive. Banning beer wenches restricts the entrepreneurial spirit, not drunkeness.

Update: Another out-of work wench

Posted by Bigwig at 11:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004

Have A Jumbo Shrimp

The staff at All About Beer magazine creates a new oxymoron for the world of Beer, the low-carb beer taste test.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Old Jubilation Ale

Beer of the night.

Old Jubilation is one a class of assorted seasonal beer types called "Winter Warmers". They tend to be richer, darker and spicier than beers brewed for sunnier times, and as a class are becoming more and more a part of the American beer drinkers winter.

Of course in other countries, England in particular, winter warmers have been around for ages.

Traditionally, winter warmers have been hearty, slow-sipping English-style ales; guzzling them would be a travesty.

They are released for a limited time during the winter months, primarily to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. But the style has expanded, and today lagers as well as ales qualify as winter warmers.

A Winter Warmer can range from a German double bock to an American barleywine and everything in between, but the most frequent distinguishing characteristics include a combination of the following: brown to deep copper to black opaque in color; increased alcohol content resulting in a more warming effect; and a myriad of fruits, spices or other ingredients added during production.

The recipes and flavor of some seasonal beers change from year to year but retain the same name, such as Anchor Brewing Co.'s trend-setting Our Special Ale. Adored by beer lovers since its introduction in 1975, Our Special Ale is released exclusively during the week of Thanksgiving and remains available only through mid-January.

Holiday beers are usually available during a narrow window of time because most beer drinkers, though not most connoisseurs, consider the style outdated after New Year's, when holiday gift giving and celebrating wind down.

Nevertheless, these beers are often good candidates for laying down for future tastings because of their high alcohol content. Some veteran beer collectors lay down holiday beers for vertical tastings to compare, in one sitting, variations of the same beer from several years past.

It's not unusual to find fruit flavors in winter warmers. Some popular fruits that brewers add are cranberries, oranges, raspberries and cherries. Adding to the warm glow of the Christmas spirit, some beers have one or two spices in them while others may include a wide array of holiday or pumpkin spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and even coriander.

Old Jubilation is produced by Boulder Colorado's Avery Brewery, whose North Carolina legal (under 6% abv) beers have just started appearing in NC. There's a fair variety available here, but any North Carolinian desiring a taste of the legendary Reverend or Hog Heaven brew will have to purchase them online.

The biggest seller of the Avery line in NC at the moment, and thus the place where you have the best chance of finding them at, is Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte. Mike had at least 4 cases of the Jubilation available when I left yesterday--he's planning on cellaring whatever doesn't get sold during the season.

I don't really have a cellaring capacity here at House Hraka, though I suppose I could stick a bottle or two into the crawlspace under the house. Then I could drive the wife nuts by offering to give visitors a tour of "the beer cellar"

"You'd love to see it? Great! Let me just go get the kneepads and miner's light."

According to what I've read, cellaring the Old Jubilation does go quite a ways towards mellowing the strong hop note found in a younger bottle. The hops do have a way of overpowering the more subtle flavors present in the beer, which included (for me) brown sugar and orange peel, with a little butter toffee thrown in for good measure.

As for the other qualities, the head is a whitish gray, while the body of the brew is mahogany in nature, as damn near every review of the Old Jubilation takes great pains to point out.

Clear dark mahogany body...
Dark ruby mahogany color....
Dark mahogany color....
Deep mahogany brew...
some mahogany highlights...
a gorgeous mahogany hue...
deep rich red mahogany hue...
with the kind of deep mahogany hues usually seen only in wood-paneled offices of top-dollar law firms...

Why, a man would have to be a fool to challenge that weight of opinion with a simple "Dark Brown."

The Old Jube mouthfeel to me is somewhat on the thin side, though of all the qualities one is supposed to judge a beer by, I am most suspicious of the one called "mouthfeel."* I've had many a beer with a supposedly "thick" mouthfeel, and they have yet to reproduce the consistency of Elmer's glue.

Now there's a thick mouthfeel.

*What I need to do is set up a tasting for myself, and compare a known thick beer with a known thin, and perhaps a known medium. Of course, to do it right, I'd really need two of each type.

And some peanuts, company and a pack of smokes. Which means that it would end like all my other taste tests, with me saying "The hell with it" three beers into the test.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

Wine Of The Night

Those of you who buy your wine based on how pretty the bottle is should try and local the 2002 Moselland ArsVitis Riesling. I cannot locate a .gif or .jpeg that does the picture credit, but essentially the vinter has painted a compressed image of the Mosel Valley on the rear of the bottle in such a way that it can only be viewed from the proper perspective when the bottle is full. I bought one for the Sainted Wife a day or so ago, and she absolutely fell in love with it--so much so that we filled then bottle back up wilth water after the wine within was consumed.

I'm a sucker for good packaging, which is why I bought the Moselland instead of her normal Riesling to begin with, but whoever thought of this is some sort of marketing savant.

As for the wine itself, it's a typical Riesling, sweet and flowery. Those who prefer dry whites will be repelled by it--blush drinkers will probably go for the style in a big way. I don't pretend to know anything about wine, beer being my area of expertise, but I downed two glasses without complaint.

Posted by Bigwig at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

Where's The Penguin?

Why yes, I will pimp out my personal information for cloth. Will you?

Posted by Bigwig at 10:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 11, 2003

Immort Ale

Beer of The Night

Immort Ale. Immortal.

Get it? Get it?

Now that the de rigueur recognition of the pun is over with, we can get down to business. And get down to business we will. I've already accidentally deleted this post once, so there will be no mucking about with non-business related items.

Not that the beer had anything to do with the fumble-fingeredness that caused the accidental deletion, I can assure you.


First item on the agenda: What's with the link above? Am I getting a cut of sales now? Have sold out to the man?

Don't I wish. No, I gave Randalls the link rather than Dogfish Head for two reasons. One, Dogfish Head lists all their brews on one page rather than breaking them out into separate sections. I find this practice to be annoying, as the words "Scroll down" beside a link are to me tantamount to saying "Content difficult to locate. Don't you have better things to do?"

Secondly, Randall's bothers to put a picture of the bottle up for all to see, something that Dogfish also did not bother its pretty little head about. Randall's is relatively cheap, at least for an online alcohol retailer, and a damned fast shipper, beating Liquid Solutions by two weeks in the head to head competition I ran prior to the fishing trip. I figure that deserves a link. Besides, something has to go up above. I get hives when I screw with my established patterns.

Second agenda item: Information dump.

The Immortal Ale is a type of beer that most people have not even heard of, much less sampled--the barleywine, so named because it is ostensibly beer brewed to the strength of wine. I've only tasted two that I recall--this one, and Avery's Hog Heaven. Barleywines belong in the Ale family, at the (very) strong end of the spectrum.

Barleywines tend to start out at ten to eleven percent alcohol by volume and move up from there. Essentially, one bottle of Immortal Ale, at 11% abv, is the drinking equivalent of two normal beers. It's the price equivalent of three or four, so you don't have to worry about your teenagers getting their hands on them anytime soon.

There are two types of barleywines; English and American, classified by the national origin of the hops used to brew them. English barleywines use English hops, and American barleywines use, surprise, American hops.

Aside from the hops, there is not a great deal of difference between the two, as they are both ...tawny copper to dark brown in color. They have full body and high residual malty sweetness. The complexity of alcohols and fruity-ester characters are often high...

American barleywines tend to be somewhat hoppier as well, reflecting the current American mania for tossing extra hops at anything that moves.

Tres Agendio Itemeles: The Tashte, er, Taste.

Note to self: One bottle is plenty when reviewing this beer. Two may be overkill. Also, check Spanish translation.

I can say this for the Immortal Ale. It goes really, really well with butter-fried poundcake.

Yes, butter-fried poundcake. It's delicious. Melt, oh, about a half of a stick of butter in a saucepan. Soak both sides of a slice of poundcake in it, then fry until the yellow body of the cake is covered in a delicate brown lace. Serve immediately. Hell, eat it straight out of the pan. That way none of the butter goes to waste.

Take that, Garrett.

The Immort is, fittingly enough, like a Frankenstein's monster version of a brown ale; sweet, cobbled together out of seemingly unmatched parts, strong as hell, and not something to leave alone with a little girl.

For all that, it is nevertheless a live one (It's alive!), with a thin malty sweetness atop distinctly bitter, hoppy notes. There is an initial rush of maple, vanilla and nutmeg flavors fading to a tannic astringency, which is probably the oak note mentioned on the label.

After a couple of the Immort Ales, it's very easy to see why the barleywines are classed as winter warmers. A couple of these, and joining the Polar Bear Club would be simplicity itself.

Update: Another beer of the night, The Double Bastard

The collected Hraka beer posts may be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2003

Come Set A Spell. Take Your Shoes Off

The Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout Blogger Beer Blast starts tonight at 10:00 pm EST. Join myself and the other hosts in the AIM chat room, "Triple B" or IM one of the following screen names for an invite; naturesid, dezcoisas, hokietryptophan, or philosoblog.

If you haven't got a bottle of the Worldwide Stout, bring what you have, tell us about it.

People with lives......well, it's doubtful you're reading this to begin with.

Update: I considered posting the two and one-half hour transcript from the BBB, but figured it should remain private.

No, I won't tell you why. And it has nothing to do with the warm glow Deb kept mentioning.

Posted by Bigwig at 09:32 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 05, 2003

A Norwegian Christmas Carol

We wish you a Merry Christmas.
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
Cause we're chock full of beer!

Posted by Bigwig at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

40 Pints Of Wallop A Day Will Keep Away The Quacks

The Blogger Beer Bash has gained another host, Jim Ryan of the late, lamented Philosoblog. We're still on for 10 pm EST Saturday night--surely most of you have nothing better planned, right?

I'll post the name of chat room here just before 10 on Saturday, but unless AIM has some functionality I've not yet discovered attendees will need to be invited to the chat before they can join. Leave your AIM handle in the comments below, or IM "naturesid" for an invite come the night.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:14 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 02, 2003

The Blogger Beer Blast

JOIN myself and Deb of Must Be Nice this coming Saturday night, December 6th at 10 o'clock for the very first "Blogger Beer Bash," where we will be partaking of and reviewing one of the strongest beers in the world, Dogfish Worldwide Stout. The 2003 DW Stout comes in at a staggering 18.8% abv, and is considered by the brewer to be the best of the bunch so far.

GAZE in wonderment as our typing skills degrade with each sip, until we pass out face down on the keyboard!

SHUDDER in pained empathy as you think "There but for the Grace of God Go I!"

I'll be opening a AIM chatroom for the event--details on how to join will be posted at Hraka. If you'd like to join the official review team, you'll need your own bottle of Dogfish Worldwide Stout, a brew which is not only hard to find, as Deb can attest, but nigh impossible to ship. If you do happen to possess a bottle of the potent elixer and wish to, not only drink it in the company of Internet strangers, but talk about drinking it, let me know, and I'll add you to the list.

Those without the magical stout are also welcome. Bring a beer of your choice and let us know what you think of it. If enough people participate, we may make this a regular event. If no one shows other than Deb and I, we'll pretend a lot of people showed up, then never mention again.

Fair enough?

Posted by Bigwig at 11:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 29, 2003

Stocking Up For The Holidays

Yakima Brewing is selling 500,00 shares of stock in order to boost production of Grant's Mandarin Hefeweizen.

The company has been unable to keep up with consumer demand but hopes raising capital will enable it to increase production.

Mandarin is available in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Arizona and Florida in bottles and on draft.

Yakima Brewing also wants to expand the line to more of the 20 to 25 states where its beers are now sold.

"We felt like it was really important to us to not just get the product out into a few states, but to release it nationally so no one (scooped) us," said Paul Brown, an officer and director of the company.

As a preferred stock, shares will sell for $1 each and pay a 7.75 percent semiannual dividend, Brown said. Investors in Yakima Brewing would have the option to convert their preferred shares to common stock shares in that company or its parent company.

At a dollar per, shares will cheaper than the beer.

Posted by Bigwig at 02:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 28, 2003

Cheap Beer

Well, relatively cheap.

Since we're at the in-laws in Rock Hill for at least some part of the Thanksgiving weekend, having driven here last night after dining with the Maenads, I stopped by Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte to pick up a couple of bottles of lambic for the upcoming neighborhood Christmas party.

Yes, I realize that other beers would be more appropriate for a winter celebration; The Samuel Smith's 2004 Winter Welcome Ale, for instance, or the Mahr's Christmas Bock. I would take one of those, were I going to a party with attendees more familiar with the genre.

But they are not. I've always thought lambics are a good introduction to what beer can be, instead of what most Americans think it is, so they are party-bound by default.

I priced the bottles a couple of weeks ago, during my first visit to Brawley's, and was very pleased--so pleased, in fact, that I feared there would be none left today. I use the Lindeman's lambics as shorthand for a couple of things. For one, their brews appear to be the most widespread Belgian beer aside from Hoegaarden in the Southeast--certainly it's the most widespread lambic, so it should be easy to find. A beer store without a Lindeman's is almost certainly not going to have much else in the way of interest. Secondly, the price of one can be used as a shorthand for the cost of the rest of the beer in the shop.

For instance, the last Whole Foods I patronized priced a 330ml bottle at $9.49, which is hellaciously expensive unless one happens to be in New York, where a bottle can go for upwards of thirteen dollars. At Harris Teeter, on the other hand, one can take a 330ml Lindemans home for $5.99. You can get one for the same price at Total Wines. For the 330ml, Frugal MacDougals has the best price I've seen at $5.49, making that store the cheapest of the big boys.

Liquid Solutions prices them at $6.05 per 330ml. Internet wines offers the same size for $6.25. The Beer Geek will sell you one for $5.99, but shipping from all three online shops runs at something around a dollar per bottle, so the price per bottle there is misleading.

Brawley's is the hands down champion, though, offering the harder to find 750 milliliter bottles for just $7.99. Total Wines comes close, pricing their 750ml lambics at $8.99. Both of those are jaw-dropping low prices for the big Lindeman's, running 4 to 8 dollars less than what other stores charge. The other beer store in southern Charlotte (all are within a mile of each other, which is extremely convenient for me, if a bit nerve-racking for the owners of the shops), Mike's Discount Beverages, doesn't sell the 750ml bottles. You can pick up the 330ml for $7.99--comparable to most normal stores, but an almost certain loser in the area they happen to be in.

Posted by Bigwig at 06:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 26, 2003

Just In Case Someone is Wondering What to Get Me

An Atkins and beer stocking stuffer.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 25, 2003

The Day the Bagpipes Died

A blind taste-test in Canada has discovered that the world's best tasting Scotch whiskey is a bottle of 20-year-old Nikka Yoichi, distilled in Hokkaido, Japan.

Posted by Bigwig at 03:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

Bad State OF Gruntledness reviews the Monty Python Holy Grail Ale.

Took the Holy Grail Ale with us on the 2002 fishing trip. The night we drank it was the last time we let Kehaar handle firearms.

Posted by Bigwig at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 22, 2003

Pendle Witches Brew

Beer of the Night

As with the Red MacGregor, the Pendle Witches Brew is something of a historical homage, though to a coven rather than a man.

As with all proper covens, the Pendle witches of Lancashire were thirteen in number. Eleven of them hung, one died in prison, and one got off relatively scott-free, being sentenced only to stand in pillory for four market days before being imprisoned for a year.

The eleven who died were convicted primarily due to the (ostensibly) freely given confessions of four of the main witches; Alizon Device, Elizabeth Southerns, Anne Whittle and James Device.

Their confessor, Thomas Potts, published a book detailing the confessions soon after the trial, The Wonderfull Discouerie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, beginning a long and honorable tradition of making money off the dead unfortunates that eventually came to include songs, a play, an opera, and at least two novels, as well as the beer. Technically, Good Omens, the best-selling fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, belongs to this tradition, as two of the book's main characters, Anathema Device and Agnes Nutter, are not only witches, but witches with the same surnames as two of those executed in 1612.

Neil Gaiman is returning to the time and the theme with 1602; it will be interesting to see if he mines the Pendle story for more details.

What does the above have to do with beer? Not much, though you can be certain all of the Pendle witches drank beer. Beer was far better for you than the water was, back in the 1600s, thanks to the boiling of the wort required to produce it.

And who's ever heard of a witch without a wort?

Moorhouse's Brewery, the producer of the Pendle Witches Brew, wasn't around when the witches themselves were, having been first established in 1865. For most of its history the brewery was devoted to making low alcohol content beers for temperance halls and the Muslim market.

Several owners since, the present incumbent, also a local businessman, added the refinement of a "premium brand": Pendle Witches' Brew. The name is owed to the 19 alleged witches tried at Lancaster Castle in 1612, ten of them sent to the gallows.

Although the ladies were said to have haunted the nearby Pendle Hill on Midsummer's Night, their brew has become more strongly associated with Halloween. During October, its sales triple and it has something of a cult following.

The Witches Brew bills itself as a "a pale brown ale with a malty aftertaste." It's an odd appellation, in that pale ales and brown ales are significantly different beer types. Brown ales are dominated by malt and have a characteristic sweetness. Pale ales are defined by the hop, which gives them a dryer taste and a citrusy bitterness. There are other "pale brown ales" to be found, though since all the others I've seen originate in the U.K., it may be a style peculiar to the British.

The Witches Brew pour puts a small, bright white head atop a red-gold body. The ale is only mildly carbonated, so the initial froth disappears rather quickly. It solves the hoppy/sweet conundrum by having the two flavors appear consequentially rather than in tandem. The initial tastes are sweet, mango and honeydew melon with a touch of brown sugar. It finishes with a muted and fizzy hop note, which I suppose must be the "malty aftertaste" the brew claims, with none of the citrus overtones one would expect in a true pale ale. It's a fairly straightforward, simple beer, with an almost oily mouthfeel, and the switchover from malt to hop, though not as pronounced as the marketing would have one believe, is a pleasant experience nonetheless.

The Pendle Witches brews is imported to the U.S by Legends, Ltd., and at 5.1 abv, should be available in most states. Legends has a distributor list if you need help finding it. Internet buyers will find it at the ever-reliable Liquid Solutions, as well as at the Hive & Vine, Euro-Beer, and the BeerNetwork.

Posted by Bigwig at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

Holiday Lubricants

Remember, come Turkey Day, that if you want a truly traditional meal, then you'll need a big mug of beer to go with the stuffing and cranberries.

...William Bradford, who would later become governor of Massachusetts, recorded in his journal, "[A]fter we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution -- to go presently ashore again and to take a better view of the two places which we thought most fitting for us; for we could not now take much time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer, and it now being the 19th of December."

Beer writers love to quote the eight words that focus on the central need for beer, but that misses the urgency that attended this decision. The Pilgrims' departure from England had been delayed, so it was late in the year and getting cold as they surveyed the American shore; passengers weren't well and supplies were dwindling -- and, yes, the beer was running low.

Best beers for the heavy meal? Marzens and Oktoberfests go well with turkey, according to Michael Jackson. No, not that one. Red Belgian Ales and fruit beers might also do well according to this article, and the BeerAdvocate has a course by course selection of brews.

Our family Thanksgiving is not under my control this year, so I expect I'll be drinking wine. Think of me when downing your Rare Vos.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

The Rare Old Mountain Dew

Got another fishing trip coming up, for striped bass at Cape Hatteras in the middle of January. It'll be cold, so I've been thinking about the warm alcoholic drinks as opposed to cold beer--though I'm sure beer will find its way there as well.

The first drink to mind was Irish coffee. I've got no problem with that, but have no idea which Irish whiskey to buy. Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, or something cheap, since it's just going to be mixed with coffee?

For that matter, is there a coffee that's best for the drink?

Any other suggestions for a winter warmer that can stand up to the rigors of Cape Point in the middle of January are also welcome.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

Mister Answer Man Decodes Your Beer Labels

A question from Fred, of Fragments Fame.

My dear wife is not as cheap as her beer-imbibing hubby and she brought home a local microbrew called New River Pale Ale. It has a distinctive grapefruity aftertaste. The only listed ingredient that might account for that (unless they use some way-weird hops) is something called "amarilla". Any idea what that is? It doesn't google well. My wife wondered if it might be "armadillo". Geez, I hope not.

A distinctly "grapefruity aftertaste" assuming that one is referring to member of the Hesperidium* rather than a homosexual berry, is a direct result of the type of hop used in brewing the beer.

In the New River Pale Ale, the hoppy grapefruit tones are a reflection of the amarillo (a.ka. Amarillo Gold) hops used by the brewer, Old Dominion.

I suspect "amarilla" is a label typo. As at least one of the links above spells it "Amerillo", the label makers can perhaps be forgiven the oversight. I can't find a picture of the hop leaf on the web, but I suspect it is so named for its appearance, "Amarillo" being Spanish for "yellow." It's a domestic hop, grown in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.

Amarillo hops are also used in the Alaskan Brewing Company's Winter Ale and Old Growth Barleywines, Yakima Brewing's Lazy Days, and Rogue Brewery's Yellow Snow Ale, so you might like to try one of those if you like the New River Pale.

*Other types of fruit include Drupes, the aforementioned Berries, and Pomes, Joyce Kilmer's favorite type of fruit, as he made clear in the precursor to his famous Trees.


I think that I shall never share
A pome as lovely as a pear

A fruit that when a hungry mouth is prest
'Gainst its smooth sweet flowing breast;

Sustains a man throughout the day,
Gives him time and strength to pray;

A pome that may in Summer wear
Naught but the sun's sweet glare;

Upon whose bosom bugs have played;
Where ants have marched in fierce array.

Pomes are made by God, you see,
So men may pluck them, from a tree.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 15, 2003

The Red MacGregor

Beer of the Night

THE Red MacGregor is of course Rob Roy, the Scottish cattle rustler and subject of overly romanticized novels and movies. One would suppose that's him on the label, but since no one actually comes out and says "Yes, we're using the outlaw laird himself to sell ale," one would also suppose there's no way to tell for sure.

Ha! I say. Ha! Take a gander at the shield on the label again, and compare it to this one, as well as to the one wielded by his memorial statue. Rob Roy's actual sword does differ from the one above, but I'll put that down to the difficulties of detailing a basket hilt at such a small level, and state confidently that the relative of Groundskeeper Willie pictured above is none other than the esteemed Mister Roy.

The Red MacGregor ale is brewed by the Orkney Brewery, which is of course nowhere near where the real Red MacGregor plied his trade, but they appear to be nice people nonetheless. I had considered another of the brewery's offerings, the Skullsplitter for the fall fishing trip, but it was only available over the net, and thus prohibitively expensive. I hadn't been able to find any of the lesser abv Orkney brews locally, so the brewery's entire line of product seemed likely to remain unknown to me for the indefinite future.

Then I walked into Brawley's Beverage on Park Road in Charlotte and found not only the Red MacGregor, but Orkney's Dark Island Ale and Dragonhead Stout as well. Devoted Hraka beer readers ( A shout out to Mom, Father O'Toole and the Bush twins should probably occur here) will remember Brawley's as half of the subject in an August Charlotte Observer story on dueling Park Road beverage stores (registration may be required if the link does not work, try the combination, it worked for me.)

I also found Michael Brawley, the Rugby scrum sized owner of the shop, and a man who didn't mind talking beer at all, much to the dismay of my father-in-law, a devoted Scotch man, and the Sainted wife, both of whom were hoping I would get in, get my damn weird beer, and get out. Mike pacified G-daddy with a gratis cup of Counter Culture coffee's finest, likely gaining himself a java customer in the process, and did the same for the the wife with some sort of pinkish-purple non-alcoholic wine cooler, the name of which I have sadly forgotten. For what it was, it was pretty good. It's also made in N.C. if I remember correctly--I'll call and get the name tomorrow.

To say Mike had a nice touch with the clientele would be something of an understatement. He unfailing pointed out a number of the brews I had taken on the fishing trip, confirming, at least to me, my excellent taste when it comes to evaluating the fruit of the barley. He also had the Harviestoun brewery's Old Engine Oil in stock, and had just sold out of their Bitter & Twisted the night before.

Which turned out well for me, as I can't resist buying up the B&T whenever I run across it, and there were other brews a-calling. I'll still go to the Frugal MacDougal's when I come to visit the in-laws, but I'll go to Brawley's first.

I did actually get around to drinking the Red MacGregor, as opposed to talking about it, buying it, and researching it on the web. It pours a a nice thick, slowly-subsiding head, off-white with a very light orange touch, atop a deep brown-orange body, the color of clover honey. Not much of a nose to it, but then I don't have much of a sense of smell to begin with. There was definitely a sweet, malty essence being given off by the brew, a note confirmed by the first taste of the MacGregor. Carbonation was on the low side after the pour, resulting in a thinnish mouthfeel but giving it a a smooth, smooth drinkability.

The biggest surprise to the Red MacGregor, though by no means an unwelcome one, was the smoky, rauchbier like tone the brew had to it. I hadn't expected that note at all--it gave the tastebuds quite a throw.

The buds, professionals that they are, did eventually rally enough to detect hints of vanilla and caramel in the mix, as well as a tiny citrus tang of hops, and a touch of plumcot.

Yes, plumcot. No, I'm not being pretentious. I don't care what you think. They're my tastebuds, and I trust them.

If you're looking to buy Red MacGregor on the Net, try, Liquid Solutions, or The Tryst.

You can also try calling the American importer of the Orkney Brews, Legends, Ltd, who can probably put you in touch with a local outlet.

But if you're near Charlotte, go see Mike.

For more Hraka ruminations on beer, go here.

Update: The pinkish-purple stuff was Pangle Heimers Sparkling Gourmet Blush

Posted by Bigwig at 05:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

Mash House Ravishing Red

Beer of the Night

Two brews that I had not expected to be beach alcohol contenders on the fishing trip turned out to be quite outstanding at combating the twin evils of bait slime and bottle drinking, even though they were neither lagers nor ciders. One was the Duchesse de Bourgogne, a sour Belgian red ale quite reminiscent of one of my all time favorites, Rodenbach. It was an incredibly refreshing brew, so much so that I nearly froze my hands off pawing through the gigantic 52 gallon beer cooler in the back of the truck searching for the last one.

The other was also a red, though one brewed in the Irish red style as opposed to the Belgian--Ravishing Red, produced by a Fayetteville N.C. brewpub, The Mash House.

As the Duchess is only available to me over the Net, and thus hideously expensive, I'll wait until next year before I taste it again. The Ravishing Red, on the other hand, is just a grocery store trip away, so when the Ngnat and I were sent thither tonight for mustard and milk I picked up a six-pack of R.R. as well, curious to see if it held up as well in front of the television as it did in front of Ocracoke Inlet.

And, though it is certainly the same beer, it did not. Not that it's a bad brew by any stretch of the imagination--I'll happily drink all six over the few days, but it doesn't seem as complex a beer as it did upon first taste. I'll have to experiment a bit with the rest, but for now it's one of the few beers I've run across that tastes better when drunk from the bottle.

I think this peculiarity is due almost entirely to the unique aroma of the brew, like a newly opened box of golden raisins, one given to it by the Horizon hops the Mash House uses in the brewing process. The Horizon hop is known for its aromatic qualites, a reputation that it easily lives up to here. But the aroma of the Ravishing Red promises more than it delivers.

It's a pretty brew, pouring a medium-sized and quickly evaporating dirty white head on top of a deep, burnt honey orange body. There's a thinnish, carbonated mouthfeel that hardened my initial feeling that the Red is meant for a lager drinker who's feeling a bit adventuresome--not that there's anything wrong with that. There's a bare malty sweetness, with little to no hop bite. That's to be expected in a 7 ibu beer, though. Some intimations of cantelope in the sweetness, and a toasty note reminiscent of burnt sugar. But that was about it, for me. Not a bad brew, but not the great beer I thought it to be two weeks ago.

It'll make the trip next year, though. Based on my experiences with red ales on the beach this year, It will have a more varied company within that style joining it in the giant cooler.

Posted by Bigwig at 09:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2003

Old Growler

Beer of the Night

The beer of the night was supposed to have been the Augustinian Ale, a bottle conditioned ale produced by the brewery that also makes Old Growler, Nethergate, but by the time I looked up from the evening's surfing the contents of the pint in front of me had vanished.

I suspect the Ngnat. She's been asking for tastes lately, often enough that it's plain she's decided that the best tactic in her quest for beer is to try and wear the old man down with repeated requests.

"Can I have some be-ah, Daddee?"

No, honey, you're not old enough.

Five minutes later.

"Can I have some be-ah, Daddee?"

No, not until you're as old as your uncle was when our daddy gave him beer.

"How old is that?"

Seven, I think. Older than you are now, anyway.

Five minutes later.

"Can I have some be-ah, Daddee?"

Go ask your mother.

I'm tempted to give her a little single malt Glenmorangie in the guise of beer the next time she asks. That should put an end to her incessant requests for my alcohol for quite a good while.

It might also have a few repecussions on the maternal side, so maybe I'll save that strategem for a rainy day.

Can't think of a better way to put a kid off alcohol, though. To this day her Uncle Kehaar isn't much of a beer drinker, and when he does drink, it's that horrible low carb crap.

It's sad, really, how parental mistakes echo down through the years.

Kehhar is the black sheep of the family, though. Given the the genes that went into the making of Ngnat from both sides of the family, she'd knock back the neat whiskey (Yes, neat. Only an ass would put ice in his child's scotch), then comment on how recognizable the distinctive esters of the '91 peat harvest were in this particular usquebaugh.

"Reallee a distintif compement to da shewwy wood bawwells, Daddee."

I will give her beer eventually, and wine, though maybe not whiskey, long before she's of legal age in the hope that familiarizing her with them will head off some of the behavioral insanity associated with alcohol and the late teenage years that plagues American society. I suspect that the vast majority of alcohol related incidents on college campuses stem from kids reacting against harsh restrictions by drinking too much too fast, in places unobserved by adults, because those are the only places where they can drink.

Kinds need to learn to handle alcohol just as they need to learn to handle a car, yet as a society we've outlawed that possibility. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather my daughter have her first few beers in the company of boys somewhere where I can watch the both of them rather than in a car at the end of a dirt road where there's no one else around.

And no, I'm not talking about buying her and her friends a keg. That grew out of the twisted impulse of an aging woman to try and be pals with her teenage charge and his friends. I'm not quite that insecure, and I expect I'll have no desire to pal around with any of Ngnat's boyfriends. Ideally I would be a Grand Moff Tarkin to their Alderaan, if you get my drift.

Anyway, as I stated above, the beer of the night is Nethergate Brewery's Old Growler Traditional English Porter, which is.............gone.

Damn that child.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 03, 2003

Tales To Make You Shrivel


An enraged Ethiopian mother of five will be tried for the murder of her husband who died after she crushed his testicles in a fight, police told the state-run Ethiopian News Agency.

Police said on Friday the man was so embarrassed after the incident that he declined to seek treatment for the injury, and died days later.

"Following a disagreement over the husband's spending habits, his wife refused to give him his dinner and also decided to sleep alone," police in the western region of Wellega said.

"The husband was so angered by this affront by his wife that he tried to beat her. In the melee that followed, the wife grabbed and twisted his testicles causing serious damage."

Police said the unnamed woman, a resident of Wayu-Tuka district in Wellega, had had several arguments with her husband about the amount of money he spent on booze.

That's just what I want to read after blowing $20 on a beer festival ticket. Think I'll pick up my socks tonight.

Come on baby let's do the twist
Come on baby let's do the twist
Take me by my little sac and go like this
Ee-oh twist baby baby twist
Oooh-yeah just like this
Come on little miss and do the twist

Posted by Bigwig at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mmmmmmmm, Beer.

If you're anywhere near the Triangle tomorrow, the 8th annual World Beer festival is being held at the old Durham Athletic Park. There are two sessions, 12-4 and 6-10. Kehaar, Jawbreaker, The Oxymoronic Scotsman and I are going to the 6-10, where we attempt to sample all of the over 300 beers available.

Actually, I tell a lie. I shan't be sampling anything from the Anheuser-Busch table, and as much as I like the Top of the Hill beers, I've been drinking them all summer. Each sample is about 2 ounces, so lets say there are just 300 beers available. That's 600 ounces, which works out to the equivalent of.....crap....50 beers.

Maybe I'd better start working on a list of what I want more than anything else, and plan on drinking those.

Ok, So I made the list, based on combination of what I want and what I've not had before. I'm anal that way, though only with beer and other male oriented activities, which annoys the wife no end. She seems to think a man who can enter beers into a database and then cross reference them by brewery, style and country should also be able to pick his socks up off the floor.

That's just crazy talk.

US Beers
Flying Dog Brewery, Road Dog Scottish Porter
Baltimore Brewing Company, Degroens Marzen
Baltimore Brewing Company, Degroens Weizen
Baltimore Brewing Company, Degroens Dunkles
Baltimore Brewing Company, Degroens Pils
Allagash Brewing Company, Allagash White
Allagash Brewing Company, Allagash Speciale
French Broad River Brewery, Märzen Amber Lager
French Broad River Brewery, Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale
French Broad River Brewery, Laurel Country White Beer
Desi's Dew Meadery, Desi's Wild Flower Sparkling Mead
Desi's Dew Meadery, Desi's Raspberry Sparkling Mead
Desi's Dew Meadery, Desi's Jack's Blackberry Mead
Weeping Radish Brewery, Black Radish
Ham's Restaurant & Brewhouse, Pamlico Pilsner
Outer Banks Brewing Station, Kolsch
Outer Banks Brewing Station, Lemon Grass Wheat
Outer Banks Brewing Station, Stout
Capitol City Brewing, Capital Kolsch
The Mash House, The Mash House Porter
The Mash House, Mash House Oktoberfest

Austria, Brauerei Hirt GMBH, Hirter Privat Pils
Belgium, Brouwerij DeKoninck, DeKoninck Ale
Belgium, Moortgaat Brouwerij , Maredsous 6
Belgium, Cantillon Brouwerij, Rose De Gambrinus
Bulgaria, Pivovaren Zavod Zagorka, Zagorka
Croatia, Karlovaċka Pivovara, Karlovacko
Czech Republic, Samson Brewery, Crystal Diplomat
Czech Republic, Pivovar Klaster, Klaster Lager
Czech Republic, Pivovar Klaster, Klaster Dark
Czech Republic, Budejovicky Budvar N.P., Czechvar Budvar
Czech Republic, Mestansky Pivovar, Rebel
Germany, Karlsburg Brauerei, Rhinebecker Extra
Germany, Karlsburg Brauerei, Heller Hoch Brau
Lithuania, Kalnapilis Brewery, Kalnapilis
Poland, Okocim brewery, Okocim Beer
Scotland, Orkney Brewery, Dark Island
Scotland, Orkney Brewery, Red MacGregor
Slovakia, Pivovar Zlaty Bazant, Golden Pheasant
UK, The Old Brewery, Melbourne Cherry
UK, The Old Brewery, Samuel Smith Organic Ale
UK, Hop Back Brewery, Hop Back Summer Lightning

First time I've seen meads offered, so that should be interesting. The Rose De Gambrinus stand will be the one that I'm most likely to hang out in front of , annoying the server with worshipful Spongebob looks until it runs dry. It'll be interesting to see how many of the above get crossed off before I say the hell with it and just start working the stands nearest to me.

Posted by Bigwig at 04:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

Haiku Review: Romulan Ale

Miller Lite
A dark blue in hue.
Dammit, Jim.

Late Update

A blue log
Floating serenely
In the bowl

Posted by Bigwig at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2003

Fishing Trip Winners

There's still 30 minutes left until the polls close, but based on the assumption that there's not going to be a great wave of last minute voters I'm going to go ahead and list the winners that will be going on the October fishing trip.

Winner of the White Ale Category - Hoegaarden
Cider - Macbeth's Three Witches Hard Cider
Stout - Guinness Stout
Macro - Pabst Blue Ribbon
Import - Harp

Mind you, these aren't the only ones making the trip. A partial list of what we're taking can be found here. We're adding to it over time, so presumably it will be complete by the time we actually get on the island.

And, just in case the amount of alcohol already listed has given what are in all honesty is a quite reasonable concern as to our ability to remain within the letter of the law when it comes to drinking, fishing, and driving, you should know that we're also taking a digital breathalyzer.

I've taken it to one party already, where it was quite a hit, though due more to the sheer competition of "who can register the highest score," than to a desire to drive legally upon leaving. If anyone feels like they want one, typing "pideltapsi" in the coupon field will get you another $20 off the price until November.

In case you're wondering, a .22 carried the day. And no, I'm not a Pi Delta Psi.

We haven't taken a digital breathalyzer with us before, but after a drunk college kid rolled his Jeep and killed a girl on the island this summer, the Hyde County Sheriff's department understandably became a little more concerned with enforcing the drunk driving laws than they had in years past. Before, Ocracoke was known as a place where if one drove slowy and responsibly coming off the beach, then no one was going to pull you and ask how much one had to drink.

That's apparently changed, so rather than take a chance we'll try designated drivers this year, which is where the breathalyzer comes in. We'll be out fishing for 6, 8 hours at a time, so if a DD wants to have a beer or four at the beginning of the day, then he ought to be sober enough to drive by the end of the day if he stops in the middle. We'll use the breathalyzer to make sure, and no one in his vehicle gets to leave until he blows a .07.

Of course, once we get home, some idiot is going to try and beat that .22.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 12, 2003

Bitter & Twisted

Beer of the Night. Champion beer of Scotland. Champion beer of Britain.

Official beer of ex-girlfriends everywhere, at least until someone slaps a dog label on a hopped up Pale Ale and markets it as "Bitter Bitch."

"Watch out for the Bitter Bitch. She's got a bite."

If I ever open a brewery, that's the second brew on the list. It would likely never get made, as the first beer on the list, a dunkel or dark lager, is one with a name so politically incorrect that I would be hounded out of town on a rail the minute I tried to sell it.

Big Mandingo

I have never seen Mandingo, nor read the book, and so have no idea if the actual content of either is as....heated as the poster implies. Had the downtown movie theatre in the little Southern town I grew up in not prominently displayed the poster for all the world to see for what seemed like a month, I would have presumably spent the rest of my life in blissful ignorance of Mandingo's existence. As it was, I think every kid in town could have described the poster down to the smallest detail weeks after it finally vanished from the marquee.

Obviously it made an impression on me. Years ago I made up a whole ad campaign for my mythical beer based on the tropes within that poster

Expect the savage. The sensual. The shocking.
Expect everything that the beer industry has never dared brew before.
Now, you are ready for Mandingo.

The television commercial writes itself. Remember the old Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull commercials, where some hapless sucker orders a "Bull", then looks around in astonishment as the other patrons scatter in anticipation of the animal itself crashing through the wall?

It's a lot like that.



Two girls in their 20's walk up the bar of a crowded nightclub. There is frenzied activity on the dance floor behind them. The girls are dressed in come-hitherwear, and are flushed in a manner that imples sexual readiness, obviously just having left the dance floor. FIRST GIRL motions to the bartender and orders, in a very southern accent.

"Lawd, I sure could use me a Big Mandingo right about now."

The frenzied, frenetic night club atmosphere shuts down immediately. All is silent, all is still. All eyes are on the girls, who are startled by the sudden change of events.


In the distance, something massive hits the earth.


The beer in the glass ripples, exactly as the water puddles did in Jurassic Park when the tyrannosaurus made his first appearance.

With that sound the crowd in the background breaks into panic, running for the exit, cowering under tables.


The girls look around in confusion. Cut to the BARTENDER, totally unafraid, shaking his head at the pair in disgust as he wipes down a glass.


The last few crowd members make their escape just as the wall opposite the bare implodes. A cloud of dust swirls away, revealing SHAQUILLE O'NEAL. He's carrying a round beer tray, on which there stands an empty glass and a bottle of Big Mandingo. He carries it over the the girls, who lean back against the bar, staring at him with fear and fascination as he looms over them.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL carefully places the tray on the bar beside FIRST GIRL, picks up the bottle, and pours her a glass.

"Here you go, ma'am."

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL then turns and walks back towards the immense hole in the wall.

Cut to the BARTENDER, who shouts at the departing figure.

"Hey, I gave you those keys for a reason!"


Big Mandingo. Are you ready for it?"

Yes, yes. It's horrible. I'm a horrible person, with all sorts of toxic sludge clogging up my persona.

But I swear to you that commercial would sell beer.

The tagline needs to be improved, though.


Okay, kind of got away from the subject there. Besides, I don't really have the time to plot out the other Mandingo commercials. Yes, sadly I have a entire series all pre-shot in my head.

The Bitter & Twisted is probably as close to the Platonic ideal of a pale ale as a beer can get. It's produced in the same brewery that produces Old Engine Oil, but where the OEO (Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh) is a complex symphony of a beer, the B&T is a few notes played well, combining fruity esters that evaporate like perfume off the tongue, with sweet malt notes and a hoppy trill.

It's a smooth beer, fairly uncarbonated as it is bottled with about a third less carbon dioxide than normal, something that is done in an attempt to make the poured result taste fresher and more natural. The relative lack of CO2 gives B&T a smallish rapidly disappearing head when poured. There's not much to speak of in the way of bubbles rising to the surface of the brew, either.

Fortunately, bubbles don't tend to be a major requirement for me when it comes to beer, though there is very little as aesthetically pleasing as a freshly poured Guiness, which has bubbles out the wazoo.

"Wazoo" is the technical brewing term for a mechanism governing the expulsion of gas bubbles, in case you were wondering.

Where to Buy

If you're in the UK, you're in luck. Bitter & Twisted is available via the Beers of Scotland site. If you're in the U.S. or Canada, you'll have to check the store shelves. None of the American Internet beer sites offer the B&T at the moment. I found mine at the Ken's Quickie Mart in Durham.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 09, 2003

Australian for "Thanks"

Two days from now, wherever you happen to be, find somewhere to hoist a Foster's for Mikey, the last of the 343 firefighters killed in the World Trade Center to be laid to rest.

On Sept. 11, "he didn't flinch. He didn't hesitate," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said at the service. "He saw those two towers with thousands of people in need, and he rushed in."

Replicas of the black No. 3 car driven by late NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt and of the logo for Foster's beer — both favorites of the young firefighter — were placed on the altar

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September 08, 2003

Old Engine Oil

Beer of the night. No, I tell a lie. It's actually the beer of the night before, but I didn't have time to turn my notes into something resembling coherent prose, what with all the conspiracy mongering going on.

I can you that Old Engine Oil goes well with conspiracymongery, though presumably it would complement ironmongery to an even higher degree, given its name. Coming as it does from the Harviestoun Brewery, which was founded by a former Ford worker, the moniker makes a sort of sense.

Given the name, as well as the impenetrable darkness of the OEO, (Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh), at first glance one could be forgiven for thinking it a stout, and a damn thick stout at that, spooned into the glass rather than poured.

Mmmmmm, chunky beer.

The Old Engine Oil is not in fact a stout, but rather an old or owd ale, an English style of which Theakston's Old Peculier is perhaps the best known example, though Young's Winter Warmer is also widely available on this side of the pond. Typically owd ales are dark, maltily sweet and full of fruit notes--complex brews indeed. They're also typically stronger than other beers, ranging from 4.5% to over 8.5% abv.

The above description makes it sound like an old ale isn't a beer for the faint of heart. Names like "Old Peculier", "Old Engine Oil" and "Owd Rodger" if anything make the thought of downing an old ale even more forbidding. I avoided the Old Peculier for a long while when I was younger, on the theory that it was some sort of poisonous stout.

Fear not. It's just a beer, for god's sake. Just order one, appreciate it for what it is, and nod whenever a beer geek like myself starts to blather on about mouthfeel and lacing. It makes us happy, and makes you look wise. Look wise enough, and we'll probably buy the next round. Or the next two.

Now, with that in mind;

Old Engine Oil, at 6% abv, just barely squeaks in as legal under the antiquated and classist North Carolina beer law. It pours as dark as one would expect it to with a string like "Oil" in its name. Before I even tasted it I walked from room to room in an attempt to find an light source strong enough to shine through it.

Once I did, the OEO revealed itself to be dark red rather than black, as a deep ruby glimmer shown through the glass, revealed at last by the lights above the mirror in my downstairs bathroom.

I remarked at length upon the beauty of the hue to my wife

"Yes, honey. It's very nice," she agreed. "Now will you please get out and give me some damn privacy?"


I repaired to the dining room table and studied the head at length, as I felt that I had somewhat remiss in not describing the head quality in the previous beers of the night. To me, the foam is what one impatiently waits for to disappear, not something to wax rhetorical over. However, humble creature that I am, I have always been aware of the possibility that this position could be mistaken.

So, in short, OEO pours out a thick brownish head, though one that thankfully does not overstay its welcome. The brew itself is rich-textured yet very smooth, almost like a spiced countertop laminate, if such a thing existed. There's a hint of the Hershey's special dark chocolate I always try to con the daughter out of each Halloween, with a hint of citrus; a elderly orange, perhaps. The malty sweetness one would expect of an old ale is there as well, as is a nice hoppy note.

As the OEO warms up the the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops both become more pronounced, though neither ever overpowers the other. It's a well balanced brew throughout. The increasing warmth also gives the ale more of a porter character, revealing a smoky note that wasn't there before, as well as adding hints of cherry and vanilla to the finish.

I would have poured another, had I more than the one bottle. As it was I bought the last in the store, which doesn't augure well for locating another anytime soon. The brewery that produces OEO, Harviestoun, doesn't have a large annual output to begin with, so the Old Engine Oil will likely remain hard to find for the near future.

Not that "hard to find" means "impossible to find." Yanks can find it on the web at Internet wines and Spirits, and those in the U.K are advised to try the Beers of Scotland site. I've also found two places in the U.S. where the OEO can be found on tap. New Jersey's Ship Inn and Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia.

Posted by Bigwig at 10:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003


Beer of the night.

I know, I know. I must be going soft. Why, this beer is readily available almost everywhere! What kind of beer snob talks about a beer everyone has heard of? Next thing you know I'll be doing an in-depth review of Bud Light.

The thing is, I need a lager to go along with the surf fishing cider that got voted on a while back, not that it appears the presumed winner of that poll is in any way a cider to be guzzled down straight from the bottle before I impale yet another chunk of bait onto the hook.

'Salright, I'm taking Strongbow and Woodpecker as well. They'll fulfill that role quite nicely.

I was planning on also taking a case of Kokanee Glacier Lager for surf-side imbibement, but I haven't been able to find anyone selling it at the moment, so I'm looking for a backup. Moosehead ought to fill the vacancy admirably. Didn't even take notes while I drank it, so no review, though if one is desired the Beer Advocates are always happy to oblige. I just figured I'd drink a couple to reaquaint myself with the brew before I went out and bought a case of it.

Of course, if anyone has any other suggestions.....

Posted by Bigwig at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Marzen

A mouthful to say as well as to drink, the beer of the night. Normally the beer of the night is whatever I happen to pull from the fridge, but Ngnat, Scotty M. and I made a special trip to the store tonight to get it.

After dropping the Sainted Wife off at a bar, of all places. But that's a story for later, if at all.

Here's the reason why I went out of my way to get a Spaten tonight; German Brewery Donates Beer To American Soldiers

The Germans didn't back the U.S. war in Iraq, but a German brewery is treating American sailors and soldiers to beer.

Munich-based Spaten, one of the world's oldest breweries, is donating 600 cases of lager to each branch of the U.S. military for personnel who fought in the war.

Navy Capt. Terry McKnight, commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, said Wednesday that his sailors would have no qualms about drinking brew from a country that refused to join coalition forces in the invasion of Iraq.

"A cold beer is a cold beer," McKnight said.

Donald C. Bennett, a selectee for chief petty officer who came to a Norfolk Naval Station loading dock to claim four cases for his crew on the submarine Montpelier, agreed: "We're happy to drink it all."

There were only 2 six packs left in a display case that holds 14, so maybe others have already heard the story and thanked Spaten in the most suitable way, by purchasing their beer. If you'd like to do the same, it should be readily available in any medium to upper scale grocery store, especially now that the Oktoberfest has just been released. If you can't find a Spaten brew, the company also produces the Franziskaner line of wheat beers, which are usually found in the single bottles section

One thing that did annoy me:

However, there is one small problem that Louis Sieb, president of Spaten North America, did not consider when he came up with the idea. The average sailor is 20. Legal drinking age is 21.

"They give up everything, right? They put their lives on the line, right? And they can't drink beer? Still, a good thing, I think," Sieb said.

The incongruity between the draft age and the drinking age is something America should be ashamed of. We're perfectly happy to let kids take a bullet in defense of the American Way of Life, but shudder in Puritanical horror at letting them drink a beer in celebration of it.

It's a stupid policy. I don't mind states setting the drinking age at whatever they think it should be, though oddly I didn't feel the same way when I was 18 and N.C. raised the drinking age, first to 19 and then to 21, but anyone n the military should get an automatic pass. Those who might die for our rights should be allowed the full enjoyment of them.

And just think how easy recruiting would become.

And by the way, American Way Of Life = A.W.O.L. I expect royalty payments from any and all fringe political movements that decide this is deathly clever and needs to be scribbled on a protest sign.

Definitions of the day:

A beer aficionado: A fan of beer. Illustrated here.

A beer snob: Someone who'll make fun of what you're drinking. Illustrated here.

Where I fall on that spectrum.

The Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Marzen was the first beer brewed especially for Oktoberfest, and the tapping of the first keg of Spaten has marked the opening of Oktoberfest in Munich since 1950.

Marzen /Oktoberfest beers are marked by a malty sweetness and dry character. The Spaten Ur-Marzen is considered to be on of the standard bearers. Michael Jackson, in The Beer Companion wrote that it ...has an excellent malt aroma, a malty but rounded body, and a delicate underpinning of hop.....It is a classic.

"Delicate underpinning of hop." Based on my notes, I would have said something like "slightly hopped". It's the turn of a phrase that separates the beer professionals from the amateurs.

That, and knowing what the hell they're talking about. It's probably best that I took most of my notes before I was aware of the stature of this particular beer, else I'd have never attempted the taste.

It's a damn good beer, too, even given my suddenly discovered distaste for thins like "malty sweetness" in a beer. I blame that damn Black Abbott, it made me paranoid. There is a easily detectable sweetness to the Spaten, both in the bouquet and in the mouth, but it's a thin, dry sweet, with a delicate underpinning of hops.

Damn, that sounds nice.

I got the feeling that the malts used are toasted, or at least were heated and dried a bit more than normal before they were added to the mash. Whatever was done gave the final brew evanescent hints of toffee and caramel, as if a low-sugar honey had been roasted, then added to the mix.

I hadn't planned on taking the Spaten on the fishing trip this year, it having gone with us the previous two. But, given the lovely gesture the brewery made, and the fact that we'll be on the island during the 193rd anniversary of the first Oktoberfest, I suppose it will make the trip for the third year running.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

Scheisse! Who Put Garlic In My Lager?

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says that calls for German troops to join an Iraqi U.N. force make him, "want to puke."

I feel for him. He's got to blame that queasy feeling on something, and it would be impolitic to blame his choice of drinking companion.

photo via yahoo

Now to go spend an hour or two trying to id the beer.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

Warsteiner Dunkel

Beer of the night. Rarely has one been so needed.

The are times when the sysadmin's job is a breeze, when those around you consider it akin to a salaried life of Riley. Those are good times. Other days it feels like being safety manager of the drunken toddler shift at the delicate glass objects factory.

I've been living the second life lately. I'd go into the details, but the thought of rehashing the last five days yet again makes me want to guzzle gin straight from the bottle.

However, I will tell you this. The average initial response time of Blackboard technical support to a critical ticket is measured in days right now, so I know I'm not alone in this particular circle of hell. Most of the worst problems we've managed to work through on our own, so things are slowly getting better. I'd hate to be a lone sysadmin at a small school running the new version right now--those guys are screwed.

On the plus side, I'm building up comp time like a madman.

What up until recently were almost hourly application crashes didn't leave much time for anything else, for all that we've hidden the outages, mostly, from the users. Half of system administration is preventing crashes. The other half is preventing the users from noticing the crashes that inevitably happen anyway.

So it's been busy. If I hadn't written most of Fowl Play on the weekend I would have posted nothing last night. As it was the post felt somewhat unfinished. There's a whole welfare allegory sitting there waiting to be mined, and I had to leave it out

I mean, what else would you call a story about a family of eight children with an absent father who live in public housing, surviving off the peanuts the public give them. Peanuts! If Make Way For Ducklings isn't a searing indictment of the Welfare State, then I don't know what it is. Feel free to do your own economic analysis; I haven't even considered the symbolical nature of the policemen scattered throughout the story.

Yes, I pay far too much attention my children's literature. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, for another instance. If the big bowl of porridge (Papa Bear's) is too hot and the medium sized bowl of porridge (Mama Bear's) is too cold, why is the smallest bowl of porridge (Baby Bear's) just right? The text clearly states that the bears leave the house because all of the bowls of porridge are too hot. Assuming a uniform rate of cooling for a given density of porridge, if anything the small bowl of porridge should be even colder than the medium sized bowl, not "just right."

Yet no matter how many times I explain this to Ngnat, she still insists that I relay the text to her as written.

Damn bears and their physics defying breakfast grains. One day I'm gonna have Davy Crockett save Godlilocks from the bears with his trusty rifle. That'll show them.


Warsteiner is the third dunkel I've had in as many weeks. The San Miguel you can read about here. The other, Black Abbott, was so off-putting I didn't bother to write about it. It was overpoweringly sweet, so much so that I wondered if the beer had become spoiled, though the Oxymoronic Scotsman liked it a good deal.

As have others. This guy, for instance.

I much prefer the Warsteiner. It has a thinner body and mild sweetness that to my mind is much more characteristic of the dunkel style. In comparison, downing the Black Abbott was like drinking watered down syrup. There's also a more roasted flavor to the Warsteiner, like a weak irish coffee. It's smooth and refreshing, with a carbonated bite of hops at the end. I'd drink another, but this one was the last of the six pack the OxyScot brought with him.

I'll have the last of the San Miguels instead, and call it a night. It'll be the first time I'll have head on pillow before one in the morning in a week.

Exit, to the strains of Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.

Posted by Bigwig at 09:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 28, 2003

White Rule

"Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel shamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, "It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver." - Jack Handy

After much complaining from beer aficionados that some people may have actually heard of the beers in the previous two polls, and besides, why weren't their favorites included? I decided to return to my beer snob roots and run the next two polls on ales. Red and White Ales, to be specific, since those are two of my favorites, though a good Flemish Brown is also dear to my heart. Why, were there such a thing as a Blue Ale, we could even combine our love for alcohol with patriotism, perhaps arranging the empty bottles into some sort of flag design on the beach were the fishing to slow down.

For most beer snobs, the thought would end there. They are educated enough to know that there are no blue ales, so the dream of a Red White and Blue drunk must remain forever unfulfilled.

I'm not as educated as most beer snobs, evidently, or else I am much more stubborn, for I have found a Blue Ale, after all.

Slurred version of "To Anacreon in Heaven," here we come.

Now that I've done the hard part, all you have to is to click on the ale of your choice. Since I'm sure that none of you would ever cast an uneducated vote, I've provided helpful links to each entry below in case you've never heard of one of the candidates.

This week, White Ales, since I had more of those in the database than Reds.

Ten Beers Enter! One Beer Leaves! - White Ale Bracket

Celis Beer
Allagash White Beer
Blanche De Brooklyn
Blanche De Chambly
Blanche De Quebec
Hitachino Nest White Ale
Samuel Adams White Ale
Ertvelds Wit

Those wishing to vote in the past polls, all of which will run until September, should click on the bracket of their choice: Stout, Cider, Macro, Import.

Finally, those of you who made it this far, yet still wish to know the difference between and ale and what you may think of as "regular beer", should click here for an explanation.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

Brewed With the Finest Natural Baboon Ass

Our platform is beer. Our message is beer. Our solution is beer.

Buttmonkey Beer.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

A Matter Of Some Import

The first full beer I ever drank was a St. Pauli Girl, in the company of several other under-aged friends, rocking back and forth on the front porch of the Inland Waterway Treasure Company in Oriental, watching the boats come into the small harbor there.

The second beer I drank was a Beck's, that same warm evening in the summer of my 17th year. There's nothing like a beer after a hard day on the water, one of us said. We all nodded, agreeing with the sage wisdom he had imparted.


The third was a St. Pauli Girl Dark, the fourth, Beck's Dark. The fifth........Molson Golden. We found ourselves vowing to drink one of each beer in the Treasure Company fancy ales and imports cooler, though for some reason after the Molson I no longer remember what I had, nor how many.

I do remember throwing up in the woods on our way back to the church camp we worked at that summer. The white cheese and shrimp pizza I'd had with my hoity-toity beers was still recognizable

It's probably a good thing that summer came before the advent of the American microbrewing revolution, else I might have died that night, trying to fulfill my muddle-headed vow. The Treasure Company no longer sells beer, or at least it didn't last time I was in Oriental, but if it did that cooler would now hold upwards of 100 different beers. We'd of had to drink there all summer, and a regular weekend crowd of underaged Methodist youth would undoubtedly have drawn the attention of the town cop.

In the beer desert that was North Carolina in the 1970's and early 80's, the imports were large frogs in a small classy beer pond. Heineken was the undisputed lord of the lake. Coors, because it was unavailable east of the Mississippi, enjoyed a mythical reputation just below that of the also unavailable Corona. The revolution was on the horizon; the appearance of 8 or 9 previously unknown imported brews in what was still a sleepy fishing town on the Intracoastal Waterway was the sign of new things a-coming, but the change was still a few years away.

Even later that year at Carolina, where local lore had it that during the semester the average Chapel Hill resident consumed more beer than the average German, the story was similar. The upper class beers at the bars were Michelob, or the ubiquitous Heineken. Most of the students drank 75 cent pitchers of Schaefer or Geobel, which inevitabley came to be known as Goebbels if you were drinking with a geek, as indeed all my friends were. Despite the fact that both were basically cheap swill, each had its passionate defenders and detractors. A man will defend his chosen alcohol against all comers, no matter what kind of horse it originally sprung from.

Despite the endless debate, we'd drink whatwever was put in front of us. The absolute best beer at that time was one someone else had bought.

Occasionally. when money was at hand and the weather was nice, we'd troop down to the walk-in cooler at the long vanished Foster's Grocery, to gaze in wonder and confusion at not only Heineken, Beck's and Saint Pauli Girl, but Grolsch and La Belle Fisher and dozens more besides.

We'd spend fifteen minutes picking a six of just the right import, then grab a case of swill on the way out. Even when we had money we couldn't afford to get drunk off imports, but damn if it didn't impress the women, or so we told each other.

"Besides, after the first three who can tell the difference?"

My friends still say that, just to annoy me, but nonetheless can be counted on to show up with a six or twelve pack of import to go with their choice of swill, long after we became invisible to impressionable co-eds.

So, in deference to long-standing habit, and because I've discovered that more people participate in the polls if they've actually heard of the choices, here are the latest contestants.

Ten Beers Enter! One Beer Leaves! - Import Bracket

The poll will appear here permanently, and over on the right until the next poll runs. All the polls will eventually appear here. Vote early and often. Write-ins will be counted, but only if they are in the style of the pool above. If anyone is upset by the omission of their favorite import, send us a six-pack, and we'll apologize profusely.

Posted by Bigwig at 02:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 14, 2003

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbeer

Beer of the night.

And for the last three years, since Rodenbach stopped exporting its Grand Cru to the states, my favorite beer. It has the smooth drinkability of an American lager, the mouthfeel of a stout, and a great yeasty bite at the end.

I'm lucky to find it twice a year, so the relative scarcity of the brew may have something to do with its appeal, but it is from the world's oldest brewery, which has been in operation since 1040. Presumably they know what they're doing.

Don't take just my word for it, though.

The Beer Advocate
Wonderful taste and aroma made it hard for me to restrain myself from downing my six-pack in one sitting. I'm delaying my self-gratifacation to more thoroughly enjoy them. This is the standard bearer for the style. Truly world-class.

The Oxford Bottled Beer Database
Towards the finish the fruit develops into cider apple, and the aftertaste is smooth, yeasty and slightly appley. This is a fine example of the style, with exceptionally complex fruit character. Its refreshing taste and sheer drinkability make it an ideal drink for a spring or summer evening.

5 stars - I wouldn’t be surprised if the German citizens of Bavaria tip a bottle of this brew each morning, before starting the day. The mixture of flavors make it seem like a breakfast beverage.

It pours like a liquid, tastes like a solid, and according the the Sainted Wife, turns into a gas. What more could one want from a beer?

Update: It is hard to find, and since all the Weihenstephaners have similar labels, make sure that it's the Hefe Weissbeer in your grasp, rather than the Pilsner or the KristallWeissbeer, not that there is anything wrong with either of those. The first place I ever found the Hefe Weiss was at Kroger, of all places. Harris Teeter usually carries one of the other Weihenstephaner brews.

I got the latest six-pack from the Charlotte Frugal MacDougal's. Charlotteans may also want to try the dueling Park Road beverage stores. According to Adrianne, one of the many Hraka beer correspondents, Brawley's has an incredible selection.

One can also buy it online, at Internet Wines and Spirits, and occasionally at Liquid Solutions.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 13, 2003

San Miguel Dark Lager

Beer of the night.

Okay, so it took a while to fulfill the request, but I finally found a six of the San Miguel at the Frugal Macdougal's south of Charlotte on the latest trip to visit the in-laws. Five months this small petition weighed on my mind, until at last I was able to fulfill it. Keep that in mind next time someone asks you which blog is the most devoted to its readership.

"Why, Silflay Hraka," you can say. "It's OCD heaven over there."

Dark lagers, or dunkels as they are known internationally, are among the oldest of modern beer styles, if one counts the 15th century and later as part of modern times. Ales are somewhat older, having at least 2000 years on their younger sibling. The pale lagers which most Americans drink today are one of the most recent developments, having first been brewed in the 1840s.

The very dark lagers were originally brewed in Germany--hence the name "dunkel," which is German for dark. Most tend to be only a shade or two lighter than stouts, often with a reddish tinge. The color is due to the lager's malts, which are roasted before the brewing process. Confusingly, some ales are also called dunkels, but most are lagers. The two most well known examples of the style in the U.S. are probably the Dixie Brewery's Blackened Voodoo Lager and Xingu Black Beer.

San Miguel Dark Lager is brewed in the Phillipines, not really a nation that springs to mind when one is thinking of a quality brew, but there's no reason the Filipinos shouldn't be able to brew good beer if the Japanese can. Most reviews I've seen for the Dark Lager are generally positive, pointing out the malty sweetness of the beer and a nicely roasted aroma and taste, both of which are smack you in the face obvious, so the reviewers damn well better mention them.

So, roasted aromas, taste and malty sweetness, given. What I didn't see was a mention of the absolutely gorgeous ruby color the beer takes on when held up to the light, one the most impressive shades I've ever seen emanate from a brew. The hops were barely noticeable, coming through more and more as the beer warmed up, but never strong enough to overpower the malt. At most there was a slightly bitter aftertaste. I wouldn't call it crisp, especially compared to the light lagers, certainly not a summer brew. It's more like a prelude, a promise of things to come -- a beer to drink on a chilly October evening, a forerunner of the winter stouts and porters.

I'll take some on the fishing trip, just to see if I'm right.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

Macro Media

Despite my overweening beer snobbery, the most popular beer on the October fishing trip won't be a subtle, complicated stout, a hoppy bitter or malty sweet Oktoberfest. It won't be a small craft brew or interesting import. It will be a straight ahead, crushing the empty can in your fist American Macro Lager.

It will be an American Macro Lager because I'm outnumbered. At last count there were something like 16 people going to Ocracoke for all or part of the trip; each will arrive with an average of three cases apiece. Maybe one of those cases will be something more crafty, to drink in the evenings. I'd claim the one of three is due to my influence, but I suspect it has more to do with a hard-wired genetic male attraction to previously unseen beer bottle labels. A good chunk of my first-time beer purchases are still heavily influenced by label design.

Not all will arrive laden with macro brews, mind you. Julep, who named his dog after a brewery, will arrive with something interesting, as will the Oxymoronic Scotsman.

As I said in the cider poll post, most of the macros are destined for beach consumption. They're uncomplicated, refreshing, and no great loss if the wind blows one over. Also, they're a convenient fit for the rod holder.

So which should we take?

Many of you will wonder why no Budweiser products appear above. It's simple, really. None of us will drink it if there's anything else around. Natural Light we will hoover up by the gallon, despite its nationwide rep as a shit beer, but we won't touch the the King.

Other polls in this series may be seen here (cider) and here (stout). All the polls will eventually appear somewhere on this page.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:58 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

August 02, 2003

UFO Hefeweizen
Step Away From The Lemon, Frat Boy

Beer of the Night.

Sainted Wife has been the worried owner of a new minivan for just over 30 hours now, a sage Honda Odyssey. No, that doesn't mean that it's wiser than your normal run of minivans. Sage is the color, a greenish gray that the salesman assured us was the most popular thing since cherry red met the Miata.

She's worried that she got taken on the service plan, that we financed it for too long a period, that it already has dirt on it, that Ngnat will spill something in it before the new wears off, or that I will ding it somehow, perhaps by leaning against it in a manner specifically forbidden by the owner's manual, a lean that instantly voids the 7 year, 100,000 mile warranty.

Her role in our relationship is to be the worrier. I'm the one who gets to insist that everything will turn out just fine, no matter how dark the circumstances. Not that our circumstances ever get darker than a few minutes past noon on a cloudless summer day.

Knock wood.

It's not that I don't prepare for the worst. I made sure some of the first few items into the Odyssey were the safety hammer and the smallpox preparedness kit (5 pairs of masks and gloves in a ziplock bag). There are roll up ladders in two rooms on the second floor in the event of a fire, and a pair of hatchets in the bathroom in the event of intruders. (I saw Mel Gibson use something similar in The Patriot, so I consider myself proficient in their use.) The electrical sockets and liquor cabinent are baby proofed, and Ngnat knows exactly what to do in case she sees a snake or shiny black spider.

"I get Daddy."

Time to teach her the home phone number too, I suppose.

It's not that I expect any of the events above to happen, but I'd hate to be unprepared in case a smallpox infected arsonist broke in. In any case, I've always figured that if the worst happened we'd muddle through somehow. Most people have throughout history, else we wouldn't be here. No reason to think we can't muddle just as well.

All I can do is prepare as best I can for whatever eventualities come to mind. Once I've done that, what's the point of worrying? It's pointless, a waste of energy.

Sainted wife, on the other hand, worries for two. I'm not sure, but I suspect she worries extra just to pay off some perceived worry debt, one built up over time by my inability to indulge in the practice.

I'm pretty sure I used to worry about things. At one point I could count on having the "Final Exam in a class I haven't been to all semester" dream at least once a month, and if that's not a symptom of a worried nature, what is it? Now at night I occasionally I check doors locked hours before, or lean in over the kids to make sure they're still breathing, but that's about as far as my paranoia goes.

I suppose I could worry that I have unfairly shifted the burden of familial fear onto the slim shoulders of the Sainted Wife, but I don't know of any mechanism whereby my worrying more will result in her worrying less.

So I'm not going to worry about it.


Hefeweizens originated in southern Germany, and are essentially wheat beers made cloudy by yeast, much of which in modern times is a secondary infusion into the beer once it has been bottled. Most bartenders don't know how to serve it, adding a lemon wedge to the glass after it has been filled, presumably in an attempt to make the beer a little more friendly to the notoriously uneducated American beer palate. I guess they think the acidity of the lemon cuts down on the yeasty taste Hefeweizens are known for.

If you want a lemon that bad, drink tea. Any decent hefeweizen will have banana or vanilla esters that are totally covered up by a lemon wedge. Putting a lemon in a hefeweizen is like putting ice cubes in Scotch. It's done, but only by the unserious and ill-educated. It's like bragging on your Dodge Omni at a car show.

Lest the parrotheads start to shriek, I should point out that lime in a Corona is an entirely different thing.

The UFO is an Americanized version of the German style, using a more neutral strain of yeast in an attempt to develop a cleaner, more lagerlike taste. It's not a bad beer, but it's definitely on the slight side of the ledger when compared to its meatier Teutonic brethren, something most reviewers have picked up on. Most agreed that the brewers hit the clean flavor they were looking for, but....

Thin and lacking for the style. Not a bad summertime choice if nothing else is available
I'm trying to be fair to a beer that didn't have much overall character.
I think there are alot better American Hefeweizens
definitely a bastardized example of a wheat
A fairly light finish and another good session hefe, but not up there with the top ones

It is clean and refreshing, a good beer for a hot day if one wants something a little heftier than a lager, but not much heftier. Definite banana esters, and a nice taste, but if set against a German hefe it would lose every time.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 31, 2003

Cider House Rules

The stout poll is going fairly well, with about 100 total votes the last time I looked. All the polls will run through the middle of September, so I'm not going to declare a winner, but Guinness looks to have the race in hand. I was pulling for Stone Imperial Stout, but it's just as well that brand is doing as poorly as it is. I priced a 12 bottle case of the Stone at the beginning of the week, it was $99.

I buy a case at that price, no one's drinking it but me, which sort of undermines the whole point of taking good beer on the trip in the first place. What's the point of drinking good beer all alone?

The time and place for the good beer is at the end of day, sitting on the screen porch, watching the sun sink down over the sound, or perhaps in the morning, to take the edge off the caffeine demon. What to drink on the beach is a different matter entirely. Quality beer should be poured out of the bottle before it is partaken off, the beach is no place for glassware, and Solo cups get blown over by the wind or knocked over by the tide all too easily. The cups also don't fit well into the bait well of a rod holder, whereas bottle and cans fill that space admirably.

Ideally what we want for the beach is a drink whose qualities are not diminished if it has to remain in its original container. American macro-beers fit this description nicely, as they don't possess that many qualities to begin with. Natural, Miller, Michelob and Coors light were the big winners in that category on past trips, though of the four the Michelob went first and the Coors went last. Rolling Rock and Icehouse were also in evidence. Both ended up being leftover. I threw the last of them away a week ago.

But the American macro brew poll is yet to come. I drink cider. Cider goes down quick if all one wants is a quick snort before returning to the pole when there's a run on, the taste of it overcomes even the nastiest bait slime, and it doesn't mind staying in the bottle. I took a case of Woodpecker with me last year, then discovered that, lo and behold, if cider was available others also drank it. This year I'm taking two cases.

One thing to get out of the way. Despite the manner in which most grocers shelve it, cider is not in the same class as the hard lemonade, spiked tea, and various brand name liquor malt drinks. Those particular drinks are basically Zima with different flavors added.

And like Zima, they zuck. There won't be a poll for the alco-pops, which is the industry name for the Zima classes. We don't have a need for them, as none of us are underaged sorority girls, and the underaged sorority girls we invite on the trip in the weeks beforehand never seem to show up.

It's too bad. By the middle the week the cabin usually needs a good cleaning.

Cider, on the other hand, has a history. It was the most popular alcoholic beverage in colonial American, and is still very prevalent in Great Britain. Should any of our British readers wish to touch us on a deeply personal level, sending any of the above our way would be an excellent way to do so. Scrumpy would go even deeper.

Cider makers don't seem to realize that what they brew isn't an alco-pop, which is why so many of them now offer berry flavors. I can't imagine this helps their market share, so fifteen years from now there may be as few ciders available on grocery shelves as there were fifteen years ago, when there were none.

I had my first real cider at the age of eight or nine, in Chapel Hill's Rathskeller with my father. It's still served there, in iced mugs, though the alcohol content is negligible, if there's any at all. Once I was legal , I looked for a harder version of it for ten years before Woodchuck finally appeared on the market. I'm not going to be happy if it disappears again.

Besides, that's all Dad asks for when he and Mom come to visit, other than grandchildren. If I try and brew my own, I'll probably kill him with it.

Ten Beers Enter! One Beer Leaves! - Cider Bracket

Weston's Extra Dry
White Oak
Wyder's Apple Cider
Rock Creek Draft Cider
Woodchuck Dark & Dry
Ace Apple Honey
Dry Blackthorn Cider
Macbeth's Three Witches Hard Cider

I've also posted the Stout poll in case anyone would still like to cast a vote there. As I said above, all polls will run through September, so new ones will appear on the far left each week. The older a poll is, the farther it will be to the right.

The poll will appear here permanently, and over on the right until the next poll runs. All the polls will eventually appear here. Vote early and often. Write-ins will be counted, but only if they are in the style of the pool above. If anyone is upset by the omission of their favorite brand of cider, send us a six-pack, and we'll apologize profusely.

If the cider's good enough, we may even mean it.

Update: For those asking about Strongbow in the U.S, it can apparently be bought here. I've also removed the Stout poll. The more polls listed, the slower this page loads.

Posted by Bigwig at 10:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Lobkowicz Prince

Beer of the night.

You're not going to get a lot of discussion from me about the Prince; writing the post below about near killed me. It certainly rendered me brain dead. Supposedly the Prince is a blonde bock, but it tastes like a Michelob.

And yes, that's the only label image I could find.

I will tell you that three years old is a tad young for helping Daddy polyurethane the new toy chest. I've got a patch of newly removed hair on the back of my scalp that will testify to that. I'm not sure which is worse, that Ngnat decided to paint the back of my skull, or that I didn't notice it until three hours later, when it had dried solid.

I'll also tell you to watch Moments in Time, and Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law. They are distilled genius.

Update: One last thought, obviously requiring brain power I don't have right now. I'll post it lest I forget it. Aside from the obvious licensing issues, what's wrong with setting up a Napster-like music site, charging a person a certain amount for every song they download, and paying them a slightly smaller amount for every song downloaded from them?

Say downloading a song costs you a dime, but having a song downloaded from you puts a nickel in your pocket, with the leftover nickel going to the music industry, or directly to the artist if they've signed a separate deal. According to this article in the Industry Standard, at the height of Napster's popularity in February of 2001, 2.79 billion downloads took place, which calculates out a nickel charge per download....about 70 million dollars in one month to be divided amongst the record companies, artists and Napster, assuming number crunching is correct.

That would seem to be adequate to me, but I'm not a record exec. Thoughts?

Posted by Bigwig at 12:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 30, 2003

Left Hand Milk Stout

Beer of the night.

It's a wet night. The rain is coming down much harder than it was earlier in the evening. Ngnat was bored, and I didn't feel like letting her watch yet another Spongebob, so we went outside. She rolled little cars down the driveway amid the occasional flat splat of a big raindrop, and I polyurethaned the wooden parts of what will one day become the downstairs toy chest.

Once that was done I washed the Explorer, on the theory that at least the rain would make rinsing it off somewhat easier. Ngnat helped, in her way, taking the tire brush and assidously scrubbing the driveway with it. She was also very thorough when it came to rinsing the lower two feet of newly scrubbed vehicle, often holding the hose in one place for what seemed like minutes at a time.

Honey, you're rinsing, not eroding, okay?

"Okay, daddy." Then she'd notice some speck of foam on her upper arm and rinse herself for a while.

Eventually we finished, though not before a thoroughly enraptured Ngnat stood on top of the SUV and rinsed from there.

"Up," hose water splashing on the roof, but only for a moment.

"Down," and the hose output goes over the side to crash on the cement below.

"Up." Roof.

"Down." Cement.

Repeat every 10 seconds, until the little soaked girl grabs daddy around the neck for the six foot trip down to the ground.

"This'll be fun!" she said.

It wasn't quite a run in the rain, but it had its moments.

Milk stout is one of a type of cream or sweet stouts, so called because they are brewed with milk sugars to produce a stout that is not only sweeter than normal, but lower in alcohol as well, though you probably shouldn't give it to a baby.

There's not a lot of reviews for this beer. The only in-depth ones I found were at the BeerAdvocate. Most mention the quickly disappearing head, a fairly light mouthfeel unexpected in a stout, and some more or less vague coffee hints.

Franky, if you can't detect coffee hints in a stout, you're not trying, but that's just my opinion.

To me the LHMS felt more like a dark lager than a stout, and the thin head is kind of disappointing if one is expecting the incredible carbonation found in a Guinness, but that's the nature of the style. Coffen hint? Check. Dryness? Check. A fairly decent beer. I'll assume it's indicative of the style until I taste a different one.


Beer News - Oregon politicos are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the beer drinker.

Brazilian beers, where to buy beer in Sao Paulo, and the recipe for Drunk Squirrel

Bell Beer Does Not Taste 'Strange'

Posted by Bigwig at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2003


Beer of the Night

Label via the virtual Reinhard and his excellent mullet.

XX is reputedly the hoppiest beer in Belgium, and one of the hoppiest in the world. I found this surprising. Not that it's a bad beer in any way, and it certainly has the grapefruit pith taste I associate with hoppy beers. The XX just doesn't beat one over the head with that quality the way, say, Rogue Brewery's Brutal Bitter does.

Hops in beer are measured by IBUs, International Bittering Units, a system once only applied to ex-wives. Rogue's Brutal Bitter has an IBU of about 59. By most counts, the XX registers about a 65 on that scale, yet is overall a much smoother, more well put together beer than the Rogue. Mind you, Rogue Brewery is one of America's premier breweries, so this is high praise indeed.

Aside from the expected high level of bitterness, most reviews mention its very dry character, a resiny taste, and high carbonation/long lasting head. Descriptions of the fruit overtones are all over the place, variously described as either pear, pineapple, lemon, orange, or in one memorable case, Seville orange.

I'd go with a very light lemon, myself.

XX-Bitter is brewed by the Brouwerij De Ranke, which one would think is an actual brewery, but is just the company name of the two brewers who produce the beer. From the label:

The De Ranke brewery was founded by two good friends, Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos. Their story is a classic in Belgium, where the very best craft brewing usually begins as a passionately pursued hobby, not an occupation. For Nino and Guido, brewing is literally a weekend obsession. For a few hours on Friday and Saturday, every week, the marvelous turn of the century Deca brewery in West Flandres is turned over to the De Ranke brewers, who make small batches of what many consider the best specialty beers in all of Belgium. The beers are robust and flavorful, and famous for their massive hoppines, which comes from the bet Hallertau and Brewer's Gold varieties.

Now, how can one say no when a Guido is your brewer? Technically, I shouldn't have been able to find this beer in N.C., as it is 6.2% alcohol, and the legal limit in North Carolina is 6%. So I shan't be telling you where I bought it.

Not that anyone checks, as I've been told time and again. People are increasingly just ignoring the law, which is another reason to change it. There's no money for enforcement, and precious few enforcers as there is. When they do detect a violation of the law, something I've only heard of once in the last ten years, the bar is just told not to re-order that particular beer.

I will tell you where it can be bought over the Internet, though.

U.S. - John's Grocery - 750 ml bottle - $7.99
U.K. - BeerNetWork - 330 ml bottle - £1.75

Other Beer News
Because I know you're dying for it.

The founder of Pete's Wicked Ales is now making chocolates.

India's Cobra Beer has won a gold medal in the U.K.

New York State will now track every keg purchase in an attempt to crack down on underage drinking. Look for just across the border keg sales to skyrocket.

Kentucky and Preakness winner Funny Cide now has his own beer. No word on whether he makes it himself or not.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 24, 2003

A Fine Stout Fellow

As I mentioned below, a good amount of the debate revolving around the fall fishing trip involves beer. What to take. How much to take. What to drink at the beach. What to drink at night. Which light beer to drink once a person is rendered so totally insensible that taste of one's beer is no longer a consideration.

I should point out to the mothers, wives and children of the fine Christian men going on this trip that the last question is entirely theoretical in nature, something along the lines of the theological conundrum of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. This is not, despite scurrilous accusations to the contrary, due to our prodigious, Tudor-like tolerance for the fruits of the barley, but rather our devotion to the advancement of knowledge.

Why, scarce half a glass of hops and water and the Psalms begin to blur before my eyes. Any words you might see that indicate otherwise are naught but clumsy attempts at bonding with my hale and hearty fellows, small mistruths told in a greater cause. Trust nothing that does not appear in this paragraph or the one above, for it is naught but vanity.

Now, to return to my theme.

Which beers shouldn't be drunk from the bottle. Which brands of fold up camp chairs have convenient mesh cup holders built into the arms. Which brands of rod holders offer a similar functionality. Why a rod and beer holder is even necessary. Which beers are complemented by or can overcome the taste of bait slime.

And of course, how to choose from the plethora available, especially now that one can finally buy beer over the Internet.

Which is where you come in.

Sweaty, Dirt Covered Announcer: Ten beers enter! One beer leaves!

Crowd: Ten beers enter! One beer leaves!

I'll admit, it's not quite affecting as what Mel Gibson, had shouted at him, but it was all I could come with during the 8 seconds I had budgeted for Contest Theme Creation in the pre-post spreadsheet.

Given the literally world-wide reputation of the Hraka readership as beer enthusiasts nonpareil (from the French, meaning drunks covered in small white pellets of sugar), I decided to turn the process over to you.

Between now and mid September, when I place my order at Belmont Station, I'll be running a series of polls for each style of beer going on the trip. Come October, the brand receiving the most votes in each poll will journey with us to the island, though it shall not return. The nine others will remain on their shelves, dusty and forlorn, unless some marketing genius decides we can be bought off with a free case or two.

Should there be any confusion on the matter, that answer to that question is yes. Send us beer and we will sing your praises. Send us T-shirts and we'll wear them in the fish pictures, which will then be posted to the advertising wonderland that is the World Wide Web at absolutely no cost to you, where literally ones of people will gaze upon them.

The first poll in the series is in honor of our friend the C*ckpuker, a devoted aficionado of Stout, who earned his unfortunate sobriquet thanks to a series of exquisitely ill-timed stomach attacks after a long afternoon of comradely good fellowship during last years trip. Due to an impending case of severe fatherhood, he may or may not be able to make this year's bacchanal. We'll hoist one either with him or for him. Which one we hoist is up to you.

There were originally twenty beers to choose from, but I can't find an online poll that will let me list that many choices. I also thought about running a 64 beer bracket contest, something along the lines the Road to Springfield, but it seemed too much like work.

Ten Beers Enter! One Beer Leaves! - Stout Bracket

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout
Young's Double Chocolate Stout
Guinness Stout
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
Murphy's Irish Stout
Storm King Stout
Stone Imperial Stout
Shakespeare Stout
Mackeson's Triple X Stout
Bell's Expedition Stout

The poll will appear here permanently, and over on the right until the next poll runs. All the polls will eventually appear here. Vote early and often. Write-ins will be counted, but only if they are in the style of the pool above. Bud Light fans will simply have to bide their time until the Crap Beer Bracket is posted.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:30 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 01, 2003

If I Had A Hammer

It looks like I found a cider for this October's fishing trip to Ocracoke.

Strongbow. 10 cans and you'll kill a man.

Now I just need a new tagline for the T-shirts. Last year it was "He who passes out with the most fish wins."

Anyone? Bueller?

Update: Also need to bring some Tinkoff, as I am easily swayed by commercials considered too sexy for television.

Posted by Bigwig at 09:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

Cantillon Kriek Lambic

Beer of the Night

Though this will likely come a surprise to many, there are times when I skip the whole rigamarole surrounding a beer post and just drink the damn stuff. The Cantillon Gueze made it through without me taking note one Saturday night, as did the Top of the Hill cask beer the day before.

I tell a lie. I did take notes on the cask beer, but it was more about the horror of being presented with three quarters of a pitcher of beer in the middle of a workday by a beaming brewmaster when I was expecting to partake of a pint before going back to work. Good beer though. Slightly less hoppy than an IPA, as citrusy as one would expect with a trace of butterscotch overtone towards the end. It went really well with the fries and a steak sandwich.

I pitched a beer blog to the editor of All About Beer magazine earlier that day. They're local, and I figured it might get me into the seasonal beer festivals for free, so why not? It was via email, so I don't expect to hear back, but I still think it's a good idea, especially for niche publications like All About Beer. It enables them to engage their readership on a daily basis rather than a monthly or bi-monthly one, with all that means as far as advertising and promotion, as well as giving them an outlet for material that dates easily or doesn't fit into an issue for one reason or another. There are other beer blogs, but they don't appear to update very often, which means that the genre is someone's for the taking.

Yes, I'd like to be the Instapundit of Beer blogs. Who wouldn't? The glamour, the groupies, the.......possibility that people might send me six packs of free review beer. beer.

The only question in my mind is whether or not there enough material around to justify a beer blog, say one updated three or four times a day. There's a daily review, yes, but what else is there? Is there enough daily new material to support a blog devoted entirely to beer?

I think there is. Taking just today as an example, there's the gripping story behind Police Car Damaged By Flying Beer Cans, where a group of underage drinkers in a red hatchback tossed full cans of Natural Ice at the pursuing cops during a high speed pursuit.

Natural Ice, the beer with the taste that makes you want to at the pigs.

There's also Anheuser-Busch, who has started to market an upscale beer, Anheuser World Select, in hopes of improving their share of the beer geek market.

The company is quick to point out that World Select comes in green bottles with embossed labeling. Heineken, a top import made by the Dutch brewer Heineken, also comes in green bottles.

Because what's on the outside of a beer bottle has always been more important to Anheuser-Busch than what's on the inside.

Finally, Dogfish Head WorldWide Stout, the strongest beer in the world.

AS the effects kick in I decide it is time to turn on the charm with the ladies. Dutch courage, you've got to love it.

First up is a pretty blonde called Eve. The unsuspecting banker is enjoying a quiet glass of wine when bottle in hand I stagger, I mean sidle, up. Surprisingly the 26-year-old from Richmond, South-West London, is unimpressed by my patter and soon gives me the brush-off. "Don't drink this stuff if you want to go out on the pull," she tells me.

NEXT I try my luck with Melanie, 27, another banker. "The beer makes you really sexy and attractive," she purrs.

There's a noise behind me and I turn round to see her friends laughing hysterically. When I turn back Melanie has gone.

Might have to find me some of that for the fishing trip come October. It sounds like it would improve my conversational skills.

There's more, a lot more. One could easily beer blog all day long.

No, that's not a threat.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mr. Answer Man Denigrates Your Alcohol

Deb of MustBeNice asks

"Seriously, not to make an issue or nothin' but what are the chick beers?

*checks fridge.. finds budweiser cans and a rolling rock pony bottle from last summer*

Well, just because you're a chick doesn't mean you drink chick beers. Anyone who drinks a year-old Rolling Rock pony bottle is a man in my book.

A stupid man, but a man nonetheless.

Also, the definition changes with time. When Miller Lite first came out, it was seen as a chick beer. Real men didn't worry about calories in 1973, it seemed. Advertising changed all that, though it just made it more acceptable for men to drink light beer rather moving woman to another drink. That particular feat is harder than one might think. Remember shandy?

The latest chick beer is Michelob Ultra, though there is a growing class of what might be called chick alcohol. All are malt beverages, aka alcopops, scions of Zima sent forth to trouble the unhappy world. Many are marketed under the brand name of a liquor company or have descriptions like "hard lemonade." The once hot cider market has been infected by the practice, and sales have slumped in response.

It's only a matter of time before we see Bartles & James Hard Raspberry Lemonade. Other than that, chick beers can be regional in nature, or comparative. Amstel Light was a chick beer in Chapel Hill for a number of years, and most women in brewpubs will invariably order the lighter lagers over the IPAs, porters and stouts.

But the real definition of a chick beer, as any man will tell you is: "Whatever beer it is that a woman is drinking, as long as I am not also drinking it."

We're funny that way.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mr. Answer Man Denigrates Your Alcohol

Deb of MustBeNice asks

"Seriously, not to make an issue or nothin' but what are the chick beers?

*checks fridge.. finds budweiser cans and a rolling rock pony bottle from last summer*

Well, just because you're a chick doesn't mean you drink chick beers. Anyone who drinks a year-old Rolling Rock pony bottle is a man in my book.

A stupid man, but a man nonetheless.

Also, the definition changes with time. When Miller Lite first came out, it was seen as a chick beer. Real men didn't worry about calories in 1973, it seemed. Advertising changed all that, though it just made it more acceptable for men to drink light beer rather moving woman to another drink. That particular feat is harder than one might think. Remember shandy?

The latest chick beer is Michelob Ultra, though there is a growing class of what might be called chick alcohol. All are malt beverages, aka alcopops, scions of Zima sent forth to trouble the unhappy world. Many are marketed under the brand name of a liquor company or have descriptions like "hard lemonade." The once hot cider market has been infected by the practice, and sales have slumped in response.

It's only a matter of time before we see Bartles & James Hard Raspberry Lemonade. Other than that, chick beers can be regional in nature, or comparative. Amstel Light was a chick beer in Chapel Hill for a number of years, and most women in brewpubs will invariably order the lighter lagers over the IPAs, porters and stouts.

But the real definition of a chick beer, as any man will tell you is: "Whatever beer it is that a woman is drinking, as long as I am not also drinking it."

We're funny that way.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mr. Answer Man Denigrates Your Alcohol

Deb of MustBeNice asks

"Seriously, not to make an issue or nothin' but what are the chick beers?

*checks fridge.. finds budweiser cans and a rolling rock pony bottle from last summer*

Well, just because you're a chick doesn't mean you drink chick beers. Anyone who drinks a year-old Rolling Rock pony bottle is a man in my book.

A stupid man, but a man nonetheless.

Also, the definition changes with time. When Miller Lite first came out, it was seen as a chick beer. Real men didn't worry about calories in 1973, it seemed. Advertising changed all that, though it just made it more acceptable for men to drink light beer rather moving woman to another drink. That particular feat is harder than one might think. Remember shandy?

The latest chick beer is Michelob Ultra, though there is a growing class of what might be called chick alcohol. All are malt beverages, aka alcopops, scions of Zima sent forth to trouble the unhappy world. Many are marketed under the brand name of a liquor company or have descriptions like "hard lemonade." The once hot cider market has been infected by the practice, and sales have slumped in response.

It's only a matter of time before we see Bartles & James Hard Raspberry Lemonade. Other than that, chick beers can be regional in nature, or comparative. Amstel Light was a chick beer in Chapel Hill for a number of years, and most women in brewpubs will invariably order the lighter lagers over the IPAs, porters and stouts.

But the real definition of a chick beer, as any man will tell you is: "Whatever beer it is that a woman is drinking, as long as I am not also drinking it."

We're funny that way.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 05, 2003

Post of the Night

Phrase of the Day - Traumatized nipples. Nipples that practically shriek in fear and agony when the gaping, drooling maw approaches.

It's not opening! It's not opening! It's not wide enough! Game over man!

Things are getting better, else I'd dare not joke about it. We have come into possession of Soothies, and they have soothed

Beer of the Night - Lindemans Cassis Lambic A Lambic version of a chick beer seems to be the opinion of most of the reviews I've read. It's brewed with black currants, which reduces the expected sourness of a lambic to a surprising degree and gives the beer a dark purplish hue. I don't think it's more cloying as a result, rather that the initially smooth and sweet sensation rapidly overcome by the sour quality of other lambics is allowed to spread and develop in the Lindemans Cassis. It's like having a mouthful of cool silk. The sour notes are still present, mind you, but are more reminiscent of oranges than grapefruit in quality.

Homer would drink a ton of this stuff with porkchops, breaking Duffman's heat in the process.

"Stabbing!...Pain!....In!....Arm!... Time for a.....Duff Light!"

Can't see Moe serving them, though. Too much of a fancy pants aroma around the lambics. Expensive to start off with, and possessing a cork and a bottle to boot. Entire bars would sober up in the time it takes to open the bottle. I have seen the Framboise available on draft, at a little converted movie theatre in Asheville when we were on our honeymoon, but never any of the other Lindemans varieties

Didn't have time for more than pint, well, half pint. 8 ounces is about as much lambic as one gets at a time.

Small portions, another strike against the style. I would have had more, but she had other things on her mind.

The Biltmore Estate, of course.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2003

Rosé de Gambrinus

Beer of the night.

Any beer that features a drawing of a naked blonde lady being fondled by what appears to be King Gambrinus or possibly The Gimp in one of his lighter moments deserves a taste. But for God's sake don't buy it at Whole Foods if you can possibly avoid it. Their price on a Lindemans Framboise was three and a half bucks higher than the same bottle at Harris Teeter, so the rest of the beers are also probably overpriced. Goddamn profit-mongering hippies. Come the revolution, I'm going to have them shot by the lawyers.

Michael Jackson, no not that one, the Beerhunter, calls the Rosé "The world's most famous framboise," which is probably on the same level of fame as the world's most famous dobro player. Not counting Curtis Lowe, of course. The brewer, Cantillon, is certainly one of the more sought after brewers of Belgian beers, and one of my favorites. When I saw the Rosé and its three other brethren up on the shelf at the store, I had to suppress an urge to run around shouting "The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!"

Yes, I'm a dope, but that's the about the level of excitement I experienced. It's all I can do to keep from downing them all in one sitting, though I may try the lambic/white mix that the commenter Eli called a "Sweet Ho", in honor of the naked lady above, of course. I bought a Lindemans Framboise and an Allegash White for that, though. Not going to sully a Cantillon beverage by mixing it with something else. It would be like cutting 25 year old single malt with ginger ale. It doesn't matter what it tastes like, it simply isn't done unless one wishes to be thought an uncultured poltroon.

Framboise is the raspberry variation of a Belgian lambic, a fruit beer brewed only in Belgium's Senne Valley. The wild yeasts in that area are critical to the process of making a lambic, which in consequence is impossible to brew anywhere else. They also taste like no other beer on the planet. Many of the more commercial lambics (Lindemans) have sugar added to the process, which cuts down one the lip puckering sourness of an untouched lambic, but Cantillon, the brewer of the Rosé de Gambrinus and four or five of the other lambics I bought today eschews that practice, so all of their beers are characterized by a very sour fruitiness.

Which the Rosé surely has. The smell is incredibly tangy, and that's coming from a man with hardly a sense of smell at all. It could probably be used as perfume. The color is a deep reddish gold, like a bloody honey As for taste, there's a hint of smooth sweetness at the beginning, one lasting barely a moment before a dry combination of tart cherries and grapefruit smacks the taste buds into next week. The warmer the beer got, the less potent the kick, until at room temperature the sourness was merely a pleasant reminder of what came before. I wish I had another.

But instead I'll have a Ho. Same glass type, I would think, which for lambics is stemmed like a wine or pilsner glass rather than shaped like an English pint or American mixing glass. On the bottle labels produced for the export market the Belgian brewers make a point of practically begging one to use the correct glass. It seems snobby, but what they really want is for the beer to be presented in the best possible manner, so that you'll buy more.

Buying Lambic glasses on Ebay has proven to be an excellent way of annoying the wife, so I make sure to use them, though presumably not using them would be even more annoying. They also need to be hand washed rather than put un the dishwasher. Can't have harsh detergent residue interfering with the bouquet, you know. Also very annoying to the little woman.

The Sweet Ho tastes almost exactly like a Lindemans lambic would by itself. Possibly not quite as sweet. The mix is three-fifths Allegash; I would have expected more of the white ale to come through. The bouquet is definitely reduced from that of a lambic, but that's the only obvious difference.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2003

Old Well White, Davie Poplar IPA

Beers of the mid afternoon. Why, with luck I'll have a beer of the night post as well. Nothing like having to wade through another alcohol discursion to find the Ngnat news to make Meryl and the relatives crotchety. Three words, Meryl. Lindemans Framboise Lambic. There's nothing like it the world when it comes to changing a person's mind about what beer is. Lambics taste like nothing else on the planet. If I hadn't told you it was beer you'd have never known. The Peche is also verra nice.

Was in a two hour meeting about purchasing a couple of Nortel's Alteon SSL accelerators at noon today, so it was a late lunch. The weekly N&O beer column had mentioned that Top of the Hill was going to offer a saison in June, so I figured I'd go see if it was available yet.

At Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill, brewer John Withey keeps his Summer Lager on tap year-round, so when it came to a choice exclusively for the summer, he decided to do something different. He will turn to Belgian brewing traditions, and in June, Top of the Hill will offer its first saison. Appropriately meaning "season," the saison beers of Flanders are usually bottled, champagne-style, with secondary fermentation in the bottle creating lots of carbonation. The draft version will be less carbonated, cloudy, pale and refreshing, with additions of coriander and orange peel. Saisons are wonderful with food.

Apparently the N&O jumped the gun a bit, for there were shocked looks all round when I asked for the saison. Presumably this was as much for my horrid pronunciation of the word as it was for the fact that the brew wasn't due for another two weeks, minimum. Disappointing, but as I had already decided on beer for lunch this was hardly off putting. The bartender pointed me towards the Old Well White instead, it being the closest thing to a Belgian beer in the absence of the saison.

Must of been a slow day, or else I'd already been identified as a first-class beer geek, for hardly had I gotten my white and unpacked my lunch time reading (a comic book, cause there's nothing in the world as a appealing as man alone at a bar with his comic book) than the brewer himself, John, hustled over to denigrate it.

That's right, talk bad about his own beer. He wasn't happy with it, he having experimented with a brewing process on this particular batch that didn't give the orange peel a long enough exposure in the mash to create the classic high citrus notes that characterize a Belgian White. And he was right. Belgian whites are distinctive beers, of a type that easily distinguishable from every other drink in the world, spicy and with the mouthfeel of a soft champagne, and the Old Well white, while a perfectly decent drink, was rather thin on the both citrus high note and the mouthfeel. Reminiscent of a lager, almost.

I ate my pizza, talked beer for a bit and closed out with 10 ounces of the Davie Poplar IPA. I did have to go back to work, after all. It's a mainstay at Top of the Hill, hoppy, and bitingly refreshing, with a nice backgrounded caramel overtone. The hop content has crept up over the years as the general beer palate in Chapel Hill has grown more sophisticated, though it's nowhere near the level of some of the more extreme bitters. Almost took another one, but I am alas all too responsible now I'm a parent.

I'll be back. Not only should the saison be ready in two weeks or so, but as I left they told me to ask for the cask beer next time I was in.

"It's not on the menu. It's what we drink."

Mmmmmmmm.........Secret Beer.

Posted by Bigwig at 04:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2003


Beer of the night, and another repeat. No new beer until after Scotty arrives. No, we're not naming him Scotty. If I was going to be that geeky, he'd be named Sulu.

I'm sure the other Treks are nice...well, not Voyager, but the only series I've wanted to see since Next Generation was one with Sulu as captain of the Excalibur. That was the logical next series. Still not too late, and Takei is still around. Surely he can be made to look the correct age, right? Like I care. Put him up there, liver spots and all, I'll watch.

So, no Trek name for the kid. Scotty just feels right for his blog name. I thought about Ngnewt (pronounced 'Noot'), but Ngnat and Ngnewt seemed a little...cutesy. Also Ripley.

Not much left of the day to chew over; just look below if you want to know why, but I did run across a song that's appropriate for the beer of the night, The Old Dun Cow, by D.C. resident Seamus Kennedy.

Some friends and I in a public house
Was playin' dominoes one night
When into the pub the barman came
His face all a chalky white.
"What's up", says Brown, "Have you seen a ghost,
Or have you seen your Aunt Mariah?"
"Me Aunt Mariah be buggered!", says he,
"The bloody pub's on fire!"

"ON fire?" says Brown, "What a bit of luck.
Everybody follow me.
And it's down to the cellar
If the fire's not there
Then we'll have a rare old spree."
So we all went down after good old Brown
The booze we could not miss
And we hadn't been there five minutes or more
Till we were all half pissed.

And there was Brown upside down
Licking up the whiskey off the floor.
"Booze, booze!" The firemen cried
As they came knockin' on the door
Don't let 'em in till it's all mopped up
And somebody shouted MacIntyre! MACINTYRE!
And we all got blue-blind paralytic drunk
When the Old Dun Cow caught fire.

Then, Smith went over to the port wine tub
And gave it just a few hard knocks
Started takin' off his pantaloons
Likewise his shoes and socks.
"Hold on, " says Brown, "We can't have that
You can't do that in here.
Don't go washin' your trotters in the port wine tub
When we've got all this light beer."

And there was Brown upside down
Licking up the whiskey off the floor.
"Booze, booze!" The firemen cried
As they came knockin' on the door
Don't let 'em in till it's all mopped up
And somebody shouted MacIntyre! MACINTYRE!
And we all got blue-blind paralytic drunk
When the Old Dun Cow caught fire.

Just then there came an awful crash
Half the bloody roof gave way.
We were drowned in the firemen's hose
Till we were going to stay
So we got some tacks and our old wet slacks
And nailed ourselves inside
And we sat swallowing pints of stout
Till we were bleary-eyed.....

And there was Brown upside down
Licking up the whiskey off the floor.
"Booze, booze!" The firemen cried
As they came knockin' on the door
Don't let 'em in till it's all mopped up
And somebody shouted MacIntyre! MACINTYRE!
And we all got blue-blind paralytic drunk
When the Old Dun Cow caught fire.

Nothing like a Celt when it comes to song about alcohol. I think it was the "blue-blind paralytic drunk" that really grabbed me. "MacIntyre!" is rhyming slang for Fire, or so Google informs me. If you know of an alternate explanation, let me know, though I suspect Celtic music fans are few an farther between, now.

If you Kazaa Seamus, Monkey Farts is worth the download, and Mom's Lullaby is also supposedly very good, though I've yet to find it, myself.

And yes, I checked the Apple store. I think they define themselves by only offering music I don't want to buy.

Posted by Bigwig at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2003

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

One of the oldest and certainly one of the best U.S. craft beers, not to mention one of the world's must-taste beers according to All About Beer Magazine. No idea how many are on the list, but I've had 59 of them. I'm tempted to print it out and keep it as a field guide.

The sainted wife and I stayed home home today at the behest of her uterus, which had kept one of us up all night playing "On your mark, get set, never mind!" until the wee hours of the morning. In case you're wondering, that person was not me. I slept like a baby, albeit one who had an cranky mother, a mother who woke it every hour or so to express her dissatisfaction with what I assume were things like the state of the bedsheets, the ambient temperature, or the Middle East. I woke only to the level of a dim semi-conciousness, one where I could respond without actually having to think. I learned to communicate effectively while not actually waking up ages ago, in college. It's amazing what a well timed "Ngh?" or "Yunh!" can do to make a woman think one is paying attention to a particular conversation in the middle of the night.

Or at high tea, for that matter.

So we stayed at home, in case "hurry up and wait" became "gotta go this instant". We'd long ago decided that the best possible baby scenario would be to have Ngnat at daycare when her brother arrived, so off she went. And back she came, in the late afternoon, to a house totally free from new brothers. No sudden discovery of sibling rivalry, no trip to the hospital to see the ruination of all her hopes and dreams. We went to the library, instead, where I assiduously searched for picture books where the author, in a fit of uncreative desperation, had decided "the hell with the words, I'm tired of the words, I'm just going to use a public domain children's song instead."

Most of these are by the children's book equivalent of Neal Adams -- "Draw Pretty, Write Bad!", but Ngnat loves them nonetheless, demanding one of them be read/sung to her as the last book before bedtime. We've covered Baa, Baa Black Sheep, Yankee Doodle and Down By The Station, among others. They're not real easy to find; it's not like the library has whole shelves devoted to the genre.

We watched a little league practice after the library. Ngnat insisted. She likes watching the tweener boys play ball, which is exactly what she calls it. She also likes climbing on the bleachers, at least until she falls, whereupon she cries and the other parents looked at me as if I had been shoving bamboo splinters underneath her nails. I picked her up and carry her back to the car, back to the new books for the library and the sucker she had carefully stowed sticky side down on the back seat.

From her perch against my chest, head carefully tucked into the hollow of my neck" "You're my best friend, Daddy."

Yes, very sweet, but she also tells her mom that at the drop of a hat, especially when it's close to bedtime. She tells the toddlers she plays with in the library the same. She assures the cats that, come what may, they are tops in her list.

Of course, with me, she means it.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2003

Weeping Radish Weizen

Beer of the night, and the beer with the most head per ounce poured that I have ever seen. It was frikkin' annoying, waiting for the head to die down. I actually started in on the Weizen a couple of nights ago, and found the amount of foam so unbelievable that I put off posting about it, as I assumed that the first beer or two were not necessarily representative of the brew as a whole. The more fool me. I'm on number 6, and irregardless of the glass shape or pour method, this sucker foams up like a rabid Lassie. It's a decent enough brew once the foam dies away, but I prefer not having to wait 15 bloody minutes before I can drink my beer. So I drank a Baron while I waited, and all was well.

No idea what the beer of tomorrow night will be. I'm fresh out of unmentioned alcohol, unless one counts the Michelob Light, and I don't. It's there for houseguests with an uneducated palate, not for me. Ngnat and I looked for a likely candidate for BOTN while we were at Food Lion tonight, but that store's idea of an exotic beer is Yuengling. 10 year ago they would have been correct, or at least more correct than they are now. Not that there's anything wrong with Yuengling. It's an excellent beer, you should drink some. But when I go out looking for beer, I'm most interested in new to me, not new to N.C.

We were at Food Lion because I had developed a craving for massive amounts of garlic, and Food Lion was right next to the Italian restaurant I had chosen to satisfy the craving, Pulcinella's. While my takeout Spaghetti alla BellaDonna was being prepared, Ngnat and I filled the skimpy grocery list the Sainted Wife had filled out.

I love the Spaghetti alla BellaDonna, if it's got less than 3 cloves of sauteed garlic in it then I'll eat.....another clove of garlic to make up the difference. The portion was kind of small though, so I suspect next time I'll attempt to make it myself. It appears to be garlic sauteed in olive oil, with pine nuts, raisins and Gaeta olives added at some point, poured over al dente spaghetti and garnished with fresh parmesan. Shouldn't take more than 15 minutes, tops.

I'll may have to make something different for the wife; I can't remember if she can't eat garlic ever, or if she can't eat garlic now because she's pregnant. She's not quite the fan I am of it in any case. Ngnat decimated the portion I gave her tonight, so at least one other member of the family can stink along with dad.

She had her bath tonight, so stink along time was necessarily brief. She's gotten to the point in the tub where we feel we can leave her for limited amounts of time. Not for long, as drowning is still the leading cause of death for kids under 5, but long enough for the wife and I to take care of sundry tasks, such as email and litter boxes.

Yes, we know about pregnant women and little boxes. Just one other reason for me to glare at the cats.

One of us eventually bathes her, and by one of us I mean not me. I don't get her clean enough, or so I am told, despite singing

I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair.
I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair.
I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair,
And send him on his wa-ay!

in an off-key falsetto as I shampoo the locks and tresses with the toddler-approved purple shampoo. Not the green shampoo; never the green shampoo. That shampoo has been cast into the outer darkness, where it resides with the Blue's Clues toothpaste.

So the Sainted Wife bathes Ngnat, and I dry and brush her hair, then Sainted Wife dresses her torso and brushes her teeth. Then I read books, then SW reads books, then bedtime is come, at least on a normal night. Tonight Ngnat slipped on the linoleum on the way out of the bathroom and cracked her head on the door.

No blood, many tears, assuaged only by my presentation to her of a beach towel printed in puppies, which she wrapped herself in before watching American Idol in the big bed with Mommy and Daddy. We agreed, she and I, that Tamyra Gray's phrasing on "Somewhere over the Rainbow" sucked ass, and that Justin had funny hair. SW said we shouldn't say "suck ass", and so we didn't.

At least I didn't.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2003

Tetley's English Ale

Beer of the night, and a repeat if I'm not missing my guess. And lo, I am not. Much as I would like to have a new beer of the night 365 days a year, it's not possible. Not because there aren't enough beers out there. There are. Cutting edge beer thinking puts the number at about 5000 on any particular day, with new and old brews arriving and departing each day. At one a day, the supply is essentially infinite. But the closer we get to the due date, the less fallow the wallet field is.

I may be reduced to drinking Anheuser-Busch products soon. < shudder >. Or there will come a week in June or July when the beer of the night is the same for six, or more likely three, nights in a row. Perhaps I'll have a pledge week, ala Andrew Sullivan, but in lieu of money I'll just beg for people to mail me beer.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone live near H.C. Berger?

I'm not sure if we have done any actual economizing, or have just talked about economizing. I'm not in charge of the money, thank god. We have a very Japanese arrangement, in that the wife is in charge of the money. She is, after all, an accountant. She pays the bills. I install the software and make the Monty Python references. It's a fair distribution of labor; you wouldn't want an amateur making the Python references. That way lies madness.

Fauna. I'm also in charge of dealing with fauna. Can't forget that, especially as the weekend was chock full of it. And by fauna, I don't mean cats, though sadly I am in charge of them as well. By fauna I mean things that don't make horrible loud noises playing in the litterbox come two in the morning.

By fauna, I mean Eastern Box Turtles, Garter Snakes and Black Rat snakes, all of whom graced us with their presence this weekend. The Turtle we took to show and tell; all the three-year-olds were entranced. Meeting the Black Rat was the most exciting encounter, as indeed almost any meeting would be if one party was not only nearly five feet in length, but also almost trodden on by a heavily pregnant woman within 8 feet of her back door.

Despite its rather formidable appearance, the black rat is one of the most docile species of snake around. Out of dozens of encounters with rat snakes, I think I've been bitten once. I made sure this snake wasn't bound and determined to be the second, then presented her to Ngnat, who touched the scales and nodded solemnly as I instructed her to "Come get Daddy if you see a snake." This was a lesson she'd heard before; we'd run across the garter snakes mating the previous day. It's the second law of the outdoors that I have hopefully pounded into her head, the first being "Stay away from shiny black spiders."

She's parroted both back to me at times, so I think they've taken. Not that it will stop me reiterating either of them back to her until she's.....twenty-something, probably.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2003

Red Seal Ale

Red Seal is brewed in California, and available in North Carolina primarily because the head brewer has roots in the state. Goes well with Alsatian Munster, apparently. Beer of the night. Beers of the night were I to have my druthers, but apparently the Sainted wife's cervix could let go at any time, so I am forbidden the fruit of the hops and grain above a certain level of intake. I tried explaining to her the anecdotal value a buzzed husband in the delivery room would have, not only for me, but for the doctors and nurses as well, but she heard me not. Hardly fair, I think. She's going to have a veritable cocktail of chemicals pumped into her, and I have to face the ordeal with my wits unclouded?

I wasn't sober when this journey started, don't see why I should be when it finishes.

Mother's day went well, cards aplenty, and I not only steamed cleaned the carpet, upstairs and down the day before but presented the wife with a tulip vase in our wedding china formal pattern. I was the one who picked that pattern out, 5 or 6 years ago. It was long ago, and those days are hazy now. Also, I don't have to remember how long ago it was until the next wedding anniversary in..............January. I do remember picking that specific pattern primarily because it was the only one featuring accurate depictions of insects that I could find in the housewares section at Belk. You'd think that market would have a lot of competition, but no.

A word to the prospective groom. The formal wedding china is your friend. No couple on the planet outside of European royalty and South Carolina debutantes gets a full set of their formal china, so whenever one of the Hallmark invented holidays pops up and you can't think of what in god's name to get the missus, you can present her with that. It even looks like you gave it some thought.

If for some reason you were unlucky enough to marry into European royalty or South Carolina debutante society, you have my condolences. But all is not lost. Two words, my friend: Christmas China.

As far as steam cleaning goes, cover the carpet once with the soap in the machine, and once with just water. Else you'll leave soap residue on the fibers. Soap residue is sticky. Sticky things attract dirt, and dirt attracts women who thinks things should be steam cleaned. Claw your way out of the vicious cycle with a rinse cycle. Ideally you should do two rinses; one to clean up and one to make sure, but that requires a Lileks level of OCD that I do not possess.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2003

Smuttynose Portsmouth Lager

The beer of the night, of course, which Meryl probably thought was gone for ever and good riddance, Meryl not caring too much for the general theme, you see. Hopefully she, and you, shouldn't forget you, it would be rude, is a fan of complicated sentence structure. Yep, nothing like archaic sentence construction and ill-informed ruminations on alcohol to really spike the traffic numbers.

To be fair, though, the beer of the night posts are almost never strictly about the beer, serving instead as a catch-all for the unthemed, (sadly unthemed, to my mind) events of the day. I sent them on sabbatical due to reasons of the clock and the pocketbook, there not being enough time in the day to get around to them for a while, nor enough money in the wallet for me to afford a new beer to review every night.

Also, many beers come in six packs, as you might have heard, and while I was reviewing one bottle its five brethren were taking up space in the elderly dorm refrigerator that has been my unofficial beer cooler for the past ten years.

"Make room! Make room," they cried. Later they cried "Make water! Make water," but that's a story for another time, a time I'm sure will never come.

As well, rare beers, even the singles, cost a shocking amount, so there have been times when I was faced with a soul-rending choice between beer and a new picture book for Ngnat, or beer and a new book with altogether too few pictures for myself.

I've learned to patronize the library again. < shudder >. Ngnat always has to go potty there, and nothing gives me the heebie jeebies more than sitting her down on public toilets. I feel that I now know a little something of what Howard Hughes went through, just before the end.

As far as time goes, mine has been cut short by a woman who insists on nesting constantly. Were we ospreys, the nest would have passed amphitheater size long ago. Last saturday I mowed the lawn, went to the nursery, returned and planted new azaleas, hydrangeas, snapdragons, some tall purplish things and mint that I snuck in for juleps later in the summer, put together the extremely complicated wheel barrow gifted to me by the father-in-law, dumped leftover dirt into the creases of the hill behind the house, extended the brick edging for the plant beds around the house, staked roses and sanded down Ngnat's new bookcase. There was also a major trip to the grocery store in there somewhere.

I worked like a Mexican. I also ate like a Mexican, having asked the staff at the nursery where they had gotten the odd yet delicious looking lunch they were partaking of. After initial translation difficulties, they pointed me towards the new carniceria on 55, carniceria evidently meaning "bunch of gigantic latinos who stare impassively at gringos who try to order take out".

I had something with "carnitas" in the description, and a Senorial, a non-alcoholic carbonated Sangria. Both were excellent.

This weekend,so far, there will be more, I am to steam clean the carpets, upstairs and down, as well as at least one sofa. There's also the outdoor floodlights over the garage to replace, and the bookcase to finish. It at least is almost done, needing just a final smoothing of the paint before I take it to Ngnat's room. Its initial appearance was a shock to Mrs. Pregnant, I having treated her as Bush does Congress and bought it with neither advice nor consent, but it solves the picture book on the floor at night problem in Ngnat's room that had been driving her to distraction. Her being the Sainted Wife, rather than Ngnat, who is perfectly happy having everything at hand in case a book is needed in the wee hours of the morning. The color, a lovely dark pink that the can calls English Tea Rose, has done its job in mollifying her as well.

Not that it matches anything else in Ngnat's room, mind you. I need this baby to come before that gets noticed.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2003

Annoying the Wife, Beer of the Night

Tonight we sample from Young Brewery's Dirty Dick's ale, the beer name that begs to be mistyped; the beer that the wife wants me to take elsewhere, anywhere, as long as it is away from her.

Just like regime change in Iraq, the Ibook is producing unforeseen consequences. In the era B.L., blogging to her was a solitary, second floor endeavor, annoying in that took me away, but at least quiet. No longer.

Today she opened the door to the downstairs bathroom and there on the toilet sat I, hunched over in all my glory, laptop on the floor before me, chuckling over Doggerel Pundit's lovely Babs poem.

If there is such a thing as a look of incredulous disdain, she wore it. "I cannot believe you took that to the bathroom with you."

"Why not? I've read all the magazines. Gotta read something."

"It's a laptop!"

I grinned at her, full of pith and vinegar. Well, full of vinegar at least, if possessing somewhat less pith than before, and remarked. "Don't you mean.....craptop?"

Which ended the conversation, as she flounced upstairs in annoyance, leaving me to giggle inanely over my exquisite bon mot.

Dealing with a husband who has apparently grown a new appendage is one thing. Dealing with him while he blogs beside you in the marital bed at night is where she draws the line. The beer posts bother her the most, thanks to my lead fingered typing, omnipresent beer smell, and the horrible sounds that accompany every other sip.

Usually there's a sniff, and then a bigger sniff, and I try to coax my crippled olfactory receptors into detecting a bouquet, followed by an inverse raspberry, one created by me pooling a sip of beer on the front of my tongue and drawing in air across it. This is supposedly done to spread the beer out over the taste buds, to pick out some of the subtler flavors. It sounds like Hannibal Lector discussing fava beans and niche chianti.


Wine tasters and beer judges do it a lot, and manage to look fairly professional about the whole thing.

I tend to cough a lot, and drool.

thipthip Hack. hack. Nice....hack.caramel...overtone....hack, wipe. Not a pretty sound or sight if you happen to be a seven months pregnant woman finally drifting off to sleep after an hour of arranging things so that neither your sore hips nor your bulging, gravid belly is complaining about the extra heavy nighttime gravity.

So I was dismissed, and sent to the computer room/guest bedroom to finish my beer and record my thoughts there.

"Please don't throw me in dat dere briar patch," I said, and was rewarded with a face full of pillow.

Married life is so romantic.

Speaking of marriage, back to the Dirty Dick's. It's a very nice reddish brown ale with a fairly fast disappearing head. As always, not much of a bouquet, but that's my fault, not the beer's. I can smell it, of course, but I don't have the nose to separate out any specific themes. Smooth, glassy mouth feel, with an initial faint taste of spun sugar. It's a fairly hoppy ale, though far less so than the Brutal Bitter of the previous night, with a strong citrus note, something you should find in almost all bitters. (I prefer bitters at the moment, and bought a number of them on the last trip to the beer store, which is why there's been several reviewed. Alts, whites and hefewiezens also grab the spotlight now and again as well.) There's kind of a slight charcoal type finish, reminiscent of mesquite chips. I think this is probably what most people would call "oaky." A good beer with peanuts, but then again, what beer isn't?

Here's another review.

And we have a request in, to review a child of the Philippines, San Miguel Dark Lager. I'll see if I can locate some.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beer of the Night A

Beer of the Night

A quick review, for I'm already looking at only five hours sleep. Rogue Brutal Bitter - It's brutal indeed. Most people would use the "very hoppy, very citrusy" phrase in describing it. They're correct, but misleading. It tastes like the white stuff Mother Nature wraps grapefruit wedges in.

This is not necessarily bad. It's just not a beer to drink alone. It needs accompaniment. I'd say it would go well with Brie and Townhouse crackers, if I was eating Brie.

That's my review. Here's a real one.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2003

Please, Pardon the Intrusion.........BOO-YAH!

Beer of the Night - Olde Suffolk English Ale.

Beer of the Night came real close to being Two Glasses of Scotch Night. This was in my email when I got home tonight (personal info munged)

Dear Bigwig,

Saw your French military timeline and loved it. We're doing our own French skewer for our July issue, and we'd love to run your timeline if you'd be willing to sell it. Also, we're always looking for good humor writers. Don't know if your committed full time to Silflay Hraka, but if you're interested in pitching us ideas, or perhaps an assignment sometime, we'd think you'd be great in the mix.

My number is ###-###-####. I'm on a tight deadline with the French piece. If you could let me know as soon as possible I'd appreciate it a lot.

Yours truly,

##### #####
Maxim Magazine
######## at

Suspicious and paranoid man that I am, I ignored the pitter-patter of little duck feet under my sternum and checked the headers for the originating machine. That particular post has generated more than a little antipathy from certain brie loving Sartre readers, and I'd hate to have the friends of Les Chameau pull one over one me.

Received: from ( []) by (8.12.5/8.12.5).

Okay, so dennispub sounds ok, could be a publishing company. Let's try, see what that brings up.....c'mon, baby needs a new pair of friggety damn!

So I called them. I'll let you know if anything happens.

Zod: Like they could stop you.
Ah, it's not that big a deal.
Zod: Barely even worth mentioning.
It's a slow night.
Zod: Such a small matter. You'll probably forget all about it.
Probably will.
Zod: Not worth even cashing the check, really.
Hey, let's not go crazy, here.
Zod: I'm not the one talking to me, if you get my drift.
Not any longer.

It's very good scotch, but so far I've saved it for friends, so I pulled the Olde Suffolk out of the beer fridge. It being the closest beer equivalent to aged whiskey in the house at the moment. It's a mixture of two ales, one of which is aged for two years in oak casks. It's possible to taste them separately, but you have to know the brewer. I've had it before, back in the dot-com era when the Sainted Wife and I were flush with cash and unflush with children, days long ago when I had a membership in Michael Jackson's beer club. No, not that one. I shudder to think what he would send out in the mail.

The Olde Suffolk is as dark as a porter, so by my theory it should be at least as complex. Unfortunately, now that I've reached the review portion of the post, I find that the beer is gone. From memory, then. Good Bouquet, good head, kind of a hoppy/coffee overtone, which tasted better than it sounds. I'm worried that it was a slight touch of the problem that the Caledonian did last night, in that it's a winter beer and we're moving on towards spring, but if so, it wasn't nearly as bad. I got them both at the same place, at the Frugal MacDoogals just south of Charlotte, and while they carry a great variety of beer unavailable in NC, they strike me as being more concerned with quantity than quality. Not that I have much of choice. There's not a lot of beer specialty stores near Rock Hill that I know of.

Posted by Bigwig at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spit Take Beer of the

Spit Take

Beer of the Night - Caledonian Golden Promise, the world's first organic beer, apparently.

Well, it could have used some of those fancy non-organic preservatives, if you ask me. The beer wasn't skunked, but it was an aged and infirm beer. Little to no head, which is always a warning sign, and all the high ester notes you'd expect in an ale were just not there, having all decayed into a bitter puddle of aftertaste that would not depart from my taste buds despite repeated water chasers. There's no freshness or expiration date on the bottle, unless the mysterious "1232 03C" on the back label means something. It's apparently a very good ale when fresh, so I seem to have drawn the short straw with this particular bottle.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2003

Anchors Aweigh Beer of the

Anchors Aweigh

Beer of the Night - Original Flag Porter, brewed with yeast from 1825, salvaged from a sunken vessel in the English Channel. I tell you, if that doesn't make your tongue tingle.....then you must find the idea of beer brewed with salty, ancient and waterlogged yeast unappetizing.

I, on the other hand, find that immensely appealing, so I guess I'm the target market, though I fail to understand how a beer brewed for Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey fans is going to make any profit whatsoever. Certainly we'll buy whatever trinkets and crap are thrown our way, but there's just not that many of us. Very few posses the requisite appetite needed to consume 30 odd books set in the early 19th century British Navy. Very few will....well, read this first, from Master and Commander

The weather had freshened almost to coldness, for the wind was coming more easterly, from the chilly currents between Tristan and the Cape; the sloth was amazed by the change; it shunned the deck and spent its time below. Jack was in his cabin, pricking the chart with less satisfaction than he could have wished: progress, slow, serious trouble with the mainmast-- unaccountable headwinds by night-- and sipping a glass of grog; Stephen was in the mizentop, teaching Bonden to write and scanning the sea for his first albatross. The sloth sneezed, and looking up, Jack caught its gaze fixed upon him; its inverted face had an expression of anxiety and concern. 'Try a piece of this, old cock,' he said, dipping his cake in the grog and proffering the sop. 'It might put a little heart into you.' The sloth sighed, closed its eyes, but gently absorbed the piece, and sighed again.

Some minutes later he felt a touch upon his knee: the sloth had silently climbed down and it was standing there, its beady eyes looking up into his face, bright with expectation. More cake, more grog: growing confidence and esteem. After this, as soon as the drum had beat the retreat, the sloth would meet him, hurrying toward the door on its uneven legs: it was given its own bowl, and it would grip it with its claws, lowering its round face into it and pursing its lips to drink (its tongue was too short to lap). Sometimes it went to sleep in this position, bowed over the emptiness.

'In this bucket,' said Stephen, walking into the cabin, 'in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London, and Paris combined: these animalculae-- what is the matter with the sloth?' It was curled on Jack's knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack's glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable bleary face, shook it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep.

Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, 'Jack, you have debauched my sloth.'

Very few will laugh out loud at that, I was going to say, but I could be wrong. For one, I'd be arguing with Russell Crowe and Peter Weir, who obviously think people will like it just fine.

This started out about beer, didn't it? That's the problem with blogging under the influence. All sorts of extraneous themes creep in. Why, in a moment, I'll start blathering on about the Ibook I bought today, and my transformation in a pale, tiny and bitter shadow of Lileks will be complete.

Except that I didn't buy it because I'm a mac freak. I bought it to further my quest to own or work on every OS,and it was either that or XP. Since XP boxes have been regularly crashing the UNC campus wide network since the beginning of the fall semester, I figured I'd go with the Mac.

And it shor is purty.

Beer. Must. wrench. helm. back. to. original. theme.

I've always thought of porter as one of the more complex beer types. I could be completely wrong; it's based on a gut feeling rather than actual knowledge. My rule of thumb is that the harder it is to see through a beer, the more you can bullshit about it to your friends.

Wait, that's not right.

Ahem. The harder it is to see through a beer, the more complexity it offers, and porters are surpassed only by stouts in that category. The Flag Porter does contain a variety of flavors, ranging from an initial bitter coffee bite to smooth black currant finish. I can't tell you much of about the bouquet, I've been moving books into the attic all night, and dust has clogged my olfactory receptors.*

That's my review. Here's a real one. In case you're wondering, I don't read them before I write mine. That would be cheating, and I'm all about rules all of a sudden.

*Thanks to an intensive and imaginative reorganization of the attic, I have managed to save most of my collection, including the ones I thought were gone for sure.

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March 10, 2003

Beer Catchup I'm of the

Beer Catchup

I'm of the opinion that no one actually reads the beer entries, which is fine with me. I needed something to take the place of entering data into the beer database, and this has turned out to be it. It helps to set a particular beer memory into the framework, so that if called upon, I can bore perfect strangers at parties with my hops recollections.

Beer of the Night - Fraoch Heather Ale. The label has always put me off this beer. It's very dark green and Celtic, but from a distance it always appeared something like a Food Lion brand generic to me, and I'm not buying anything from Food Lion. That whole ABC meat business aside, their stores are dirty, the service is deadeningly glacial, and I once saw fruit flies over the produce at the one location I had no choice in buying from for over a month. Any place I see drosophila melanogaster at for that long has lost my business for all time.

So, the label was an unpleasant association for me, but the beer is incredible. For me to actually review it right now would mean I'd have to go get a third one, and as tempting is that is, I'm too old for three beers on a work night.* It's a beer you pour, and then sip, and sip, and then much to your surprise it's gone. The second vanishes just as quickly. It's the smoothest beer I've had in months, a gossamer dew of a brew.

That's my review, here's a real one.

Beer of Last Night- Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale. Yes, I'm a sucker for labeling. But the beer is good. Just ask the cat.

*Not that I couldn't handle it. I could handle it and eight more, buddy, then a case after that, and......and then I'd fall asleep and not wake up when the fire started, or the burglars broke in, or terrorists attacked. I'd die, but worse than that, I'd let my daughter down.

Parenthood is a terrible thing.

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March 07, 2003

Beer of the Night Ambari

Beer of the Night

Ambari Premium Lager, brewed by the Impala Distilleries & Brewery of Goa, India

India a beer paradise? Not really. All the beer tastes the same and it is served so cold that it anaesthetises the tonsils. But to be honest, in this place where the sun shines constantly, the leaves of the coconut trees rustle in the breeze as if applauding each other and curries burst with flavour, it doesn’t really matter.

Mine was a decent enough lager, honey accents with an unexpected smoky overtone reminiscent of a rauchbier. It's apparently not a well known or widely marketed beer, as I was unable to find an online review of it. That's never happened before.

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March 05, 2003

Beer of the Night I

Beer of the Night

I was so impressed with the Allagash White, that I bought the Allagash Speciale Reserve when I saw it at the Peace Street Market Saturday. It also comes in a gigantic freaking corked bottle, so I suspect I'll be asleep here pretty soon. I like it. Good color, excellent head, very smooth and the hops don't bitchslap you like they do in so many ales.

That's my review. Here's a real one.

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March 02, 2003

Weekend Brew Went with Kehaar

Weekend Brew

Went with Kehaar to the Pour House in Raleigh Friday, which was hosting the "five years in business without crashing like a" party for the knick-knack salesman's company. The ant-eating Secret Service agent was there, as well as one of Kehaar's insane ex's and a old door to door vacuum cleaner sales associate of mine who now runs a art website. First time I go to a bar in over three years, and I can't turn around with bumping into someone I know, most of whom had nothing to with the five-year shindig, but were perfectly happy to accept my extra free beer tickets This number included Kirsten, who called me by name and then could not for the life of her remember why she knew me. I was no help, having only vaguely recognized her to begin with.

Beer of Friday Night - N.C. company Highland Brewing's Gaelic Ale was the best beer of the night. Sadly, my copious notes on this beer now appeared blurred and rather incoherent, though the reference to "Laddie, I don't know where you've been, but I see you won first prize." are intriguing.

Beer of Last Night - Southern Comfort and Tab. Everyone needs a break every now and then.

Beer of the Night - Scarecrow Ale, an organic brew from the Wychwood Brewery, the company with the best labels in beer. The company may have solved some of its export issues, because although they are still using the clear bottle, mine was in no way skunky. It was very noticeable hoppy when first poured, indeed rather a shock to the mouth, but it sweetened up considerably as it grew warmer, with a slight caramel overtone that grew more pronounced as the temperature climbed. If I remember to, next time I get one these I'll pour it and let it sit for a half hour before drinking it. How's that for beer snobbery?

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February 27, 2003

Beer of the Night Hitachino

Beer of the Night

Hitachino Nest White Ale, from Japan. Curse you, Axis of Weasels, for forcing me to drink Japanese beer.

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with Nipponese Beer, on the whole. Japanese brewmasters produce some fine lagers. It's ales, rather than lagers, that make or break a country's reputation, though. That's why England, Belgium, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia have such strong brewing reputations. I'd hesitate to rank them in any sort of order, though Belgium would be at the top on any list. It's the second through fourth spaces that would cause me mental grief to try and sort out. I'd put the U.S. fifth, and Canada sixth.

That particular ranking is guaranteed to produce some hate mail in my inbox from residents of our neighbor to the north, so let me explain. Not that it will matter, I suppose.

On average, Canada produces better beer than the United States. But on the whole, the U.S. produces more quality beers than Canada does. A bigger population means more brewers, and more brew overall.

Sorry guys. If it's any consolation, it was a Molson that started me down the beer snob trail.

Now, speaking beer snobbery, I suppose I ought to make a stab at describing the Hitachino.

It's overwhelmingly citrusy. Now, I know white ales are supposed to have a nice citrus overtone to them, but it's usually pretty subtle, and usually leans towards the lemon end of the citrus scale. The Hitachino tastes like someone squeezed an entire tangerine into the bottle before it was capped. The color of the beer, a very orangy yellow, supports that theory. The tangerine taste doesn't make it a bad beer, and I suspect that particular essence was chosen in an attempt to make this ale stand out from the legion of Hoegaarden and Allagash imitators, but I personally think it should be a bit more subtle. It strikes me as the Japanese Beer equivalent of Engrish.

Please enjoy HITACHINO NEST BEER with fantastic food, we are sure that you will spend relax and cozy time. Having drinking Nest Beer on your left hand and eating Japanese traditional food on your right hand, isn't it wonderful?

Well, we present some of nice but simple everyday Japanese food which are totally matched with our Nest beer, So that you will be able to love more and more about our Hitachino Nest Beer.

That said, I imagine that the Hitachino Nest would be a perfect beer to drink while smoking. It's got a very clean, fresh accent, something that would be perfect for cutting across cigarette or cigar smoke. I'll give it a five.

For comparison's sake, Budweiser gets a two.

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mmmmmm....Thematic Beer of the Night


Beer of the Night - Tetley's English Ale - Absolutely the best head I've ever seen on a beer, both as a draft and from the can. I drank my first one in a off the beaten path English pub in Orlando, and didn't see it again for years. Now, all of a sudden it's in the grocery store. It was quite a surprise, as I drank everything the Harris Teeter here offered years ago.

Not the Teeter's fault, mind you. They stock what they can sell, and a lot of the more interesting beers can't be sold in N.C., as they are above the alcohol limit mandated by the prohibition era law that covers in-state beer sales.

There's hope for the future, though. A group called Pop the Cap has launched an effort to change the state's definition of what beer is. They don't have a legislator to introduce a bill to amend the definition yet, but I'll be making calls to mine in support once they do.

And, as I have no money with which to buy loyalty of my elected representatives, I'll play this at them until they vote the way I want them to.

story link via the TarHeelPundit

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February 25, 2003

Beer of the Night Apparently

Beer of the Night

Apparently I picked a prizewinner, Allagash White. It beat out Hoegaarden in the Belgian Style White/Belgian Style Wheat category last year, which was as big a shock to the brewing world as a middle school Jewish kid dunking on Shaq would be to the basketball world. Apparently this convinced the brewer to move it to Special Reserve status, as it now comes in an absolutely huge corked bottle rather than the shorty depicted in the pictures.

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February 24, 2003

Beer of the Night Riggwelter

Beer of the Night

Riggwelter Yorkshire Ale

Yes, I've had the Holy Grail Ale as well. Not since the fishing trip, though.

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February 23, 2003

Sunday Trinity

Beer of the Night - Vuuve - Apparently a wit beer, but one with more than a hint of the sourness you would expect to find in a Belgian red ale, probably becuase it's brewed with coriander and orange peel. Very, very pretty beer, with what most reviewers would call a hazy and strawlike or golden color because no one wants to say it looks like dehydrated urine. It's the best beer I've had this week, and the last of the Axis of Weasel beers for a while.

Giving up French beers is no big deal, but German and Belgian? Dammit.

Song of the Night - Jaan Pehechaan Ho!

Link of the Night - The Compleat Blogosphere

Update: As always, sound files are only temporarily available. If it's not here, you were too late . :)

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February 21, 2003

And it's all for me

And it's all for me grog, me jolly, jolly grog
All for me beer and tobacco
Well I spent all me tin on the lassies drinking gin
Across the western ocean I must wander

Beer of the night - Abita Purple Haze. Gave it a 7
Beer of last night - Hoegaarden White

Zod: When did United Colours of Benetton start brewing beer?
Hush, or I'll drink a Killian's Red and talk about how patriotic I am.
Zod: Red, white, and... purple? What are you, stupid?
Don't call me stupid!
Zod: Good, good. Feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon - strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey to the..
Oh, shut up, geek.
Zod: Pot. Kettle. Black.

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February 19, 2003

Beer of the Night Young's

Beer of the Night

Young's Waggledance Honey Ale
Pretty tasty. The honey didn't overwhelm it like I was afraid it would.

Zod: That is the gayest beer name, ever.
What, worse than Gay Pride Beer?
Zod: I....I...
Or Queer Beer?
Zod: I....stand......corrected.

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February 17, 2003

But Honey, It's Medicine! You

But Honey, It's Medicine! You Wouldn't Deny A Man His Medicine Now, Would You?

I've been really playing up the "beer is good for you" studies for all they are worth. Now, instead of rolling her eyes and complaining about my spendthrift ways in the beer section of the grocery store, she just purses her lips and taps her fingers on the cart.

Today's beer - Juju Ginger
Yesterday's beer - Samuel Smith's Organic Lager
The day before that's beer - Samuel Smith's Organic Ale

Ahh, life is good. I can feel myself getting healtheir by the minute.

Update: Found a site that lets one rate his beer. They have the Tabernash (I gave it a 7), but not the Sam Smith beers. Here are the beers they currently have voting enabled on.

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February 08, 2003

Alcohol, The Cause Of, And

Alcohol, The Cause Of, And Solution To, All Life's Problems

Split a bottle of Wolaver's Organic Hard Cider with the Father-in-law tonight. A pretty big bottle, mind you, so we got about a pint each. I liked it enough that I might keep the second bottle I bought hidden until he leaves on Sunday. Probably not, though. What's the point of having good alcohol if you can't share it?

To write a really thorough review, I'd have needed to take notes and ignored the company, which I have barely enough sense not to do, thanks to years of presumably frustrating effort on the part of the Sainted wife. So this won't be one of those. Perhaps if I can keep G-daddy's paws off the second bottle I'll do a more complete one later on, 'cause there's nothing the Internet needs more than another alcohol reviewer.

I can say it's the driest American cider I've ever had, and my bias is towards the drier English ciders, so I liked it a good deal. Unlike Woodchuck or Cider Jack, which are both overly fruity and sweet to begin with, with Wolaver's you can tell that it's alcoholic (6%), which gave the cider a nice bourbon overtone. Not that I won't drink the other two. I took a twelve of Woodchuck with me on the fishing trip, but they're not alcohols worthy of good treatment. You swig them directly from the bottle while you change bait, or while waiting for a bite, like American beer, and save the good stuff for later in the evening, when there's an abundance of glasses, and less of an abundance of salt, sand, and fish slime.

The price was pretty good, too, only $4.00 a bottle at the Chapel Hill Whole Foods.

Now, for the exciting bit, at least to me. While googling around looking for the Wolaver's home page, I ran across the Belmont Station, the order-cases-of-beer-over-the-Internet-site that I have been pining for for years. I would have picked Beltramo's to win this race, but they seem content with just wine and spirits. Belmont Station doesn't have quite the functionality I'd prefer, (building cases by adding one six pack at a time to an online shopping cart like, well, like Beltramo's), but they will at least let me e-mail them my desires, and they will ship a mixed case.

Now that I've found a place that I can buy any beer I desire, and I know this because they offer not only Abbey trippels, but quadruppels!, I need to start planning what to take with me on this year's trip. If the past is any indication, I'll need to take the equivalent of 5 cases for a week. Let me know your favorites, and I'll start building a list. I've already put one on it, if it's available. Rodenbach Red

If your favorites tend to run to Icehouse, Natural Light, Rolling Rock or some other macro brew, rest assured that they will make the trip. That's what everyone else brings.* Not me. Funny how those brands are always the ones left over, though.

* Except for Budweiser, or Bud light. No one ever brings Bud anything. We like the commercials, not the beer.

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January 30, 2003

He Sings The Songs That

He Sings The Songs That Remind Him Of The Good Times

Expat Egghead hasn't found decent beer or a decent beer crowd since he's been in Israel. Expat, have you heard of the Tel Aviv Brew House? There's also the Taybeh Brewery "Hey, we may not have a state, but we do have a beer!" in the West Bank, if you have a taste for adventure, though it's available in Jerusalem. It's even kosher.

I'd buy a Taybeh, assuming I could ever find one, just to put some money in the pockets of the Palestinian family that owns the brewery. It's not often I have the pleasure of reading about a Palestinian with some sense.

Toward the end of our conversation, David ruminated a bit on the suicide bombers. He and his wife condemned the bombings because ''we don't want innocent civilians to die.'' But Maria said that the bombers themselves had to be understood as products of desperate circumstances, and David effectively said that he was impressed by their self-sacrifice. ''Theirs is real faith,'' he said.

This appeared to be a bit much for his father to handle. He sputtered: ''Excuse me, David, but what did they do, these noble creatures? Blow themselves up? They blew themselves up and blew us up with them. To hell with them. What is the result of their self-sacrifice? Now America is saying Arafat is bin Laden? Bravo for Hamas.''

And before anyone asks; yes, I have had a Maccabee.

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January 25, 2003

Some hae meat and canna

Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit

You must forgive me if this seems a bit disjointed, it's what comes of spending Burn's night with a Scotsman, especially once said Scotsman discovered that it was my wedding anniversary. Technically my wedding anniversary isn't for another hour and seven minutes, but try telling that that to a man with a big sword and a kilt.

My parents were drafted to babysit tonight, not that they considered it a.....noun describing a thing that the government does to force you into an action not of your own choosing. "Burden" would fit right into the flow of the above sentence, but it really doesn't communicate the correct sense of "outside forces compelling one into an action not of one's own choosing" as well as the word that I would have chosen would have if I had not had hoisted the celebratory Burn's night glass of expensive scotch after consuming the celebratory Burn's night sixpack of imported ales. That word will come to me, but likely not until I've been abed for an hour or three. Words like that have a predilection for coming at inopportune times, and any time that one sits bolt upright in the wee hours of the morning, in the bed one shares with one's six months pregnant wife, and shouts "Encumbrance!"?

Well......that's an inopportune time.

We'd owed the oxymoronic Scotsman and his wife a dinner visit for quite a while now, as they had blessed us with their presence last spring, but hadn't gotten around to discharging our debt until tonight. We should have done so earlier, as the Sainted Wife thinks very highly of the Scotsman's wee gel, and the Scotsman himself fulfills my desires in a companion admirably, as all I really want out of an evening is a chance to partake of rare liquors with a male who can appreciate them equally, or can at least fake appreciation in a believable manner.

I desire that appreciation, or the the appearance thereof, because it gives me an excuse to go to the specialty beer store. Should someone want to indulge in an appreciation of a liquor stronger than that of an imported ale, it's up to them to supply it. Yes, your wines are nice, and as I learned tonight, so are your single malts, but the beverages brewed with yeast and hops define my area of expertise, and without the specialty beer stores in the Triangle my claim of expertise would be a thin thing indeed. There is really only one specialty store in Raleigh, where the Scotsman and wife dwell, the Peace Street Market. Every time I go there the wife has to look at her watch, tap her foot and finally yell before I can leave. Tonight I bought a couple bottles of Konig Ludwig Weisse, and a four pack of Greene King IPA for the festivities. This ended up being in additon to the Boddington's and Young's Double Chocolate Stout already laid in by the Celt.

Both were greatly appreciated, as was the peaty heat that the Scotsman supplied in memory of Robbie Burns. I canna recall the name of said heat for the life of me, even though I read the label twice and asked the name of the whiskey again ere I left. Why I lack the memory, I cannot imagine. But there is little better in the world than expensive scotch and a Marlboro red outside on a cold evening in January, unless it's going back inside for more scotch.

Good night to you all, and to all the wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie's that Robbie so loved. Slainte Mhath!

Update: Good Morning! Also forgot the Hobgoblin.

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December 16, 2002

Making Love In A Canoe

Making Love In A Canoe

Hungary moves another step closer to the abyss.

The Hungarian Patent and Trademark Office has ruled that the word "Bud," the nickname of Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.'s top beer, cannot be used in Hungary by the Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar. The patent office said "Bud" does not reference the city where the brewer is located, Ceske Budejovice, Anheuser-Busch said on Tuesday. The Czech brewer also cannot claim that its place of origin allows it to use "Budweiser Bier-Budvar" or "Budweiser Budvar" in Hungary, Anheuser-Busch said. However, the Czech brewer can still use "Budweiser Bier" in Hungary, Anheuser-Busch said.

Now I know what Susan Sarandon feels like. Anheuser-Busch and Budejovicky Budvar have been going back and forth for years over the Bud and Budweiser trademarks, and I reflexively take the side of the tiny, yet historic Hungarian brewery over the All-American Budweiser. Even in this case, where it appears that the facts of the case favor Anheuser-Busch, I'm pissed. I want Budejovicky Budvar to kick August Busch III's ass even when they're wrong.

Why? I figure it's because I'm a microbrew and import beer swilling yuppie. I don't drink Budweiser, and I don't know anyone who drinks Budweiser. We took something in the neighborhood of 25 cases of beer with us to on the fishing trip, and the only Anheuser-Busch product that made the cut was Natural Light, and that was because of nostalgia for the days when we couldn't afford anything else. Seemingly nostalgia doesn't have the hold on us it used to have; it was the next to last case we drank, finishing ahead of only Rolling Rock in the unpopularity sweepstakes.

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with the American Budweiser, though you wouldn't know it from the Anheuser-Busch website. Right now the two featured beverages are Michelob Ultra, a beer primarily know for having most of the ingredients removed, and a "malt beverage" Bacardi Silver. Chick beers, not that there's anything remotely beer-like about either. Buh-bye "Here comes the King". From now on it's "Here comes the Queen".

Now, obviously there are those who do drink Budweiser, or Bud Light, and I could run into any of these people if I started going back out to bars on a regular basis, but I'm not going to do that. Aside from the fact that most of the regular Bud drinkers would happily fill my mouth with knuckles were I to start spreading my opinion of their brew, the wife has grown less and less enchanted with the notion of going out to another smoky bar to watch me karaoke These Boots Were Made For Walking for the hundredth time.

For me, when to comes to beer, the American giant can do no right. Susan has the same attitude about foreign policy. The best stuff is made in Europe, or by Americans consciously imitating the European styles. Neither of us is likely to change our attitudes anytime soon, because we don't travel in circles that expose us to those with a different attitude. We acknowledge the existence of those who differ from us, but our default attitude is "If you only educated yourself about foreign policy/beer, then you would agree with me. The only excuse for the choice you make is ignorance."

God help me, I'm a Beer Liberal.

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