Everything Wrong with the Budweiser Superbowl Commercial – Cinemasins Parody (DUH)

So what happens when a fan of the Youtube channel CinemaSins sees the Budweiser Superbowl commercial for about the 10th time and thinks, “I’d love to see what the guys would do with this thing”?

Sadly, I’m not sure if Jeremy and crew are craft beer drinkers, and with all the other potential videos there are out there for them to do, I doubt any commercial would be high on their list.

(Un)fortunately, I thought the idea was pretty funny and pulled it up on Youtube to see if there was enough sin-like things about the commercial that could actually be said.

And I was surprised that indeed, the commercial did fit pretty well into their format. And that’s when the dangerous idea popped into my head – give it a shot myself.

Of course, I learned quickly (as I do with most things) that, to do this at the quality level that those guys do requires a lot more time, effort and way better equipment than I have.

First, I’m not really good with Windows Movie Maker, and every time I tried to edit the video together, sooner or later Movie Maker would take a section of it and turn it green. Totally gone. Searching out on the net showed that many people have had the same problem, but none of the threads I found ever seemed to offer a clear solution. In most cases the person with the problem just seemed to give up after the person trying to help them had spent a three email exchange asking them about their system specifications. If anyone has encountered this before and has found a solution, please put it in the comments below.

So the fallout of all that is that instead of using the actual video, I had to dumb it down to just screen shots. Once I got those set in Movie Maker, the rest went pretty smoothly. Still not as good as I would have liked it to be, but this blog got bottle necked a few times last year when I let posts evolve into major projects, so I’ve promised myself I would try not to let that happen anymore.

So, for better or for worse, here is probably the first, last and only video you’ll see here at tDoB. But I just had to make this one. Because after all, no Budweiser commercial is “without sin”.

 

Check out the guys at CinemaSins to see how it’s really done.

CinemaSins style and format controlled by the CinemaSins Youtube channel.
Budweiser is a trademark of the Anheuser–Busch InBev, except in Europe.

Class in a Glass – I Channel My Inner Rob Lowe for Elysian’s Loser Pale Ale

Hi! I’m celebrity beer blogger Ed Morgan.

And I’m craft beer purist and big beer conspiracy theorist Ed Morgan.

And I have Elysian’s Loser pale ale.

And I have some God-awful swill produced by some corporate sellouts with no allegiance to the traditions, the ethos or the craft that made them hugely successful. Disguised as Loser.

Although I’m saddened that a great brewery (one of my favs actually) has sold out to A-B, I’m not going to let it harsh my buzz. These things happen in business, and will continue to happen. As long as Elysian is allowed to continue to operate at their previous high standards and creativity, that is all I care about for the moment. And since all parties involved have promised that will be the case, I’m willing to give Elysian the benefit of the doubt until I see otherwise.

And I have it on good authority that black, unmarked Anhueser-Busch vans where in front of the brewery yesterday dropping off masked men in nondescript jumpsuits who busily installed the equipment that infuses the corporate taint whose kovorka I can easily detect in each of their products, but resist with all the passion that truly malted barley and Brettanomyces can muster.

This machine is an affront against the purity of craft beer. It’s primary component being a multi-membraned semi-permeable filter, of which one of the membranes is produced from the bladder of a baby panda which must be harvested while the animal is still alive!

The monstrosity also has an immense carbon footprint, spewing more toxic waste in the air every day than six Mount Saint Helens. It is single-handedly responsible for global warming, the die off of rain forests, your child’s alzehma, and Colony Collapse Disorder (the fact that this puts a strain on the meaderies is icing on the cake).

DH_bomb_sized

Let’s taste.

Let’s choke.

My loser pours a touch under amber, with nice carbonation and minimal lacing. The nose has some light citrus as well as some underlying malt plus some bread. It may lean a hair more hoppy than I like my pale ales, but hey, that’s just nitpicking.

My Loser pours like sewage sludge; thick and sinewy. The color can best be described as craft-ish with obvious bits of dead dreams and betrayed loyalties floating in it. When not in direct light I detect the slight toxic-waste like glow that tainted beers exhibit. The contamination is particularly visible under blacklight. Despite being labeled a pale ale, Loser contains no trace of tantalizing hop aroma to my nose, just a dank staleness that reminds me of mothballs, musty books and old people.

Nice flavor. The citrus hops are apparent, but not over bearing, as well as a nice touch of spice. The beer also benefits from support in the form of flavors of malt, perhaps a touch of honey. The finish is clean, slightly sweet and doesn’t leave you overwhelmed by the hops. I had no problem going through a couple of these.

Disgusting. Insipid. Lifeless. While my Loser gives a feeble attempt to pass itself off as a craft beer, one can easily see through its charade. The flavor is flat, as if everything that once made this beer one of the hallmarks of the craft beer world has been sucked from its very soul. And then there’s that aftertaste, that trademark twang of corporate taint that divulges its “big beer” connection. It puts me in the mind of the lingering taste in the mouth that one would wake up to three to four days after gargling with a mouthful of gasoline. Its unmistakable to me.

My Loser is a solid pale ale, and as long as A-B allows them to continue to make beers of this quality, I am willing to take a “the proof is in the bottle” stance with Elysian products in the future.

My Loser has already been stripped of everything that made it great. I am never buying this, or any other Elysian beer, every again.

You do realize that I bought this beer only days after the announcement so it was produced way before they were bought by A-B.

Doesn’t matter. Corporate taint lurks in every beer that is made. Possibly breed into the unnatural GMO ingredients that those satanists use to produce their vile refuse, and are secretly selling to unsuspecting craft breweries through underworld cartels disguised as reputable malt dealers.

The taint lays dormant in every beer waiting to be activated, just like the zombie virus in The Walking Dead. Once a craft brewery allows itself to join the unearthly fold , the infection changes all of their beer forever.

I thought you said they needed a machine to infuse the corporate taint?

Yes! That too! *looks around suspiciously and whispers* But that’s a higher level of taint. Far stronger than they’ve secretly been introducing into craft beer production.

Don’t be this me.

loser-2
Left – Elysian Loser Pale Ale.   Right – Supposedly Elysian Loser Pale Ale under blacklight.

 

 

My Thoughts on “Craft” Breweries in More Than 140 Characters

The other day I took a small break from the job fun and hopped on the internet to see what was buzzing in the Twittersphere. One of the first tweets that caught my eye was this one from Doug over at Baltimore Bistro and Beer.

Now normally when I’m at work I don’t jump onto Tweets that look like they could potentially lead into a conversation because I’m not likely to be sitting in front of my computer for very long. But this question was of interest to me because I do have an opinion on the subject, so I replied. Below is what happened next.

To which I replied

And true to my word I failed miserably. Sadly, I found that I wasn’t able to adequately convey my point in a tweet. Hell, I didn’t even do a good job using three tweets.

I was more than a little frustrated. After all, wasn’t this an opinion I should be able to articulate with brevity? But in the case of the adjective ‘craft’, that just wasn’t the case with me. So here I go, in much more than 140 characters….

And then I went. About 1000 characters worth. IT WAS AWESOME! Full of analogies and funny stories and amazing put downs. Suck it ‘beer is beer’ people!

And then I read it back to myself. And I came to a sad conclusion.

I was wrong.

Maybe.

I could see their point. But after thinking it through for awhile, after tossing it around in my mind, and yes…after drinking a few beers it all came together. Why do I not like the word ‘craft’ used to describe breweries?

In the end, the answer was far less than 140 characters: Because I don’t.

Artisan farm making cheese?
Custom luthier making guitars?
Craft brewer making beer?

No, to me the adjective always seemed better in front of the product.

Italian restaurant preparing food.

Ok, maybe that doesn’t sell my point.

The way I see it, we already have lots of other words that can adequately describe a brewery, macro-, micro-, family owned, wholly owned, farmhouse, contract, brewpub, nano-. And probably a few others that escape me at the moment.

Add on to that the fact that the Brewer’s Association has established a definition for craft brewery that seems to me to be full of arbitrarily chosen criteria, and -self-serving definitions. One of which has to be changed every few years just so Samuel Adams can continue to play in the sandbox with all the others.

No, if you’re going to come up with a word whose purpose is to elevate something above the established norm in people’s mind , it always felt more correct to me that the word be associated with the product being made – not the place its being made.

A farm making artisan cheese.
A brewery making craft beer.

And back long ago not long after the ‘beer bang’, that’s exactly what the word ‘craft’ as part of the phrase craft beer was meant to do, elevate it above the norm. Traditional European ingredients – malts of different varieties and hops used beyond just bittering a near tasteless lager to around 12IBUs. The beer was better. The beer was more traditional. The beer was – craft.

And of course by extension, craft beers are made by craft breweries. Except there’s nothing ‘craft’ about a brewery. Sure they’re small, privately funded and have a different philosophy about the type of beer they want to make. But except for size, and maybe a reduced level of automation in the smaller breweries, it’s still mash tun, filter, fermentor and torpedo.

Ok, again, that last one’s probably not proving my point.

There’s nothing overly special about the brewery, in fact I’m willing to bet that many of these small breweries today enjoy a far better level of functionality than Bud or Coors did when they were only 10 to 15 years old.

So having said all that, I just believe that if  ‘craft’ is going to be continued to be used to describe anything about today’s growing tide of small beer producers it should be applied to the product.

But look, I get the ‘beer is beer’ movement. I’m actually all for it. But understand, I come from a time when the liquor stores were filled shelf to shelf with nothing but mass produced American lagers, a time when the term ‘craft beer’ was used by small, emerging breweries to distinguish themselves from the plethora of mass produced swill that passed for “beer” in America.

And I can see how the younger generation of beer drinks (who have grown up enjoying shelves full of quality beer) might see how that term has become less necessary today. Much like they probably don’t understand why people my age still insist on putting ‘color’ in front of TV or ‘stereo’ in front of sound system.

For the most part they’re really not needed anymore, are they?

Maybe the time has come to retire the word ‘craft’ from in front of the word beer. But there was never I time when I thought it was needed in front of brewery.

xxxxxx
The Final Sip: While I was writing this post the craft beer world was rattled to find out that industry favorite Elysian was purchased by craft brewery grim reaper Anheuser-Busch. I’ll pull this news item into my next post as I take a further look into ‘craft’ breweries. (PHOTO: The Dogs of Beer)

Buddy Avatar 50   OWWW! A series. How ambitious.

 

Shut up. And I thought I told you to lose the avatar.

Lagunitas Brewing’s Tony Magee Gets Tried in the Court of Social Media – Sadly.

A couple of weeks ago, Lagunitas Brewing owner Tony Magee did something unthinkable. He threatened legal action within the craft beer community.

Did Tony propose litigation  that was  going to forever wipe Pliny from the face of existence? Had he filed an injunction to cease the GABF? No,he simply was wondering if another brewery had possibly come up with a packaging for their new beer that might have come to close to the packaging he has branded for one of his.

And a portion of the craft beer community went bat-shit crazy.

For those who some how missed all of the who-struck-John between Lagunitas Brewing and defendant Sierra Nevada (actually, if you did consider yourself lucky) here it is in a nutshell. Lagunitas was a bit miffed that the lettering on the right looked in their mind too much like the lettering on the left.

Exhibit A and B. Note the kerning, apparently that's important. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brewerylaw.com)
Exhibit A and B. Note the kerning, apparently that’s important. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brewerylaw.com)

Don’t see it? Don’t feel bad. Apparently, a lot of other people didn’t see it as well. So much so, that Tony  discovered himself heatedly defending his position on social media from people who were calling him a “dickhead”, to people who were threatening to stop buying Lagunitas’ beers because of his actions, to everyone in between.

And while all this was going on, through all the stone throwing and name calling, between all the character assassination and venom spewing, I just kept asking one question…

Why do you people care so much?

When I wrote the original drafts of this post, it was full of examples of breweries not playing well together (how about when Sierra Nevada trademarked “Narwhal Stout”, you remember, when they pulled the rug out from under Narwhal Brewing), and paragraphs on how important branding is (ever recognize a six-pack of Flying Dog beer from across the liquor store? OK, you get it then). But I don’t think that should be necessary.

In fact, I almost scrapped this post because I’ve been working on it for so long that the topic is almost moot. Lagunitas has dropped the matter and all is good. But to be honest, the aftermath is even more disturbing to me.

https://twitter.com/lagunitasT/status/557145887127109632

That’s Tony, talking like a repentant, punished little boy because his lawsuit was found frivolous and without merit. Not in a court of law where it should have been judged, but in the court of social media.

And I don’t know which is sadder, that some people lashed out at Tony for his threat to take Sierra Nevada to court, or that after he’d dropped the legal action some people feel like they’ve done the right thing, and are claiming this as some kind of victory.

When Tony announced his intention, he was judged by everyone who had a Twitter or Facebook account who believed that somehow, that entitled them to a vote in the matter. And as these cases normally go, it appeared that the people with the most negative feelings towards Lagunitas were the ones most vocal.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have an opinion on the matter, and I’m certainly not saying that people shouldn’t voice that opinion on social media (what else is social media for). But this is an example of how social media gets all “torches and pitchforks” in an area where it would be best if most of those in the mob would just keep their fingers quiet.

Let’s run down a few things:

1 – Lagunitas had every right to challenge Sierra Nevada.

“Right” is the word I want to emphasis here. Protecting one’s brand is a given in the business world, and businesses do it all the time. To get all pissed at someone because they want to make sure that another company is not infringing on something they’ve worked long and hard to establish is not only on the surface ridiculous, but actually narrow minded. I mean, it’s OK if you look at the evidence and say, “I don’t see it.” But in my opinion its quite another to spiral down to the level of bullies complete with name calling, stone throwing and threats. It’s not necessary to act like Tony walked into your house and kicked your dog.

2 – Lagunitas should not have backed down.

After the social media backlash by offended people, Tony Magee announced that he was withdrawing the lawsuit because in his words:

I believe from the context that Tony is referring about the “Court” of public opinion which is, sorry, in some cases the absolute worst “Court” to listen too. Most of the people bashing Tony for his decision are probably people who have no real knowledge of the business world or have never owned anything to the extent that they’ve had to protect it in a court of law. They’re just pissed because Tony is tarnishing their illusion that all is unicorns and rainbows in the craft beer world. That’s right, I said illusion. More on that in a moment.

If Tony truly felt that Sierra Nevada was infringing on his branding, he should have stood his ground instead of caving to all the hate that was tossed at him, especially by a bunch of people who immediately went to their final sanction which was to stop buying his beers because he wasn’t playing nice. Many of whom probably haven’t purchased a Lagunitas beer in months. That’s right. You know you haven’t. We can subpena your Untappd feed.

Maybe the court would have ruled in favor of Tony. Maybe not. YOU don’t know. I don’t know. But what I DO know is the best time to challenge (and hopefully settle) Trademark disputes is early on, not after they have mushroomed into serious issues that do require costly, prolonged legal battles.

And those disputes should be settled between the breweries, and when that is not possible, in a court. Not on someone’s twitter feed.

3 – Nobody is wearing white shirts here.

Everyone is quick to defend Sierra Nevada because they believed that in this case they are in the right. But like I’ve written above, Sierra Nevada has had their own checkered past when it’s come to dealing with brewers over Trademark matters.

And when it comes to legal entanglements they’re not alone. (OK, so I didn’t totally remove all the examples of breweries not playing well together as I stated above, sue me)

Magic Hat went after the West Sixth brewery in Kentucky over Trademark issues, causing West Sixth to make a small modification to their proposed label. Coronado Brewing went after Elysian over the word “Idiot”. Unita Brewing changed the name of its IPA from Hop Notch to Hop Nosh after a complaint from Notch Brewing.

In fact, these types of legal dealings are not unique between craft beer brewers, they can happen between anyone in the beer business no matter what the business is, even between a homebrew shop and a craft brewer.

So much for unicorns and rainbows. But in all the cases I’ve mentioned above, what happened? The issues were settled and business went on. Which leads me to:

4 – The worst that could have come out of all this was probably nothing.

I’ve said above that I don’t know what would have happened if this situation was allowed to play out, but actually that’s a lie. I can (with fair certainty) tell you exactly what would have happened:

Either Lagunitas would back down (what happened) and business would have carried on.
Or Sierra Nevada would have backed down and business would have carried on.
Or they would have settled and business would have carried on.
Or Lagunitas would have won and business would have carried on.
Or Lagunitas would have lost and business would have carried on.

And the worst ramification from any of these scenarios would have been that we would have had to wait a little while longer for Hop Hunter to be released if the outcome hadn’t favored Sierra Nevada or, well nothing.

Sure, there might have been some hard feelings between Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada, and those wounds may have hung around for a long time. But in the grand scheme of things all that may have done was insure that Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada would not have clogged the beer shelves with another cash grab collaboration beer in the foreseeable future.

Was Tony without fault in this situation? In my mind, no. But to me it wasn’t that he took legal action against another member of the craft brewing fraternity no, it was his attempts to justify those actions in the world of social media. His best move would have been to simply do what a lot of other companies do when they find themselves in a similar situation:

We do not comment in public on pending legal matters concerning our brewery. We hope that this matter comes to swift and satisfying conclusion for all parities so that we can go back to focusing on what we our business is all about, producing the best beers we can for our valued costumers.

And then just walked away and let the matter take its course. Whatever your feelings on the legitimacy of Lagunitas’ claim, in my mind the people who attempted to bully Tony into dropping this matter acted poorly. And I hope that his final decision in this matter was based on input and advice from his councils and his lawyers, not because a bunch of irate people (who are in the minority anyway because there are large portion of people who drink craft beer don’t know and don’t care about anything in the business beyond what beer they’re drinking this weekend) threatened to not buy his products in the future.

Because a lot of  them probably weren’t going to anyway.

Product Review – Govino Shatterproof Beer Glasses, Plus More Thoughts on Glassware

Back in 2012 I posted what I would call a controversial opinion when I asserted that glass shape doesn’t really influence the flavor of beer.

I put forth several points where I discussed the more overlying reasons bars serve your favorite beers in different styles of glasses (mostly cost), why uni-tasker stemware is mostly a marketing ploy used by glass manufacturers, and most importantly, how the proximity of your nose to the beer when you take a sip overrides any real need for the glass to do anything other than just keep the beer from running through your fingers.

Chris, over at I Think About Beer, responded with a post of very well reasoned arguments as to why, on this particular topic, I was bat-shit crazy. OK, those weren’t his words exactly (and to be fair, I am bat-shit crazy on quite a few topics), but he did write a thorough rebuttal, some of which I can’t counter-argue.

Based on his evidence I was forced to change my beliefs a bit. First, for the AVERAGE craft beer drinker, the shape of the glass won’t make a difference. And second, the pint shaker or Libby “sleeve” is absolutely the worst glass for critical beer evaluation. Except for maybe a Disney Princess mug. Although in my defense I wasn’t exactly drinking craft beer out of it.

To the first point – note I said ‘average’. Craft beer enthusiasts who write blogs, attend events, trade beers, travel, and enjoy all the other activities that we (meaning people who take this more seriously than the average Joe) do, sometimes make the short-sighted mistake in believing that everyone who “enjoys craft beer” drinks at the same bar as we do (so to speak).

But having had many run ins with craft beer lovers in many different situations, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply not the case. There are vast (*whispers*VAST) numbers of people out there who enjoy craft beer who just don’t even know this side of the brewverse exists. And those people are blissfully enjoying good beer in all their ignorant glory in whatever glass they happen to have.

The second point tilts itself back towards those aforementioned craft beer enthusiasts. To the more analytical quaffer out there glassware may not matter much, depending on the glasses being compared, as long as they have some of the same functionality – a sloped shape to aid head formation and retention, and to help concentrate aromas, nucleation sites for bubbles to form, etc. Is a tulip glass really that much better than my favorite Zeiss Amsterdam? Maybe not. But they are both infinitely better than the commonly used “Libby” shaker as Chris suggests, although the proof he puts forth to demonstrate his point is a little – well, shaky.

Really? Where was this taken? A bowling alley?
The photo Chris submitted to show a bad beer in a pint glass. Really, Chris? Where was this taken? A bowling alley? (Photo credit: hombrewmanual.com)

No, beers poured into shaker glasses can also be things of beauty, enticing a road weary beer traveler to sample the malt and hop elixir that they contain. But showcase all the subtle nuances of their precious contents? Probably not. Because let’s be honest, that’s not the number one function that many manufactures consider when designing their glassware, or indeed bars consider when selecting glassware (the pint shaker is easy to clean and stackable – ’nuff said). Sometimes, other considerations are more important.

Take Govino for example. The company produces a series of wine and beer glasses that might not be high on a sommelier’s or cicerone’s list of must have glasses, but they do have one useful feature – they’re shatterproof.

Govino markets their glassware as “The Ultimate Go Anywhere Glass”, and one can certainly understand why. The glasses are made of a BPA free polymer, and therefore won’t break if dropped or knocked over by an over enthusiastic dog’s tail.

buddy broken glass

Govino account executive Blair Grant sent me a couple beer glasses to try out and after using them for several months (and I was surprised on how much I DID use them) here are my thoughts.

The first thing that struck me is that the glass is small and light, and although there is a certain amount of flex at the very top, the glass is quite solid and firm where  you would grip it. Of course the first thing I did was hold it over my head a drop it. The glass did hit the ground with quite a bit of force, but simply bounced a few times before coming to a stop. For all intensive purposes, the glass did seem to be pretty durable.

Don't try this with your expensive xxxxxxxxxxxxx.
Don’t try this with your expensive Spiegelau glasses.

I mean, I’m sure if you run over one with a truck you’d end up with something that looked like a crushed water bottle, but if you think about all the ways you’ve every reduced one of your favorite glasses to a dust pan of tear inducing shards (and how little effort it took to sometimes do that), than this glass would have saved you the heart break. And if you do manage to run one over with your truck, Govino glasses are 100% recyclable.

Govino claims their beer glass holds 16oz, and to be honest I was pretty sure there was no way I was going to get a pint of liquid into one, but indeed the glass does hold 16oz – but much in the same way a shaker pint holds 16oz – to the brim, no room for head.

But that means the glass has plenty of room for a standard 12oz beer, plus head and even full my brain immediately noticed the  glass’ lightness every time I picked it up during my first handful of uses. I usually like glasses with some weight to them, so this took awhile to get accustomed to.

xxxxxxxxxxx
Govino’s thumb-notch.

Another interesting feature is that the glass has a thumb-notch or divot in the side that  Govino incorporates (and has patented) into all their glassware designs, an obvious understanding that in some places these glasses may be used, added grip could be important.

One sensation while drinking from the Govino beer glass is the mouth feel. No, different mouth feel. The the wall of the glass is thin, and due to the small opening the lip of the glass is very obvious against the sides of your upper lip when you take a sip. I was able to get used to it after a while, but some people might find it off putting.

An aspect of the glass that I was initially disappointed in is the fact that I thought the production seam across the bottom of the glass would be an awesome feature to help nuclidation and thus assist in that steady stream of CO2 bubbles that just looks so fantastic rushing up from the bottom of a nice beer glass.

This didn’t seem to be the case at first, as all the beers I poured into the glass looked pretty lifeless. But as I continued to use the glasses, I could see a gradual increase in the carbonation emanating from the bottom of the glass. Perhaps there’s a layer of something on the new glasses that I didn’t completely get off with the initial wash, but what ever the reason, the last couple of beers I poured into them looked pretty good.

Oh, and speaking of the small opening and cleaning – you’re going to need a thin brush. Your old fatty ain’t going to fit here, and Govino recommends that you hand wash their glasses. My suspicion is that the hot steam cycle might run the risk of turning your dishwasher rack into a craft beer version of The Persistence of Memory. Or that the glasses don’t have enough weight to keep them from bouncing around like ping pong ball in a lottery machine.

Are you going to be bowled over by this glass’ ability to showcase the subtle nuances of your favorite double IPA? Is it going to make you pack away your favorite tulip glasses? Probably not.

I know the Govino people would love to sell these as a serious “beer glasses”, but to the crowd where serious “beer glasses” matter, I’m not sure it quite fits the bill. But in the realm of the pint sleeve, its “go anywhere” functionality makes it a perfect substitute for a poolside dinner party (or just poolside for that matter), boating trips, or picnics; anywhere you find yourself where glass isn’t allowed, or practical; and you still want a level of savoir-faire. And unlike many other options in these cases, the Govino glassware is reusable.

Another suggestion I would make is that it’s a perfect glass for your little, budding “craft beer enthusiasts” when they start believing that they’re big enough to start drinking from “big boy glasses” – especially with the assistance of the divot to aid little fingers.

If I had a Govino back then, I’d probably still have some of my not so functional pint glasses in my cabinet.

A glass for serious beer contemplation? No. An excellent glass free substitute for casual beer drinking situations? Most definitely.

I’d like to thank Blair Grant for sending my a couple of glass to try out, and apologize for the delay in my review.

The Final Sip: xxxxxxxxxxxxx
The Final Sip: A four pack of Govino beer glasses will run you about $15. That’s not overly expensive especially when you consider that if subjected to only the normal use and abuse you give your current beer glasses, they should last – well, probably longer than your current beer glasses. Govino also makes a series of wine and cocktail glasses as well as a wine decanter.

 

 

Product Review: Micca Speck Digital Media Player, Halloween Sounds and Video Where You Need It.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post is part of my NOCTOBER series.  A group of posts I’ll be writing throughout November that are about subjects I would have written about in October if I hadn’t taken several weeks off to focus on Halloween.]

I wanted to write up a quick product review on a media player I’ve been using during Halloween for the past couple of years and I need to give a shout-out to Big Ant over at Eerie Acres Cemetery as it was his video review that first put me on to this nifty little box.

Sound is an essential element of a home haunt.  Like the background music in a movie it’s an important part of setting the overall mood that you’re going for; whether it be scary, eerie, or yes, even whimsical.

The problem is that sometimes getting the sound from where it is to where you need it can be a pain in the ass. Oh sure they sell these neat little things called cords, but those things aren’t always a cure all, in fact sometimes they can be down right frustrating.

Cords seem to be made these days under the assumption that nothing you have that makes sound is any further than 12ft from where you want the sound to go. Stores are full of terribly expensive cords that will move your sound 1, 3, 6 or 12 feet, but if you want to move it 30ft (something I do routinely in my home haunt) get ready to chain lots of cords together and hope that you don’t find yourself having an RCA jack when you need a 3.5mm. Sure you could go out and buy all those cords, or get custom ones made off the internet, but why not put your money into something that makes sound (and video) portability a little easier in Halloween (and non-Halloween) applications. Something with a little versatility?

The Micca Speck fills that bill nicely. This little unit (smaller than a pack of cigarettes) is a complete multimedia player capable of playing movies, music, and photos in a full range of formats; while also supporting folder hierarchies with a fully functioning file browser. The draw back? The Micca has no internal memory itself, but thanks to two slots on the unit’s front, if you can get it on an SD/SDHC card, or a USB host (flash drive, external hard drive, even a phone) you can play it on the Micca Speck.  What type of sound are we talking about? The unit outputs HDMI PCM 2.0, analog stereo and supports MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, APE, AAC formats.

What you get.
What you get.

That all sounds fancy, but what’s the bottom line? I used a Micca Speck to run my haunt’s thunder and songs, through my Haunt Master’s lightning boxes. With the Specks small size (and lack of any volume control) I was worried that the little box didn’t have the punch I needed.

No worries. The unit sounded great pumped through my 600 watt stereo system and even with my Bose cube speakers just sitting in the front windows the clear, distortion free sound could easily be heard well before you got in front of my house. While this set up didn’t really solve a portability issue I was having, what it did do was free up a laptop that would usually be tasked with this duty and allow me to use it somewhere else.

The unit’s portability could definitely help out in other areas – think running sounds for a cauldron creep, flying crank ghost or some other prop (except for one issue that needs to be addressed. More on that in a minute), conveniently and easier right from the prop location. The unit comes with a 3.5mm AV to R/L/V male RCA cable, so if your prop’s sound system is set up to accept male RCA jacks, you’re golden. Plus, its small size makes it easy to conceal in any prop.

Need video in your haunt? The Speck supports formats up to 1080p and 20-50mbps per second and will play videos in the following formats: MKV, AVI, TS/TP, MP4/M4V, MOV, VOB, PMP, RM/RMVB, MPG, M2TS, and WMV.

I put my second Micca unit (yes, I got two. Usually when I get something like this, fall in love with it, go to get another and find out they don’t make them anymore. Decided not to chance it in this case) to run my window projection effect. I ripped some videos off of a couple AtmosfearFX DVDs I had bought, loaded them onto a thumb drive and hooked the unit up to my projector. This is the second year I’ve run it without so much as a thought. I simply turn on my projector at night, and turn it off when I want.  The Speck unit does all the work.

Here’s some other basic information about the unit:

  • The box contains; 1) one Speck Unit, 2) one IR remote control, 3) one 3.5mm AV to R/L/V male RCA cable, 4) one 100-240V AC adapter. The unit has an HDMI output as well, but does not come with an HDMI cable.
  • The unit has features like auto play, repeat one/all, shuffle play, language settings, playback settings, and output settings; all of which can be controlled by the system’s menu or by the remote control.

However it’s not all puppy dogs and unicorns with the Speck. After a few years of using mine here are some things to be considered:

  • The unit has no battery support, so you have to use the included AC adapter. That’s not a major issue because as home haunters, we’re used to running electricity all over the place.
  • The unit is programmable through a system menu. To use the menu you need to hook the Speck into something that will accept the RCA jacks. To program mine, I just plugged them into the side jacks of a small TV I have, programmed the Speck to the settings I wanted, and then moved it where I needed it to be.
  • Most of my applications have been set and forget. I program the Speck as to which file type I want to play (audio/video/photo), set it to auto play and repeat all, and forget it. Which I think is the best way to use this unit, because to me, the remote is kind of useless except for simple things like skipping songs or turning shuffle on and off. The bottom line is that programming the Speck is more easily done through the menu.
  • The system uses a standard browser/file structure when dealing with media files. Any files in the top director of a device or card (IE not in a folder) will be played automatically if the auto play function is selected. I name my files so that they will be listed and be played in a certain order which seems to work great for my videos, but didn’t for the unit running the music. I didn’t have shuffle accidentally on (the files always played in the same order, just not the one I set up). This isn’t a deal breaker, but I’d like to find out why it’s doing it.
  • This one could be tough. When setting up my unit for the music, I of course just needed the audio so I just hooked up the L/R jacks. No dice. I couldn’t get the unit to start until I also plugged the V RCA jack into a female RCA jack. Luckily, the unit was sitting next to my living room TV, so I just plugged it into an unused side jack. This is probably an issue with grounding but can be pretty inconvenient if you just want the unit out in your yard running audio and aren’t lucky enough to have another RCA female around. I’m going to do some playing around this year to see if I can figure out an easy fix, if I find one I’ll pass it on (likewise if anyone else has a fix, feel free to pass it on!)
The Micca Speck menu. You'll need a TV, computer or something similar to use it.
The Micca Speck menu. You’ll need a TV, computer or something similar to use it.

And that’s pretty much it. The Micca Speck is a pretty nifty, straight forward media player that can be used in multiple applications in your haunt (or any other media activity you need a portability). The unit is still available on Amazon.com for about $37, which might seem pricey if you’re a bare-bones haunter, but I feel it’s better than untangling $37 dollars worth of wires every year.

In fact, I’m thinking of purchasing one more to run the sound for a new animated prop next year. But hopefully, that’s another post.

Pitfalls to Avoid when Writing a Scathing Blog Comment or, Why Not Just Be Nice?

Blogging, as with any creative endeavor, has an unavoidable aspect that one must continually put themselves up for criticism.  Forget the obvious litany of misspellings, dropped grammar and the like; there’s also the blogging landmine that sooner or later you’ll post something that someone disagrees with. It could be anything from a total objection of a reader to what you’ve written; to simply the correction of a single point.

Most of the time these comments are friendly and constructive.  For instance, the other day when I brain farted and wrote that Sorachi Ace hops were a New Zealand variety, Phrix from over at the Beer in Nashville blog commented:

Great post. I wrote about a related topic – how Untappd potentially affects my behavior – in a recent post. You reminded me of some favorites I want to revisit. And I agree with you about Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace Saison – fabulous beer, I just brewed my first saison with this hop on Sunday. Slight correction – Sorachi Ace hops were developed by Sapporo in Japan, not New Zealand.

Maybe Phrix was feeling generous that day, or maybe he’s read enough of my blog to know that these types of blatant mistakes are not the norm, or maybe, more possibly, Phrix is generally a nice guy who realizes mistakes happen and just felt the need to point it out to me without making me feel like dirt.  On the other side of the spectrum, I present this flaming, brown paper bag that was dropped anonymously (really man, own it!) on my front porch.

You’re an idiot. Small head? That’s probably what your girlfriend says. Hoptimum has one of the biggest heads for any DIPAs I’ve ever had (all years). I drink DIPAs from across the nation and this is the best I’ve ever had (which I would never have expected from SN). 2014 brew is better and smoother than the previous two years. It’s one of those beers that you either drink last or it’s the only thing you drink in a night, because it overpowers (and overwhelms in taste) everything else. BTW: Torpedo is an absolutely horrible IPA. And “whole cone” has absolutely nothing to do with “big alcohol”. Do you have any followers on this blog?!

I’ll be honest, this is the first rude, overly belligerent comment I’ve ever received here and was really unprepared for it.  After some research on the internet the two top choices on how to handle this kind of situation seemed to be, 1) delete it and move on, or 2) be the bigger man.  So with that in mind I wrote the follow response:

No “whole cone” does not mean “big alcohol”. But the words “Imperial IPA” which I wrote right after “whole cone” do. And now that I’ve clarified that, we’re left arguing over a beer’s head size. Never thought I find myself in that position.

Thanks for stopping by.

And I spent the rest of the day walking around work proud of myself that I was the better man.  However, driving home I remembered that I have given unsolicited pointers in how to improve media content once or twice, and realized that this presented another opportunity to educate readers on this particular type of interaction, even if I’m certainly not a fan of it.

So with that in mind let’s examine this comment and see where it falls short when it comes to quality post bashing.  And again, I’m not being a dick about this.  Remember, Tracey doesn’t want me to be a dick anymore.

You’re an idiot.

Awesome start.  Take note here people, the first shot should always be quick and hard, like an opening jab in a boxing match.  No more than five words max.  But a little research always helps. My twitter profile used to say (and my email signature and Facebook work field still does) that I’m the “Idiot behind the keyboard at The Dogs of Beer”.  Yep, wear my idiot cape with pride.  So really, it’s not the staggering blow to the ego it could have been.

Small head? That’s probably what your girlfriend says.

Ah, dick jokes.  Don’t do this. Dick jokes are like the cigarette butts of the internet world.  They’re laying around everywhere, so much so that after a while people don’t even notice them any more.  They’re just there, silently unobserved as people go about their daily routines.

Not only that, they undermine your position.  Let’s paint a picture.  You’re at a highly recommended, expensive restaurant that took a month to get a table at.  You’ve perused the awesome looking menu and ordered a meal that you’re sure will be among the best you’ve every had, right down to the dessert your waistline doesn’t need.

Then the salad turns up and there’s a cigarette butt in it.  No matter what happens next, the restaurant has no chance of saving the meal.  It just isn’t going to work, no matter how much they try to convince you that their food and establishment are usually top notch. That’s what dick jokes do. No matter how eloquent your comments are after that you can’t salvage your credibility.  Like that guy at work who’s such an idiot that even when he says something intelligent no one takes him seriously.

Hoptimum has one of the biggest heads for any DIPAs I’ve ever had (all years).

When you leave this kind of comment, dump on something important.  Of everything stated in reviews, the head is probably the least important.  So many things impact head formation and retention that the fact that you’ve had a different experience is quite frankly, not unexpected and probably normal. There are tons of stuff like aromas and flavors you could call a reviewer out on that getting upset on a little thing like the head simply carries no weight.

I drink DIPAs from across the nation and this is the best I’ve ever had (which I would never have expected from SN). 2014 brew is better and smoother than the previous two years.

Never was it written that this wasn’t a good DIPA (or Imperial) so this kind of exposition isn’t really necessary.  Again, if you’re going to write this type of comment, make sure you stick to the issues the writer posted that you took acceptation to.  Oh, and if you’re going to make a statement that in some way is meant to demonstrate your expertise in something, only do so if your expertise is truly unique or extraordinary.  Many people drink DIPAs from across the nation, so this statement in no way raises the commenter’s prowess above the collective norm.  Also, I direct you to Bryan’s excellent post over at “This Is Why I’m Drunk” on why using the word “smooth” in a beer description is inane.

It’s one of those beers that you either drink last or it’s the only thing you drink in a night, because it overpowers (and overwhelms in taste) everything else.

Again immaterial as nothing was written to say otherwise. Oh, and you say that like it’s a good thing.

BTW: Torpedo is an absolutely horrible IPA.

Never put out your opinion as fact.  I know your mom said you could be “anything you wanted to be” when you grew up, but sorry, “always right” is not one of them.  I’m not a fan of using rankings and statistics to back this kind of argument, but Torpedo has been on Zymurgy’s list of “best beers in America” the last three years running (with only a bit more than a handful of IPAs ranking higher).  Granted, it’s been slowly falling down the list as craft beer lovers get their hands on newer, more exciting beers; and I’m sure there are many, many other DIPAs that don’t get the distribution or exposure to make Zymurgy’s list.  But still if the author likes a beer that you don’t, stay away from this type of taste bashing.

And “whole cone” has absolutely nothing to do with “big alcohol”.

I can’t stress this point enough, if you’re going to slag something the author wrote,  make sure you read the sentence  you are taking acceptation to several times to make sure that you completely understand it.  In order to remove it from all the other words in the post that may be distracting to the commenter, here is the line in question:

SN terms this beer a “whole cone” imperial IPA.  Translated: hoppy, big alcohol.

I can see where the fact that “whole cone” being in quotes might cause some confusion but it’s in quotes because that’s the phrase SN uses to describe their beer, but it’s the whole term that is being put forward here and you can not simply remove part of it to substantiate your argument.  The beer’s style is imperial IPA, which is to my mind would be hoppy, with big alcohol.  Let me know if it is otherwise.

Do you have any followers on this blog?!

Important point here, like the boxing analogy I used earlier, your last sentence should be the knock out blow.  Swift, violent, devastating, and final.  Asking a blog if they have any followers when the number of followers are clearly noted at the top of the page is…not that.

So there it is, a non-dickish run down on things to consider when leaving a trenchant comment on a blog.  Start strong.  Don’t comment on things that aren’t relevant.  Make sure your facts are correct, and make sure you finish strong.  Follow these rules and you’ll be a brutal commenter that trolls and flamers around the whole internet will look up to, and bloggers and Yahoo article writers will fear.

Or you could just be a nice guy, and write something like this:

Hi!  Just read your review on Hoptimum which is one of my favorite DIPAs.  I’m a little perplexed that you found the head to be small, as every time I’ve had it the head usually very pronounced.  Perhaps you just grabbed a dirty glass that day?  It happens.  Anyway, next time you try it, take note, and maybe your opinion will change.

Also, at first glance your sentence concerning “whole cone” may be a little unclear to readers because since the term is in quotes it may appear as if you’re equating “whole cone” to the “big alcohol” you’ve written in the next sentence.  I’m sure you know these two have nothing to do with each other.  Perhaps you might consider rewriting them to avoid any such confusion in the future.

Anyway, just thought I’d put that out there.  I see you have 777 followers.  Nicely done!

See?  Isn’t that much nicer?

Tracey: I think we need to get on the same page as to what “not being a dick” means.

Comfort Beers, Part II – There Should Be an App for That!

I’m usually not much of a “series” guy.  A lot of my posts are stand-alone musings due in part because I don’t try to tackle anything with that much depth to it, but mainly because my brain won’t focus on any one thing long enough to pump out a four-part series.

So the other day when I asked the question about beers that craft-beer lovers had tried making their way to being a regular libation (which after a grueling internet search that I did not perform, I found that the term “comfort beer” isn’t plastered all over the internet yet, so….”, I though I was pretty much done with the topic.  But once I got home I realized that in listing some of my comfort beers, a list I admit I formed off the top of my head, I had missed an opportunity to form the list based on some actual numerical data that was literally at my fingertips.  I’m of course talking about the social media app Untappd.

I shouldn’t really need to go deeply into what Untappd is or does, I think if you’re reading a beer blog chances are you’ve heard of it. One of the many pieces of information you can get from it about your beer drinking is a list of your most checked in beers and how many times you’ve checked each one in.

With that little light bulb illuminating over my head, I decided to log into Untappd and see if it agreed with me about my beliefs about which beers I drink most often, with full awareness going in, that in general, the data it reported wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Why?  Well mainly the age old gremlin that sabotages any well meaning system – garbage in, garbage out.  I don’t check in every one of my comfort beers I drink, because I don’t see the need to track every single beer that touches my lips.

So with that fact firmly in mind, lets look at the top 10 beers I’ve checked-in on Untappd and see if there are any surprises.  The number of check-ins is in parenthesis after each beer.

#10 – Delirium Tremens (5).  I’m actually surprised how far down the list this one is, expect a couple of future check-ins to bump it up the list a bit.  My last check-in? Halloween night of last year.  No surprise there.  However…

#9 – Old Chub (7).  Interesting, as I wouldn’t actually consider this a regular.  Every year we attend the Scottish Highland games, and every year Old Chub is one of the beers that State Line Liquors brings.  I have a running joke that I have been given the power to “declare” the beer “Old Chub”, so every year I raise a plastic cup and say, “by the power invested to me by these games and State Line Liquors, I declare this beer Old Chub!”  I even tweet it out via an Untappd check-in which probably explains why it made my top 10.  But there’s no way this one should be above Delirium, or even only one check-in behind..

#8 – Arrogant Bastard (8).  Hmmm, the fact that two of the three examples I used for comfort beers are gone before we get to #7 worries me.  I think there’s going to be some things on this list I wasn’t expecting, and maybe some things that I wish weren’t on it.  Speaking of the former…

#7 – Victory Headwaters Pale Ale (8).  A pleasant surprise, as I do like this beer, but a regular?  Not really, but with 8 check-ins spread out over a three year period (my last being in April), Untappd would certainly seem to be suggesting that it is.  If there’s a beer out there that’s “on the bubble”, this one would probably be it.  Adding more weight to that conclusion is that it has the same number of check-ins as…

#6 – Raging Bitch (8).  Curiouser and Curiouser.  That ‘bitch’ is not in the top five was a shocking find.  More shocking still is the fact that I haven’t check one in since August of 2012!  For as much as this is a “first beer” at Two Stones, I would have thought I’d be checking-in at least one or two in a year for shits and grins alone.  But the app don’t lie.  Although I wish it was…

#5 – Sixpoint Brewery Resin (9).  Blasphemy.  I’ll be honest, I’m not even a huge fan of Sixpoint.  While I’ve had some good beers from them now that their available here in Delaware (Resin is really not a bad beer), Sixpoint built up a not so good standing with us when Chuck and I had it on draft in NYC on several occasions.  I was never overly impressed.  However, this is an important find for me because it speaks to an issue that Phirx over at Beer in Nashville wrote about a couple weeks ago on how Untappd can effect the drinking habits of its users.  Sixpoint sponsored a Resin badge that was mult-leveled.  Drinking one beer got you the first level then several more got you the next, and since I was “badge happy” during my first years on Untappd, well I had to have it.  The compelling clue that this beer is a badge artifact is that every check-in for it was between Feb 23 and Mar 2 of 2012, and I can promise you that I haven’t had another Resin since.  When I have that many check-ins of a single beer in a short amount of time, you know I’m badging.

#4 – Sorachi Ace (11).  No surprise there.  Although I’m a little shocked that it’s been over a year since I checked one in.  But 11 isn’t a bad number, all though this one is a little better…

#3 – Blithering Idiot (15).  Same as Sorachi Ace pretty much.  Over a year since my last check-in, but with 15 already recorded, I probably just got it in my mind that I didn’t need to do it anymore.  Well, maybe just THREE more…

#2 – Milwaukee’s Best Ice (17).  Spare me your poisonous barbs, Major! (And if you don’t get that reference, I shun you)  This is another badge artifact.  When I started on Untappd, I realized that, because of the very nature of the way I tend to drink, there were a lot of badges I just simply would never get – like “The Usual”, 15 of the same beer in one month.  Who does that?  There’s only a handful of beers I have more than 15 of in a whole year!  So I devised a plan.  On a nice July night in 2011, I decided to do an all night brisket smoke and knock off as many of these pesky badges as possible that require a lot of the same beers.  Why Beast Ice?  It’s harmless, goes down like soda, it’s pretty inexpensive and really doesn’t do much to me except make me want to pee. Over the night I picked up six badges (Drinking Your Paycheck, Sixpack, Brewery Loyalist, The Usual, Power Month and Take it Easy), and that was the last time I ever checked any in. Irritated that my #2 beer is an American adjunct lager? I suppose I should be, but I did it, so I own it, but if I’d been patient, I could have gotten all these badges in March by checking-in all the Guinness I drink.  Which brings us to…

#1 – Guinness Draught (20).  My only surprise here is that it is only 20. I drink 20+ Guinnesses during a seven day period around St Paddy’s every year – easily. GRR Martin may have popularized “The Wall”, but I was building mine long before he wrote about his.  I was surprised to see however, that I have not checked one in for over two years.  That’s two Saint Patrick’s days with nary a Guinness check-in. That’s borderline criminal.

And that’s the list. While many were givens, there were a few surprises on it.  But like I said, this ranking is skewed by so many factors that I wouldn’t call it definitive by any means.

Any surprises in your top 10?

"All in all you're just another can in the wall..."
“All in all you’re just a ‘nother can in the wall…”

 

That Beer Was Good. But Was it Good Enough to Become One of Your Regulars?

The other day, Josh Short over at Short on Beer posted a very nice piece about the obsession with some craft beer fans about trying as many new beers as they possibly can, even to the exclusion of drinking what they consider their favorite beers.

It was a very interesting point of view on a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a while, although admittedly, from a slightly different angle. I was wondering how much (if at all) this continued activity of trying as many beers as possible impacts the everyday drinking habits of craft beer lovers. In other words, every craft beer fan has their favorite, go-to beers, but how often is that clique breached by any of the many beers we try in the name of variety. Do beers ever get called up to the big leagues from Triple-A, or are they all just a long list of forgotten UnTappd check-ins?

First, in order to lay this out I’d like to change the word “favorite” to “regulars”. I’m doing this for the purpose of this discussion because I want to address beers that you drink regularly because you really enjoy them.   They’re easily accessible to you (either year round or seasonally) and you’re confident that you can walk away with one of your regulars visiting just about any liquor store near you, and not be hindered by things like distribution.

For instance, you may have had Pliny the Elder once, and it might be one of your all-time favorite beers. Heck it may be your favorite beer period. But out here on the East coast, unless you live in Philly or travel there on a regular basis, you can’t really call it a regular. You’re at the whim of the beer gods, waiting for them to see fit to allow you’re unworthy palete to cross paths with it again.

For the purposes of this post, I’m also going to refer to the long list of beers that we try as “one-and-dones”. Not really a flattering term but let’s face it, in reality that’s what a majority of the beers we try end up being. Drink. Enjoy. Next!

So with those concepts firmly planted, let’s ask the question, “Have any of the one-and-done beers you’ve had in your tireless pursuit to try every beer out there ever made it into your regulars?” And I’d follow that up with, “And if so, how often does it happen?”

In order to give some context to this question, and because, well, I asked it, allow me run down a quick list of some of my regulars as examples and then give a couple examples of one-and-dones that have successfully cracked their ranks.

First, the regulars:

Guinness – No surprise here if you’ve read my St Paddy’s day posts. And I’ll be honest, except for when I get an itch or if I find myself in a bar where it is the best option, that’s the only time I drink this beer. While that may seem to disqualify it as a regular, I still consider it such because it’s my stout of choice for St Paddy’s, if only because Murphey’s is so hard to find around here, and consider it my absolute go-to beer, especially in bars that don’t offer much in the way of craft beer.

Arrogant Bastard – Now we’re getting to a true regular. This is quite simply the “Wednesday beer”. Every Wednesday is pasta night at tDoB, which also means that it is wine night. However, I like to drink a beer when I’m cooking and save the wine for the meal, and this beer is almost always my choice. Oh, I’ll admit, sometimes I get led astray by some fermented shiny red ball that walks into the liquor store that sits next to the ACME, but for the most part I’m able to resist because I know what I’m getting when it comes to AB. The last beer that took its place was one of Stone’s Enjoy By beers, which now are beginning to strike me as rather annoyingly hypish. Besides, for the price of a shiny red ball, I can usually buy two Bastards. Winning. Over time however, I’ve become less and less shackled by the calendar and find myself picking up a bottle just about every time I stop at the ACME, which, because I have a 17 and 21 year old at home, is more often than I’d like to admit.

Delirium – I’m cheating a little bit on this one, because I’m going to lump two beers together. But regardless, Tremens is an absolute favorite of mine. Not only is it the beer of Halloween night, but whenever I got to Max’s in Baltimore or Jessup’s in New Castle it’s always the first beer I ask for. In fact, it has led to my overused joke, “Delirium is the beer I drink while I’m deciding what my first beer is going to be.” However, around Christmas Tremens may be replaced by Noel in some places which is fine by me as it is happens to be my Christmas Eve beer. Every Year. No exceptions.

Blithering Idiot – While I do shy away from it a bit in the summer, during the darker, cooler months this is a staple at my house, usually on a Friday night. Four Idiots slowly enjoyed throughout the evening always seems to be just what the doctor ordered. I also have it every time I come across it on draft.

And now, the one-and-dones that have become regulars:

Flying Dog Raging Bitch – I don’t remember when the first time I picked up this hybrid Belgian-style Pale Ale, but I’m sure it was for the same reason I picked up Arrogant Bastard, the name! How could you not try this?!? But what could easily have been another harmless* one-and-done, or long forgotten Untappd check-in has become one of the most welcomed beers in my fridge. I love this beer, and pick it up every time nothing else on the shelf strikes my fancy.

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale – I’m cheating again. Even if I didn’t have this genetic need to try every beer I can get my hands on, I probably would still have given this one a taste because it is local. Having said that, this jumped immediately to “regular” status due to its easy drink-ability and the fact that it just flat out goes great with food. Any time the grill is lit at tDoB, you can bet there’s a six-pack of Greenville in the fridge.

Brooklyn Brewing Sorachi Ace – This beer is probably the best example of a beer that I considered going in to my first glass as being a one-and-done and ended up being very surprise how fast it grew on me. Gary over at Lyrics, Libations, and Life was posting about a Saison he was brewing in which he used this Japanese hop because he found its “lemongrass” quality something he wanted to explore. I thought it sounded interesting, so when I came across this beer on draft at Two Stones Pub, I decided to give it a shot even though in a point of full disclosure, Brooklyn is not one of the breweries I tend to gravitate towards. What I found was a thoroughly enjoyable beer whose hop characteristics were indeed different from your usual Cascade/Simcoe/Chinook type ale that is overly common in the beer market. Sorachi Ace has taken on “Delirium” status in my list of regulars, when it’s on draft it is ALWAYS the first beer I have, usually in a Mug at Two Stones, and a few bottles have been known to sneak into my house from time to time. If they sold in it reasonably priced six-packs, it might have to sign a lease agreement for as much time as it would reside in my fridge.

So there you have it. I know, I know. Every one of my regular beers (except for Guinness maybe) started out as a one-and-done from my continuing search for different craft beers, as chances are so did yours.  So there’s a lot of gray area to this topic of discussion depending how far alone you are in your personal craft beer pilgrimage. Guilty. But over time, as you try new beers, you do build up a core of beers that become your regulars, those you go to when you “just want a beer” (is “comfort beer” a term?  CLAIMED!), and many of the one-and-dones that parade through your glass will never reach that lofty status. But some do.

What are yours?

Usual
The Final Sip: *From tDoB Dictionary – Harmless (ADJ), a beer we neither love nor hate. If we love a beer, we’ll discuss it. If we hate it, we’ll debate it more. This is a beer that elicits no reaction from us. Which, to us, is the worst beer you can make.

 

 

The Full Moon Post – April 2014, April Showers and Lunar Eclipses

You keen eyed lunar types will notice that this post is a day early.  There’s a good reason.  You’ll just have to be patient.

April, tucked nicely between Ostara (the Spring Equinox) and Beltane (May 1st) is the transitional month into Spring.  Oh sure, Spring officially happened astronomically last month on March 20th, but April is the first full month of the coming change of season, and usually much more so than March, the one where that change is becoming more apparent in nature.  As I write this, my daffodils are in bloom, my neighbor’s forsythia is a striking contrast of yellow against an otherwise drab landscape, my star magnolia is setting its buds, my weeping willow is starting to awaken, and my dog is chasing rabbits.

Yes, signs of the coming summer are everywhere but all this change isn’t without a little fussing  from nature.  “April showers bring May flowers”, may be the popular rhyme, but those showers aren’t usually popular when they are forcing you to stay inside on the first days where the temperature is reaching near 70.  No, on days like this one can only stare out the window and try to remember that water is essential to everything around us, and indeed these storms are important for the rebirth of nature after a long winter’s nap.  And of course one can not ignore the strong winds that can kick up this time of year, giving easy understanding of April’s Moon often being referred to as the “Wind Moon”.

This year April plays host to Passover and Easter.  Passover is a multi-day celebration that marks the release of the Hebrews from slavery shortly after God’s last plague on Egypt – the death of every first born Egyptian child.  Isrealites marked the doorposts of their homes with lambs blood, having God’s promise that by doing so, he would “pass over”, leaving those firstborns unharmed.

I covered Easter and some of its symbols in last month’s Full Moon post but did want to talk a bit about it here.  Most people know that Easter (and it’s related observances) move around the calendar from year to year.  In fact, Easter can fall on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25.

This was established at the first Council of Nicaea when it was decided that Easter would fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox.  Most people know this, but many don’t know that it’s actually a little simpler than that.

Easter is a movable feast set to a lunisolar calendar, which more resembles the Hebrew calendar than the one we use today.  To that end, although the Spring equinox can astronomically fall on either, March 20th or 21st, for the purposes of Easter, the Spring equinox is always designated as March 21st.   Similarly, the first full moon’s astronomical date is not taken into consideration either, instead the 14th day of the lunar month is used as the date of the true full moon can be different depending where in the world someone is at the precise moment of astronomical fullness.  This moon is referred to as the Paschal full moon; Paschal tracing its origins back to the Hebrew Pesach, meaning passover.

So from a strict perspective Easter is always the first Sunday, after the next 14th day of the lunar month, after March 21st.  But I guess the other way of saying it flows better.

So what can April hold for beer peeps?  Well, as I said above, every year April brings the water that is an essential ingredient to the wakening nature around us.   I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Although not as romanticized, water is a key ingredient in beer as it makes up a large portion of the over all mix.  But in reality, it’s not really water per say that has a large influence over the beer you’re drinking or brewing, it’s what’s IN the water that makes the difference.

Minerals and salts found in water vary according to location, and it’s these basic elements within the water that can have a great influence on beer, even to the effect that these traits can become regionally known, like some characteristics in wine.  The water around the Burton region of England has a naturally occurring high level of gypsum, a mineral which helps bring out the hops in a beer.  So it’s not surprising that this area is historically known for producing excellent pale ales, and that adding gypsum to water in regions that do not contain a naturally high level of it, is not an uncommon practice in brewing pale ales.

If you have not already done so, April would be an appropriate month to take some time to do some research to better understand the part water chemistry plays in beer and brewing.  Home brewers especially would benefit from understanding more about the water they use to brew, and now would be a good time to think about requesting a report from your water service which will contain an analysis of the water stating the level of each mineral tested for.  These numbers will fluctuate slight throughout the year, but they are a good place to start.

Once you know the numbers, understanding what they bring to your brew is the next step.  A little research on the web brought up some nice quick reads on the subject (here, here).  While those who want a little more in depth study can seek out books like How to Brew, by John Palmer and  Water: A Comprehensive Guide For Brewers by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski.

Beyond that?  Well it is spring, which means planting season is coming up.  How about those hops you always wanted to grow?  Or that garden you wanted to plant so you’d have some home grown ingredients for those herbal beers you’ve been thinking about?   Now would be a great time to start thinking along those lines.

And that’s about it for this month.  But why is the post a day early?  Well this month’s full moon also happens to showcase a total lunar eclipse that is visible across all of the United States.  But because the astronomical full moon is 3:42 am (EDT), Tuesday April 15th, if I’d post this up tomorrow, you’d have already slept through it.

Lunar eclipses happen when the moon passes through the shadow of the earth.  Because of the geometries involved this means that lunar eclipses only happen at the full moon (it’s pretty obvious if you think about it, but I run into a lot of people who just haven’t put the two together) and don’t happen every full moon because sometimes the moon passes above or below the earth’s shadow.  And for those eclipses that do happen, not everyone sees them, depending on which part of earth is facing the moon at it’s astronomical full.  But when all the geometries align like they will tomorrow morning you get a total lunar eclipse that you can see from start to finish.

The show starts at 12:53 am (all times EDT) and finishes at 6:37 am (even though the moon orbits the earth at 1.023 km/s, lunar eclipses are pretty lengthy).  But the real show starts at 1:58 am when the moon plunges into the darkest part of earth’s shadow.  Up until then, it was wandering through the penumbra, a lighter part of the earth’s shadow caused by the sun’s large angular size that surrounds the darker shadow at the center.

It will take until 3:06 am for the Moon to totally slide into the Earth’s darkest shadow and it will stay there for the next one hour and 18 minutes, until it begins to slide out from behind it on the other side.  Due to an ever so slight amount of light that gets bent towards the moon as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere around the edges, the moon may appear red during totality as the rest of the spectrum is scattered allowing only the red light to continue on its path to the moon.

beer peeps
The Final Sip: The next total lunar eclipse visible in this region of the US occurs on September 28th, 2015.  The next one that is visible across the entire US doesn’t occur until January of 2019.  Cheers, beer peeps! (PHOTO: The Decorated Cookie)

 

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