Books, beer and barbarians

Home to fantasy author Ty Johnston

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Beer of the Week special: The quest for good beer never ends

This was a little something I wrote nearly a decade back for another website, and I thought it'd be fun to resurrect it for here. Enjoy.

I blame Steve. It's all his fault. Really. Before he and I met about 16 or 17 years ago, I drank Budweiser and worse.

I remember once back in my college days in the early '90s scrounging in the back seat of my car for loose change, just so I could buy beer. I found almost two dollars. With that I could buy a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $1.48. In the bottle. Wasn't that special. Back then, it was. I didn't know any better.

Then I met Steve.

Actually, I met Gere first, the lady who would eventually become Steve's wife. She and I worked together as editors at a newspaper. She and Steve were already dating at the time, and though Steve worked at another newspaper a few hours away, I still got to meet him through Gere. We were role playing gamers, an old game called Dragonquest. Eventually Steve landed a job where I worked.

He was my boss. Or, at least, he was my immediate supervisor.

Through our mutual interests in pencil and paper role-playing games, we became friends.

We started hanging out outside of game time. We went to local parties and gatherings, generally those of other newspaper folks. We hung out.

And that's when Steve introduced me to real beer.

At first I was hesitant. I tried what were relatively safe beers for me. Harps. Sam Adams. Guinness. Good, solid beers, but nothing extravagant.

Then I tasted a Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale. My life has never been the same since.

See, Samuel Smith's makes some of the best beers on the planet. If you don't know that as an objective fact of the universe, then you've either never had a Samuel Smith's brew or you are deluded. It should be in the Bible as the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt drink no other brews than Samuel Smith's.

And of the half dozen or so fine Samuel Smith's beers available, my personal favorite has always been the Old Brewery Pale Ale. For that matter, Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale is my favorite beer of all 530 beers I have tasted in my life (yes, I keep track ... this very blog is evidence to that).

Since trying that first Sam Smith's, probably back in late 1993 or early-to-mid 1994, I have been hooked. And I've been on a quest.

What kind of a quest? To find good beer. To find a beer betterthan Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale. After more than 15 years of tasting and drinking hundreds of different beers, I'm beginning to doubt there is a better beer.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of fantastic beers available on the market. Just none have quite reached the glorious heights of this one pale ale.

What do I do? I keep searching. It never ends. Oh, I can't drink beer like I used to. I'm no longer the young man naive to the world of beer. I'm getting older, and my health isn't what it used to be. But I can still have a beer every once in a while. And thus, the quest continues.

The quest eternal.

I blame Steve.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Books read in 2020: No. 1 -- The Book of Genesis, KJV

published by Zondervan

Started: Jan. 1
Finished: Jan. 20

Notes: I've probably read all of the Bible at one time or another, or at least nearly all of it, but I've never started from the beginning and read it all the way to the end. So now I'm correcting that. I decided upon the King James Version for a variety of reasons, including artistic. Initially I set out to read the Bible straight through from beginning to end, but soon realized I would need a break, so I'll be peppering my future reading with books from the Bible at least until I've finished the whole book, so that might take some years.

Mini review: Okay, from the beginning of all time and space to the deaths of Jacob and Joseph, a lot happens in this book, also including the stories of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Adam and Eve, and more. Lots of historical and  mythological detail here, but it's not the most exciting of reads, especially when it gets listing all the names of fathers and their sons with the occasional daughter or wife. For those who would ask, yes, I am a Christian, but that doesn't mean I've thrown away rational thought entirely, and that my reading here was more from a historical and literary point of view than a faith-based one. Christians obviously should read this book, as should those with interests in religion and history.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Beer of the Week: Sudwerk Bavarian Hefeweizen Wheat

Beer score: 5.7

Company: Sudwerk Brewing Co.

ABV: 5.0
IBU: 15

Like many a good hefeweizen, this beer from Davis, California, pours out a nice, light yellow color from the bottle into the glass. Then the drinker gets hit with notes of fruitiness, perhaps even a little spiciness, like oranges and maybe clove working together.

This beer goes down wet with a fairly strong bitterness, and it is light and crisp, as can be expected from a decent hefeweizen.

All that being said, while this is a good beer and fairly enjoyable, it's not an overly special or unusual beer, thus not a higher beer score above. I don't want it to sound as if this is a beer I wouldn't drink again, because I would, but I can't call it the best hefeweizen I've ever had. But there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. They can't all be perfect. And I'd rather have a decent beer than an awful one any day of the week.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Beer of the Week: John Courage Amber

Beer score: 4.3

Company: Caledonian Brewing Company

ABV: 4.7
IBU: NA

This one looks good pouring from the bottle with its nice red color, but the final experience is lacking. For one thing, the smell is overly malty, in my opinion, and some might like that but I think many would be turned off by it.

The beer goes down wet, so there's that, but there's not a lot of taste, just a little bitterness that you have to stretch your taste buds to experience. The barest hint of caramel sweetness might hit the tongue, but it won't stay there long.

I won't say this is an awful beer, but it's also not a very good one, which goes to show that just because a beer is from Europe doesn't mean its necessarily awesome.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Beer of the Week: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

Beer score: 5.5

Company: Schlenkerla

ABV: 5.4
IBU: 30

The German "smoked" beer, a type of beer with which I'm not familiar. Apparently this is a rare type of beer and this particular one was the first and the oldest, having been brewed for centuries.

It comes out of the bottle into a clear glass with a dark red color, reminding me a bit of some of the darker wines.

The smell definitely reminds one of smokiness, specifically of burning logs, but there's also the barest hint of sweet, perhaps maple or caramel.

In the drinking, I found this beer to suffer from just a little flatness, but the flavor was full of a cool burnt quality that reminded me somewhat of a porter. There are definitely flavors of dark rye bread and dark molasses here.

I can't call this a favorite beer, but it's definitely worth trying. It is somewhat heavy and thick, and I could see it make a good sipping beer.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 51 -- Mark Dawson's Mastering Simple Facebook Ads for Authors

by Mark Dawson and Kerry Gardiner

Started: Dec. 28
Finished: Dec. 31

Notes: With only a few days left in the year, I thought I'd break into this short read about running Facebook ads for authors. I've been meaning to look into this for some while, so why not now?

Mini review: About what one might expect. A short introduction to advertising on Facebook with a handful of hints to improve you chances. A decent starting point.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 50 -- The Bourne Identity

by Robert Ludlum

Started: Nov. 25
Finished: Dec. 28

Notes: Ludlum is one of many authors I've been meaning to read but have yet got to, and since I was in the mood for some fiction, I thought now would be the time. I've not seen any of these Bourne movies and only have a vague idea of what they're about, so there should be some surprises here.

Mini review: Though this one is definitely dated to the time of its writing (the 1970s) and the plot meanders about a bit too much for my liking, it all comes together quite well in the end. I can't call the writing style a favorite, but it's not bad. Fans of spy fiction will like this one.