Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Beer of the Week: Miller Lite

Beer score: 3.9

Company: Miller

ABV: 4.2
IBU: 10

It had been a looooooong time since I'd last had a Miller Lite, at least a couple of decades, but I attended a concert recently and this was the only beer they had one hand, so I tried one. And to tell the truth, it wasn't all that bad. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad.

Like most light beers, it has far more carbonation than I tend to enjoy in my drinks, but I suppose there's some trade-off with light beers. There's so much carbonation here it almost strikes me as more of a soda water or a seltzer than a beer. In a glass it has a nice light yellow color to it, and when chilled this beer goes down fairly smooth despite all the bubbles.

There are definitely textures of rice and corn here in the scent and the tasting, but that's pretty typical more most premium American beers. There are maybe hints of grain in the aftertaste, but truthfully there's not a lot of real beer flavor here, meaning you're not going to pick up much concerning malts or hops.

Is this an awful beer? No, but it's also not a great beer. This isn't a beer you'll want to break out for a tasting. However, this could be a beer you'd break out at a cookout or a ball game. There are plenty of better beers out there, but yeah, there are also worse ones. Or maybe I'm getting less rigid in my old age, for in the past I gave Miller Lite a much lower Beer score, but now I can tolerate it more.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Beer of the Week special: 10 health benefits of beer


  • Stress relief: This one should be obvious. Beer helps you to relax, relieving the day's stress and possibly making it easier for you to fall asleep. Duh! Right? Well, it's the truth. Just remember, moderation is the key; beer also has adverse health effects when too much beer is drunk.
  • Stroke: Beer might help to prevent strokes. The New England Journal of Medicine in 1999 released an article that said moderate beer drinkers have a twenty percent decreased chance of suffering a stroke than do non beer drinkers or those who only partake of a beer a week. So, maybe you should have a beer or two a day.
  • Bone density: Want stronger bones? Beer could be the thing. A study by the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis, reports that beer is a good natural source of dietary silicon, which helps to build bone density. The silicon comes from the husks of the barley used to make beer.
  • Heart disease: A beer or two a day can be good for the heart. Don't believe me? Ask the folks at the Institute of Epidemiology of the University of Muenster, Germany (hint: it'll help to read German). Several experiments at the university show that beer can help reduce the risks of heart disease, but only if one or two beers are drunk a day. Drinking a lot of beer is not good for the heart or the rest of the body, and eating fatty foods with beer doesn't help either.
  • Anti-oxidants: Maybe you've heard of flavonoids ? Flavonoids are a natural compound, sometimes known as Vitamin P, that helps the body to fight off cellular damage. In other words, flavonoids are an anti-oxidant, working within the bloodstream to help blood cells combat damage done to the body at minute levels. Hops has a good amount of flavonoids . What contains hops? Beer. Thank scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University for this information.
  • Kidney stones: Can beer really reduce the chances of suffering from a kidney stone? Possibly. A study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology said beer drinkers have a 40 percent chance of having kidney stones than non-beer drinkers.
  • Blood pressure: A report by The Nurses' Health Study looked at 70,000 women and found that women who had one beer a day had much less hypertension, meaning high blood pressure, than women who did not drink a beer a day. Ladies, saddle up to the bar!
  • Radiation exposure: I admit, this is an odd one. But a study done by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences came to some interesting conclusions. Blood samples were taken of test subjects before and after they were exposed to X-rays. Some of these test subjects had a beer before their X-rays. Some didn't partake. The result? Those who had had a beer had 30 percent fewer aberrations in their blood cells.
  • Cholesterol: According to the Boston University School of Medicine, beer in moderation raises the levels of good cholesterol in the body and lines the blood vessels with a layer of protection which lowers the chances of a blood clot.
  • Dementia: Drinking beer to stave off demenita ? Sounds crazy, doesn't it. Well, it could be true. The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that those older than 65 who drink one to six alcoholic beverages, including beer, a week have a lower chance of dementia than non-drinkers.
  • Saturday, July 06, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Blue Mountain Barrel House Dark Hollow

    Me enjoying a Blue Mountain Barrel House
    Dark Hollow bourbon-barrel imperial stout
    at Me's Burgers and Brews
    in Danville, Virginia.
    Beer score: 9.0

    Company: Blue Mountain Brewery

    ABV: 10.0
    IBU: 70

    Like a lot of modern beer aficionados, I like being pleasantly surprised by a beer I've never tasted before, perhaps even a beer I never knew existed until I walked into a particular restaurant or other establishment.

    Such happened to me today when I entered Me's Burgers and Brews in Danville, Virginia. Traveling through the region, I had not necessarily planned on stopping at this restaurant, but I was in the mood for a good burger and I knew about Me's though I'd never been there.

    First off, quality burger. Truly. Easily the best burger I've ever had in Virginia and one of the best burgers I've ever had anywhere. I order The Louise Penny burger which came with bacon, cheddar cheese and a maple mayo. I had been a little leery of the maple mayo, but upon giving it a try, it was perfect, not too sweet but noticeable without taking away from the rest of the burger.

    Okay, okay. On with the beer.

    Anyway, outside the front of the restaurant was a chalkboard sign with a goodly number of beers, and among the beers listed was the Blue Mountain Barrel House Dark Hollow, a bourbon barrel imperial stout. It sounded awesome to me, so that was the drink I ordered with my awesome burger.

    I've often said the first sign of a good stout is that you can't see through it in a clear glass, and that was the case here. This stout appeared like a good stout should, thick and dark with a foamy tan head.

    This was a strong stout, in flavoring and in alcohol content, so consider this a word of warning to those who prefer the lighter brews. Even a small, eight ounce glass of this stout packs quite the wallop and might leave your head spinning a little. But that's just the alcohol. As for the flavor, expect a dark, rich chocolate and some burnt oak textures, perhaps even a touch of caramel and maybe the barest hints of fruitiness.

    If you enjoy good, strong stouts, then this one should be for you. Also, I'll add that though there's a relatively strong alcohol taste here, it's not overpowering, allowing this stout to go down quite mellow.

    Is this a unique stout? No, not quite, but it's also not far from it. All in all, this is a pretty darn good stout and worth the time of any serious beer snob.

    Monday, June 24, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter

    Beer score: 6.2

    Company: Orkney Brewery

    ABV: 8.5
    IBU: Not available

    Like most Scottish ales, this one is too sweet for me, at least for me to taste regularly. That being said, there are beer drinkers who love the complex sweetness provided by the Scotts, so by all means give this one a try. Really, it's a good beer, just not my kind of thing.

    The Skull Splitter pours a dark brown with perhaps a hint of copper or red in the coloring. The head is quite frothy with a slight orange color to it. As for the drinking, yes it's sweet, but it's also quite smooth going down with strong hints of dark fruit, brown sugar, and maybe a cake-like flavor. You really don't get much bitterness with this beer until it's mostly down your throat. And did I mention it's sweet? Oh, yeah, I guess I did, but I also want to add that the sweetness here is not simple nor cheap, but is quite complex and sophisticated.

    All in all, a very good ale, though admittedly not my thing. Would I drink it again? Sure. Oh, I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase as six pack or more, but I could see picking up a single bottle when I'm in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Younger's Tartan Special

    Beer score: 6.8

    Company: Caledonian Brewery

    ABV: 3.7
    IBU: Not available

    This Scottish ale pours with a burnt copper color and a thin but strong head that settles well at the top of any glass and has a nice frothy texture to it. When drinking, you should pick up hints of caramel, toffee, and a bready, nutty flavoring.

    As can be expected with Scottish ales, this one tends to have some sweetness in it due to the toasted malts, but I will say here it's not an overpowering sweetness such as I've experienced in other Scottish ales. The hops here seems to have weakened that sweetness enough to make this beer more palatable, at least for me, than most Scottish ales I've tried, not that I hate Scottish ales but they're usually not a favorite.

    To be blunt about it, this is a good beer, but I can't classify it as a great beer. For one thing, I generally don't want to drink Scottish ales on a regular basis because they tend to be strongly sweet, though this one is better than most. Worth trying? Oh, yeah. Worth drinking? Sure, but maybe not your go-to beer for the house.

    Thursday, June 13, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 35 -- The Misplaced Legion

    by Harry Turtledove

    Started: June 7
    Finished: June 13

    Notes: I've read one other Turtledove novel and remember enjoying it to some extent, though that's been a long while back. Still, I thought I'd give him another go. He's probably best known for his alternative history novels and this appears to be one of those, this time with a Roman legion being transported somehow into a realm of magic.

    Mini review: This was a pretty darn good book. Yes, a Roman legion finds itself in a fantasy world, one different from the world they knew but familiar enough that the legion quickly finds its place within this new, strange world. If I had any real criticism, it might be that the world introduced here is perhaps too similar to that of the Romans, because plenty of other, potentially wilder options could have been available. Still, an entertaining novel for sure, and since it's the first of a series, I'll have to check out the others at some point. A word of warning and a spoiler (so don't read ahead if you don't want): This book doesn't exactly end on a cliff hanger, but it doesn't end with full resolution, so be prepared to want to read further or perhaps to be a little disappointed (I wasn't, but that's just me).

    Wednesday, June 12, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Cantillon Gueuze Lambic

    Beer score: 9.9

    Company: Cantillon

    ABV: 5.5
    IBU: 30

    Lambics tend to be one of the most unusual styles of beer, at least for those not experienced with the subtle flavors and textures of this style. To many drinkers, lambics don't even taste like beer but have more of a fruity or even a juice flavor. The Cantillon lambic is no exception.

    When sipping this beer, and you will want to sip it and not chug it, a surprising tartness kicks in, strong but not quite overpowering. There's little fizz to be found here, the drink going down smoother than any other beer I can think of at the moment.

    This particular beer from Belgium is a combination of a lambic brewed recently and one brewed several years earlier, and then is aged several years in the bottle.

    Should you drink this? Yes! Should it become a regular staple in your beer diet? Hmm, probably not. Frankly, this stuff is too good to swill down. You'll want this lambic for special occasions and for those times when you want to experience something different. To repeat myself, sip this beer, don't swig it. This one is something truly special and should be experienced, not simply tossed down one's throat.

    Thursday, June 06, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 34 -- Defender, The Sanctuary Series: Volume One

    by Robert J. Crane

    Started: May 31
    Finished: June 6

    Notes: I have a ton of e-books on my Kindle which I don't remember why I snagged them in the first place. This is one of them. I don't know if I got this e-book free, whether I paid for it, if it was a gift from the author, whatever, but there must have been something that drew me to it. As I'm reading fantasy of late, I thought I'd give this one a go. Plus, I'm always interested in trying authors new to me. And all these e-books aren't going to read themselves.

    Mini review: This was a pretty good book. It had several issues, including a somewhat scattered plot line, too many characters thrust upon the reader too quickly, and characters who seemed rather wooden at first. Also, this is obvious Dungeons-&-Dragons-based fiction, which doesn't bother me but is a turn off for some readers. But don't let any of that stop you from reading this. This is actually a good story, written decently well, with very interesting character interactions and relationships. I'm glad I read it and will strongly consider picking up more of the fantasy works of this author.

    Wednesday, June 05, 2019

    Interview at Dark Niche Publishing

    Evan Bollinger over at Dark Niche Publishing interviewed me a few days ago and you can read it online. So go check it out!

    Tuesday, June 04, 2019

    Beer of the Week special: Guest post by author Evan Bollinger


    For The Love of the Drunk


    I remember my first drink.

    It was a shot and it was beer. Bitter, luke warm like tap water left in a dirty glass in a disheveled kitchen in a subterranean dorm room with beige walls and three too few lamps. My heart was practically in my brain when I took that first gulp.

    But nobody cared. Nobody knew. My alcohol maidenhead was gone down the gullet...

    Part of me wondered if it was obvious, the half-fear on my face. But alas, there was no time to watch. 60 seconds passed and another. And then another. A minute by minute swish-swash mouthwash of that kingly beverage. A “power hour” they called it.

    Though I didn’t see the power. Not in me. And by shot #47 or so, there was no such thing as hour or minute. Time no longer ticking but melting… slipping away like Salvador Dali’s.

    At some point, some people actually looked different. Or maybe I was different. Or maybe we were all different. I couldn’t help but noticing that the voice in my head was now coming through my mouth and speaking on my behalf, without a whiff of permission.

    Oddly enough, I didn’t care.

    Because I was laughing. The beer was gone but we were doing something else. Again, a shot glass. No, not a shot glass. A bottle. Straight from the bottle. But this, darker, harsher, like sucking fire from the sewers.

    And then we were going, to dinner, to a building that suddenly sounded infinitely more exciting than words could express. Yay we were going. Most of us. One — two? -- of us were in the bathroom spitting. Some of us were being forced by the flat-faced seniors to “keep going bitch, you didn’t fill those to the top.”

    In my head I tried to do the calculations. 60 minutes in an hour, so 60 shots. A shot glass was 1.5 oz so that was 1.5 x 60, so… so… 90 oz. Okay, so a normal beer was 10 oz — no, 12 oz. Was it 12 oz? It was 12 oz. But wait, were these cans 12 oz? Okay, okay so that was 12 ounces and… what was the beer?

    Normal alcohol? The normal alcohol content for a beer was… So this was 12 oz of ‘normal’ beer alcohol content with shot glasses, one of every hour for 60 minutes, so that was …

    Wait, were those ‘normal’ shot glasses?

    “Dude.”

    We had reached the cafeteria and it was taco night. How did I know it was taco night? Aside from the line of bros who loved taco night? Easy. The undifferentiated mass of dung that clung to your plate and made your bowels quake like the San Andreas Fault.

    Except tonight, it was beautiful. And apparently, so too was everybody else. Women looked a lot better. And apparently they thought so too. Why else would they clone themselves?

    As the double apparitions moved around me, I squinted with one eye closed to find my fork in the dump of mass-produced paste, an ooze of dining hall fodder on my lopsided tray.

    Just for shits and kicks, I opened my closed eye and closed the other.

    As the years passed, I would open and close many more. Sometimes you’d open in a strange place. Most times, good. Sometimes bad. Occasionally, awful. Some, like me, would come to invite the spirits whenever possible. Pouring through the pores, heavy on the breath and tongue, glossed and glazed in the crooked eyes.

    Words of seeming genius intertwined with mindless garbling. Friends and foes made and forgotten. Good drinks turned bad, and bad turned worse. Good memories too, easy days, simple sips and heavy rips.

    Because when you threw out the trash, you chose the trash. You distinguished the trash from the non-trash. For every blood-soaked sunset with a summer ale, for every perfectly hazy memory of intoxication, youthful and old, there are days less glowing. Times less desired. Memories that hurt the brain and heart, leaving indelible marks in nooks and crannies we rarely expose.

    It’s simple and obvious, but no less true. You don’t know the bad without the good. You can’t know love without hate. Two sides of the same coin. Just centimeters away, so close yet so far — facing out on two different worlds. Always, forever, one turned away from the other. And yet always, forever, made of the same thing. Created in the same way, from a singular source.

    The love-hate-rinse-and-repeat of the lovely drink. The love for the drunk.

    Sometimes I loathed what it did to me, or I did to it, or what I imagined we did to each other. And whenever I truly tried to break it down, I riled it up. Rearing the head of that burning lust.

    Over time, I’ve learned to change. Slightly, I’m not perfect. But mixed with writing, mixed with anything, in moderation, things always seem better. I think. Writers drink, someone once told me. As if it were an immutable fact of the Universe. Not only do they drink, but they absorb. They suck it dry till their synapses are sufficiently soaked, their thoughts and feelings buoyed by that lapping bath of booze.

    Soaked and swimming in thought. Writers, one once told me, are alcoholics.

    Well that’s fine, I thought. Because I’m not a writer and never was. What I do, when my fingers flick and my words issue with the warm gentle flow of a healthy heart at rest — that’s not writing. I’m not writing. I’m bleeding. A strong, ceaseless pump, tendering in that moment what matters most.

    I write as I run. Streaming, daring it to stop.

    I’m not a writer, I think sometimes. I just know how to bleed.



    Friday, May 31, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 33 -- The Wolf Age

    by James Enge

    Started: May 17
    Finished: May 31

    Notes: Enge is another author with whom I've shared a table-of-contents or two, so I thought I'd delve into his long fiction after experiencing some of his shorter work. Plus, this novel is about a city of werewolves in a fantasy setting, so that drew me in quite handily.

    Mini review: A wizard warrior (sort of) finds himself imprisoned within a city of werewolves and must find a way to escape and lash out in revenge. Along the way he makes friends and enemies, the politics of the werewolves is slowly revealed, a war of sorts breaks out, and all the while the gods are watching and scheming. And that description barely touches the tip of the iceberg of everything that's going on here. I admit it took me nearly a hundred pages to be pulled in by this story, but once I was, I was hooked, and I was sad to see this novel end. Morlock makes a fantastic main character, and a number of the other characters were as interesting and entertaining. My only real complaint about this novel was some of the names of the werewolves; often those names were long, complicated and too similar to the names of other characters, so it wasn't always easy to follow. But you know? That's a pretty mild complaint for what was otherwise and excellent novel of swords and sorcery.

    Monday, May 27, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Steinlager

    Beer score: 3.0

    Company: Steinlager

    ABV: 4.8
    IBU: Not available

    This beer comes to us from New Zealand, but to be frank, it tastes like a traditional, trashy, premium American beer.

    In the glass it has a dirty straw color to it, but it does have a decent foamy head if you like that kind of thing. The scent is a light golden honey, so that's not bad, but it's not very strong. Upon drinking, at first it gives off a sort of hearty bread taste but that quickly turns into a bland corn taste. Weak on the way down, but at least you could drink a number of them without having to worry too much about filling up or getting too drunk.

    Would I drink this? Not regularly, no. But beers like this do serve a purpose. I call them lawn-mowing beers. No, I'm not going to break out a bottle of Steinlager if I'm wanting to experience something different or special, but on a hot day after mowing the yard, or maybe while grilling out in the heat, yes, I could see turning up a bottle of this stuff.

    I know, not much of a recommendation, but as I said, beers like this do have their place. However, that place is not regularly for me.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2019

    Beer of the Week special: Woodford Reserve bourbon

    Bourbon score: 10.0

    Company: Woodford Reserve Distillery

    Though I don't live there nowadays, I was brought up in bourbon territory of central Kentucky. Unfortunately for my much younger self, Woodford Reserve bourbon wasn't around back then, this fine drink not being introduced until 1996 out of Woodford County, Kentucky.

    Despite growing up where this stuff is now distilled, and where a bunch of other bourbons are made, I don't know as much about bourbon as I do beer. But I still know what I like.

    And I like this stuff.

    No, no, that's not correct. I love this stuff.

    I'm not going to say Woodford Reserve is necessarily the best-tasting bourbon out there, because I'm sure there are several higher-priced bourbons out there that could be considered better, but all in all, taking in taste and texture and price and everything else, I have to say Woodford Reserve is by far the best all-around bourbon out there. Without modesty, I can say Woodford Reserve is definitely better than any other premium bourbon or whiskey I've tasted in my 50 years.

    As one might expect, it has a kick, but not so much as to ruin the drinker's experience. It goes down fairly smooth and in the scent and taste there are hints of honey, smoke, vanilla, rye, and so much more.

    If you like a good stiff drink from time to time, you deserve it for yourself to head out and purchase a bottle of Woodford Reserve.

    Friday, May 17, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 32 -- A Discourse in Steel

    by Paul S. Kemp

    Started: May 11
    Finished: May 17

    Notes: I'm familiar with some of Kemp's shorter work as we've both appeared in a few anthologies together, but I've never read any of his longer material, so here goes. I expect good things.

    Mini review: This was simply a rollicking ball of fun. Kemp's Egil and Nix characters are obvious versions of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, but it works without feeling like its ripping off Leiber, mainly because there are enough differences in Kemp's characters from Leiber's to keep them from being exact replicas. In fact, Kemp's work here is likely more accessible to the modern reader than that of Leiber, so in a way Kemp's is the stronger material, at least for modern readers. This was well written and a lot of fun to read. If you like action-driven Sword and Sorcery, then you should pick this up.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Otter Creek Pale Ale

    Beer score: 7.5

    Company: Otter Creek Brewing

    ABV: 4.6
    IBU: 23

    Coming to us from Vermont, this is one of the best American pale ales I've had the pleasure to drink. If you're familiar with Samuel Smith's Pale Ale (from the UK), you'll be pleased to know the Otter Creek Pale Ale has some similar tones.

    Pours a dark, almost copper color and has a decent foamy head that doesn't stay around long. The scent hints at citrus with just a hint of honey. Quite smooth going down with a touch of sweetness and fruitiness.

    This beer is light enough you could throw back several of them without feeling too full, but there is some heft and breadiness, so you're not going to go away with an empty stomach.

    All around, this is a solid beer, even a good beer, though not quite a great beer. Would I drink it again? You bet your ass, I would.

    Friday, May 10, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 31 -- Brutal

    by James Alderdice

    Started: April 30
    Finished: May 10

    Notes: So last summer I was at Howard Days sitting around a table with a group of other authors and editors when author David J. West opened a pack and started taking out books, one of which was this fantasy novel, Brutal. I had seen the book online but didn't know much about it or its author, but come to find out, David J. West is actually also James Alderdice, so I was sitting with the author of Brutal himself. I couldn't turn down the chance to pick up the book as the author was there to sign it, so I promptly did that, and now, almost a year later, I'm finally getting around to enjoying it.

    Mini review: Reader, you will not find many of the traditional fantasy tropes here. Oh, there are plenty of swords, a couple of beasties, and a handful of wizards, but that's about as far as it goes. If anything, the tropes presented here are much more aligned with the genre of the Western. In fact, if you're a fan of Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa, Dashiell Hammett, or even Carlo Goldoni, you will recognize the basics of the story here. That being said, there are also plenty of surprises to be found. This was just a fun, hard-hitting tale of rugged adventure. There's even an additional novella, "The Mad Song," which is much more rooted in the traditions of Sword & Sorcery and a fine tale in and of itself. If you like sword-swinging and skull-splitting action, do yourself a favor and read this book.

    Beer of the Week: Brooklyn Summer Ale

    Beer score: 6.0

    Company: Brooklyn Brewery

    ABV: 5.0
    IBU: 18

    This was a good beer but not a great beer, which was a little disappointing since I've had some great beers from the Brooklyn Brewery. However, there's nothing wrong with this beer and while I like it, it's not a personal favorite, but every beer can't be a favorite.

    That being said, this ale is quite light going down, though not as light as what I think of as yard-mowing beers, your Budweisers and the like. The golden coloring is a touch dark and the head on this one is quite foamy but not overly carbonated.

    A fairly clean, easy-to-drink beer with a little malty sweetness and hints of grassy hops. There's a touch of fruity and floral textures in the scent, but not as much in the tasting. It's taste is not overly strong, but it's there.

    All in all, I can recommend this brew for trying, but I don't think it's going to become a staple beer for too many folks.

    Wednesday, May 01, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Anchor Steam

    Beer score: 8.8

    Company: Anchor Brewery

    ABV: 4.9
    IBU: 35

    The Anchor brewing folk have for a long while been making beers that would make any beer snob proud. I've been drinking this one off and on for a quarter century now and have enjoyed every single one of them.

    It's strong but smooth with medium caramel coloring and a decent head, but not too fizzy. Fantastic as a bar beer because of its strength and great taste, but a bit too strong for an everyday or lawn-mowing beer. Goes great with bar food, cigars, and barbecue chicken, as I can attest personally.

    Has a slight caramel taste and you can smell that before you even take a swig. Also has the barest hint of a fruity flavor. The bitterness is fairly strong but doesn't kick in until this drink is sliding down your throat.

    Drink this. You'll enjoy it.

    Tuesday, April 30, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 30 -- Magician's Gambit: Book Three of The Belgariad

    by David Eddings

    Started: April 23
    Finished: April 30

    Notes: Having just read the first two books in this series, I thought I'd read the next one, especially as I rather enjoyed that second book.

    Mini review: This was my least favorite of the three books in this series I've read so far, mainly because the plot (and characters) seemed to meander about a whole lot, traveling from one place to another without much of anything happening despite the fact the very gods were ordering them about, or at least one or two gods. That being said, the ending made up for a lot and the writing was still pretty strong. Too bad I've only got the first three books in the series as I'd love to read the rest of them, but I suppose that'll have to wait.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Mythos

    Beer score: 5.1

    Company: Mythos Brewery

    ABV: 4.7
    IBU: Not available

    I first had this Greek beer a couple of decades ago at a Greek festival in Huntington, WV, where the food was fantastic. Normally I don't care much for Mediterranean beers, but this one wasn't bad way back then and it wasn't bad more recently when I had a chance to try it again.

    It's a solid beer for hot days when you're cooking outside or maybe mowing the lawn. It reminds me somewhat of lighter beers such as Corona and some of the weaker American ales. However, there's not a lot of carbonation for those who don't like the fizz.

    Has a light golden color and a thin head to it. Has a hint of grains and grass in the taste and scent. Not a bad beer but nothing that'll draw beer snobs.

    Books read in 2019: No. 29 -- Queen of Sorcery: Book Two of The Belgariad

    by David Eddings

    Started: April 18
    Finished: April 23

    Notes: After just reading and enjoying the first book in this series, it is time to turn to the second.

    Mini review: The first three-fourths of this novel has a very similar tone to the first book in the series, but then with one scene a whole lot of things change. Until that one scene, there were very few obvious signs of powerful magics in this world, though there were hints of power unseen. Then that one scene shows the levels of power in play in this world. It worked for me. Instead of seeming to come out of the blue, it seemed a natural outpouring of much that had been hinted at before. So, in the end, I generally liked this book more than I did the first in the series, and I didn't hate that book That being said, I also want to point out that each of these books is not a stand-alone novel, but that each book in this series is a continuation of the story. I'm looking forward to the next book since some things seem to have changed, some secrets have been revealed, and more secrets are looming on the horizon to the answered.

    Thursday, April 18, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 28 -- Pawn of Prophecy: Book One of The Belgariad

    by David Eddings

    Started: April 10
    Finished: April 18

    Notes: I've strayed from fiction for the last couple of months and I've been feeling the need for it, so I turn to this fantasy series. By all rights I should have read at least some of Eddings' fantasy works when they first came out in the 1980s because I was reading lots of fantasy back then, but for some reason I never got around to it. Now I will.

    Mini review: Not bad. Not great and not overly complex while sticking to more than a number of basic fantasy tropes, but still a fairly pleasant read. Obviously I'm not in love with this book, but it was interesting enough to want to keep me reading more since I've got the second and third books waiting in the wings. For a somewhat light fantasy read but one that's not so simplistic as to be insulting, I can suggest this novel.

    Beer of the Week: RJ Rockers Patriot Pale

    Beer score: 6.7

    Company: RJ Rockers

    ABV: 5.2
    IBU: 35

    RJ Rockers has been bringing quality brews to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, region since 1997, and this was one of their flagship beers. This American pale ale has a nice gold, cloudy look to it in a glass, and a slightly malty and citrus scent. Very wet, with a frothy head and a strong hoppy bitter flavor that goes down smooth. There's also a touch of caramel flavoring with hints of citrus. The taste is stronger than the scent, so don't be fooled and don't say I didn't warn you. This is not an overly complex beer, but it is quite a good one. This would make an excellent staple beer for any connoisseur's fridge. And in case you wanted to know, RJ Rockers is a microbrewery, and their brews are handcrafted.

    Tuesday, April 09, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 27 -- Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

    by Brett Morgen with Richard Bienstock

    Started: April 9
    Finished: April 9

    Notes: Having just finished reading a book about one tragic musician who died too young, Hank Williams, I turn to this book about the famed Nirvana frontman from my own generation. This book was an accompaniment to an HBO documentary that came out a few years ago.

    Mini review: Nearly all this book is a collection of interviews with some of Kurt Cobain's friends and family. Much of it was nothing new to me, but it did point out how complex and tortured an individual Cobain was. The last few pages were the saddest with people recalling Cobain's suicide and the aftermath. There's not a lot of breadth here, so it will definitely help to know more than just the basics of Cobain's life, but there are some depths plumbed. Fans of Cobain will want to check this one out.

    Beer of the Week: Abbott Ale

    Beer score: 4.4

    Company: Greene King

    ABV: 5.0
    IBU: Not reported

    I first tried Abbott Ale a couple of decades ago and found it only slightly above mediocre, so recently I had the opportunity and tried it again. Unfortunately, I can't say it's much better this time around.

    Oh, it's not an awful beer, not even a truly bad beer, but it didn't taste anything overly special or unique to me. It's a tad stronger in flavor and scent than your typical draught ale from Britain, and it has a nice head to it, so that much isn't bad. The coloring is a weaker-though-not-quite-light caramel and there's a touch of sweetness in the smell and the taste.

    For better or worse, this beer seemed kind of watery to me, sort of thin. This could make it a fine beer for guzzling at the pub, but there's not enough here to make me want break it out at a beer tasting, nor would I really want to sit around and sip this at home on those nights when I'm in the mood for only a drink or two but a drink or two of something special.

    Can you drink this? Sure. To repeat, it's not a bad beer. But any beer snob friends you might have will probably turn their noses up at this. But maybe not, especially if they're Americans who like to try something new.

    Books read in 2019: No. 26 -- Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams

    by Paul Hemphill

    Started: April 6
    Finished: April 9

    Notes: Last summer I was going through Alabama while on a cross-country trip when my traveling companion pointed to the side of the highway where a sign proclaimed the Hank Williams Boyhood Home & Museum at the next exit. I've always been something of a minor fan of Hank's music, so we decided to stop for a few hours. We discovered the museum and the small town of Georgiana, Alabama, and were charmed by all we found there. Unfortunately we had missed a major annual music event in the town by just a couple of days. While touring the museum and seeing all it had to offer, I found the place offered no small number of books about the life of Hank Williams, so I decided upon this one in order to learn more about this legend of Country music though I'm fairly familiar with the basics of the man's life.

    Mini review: A life that burned brightly and burnt out far too soon. Hank brought upon him most of his troubles, but during his time (and for his time) he was something of a musical genius, reaching the hearts of his fans even if he wasn't considered all that sophisticated in some circles. I'll add, too, that the author's writing here is quite solid, some of the best I've read from a biography, though I did wish he had expounded upon a few incidents and side characters in Hank's life.

    Saturday, April 06, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 25 -- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    by Maya Angelou

    Started: March 29
    Finished: April 6

    Notes: I've read some of Angelou's poetry over the years, but I've never read any of her prose, which is one reason I turned to this semi-autobiographical book of hers. Plus my late life was a big fan of Maya Angelou.

    Mini review: This is a collection of events of Angelou's life from her earliest days in a small town in Arkansas until about the age of sixteen when she lived in San Francisco. Many of the events are of the every-day, but a few are more than that, including Angelou's rape at a young age and years later the birth of her son while she was a teenager. This is an eye-opening book about black life in America in the 1930s and 1940s, especially in the rural South. That being said, while the writing here is good, Angelou is naturally a poet and I felt this actually hurt her prose to a certain extent. It's difficult to describe what I mean, but I felt in many places she spent more time focusing upon the beauty of her words than in getting the experiences and the emotions across. Obviously this is my own bias, and I repeat that the writing is good, but I often felt the emotional impact would have been stronger with more straight-forward writing in some instances. At the same time, I admit Angelou might not have wanted to be so forthright in words with all the events of her life, both the tragic and the joyous, or that she preferred to write of such events from something of an emotional distance with a focus upon the beauty of her words. Or perhaps I've got it all wrong.

    Wednesday, April 03, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Red Dog

    Beer score: 3.1

    Company: MillerCoors

    ABV: 4.8
    IBU: Not reported

    A beer typical of the American style prior to a few decades ago. It would possibly be popular at bowling alleys, dart tournaments, backyard barbecues, etc.

    Has a slight corn scent and taste with the pale yellow color common to such beers. Has a nice foamy head but a bit too much carbonation for my liking.

    There's nothing really special here, Red Dog tasting pretty much like a dozen other beers on the market, but it's been around a while so it must serve its place in the market. If you're something of a beer snob, you'll turn your nose up at this, but if you just want a cold one after mowing the yard or while watching the game, this beer could do the trick for you.

    Friday, March 29, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 24 -- Homosexuality in Renaissance England

    by Alan Bray

    Started: March 25
    Finished: March 29

    Notes: While perusing a used book store, I was drawn to this book by its the uncommon subject and its focus upon a relatively narrow region and period of time in history. Originally published in 1982, perhaps it will escape the more-modern political trappings of both left and right. Either way, I expect to find this one interesting and eye opening.

    Mini review: This book leans toward the scholarly, but it's written straight enough for a broader audience to understand it. That being said, there are still historical and philosophical references the common reader is probably not going to understand without hitting wikipedia. The writing itself aside, this does prove to be an interesting look at mainly male homosexuality at one particular time and place in history. Apparently until the end of the Renaissance period, homosexuality in England (and possibly Europe and other parts of the world) was quite different than modern notions of homosexuality. Homosexual acts, as we would understand them, did indeed occur, as can be expected, but there really wasn't a homosexual culture or society as we would know it. Homosexual acts were almost a random thing, to some extent even accidental in a manner of speaking. There were no groups of homosexual men, at least none in numbers, who associated with one another, who met in public or private, at least not with their homosexuality being at the forefront of their thought and agendas. Establishments did not exist where homosexuals as individuals or groups could frequent clubs and taverns and the like which catered to them, relatively safe places where they could carouse and find friendship and yes, sex. However, such places did come into existence right after the Renaissance period. Also, the law and even violence visited upon homosexuals became much more strong at about the same time. Why? Perhaps because homosexual men had literally been hidden before but now had places to call their own. At least that's how this book seems to present things. But what brought about all these changes right after the Renaissance? The author here suggests it was more of a philosophical change that was affecting all of society. Names like Locke and Hume are brought up, and with no little reason. What was that change? Individualism.

    Monday, March 25, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 23 -- The Medieval Machine

    by Jean Gimpel

    Started: March 19
    Finished: March 25

    Notes: This book is an example of why I love used book stores so much, especially antiquarian book stores. It's highly unlikely I would have ever discovered this book in a regular book store. And that's part of the fun of used book stores, the discovery, finding an interest in a book you didn't even know existed. This book was originally published in 1976, so it's probably outdated concerning historical research, but it should still have some interesting historical information, at least interesting to me.

    Mini review: This book was written quite well, the style of writing not boring at all despite the fact some might find the subject matter not overly exciting. I, however, did find a lot of enjoyment in the subject matter, and it opened my eyes more than before about how the supposed Dark Ages were really more of a time of scientific, economic, and even psychological growth than the period is generally credited. Here are covered such devices as water mills, wind mills, bridges and the like, but these are really just the basics. Military armaments aren't covered intensively, but they are brought up, especially cannons. The second half of this book leans away from the technological aspects of the period and turns its focus more towards the general attitudes and to some extent the economics of the times. Anyone who still believes the Middle Ages were a dull, dark period of stupidity and barbarity alone should read this book to catch a glimpse of a more complex time than is generally believed.

    Sunday, March 24, 2019

    Beer of the week: Blue Eyed Blonde

    Beer score: 7.8

    Company: Black Creek Brewery

    ABV: 5.6
    IBU: Not reported

    So recently I took a trip to a small town near me with the intent of trying out their brewery, a place that's only been there a year or two. To tell the truth, I wasn't expecting much. In my experience, the vast majority of little breweries and brewpubs throughout North Carolina are nothing exceptional; they're not necessarily bad, but they tend to be nothing great, one ale from a brewpub tasting pretty much like any other.

    However, I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the Blue Eyed Blonde from Black Creek Brewery in Roxboro, North Carolina.

    It had a light, almost fluffy texture to it that was just right for my mood. Those who want something heavier and stronger will have plenty of options at Black Creek, so don't let the lightness of this one beer draw you away.

    The taste was also light with more than a touch of citrus, though not enough to be annoying, really just the right amount. There was the barest hint of a little sourness reminiscent of an IPA, which is nothing to sneeze at, and the rest was a light honey swallow that would go great with many a meal or even just by itself. This reminded me more than a little of some of the lighter Belgian beers.

    Now that I've tried one Black Creek beer, I'll have to head back for others. If their other beers are anywhere near as good as this one, then I should have something fun and tasty to look forward to.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 22 -- An Account of the Voyage of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

    from the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation

    Started: March 18
    Finished: March 19

    Notes: This past Summer I visited San Diego for the first time, and being unfamiliar with any of the area's local history, while I was visiting the Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center I decided I should check out a few pamphlets and books on that local history. This is one such book.

    Mini review: This book is a bit basic, but it's not meant to be an exhaustive look at the events concerning the exploration of the coast of southern California and region. Though it's not overly long, barely half this book, there is an English translation of the actual account of Cabrillo's journey, though this account was most likely not written by Cabrillo himself, at least not in its entirety, but by one of the men aboard his sailing vessels. This book might open some eyes to history of the region in the 16th Century, as it did for me.

    Monday, March 18, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 21 -- Kahiki Supper Club

    by David Meyers, Elise Meyers Walker, Jeff Chenault and Doug Motz

    Started: March 15
    Finished: March 18

    Notes: I lived most of the '90s in Ohio and while there became acquainted with a fantastic restaurant in Columbus called "Kahiki." It was a Polynesian place that was visually wild. Walking into the restaurant, it was like entering a set for Gilligan's Island, but even wilder. The food was great and the drinks were not only tasty but humongous and colorful. I realize this might sound tacky to some, but I found it fun. Unfortunately, Kahiki is no longer with us. However, I was visiting Columbus a couple of years ago and visiting my favorite bookstore there when I found this book about the famed restaurant. Though I can't visit the Kahiki today, it lives on in literature, and I'm glad of it. The name "Kahiki" also lives on in frozen foods you might be able to find in your local grocery store.

    Mini review: This was simply a fun read that took me down memory lane. The book is mainly a history of Kahiki's creation along with a few stories from over the decades of its existence, as well as some about the end of the restaurant and the beginnings of the Kahiki frozen food business which followed. There were also a few food and drink recipes from the restaurant. It's too bad this fantastic place no longer stands, but at least now I've got this book with its ton of stories and photos. A very pleasant read for me.

    Friday, March 15, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 20 -- An Experiment in Criticism

    by C.S. Lewis

    Started: March 14
    Finished: March 15

    Notes: This is C.S. Lewis' take on literary criticism, so it should be pretty good.

    Mini review: I hate to say it, but this is my least favorite of all Lewis' writings I've read, which is not everything but is still quite a lot. His premise isn't bad. He begins by separating types of readers into the literary and what he calls the "unliterary," and this last term he does not mean in a negative fashion. Then he spends more than a hundred pages boring me with various thoughts on music and poetry and other forms of art, sort of commenting upon how all this is similar but also not similar to literature. Finally he gets down to his real premise and it's a long, slow, boring, pedantic mess that really tells the reader nothing. Only in the epilogue does he finally spout some kind of theory about literature, and it's basically that we transcend ourselves by experiencing the thoughts and emotions and lives of others. Not a bad premise, but he could have said it in a few paragraphs instead of rambling on forever and ever. Glad I didn't read this one earlier or it might have turned me off Lewis. I'll read more of his works, but I'll be more wary from now on.

    Thursday, March 14, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 19 -- Why I am Not a Christian

    by Bertrand Russell

    Started: March 13
    Finished: March 14

    Notes: Thought I'd see what famed liberal philosopher Bertrand Russell had to say about religion, Christianity specifically. Published in 1927.

    Mini review: It turns out "Why I Am Not a Christian" is only a small part of this book, the rest being made up of lectures and writings from Russell, all pertaining to religion and his thoughts on the matter. "Why I Am Not a Christian" was indeed originally published in 1927, but the rest of this book dates from 1903 to about 1961 as far as I can tell. In fairness to Russell, he was writing during an earlier time and philosophy and theology have grown since then, but I must say I found most of his argument fairly weak, at least by modern standards. Most of his issues with religion in general and Christianity in particular were based off personal feelings about the lack of morals in people who are religious and/or Christian. I'm sure many an atheist or agnostic feels that way today, but I'd argue it's not a logical reason to disavow religion especially considering Christianity takes such things into account. I'm not opposed to strong arguments against religion, but they have to be strong in the first place. Also, Russell is still under the liberal notion that education alone can solve all the world's problems, and personally I believe the modern world has shown this not to be the case, especially as no small number of supposedly educated people have proven it otherwise.

    Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 18 -- The Purpose Driven Life

    by Rick Warren

    Started: March 5
    Finished: March 13

    Notes: I go to a lot of used book stores and check out a lot of Little Free Libraries, and in those locales I often find this book, sometimes several of them, which tells me two things, that a lot of people have read this book but that many of them didn't think the book worth keeping. Will it help me with my own drive in life? I don't know, but I suppose I'll find out. I'm not normally into what I think of as self-help/feel-good religious books, but I've been gifted this one twice now, so I'll give it a try. Another funny thing, when I opened this book, I found a rather extensive outline of it handwritten on a sheet of paper inside.

    Mini review: I was disappointed by this one. For one thing, I had hope for specifics on how to discover or kindle your natural talents (in this case for God), but there was none of that. Instead, you are handed five purposes for life, all of which are basic Christian beliefs, so I felt there was nothing new here whatsoever. That being said, those looking to boost their faith might find this book of use, but it was not for me.

    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Saison Dupont

    Beer score: 7.9

    Company: Brasserie Dupont

    ABV: 6.5
    IBU: 30

    This beer from Belgium almost always draws high marks on various brew review websites, and while I give it fairly high marks myself, I didn't feel it was unique. Don't get me wrong, this is a solid beer. Your Budweiser friends will be at a loss if they try a Saison Dupont, but the flavor and texture here was nothing unexpected and nothing all that complex or unusual. If you like a traditional Belgian ale, you can't get more traditional or normal than this. On the plus side, several people have told me this beer has a skunky odor to it (which is common among beers in green bottles), but I have to say I did not experience any of that. Very earthy overtones without being thick on the tongue, with early hints of fruitiness that die away swiftly to be replaced by a cool bitterness. Has a nice head. This is a bottle-fermented brew and a top-fermented brew. By the way, a "saison" traditionally is a beer somewhat similar to a pale ale but with a low-alcohol level; historically this beer was brewed and fermented in farmhouses in Belgium and possibly some parts of France and served to farm workers.

    Thursday, March 07, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55

    Beer score: 8.5

    Company: Brooklyn Brewery

    ABV: 5.0
    IBU: 24

    This beer has a slightly dark, almost burnt blonde color to it in the glass, and a perfect quality beer scent. The Scottish Maris Otter malt brings a solid, almost cake-like sweetness, but it’s a soft sweetness, not overpowering but obviously there. The bitterness is strong at first taste, then fades away a little but returns on the way down. This is one of the most well-balanced beers I’ve tasted, with a perfect mix of hops and malt, and one of the better pale ales from the U.S. The name of this brew comes from the 1955 World Series when the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the Yankees. Also, I've had a number of Brooklyn Brewery beers over the years and I can't ever remember having a bad one, so check them out.

    Monday, March 04, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 17 -- The Case for Christ

    by Lee Strobel

    Started: Feb. 28
    Finished: March 4

    Notes: Of my Christian readings, the apologists are by far my favorites, so it's a natural for me to turn to the author who is arguably the best known of the modern apologists. Strobel was apparently a journalist who initially set out to do an investigation to disprove Christianity when researching this book, but instead he became a believer.

    Mini review: Nearly all of this book is a collection of interviews done by the author with various professionals in philosophy, psychology, history, theology, etc., all of those experts being Christian, which in a way harms the authors approach but is to some extent understandable considering he had apparently done other research with non-believing sources and the main focus of this book is as the title suggests, The Case for Christ. Strobel's writing is strong enough, but I felt his journalistic approach a little disingenuous, and though I understand he had become a Christian by the time he wrote this book, I felt he went a little overboard in trying to convince the reader he had been a skeptic and something of an atheist before logically exploring Christianity. Much of the information provided here, the logic put forth for believing in the Resurrection and that Jesus was the Son of God, was not new to me, but I did appreciate the final chapter in which Strobel outlined his own becoming a Christian because his approach has been somewhat similar to my own over the years. However, when it comes down to it, Christian belief truly is a matter of faith, of having faith, of making that leap of faith, and while the information presented here might sway some, it also isn't likely to convince those who are determined against it and who can come up with their own counterarguments however well thought out or not they might be.

    Thursday, February 28, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 16 -- Let Us Reason Together!

    by Leroy Cannady

    Started: Feb. 25
    Finished: Feb. 27

    Notes: I had the pleasure to attend a dinner last year in which this author was the guest speaker. Naturally, I purchased his book afterwards. This book is his life story about rising above his struggles to become a solid Christian and a professional man after having witnessed the death of his father at a young age and having been caught up in heavy drug use and the life that went with it.

    Mini review: Boy, did this guy have some rough early years, and he dished out nearly as much pain as he received. Eventually he did get his act together, but unfortunately only after several divorces and the ruination of others' lives. However, his troubles didn't fully end there as he became a widower and continued to have financial lows along with the highs. In the end, he became a missionary to Sri Lanka, taking his four kids with him, and in that country he married again though political troubles reared their head to cause more problems. All in all, some people might not be able to relate to this autobiography, but some will, at least those open to a more conservative brand of Christianity.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2019

    Beer of the Week: White Street Kolsch

    Beer score: 5.9

    Company: White Street Brewing Co.

    ABV: 5.2
    IBU: 23

    Coming to us from the White Street Brewing folks just out of Wake Forest, NC, this brew pours with a nice white, frothy head and appears a sturdy gold color in a glass. Very crisp, very clean, but while this is a solid beer, I'm not sure it was for me. For one thing, the bitterness that hits the tongue right away was a bit too strong for my liking, though there is a light pleasant sweetness on the way down. Oddly enough, after that initial burst of flavor, the taste kind of fluttered away as I swallowed. The scent and taste remind me of wheat, something in a cracker variety, but there are also the barest hints of citrus and perhaps other fruits.

    Should you try this? Yes, definitely. It's a quality beer. It simply wasn't my thing. Others might find it more to their liking. Besides, despite my relatively low beer score above, I don't dislike this beer; it's simply not a favorite, though I wouldn't turn one down if handed to me.

    Monday, February 25, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 15 -- The Book of Qualities

    by J. Ruth Gendler

    Started: Feb. 24
    Finished: Feb. 25

    Notes: This is one of my girlfriend's favorite books and there are a couple of copies laying around my place, so I thought I'd give it a try.

    Review: My girlfriend laughed at me when she saw I was reading this book, telling me I would probably call it "artsy fartsy." There might be a little truth to that, but I also have to say there's a little more to this book than that. Yes, it's the kind of book that is generally intended to make people feel better about their life, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. But the main potential I saw here was for beginning writers. Basically, this book is a collection of several score vignettes humanizing various emotions and trials of humanity. This might sound trite to some, might sound awesome to others, but the benefit I found here for those starting to write is that it provides excellent examples of how to use metaphors and allegory, and it shows one way to write from the heart without having to get all flowery, while remaining relatively down to earth.

    Sunday, February 24, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 14 -- A Brief History of Time

    by Stephen W. Hawking

    Started: Feb. 20
    Finished: Feb. 24

    Notes: I've been reading so much science fiction of late, I thought I'd dip into some actual science, an area in which I've not read nearly enough.

    Mini review: This was written for the laymen, which proves how stupid I am because I almost immediately found much of it over my head. Oh, I can understand well enough the material related to the universe at large, but it's the other end, what one might call the micro-world, which I simply can't comprehend. I can get things down to atoms and electrons and protons, but once quarks come up, I'm lost and can't wrap my head around it. Still, this was a solid book with solid writing, and after doing some research online, was pleased to discover this book still stands up pretty well today more than 30 years after it was published. Obviously there have been some scientific breakthroughs since then, but the basics of this book is still fairly strong. Also, I'd like to add that I was fortunate enough to pick up a first edition of this book; I know it was a first edition because of the introduction by Carl Sagan, which was apparently pulled in later editions of the book.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 13 -- Little Fuzzy

    by H. Beam Piper

    Started: Feb. 19
    Finished: Feb. 20

    Notes: I used to own a paperback copy of this novel years and years ago, but for the life of me I can't remember reading it, so I'm hoping to correct that now. Or maybe I did read it and my memory is off. Either way, here goes.

    Mini review: Not a bad novel, and no, I don't believe I've read it before. Basically a frontiersman of sorts discovers what seems to be an intelligent race, setting up the latter part of the novel which is pretty much a courtroom drama focusing upon a pair of murder cases and the future of this cute little intelligent race. Decently written with some points made about psychology, but didn't draw my interest enough for me to read the sequels, some written by Piper himself and others by different authors after his death.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2019

    Beer of the Week: Fiedlers Pils Im Stein

    Beer score: 8.0

    Company: Privatbrauerei Fiedler

    ABV: 5.0
    IBU: Not listed

    Usually I find German beers overrated compared to the reputation they often have, but I'll admit there are some good ones out there. When it comes to non-U.S. beers, generally I prefer Belgian or British. However, this beer is an exception. It's very smooth and clean with a vaguely fruity texture hanging in the background. One of the better pilseners. Good cold or at room temperature. The brown earthenware jug this stuff comes in is a keeper. This beer is brewed in Koblenz, Germany, and is not always easy to find in the U.S.

    Books read in 2019: No. 12 -- The End of All Songs: The Third Volume of The Dancers at the End of Time

    by Michael Moorcock

    Started: Feb. 14
    Finished: Feb. 19

    Notes: Having recently read the first two books in this trilogy, I thought I should go ahead and wind things down with this third book. I'd also like to add that if you should read these and are a fan of them, The Dancers at the End of Time series does not end with this trilogy but continues in other novels and short stories, so it might be worth your while to look them up.

    Mini review: As wild and "out there" as were the first two novels in this trilogy, this one tops them. And while I've commented the first two novels were similar to one another in structure and theme, this one stretches those boundaries quite a bit, going for an unusual structure in which what seems to be the climax to the tale comes near the middle of the book while the true climax is more of an emotional one between the two main characters and comes nearer the end. If you're looking for some fantastical literature which is truly different, I can highly suggest these novels, especially if you have a penchant for older fantasy and science fiction works. Also, I'd like to add, I've mentioned in another review of one of the novels in this trilogy that I found some of the material familiar, and it dawned on me why: because I've read much of Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone works and in some shorter works Elric actually travels to the End of Time, the main setting for this trilogy. So that's one mystery solved.

    Thursday, February 14, 2019

    Books read in 2019: No. 11 -- The Hollow Lands: The Second Volume of The Dancers at the End of Time

    by Michael Moorcock

    Started: Feb. 10
    Finished: Feb. 14

    Notes: I just read the first novel in this trilogy, so now I turn to the second. I'd like to add, Moorcock isn't necessarily one of my favorite authors though I have read a fair bit of his work. From what I can tell from his fiction and non-fiction, he and I would not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I do find him a pretty decent writer and I have to admit that even though I might not agree with his viewpoint, there is no denying he is thought provoking. So I'll keep reading him.

    Mini review: This book very much follows similar themes and a similar outline to the first in this trilogy, at least until the end. Roughly the first half of the book is full of characters and scenery which are quite vacuous, even flippant at times, but then the plot thickens and the latter portions of the book are more traditional. That being said, the ending here is quite a bit different than the first novel, eventually leading to something of a cliffhanger. While the first halves of these novels have not thrilled me, once the story has truly gotten going, I've been quite pleased and interested, so I'll definitely move on to the third book.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2019

    Beer of the Week: St. Cloud Belgian White

    Beer score: 2.2

    Company: World Brews

    ABV: 5.4
    IBU: 12

    Has a light, dirty straw color as it comes out of the bottle and hits the glass. The smell is kind of noxious, and the taste doesn't improve it any. There's some citrus accents in the smell, just a little, and that is stronger in the flavor once you sip. There's a little bit of a wheat taste here, but that's overpowered by a sour bitterness that quickly explodes any potential for this beer to be good. Honestly, this is without a doubt the worst beer with the words "Belgian White" on its label that I've ever had.

    Apparently this beer is brewed only for sale at Whole Foods, but I would've thought the folks at Whole Foods would have known better considering their clientele and the drinks they generally have to offer. Whole Foods, you can do better, and your customers deserve better.

    On the plus side, this beer is relatively cheap compared to the other Belgian Whites available, but since it's so bad and has so little in common with other Belgian Whites, I can't say it's a bargain.