Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Beer of the Week: Traquair House Ale

Beer score: 7.5

Company: Traquair House Brewery

ABV: 7.2
IBU: 26

Since 1965 this fine ale has been brewed at what's known as the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. Us Yanks might call it a castle, but technically I don't think that fits the bill. Either way, they make and serve some great drinks, including their house ale which can occasionally be found for sale outside of Scotland.

As is usually the case with Scottish ales, this one takes a little getting used to though it goes down smoothly. This is some pricey stuff, however, so if you're not a true beer connoisseur then you might want to plop down the money it takes to buy a bottle.

That being said, this is truly a nice ale. It pours a dark brown with touches of red and a little foam at the top of the glass. The aroma and flavors are quite complex with mixtures of oak, caramel, raisin, earth, fruits, and maybe a touch of brown sugar. Goes down smooth, almost watery, but on the tongue it has a slightly heavy feel to it.

This is worth drinking.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: King & Barnes Festive Ale

Beer score: 6.5

Far too many good breweries have fallen by the wayside over the years, and King and Barnes was one of those. This Horsham, Sussex, brewery first went into business all the way back in 1800, but unfortunately it was taken over in 2000 by another brewery and now ceases to exist as a company. The brewery which bought out King and Barnes has the rights to brew beers under the King and Barnes name, but I've not seen nor heard of any (at least in the U.S.), so it seems some pretty good beers are no longer available.

Anyway, I had my share of some King and Barnes beers back in the day, meaning a couple of decades back, and I liked every one I drank. The Festive Ale was one of my favorites, and fortunately I still had access to a review I wrote for the beer a long while back.

The King and Barnes Festive Ale was a pleasant surprise for me because it reminded me of a somewhat string winter brew, and normally I don't care for winter and holiday beers because I find them too sweet and I'm no fan of cinnamon and nutmeg, flavors common enough in such drinks. Here, however, there wasn't a lot of that cinnamon and nutmeg, though there was plenty of sturdiness and a slight sweetness that tasted of maple. The only drawback here was I felt there was a tad too much fizz for my liking.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 36 -- Blood and Bone

by Ian C. Esslemont

Started: June 14
Finished: July 20

Notes: For more than a decade now I've been a big fan of the Malazan series of fantasy novels, a group of books shared by two authors, Esslemont and Steven Erikson, though I've read mostly Erikson and only one Esslemont book. The one Esslemont book I read was good, though I prefer the Erikson material, but I thought I'd check out another from Esslemont to see if my opinion holds. Plus I love the Malazan books, so there's that.

Mini review: Several armies, mercenary groups, mages, gods, etc. all begin to gather on an island that's half desert and half jungle in order to ... what? I'm not exactly sure. It's all quite a mess. Malazan novels are always quite complex, but unfortunately Esslemont doesn't quite have the talent of Erikson. Oh, the writing here is more than solid in and of itself, and the plotting is fine though confusing, but the characterizations are sometimes lacking and the motivations are far too obscure. It helped that I've read many of the other Malazan books, but it didn't help enough. This wasn't a boring read, exactly, but it did tax my interest levels far too often. Still, it's a Malazan novel, so it always draws my interest.

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.