Books, beer and barbarians

Home to fantasy author Ty Johnston

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.