Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Beer of the week: Great Lakes Barrel Aged Blackout Stout

Beer score: 9.9

Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
ABV: 10.5
IBU: 50

I've been a fan of Great Lakes beers since I lived in Ohio in the '90s, the state where the brewery is located. Finding this beer on tap in a Durham, North Carolina, restaurant made me want to kick myself in the ass for not having had a Great Lakes brew in a long while.

To put it simply, this is an awesome beer and perhaps one of the best stouts I've very had the pleasure to taste. The only reason I've not given this stout a perfect score is because I'm a hard-ass idiot who doesn't believe anything is perfect, but otherwise this beer would be a perfect 10.

This would be an awesome stout even if it were not aged in barrels, but those barrels happen to be bourbon barrels, and here you definitely have more than a hint of that bourbon flavor. And when I say "more than a hint," I really mean it. This drink tastes like an excellent stout has had a shot of fine bourbon dropped into it.

As for describing the drink itself, I've always said you can tell a good stout if you hold it up in a clear glass to the light and can't see anything through it, and that's the case here. The coloring is a deep, dark chocolate and the scent definitely has bourbon to it along with some hints of spiced cake and good chocolate. In the tasting, there's definitely bourbon, and I mean good bourbon, along with some perfect sweetness that isn't too sweet but is quite rich, almost like a dark chocolate. The texture here is near-perfect for a stout with just the barest touch of carbonation, a slightly frothy head, and a strength that is just shy of the syrupy feeling common to many stouts.

Can I recommend this beer? Oh, hell yeah! Unfortunately, it seems Great Lakes only makes this stout available sporadically, so good luck finding it. When you do find it, snag it up immediately. You'll enjoy, I promise.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Beer of the Week: Introduction

Yes, that's me drinking a beer.
Who woulda thunk it?
For the longest time this blog has only focused upon whatever books or e-books I've been reading, but it used to be more than that. Frankly, the drive of social media over the last decade has allowed me to post my ramblings and interests elsewhere, but I still keep this blog going for myself if no one else.

However, I've been kicking around ideas to freshen this blog a little, to give it a little more content, and eventually I decided to come up with "Beer of the Week" posts. Twenty years ago I started a website about beer, and later on I ran a blog about beer, but eventually I gave them up because the Internet had changed, making it more difficult to make money through blogging (don't worry, this blog that you're reading isn't really about making money, but is more just for me to get stuff out of my system). I also quit blogging about beer because I could no longer drink it for health reasons. Fortunately, my doctors have told me I can drink beer again, but in moderation. So, a beer a week can't hurt me, thus is born my "Beer of the Week" posts.

Look for them here on this blog. I'm not sure if I'll have a set day and time each week for these posts, but maybe that'll come. For now, I'll play it by ear.

More about me and beer: Prior to the mid-90s I was your typical American beer drinker. Budweiser was pretty much it for me. But I made friends in the mid-90s who introduced me to good beer. I mean really good beer. From then on, my tastes in beer have bordered on snobbery. Then, for Christmas 1997 some friends gave me a present of one of those large boxes of different types of Saranac beer. So, on December 20, 1997, I started “Ty’s pages for Beer Snobs” on the Geocities Web sites. The site wasn’t for brewing experts, but was meant to be more of a laid-back list of beers I had tasted and my brief thoughts about them. Again, this wasn’t for the experts, but I did try to toss in a little education here and there, things I had learned about beer over the years. In 2009 Geocities decided to shut down. That meant after 12 years of writing about beer, I had to find a new venue. That's where my new blog came in. It was meant to be a very casual blog, without getting into all the science and yaddy yaddy about beer. It was meant to be a blog for people who want to taste good beer, but who don't really care about all the hops and yeast and recipes that go into beer. Also, I came up with the idea to self-publish an e-book titled “An Amateur Beer Snob’s Guide to Beer,” which reprinted much of what was to be found on my old Web site. However, I did eventually unpublish that e-book because I felt the information had become outdated (beers often change over time, after all, the actual beers and the people or companies who make them).

About the beer rankings

Yes, I rank my beers, but I won't say it's done overly scientifically.

My beer posts will include a link to the brewer's website (if there is one), my numerical ranking based upon my own scale of 0.1 to 10.0, and a little of my personal thoughts about each beer. Here and there I might also throw in a few funny or interesting quotes about beer as well as any other information I think would be of interest. And if you’re curious about my ranking systems, let’s just say that a 5.0 is a decent beer, a 1.0 is an awful beer and a 10.0 is a fantastic beer. It's simple and meant to be.

Where readily available, I will also try to include to following information about each beer:

ABV: This stands for alcohol by volume. It is a percentage of alcohol in the drink. Most beers are usually somewhere around five percent in the U.S. As I'm in the U.S., I'm mostly familiar with the trends and laws and such for my own country, and those things might be different elsewhere, so I apologize if my information doesn't match that of another nation.

IBU: This stands for International Bitterness Units. It's a scale for measuring the basic bitterness of a beer, though that's truly oversimplifying things. Some beers might have a higher IBU but not taste quite so bitter because of the amount of malt added. I suppose a more accurate way to gauge this would be to say the IBU reflects the amount of hops in a beer. Truly heavy beers will have an IBU of 30 to 50, while lighter brews will be 10 or even less. The IBU isn't always readily available, but I'll add it whenever I can find it.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 54 -- Baudolino

by Umberto Eco

Started: Oct. 12
Finished: Nov. 7

Notes: Though I don't approve of all of his ideas, I have always found Eco to be a genius of a writer, so it is with some relish I turn to this novel of his based during the Middle Ages.

Mini review: Here Umberto Eco has created something of a Forrest Gump character in the 12th Century, though the Baudolino character is no simpleton, having decent intelligence and a little rogue within him. In fact, Baudolino is an admitted liar, so much so almost everything he says is a lie, but it always come with success for him, sometimes comically but often simply because those he has been surrounded by find his lies useful politically. Coming from a quaint background, Baudolino early on stumbles from one historic even to another while meeting important people, here being the shades of Forrest Gump, but unlike Gump, Baudolino eventually finds himself taken in by perhaps the most important political figure of the day, at least within Europe. The first three-fifths of this novel are basically historical, but then it veers over into myth for a long while, and here I lost much interest, mainly because it did not fit with the rest of the book and seemed more than a little unbelievable. Most of this novel is Baudolino telling his life's story to another, and since he is an admitted liar, it's difficult to swallow the mythological portion of this book because it seems it simply can't be true, though Baudolino himself does act as if the events were true and even seems to believe it. Towards the end, the book gets back on a historical footing, and even has something of a melancholy finish. Like many of Eco's work, here one will find plenty of myth and occult references, especially pertaining to the Medieval period. Think the Holy Grail, Prester John, ikons, relics and the like, and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about. These elements do play various roles within the story, sometimes important and sometimes not, but they are related to a central mystery in this novel, a mystery that is of course unveiled at the end, though to me it felt rather anti-climatic mostly because the mystery itself had been brushed aside for long periods of this book. A good book, and fans of Eco will enjoy it, as should those with interests in Medieval history and myth.