Tuesday, December 31, 2019

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

by Mark Dawson and Kerry Gardiner

Started: Dec. 28
Finished: Dec. 31

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

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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

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

by Robert Ludlum

Started: Nov. 25
Finished: Dec. 28

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

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

Beer of the Week: Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Beer score: 4.8

Company: Great Lakes Brewing Co.

ABV: 7.5
IBU: 30

I've never had a bad beer from the Great Lakes folks, though this one probably comes closest. However, it's not necessarily the fault of the brewer. This one is on me. I simply don't like late-in-the year holiday beers, whether for Halloween or Christmas or whatever. There's always too much nutmeg and ginger and cinnamon flavoring thrown in for my liking, and sometimes even pumpkin ... YUCK!

All that being the case, this Christmas ale is better than most. It pours a nice amber, almost-red color, and has plenty of little, foamy bubbles without going over the top.

The taste has all those flavors I mentioned above (ie. the flavors I don't like), but there are also hints of caramel and citrus here which help to calm the holiday flavoring down to a not-so-awful level.

If you love holiday brews, then this one should be for you. If you're like me and don't care for holiday brews ... meh, this one is still worth a try; even if you won't love it, it's better than most such beers.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Beer of the Week: Shiner Kolsch

Beer score: 5.2

Company: Shiner

ABV: 4.9
IBU: 17

Don't let the lower-than-usual beer score above fool you. Every time I've had a Shiner brew, I've ranked it higher than this one, but this is still a good, solid staple beer and beer snob could be proud to drink.

Strong, but not too strong. Carbonated, but not too carbonated. I describe the flavor as "good and not weak."

Pours a fairly dark gold, almost a crimson. A head foams up quick but disappears just as quickly, leaving behind the barest scent of sweetness on the air.

Feels crisp in the mouth, as can be expected from the carbonation, and you can taste the grains amid the slight sweetness, perhaps even a touch of fruitiness almost like wine.

Not a favorite beer, but not an awful beer. I would drink it again.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Great Divide Whitewater Wheat Ale

Beer score: 6.4

Company: Great Divide Brewing Company

While this fine brewing company is still around in Colorado, no longer are they putting out this tasty beer. Still, looking back, I found some notes from a decade or so back about this beer and thought I'd share them.

The style here was a hefeweizen, and it was light and wet with some sweetness, like many a good hefeweizen are. This was a pretty good drinking brew, though that sweetness tended to grow stronger and stronger the more you drank of it, so after a few you might have wanted to switch to something else.

Poured a light yellow, hazy color. Had a flowery scent to it, and went down with some wheat and citrus notes. Again, a good beer, but watch out for the growing sweetness.

Also, though this beer might not exist any more, the good thing is that since the company is still around, there's always a chance this one could come back some day. But even if it doesn't, the Great Divide Brewing folks have some solid beers to enjoy.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Return to Nerdarchy!

For those who don't remember (or didn't know), I used to be site editor of a web site called Nerdarchy, a site for tabletop role players. I left that position a couple of years ago, but today I got to step back in time a little and pen an article for the Nerdarchy crew, an article about "Heroic Literature and Rogue Blades Foundation."

And in case you didn't know this, Rogue Blades Foundation is a non-profit publishing house with a focus upon heroic literature. And I happen to be vice president of RBF.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Big Bear Lager

Beer score: 3.4

This is another beer which no longer exists, though I found part of an old review I did of the beer from a decade or so back. This beer was made for a chain of grocery stores in the Midwest in which the stores were called "Big Bear." This beer was brewed by The Hoster Brewing Co. of Columbus, Ohio, for the grocery chain before Hoster went out of business, and then Big Bear went out of business, too. I've had worse lagers, but there isn't much special here. It's got a good color and is stronger than I expected. At least it's not a Bud wannabe.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Rogue Blades over at Black Gate

Thanks to Black Gate head honcho John O'Neil, I introduce Rogue Blades Foundation over at the Black Gate site. Check it out. You might learn a few things.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Beer of the Week: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

Beer score: 8.4

Company: McAuslan Brewing Company

ABV: 5.0
IBU: 45

I have a bad habit of thinking of Canadian beers as mere imitators of their American cousins, but this is a beer that proves my habit wrong. In fact, this might be the best beer from Canada I've ever tasted.

Pours black and thick from the bottle into a clear glass with the barest hints of light passing through. The head is thick and tan but doesn't last long. The smell strikes one with scents of dark, rich coffee, a touch of chocolate, and deeply roasted malt.

The taste is something special. There's that stout taste one often associates with Guinness, but there's also a deeper heavy, burnt syrup flavor that pushes this one over the edge. Guinness fans will like this one, but the truth is, this is a richer stout than Guinness. There's tons of full flavor here along with some nuttiness.

All in all, this is one of the best stouts I've ever tried. Not sure I'd say it's the absolute best I've ever tried, but boy, it's up there.

Books read in 2019: No. 49 -- How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life

by Dr. Gregory R. Frizzell

Started: Nov. 19
Finished: Nov. 25

Notes: I'm reading this as part of a prayer ministry at church. Perhaps it'll open my eyes to a few things or teach me something new.

Mini review: Christians looking to expand and/or stratify their prayer life could do worse than this book. It's easy to read, simple to understand, and offers some straightforward suggestions on how to kick up your prayer time.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Beer of the Week: Fischer Bitter

Beer score: 5.4

Company: Heineken

ABV: 4.9

Once upon a time, this French beer was brewed by the Brasserie Fischer brewery, but then they got bought out by the folks at Heineken, so ... take that for whatever it's worth, but at least you know.

Anyway, the French aren't usually known for making great beer, but I have to say this one isn't too bad, though I also wouldn't call it a superb beer. It's a bit dry and harsh for a bitter-style beer. There was next to no carbonation when I tasted this, leaving it with a bit of a flat texture, but it had a nice grainy, flowery taste to it.

You likely won't want to drink this regularly, but it's not an awful beer, which means it's at least worth giving a try.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 48 -- Analysis of the Gunfight at O.K. Corral

by Ben T. Traywick

Started: Nov. 19
Finished: Nov. 19

Notes: Last year on vacation I spent a few days in Tombstone, Arizona, site of the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and of course while there I picked up a number of books. It's only now, though, that I've gotten through a bunch of other books I wanted to read and am finally getting around to those books I purchased in Tombstone (along with a straw Stetson hate of which I'm rather fond). I expect this book to be interesting a it's written by the Tombstone town historian.

Mini review: A nice little read. It as obvious the author came down on the side of the Earps in the seemingly eternal Earps vs. the Cowboys feud, but not so much that it ruined the writing and telling here. Besides, from my limited experience, most of the locals in Tombstone come down on one side or another of that old fight and it's always interesting to hear both sides, whatever one chooses to believe personally. Me? I don't know. I don't blame either side and think the whole situation leading up to the gunfight and during the gunfight was probably a lot more convoluted politically and emotionally than movies and most books make out. If anything, probably all sides were to blame to some extent or other. But that's just my opinion.

Books read in 2019: No. 47 -- Lando

by Louis L'Amour

Started: Nov. 14
Finished: Nov. 19

Notes: I've read a fair amount of L'Amour over the years, but I've never been a big fan of his fiction. That being said, it has been a long time since I've read any of his work, so I thought I'd give him another go but this time with the eyes of an older man.

Mini review: This was a fair read. Told in a rustic first person, it didn't bring me around to being a fan of L'Amour's fiction, but I also didn't hate it. I will say a lot happened in less than 160 pages. Without giving away any details, the protagonist, Lando, leaves his birth home after being betrayed by some people there, then heads to Texas and down to Mexico where he runs into some more trouble. It all ends in a fairly glorious boxing match which I believe would have made Robert E. Howard proud.

Friday, November 15, 2019

In Defense of the Heroic

"In Defense of the Heroic" is an article I wrote concerning heroism and heroic literature for the Rogue Blades web site.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 46 -- Calypso

by Ed McBain

Started: Nov. 9
Finished: Nov. 13

Notes: Since I love me some Ed McBain and I just finished a collection of his short tales, I thought I'd keep reading some of his work, especially as it's an 87th Precinct novel.

Mini review: The term "calypso" here refers to the style of music, in case you were wondering. A string of shooting murders, a brother missing for seven years, it all adds up to a mystery for the gang of the 87th. This tale, however, turns gorier than most stories from the 87th Precinct, at least towards the end. Considering this particular 87th Precinct novel preceded my favorite of these books, Ghosts, I'm not so surprised at how differently this one ended, for Ghosts itself is unlike any of the other dozens of novels I've read in this series.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Beer of the Week: Firestone Lager

Beer score: 6.2

Company: Firestone Walker Brewing Company

ABV: 4.5
IBU: 17

This brew from California used to be available in bottles years ago, but of late I've only been able to find it in the can.

It comes out of the can (or bottle back in the day) a clear color with just the barest hint of gold. It's head is thick and fizzy but will die down after a handful of seconds.

The smell and taste are fruitier than your average lager, and that fruity taste turns somewhat spicy and grows as you drink more of this one. There's also a touch of honey, clover, and maybe a little burning, almost like bread left in the oven a little too long. There's a bit of an almost-sour kick just as one swallows, but then the overall taste, texture and smoothness of this beer mellows out as it goes down your pipes.

Real beer tasters will enjoy this one as long as they realize this is a good beer but not a beer that's overly unique or special. If you like fruitiness in your beers, you could drink this one regularly.



Friday, November 08, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 45 -- The McBain Brief

by Ed McBain

Started: Oct. 28
Finished: Nov. 8

Notes: I've been on something of a short story kick of late, so it makes sense for me to turn to this collection by one of my favorite authors. Oddly enough, even though I've read quite a bit of McBain, I don't believe I've ever read any short stories by him, but then he seems to have been more of a novel writer. Whatever the case, I'm expecting to enjoy this one.

Mini review: These were some solid short stories. As could be expected, most of them are cop related. The few tales which don't features police are still crime related. Here can be found police thrillers, crime tales, even some hard boiled action. Fans of McBain of these genres should check out this book.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Rogue Blades Foundation

If you've been more than just a casual fan of Sword and Sorcery literature during the past decade or so, you should be familiar with the name of Rogue Blades Entertainment, a small specialty book publisher who has produced more than a few fine short story collections as well as other works related to the speculative genres.

All along, publisher and editor Jason M. Waltz has been the captain behind Rogue Blades Entertainment, but most recently he has taken on another hat to wear, that of president. As of a month ago (give or take), Waltz has been president of the Rogue Blades Foundation, a non-profit with a focus upon all things heroic, especially bringing heroic literature to all readers.

Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE) will continue to operate as a for-profit publishing house. Meanwhile, Rogue Blades Foundation (RBF) will work to promote heroic art, and part of RBF's mission will include publishing specialty works which the editor does not feel are quite right for RBE.

You might be asking why I'm telling you all this. Well, for one thing, over the years I've had a few short stories published with RBE and I've always appreciated what that publishing house has done and accomplished.

More importantly, I am the vice president of the Rogue Blades Foundation. Yes, that's right, I'll be working alongside Jason M. Waltz to bring heroic art to the world. I'm thankful for this opportunity and I'm looking forward to bringing RBF to life.

What will the future hold for RBF? Two books are already in the works, and you can find out more at the RBF web site. If you want to know more, there's also the RBF Facebook page. For that matter, I've my own author's page at Facebook, so you might find a few RBF-related items there.

Also, if you are interested in helping RBF to promote heroic literature and art in all forms, you can join RBF's Ring of Heroes, allowing you to donate to the cause. If you not only want to help but would like to occasionally receive some excellent fiction in book form, you can also become an RBF Companion Member.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Craft Holsters: Beretta 92FS holster

A while back the good folks over at Craft Holsters contacted me and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. They would custom make for me a leather, open top pancake holster for the firearm of my choosing -- for free -- and all I had to do was review their product. Sounded like a good deal to me then and it still seems like a good deal now that I've had the holster for a week or so.

As for the firearm involved, I decided a holster for my Beretta 92FS would be best. I carry my Beretta fairly regularly, so another holster for it would serve me well.

First off, I have to say this is a quality holster. It's made of thick, solid leather and has double stitching all the way around. It has been shaped to a Beretta 92FS perfectly, allowing my own handgun to slide in and out of it with ease.

Being this is a pancake holster, it holds snug against the body, allowing one to pull a shirt over and hide the holster and firearm with ease. Also, while shaped for a firearm, the leather here is smooth enough that the shape of the gun will not easily appear through one's clothing. As a nice bonus feature, the inside of this holster rises a little higher than the outside, placing a strip of thick leather between your firearm and yourself, so you don't have to worry about a handgun pressing into your flesh or any undershirt you might be wearing.

All in all this is a solid holster, a quality holster, and I'd suggest anyone interested should hitch their way on over to the Craft Holsters site and put in an order. The prices for these holsters are not cheap, but they're also not exorbitant; you get what you pay for, and here you actually get a little more than what you pay for.

Now in fairness, is this the perfect holster? No, of course not. There's no such thing as a perfect holster. There might be a perfect holster for you for a particular gun, but that's a rare find and one every gun owner should cherish when it  happens. To put it another way, the particular holster I received is a great holster, but it's not necessarily perfect for me, or at least it's not perfect for every situation in which I carry.

For example, there's not a lot of movement with this holster once it's on your belt. Personally I like to be able to slide my holster around a little because my situations change; sometimes I'm standing, sometimes sitting in a vehicle, other times sitting at a table, etc. This particular holster doesn't slide around easily if at all. In fact, this holster is quite wide, so one might find a difficult time placing it between loops on a pair of pants. This doesn't mean this is a bad holster, just that it's good for some things and not so good for others. If you're someone who doesn't want your holster to have any movement in it, then this holster could be perfect for you. And let me add that I'm talking about one particular holster from Craft Holsters, the holster they sent for my Beretta 92FS, and they offer lots of different styles of holsters for different firearms, so another holster or one for a different gun might not be as immobile as was my own.

The big questions are: Would I buy one of these holsters? And would I wear it? The answer to the first question is "yes," and in fact I'm planning to buy at least a couple more of these holsters. The answer to the second question is a bit more complicated, but it's basically, "yes, I would wear it, but only during certain situations, ones which would have to be determined at the time of holstering up." If that made sense. It basically means that whenever I'm planning to leave the house and carry a sidearm, at the moment of putting on a holster I would have to decide what type of handgun and which holster I'll be taking with me. Sometimes this Craft Holsters holster would be appropriate and even preferable, but not always.

Okay, I've rattled on enough. This really is a top quality holster, and made in Italy to boot. Go check out the Craft Holsters web site for yourself. I'm sure you'll find something there you'll like.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Katahdin beers

The Katahdin brewery of Maine has had an interesting history. For one thing, it no longer exists. The brewery was bought out by the Casco Bay Brewing Company. But then Casco was bought out by the Shipyard Brewing Company. Yet the Katahdin beers live on, at least every once in a while. The folks at Shipyard must have a love for the Katahdin beers, because every now and then they will brew a batch, especially of the Katahdin Red Ale, which is apparently a regional favorite in Maine. Anyway, it's been a good long while since I've had a chance to try any of the Katahdin brews, and the last time I did they were still brewed under the Katahdin brewery folks, so I don't think it would be fair to compare today's Katahdin beers with those of a decade or more back especially as I've not yet had a chance to try the current Katahdin beers.

Okay, did any of that make sense to you? I'll make it more simple. Katahdin beers were good a long while back, but as those beers aren't currently available to me, I thought I'd post some old but brief reviews I did of Katahdin beers from about 10 years ago.

Katahdin Red Ale
Beer score: 7.1

A little stronger than a pale ale, but had that sort of texture, color and feel to it. This is what most of those premium "red" beers try to be. Gets stronger as it goes down.

Katahdin Stout
Beer score: 8.1

Stouts should be served fairly warm because it increases the taste and the pleasure. This stout is no different. This drink is reminiscent of Guinness Extra Stout, for those who would like a comparison. A very sturdy drink with the right amount of bitter and heaviness and strength for a stout.

Katahdin Pale Ale
Beer score: 7.8

According to the bottle, katahdin is a Native-American word for "great mountain." This brew is a strong pale ale and it is wet and bitter. Pretty smooth but not for beginners. A great all-around taste. Good with a meal or for just drinking.

Katahdin Golden Beer
Beer score: 6.4

A pale ale-type beer with a little bitterness and a slight hint of sourness in the aftertaste. Goes down smooth. I've heard this beer was made like a pilsener, but its taste and color were more like that of a pale ale. There was a map on the bottom of this six-pack’s cardboard carrier showing how to get to the brewery of the Casco Bay Brewing Company, once the makers of this decent brew. In fact, lots of beer companies are adding interesting stuff to the bottom of their carriers, so keep a look out.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Beer of the Week: Leinenkugel's Snowdrift Vanilla Porter

Beer score: 6.7

Company: Leinenkugel's

ABV: 6.0
IBU: 16

Pours a dark brown into a glass, though not so dark you can't see light through it. The head is thick and slightly brown and foamy, but it slowly dies down to a more manageable level.

That vanilla scent will hit you right away. It's not too strong, in my opinion, but it's close to being so. The vanilla smell is definitely more than just hinted at, but again, I wouldn't say it's so strong as to ruin the drink.

Oddly enough for a porter, this one isn't all that hefty in the tasting section. There are tones of coffee and chocolate here, and while the vanilla is still prevalent, it's not as strong in the tasting as it is in the smelling. Also, allowing this beer to warm up a little is not a bad move as it allows these scents to come out a little more and gives this drink more of that traditional porter strength.

Try this one, seriously. Even if you're someone who doesn't like vanilla, I think you'll find this one pretty good.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 44 -- The Awakened Modern

edited by Hal Greenberg and Greg Schauer

Started: Oct. 20
Finished: Oct. 27

Notes: Suddenly a second moon appears above the Earth and people, at least some people, begin to show signs of having unusual powers. It sounds like something out of a comic book, but it's seemingly more fantasy related than super-hero related, at least in the books of The Awakened series. And guess what? My short story "Cold Snap" appears in this book, and personally I think it's a pretty decent story, so go check it out ... and of course read all the other tales, too, which is what I'm about to do.

Mini review: It was nice not only to see one of my own stories again, but to see how other authors dealt with the same world and some of the same issues. This was a fun read.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Beer of the Week: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Beer score: 9.3

Company: Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company

ABV: 8.2
IBU: 19

My home state of Kentucky has done me proud with this beer, and it's brewed right in my home town of Lexington!

Pour one of these into a glass and you'll experience an amber shade just this side of light gold along with a frothy head that vanishes swiftly. A slight scent of bourbon should hit you right away, but it will not be overpowering; in fact, that bourbon smell should be just right, just enough to remind you of the stronger drink but not enough to ruin the beer textures.

Once on your tongue, the taste is smooth but robust, rich and sweet, with touches of charred wood, caramel, butterscotch and vanilla, perhaps even a little citrus. Goes down a little on the dry side.

Bourbon fans looking for a beer should look no further. Many a beer fan will also enjoy this one, but if they happen to not be a fan of bourbon (perish the thought!), then they might want to look elsewhere. All in all, this is a quality beer. Is it for everyone? Hmm, probably not, but it should be.

To add a last note, one of the things I like about this beer is that it's unusual enough to be brought out for tastings and special occasions, but it's also smooth enough to sip regularly.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 43 -- The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

by Stephen King

Started: Oct. 6
Finished: Oct. 20

Notes: I'm in the mood for some short stories, and since it's Halloween time I thought I'd turn to the "King" of horror and possibly of modern short stories.

Mini review: The writing here is quite solid, but the writing here often enough is more literary than King's traditional work. Oh, there's some horror here, but it's not over the top and not overly gross or strong. Often times, the horror elements here are light or even just background material for the actual story. So, those wanting a strong dose of the dark stuff will probably want to look elsewhere, but King fans and those simply looking for quality writing should check this one out. My favorite story? Probably "Ur" or "Obits," though several others came close.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Beer of the Week: Blue Moon Belgian White

Beer score: 8.9

Company: Blue Moon

ABV: 5.4
IBU: 9

This one has been a personal favorite for a couple of decades now. When I first started drinking it, it was much more rare and often difficult to find. However, the last few years I've been able to find Blue Moon's Belgian White just about everywhere I go, including on the tap at many a bar, and that's not a bad thing.

Pours smooth with a nice, frothy head. The color is a pale gold. The taste is also smooth and frothy with the barest hint of sourness that reminds me of a lambic style beer. You'll find hints of citrus here, leaning towards orange but with maybe some lemon. The smell is also fruity.

While this particular brew might not be as unique as it once was, that doesn't mean the brewers have sold out and are nowadays delivering a lesser product, no siree. If you've not had this one, give it a try. If you have had this one, you'll probably keep coming back. This Blue Moon beer is different-enough-but-not-so-different (if that makes sense) that you could use it to tempt your premium beer friends, and it's good enough as well to drink on a regular basis.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Another session of ye olde Marvel Super Hero tabletop RPG with Professor Bill and gang over at Comic Book University.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Beer of the Week: Catawba Brown Bear

Here I am enjoying a Catawba Brown Bear on tap
at a Burger Bach where there's not only
awesome brews, but awesome burgers.
Beer score: 9.2

Company: Catawba Brewing Company

ABV: 5.2
IBU: 30

English brown ales don't seem all that easy to find here in the U.S., or at least they aren't for me, and that's a shame as brown ales are pretty tasty in my opinion. This Catawba Brown Bear from western North Carolina is not only a brown ale, but it's a damn good brown ale.

It pours dark into a glass, looking like a rich porter, almost a stout. The head is thick and tan in color and full of carbonation. The scent is heavy and rich, like a dark chocolate mixed with plenty of dark coffee. When this stuff hits the tongue, it releases flavors of toffee, caramel, chocolate, coffee, and more, all dark and all rich.

All in all, this is a fairly strong beer with lots of rich flavoring. It won't be for everyone, but I have to say I approve. In fact, while this beer is different enough to be used for special occasions, despite its heaviness I could still see it as somebody's regular drinking beer. In other words, it's heavy but not too heavy. If that makes sense. It does to me.


Sunday, October 06, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 42 -- A Robert E. Howard Sampler

edited by Chris Gruber and Bobby Derie

Started: Sept. 26
Finished: Oct. 6

Notes: I thought I'd read all the books I'd picked up at Howard Days 2018, but then I came upon this little gem stuffed back on one of my shelves. 250 of these were given away free at Howard Days that year, so they might be something of a collector's item. The table of contents (along with the title) make this appear to be a collection of Howard's work from all the different genres in which he wrote, and I have to say I believe all of them are covered here. I believe I've read all these, but then I've read just about everything of Howard's other than some of the El Borak tales and maybe a few detective or horror stories that have slipped past. Still, I expect to enjoy what I find here, and I try to work in at least one or two Howard reads every year.

Mini review: This was definitely a good introduction to Howard's writing outside of his famous Conan and Kull tales. El Borak makes an appearance, as does boxer Steve Costigan, plus there's a detective story, some horror, and more. True Howard fans will likely want this one for their collection; admittedly the presentation is somewhat amateur, but that's not necessarily all a bad thing, bringing a certain level of charm and getting back to the roots of pulp fiction.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Beer of the Week: Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale

Beer score: 6.6

Company: Dogfish Head

ABV: 4.9
IBU: 10

This was ... uh ... one of the more unusual beers I've tried. It wasn't bad, necessarily, but it didn't taste much like beer. To my taste buds, it reminded me more than a little of Fresca, that citrus soft drink that's been around forever, though that's not necessarily a bad thing.

It poured a light amber color into a glass. The head became quite thick and foamy and white, but it drifted away almost immediately. Right away a strong smell of lime and grapefruit hit my nostrils.

The flavor? Lemon-lime, apple, melon, all-around citrus. The sour of the lime grows stronger the more you drink.

Over all the sensation here is light, but the texture is quite carbonated, and that combined with the flavoring makes one think more of a soft drink than of a beer. Yes, this is an odd drink, and it's by no means a traditional ale, but it could be worth your time to try.

Is it a good beer? You know what? It's not bad. It's not something I'd want to drink often, and honestly it's not something I'd want to drink when I'm in the mood for a beer, but it is a drink I would taste again when the mood struck me. And what would that mood be? Looking for a good time on a hot day, preferably at a beach or by a pool.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 41 -- Bane of Nightmares (The Dream Lords, Volume 3)

by Adrian Cole

Started: Sept. 19
Finished: Sept. 26

Notes: I've been Facebook friends with the author for a little while now, but it occurred to me I'd never read anything of his. Then one day recently I realized I had one of his older novels on my book shelves just waiting for me. So, funny timing, sort of. And even though this is the third volume of a series, I feel fairly confident I will be able to figure out what is going on, mainly because I'm pretty familiar with speculative fiction tropes and because the author gives a short prologue at the beginning.

Mini review: This was more space fantasy than true fantasy, but it still rocked along with plenty of monsters and sword-swinging action. In the far future, Earth is ruled from another planet by the Dream Lords, semi-benevolent humans with vast powers of the mind. Yet the world of the Dream Lords is crumbling as one evil figure vies for their power. Fortunately, this evil being is thwarted by the mighty thews of our hero, an heir to being one of the Dream Lords. The battle rages from Earth to space and back with a final confrontation in an ancient temple. Not the best writing I've ever read, but also not the worst. It does come with some of the quirks of many of the short fantasy novels of the 1970s, such as plots that sometimes move so swiftly as to be practically unbelievable, but personally I find that charming rather than a negative.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

FASERIP Season 03 Episode 02 - Marvel Super Heroes RPG | COMIC BOOK UNIVERSITY

Yep, it's another session of the Marvel Super Heroes FASERIP game with Professor Bill and gang from Comic Book University.

Beer of the Week: Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Beer score: 7.1

Company: Samuel Adams

ABV: 5.3
IBU: 16

Though I tend to not care for holiday brews, I've had this beer several times over the last few decades, and in the past I've not cared much for it, but this year I actually found it to my liking. Being a seasonal brew, perhaps the recipe and/or the quality differs from year to year, or perhaps my taste buds have changed with age, or maybe my beer palate has grown. Whatever the case, I generally liked this beer in 2019.

Anyway, this beer poured a light, almost clear brown and had a slightly fizzy but frothy head to it. The taste is a little strong, but nothing overpowering here. There's more than a little caramel flavor as this drink goes down, and there are hints of citrus. It reminded me a bit of English brown ales.

As I said, I don't normally care for holiday beers, and in the past I didn't care for this one, but this year I found this rather enjoyable. Take that for what it's worth, but you might want to give it a try.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 40 -- Doc Savage: The Land of Terror

by Kenneth Robeson

Started: Sept. 13
Finished: Sept. 18

Notes: Though I'm well aware of the Doc Savage character, I've never actually read one of these books before, so I thought it high time. This is apparently the second novel in the lengthy series, and the author's name is actually a house name used by the publisher of the time (here the 1930s). The actual author was apparently Lester Dent. Also, if I should happen to love this novel, I know an antique store that has a revolving rack full of them, so I'll know where to go to get more.

Mini review: A friend of Doc's is murdered and a long investigation eventually leads to an island where dinosaurs still roam! This was just a fun little romp. The writing is quite juvenile by today's standards, but it also has a fun, quirky sense to it that reminds one of old serialized television programs such as Flash Gordon and the earliest days of super hero comic books. I might very well venture forth into this territory again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Marvel FASERIP RPG: Episode 1

I mentioned recently I took part in a tabletop RPG campaign from the '80s Marvel Super Heroes FASERIP game, and here is episode 1. Hope you enjoy! There will be more of these as I believe we did 10 or 12 episodes.

Beer of the Week: MacTarnahan's Amber Ale

Beer score: 6.2

Company: Portland Brewing Company

ABV: 5.1
IBU: 32

This one poured with a nice, thick, foamy head, so if that's your sort of thing, enjoy! It comes out of the bottle and into the glass with an reddish amber color, but that makes sense since this is an amber ale. The taste is that coppery "red" known in some premium "red" beers, but I have to say the flavoring here is stronger and doesn't have so much of that typical premium feeling. As for texture, its somewhat water but not overly thin, making it easy to drink. There are hints of fruitiness here, maybe citrus.

All in all, this makes an excellent drinking beer. You could easily guzzle down a few of these with your favorite buds at a pub. And speaking from experience, this amber ale does go well with pub food.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 39 -- Stormqueen!

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Started: August 25
Finished: Sept. 13

Notes: I've never been a huge MZB fan, but I have been meaning for some time to try one of her Darkover novels since they were so popular a number of decades back.

Mini review: In a feudal world where the rulers have varying levels of mind powers, a group of young people find themselves embroiled in intrigue and war at the highest levels of society and politics. And that description barely touches everything that happens within this novel. I can't say this was a favorite novel, but it was actually pretty good, though I felt it took a long time before truly becoming interesting. This novel is apparently set in one of the earliest ages of the world of Darkover, so most of the other novels take place years or centuries after this one. I would like to add that the ending here is somewhat emotionally wrenching, but that's not a bad thing, at least not to me. Would I try another Darkover novel? Yes, I would, and perhaps I will, especially as they are still being written by other authors since MZB has passed away.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Beer of the Week: Old Speckled Hen

Beer score: 4.0

Company: Greene King

ABV: 5.0

This decent British ale has been around for about 40 years now, originally as a celebratory beer for employees of a vehicle manufacturer.

Very smooth going back after a nice, fluffy head. It's quite wet but has a cheap bitterness to it, almost like it's been sitting in a can for a good long while. That being said, it does have a nice copper color when poured, and there is a fine grainy and grassy flavoring here with hints of toffee or caramel.

Though that bitterness ... man, it's strong. For those not used to it, all that bitter can be quite the shock, but I could see how this ale could grow on you.

Would I drink it again? Sure. Would I drink it regularly? Probably not. Still, it's a different kind of drink, at least here in the U.S. where I live, so it's worth trying every once in a while.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Marvel Super Heroes tabletop role playing game, Session 0

Yes, folks, I'm in the above video with Professor Bill from Comic Book University, along with a few other hardy tabletop role players, and we are playing the old Marvel Super Heroes game from the 1980s, commonly referred to as the FASERIP game (because FASERIP is an acronym for some of the character stats in the game).

We played these session a few months back, and there were 10 or 11 episodes (sorry, my memory ain't what it used to be). Anyway, we had a lot of fun, and Professor Bill is now uploading these sessions so others can see.

Go, watch, have fun, and enjoy. And maybe you can break out some old '80s RPG action!

Monday, September 02, 2019

Beer of the Week: Sapporo Premium Beer

Beer score: 3.5

Company: Sapporo

ABV: 4.9
IBU: 24

From Japan, this beer pours a pale gold color. There is a lot of carbonation here, but this drink goes down fairly smooth. The taste is that traditional American taste common to many mass marketed beers a few decades ago and still popular in some places. There's some light bitterness here and a touch of sweet, but nothing overly strong.

This beer is worth trying, but probably only once. This isn't a brew you want to drink regularly.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Beer of the Week: Third Coast Beer

Beer score: 6.7

Company: Bell's Brewery

ABV: 4.8
IBU: 51.00

Coming out of Michigan, the folks at Bell's have been producing some fine beers for decades now. The bottle for this particular beer has changed a few times over the years, but it's always had something of a quaint, old-fashioned look about it, usually sporting portions of a map of the Green Bay region in northwest Michigan.

But what you really want to know how this beer tastes ... is it any good?

Okay, well, it looks weak in the glass with a light gold color, but that coloring can be fooling as this has a strong bitterness to it when it reaches your tongue. This stuff is quite wet, and it makes a great pub brew to go along with hot wings.

As for sniffing, you'll catchy bread-like scents here with maybe the barest hint of fruit. Once you've got this beer in your mouth, you'll pick up more of that bread-like sensation plus a strong hoppy taste and a touch of that fruitiness, though only a touch. What's really going to hit you is the bitterness here. I've read where others have described this drink as tasting something like an IPA, but while this beer does have some of the flavoring of one of the more bitter IPA beers, it doesn't have the usual sourness of an IPA, or at least mine didn't.

Not the best beer in the world, but you know what? It's still worth drinking. If you're in Michigan or somewhere else that serves Bell's beers, give this one a try, or any of the other beers from Bell's.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 38 -- Night of the Hunter

by R.A. Salvatore

Started: August 1
Finished: August 25

Notes: A decade back I was reading a lot of Salvatore's work, but I got burnt out on him and have stayed away since, not that that was his fault. Sometimes I just read too much of an author in a short period and then need to stay away for a while. That while has ended, so I'm turning to one of Salvatore's more recent novels (at least to me).

Mini review: Glad to be done with this one. Salvatore's Drizzt character reunites with some old friends to head into the Underworld to save some other old friends, and that's about all I'll say so I'm not giving away too much. I will say it was nice to re-visit some old characters, and Salvatore's prose continues to flow fairly well, especially during his action scenes. That being said, this novel felt padded to me. I felt like the story could have been told in half the pages. And that's not necessarily a good thing. Maybe Salvatore didn't pad the book, but it felt that way. Still, not an awful book. Drizzt fans will want this one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Beer of the Week special: How to name your dog after a beer

If you are a beer lover and an animal lover like me, at some point in your life there's a pretty good chance you are going to want to name a dog after a beer. However, it's quite possible your significant other will shoot down the idea, or perhaps it will be your parents. Or maybe there could be some other reason that would intrude upon you wanting to name a dog after a beer.

Don't let this get you down. You can still name a dog after a beer, you just have to be a little more sly about. it.

For instance, you obviously wouldn't want to name your dog Budweiser. Why? Because that's a world-wide recognizable name meaning beer. However, you might be able to get by with something a little more slick, like Bud or Buddy. Not exact, but it's close enough to count.

Another fine name for a dog is Foster, after Foster's, the Australian beer. I'm not a huge fan of this particular brew, but I do like the name. And I once fooled my wife into allowing me to name a dog Foster. She never caught on until I told her years later.

If you'd like something a bit more esoteric, you could name a pet after Bert Grant's. Heck, this brewing company doesn't even exist any more, but they put out some very fine drinks back in their day. Either Bert or Grant would be solid names for a dog. Even Bertie wouldn't be too bad for a small dog.

If you want a sturdy, old-fashioned name for a dog, you could always try Breckenridge after the Breckenridge Brewery. Possibly Breck would do, as well.

Are you religious? How about Pete or Peter after St. Peter's Brewery of England. They make a fine Organic English Ale. And don't forget the folks at Pete's Wicked, who make a great Strawberry Blonde.

Even less obvious options would be Rod or Roddy after Young's Ram Rod, or Nick or Nicholas after Young's Old Nick, or even Dick after Young's Dirty Dick's Ale.

If the dog is female you could go for Stella after Stella Artois or possibly Sierra after one of the fine Sierra Nevada brews, such as Sierra Nevada Porter.

One of my personal favorite names is Skullsplitter. And yes, there is a Skullsplitter Orkney Ale.

More obvious choices would be Sam or Sammy, after such brews as Sam Adams Triple Bock or Samuel Smith Taddy Porter.

Truly, it's up to you. I suggest having fun with the exercise. Pick a unique name for your dog, something you think will represent his or her spirit and will fit well.

And don't forget to enjoy a good beer every once in a while.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Beer of the Week: Birra Moretti

Beer score: 4.3

Company: Birra Moretti

ABV: 4.6

The Moretti family of Italy brewed and owned this beer until 1989 when it was sold to some corporate interests and later was sold to Heineken. And it kind of tastes like it.

Don't get me wrong. This is not an awful beer. When you pour it into a glass, it's got a faint yellow color to it. Going down it has a pale, mass-produced flavor to it. It's quite smooth with a nice head, but it has that all-too-familiar weak, made-for-Americans taste to it.

Might be okay on a hot day, and I know personally it goes fairly well with pasta.

But there's nothing special here. Truly, while not a bad beer, it's also not an overly good one, and it more or less tastes like a hundred other premium beers on the market. Those who don't know any better might think this beer is special because it's from Italy, but they would be wrong.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Beer of the Week: Big Rock Warthog Ale

Beer score: 6.7

Company: Big Rock Brewery

ABV: 4.5
IBU: 16

The Big Rock Brewery of Calgary, Alberta, Canada brews this fine drink. Pours a slightly dark copper color with a thin head. Pretty smooth with just a little honey sweetness as it goes down. There are hints of fruit, maybe citrus, along with some bread-like textures. Not overly strong, so anyone can enjoy it, though there is more than a little darkness in all this mildness. I found this ale makes a pretty good bar beer for bar food ... you know, sliders, wings and the like. Has a slight sour smell in the glass though I did not detect such in the taste on the way down.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 37 -- The Blade Itself

by Joe Abercrombie

Started: July 20
Finished: August 1

Notes: I've heard much good about this author, specifically this book, and have been meaning to read one of his novels for some time now. Here goes.

Mini review: I have to say I was quite disappointed with this one until about the last third of the book when a number of scenes strung together suddenly made me a believer. The plot here is difficult to discuss other than to say it concerns a number of disparate characters and how they are finally brought together towards the end of this book so they can go off on an adventure in later books in the series. All in all decent writing with characters who are somewhat interesting. However, there were a lot of things here concerning characterization and even plotting which struck me as somewhat juvenile, like something a less successful self-published author would write, not something a major publisher would ... well, publish. But that sensation went away for me towards the end of the book, and in all fairness this was Abercrombie's first novel. Can I suggest this one for reading? Actually, despite my grousing, yes. Go read it. Give it a go.

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 strong 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.

    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.