Thursday, January 31, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 6 -- Dandelion Wine

by Ray Bradbury

Started: Jan. 25
Finished: Jan. 31

Notes: I have a mixed relationship with Bradbury's writing. While his Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of my all-time favorite novels and I enjoyed Fahrenheit 451, I was less than impressed by The Martian Chronicles. So I'm trying him out again. However, though he was famed for his science fiction and speculative novels, Dandelion Wine is apparently more of a literary work, a fictional memoir of a boy back in the 1920s.

Mini review: The writing here is quite good, but fans of Bradbury's science fiction might be disappointed. It's not really a novel, but more of a collection of short stories and vignettes based around a pair of brothers in the summer of 1928, though the main character does learn and grow throughout. This is quaint, potentially overly self-indulgent daydreaming about youth. There's nothing wrong with that if that is what one seeks in their fiction or at least occasionally in one's fiction. I'll repeat that the writing is good, perhaps some of Bradbury's best, but it wasn't really what I was in the mood for, and because of that I try not to judge it too harshly.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Beer of the Week: Sierra Nevada Sidecar Orange IPA

Beer score: 7.7

Company: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

ABV: 6.8
IBU: 35

I'm not normally a big fan of the IPA (India Pale Ale), mainly because such beers often have for me a sourness or even skunkiness in the smell and even the taste, but I decided to give this brew a try since I'm a sucker for orange flavoring and because I've known the Sierra Nevada folks to put out some pretty good drinks. I wasn't disappointed.

This one is lacking the usual sourness I experience with IPAs, but it still has a strong bitterness that's reminiscent of orange peel. There is a citrus texture to the scent of this one, but to be honest, I couldn't taste it at all other than perhaps in the bitterness, so for those of you who don't care for citrus beers, you might want to try this one. However, others have told me they smelled and tasted a lot of orange here, so maybe it was just me or the lone bottle I tried was off a little. The bottle does say this drink was brewed with "orange peel," if that helps you any.

As for the pouring, there was barely any carbonation here, and the drink came out in a fine but strong yellow reminiscent of dark gold. I experienced very little foam, but then I poured slowly and had the glass tilted somewhat; I've heard others say this one foams up well, but that wasn't my experience for better or worse.

Can I recommend it? Yep, I can. I've yet to have a bad beer from Sierra Nevada. Sure, some of their beers aren't exactly to my taste, but that's not because they're bad beers but because I have my own likes and dislikes. I can honestly suggest giving any of the Sierra Nevada brews a try, and if you're into orange flavoring the way I am, you definitely want to try this particular one.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 5 -- Plague Ship

by Andre Norton

Started: Jan. 22
Finished: Jan. 24

Notes: Norton is among a handful of authors of whom I've meant to read more, so I turn to this sci-fi novel originally published in 1956.

Mini review: This was just a fun little novel. A group of space traders get to work trading on an alien planet, but when they return to space they discover an illness is hitting the crew. Then they become outlaws wanted by the equivalent of the space police. And they have to go to Earth to not only avoid the law, but to find a way to take care of this illness. There's a touch of silliness to the whole tale, but not overly so. I have to say I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more such tales as Norton apparently penned other novels about this starship crew.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 4 -- Cat's Cradle

by Kurt Vonnegut

Started: Jan. 20
Finished: Jan. 22

Notes: I've only read one other Vonnegut novel, Slaughterhouse Five, and that was so long ago I remember nothing about it other than Vonnegut seemed a pretty good writer. So, to see if that's true, I'll now try one of his other works.

Mini review:This was definitely a strange one, with more than a touch of the absurd. A writer sets out to pen a book about one of the creators of the atomic bomb and ends up traveling to an island nation where ... okay, I can't really say more without giving away too much of the plot. I'll simply say this one is ultimately apocalyptic fiction and that fans of the absurd might enjoy it. For me the absurdism seemed forced, but I often feel that way about such fiction. Here it even seemed fatalistic, and I mean the word "fatalistic" in its most negative form, not simply that fate becomes involved but that all is futile. To me it seemed an almost (though not quite) nihilistic tale, and I tend to not care for such. The writing here is excellent and the characters interesting and the plot well worked out, but the ultimate tone and themes didn't do much for me. I guess despite my being an old curmudgeon, I still like to see, if not a happy ending, at least one with a hint of hope. If the story is one in which every dies at the end (Hamlet, The Wild Bunch, etc.), I at least prefer there to be some meaning behind it, and here I felt that meaning could be summed up in one word, "futility." And I don't subscribe that that. Still, a good read, just not exactly my thing.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Beer of the Week: New Belgium Trippel

Beer score: 6.8

Company: New Belgium Brewing

ABV: 8.5
IBU: 43

In a clear glass this Colorado beer had a light brown look to in a little stronger than gold, perhaps a brass or even bronze color. The head held a little fizz but was not overly large, while the texture had pretty much the same feeling. Has a fairly strong malty smell to it that's quite nice.

The flavor, though, that's what you want to know about. There's a very slight sourness here reminiscent of IPA's but, I repeat, it's very slight, so don't be put off by that if you're not an IPA lover. The taste is somewhat strong, but not up to porter or stout levels. As for that taste, there's a lot going on here. There are hints of fruitiness but not sweetness with perhaps some clove, and I'd swear there's a touch of coriander. This beer tends towards the bitter side, but not strongly so, not enough to turn off the taster.

This is possibly the most complex of beers put out by the New Belgium folks, a company known for pretty good beers but not extravagant ones. If they keep making products such as this, they'll have a regular beer drinker in me.

And yes, I can recommend this one.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 3 -- That Hideous Strength

by C.S. Lewis

Started: Jan. 10
Finished: Jan. 20

Notes: As I've just finished the first two books of this trilogy, I thought I'd go ahead and finish the series of with this third book.

Mini review: This novel was quite a bit different than the other two in this series, taking place on Earth instead of other planets and the main character from the first two novels is her in a secondary but important role. The writing won't be for everyone, especially most modern readers, as it can be a bit dense at time when focusing upon different characters' inner thoughts, but the plot is decent enough, almost more like modern horror than science fiction or fantasy, and in truth this novel (and the others in the trilogy) are more fantasy than true science fiction, also with a touch of Christian fiction, as can be expected from C.S. Lewis. The ending is a big strange, at least to my liking, and is something of an anti-climax in my opinion, but it also seems to fit in its own, odd way. Glad I read it, but also glad to be finished with it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Beer of the Week: Heineken

Beer score: 4.3

Company: Heineken

ABV: 5.0
IBU: 23

While many a fan of craft brews and such will knock Heineken, personally I won't say it's an awful beer. It's not a favorite, and it's not great, but there are plenty of beers out there. Basically, this is a common lager made for the American market or for those who like lighter, crisper beers. As I see it, this is a beer for Budweiser drinkers who want to try something a little different, something they might think of as a little fancy. Nothing wrong with that, but it's not really my thing, and as for "fancy," I wouldn't really call Heineken that.

That being said, this beer from Holland is fairly weak and has a little fizz and some wet. Has a faint golden color to it, but you won't see that if you're drinking it out of the green bottle (which, in my experience, tends to give beers a vaguely skunky smell). Nothing special, but not awful. Frankly, for the price there are a lot better beers out there.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 2 -- Perelandra

by C.S. Lewis

Started: Jan. 4
Finished: Jan. 9

Notes: I just finished the first book in Lewis' science fiction trilogy, and though I didn't care much for it, I thought I'd give the second book a try.

Mini review: Thank goodness this novel is much better than the first in this trilogy for I'd considered giving it up. Here the hero of the first book finds himself on another planet (the Perelandra of the title) in which something akin to the Biblical events of the Garden of Eden is taking place though in a different, alien manner. What to do when the equivalent of the serpent shows itself? Anyway, there is much Christian allusion here, and some out-and-out Christian reflection, as could be expected from Lewis, with many philosophical underpinnings. Originally published in 1943, this one is really more fantasy than science fiction, but to be fair, prior to about 1975 or so the two genres were generally lumped together and not so separate.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Beer of the week: Bard's Original Sorghum Malt Beer

Beer score: 6.6

Company: Bard's Beer Company

ABV: 4.6
IBU: 20.5

More and more people are turning to gluten-free products nowadays, so it would seem a natural that eventually there would be a gluten-free beer. But a beer that doesn't include wheat, rye, oats or barley? Yes, it exists in this beverage, Bard's Original Sorghum Malt Beer, which is brewed with 100 percent malted sorghum and is of this writing the only beer to be brewed with 100 percent malted sorghum. Basically, this drink from Utica, New York, is a beer made from sourghum. It also happened to be the first gluten-free beer.

But you want to know how this stuff tastes, right? Well, first off, it's style is that of an American lager, just to give you a feel for it. When you pour it into a glass it gives off kind of a sweet burnt sorghum smell that borders on being heavy. The coloring is a light reddish, looking somewhat like a slightly darker version of premium "red" beers. Very wet, almost watery, quite smooth, has a decent head that didn't grow overly large. It tastes stronger than it smells, starting off with that slightly sweet but burnt, almost maple texture that quickly grows into a sturdy bitterness. There's a hint of spices, almost like one of this winter holiday brews.

I can't say this is something I will drink on a regular basis, but it was worth trying, and I'd definitely recommend it to those who want to drink beer but have to stick with gluten-free foods and drinks.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 1 -- Out of the Silent Planet

by C.S. Lewis

Started: Jan. 1
Finished: Jan. 4

Notes: I've read quite a bit of Lewis' work, but I've never delved into his science fiction, and since a friend gave me this trilogy a while back, I thought I should at least check out this first book in the trilogy.

Mini review: A professor is kidnapped by two men who take him in a spaceship to another planet where the professor escapes and on his own discovers the oddities of the planet. Unfortunately, I can't call this Lewis' best writing. It took a long time for this one to get going, but eventually it did pull my interest a little, but not much. In the end, this is mainly a work of philosophy, to some little extent that of religion. I don't think I can recommend this one except for Lewis purists or those who simply want to read as much older science fiction as possible, this one originally having been published in 1938. Also, for better or worse, this novel was so English (especially early on) that at times I felt like I should break out some tea and crumpets while reading.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Beer of the week: Carolina Pale Ale

Beer score: 6.3

Company: Carolina Brewing Company

ABV: 5.6
IBU: 40

Coming to us from Holly Springs, North Carolina, this isn't a bad brew. It's got a slightly dark golden color in a glass, and I have to admit it's a little more sturdy than it looks. I wouldn't classify this as a great beer, but the brewers have nothing to be ashamed of here. There was no head whatsoever when I poured it, which is neither here nor there in my opinion, but some folks like more head on their brew. Quite wet with a slight hoppy bitterness that grows stronger the more it lingers on the tongue, but without becoming overly strong. Kind of a flowery smell here, with a touch of malt graininess and maybe a little lemon or orange zest. The style is American pale ale, but it's definitely on the lighter side of any pale ales. Somewhat on the average side, but not atrocious by any means. You could do a lot worse, believe me.