Friday, May 31, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 33 -- The Wolf Age

by James Enge

Started: May 17
Finished: May 31

Notes: Enge is another author with whom I've shared a table-of-contents or two, so I thought I'd delve into his long fiction after experiencing some of his shorter work. Plus, this novel is about a city of werewolves in a fantasy setting, so that drew me in quite handily.

Mini review: A wizard warrior (sort of) finds himself imprisoned within a city of werewolves and must find a way to escape and lash out in revenge. Along the way he makes friends and enemies, the politics of the werewolves is slowly revealed, a war of sorts breaks out, and all the while the gods are watching and scheming. And that description barely touches the tip of the iceberg of everything that's going on here. I admit it took me nearly a hundred pages to be pulled in by this story, but once I was, I was hooked, and I was sad to see this novel end. Morlock makes a fantastic main character, and a number of the other characters were as interesting and entertaining. My only real complaint about this novel was some of the names of the werewolves; often those names were long, complicated and too similar to the names of other characters, so it wasn't always easy to follow. But you know? That's a pretty mild complaint for what was otherwise and excellent novel of swords and sorcery.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Beer of the Week: Steinlager

Beer score: 3.0

Company: Steinlager

ABV: 4.8
IBU: Not available

This beer comes to us from New Zealand, but to be frank, it tastes like a traditional, trashy, premium American beer.

In the glass it has a dirty straw color to it, but it does have a decent foamy head if you like that kind of thing. The scent is a light golden honey, so that's not bad, but it's not very strong. Upon drinking, at first it gives off a sort of hearty bread taste but that quickly turns into a bland corn taste. Weak on the way down, but at least you could drink a number of them without having to worry too much about filling up or getting too drunk.

Would I drink this? Not regularly, no. But beers like this do serve a purpose. I call them lawn-mowing beers. No, I'm not going to break out a bottle of Steinlager if I'm wanting to experience something different or special, but on a hot day after mowing the yard, or maybe while grilling out in the heat, yes, I could see turning up a bottle of this stuff.

I know, not much of a recommendation, but as I said, beers like this do have their place. However, that place is not regularly for me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Beer of the Week special: Woodford Reserve bourbon

Bourbon score: 10.0

Company: Woodford Reserve Distillery

Though I don't live there nowadays, I was brought up in bourbon territory of central Kentucky. Unfortunately for my much younger self, Woodford Reserve bourbon wasn't around back then, this fine drink not being introduced until 1996 out of Woodford County, Kentucky.

Despite growing up where this stuff is now distilled, and where a bunch of other bourbons are made, I don't know as much about bourbon as I do beer. But I still know what I like.

And I like this stuff.

No, no, that's not correct. I love this stuff.

I'm not going to say Woodford Reserve is necessarily the best-tasting bourbon out there, because I'm sure there are several higher-priced bourbons out there that could be considered better, but all in all, taking in taste and texture and price and everything else, I have to say Woodford Reserve is by far the best all-around bourbon out there. Without modesty, I can say Woodford Reserve is definitely better than any other premium bourbon or whiskey I've tasted in my 50 years.

As one might expect, it has a kick, but not so much as to ruin the drinker's experience. It goes down fairly smooth and in the scent and taste there are hints of honey, smoke, vanilla, rye, and so much more.

If you like a good stiff drink from time to time, you deserve it for yourself to head out and purchase a bottle of Woodford Reserve.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 32 -- A Discourse in Steel

by Paul S. Kemp

Started: May 11
Finished: May 17

Notes: I'm familiar with some of Kemp's shorter work as we've both appeared in a few anthologies together, but I've never read any of his longer material, so here goes. I expect good things.

Mini review: This was simply a rollicking ball of fun. Kemp's Egil and Nix characters are obvious versions of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, but it works without feeling like its ripping off Leiber, mainly because there are enough differences in Kemp's characters from Leiber's to keep them from being exact replicas. In fact, Kemp's work here is likely more accessible to the modern reader than that of Leiber, so in a way Kemp's is the stronger material, at least for modern readers. This was well written and a lot of fun to read. If you like action-driven Sword and Sorcery, then you should pick this up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Beer of the Week: Otter Creek Pale Ale

Beer score: 7.5

Company: Otter Creek Brewing

ABV: 4.6
IBU: 23

Coming to us from Vermont, this is one of the best American pale ales I've had the pleasure to drink. If you're familiar with Samuel Smith's Pale Ale (from the UK), you'll be pleased to know the Otter Creek Pale Ale has some similar tones.

Pours a dark, almost copper color and has a decent foamy head that doesn't stay around long. The scent hints at citrus with just a hint of honey. Quite smooth going down with a touch of sweetness and fruitiness.

This beer is light enough you could throw back several of them without feeling too full, but there is some heft and breadiness, so you're not going to go away with an empty stomach.

All around, this is a solid beer, even a good beer, though not quite a great beer. Would I drink it again? You bet your ass, I would.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 31 -- Brutal

by James Alderdice

Started: April 30
Finished: May 10

Notes: So last summer I was at Howard Days sitting around a table with a group of other authors and editors when author David J. West opened a pack and started taking out books, one of which was this fantasy novel, Brutal. I had seen the book online but didn't know much about it or its author, but come to find out, David J. West is actually also James Alderdice, so I was sitting with the author of Brutal himself. I couldn't turn down the chance to pick up the book as the author was there to sign it, so I promptly did that, and now, almost a year later, I'm finally getting around to enjoying it.

Mini review: Reader, you will not find many of the traditional fantasy tropes here. Oh, there are plenty of swords, a couple of beasties, and a handful of wizards, but that's about as far as it goes. If anything, the tropes presented here are much more aligned with the genre of the Western. In fact, if you're a fan of Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa, Dashiell Hammett, or even Carlo Goldoni, you will recognize the basics of the story here. That being said, there are also plenty of surprises to be found. This was just a fun, hard-hitting tale of rugged adventure. There's even an additional novella, "The Mad Song," which is much more rooted in the traditions of Sword & Sorcery and a fine tale in and of itself. If you like sword-swinging and skull-splitting action, do yourself a favor and read this book.

Beer of the Week: Brooklyn Summer Ale

Beer score: 6.0

Company: Brooklyn Brewery

ABV: 5.0
IBU: 18

This was a good beer but not a great beer, which was a little disappointing since I've had some great beers from the Brooklyn Brewery. However, there's nothing wrong with this beer and while I like it, it's not a personal favorite, but every beer can't be a favorite.

That being said, this ale is quite light going down, though not as light as what I think of as yard-mowing beers, your Budweisers and the like. The golden coloring is a touch dark and the head on this one is quite foamy but not overly carbonated.

A fairly clean, easy-to-drink beer with a little malty sweetness and hints of grassy hops. There's a touch of fruity and floral textures in the scent, but not as much in the tasting. It's taste is not overly strong, but it's there.

All in all, I can recommend this brew for trying, but I don't think it's going to become a staple beer for too many folks.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Beer of the Week: Anchor Steam

Beer score: 8.8

Company: Anchor Brewery

ABV: 4.9
IBU: 35

The Anchor brewing folk have for a long while been making beers that would make any beer snob proud. I've been drinking this one off and on for a quarter century now and have enjoyed every single one of them.

It's strong but smooth with medium caramel coloring and a decent head, but not too fizzy. Fantastic as a bar beer because of its strength and great taste, but a bit too strong for an everyday or lawn-mowing beer. Goes great with bar food, cigars, and barbecue chicken, as I can attest personally.

Has a slight caramel taste and you can smell that before you even take a swig. Also has the barest hint of a fruity flavor. The bitterness is fairly strong but doesn't kick in until this drink is sliding down your throat.

Drink this. You'll enjoy it.