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.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Books read in 2019: No. 34 -- Defender, The Sanctuary Series: Volume One

by Robert J. Crane

Started: May 31
Finished: June 6

Notes: I have a ton of e-books on my Kindle which I don't remember why I snagged them in the first place. This is one of them. I don't know if I got this e-book free, whether I paid for it, if it was a gift from the author, whatever, but there must have been something that drew me to it. As I'm reading fantasy of late, I thought I'd give this one a go. Plus, I'm always interested in trying authors new to me. And all these e-books aren't going to read themselves.

Mini review: This was a pretty good book. It had several issues, including a somewhat scattered plot line, too many characters thrust upon the reader too quickly, and characters who seemed rather wooden at first. Also, this is obvious Dungeons-&-Dragons-based fiction, which doesn't bother me but is a turn off for some readers. But don't let any of that stop you from reading this. This is actually a good story, written decently well, with very interesting character interactions and relationships. I'm glad I read it and will strongly consider picking up more of the fantasy works of this author.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Interview at Dark Niche Publishing

Evan Bollinger over at Dark Niche Publishing interviewed me a few days ago and you can read it online. So go check it out!

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Beer of the Week special: Guest post by author Evan Bollinger

For The Love of the Drunk

I remember my first drink.

It was a shot and it was beer. Bitter, luke warm like tap water left in a dirty glass in a disheveled kitchen in a subterranean dorm room with beige walls and three too few lamps. My heart was practically in my brain when I took that first gulp.

But nobody cared. Nobody knew. My alcohol maidenhead was gone down the gullet...

Part of me wondered if it was obvious, the half-fear on my face. But alas, there was no time to watch. 60 seconds passed and another. And then another. A minute by minute swish-swash mouthwash of that kingly beverage. A “power hour” they called it.

Though I didn’t see the power. Not in me. And by shot #47 or so, there was no such thing as hour or minute. Time no longer ticking but melting… slipping away like Salvador Dali’s.

At some point, some people actually looked different. Or maybe I was different. Or maybe we were all different. I couldn’t help but noticing that the voice in my head was now coming through my mouth and speaking on my behalf, without a whiff of permission.

Oddly enough, I didn’t care.

Because I was laughing. The beer was gone but we were doing something else. Again, a shot glass. No, not a shot glass. A bottle. Straight from the bottle. But this, darker, harsher, like sucking fire from the sewers.

And then we were going, to dinner, to a building that suddenly sounded infinitely more exciting than words could express. Yay we were going. Most of us. One — two? -- of us were in the bathroom spitting. Some of us were being forced by the flat-faced seniors to “keep going bitch, you didn’t fill those to the top.”

In my head I tried to do the calculations. 60 minutes in an hour, so 60 shots. A shot glass was 1.5 oz so that was 1.5 x 60, so… so… 90 oz. Okay, so a normal beer was 10 oz — no, 12 oz. Was it 12 oz? It was 12 oz. But wait, were these cans 12 oz? Okay, okay so that was 12 ounces and… what was the beer?

Normal alcohol? The normal alcohol content for a beer was… So this was 12 oz of ‘normal’ beer alcohol content with shot glasses, one of every hour for 60 minutes, so that was …

Wait, were those ‘normal’ shot glasses?


We had reached the cafeteria and it was taco night. How did I know it was taco night? Aside from the line of bros who loved taco night? Easy. The undifferentiated mass of dung that clung to your plate and made your bowels quake like the San Andreas Fault.

Except tonight, it was beautiful. And apparently, so too was everybody else. Women looked a lot better. And apparently they thought so too. Why else would they clone themselves?

As the double apparitions moved around me, I squinted with one eye closed to find my fork in the dump of mass-produced paste, an ooze of dining hall fodder on my lopsided tray.

Just for shits and kicks, I opened my closed eye and closed the other.

As the years passed, I would open and close many more. Sometimes you’d open in a strange place. Most times, good. Sometimes bad. Occasionally, awful. Some, like me, would come to invite the spirits whenever possible. Pouring through the pores, heavy on the breath and tongue, glossed and glazed in the crooked eyes.

Words of seeming genius intertwined with mindless garbling. Friends and foes made and forgotten. Good drinks turned bad, and bad turned worse. Good memories too, easy days, simple sips and heavy rips.

Because when you threw out the trash, you chose the trash. You distinguished the trash from the non-trash. For every blood-soaked sunset with a summer ale, for every perfectly hazy memory of intoxication, youthful and old, there are days less glowing. Times less desired. Memories that hurt the brain and heart, leaving indelible marks in nooks and crannies we rarely expose.

It’s simple and obvious, but no less true. You don’t know the bad without the good. You can’t know love without hate. Two sides of the same coin. Just centimeters away, so close yet so far — facing out on two different worlds. Always, forever, one turned away from the other. And yet always, forever, made of the same thing. Created in the same way, from a singular source.

The love-hate-rinse-and-repeat of the lovely drink. The love for the drunk.

Sometimes I loathed what it did to me, or I did to it, or what I imagined we did to each other. And whenever I truly tried to break it down, I riled it up. Rearing the head of that burning lust.

Over time, I’ve learned to change. Slightly, I’m not perfect. But mixed with writing, mixed with anything, in moderation, things always seem better. I think. Writers drink, someone once told me. As if it were an immutable fact of the Universe. Not only do they drink, but they absorb. They suck it dry till their synapses are sufficiently soaked, their thoughts and feelings buoyed by that lapping bath of booze.

Soaked and swimming in thought. Writers, one once told me, are alcoholics.

Well that’s fine, I thought. Because I’m not a writer and never was. What I do, when my fingers flick and my words issue with the warm gentle flow of a healthy heart at rest — that’s not writing. I’m not writing. I’m bleeding. A strong, ceaseless pump, tendering in that moment what matters most.

I write as I run. Streaming, daring it to stop.

I’m not a writer, I think sometimes. I just know how to bleed.