Monday, July 26, 2021

Helping out at GalaxyCon

Over at Rogue Blades I mention that I'll be helping out at a booth at GalaxyCon in Raleigh, NC, this weekend.

Beer of the Week: Sierra Nevada Stout

Beer score: 7.2

Company: Sierra Nevada

ABV: 5.8
IBU: 50

Like many a good stout, this one pour a dark brown almost black and has a smooth, foamy tan head to it. The smell reminds one of coffee and perhaps a little chocolate.

To the taste, this one has a lot of heavy maple and molasses textures. It's strong, but not as heavy as many stouts. Still, it's also very bitter.

If you're a stout drinker, this should be for you. However, this isn't for beginners.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 26 -- The Emperor's Soul

by Brandon Sanderson

Started: July 21
Finished: July 22

Notes: I've been reading older fantasy of late, so I thought I'd switch things up and read some more modern material. Plus, the girlfriend suggested this novella.

Mini review: That was a damn fine read. The world building is excellent. A magic system based upon forgery of souls ... it's not something I had considered. And while the writing here was easy to read, it was not simplistic, also fast paced. I enjoyed it. I'll have to check out more of Sanderson's work.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 25 -- Nomads of Gor

by John Norman

Started: June 27
Finished: July 20

Notes: I've never read any of the Gor novels though I've run across them for decades, so I thought now was the time to give one a try. This is the fourth book in the series, originally published back in 1969.

Mini review: Okaaaay. By modern standards, this one is not very politically correct, whether for good or bad depending on one's viewpoint. Issues of slavery and treatment of women are rampant throughout much of this novel, though to be fair the writing doesn't go into detail. For that matter, the writing here wasn't bad ... not great, but quite readable. And honestly, the world building was quite superb. Would I read another Gor novel? Actually, yeah, I might.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Beer of the Week: Beamish Irish Stout

Beer score: 5.4

Company: Beamish

ABV: 4.1
IBU: 35

Like any decent stout, this one pours a dark black color with perhaps hints of red around the edges. In the scent there's plenty of maltiness and hints of burnt chocolate with maybe a touch of coffee.

The taste also has some of that chocolate and coffee flavoring to it. This is one of the smoothest stouts I've ever tried, and it's not all that strong. For that matter, it's actually pretty flat but has a nice stoutesque kick on the way down.

I wouldn't say this is the best stout I've ever tasted, but it is different and is far from being one of the worst stouts. It's worth a try.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Beer of the Week: Natural Ice

Beer score: 2.3

Company: Anheuser-Busch

ABV: 5.9

Ever wonder why the folks at Anheuser-Busch never put much taste into Natural Light? It's because the beer would taste like this one. And that's not good.

The flavor is over-top-cheap American, and it can be hard to swallow because of the taste and the carbonation.

At least it pours a nice, light golden color. But then the smell hits you. It smells like grass and metal. Really. Even when you drink it out of the bottle.

It's fairly cheap and can get you drunk, so I suppose it's not all bad.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Allow others to call us heroes

This week over at the Rogue Blades site, I talk about how sometimes when someone compliments us by calling us a "hero," we should accept it.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: H.C. Berger Beers

H.C. Berger is another brewery that's no longer with us. Coming out of Fort Collins, Colorado, they put out some quality beers a couple of decades ago. They might be gone, but I still had a few of my notes about their beers that I'd tasted, so here you go.

H.C. Berger Chocolate Stout

Beer score: 7.3

Those of you with a sweet tooth shouldn't get their hopes up -- there wasn't any real chocolate in this beer. It was quite weak for a stout, more like a watery porter with some extra maple flavoring thrown in. Still, this wasn't a bad brew.

H.C. Berger Dopplebock Beer
Beer score: 4.6

An overly sweet beer that was heavy on the tongue. Reminded me somewhat of a stout, but that sweetness was just overpowering and nearly ruined what could have been an awesome beer.

H.C. Berger Dunkel
Beer score: 5.4

Had a strong sweetness and was pretty wet. Taste a lot like H.C. Berger's Rauchbier, their Doppelbock Beer, and their Kolsch Ale. Like the Doppelbock, too much sweetness for my liking.

H.C. Berger Indego Pale Ale
Beer score: 6.9

This was one of the stronger and more sour pale ales, with a touch of sweetness in the aftertaste. If you like Old World pale ales, this drink would have been for you. Quite wet and smooth, but stronger than many of the Americanized pale ales.

H.C. Berger Kolsch Ale
Beer score: 4.6

A slight sweetness with some beer-like bitterness. Tasted just like three or four other beers from H.C. Berger. Not awful, but nothing overly special.

H.C. Berger Rauchbier
Beer score: 6.1

Wet with a strong mixture of bitter and sweet. The sour turned sweet the more you drank, to the point of being annoying. Not a super great brew, one of several from H.C. Berger than nearly tasted the same.

H.C. Berger Red Banshee Ale
Beer score: 7.0

One of the stronger amber ales, and it was worth your time. Pretty powerful and wet. Quite smooth.

H.C. Berger Whistlepin What Ale
Beer score: 6.6

This one had a honey sweetness and a little fizz. Went down easy, and the sweetness wasn't annoying.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Beer of the Week: Singha

Beer score: 1.2

Company: Singha

ABV: 5.0

This beverage from Thailand was classified as a malt liquor in the U.S. until about a decade or.

When I tried this, it had tons of carbonation and an awful bitter flavor that tastes like a bottle of cologne was duped in the batch. The smell is even pungent with a scent of something like mowed grass.

At least it has a nice, light golden color to it.

I'd suggest passing on this one.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 24 -- Lord Foul's Bane

by Stephen R. Donaldson

Started: June 5
Finished: June 27

Notes: Despite the fact I read a lot of fantasy back in the '80s, this was another author I somehow missed, so I'm correcting that here by giving him a try. I've heard good and bad, so now I'll make my own opinion.

Mini review: This is not an easy book to decipher. At its surface, it seems a fairly simple quest tale of a modern man (at least by standards of the 1970s) who is transplanted into a fantasy world where he must play the role of hero or even savior, that he must ultimately save the world from Lord Foul, this fantasy world's version of a dark lord. But the story is more complex than that. The protagonist here is not only a leper in the real world, but he is not a likeable hero. In fact, he is quite unlikeable, even to the point of rape. Yes, early in the tale he rapes a young woman, an innocent undeserving of his rage. To many readers this would be an instant turn-off from the story, but I forced myself through to finish this tale. What I eventually came to realize is that though the protagonist himself is unlikeable, and perhaps unredeemable, at least within the fantasy world he is surrounded by a sizable group of questers who are quite noble and honorable. I feel that this is much the point, that this story is trying to show that nobility and honor but not through the protagonist but through the many side characters. Perhaps I am wrong. I can admit that. The writing here is fairly good, but I don't know if that alone is enough for me to continue with this author at a future date. Time will tell.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Question

Why is it that whenever I drink bourbon or rum I end up watching Westerns?

Beer of the Week: Fischer Labelle

Beer score: 4.4

Company: Heineken

ABV: 4.5

The folks from Heineken bought out this French beer and its brewer more than a decade ago and moved its production to Spain, so I'm not sure of what the quality would have been before then.

That being said, when I tried this one recently, it was very wet and smooth but had a taste similar to that of Heineken with maybe a little extra bitter. Had a pale gold color to it when poured, and smelled like grass with some skunkiness.

Not a great beer. The French make great wine, but generally speaking they aren't great beer makers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Beer of the Week: World Court Mocha Blonde Stout

Beer score: 8.1

Company: Legal Remedy Brewing Co.

ABV: 6.0
IBU: 24

Yesterday was my birthday, and boy did I get to enjoy a good beer on my birthday. Coming to us from South Carolina, this Mocha Blonde Stout might sound as if it is a mixture of things that don't go together, but they do.

Pours a somewhat foggy golden color while bringing hints of chocolate and flours to your nose.

Then the taste. Oh, man, the taste. It starts off with some bitterness reminiscent of coffee, then a smooth beer flavor kicks in, followed up by chocolate. And it all works. It might sound complicated and it might sound like something you might not enjoy, but trust me, all of these textures and flavors work well together here. Also, wet with a touch of carbonation, so not dry or overly fizzy.

Truly a unique beer. Can't believe this is a stout.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Monday, June 07, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Wychwood Brewery Fiddler's Elbow

Beer score: 4.1

Wychwood Brewery is still around, but like many breweries they change up what they're making and selling from time to time. This is one of their former brews, one which I still have some notes on.

This pale ale was wet with a flavor not unlike an English bitter mixed with a malt liquor flavor. This wasn't a favorite, but there was a bit of fruity and caramel flavor that wasn't bad.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 23 -- El Borak and Other Desert Adventures

by Robert E. Howard

Started: May 8
Finished: June 5

Notes: Yesterday I finished an excellent book on the history of sword and sorcery, and that put me in the mood for some Robert E. Howard tales. Also, a few of the tales in this collection are the only prose of Howard's which I've not read, so once I'm done with this I can honestly say I've read all of Howard's stories. I suppose then I'll have to read all of his poetry.

Mini review: Of all the stories presented here, I found the ones actually featuring the El Borak character to be the best. For one thing, El Borak is the most likable character here and the one most like other Howard protagonists. The few other protagonists in other stories here are not bad, but they lack the full individualism and almost philosophical nobility of many Howard characters. That being said, I'm not sure any of these tales are Howard's strongest, though the novella "Three-Bladed Doom" might have been the best here. And now it's kind of sad that I've read all Howard's prose. Not that that means I can't read him again!

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Monday, May 31, 2021

Beer of the Week: Guilford Golden Lager

Beer score: 4.1

Company: Natty Green's Brewing Co.

ABV: 3.8

I was looking forward to this one because it's from a regional brewery in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I always like to try something new. Plus, I was in the mood for a brew that wasn't real heavy, and I had hoped this beer would suffice.

It didn't.

Sorry, but the smell assaulted me right off the bat with a skunkiness not unlike Old Milwaukee. The flavor has a light, bready quality, but that's all. Nothing special here, and the carbonation was a bit too much thought not overpowering.

Still, this was just one brew. Maybe I simply got a bad one. I'll give this brewery another shot at some point.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Helping out the creators of heroes

This week over at The Rogue Blades site, I write about The Hero Initiative, a non-profit organization that helps out those who are creators of comic books.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Spanish Peaks Beers

Man, the Spanish Peaks brewery of Montana put out some excellent beers, so I was disappointed to find out that they are no longer in business. Still, there's always change in the beer business with brewers occasionally moving around, so perhaps these quality beers are still out there somewhere under different names or will return someday. Until then, I'll have to rely on some fond memories and my old notes on these beers.

Spanish Peaks Black Dog Ale

Beer score: 7.7

An amber lager with some kick. Wet and soothing going down the throat with a strong bitterness as it glides over the tongue. The first sip had a touch of sweet way in the back, but that disappeared quickly. This was a darn good beer.

Spanish Peaks Black Dog Sweetwater Wheat Ale
Beer score: 7.0

Had a clean, sturdy bitterness and some carbonation. A good cigar beer with hints of sweetness.

Spanish Peaks Honey Raspberry Ale
Beer score: 6.6

This one had too much carbonation for me, but it also had a nice berry taste that was not overly sweet with a touch of bitter.

Spanish Peaks Porter
Beer score: 7.1

Strong and bitter, almost to the level of a weaker stout. The burnt maple taste was there but not overpowering as it is in some porters. Went down fairly easy. One of the better porters I've had the please to try over the years.

Spanish Peaks White Ale
Beer score: 8.8

A light, slightly sweet beer with some texture and flavor reminiscent of a Belgian lambic. In other words, it felt and tasted something like a cider. The bottle said this fine ale was made with "orange peel, coriander, and black pepper."

Monday, May 17, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Latrobe Beers

A decade or so ago, the same folks who brought us Rolling Rock decided to try their hand at a few different beers. These didn't last, but they were pretty good. Here are my old notes about a few of them.

Latrobe American Pale Ale
Beer score: 6.8

Very smooth and wet with a strong bitterness on the way down. Tasted a little like an India pale ale with a hint of fruity sourness.

Latrobe Bavarian Black
Beer score: 6.0

The bottle said this was a "black" lager, but it had the texture and taste of a maple porter. This one wasn't for beginners, but there was nothing extremely exciting about this beer. Still, it was worth a taste or two.

Latrobe Bohemian Pilsner
Beer score: 7.4

It had a strong bitterness for a pilsner, definitely stronger than the typical pilsner. It was wet with a flat texture faintly similar to a bitter, though somewhat stronger. Not a bad brew, so I'm sorry it's not still around.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Pete's Wicked Beers

If anyone had told me back in the '90s the Pete's Brewing Company would eventually go out of business, I would have been highly skeptical. The company brewed the famous Pete's Wicked beers, sometimes known simply as Pete's beer, and in much of the U.S. it was as common and as popular as Samuel Adams. But times change, and the Pete's brews are no longer with us. Fortunately, I still have some of my notes about many of the beers from Pete's. Unfortunately, I loved some of those beers, so I hate to see they're no longer with us.

Pete's Wicked Amber Ale
Beer score: 5.7

This drink has a very slight fruity taste to it, but it is a hardy, stout drink. Pretty smooth and wet going down.

Pete's Wicked Ale
Beer score: 6.1

This is the beer that started it all for Pete's Wicked back in the 1980s. This beer's taste isn't as robust as the color would make you believe, but it's not a bad beer at all. Still, thought it was something special in the 1980s, it wouldn't be so special today. This was a good beer for novice beer snobs to start with. A decent, brown ale with a touch of bitter. Kind of a beer for special times, but not necessarily something you need to drink all the time. If that made sense.

Pete's Wicked Behemian Pilsner
Beer score: 7.4

This is kind of strong in color and strong in taste for a pilsner. It has just the right mix of wet and fizz. Smooth going down, but not the first pilsner a novice should try. One of my favorite brews from the Pete's Wicked people.

Pete's Wicked ESP (Extra Smooth Pub) Lager
Beer score: 3.5

It seems the folks at Pete's Wicked got tired of all the premium beer companies trying to take away their customers by making cheap versions of supposedly good beers. Well, here is Pete's revenge. This beer is supposed to be a cheap, watery lager to satisfy even non-beer snobs' taste buds. In other words, this beer is competition for Budweiser and Miller. This beer does what it promises and that's about it. There's too much fizz and the only taste is definitely cheap and watery with a touch of sweetness. Beer snobs have to try this beer at least once just to believe Pete's Brewing would stoop so low. This beer doesn't rank so low because it's awful, it ranks so low because there's so little taste. But if this is your first Pete's Wicked beer, don't worry, they get much, much better.

Pete's Wicked Helles Lager
Beer score: 6.2

The creation of this beer was inspired by the lagers of Munich, Germany, according to the label on the bottle. Increadibly honey sweet on the first take, but then the fizz overpowers the flavor some unless you take a big swallow and hold it on your tongue. Not the best around, but definitely worth tossing back a few times.

Pete's Wicked Honey Wheat
Beer score: 6.2

According to Pete's Wicked, you are supposed to swirl this beer in the bottle before you pour it. I did but I don't really know if it helped or not. This is a great beer for people who like sweet beers. The froth is also tasty. This brew isn't very strong, except for the honey taste. Not bad.

Pete's Wicked Maple Porter
Beer score: 6.6

This brew actually tastes like maple syrup, except it's bitter instead of sweet (if that makes sense to you). This brew is so thick it should almost be called a stout instead of a porter, which isn't a bad thing in my opinion. It has a nice maple smell to it.

Pete's Wicked Mult-Grain Beer
Beer score: 6.5

The taste is a little too complicated for novices, but a good brew for beer snobs who are working their way up in beer tasting. This is a sturdy beer, a good, standard dark beer. It has a very stoutish taste. Supposedly a rye beer, meaning one of its main ingredients is a rye grain.

Pete's Wicked Pale Ale
Beer score: 6.3

This is about as typical as a pale ale can get. It's not a bad pale ale, it's just not an overly exceptional or notable one. Still, I wouldn't pass one up if you handed it to me. A good thirst quencher.

Pete's Wicked Red Rush
Beer score: 5.5

The bottle calls this an "American Red Ale." It kind of surprises me that Pete's Wicked has stooped to making a red beer, not that there's anything wrong with red beers, but during the 1990s red beers were kind of a gimmick beer that premium beer makers used to try and make people think their beer was something special (which is usually wasn't). This brew is definitely stronger than the average red beers sold in the U.S. It has a sweet, burnt maple flavor and a hint of spices that almost makes it taste like one of those obnoxious Christmas beers. It goes down a little smoother the more you drink, and by the third or fourth swallow it has lost some of its sweetness and gained a little more burnt maple bitterness. Worth tasting, but I wouldn't recommend it as a regular drinking beer.

Pete's Wicked Springfest
Beer score: 4.1

First introduced in winter 1998 to replace Pete's Wicked Mardi Gras. This beer went down smooth but tasted too spicy, almost like many Christmas beers. The label called this a malt liquor and an amber bock. Bocks are traditionally a strong, full-bodied beer. This brew has the coloring of a bock, but tastes more like a cheap malt liquor.

Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blond
Beer score: 7.8

I love this beer mainly because it tastes like real strawberries and not candy strawberry flavoring. There's a little sweetness here, but not enough to be overpowering. A strong, frothy drink. This beer goes well with cheese, preferably Swiss or cheddar. One of my favorite brews from Pete's Wicked.

Pete's Wicked Summer Brew
Beer score: 4.8

The bottle says this is a pale ale with a touch of lemon, but it tastes more like a weak lager. The lemon taste is almost non-existant. Too much fizz. Decent to drink with cigars.

Pete's Wicked Winter Brew
Beer score: 6.4

This beer isn't as strong as many winter brews. It's got a light tea smell to it. It's somewhat watery. Stout enough flavor.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 22 -- Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery

by Brian Murphy

Started: May 1
Finished: May 7

Notes: I've been meaning to get a copy of this book since it came out a year or two ago, and now I have. I'm hoping to enjoy this one.

Mini review: This is perhaps the most comprehensive book about sword and sorcery I've come across in my more-than 50 years. And it's good. And fair. I'd comment more, but I'm going to write a longer review for the Rogue Blades site and I'll post that link here when it's available in a week or two. But I can say this to readers of my blog: Go read this book.

Honoring mothers on Mother's Day

My Rogue Blades article this week attempts to honor mothers on Mother's Day.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Beer of the Week: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

Beer score: 9.8

Company: Samuel Smith's Brewery

ABV: 5.0
IBU: 32

This is the smoothest stout I've ever had. Really. It's not as heavy as most stouts, but it isn't watery either.

It pours dark, really dark, almost but not quite as dark as a Guinness. And then there's that dark, burnt, yummy smell not unlike coffee.

As for the taste, there's a touch of sweetness on the way down but otherwise it tastes like it smells with those bready, coffee-like textures.

Drink this.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 21 -- The Second Book of The Chronicles

published by Zondervan

Started: April 27
Finished: April 30

Notes: Since I've just finished reading The First Book of The Chronicles, I'm going ahead and reading this book from the Bible.

Mini review: This one turned out to be a condensed version of the history of Israel and Judah from the death of King David to the exile and then return of the Israelites to Israel and Judah. All of this was pretty much already covered in The First and Second Books of the Kings.

Going Super over at Black Gate

At Black Gate this week, I take a look back at ye olde Marvel Super Heroes RPG, also commonly known as FASERIP.

Over at Rogue Blades

My Rogue Blades article this week suggests that while we talk a lot about fictional heroes, let us not forget the heroes in real life.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 20 -- The First Book of The Chronicles

published by Zondervan

Started: April 23
Finished: April 26

Notes: I've been spacing out my Bible readings so I won't get burned out, but now it's time to get back at it.

Mini review: Much of this was made up of lists. List of genealogy from Adam to David, lists of priests and their various duties and their families. But some of this was a condensed version of the life of King David.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Beer of the Week: Saranac Black Forest

Beer score: 6.9

Company: Saranac

ABV: 5.5
IBU: 20

This beer comes and goes in the market, so sometimes it can be difficult to find. This used to be a staple Saranac brew, but back in 2015 they dropped it, then brought it back. It's sort of seasonal, I suppose, but whenever you're lucky enough to find it, it's worth a try.

It's dark when you pour it, and it has a pale, foamy head. It's hardy going down and has a good, strong flavor that's not unlike burnt caramel, maybe toffee, but not sweet.

This is a solid beer for beer snobs who have moved just beyond the novice stage. I wouldn't call this an overly unique drink, sort of a typical dark beer, if there is such a thing, but still, it's a good beer.

Friday, April 23, 2021

At Rogue Blades this week

My Rogue Blades article this week is about being the hero you want to be by playing tabletop roleplaying games. Enjoy!

Books read in 2021: No. 19 -- Savage Worlds Adventure Edition Roleplaying Game

Started: April 18
Finished: April 23

Notes: During the last decade or so I've played one version or another of the Savage Worlds tabletop RPG on various occasions, always just using the rules as I picked them up from play. This wasn't too difficult because Savage Worlds is to some extent based upon the rules used for the Deadlands game, which I'm quite familiar with having played that game a lot back in the '90s. Still, as one of my regular gaming groups is planning a couple of upcoming campaigns using the Savage Worlds rules, I thought maybe it was time I actually read one of the rules books from beginning to end so I would know more of what I was doing.

Mini review: Reading this makes me look forward all the more to starting a campaign with this game in the coming days. Once players get used to this system, I think they'll find it provides faster player than a lot of RPGs out there. It's also a bit more deadly in combat, from a character's point of view, but also less so at the same time, meaning the fights themselves tend to be more realistic than in some systems but the healing options are generous. If that made sense.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Beer of the Week: Niksicko Pivo

Beer score: 5.9

Company: Trebjesa Brewery

ABV: 5.0

This one looks not unlike a typical American premium beer with a light golden color.

That being said, it has a pretty powerful bitter flavor, especially for a brew that looks and smells like Budweiser. There's too much carbonation for my taste, but this isn't an awful beer. It's what cheap American beers want to be.

Comes to us from Montenegro.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 18 -- The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

Started: April 9
Finished: April 18

Notes: I've been wanting to read this one for a while now since its a about the serial killer H.H. Holmes who was active in the U.S., specifically Chicago, in the 1890s. I had thought this was fiction, but it turns out it is not but is based upon various writings and forms of the time.

Mini review: For those seeking a true crime book with lots of information about H.H. Holmes, they will be disappointed. This book is mostly about the builders and the building of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, though perhaps a fourth of this book focuses on Holmes. If interested in Holmes, there are better, more informative books, such as Depraved by Harold Schechter. Also, though not difficult to read, this was a rather dense book in its style, making it not the most enjoyable of reads. Still, there was interesting information here, so I'm glad I picked up this one.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Monday, April 12, 2021

Beer of the Week: Hell's Belle

Beer score: 7.2

Company: Big Boss Brewing Co.

ABV: 7.0
IBU: 30

This one has a nice, light floral quality to it with a very pleasant scent that wafts up from the glass. There is just a hint of almost IPA-like bitterness on the tip of the tongue when drinking this, and there's also a hint of spice and sweetness. Very restrained in its fruitiness, but there are citrus undercurrents here.

Light enough you could drink several in one sitting, but does have a complex flavor that keeps you guessing.

Comes from the Big Boss Brewing Co. of Raleigh, North Carolina. The bottle says this is a "Belgain Style Ale," and that's right on the nose, almost like a white ale.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Talking 'Invincible' over at Rogue Blades

My Rogue Blades article this week does a little study of the animated super hero show Invincible.

Books read in 2021: No. 17 -- The Woman in the Coffin

Started: April 7
Finished: April 9

Notes: I was intrigued about this novella after the author penned an article over at Black Gate about his influences, including silent German expressionist films of the early 20th Century.

Mini review: Those with a fondness for occult tales set in the Victorian era will find much here to enjoy. Kidnappings, mesmerism, even murder abound here. This was a fun read and should not be overlooked.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 16 -- Sleeping Beauties

Started: March 21
Finished: April 7

Notes: I just finished a collection of spooky stories which I did not find all that spooky, so I thought I'd turn to the king of horror and his youngest son to see if they can give me a fright or two.

Mini review: A damn fine novel, and not in need of shortening as some of Stephen King's works are. Somewhat long and expansive, but that was needed for this tale in which all the women in the world (or nearly all of them) fall asleep and can't be woken. Also, a cocoon of sorts wraps itself around the women, and if anyone tries to wake them, they go mad and attack those who attempted to wake them. Nearly all the story takes place in a small Appalachian town and a women's prison, and there is some horror here but ultimately this is fantasy. And there's a somewhat bittersweet ending, though it's not really a dark one. One of my better King reads of recent years.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Beer of the Week: Breckenridge Imperial Avalanche Amber Ale

Beer score: 6.2

Company: Breckenridge Brewery

ABV: 9.0

The good folks at Breckenridge Brewery don't produce this beer all the time, it being one of their former staples from decades in the past. Still, they occasionally brew a batch, though at times it has gone by slightly different names, and I was fortunate enough to try it again recently after not having it in more than 10 years.

This is something of a red ale, fairly sweet with little fizz. It goes down smooth and easy with a watery texture.

Worth tasting, and might even make a good regular drinking beer, especially with salty bar snacks like pretzels. Also, this would be an excellent brew for beginning beer snobs to cut their teeth on.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Michelob Marzen

Beer score: 3.9

A couple of decades back, Michelob tried to get in on the craft brew and brewpub craze by coming up with a bunch of "fancy" beers. This was one of them, and like most from this era of Michelob's trials and errors, it's no longer with us.

This one was supposed to be a smooth lager, at least according to the bottle's label. It got too sweet after the second drink, but the carbonation was tolerable (though still a little more than I like).

It was something a little different, but not anything overly special.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Beer of the Week: Jade IPA

Beer score: 7.9

Company: Foothills Brewing

ABV: 7.4
IBU: 86

I'm not the biggest IPA fan, but this one from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was definitely a favorite.

It pours out golden with a bit of cloudiness in the coloring. The smell reminded me somewhat of fruit, maybe pineapple and oranges.

But in the drinking is where this beer really shines. The touch of fruit is still there, but it's only a touch, not as strong as in the smell. Then the hardy bitterness hits your tongue and it's magnificent, with hints of bread and wood. Also, the sour skunkiness that's common to many IPA brews is totally absent here.

Like I said, I'm not a big IPA fan, but I could drink this one all the time.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

DragonQuest, the RPG that was early competition for D&D

Over at Black Gate this week, I write about the early tabletop RPG DragonQuest, how much I love it, and how it was everly competition for Dungeons & Dragons.

Books read in 2021: No. 15 -- Spooky Southwest

by S.E. Schlosser

Started: March 16
Finished: March 20

Notes: Somewhat sadly, this is the last of the books I purchased during a cross-country road trip nearly three years ago. This one is a series with other books in the series being based in other parts of the country than the Southwest, so if I enjoy this one enough there's still plenty of others to read.

Mini review: Ghosts abound here, the devil makes a few appearances, there are some witches and even a vampire, but all in all I didn't find these stories all that spooky, more like light folk tales. It was really more how the stories were told, in a rated G or maybe PG style, and there's nothing wrong with that, it just wasn't for me. I prefer my spooky stories a bit darker, but that's fine because not everything has to be for me. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who would enjoy these tales more than myself.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 14 -- The Second Book of the Kings

published by Zondervan

Started: March 15
Finished: March 17

Notes: As I've just finished The First Book of the Kings, I decided to read The Second Book of the Kings.

Mini review: Here continues the history of a long list of kings of Israel and Judah, the majority who are considered evil and sinning before God, mostly through idolatry but also through many other crimes. A few of these kings are good in God's eyes, but very few. After years and years of living with the sins of Israel and Judah, God eventually allows the Babylonians to basically destroy the temple and much of Jerusalem while killing or taking away the leaders of Israel and Judah to keep as exiles.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: SLO Brewing Co. Cole Porter

Beer score: 4.9

Yet another beer no longer with us, though I still have some old notes about this one.

For those of you who like really strong, nutty-flavored beers, this one would've been for you. It went down smooth and frothy, but the almond taste was too strong for me (which is why the score above isn't higher).

This beer came from the SLO Brewing Co., a brewery and restaurant in San Luis Obispo, California, that later became part of the Downtown Brewing Co. Eventually SLO Brewing went its own way again, but they decided against continuing this decent brew.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 13 -- The First Book of the Kings

published by Zondervan

Started: March 12
Finished: March 14

Notes: The Bible isn't going to read itself, so I return to my studies of it.

Mini review: This book details the final years of King David and the reign of King Solomon. I was surprised to learn Solomon had lost some of God's favor in the king's forget years, information I had forgotten if I had ever known it. The rest of the book concerns a long series of kings of Israel and Judah, most worse than the one before and falling to sin in the eyes of God, often by creating and worshipping idols. A few of these kings were still considered Godly men, but not many.

Friday, March 12, 2021

At Rogue Blades: The 87th Precinct

 This week over at the Rogue Blades site, I write about my love for Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels.

Books read on 2021: No. 12 -- The Empty Hours

by Ed McBain

Started: March 8
Finished: March 12

Notes: As I've just penned an article about my love for these 87th Precinct books, I'm in the mood to read one. This one isn't a novel, however, but a collection of three novellas.

Mini review: A young woman is murdered inside her apartment and leaves behind a string of mysterious statements in her check book. A rabbi is stabbed to death behind his temple and the letter J is painted on the wall above him. A detective goes on a skiing vacation in which two ski instructors are murdered. These are the three stories that make up this book, and each of them was quite strong. The last story, "Storm," was quite different from most 87th Precinct tales in that it didn't actually take place within the precinct but at a ski lodge. I'm always glad to read McBain because he always tells great stories.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 11 -- One for the Money

by Janet Evanovich

Started: March 3
Finished: March 8

Notes: If I didn't sometimes check out authors I'd never read before, I'd never discover authors I love. Which is why I so often do read authors I've never read before, which is the case here.

Mini review: Jersey girl Stephanie Plum is down on her luck and out of a job. To make ends meet, she goes to work for her cousin Vinny (yes, you read that correctly) as a bounty hunter, which seems entirely unlike Stephanie. Her first case? She has to find an ex-boyfriend of sorts who is wanted for murder. Oh, yeah, and he happens to be a cop. Hilarity ensues and Stephanie finds herself embroiled with a champion boxer, street hookers, cops, family, and lots of other characters. In the end, this was a pretty fun read. I enjoyed it. Not sure I'll ever go out of my way to read another of these Plum novels, but I also wouldn't turn one down.

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Red Wolf

Beer score: 3.3

There was a time in the 1990s when "red" beers seemed to be all the rage in stores. This one was from Anheuser-Busch.

It was beer. You could drink it. Budweiser fans who wanted to live a little on the wild side probably drank this without getting too turned off. Otherwise, it was nothing special.

As can be expected, it pour a light amber color, almost yellow. There was a lot of corn in the smell and taste, and a lot of carbonation. It wasn't a great beer, which is probably why it's no longer around.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

My Black Gate article this week takes a look back at a board game's origins. So, gentlemen, start your engines for Car Wars!

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 10 -- Message in a Bottle

by Nicholas Sparks

Started: Feb. 23
Finished: March 3

Notes: Every once in a while I pick up a book by a popular author simply to study how they do what they do, and that is the case here. I've seen a movie or two based off Sparks' work and I enjoyed them, but I can't say I'm particularly drawn to these type of tales of love and melancholy. Still, maybe I'll be surprised, or maybe I'll learn something.

Mini review: This was a sad one that reminded me far too much of my own life. A widower throws bottles in the ocean, bottles that contain letters to his late wife. A newspaper columnist discovers a floating bottle containing one of the letters and decides to find out about the writer of the letters. They meet and fall in love. Of course they have troubles, but then tragedy occurs. This one hit a little too close to home for me as a widower myself, but I'm glad I read it. The writing style here is solid and makes for an easy enough read. My only real complaint is that the events and the characters felt a little too pat to me, a little too contrived, but it worked for the story as told.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Beer of the Week: Grimbergen Triple

Beer score: 5.8

Company: Grimbergen

ABV: 8.0
IBU: 5

This has got to be the sweetest beer I've ever taste. That doesn't mean the taste is bad, but it's so hard to get to it through all the sweetness. This was so sweet I couldn't finish a bottle (though it was a big bottle).

As for pouring, it has a nice, light golden color to it. The smell has some caramel and fruitiness to it.

Going down, there's some of that caramel and fruit flavors, but again, the sweetness here is just overpowering. It does have a strong alcohol aftertaste.

Only truly experienced beer tasters should think about trying this. Worth trying when you are in the mood for something unique.

Friday, February 26, 2021

At Rogue Blades: When Our Heroes are Flawed

My article at Rogue Blades this week talks about flawed, real-world heroes and that maybe we should cut them some slack because maybe, just maybe, we're the ones being overly judgmental.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 9 -- Between the Bridge and the River

Started: Feb. 13
Finished: Feb. 23

Notes: I'm in need of some fiction, so I turn to this novel. I know comedian Ferguson can write non-fiction, as I've read his excellent autobiography, so now I'll find out how he handles fiction.

Mini review: It's not easy to describe this novel. For one thing, the plot jumps around all over the place, especially early on, though by about the halfway point things begin to mull and the last half of the novel is easy to follow. Also, there are numerous characters, and it's sometimes not so easy to keep track of them. There are two Scottish men who were friends as boys but who part ways in high school, one who eventually becomes a television personality and the other who lives a rather dull life with a wife he does not truly love. One of them becomes something of a holy man, the other discovers he has cancer and falls in love, though I won't tell you which is which. Then there are the two brothers from the South in America, one who becomes a movie star and the other his manager, and eventually they go into the business of religion. And there are many other charcters, though those are the main ones. It all ties together somewhat in the end in what turns out to be quite the spiritual novel. If there's a message here, it's ultimately a simple one, "Help others." The title itself doesn't seem to make much sense until the end of this book, and there's definitely a spirituality there. I like that. I won't say this was a fun read, though there is some humor, but it wasn't a complete drudge.