Friday, December 31, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 50 -- The Star Wars Album

from Ballantine Books

Started: Dec. 29
Finished: Dec. 31

Notes: This book was a collector's edition originally published in late 1977 soon after the release of the original Star Wars movie. I bought a copy then as a kid and I held onto that copy for years and years. However, somewhere along the long line of my life I lost my copy. Yet we live in the day and age of online auction sites and sales sites, etc. So I was able to purchase another copy for a fair price, though this one is from the second publication date in 1978. This might seem a strange book today considering how far the Star Wars universe and phenomena has come in the last forty-plus years; most of this book deals with a recap of that first movie plus some writings about the sources that influenced Star Wars and some talk of a possible sequel. Oh boy, was there a sequel, and then some.

Mini review: This was a fun, interesting, nostalgic read. It was especially interesting to read about the predictions for a Star Wars sequel, and to chew on some of the comments made by the cast and George Lucas.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 49 -- The Metaphysics of the Novel

by Don Pendleton with Linda Pendleton

Started: Dec. 22
Finished: Dec. 28

Notes: Don Pendleton was the creator of the men's action/adventure series known as The Executioner, and he was the author of the first thirty-eight novels in that series. Sadly, Don passed away back in 1995. His wife Linda carried on the torch, promoting Don's work and the books they had written together. Linda had made herself available online to fans, so when I purchased this book six or so months ago, I had looked forward to reading it with hopes of being able to ask Linda any questions which I might have had. Sadly, Linda herself passed away just a couple of weeks ago. My condolences to her and her family. Still, having read much of Don's work, I'm interested to get his taking on writing a novel.

Mini review: This one was a bit dated in a lot of its advice concerning publishing, but the writing advice remains solid, though I can't say I learned much there. Still, it was interesting to see how Don Pendleton approached his fiction writing, especially for The Executioner series.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Beer of the Week: Joymongers Porter

Beer score: 7.4

Company: Joymongers Brewing Co.

ABV: 4.8

I was at a small party recently and had the pleasure of trying several brews from the Joymongers folks in central North Carolina. The first of their beers I tried was this porter.

This one pours a nice dark chocolate color, and while doing so it gives off scents of baked bread and maybe a few hints of fruit.

The taste is quite excellent. The toasted malt textures hit you right off the bat, strong but not so much you can't enjoy the drink. Then a bit of a dark burnt chocolate flavor hits the tongue, but again, it doesn't hurt this drink but actually boosts its quality of flavor. There are definitely overtones of bread and toast here, and porter fans should enjoy that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 48 -- Hail to the Chief

by Ed McBain

Started: Dec. 18
Finished: Dec. 22

Notes: Been reading a bunch of detective novels of late, and I can't do so without reading from my favorite series, that of the 87th Precinct. Man, I love these books. This one is from the early1970s.

Mini review: McBain tried something differently stylistically this time, something I don't recall him using in any other 87th Precinct novels. A good third of this novel is told in the first person, something McBain usually doesn't try. I can't say it worked much here, which is probably why the author didn't use this technique often. It was wordy and slowed the story down, and slowness is definitely unusual for 87th Precinct novels. Still, this wasn't a bad tale. It mainly concerns a gang war between three gangs, and the body county is high.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Beer of the Week: Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale

Beer score: 5.3

Company: Tommyknocker Brewery

ABV: 4.5
IBU: 20

Pours a dark brown with a nice, foamy head. Has a maple syrup scent to it as it hits the glass.

The taste is also reminiscent of maple syrup. Folks who like their brews sweet should enjoy this one, though even those who prefer bitter ales will find the sweetness here not overpowering.

Over all, not the best beer in the world, but don't pass it up if you get the chance. I'd drink another.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 47 -- City Problems

by Steve Goble

Started: Dec. 16
Finished: Dec. 18

Notes: As I'm reading detective fiction of late, I thought it high time I read my friend Steve's latest novel, that of a detective in Ohio, Steve's first not pirating mystery book.

Mini review: If Ed McBain and Waylon Jennings had had a love child, it would have been this novel. With maybe Stephen King as godfather. A rural detective has help from an urban officer who is investigating a case of a missing teenage girl, and going through the potential suspects is no easy task. The ending is more touching than many a mystery novel, and it definitely leaves room for sequels. To say more would be to give away more, and that I won't do. However, I would like to add, yeah, I'm pretty sure Hank DID do it this way. Now it's time to go enjoy some Knob Creek.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 46 -- On the Run

by John D. MacDonald

Started: Dec. 13
Finished: Dec. 15

Notes: I've only read one MacDonald novel and that was nearly three decades ago and I remember nothing about it, but over the years I've kept hearing great things about this author, so I thought I'd give him another go.

Mini review: This one was all right. Not great, but not awful. There was some good writing here, but there were also stretches which bored me. A young man is on the run after some trouble with a gangster, but then he must return to his childhood home in order to receive a hefty inheritance from a dying grandfather. Along the way this fellow and the grandfather's nurse fall in love with one another. The ending is not a happy one, but it set things up for what would be an interesting tale.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 45 -- The Destroyer #62: The Seventh Stone

by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Started: Dec. 9
Finished: Dec 12

Notes: I read a ton of men's action/adventure fiction as a teen back in the 80s, but I stayed away from this series only because I was already tied down to several other series. It's time to correct that and give this one a try.

Mini review: Not bad. Not overly deep, but what can one expect from what's basically an action/adventure novel? Remo and Chiun are fun characters, and that helps. The action is often unbelievable to the point of absurdity, and that took some of the fun away for me. And the end was quite abrupt. But all in all, yeah, I'd give one of these novels another chance at some point.

Beer of the Week: Otter Creek Copper Ale

Beer score: 5.9

Company: Otter Creek Brewing Co.

ABV: 5.0
IBU: 25

After a long hiatus, the fine folks at Otter Creek Brewing have brought back this beer. And that's a good thing. This is a decent beer, though admittedly not the greatest ever, and I always hate to see when a beer is no longer in production, mainly because that usually means the beer will soon be forgotten and the recipe lost to time. Such a shame.

As can be expected, this one pours a nice brown copper color. The smell isn't very strong, sort of a light maltiness.

There a slight nuttiness in the tasting, but there is a strong bitter aftertaste. I never thought I'd say this about a beer, but this one is almost too smooth, if that's possible.

Worth trying. And would make a quality bar food beer.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 44 -- The Piranhas

by Harold Robbins

Started: Dec. 2
Finished: Dec. 9

Notes: As a kid, I was surrounded by Harold Robbins novels. My step-dad at the time had been a huge fan of Robbins, reading all the author's works. However, I never touched any of those books even though I read voraciously at that age (and still do, I suppose). Robbins' works had held no interest for me in my young years. Mobsters and sex and Hollywood starlets had not been my thing. But now that I'm older, I thought I should at least give Robbins a try.

Mini review: Not bad. A young man who has family ties to the mafia tries to stay clear of the family business while becoming a millionaire at the top of a corporation. Of course he can't always stay clear of the family business, and that's where the action comes in. In many ways this is a story about the love of a young man for his family, specifically his uncle. I might give Harold Robbins another try at some point.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Beer of the Week: Brooklyn Brown Ae

Beer score: 6.1

Company: Brooklyn Brewery

ABV: 5.6
IBU: 30

This one pours a dark, chocolate brown color into the glass, and right away you're hit with scents of a burnt but sweet malty smell.

Speaking of sweet, yeah, this one is sweet. Really sweet. It also has a smooth burnt maple flavor and a touch of carbonation.

A good brew, though not quite a great one, but nothing to be ashamed of.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 43 -- Criminal Conversation

by Evan Hunter

Started: Nov. 19
Finished: Dec. 2

Notes: I'm in need of some fiction, and as I often do, I turn to one of my favorite authors, Ed McBain. Since he also wrote under the name of Evan Hunter, this should do.

Mini review: A prosecutor goes after a young mob boss. A woman has an affair with the same mob boss. To say more would be giving too much away. To tell the truth, through most of this book I felt I was having my first negative experience with an Ed McBain/Evan Hunter book. The plot seemed so slow, and was more invested in a sexual relationship than with moving forward, but I have to say the last hundred pages made up for everything, with the pace finally speeding up and running headlong into a conclusion that slammed home quite hard. Not sure I'd read this one again, but I believe I can say it's worth reading.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Beer of the Week: Straub Lager

Beer score: 5.4

Company: Straub Brewery

ABV: 4.1
IBU: 8

Pours a light, golden color from bottle to glass, followed by scents of bread and a very light sweetness.

Goes down extremely smooth, almost too smooth. However, there's not a lot of flavor. Oh, there are hints of grain and maybe corn in the taste, but not much. It doesn't taste bad, but honestly, there's not much taste at all.

People who like water will enjoy this beer. That sounds flippant, and this isn't an awful beer, but it's also not a fantastic beer. Would it quench your thirst? Absolutely. Will it hit the spot if you're in the mood for something super light? You bet. But if you're wanting something with a lot of flavor and textures, this isn't the beer for you.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Beer of the Week: Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss

Beer score: 5.7

Company: Leinenkugel

ABV: 4.9
IBU: 13.9

Not Leinenkugel's best beer, but still a pretty decent drink.

The smell has a corn texture to it with the barest hints of honey and maybe lemon.

Pours like liquid gold with a touch of orange in the color. In the drinking, this one has plenty of sweetness and some banana flavor, with a little fizz.

A good thirst quencher. Those who don't like sweet beers might want to stay away from this one. Though I didn't find this beer overly sweet, I know others who have.

A good wheat beer that's light enough for pounding down a few. I've also found this one goes well with sea food.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 42 -- Fizban's Treasury of Dragons

from Wizards of the Coast

Started: Nov. 17
Finished: Nov. 19

Notes: This D&D books is allegedly full of information and rules about all things pertaining to dragons, including magic items, character-creation rules, monsters, and more. I prefer this type of supplement over adventuring modules, so I'm expecting to enjoy this.

Mini review: This one proved quite interesting and could be a boon to players, but especially to Dungeon Masters. There are a few rules here for dragon-related character creation and magic items and spells, but a lot of this is a collection of dragon-related monsters along with information about lairs. A DM wanting to run a high-level game involving dragons will want to search out this book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 41 -- The Wild Beyond The Witchlight

from Wizards of the Coast

Started: Nov. 17
Finished: Nov. 17

Notes: This is a newer adventure module for Dungeons & Dragons, the focus here being on the Feywild, the land of the fairies in the D&D universe. I mainly picked this up for a few new character creation rules and the like, but I'll see what else it has to offer.

Mini review: Being an adventure module, there's not much here to add to the rules, but there is one long, somewhat complex adventure for beginning characters who will then level up to about 8th level by the end of this adventure. That being said, there are a few new rules, and there are some interesting takes on portraying carnivals and fairs within a D&D world. Not a necessary book for D&D players and Dungeon Masters, but one that could be of interest to those who love all things having to do with the Fae.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 40 -- How NOT to Write Female Characters

by Lucy V Hay

Started: Nov. 16
Finished: Nov. 16

Notes: I don't necessarily think I have any problems with writing female characters, but being male myself it's not impossible I have some blind spots, maybe even many blind spots. Either way, I thought this book might open my eyes and perhaps give me some things to think about. Who knows? I might learn something new.

Mini review: A brief read, but one that offered lots of ideas without being preachy. I'm not sure I'm exactly doing anything wrong with the female characters in my writing, but this book gave me some things to think about for the future.

Books read in 2021: No. 39 -- How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market

by Ricardo Fayet

Started: Nov. 5
Finished: Nov. 16

Notes: What drew me to this particular e-book was that it seems quite comprehensive. Most book marketing materials I read tend to focus on one area or even one site, but this one seems rather expansive. So I thought I'd give it a go to see what I learn.

Mini review: Thinking about marketing doesn't exactly excite me, but the writing style here is quite solid and the flow moved fast enough to keep me from becoming too bored. All in all, I knew much of what was presented here, but there was also quite a bit new to me, especially the sections on how to market to sites other than Amazon. I won't say this book will show all the so-called secrets to book marketing, but this book can open one's eyes to a lot of possibilities, especially for beginning authors.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Breckenridge Brewery Mountain Wheat

Beer score: 5.0

Here's another beer that's no longer with us, but fortunately I've some old notes about it that I've saved.

Looked like pale gold in the glass. This one was so light it almost seemed tasteless at first, but it went down easy enough and had an interesting light, golden texture that a real beer snob could enjoy. And that flavoring lingered for a while, too.

Not a great beer, but not a bad one, either.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Beer of the Week: Carling Original Lager

Beer score: 3.4

Company: Carling

ABV: 4.0

Unfortunately, this is a weak, American-massed-produced-tasting lager that is also thin without much flavor. I've been told this beer is better from the tap. It would almost have to be. This one is evidence the British can indeed make not-so-great beer.

At least it has a faint beer-like smell to it, and it appears lightly gold in a clear glass. But the flavor is barely there. Watery, so I suppose at least it could quench one's thirst.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 38 -- The Book of Job

published by Zondervan

Started: Nov. 2
Finished: Nov. 4

Notes: I have to say, I'm excited about this one. Job is one of the most interesting books of the Bible, and one of the more complex. I've read it in whole or in part numerous times over the years, and always take away something new from it. Also, many Biblical scholars believe it to be the oldest book of the Bible, written even before the works of Moses, and I find that intriguing.

Mini review: As I said, I always see something new when I read this book. This time, though I recognize God's words to Job can seem harsh (and God never really answers Job's questions), I have to wonder if God was speaking like a scolding parent to a child, that God spoke harshly in order to warn Job of the dangers of questioning God. Maybe, maybe not, but that's what came to my mind this time.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 37 -- The Case for a Creator

Started: Oct. 18
Finished: Nov. 2

Notes: I've read a couple of other Strobel books and I have to say he's not really won me over, but I'm giving him at least one more chance. I enjoy studying Christian apologetics, and Strobel is a decent enough writer, but I find much of his writing covered better by other authors, and I always feel Strobel leaves out important and often obvious questions which need answering.

Mini review: I have to admit, this is probably my favorite of Strobel's works that I've read. I'm probably drawn more to this book because much of it is based upon science and scientific reasoning. That being said, I'm not necessarily convinced the argument that science hasn't discovered something or figured out something necessarily means an intelligent designer is the ultimate cause. Still, there's much here to consider, and this book was good at pointing out areas in which modern science still does not have answers.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Beer of the Week: Salty Turtle Oktoberfest

Beer score: 7.2

Company: Salty Turtle Beer Company

ABV: 5.5

Recently I was in the Outer Banks area of North Carolina and had the pleasure of stopping in at a beer and wine bar known as The Growler. There I had the good fortune to try this beer.

As readers of this blog might know, I'm not usually a big fan of seasonal or holiday brews, but this one might change my mind. Truly, it was one of the best autumn beers I've tried in years.

I feared this one might be overly sweet, but truly it had little sweet in it, though there was a strong, cool bitterness that was yet not overpowering. Quite smooth and a quality thirst quencher. There were the barest hints of blonde here, which probably is what helped smooth things out, plus a touch of citrus.

Yeah, I'd drink this one again.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Isosceles

Beer score: 3.1

Yep, it's another beer that's no longer with us. The Gluek Brewing Co. of Cold Springs, Minnesota, made this brew when I first tried in in the late 1990s, but later the company became known as the Cold Springs Brewing Company. Nowadays neither brewing company is around, though there are other breweries who have similar names but are not related.

This wasn't an extraordinary beer, but you could feel good about drinking it because a portion of the proceeds went to AIDS and breast cancer research. This light beer tasted like a premium U.S.-made beer with maybe a little extra sweetness tossed in. One of thousands of fair-but-not-great beers no longer with us.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 36 -- The Book of Esther

published by Zondervan

Started: Oct. 18
Finished: Oct. 18

Notes: Having just read one book of the Old Testament, I thought I'd go ahead and read the next one.

Mini review: The king of Persia appoints a Jewish woman, Esther, as his queen and she helps stop a genocide of all Jews in the kingdom. And within this story are the origins for the holiday known as Purim. There's very little historical evidence that any of this is true, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen, or something similar, though I won't argue either way. Interestingly enough, God never shows in this book, and for that matter is not even mentioned.

Books read in 2021: No. 35 -- The Book of Nehemiah

published by Zondervan

Started: Oct. 17
Finished: Oct. 18

Notes: I've not read as much of the Bible as I meant to this year, but the year isn't over yet, so here's to catching up.

Mini review: To some extent this is a retelling of the Book of Ezra, and the priest Ezra does make an appearance, but mainly this book is told by Nehemiah, the governor over the Jews during the period in which the Empire of Persia ruled. Mostly this book consists of a rebuilding of Jerusalem and of Nehemiah enforcing ancient laws.

Beer of the Week: Redhook ESB

Beer score: 3.7

Company: Redhook Brewery

ABV: 5.8
IBU: 28

I've always felt like I should enjoy Redhook beers more than I do, but for some reason they never go over well with me. Oh, they're not awful beers, but coming out of the Seattle scene, I always feel like they should be better than they are on my tongue.

Anyway, this one pours a light reddish color from the bottle into the glass. The smell is bready with hints of flowers.

This brew is sweet and heavy in the mouth. It has too much fizz and goes down a little rough. It'd probably make a decent pub beer to go along with pretzels, peanuts and small talk. Has some caramel flavoring.

For those who don't know, "ESB" stand for "extra special bitter," one of three types of "bitter," an English type of ale.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 34 -- Contact

by Carl Sagan

Started: Sept 23
Finished: Oct. 16

Notes: I know Sagan can write nonfiction, so I thought I'd see how he tackles fiction.

Mini review: A scientist discovers a radio message being beamed to Earth from the Vega system. And that's really just the beginning. To say more would be to give too much away. Over all, this is a pretty good book, and the last 50 or so pages does a little more than border on religion, but equates at least certain aspects of science with religion. It works. That being said, there is a lot of telling and not so much showing here. Sagan's writing style works better for nonfiction than fiction, but this isn't an awful read, though it is a bit long winded at times.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Beer of the Week Special: Sometimes good beer can be found in most surprising places

Note: I originally wrote this little post for another website more than a decade ago, but I thought it fun and interesting to take a look back at the past.

There are some places you expect to find good beer. Big cities. Brew pubs. Finer restaurants. Many coastal towns.

Then there are other places you do not expect to find good beer. Up in the mountains. Down in the hollers. Over in the swamps. Out in the bayou.

Traveling down South in the U.S. this summer, there are plenty of places I've discovered with good beer. Atlanta comes to mind. Many parts of Florida. New Orleans. Just to name a few. But there are also plenty of places down South where I would not expect to find decent brew. Most of those places are what many people refer to as "the middle of nowhere." Often "the middle of nowhere" in the South means a town so small there's only one building, usually a one-room gas station/grocery mart. Sometimes there'll be a few small houses or a trailer or two around. Sometimes the one-room gas station/grocery mart will also include a tire store or a gun shop, every once in a while a pizza joint or bait shop.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm in no way trying to make fun of such places. I'm originally from a small town in Kentucky that boasts a population of 450 people, so I've no bragging rights about coming from the big city or any other such nonsense. Besides, the North has more than its fair share of places that are "the middle of nowhere."

It's just that, you don't expect to find good, quality beer in such places. Sure, there'll be plenty of Coors Light, usually Keystone Light and often enough Budweiser. Natural Light is almost always readily available. If you head north some ways you'll often find Iron City beer. None of these are really quality beers. Oh, they'll get you drunk if that's the direction you're headed, and they can help quench your thirst on a hot day, but these are not generally considered fine beers. I think even most Natty Light drinkers would agree with that, though they might think I'm a snob. Which I am. I'm a beer snob, though only an amateur one.

On with my story.

Recently I was visiting some family in North Carolina. One night while preparing to cook hot dogs and marshmallows over a bonfire, the folks I was with and myself decided we needed some beer. I offered to go get it. There was a little country store just up the road a couple of miles, but I didn't expect to find great beer there. I knew I'd have to drive the hour or so it would take to get to a town of any size before I'd be able to get good beer.

Still, I needed to gas up, so I stopped in that little country store. While I was in there, I figured I'd go ahead and grab a twelve-pack of Budweiser or whatever for my friends who weren't as snobbish as myself.

I rounded the dusty shelves in the store to face the beer cooler. Okay. I caught my breath. Samuel Adams. Pretty good beers. But nothing too overly special for a true snob like myself. Still, it was much better than I'd expected to find. I opened the cooler to move aside some Samuel Adams cartons to see if there were any other surprises. My eyes lighted on several six-packs of Anchor Steam Beer.

My jaw dropped again.

If you are a beer drinker and you've never had the opportunity to taste Anchor Steam Beer, you are missing out on not only one of the best beers ever from San Francisco, California, but you are missing out on one of the better beers ever brewed anywhere in the world. I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I had discovered one of the best beers there is right there in the back of a cooler in a store in a town so small there wasn't even so much as a STOP sign, let alone a street light.

Days later, driving through another part of the Carolinas, I still haven't been able to get that out of my mind. The luck I had. It could make one believe in fate. Heck, it could make one believe in God.

I spent a wonderful night that night with friends and family, sipping great beer and eating burnt hot dogs. But not only did I get to sample one of my favorite brews, but I also got to introduce it to plenty of others. I'm glad I had to stop in that store for gas. It not only saved me a much longer driving trip, but it made me appreciate the South all that much more.

The only thing is, now I have a tendency to stop in every little town I come across in search of good beer. It was bad enough when I only had to stop in the cities. But now! Sheesh!

Monday, October 04, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Wild Goose Amber

Beer score: 6.8

The Wild Goose Brewery came about in the late 1980s and did pretty good business for a decade or so, but then in the following decades it went through several changes of ownership. Technically the company still exists, but it is operated by yet another company. Unfortunately, due to all these changes over the decades, some of the Wild Goose beers are no longer available.

And unfortunately, this is one such beer. Fortunately, I still have my notes on it.

This one poured with an amber color and smelled a bit like caramel on buttery bread. It had a strong "red" flavor reminiscent of all those red beers that were popular back in the '90s. Also, there was only the barest hint of carbonation along with more of that caramel flavor.

This one was good enough it could have become a regular drinking beer for anyone with good taste.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Tutss

Beer score: 3.9

Here's another beer that's no longer with us, but I can't say I miss this one much. Brewed and bottled by Brasserie Shutzenberger of France, this one came in a bottle painted white, which was at least something unique about it. Also known as "tutz."

Had a color like light straw, smelled kind of skunky, and had plenty of carbonation.

The flavor was weak. There was a touch of the skunk in the taste, but not as much as in the scent. Somewhat watery. It's no wonder this one isn't around any more.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 33 -- Space Viking

by H. Beam Piper

Started: Sept. 12
Finished: Sept. 23

Notes: Since I've been on something of a sci-fi kick of late, I thought I'd read more from an author I've generally enjoyed over the years.

Mini review: I have to admit to being disappointed with this one. With a title like Space Viking, I expected there to be a lot of action, but there really isn't. The story takes place in a universe not all that different than the original Star Trek series except instead of a Federation there are royals and pirates, and much of this tale is about world building. There's a rather dark scene at the beginning and a big fight near the end, but even those aren't all that interesting. Well, this was one of Piper's earlier works, and I know he gets better, so I'm not turning my back on him completely.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Beer of the Week: Blackened Voodoo

Beer score: 7.8

Company: Faubourg Brewing Co.

ABV: 5.5
IBU: 22

Once upon a time this fine lager was produced by the Dixie Brewing Co., but some years back there was a hurricane and apparently the brewing company didn't survive. But never fear! Through some twists and turns this beer has lived on with the Faubourg Brewing Co., all while keeping this brew in its home city of New Orleans.

It looks and tastes something like a porter, pouring a dark caramel color while smelling of toasted bread and more of that caramel.

In the mouth it does have that burnt maple taste common to many porters, but it's not quite as strong though it does have more than a few hints of sweet molasses. There's also a hint of fruit and more than a hint of a bread-like flavoring.

Quite an enjoyable drink. Dark beer lovers will want to try this one.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Beer of the Week: Sierra Nevada Wanderland Nectarine Ale

Beer score: 4.0

Company: Sierra Nevada

ABV: 7.5
IBU: 25

Has a light golden color in the glass. Smells like fruit, especially a peach-like fruit.

Tastes like bitter nectarines with more than a touch of that bitterness. Not a lot of sweetness here, though there's plenty of fruitiness.

This is a decent beer in quality, but I'm not sure who it is made for. Beer fans likely aren't going to enjoy this. And non-beer fans aren't likely to love this one, either. So, that leads me to think this is just a novelty drink that won't be around long though it'll probably sell some to those who just like to try something different. Like myself. This one is so bitter that I can't even imagine fans of nectarines wanting to drink this on a regular basis.

And no, I wouldn't purchase this again.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 32 -- Ender's Game

by Orson Scott Card

Started: Sept. 1
Finished: Sept. 11

Notes: I've read a couple of Card novels in the past and I didn't enjoy them, but this particular novel has proved so popular I thought I should give it a go.

Mini review: While this was written fairly well and an interesting enough story, I wasn't really pulled into it. Until the very end. The last 40 pages made me appreciate this novel of a child who is cajoled into interstellar war with an alien species. I'm still not feeling the love that has been poured upon this book over the years, but I did enjoy it much more than other works by Card that I've read. I might even seek out the rest of the books in this series.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Beer of the Week: Sierra Nevada Dankful IPA

Beer score: 6.7

Company: Sierra Nevada

ABV: 7.4
IBU: 55

Has a medium blonde, almost orange color in a clear glass with a touch of fogginess. Definitely lots of bitter hops in the smell for this one, with reminders of yeast and bread.

Quite bitter on the tongue, but wet and refreshing with a nice froth. There's a fair amount of breadiness in this one, along with touches of caramel and yeast.

Those who prefer sweet beers will probably want to stay away from this one. But if you like bitter beers, especially ones not overly heavy, then this should be right up your alley.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 31 -- Willful Child

by Steven Erikson

Started: August 27
Finished: Sept. 1

Notes: Erikson, author of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, has for some while now been my favorite of the modern fantasy authors, so I thought I'd see how he handles science fiction.

Mini review: Well, I have to say, this book was not what I expected. It was about as un-Malazan as a novel can be, and I suppose that goes to show the talent of the author. This was, obviously so, a spoof of the Star Trek franchise, especially the original series, down to individual characters and even particular episodes. It was all silly humor, sometimes even slapstick. And while I found it quite amusing, about halfway through the book it became a bit much. In my opinion, this would have worked much better as a long short story or novella.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Beer of the Week: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Beer score: 7.3

Company: Sierra Nevada

ABV: 5.6
IBU: 38

I used to think this beer was rather strong for a pale ale, but American pale ales (especially) have come a long way in the last couple of decades. Today I wouldn't call this an overly strong pale ale, definitely not an overly strong beer, but that doesn't mean it's weak in flavor or text.

Pours a lightish golden color with perhaps hints of scarlet. Has something of a pine-like smell, though not overpowering, combined with citrus and maybe a little caramel.

Tastes much like it smells, with those memories of citrus, pine, and caramel, along with some yeasty, bready aftertaste.

Worth drinking more than once.

Friday, August 27, 2021

More on RPGs at Rogue Blades

My weekly article over at Rogue Blades points out that tabletop RPG players can't always be winners.

Books read in 2021: No. 30 -- The Book of Ezra

published by Zondervan

Started: August 26
Finished: August 26

Notes: I've been enjoying my fiction reading so much these past handful of months that I've let my Bible reading slip. Now I'll get back to it.

Mini review: This book mainly deals with the priest Ezra and how he helped lead his people back to Israel after the king of Persia allowed them to do so. Then came work on building the second temple after the first was destroyed. After that, Ezra and other religious leaders came down heavy upon their own people who had married into foreign families.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 29 -- The White Tree (The Cycle of Arawn #1)

by Edward W. Robertson

Started: August 16
Finished: August 25

Notes: Upon my shelves are tons of books I've been meaning to read, and on my Kindles are long lists of e-books I've been meaning to get to. This is one such e-book, and I've never read this author before. Hopefully this'll be interesting and fun.

Mini review: This was actually a pretty good book. The plot involves a teen boy who discovers a book which teaches him magic. Meanwhile, cultists are trying to hunt him down and kill him. It all ends up involving war, gods, wizards, enemies, and friends. While the plot was mainly that of heroic fantasy, a good number of the characters leaned more toward Sword-and-Sorcery types; even the main character isn't always likeable, sometimes tending toward the dark side and even uncaring of the fates of others. The only quibble I had was that there were a few times when I felt the main character's motivations and following actions seemed unrealistic, but then again the character is quite young, so perhaps that explains some of it.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Beer of the Week: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Beer score: 8.0

Company: Sierra Nevada

ABV: 7.2
IBU: 65

In the glass this one appears a bit cloudy with a slightly-below-medium amber color. Has a frothy head to it that's nice, and smells slightly of citrus and caramel with fairly strong hop notes.

Often I'm not a big IPA fan, but this one has won me over. It doesn't have the sourness common in some IPAs, but has the smooth bitter quality of a pale ale. Quite smooth going down with only a hint of carbonation. The flavors here are rather complex with a mixture of orange, pine, bitter hops and malts, and even perhaps bread. There's very little sweetness here, mostly a fine bitterness, but it's all good, without an overly strong bitterness.

Would I drink this again? Uh, hell yeah!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Monday, August 16, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 28 -- Midwinter

Started: August 9
Finished: August 16

Notes: Here's another fantasy writer I've been meaning to read for some while now, and I've heard good things.

Mini review: This was actually a pretty good read, with some of the best characterizations I've seen in a while. A handful of inmates in a prison in the land of the Fae are sent on something of a suicide mission and along the way pasts are revealed and a multi-faceted war brews. The only quibble I have is I felt the ending wrapped up a little too quickly for my liking, but still it was a fine ending. I'd read more from this author.

Beer of the Week: Petty Thieves Dream Spinner

Beer score: 5.6

Company: Petty Thieves Brewing Co.

ABV: 5.4

I have to admit to being skeptical when I poured this one. It's labeled an "Orange Cream Sour Ale" and it does have something of a cloudy orange juice look to it as it pours from the can into a clear glass.

In the glass it retains some of that orange juice appearance, but mostly it looks like something of a cloudy blonde ale. The scent is not strong, but there are definitely citrus textures there.

Upon drinking, there's no doubt of the orange flavor, but it's not so strong as to be annoying. However, that orange flavor does dominate, so don't expect a lot of beer flavoring here. That can be good or bad, depending upon your expectations and your viewpoint, but this definitely is something different.

Would I drink this again? Sure. Would I go out of my way to purchase it? Hmm, probably not. Would I drink it regularly? Again, probably not. But if you're in the mood to try something out of the ordinary but not too out of the ordinary, this ale should fit the bill. Also, as a pal pointed out to me, this would be a great beer to give those who normally prefer fruity drinks.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Books read in 2021: No. 27 -- Ravenheart

by David Gemmell

Started: July 22
Finished: August 9

Notes: It's been far too long since I've read any Gemmell, so now it's time to get back to him.

Mini review: This might be my favorite Gemmell novel yet. Though it is fantasy, I tell you it read like Scottish history, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading fantasy and not historical fiction. There are other Rigante novels and I will have to check them out for sure.

Beer of the Week: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Beer score: 9.0

Company: Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co.

ABV: 8.2

From my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, this one has been a favorite beer of mine for some time now.

Pours a medium gold color with hints of red. Smells a tad bit grassy with some definite hints of bourbon.

You'll get a little of the bourbon flavor in drinking this, but not enough to overpower the drink. Has very little sweetness but a light bitterness and some fine froth. The caramel malts are excellent here, just about perfect. Quite smooth. There might be a little vanilla in the back of the flavors of this one, but it's barely there.

The price is not cheap, but it's worth it.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Monday, August 02, 2021

Beer of the Week: Petty Thieves Dead Reflection

Beer score: 8.1

Company: Petty Thieves Brewing Co.

ABV: 6.8

A friend of a friend is related to one of the owners of this new brewing company in Charlotte, NC, so I was fortunate enough to be gifted with a few beers from these folks.

This helles bock pours a slightly dark gold color which is followed a scent that's light and a little sweet with hints of malty goodness and just a touch of hops.

Drinking this one, at first it's got a light sweetness and it goes down pretty smooth, reminding me somewhat of spring and summer ales. That sweetness is soon replaced by a light bitter texture that lingers on the tongue and grows a bit the more you drink. There's perhaps the barest hint of citrus way in the back of the taste on this one, and I wouldn't be offended by dropping a lime or even orange slice into this beer.

Is this one worth trying? Uh, hell yeah!

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 pours 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.