Sunday, December 31, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 43 - The Gospel According to St. John

published by Zondervan

Started: Dec. 29
Finished: Dec. 31

Notes: Seeing that it's the end of the year, I thought I'd finish my 2023 Bible readings with the last of the gospels.

Mini review: I found this to be the most lyrical of the gospels, and the most different when it comes to the timeline of events revolving around Jesus, which are probably some of the main reasons this book is not considered one of the Synoptic Gospels. Also, perhaps it is because I had fairly recently read the other gospels, but I felt this one was the least informative when it came details about Jesus and his life.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 42 -- Nemesis: Book One of Indigo

by Louise Cooper

Started: Dec. 21
Finished: Dec. 29

Notes: Here's another fantasy author with whom I was not familiar, so I look forward to expanding my reading experience. I was drawn to this one in a used book store because the typography and artwork on the cover reminded me somewhat of the Elric novels of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Mini review: Unfortunately, this one didn't do much for me. A princess delves into a mystery in her father's kingdom, the results of which opens a door for vast evil to enter the world. What follows is tragic, with the princess ultimately facing a quest to vanquish the evil. This isn't a bad plot, and the writing itself is fair, but the details I found often dull and ultimately unfulfilling. This isn't a novel of action, which I don't have a problem with, but I didn't find the protagonist overly compelling and I felt much of her reasoning to be flawed. One big hang up I had with this novel was the use of illusions by the main antagonist. Some of the illusions were actually a threat, or could have been, but much of the illusions were only meant to terrorize the protagonist, which personally I find silly and cheap; in my opinion, if a protagonist knows (or at least strongly suspects) that an illusion is an illusion, then I wouldn't think they should be strongly affected by the illusion. But maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Beer of the Week: Foothills Carolina Blonde

Beer score: 7.8

Company: Foothills Brewing
ABV: 4.3
IBU: 15

It's been far too long, weeks, since I've had any really good beer, so I was pleased to try this one. Again. Because I first had it on tap a couple of months ago at the North Carolina Renaissance Festival.

This one poured a light golden color with a touch of haze while giving off scents of wheaty bread and maybe a little orange or some other kind of citrus fruit.

There was a nice foamy head, but not too much, and the texture in the mouth was smooth but crisp.

The taste continues that light mixture of wheat with orange, and I enjoyed it first on a hot day.

I could see this one becoming a regular drinking beer, it's that good, and it's light enough without being too light ... if that makes sense ... meaning it has enough weightiness to it to fill you up but not make you feel bloated ... again, if that makes sense.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 41 -- A Dance of Cloaks

by David Dalglish

Started: Dec. 15
Finished: Dec. 21

Notes: I've been meaning to read more of Dalglish's work, so why not try what is possibly his most popular novel?

Review: I can see why this novel helped spur Dalglish's writing career. The action here is near constant, and when there's not direct action there is plenty of intrigue and skullduggery. This was a fun novel to read, but I do have a few quibbles. For one thing, there are a lot of characters to keep track of, and while I don't normally have a problem with that, here I felt there was not enough space spent with each character to differentiate them from one another, with one or two exceptions. Too many of the characters here seem like one another, so that didn't make it easy to separate them when a chapter or three had gone by without a particular character or characters making an appearance. But if you enjoy action-oriented fiction, this is a novel for you. If you shy away from lots of killing and blood and gore, this one probably is not for you, though I wouldn't call this the darkest novel I've ever read.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Beer of the Week: Keystone

Beer score: 1.8

Company: Coors
ABV: 4.4
IBU: NA

Sometimes this beer is labeled "Keystone Premium," but I figure "premium" must be a word in beer language that means "cheap and tasteless" since so many bad beers have the word either on the label or in some logo or jingle. This one is no different.

For what it's worth, this beer is fairly smooth but with a sour flavor. It's wet and easy on the throat, probably decent on a hot day when you're out working in the yard. Vaguely reminiscent of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I wouldn't go out of my way to drink one, and I'm not even sure I'd drink one if it was given to me free, not unless my mouth was dry and absolutely nothing else was available.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 40 -- Enchanted Pilgrimage

by Clifford D. Simak

Started: Dec. 12
Finished: Dec. 15

Notes: I traveled for a week to Myrtle Beach recently and I had taken a book with me to read while there. As things turned out, I finished that book and needed something else to read, so I dropped in the Back Again Book Shop, a charming little place, and picked up a handful of books, some new, some used. I picked up this particular fantasy novel because of the author, someone with whom I am unfamiliar, so I look forward to trying out a writer new to me.

Mini review: A young scholar in a fantasy world makes a discovery in a university library, the discovery sending him off on a quest with a gnome, a goblin, and many more friends. This was a rather quaint book, reminding me some of the fantasy writings of C.S. Lewis though this novel was not quite so innocent as the writings of Lewis. The writing here was fair, though not great, yet the characters were interesting despite there not being much depth to them. The plot is a straight-forward quest, but the ultimate goal is not always set in stone. Would I read more from this author? I believe I would, so I'll have to keep an eye out for more of his works.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 39 -- On a Pale Horse

by Piers Anthony

Started: Dec. 8
Finished: Dec. 12

Notes: Just last year I read my first Piers Anthony novel, and I didn't care much for it. But that had been a book in the Xanth series and was full of puns, and I'm not much of a pun guy. So, I thought I'd give this author another try but with a different series.

Mini review: A young man tries to commit suicide but in the process accidentally kills the Incarnation of Death, and that means the young man has to take Death's place and job, traveling around the world and retrieving souls as they die. Meanwhile, the other Incarnations (Time, War, Nature, etc.) are working behind the scenes to thwart the plans of Satan himself. I have to say, I enjoyed this one more than I did the one Xanth novel I read, so I wouldn't be opposed to returning to this series of books at some point in the future. The writing is pretty solid, though it is borderline silly, not unlike a number of fantasy novels from the 1980s, reminding me somewhat of the works of Robert Aspirin and even some of Heinlein's later works.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Beer of the Week: Coors Banquet

Beer score: 2.2

Company: Coors
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 15

Good beer isn't always available, even at the holiday season, maybe especially during the holiday season when some relative you haven't seen in a year hands you a bottle of something you'd normally not drink but it's all that's available. This is such a beer.

When I was growing up, this beer was just called Coors, but lately I guess the company is trying to be a little fancy or trying to differentiate between the other beers it makes nowadays, so now they call this beer Coors Banquet. Whatever that means.

Anyway, this beer is so flavorless that it would score higher if it tasted bad. Tap water tastes about the same. But if you're in the mood for some cheap beer, there are worse options available.

It pours a pale, straw color while giving off little smell, maybe a touch of sweetness.

It is fairly light and wet, with just the barest hint of a beer flavor.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 38 -- Swords of the Horseclans

by Robert Adams

Started: Dec. 4
Finished: Dec. 8

Notes: Having just finished the first novel in this series, I thought I'd plunge into the second.

Mini review: This book was quite a bit different than the first one, which was a nice surprise as in my experience series novels tend to have the same plots over and over again. While the first book in this series was mostly Sword & Sorcery with bits of warfare, this second book was almost entirely fantasy warfare. In fact, most of the book is about High Lord Milo either fighting battles, having his officers fight battles, or political intrigue which either destroyed enemies or made friends out of enemies. I didn't care for this book as much as the first one, mostly because there seemed long passages of history and exposition, but it was still nice to see familiar names and to read of events following that first novel. Will I continued this series? Not now, no, mainly because I have no other books in the series, but I might well return if I run across more of these books.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 37 -- The Coming of the Horseclans

by Robert Adams

Started: Nov. 29
Finished: Dec. 4

Notes: I've had my eye on this series for decades now, and a while back when I ran across a couple of the books, I decided it was time to give them a try.

Mini review: An immortal warrior returns after hundreds of years to the prairie clans he founded and sets out with them on a quest to find a prophesied home. One of the not uncommon criticisms of Sword & Sorcery literature is that it seeks to hide masculine bravado behind a shield of righteous cruelty, an opinion with which I rarely agree, but here? In my experience, only the Gor novels go so far (though the Gor novels are generally more interested in sexual matters whereas here the focus is more to do with brutality), but in this case I believe even the Gor books have been surpassed when it comes to ruthless violence. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy this novel to a certain degree, but I did find it rather careless in treating with righteous vengeance and the like. The writing here is not bad, though not exceptionally good. The world building is fair and would have been considered somewhat unique at the time of publishing of this book in the mid-1970s, though today is nothing exceptional. The characters, however, are quite strong for the most part, though I felt more time could have been spent on exploring these characters. In fairness, this is a short novel, so there's not really the space to expand upon the world and characters further, so I'm glad I've another book in this series. Also found here are the common S&S themes of barbarism vs. civilization with barbarism being considered morally superior, which I personally don't necessarily agree with, not because I feel one is more morally superior than the other but that I think of the two more as historical aspects that wax and wane with each having good or bad aspects to them.

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Young's Dirty Dick's Ale

Beer score: 6.8

Once upon a time the Young's pub of Bishopsgate, London, England, brewed this fine beverage, but they were eventually bought out by another brewery. Fortunately a number of the Young's beers are still in production, but this isn't one of them. Which is too bad.

This bitter ale had a very traditional English ale smell and an extremely strong brown ale taste. The bitterness laid on the back of the tongue after you'd swallowed it. Fairly smooth going down. Had a bit of a nutty smell, but very little of that in the taste.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 36 -- The Sunset Warrior

by Eric Van Lustbader

Started: Nov. 26
Finished: Nov. 29

Notes: I've gone all this year reading next to no speculative fiction and definitely no fantasy fiction, so I thought it time to change that before 2023 comes to and end. Also, I've been meaning to read this author for decades now, and I'm finally taking the plunge.

Mini review: The world has frozen over and humanity has been forced to move far underground in order to survive. Here society has become something of a caste system, though one swordsman refuses to bend the knee to any even when civil war appears to be looming among the powerful. Secrets loom and the swordsman finds himself on a quest to learn the truth of not only his reality, but that of all humanity. Mostly a novel of political intrigue, the action quotient kicks up near the end. Also, several revelations near the end were quite surprising to me, which is not usually the case for me. The writing style here reminded me somewhat of Michael Moorcock but without the finesse, which is not a bad thing. The first novel in a trilogy, I'll have to keep my eyes pealed for the other books in the series.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Beer of the Week: Two Hearted IPA

Beer score: 6.9

Company: Bell's
ABV: 7.0
IBU: 60

This one has changed hands a couple of times over the years, originally being brewed by the folks at the Kalamazoo Brewery  when I first tasted it decades go, but now the folks at Bell's produce this fine beer.

It's really good for watching late-night vampire movies. Take that for what you will.

When pouring, there's a bit of a citrus and pine scent. When tasting, there's still a touch of that citrus but there's also the barest hints of breadiness.

It has a pretty strong bitter flavor while going down, but is good and smooth enough for lager fans.

I would drink this again. And again.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 35 - The Gospel According to St. Luke

published by Zondervan

Started: Nov. 21
Finished: Nov. 25

Notes: Considering the Christmas season is looming ahead, I thought it fitting to read the next gospel among my Bible readings.

Mini review: Of the three Synoptic Gospels, I find this one the most comprehensive, telling much that appears in the other two, outlining the life of Jesus while adding some few details not in the other books.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 34 -- Schools and Masters of Fencing

by Egerton Castle

Started: Nov. 3
Finished: Nov. 21

Notes: Of late I've been reading a fair amount about swords in history and I felt like continuing my reading trend for at least one more book. Originally published in 1885, this book covers the periods from the Middle Ages through the 18th Century.

Mini review: This turns out not to be a fully comprehensive book on the fencing masters of the period, for the author's information comes from a particular large collection of books available to him at the time of writing, and I personally know of at least a few fencing masters who are note even named within this book. That does not mean this book does not have its uses, nor that is was not interesting, for it did cover plenty of fencing masters including some well known to me. It's worth picking up if you are interested in the history of the sword, and I found the author's personal prejudices related to the sword to be interesting and even sometimes amusing, for he seemed to find perfection in the small sword of the 18th and 19th Centuries (weapons which I personally tend to despise) while he had little love for the earlier rapier and downright disdain for even earlier weapons such as the longsword.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Blue Ridge Porter

Beer score: 7.7

No chance to try a beer this week, but I have notes from this brew which is no longer with us.

And it's a shame this one is no longer with us.

It had a decent amount of bitterness with a fairly strong coffee and burnt caramel flavor. Fairly light for a porter with a creamy texture.

It was a "chocolate" beer, which didn't mean it contained real chocolate, but is a dark brew that often has a coffee taste.

This one was originally brewed by the Frederick Crewing Co. in Maryland, then later they were bought out by the Flying Dog brewing folks, and eventually this beer ended up with the Wild Goose Brewery. Either way, this one's no longer available.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Beer of the Week: Lowenbrau Original

Beer score: 4.7

Company: Lowenbrau
ABV: 5.2
IBU: 19

This one has gone by various names over the years, including Lowenbrau Special and Lowenbrau Munchen, and the label on the green bottles changes slightly from time to time, but it's basically the flagship beer for the Lowenbrau folks, their first and original. Also, I'm told the Lowenbrau sold in the U.S. and that sold in other parts of the world have slightly different recipes, though I've only had the version sold in the U.S.

Pours a light golden color, almost like straw, with lots of carbonation, while giving off a weak bread-like scent, very weak.

This beer is wet and has a very made-for-America taste.

Not an awful beer, but also not a very good one. There are better on the market, even in the U.S.


Monday, November 06, 2023

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Saranac Single Malt Ale

Beer score: 7.0

The Saranac folks have made some decent brews over the years, but unfortunately not all of them are still around, like this one. At least I have a few old notes left over.

The label boasted that this beer had a flavor distinctive from any other beer, and while I don't know if I'd go that far, it definitely was different from any of the other Saranac brews I've tasted over the decades.

This one went down very smooth and wet with a bitterness that hit the tongue quickly but died out on the way down to the stomach. That bitterness grew strong the more you drank, but it left your mouth soon except for a slight dull taste still in the mouth.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 33 - The Gospel According to St. Mark

published by Zondervan

Started: Nov. 1
Finished: Nov. 3

Notes: For some reason of which I'm not aware, I believe this is the book of the gospels which I have read the least, including never having read it all straight through. So, considering many scholars believe this to be the first of the gospels to have been written, and the fact I recently finished reading Matthew, it should be interesting for me.

Mini review: From a strict narrative point of view, this is my least favorite of the gospels, mainly because for the first two-thirds of this book there is little narrative structure, the timeline being a jumble of Jesus going around performing miracles and parables in no seeming real order, with the only major event of the life of Jesus to be mentioned being the transfiguration. That being said, the last third of this book is a brief outline of the last days and resurrection of Jesus, though it is so brief as to nearly being uninformative.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 32 -- The Archaeology of Weapons

by Ewart Oakeshott

Started: Oct. 12
Finished: Nov. 1

Notes: It's only been a little more than a week since I read Richard Burton's The Book of the Sword from the 19th Century. Of course much of the information there was outdated due to historical research over the last century and more, so I wanted to read something more up to date. This book here was originally published in 1960 though my edition includes an update from 1994. Unfortunately the author is no longer with us, so there can be no other updates. However, for decades Ewart Oakeshott was considered by many to be the pre-eminent expert on all things sword related. I have read a number of shorter pieces from him though this is the first book of his I've to read.

Mini review: This turned out to be an excellent book full of plenty of information. I found it to be an excellent follow up to Burton's The Book of the Sword because that book winds down toward the end of the Roman era which is mostly where this book picks up, continuing along until the 15th Century. The Viking era is covered fairly well, and the 11th through 14th Centuries are covered extremely well, breaking down the various parts of a sword and codifying them. And to make clear, most of this book pertains to swords, though there are some shorter sections pertaining to daggers, polearms, armor, etc.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Beer of the Week: Grimbergen Double Ambree

Beer score: 5.8

Company: Grimbergen
ABV: 6.5
IBU: 22

This has got to be one of the sweetest beers I've ever tasted. That doesn't mean the taste is bad, but it's difficult to get to that taste through all the sweetness. This was so sweet, I couldn't finish a whole bottle (but in fairness, it was a big bottle).

As for pouring, it has a nice, light golden color while giving off smells of caramel and fruitiness.

Going down, there's some of that caramel and fruit flavoring, but again, the sweetness here is just overpowering. It also leaves behind a strong alcohol aftertaste.

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

Monday, October 23, 2023

Beer of the Week: King Cobra Premium Malt Liquor

Beer score: 1.6

Company: Anheuser-Busch
ABV: 5.9
IBU: NA

There is little flavor in this malt liquor, but it goes down smooth.

At least it pours a golden color and gives off plenty of foamy head (jokes can be inserted here). The taste ... eh, it tastes like cheap, crappy beer, maybe a little bit of malt, a little bitterness, not much sweet. Basically, it tastes like a cheap beer, which is what it is.

Don't waste your money on this liquid. It's barely beer. Hell, it's not even a good cheap beer.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Perry's Majestic

Beer score: 4.3

I'm almost always saddened when a beer is no longer being brewed, but in this case I don't think we're missing much. It's not that this was a particularly bad beer, but it was nothing real special, just another medium lager with a little fizz.

Ho hum.

If one really stretched their taste buds, you could pick up the barest hint of honey sweetness.

And that was about it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 31 - The Gospel According to St. Matthew

published by Zondervan

Started: Oct. 6
Finished: Oct. 11

Notes: I'm glad to finally getting to the New Testament. From a narrative point of view, I find it one of the most compelling sections of the Bible. And if you're wondering about the length of the title I above gave to this book, that's the official title from my KJV, though I understand I could have abbreviated it to 'The Book of Matthew' or simply 'Matthew' or something similar.

Mini review: The longest of the Gospels, I found it interesting not only for what it said but what it did not say. For instance, while the Resurrection is detailed briefly, there is no mention of the Ascension. However, the Sermon on the Mount is laid out here fairly extensively, and a number of parables are told.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Beer of the Week: Chouffe Bok 6666

Beer score: 8.3

Company: Chouffe
ABV: 6.66
IBU: NA

In my opinion, the best beers on the planet come from Belgium, and this beer is one that helps prove my point.

It has the look of a thin coffee or dirty tea, yet it is smooth and wet with a not-overpowering dark flavor. There's just the barest hint of a fruity or cinnamon sweetness.

A good dark drink for folks who like their dark beers, but this one is not too heavy.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 30 -- The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales

edited by Ruth Ann Musick

Started: Oct. 2
Finished: Oct. 4

Notes: It's October, which means the Halloween season is upon us, so I thought I'd re-read one of my favorite collections of ghost stories.

Mini review: Well, that fit the bill. Just what I was looking for. Though it's odd. These tales aren't told in a particularly spooky manner, but more in a folksy manner, but perhaps that makes them all the more spooky.

Monday, October 02, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 29 -- The Book of The Sword

by Richard F. Burton

Started: Sept. 8
Finished: Oct. 2

Notes: In recent years I have tried to read at least one swording book per year, whether it be a book on dueling, metallurgy, history, etc. This particular book was published in 1884, and I'm sure there's been plenty of historical research since then, but I sometimes like to look back and see what earlier generations thought concerning history. This one apparently covers a period from the earliest of times up to slightly past the Roman era. Originally this was to be the first of three books on the history of swords, but the author did not live long enough to finish the other two books.

Mini review: There is much here that today we know to be incorrect, but this was still an interested read. For one thing, this book showed just how much 19th Century intellectuals actually did know, which is more than many today would give them credit. Also, I found it funny the British author's prejudices, though I don't necessarily mean racism (there were a few hints of this, but not much); mainly, this author was stuck on all things Egyptian, believing these ancient peoples were practically responsible for everything civilized during the last several thousand years, that the ancient Egyptians had or created everything first from civilization itself to philosophy to weapons and more.

Beer of the Week: Anchor Porter

Beer score: 7.1

Company: Anchor Brewing Company
ABV: 5.6
IBU: 40

I hadn't had any of the excellent beers from this company in a while, but since it was announced a few months ago that they were going out of business, I thought I should try the beers again while I had the chance. On the upside, there apparently is talk of the company's employees taking over and purchasing the business, so maybe there's hope yet.

Anyway, this one pours a nice dark color reminiscent of good porters, almost as dark as a stout. Comes with a nice foamy head well giving off smells of coffee and roasted chocolate.

Has a strong maple flavor that is likely too complicated for novice beer drinkers to truly enjoy (yes, I realize I sound elitist here), and has the thick, heavy texture of a stout. This one is a bit dry on the tongue, and also gives off flavors of toffee, coffee, chocolate, and perhaps some caramel.

Not the most superb of brews, but still pretty damn good and definitely worth tasting. I'd never turn one down.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Beer of the Week: Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

Beer score: 7.9

Company: Anchor Brewing Company
ABV: 5.9
IBU: NA

Sadly, recent news is this San Fancisco brewing company is going out of business, and that's after 127 years of making fantastic beers.

So, with that in mind, I thought I should jump on re-trying some of their brews while I still had the chance.

This one pours a nice light brown color, almost coppery. If forms a nice, thick, foamy head while giving off scents of bread, caramel, a tough of citrus, and perhaps honey sweetness.

Light when it enters the mouth, but goes down with a strong bitterness and just a touch of fizz (though not enough to ruin the drink). The taste includes some of that sweetness with touches of honey and caramel.

Also, while this is an IPA, I've never experienced the sourness or sometimes even skunkiness I've come to think of when it comes to many IPAs. This one has none of that, reminding more of a pale ale that's been mixed with an IPA than a straight-up IPA.

A very fine beverage. Definitely worth drinking while it still lasts.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Beer of the Week: Sudwerk The People's Pilsner

Beer score: 7.2

Company: Sudwerk Brewing Company
ABV: 5.3
IBU: 35

The folks from Sudwerk Brewing in California have been making a pilsner now for more than a couple of decades. This is their latest batch. I don't know if it's the same as the pilsners they have made in the past, but the name and packaging are different.

This one pours a light straw color in a clear glass while giving off aromas of light caramel and a breadiness.

It's texture is fairly light and wet, but this drink is fairly strong for a pilsner with a hardy bitterness. There are hints of a citrus sourness as this one goes down, but only hints, reminding me a bit of grapefruit and maybe lemon.

I've had several Sudwerk pilsners over the years, though not regularly, and all of them have been pretty solid. This one is no exception, and I'd drink it again.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Beer of the Week: Original Flag Porter

Beer score: 7.9

Company: Darwin Brewery
ABV: 5.0
IBU: NA

Man, when pouring this one into a glass, it gives off smells of chocolate for sure, along with some coffee and a little bit of dark fruit.

It pours a dark brown color with a nice, foamy head that isn't so large as to be annoying.

Gives off a smooth burnt-maple flavor with a touch of smoke and a little of that dark fruitiness.

Creamy and smooth enough for regular drinking.

Coming to us from England, apparently the recipe for this porter is from the 19th Century, and according to the bottle's label the yeast used to make this brew was "salvaged from a sunken vessel in the English Channel" and that vessel was sunk in 1825.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 28 -- If It Bleeds

by Stephen King

Started: August 28
Finished: Sept. 8

Notes: After reading more than a few longer, heavier works, I'm in need of something light, and yes, I usually consider King relatively light reading. Also, this is a collection of four novellas, and I tend to think King's writing is at its best in shorter forms.

Mini review: Though all the stories here were written well and pretty good reads, in my opinion the best of the lot was the same name as the book itself, "If It Bleeds," another of King's Holly Gibney tales, a character of his he had made use of half a dozen or so times in recent years. And I like Holly, so there's that. My least favorite tale here was the last one, "Rat," which was okay but didn't seem so much like a Stephen King tale than it did someone trying to replicate King.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Louie's Evil Lager

Beer score: 6.2

Another week without trying any beer, so some more notes about beers from the past.

This one was put out by the Saloon Brewing Company of New Ulm, Minnesota, but that company hasn't been around for some while now, perhaps decades.

This was a bitter beer with no sweetness at first, but the more you drank it became pretty sweet. It was wet and smooth.

A pretty decent brew, so I'm sad to see it gone.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Cold Spring River Road Red Ale

Beer score: 4.6

Without a chance to try any beer this past week, I turn to some old notes from the mid-1990s concerning a beer from a Minnesota brewery that was bought out and no longer exists.

This one wasn't great but it wasn't bad. It tasted like a fairly weak lager but had a little oomph of bitterness thrown in. There was an interesting sweetness in the aftertaste that reminded me somewhat of Belgian lambics.

Even if this wasn't a favorite, it wasn't awful, and I always hate to see a brewery go out of business.

Books read in 2023: No. 27 - The Book of Malachi

published by Zondervan

Started: August 28
Finished: August 28

Notes: Finally I'm at the end of the Old Testament, at least according to the KJV I'm reading.

Mini review: More warnings to the Israelites because of their sins, but also a fair amount of talk of a future Messiah and the coming of the Lord. For Christians all that means one thing, but for Jews another, though perhaps the two are similar in some ways.

Books read in 2023: No. 26 - The Book of Zechariah

published by Zondervan

Started: August 27
Finished: August 28

Notes: My last couple of reads have been fairly long, so I've fallen behind on my Bible readings. Here's to jumping back in.

Mini review: The prophet Zerchariah has more warnings for the peoples of Israel and Judah and for many heathen nations, but in my opinion these prophecies seemed more hopeful than most others of the Old Testament, showing how God will bring his people home better than most other texts. I also noted that this particular book seemed filled with images that Christians would likely interpret as signs of the coming of Jesus and of the end times.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 25 -- The Mysteries of Udolpho

by Ann Radcliffe

Started: August 1
Finished: August 27

Notes: I've been on something of a Gothic literature reading phase the last year or so, yet I've yet to read anything from this prominent author of the period. Now I'm jumping in.

Mini review: I heard this one called the quintessential gothic novel, and I can see that, because all the elements are here rolled into one. A young French woman suffers the passing of her parents and is then placed under the care of an evil aunt and uncle who force her to move to a haunted castle in Italy where she is held against her will. Along the way our heroine falls in love, is caught up in misadventures with bandits and ghosts and more, cries a lot, and stares out upon scenery of forests and mountains. Most modern readers would probably find this one long and dull, and I can appreciate that, but I've also grown a fondness for such 18th-and-19th-Century novels because I've come to appreciate what the writers are trying to accomplish. Story, mainly meaning plot movement and characters, is king in our day and age, and there's nothing wrong with that, but earlier periods often had what some would consider more artistic motives, usually either with a focus upon the visuals of the outside world (sort of like a painter) or a focus upon the sufferings of the inner world (sort of like an analyst) or a mixture of both, while some earlier fictions were basically travelogues or sort of educational guides for readers who rarely got to see much of the world beyond their immediate area. Again, all this is likely quite boring for modern readers, but I have an occasional fondness for it.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Beer of the Week: James Boag's Premium Lager

Beer score: 4.1

Company: J. Boag & Son Brewing
ABV: 4.6
IBU: NA

This one comes to us from Tasmania, an island in Australia, and it's proof that the world beyond America also has plenty of mediocre beers.

Pours a pale golden color. Gives off scents of slight sweetness and some skunkiness.

And in drinking, that skunkiness is even stronger. You can maybe taste some corn and cereal with a touch of bitterness.

Very basic.

Those who like cheap, premium American brews might enjoy this. The rest of us can drink it, but we're underwhelmed. At least it isn't nasty, so it doesn't completely suck, and it's wet.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Beer of the Week: Samuel Smith Imperial Stout

Beer score: 9.4

Company: Samuel Smith's Brewery
ABV: 7.0
IBU: NA

This summer I've unfortunately strayed away from really good beers, so this week I had to rectify that.

And boy, did I.

This one pours nearly black with maybe a touch of crimson around the edges. A nice burnt smell and syrup coloring. While it pours, it gives off scents of dark chocolate and roasted coffee.

It has a nice, foamy head as all good stouts should.

This one is not for beginner drinkers as this has a very strong maple sweet/bitterness in the tasting. There are hints of dark fruit in the aftertaste, and there's more of that roasted coffee sensation.

One of the heaviest beers out there, so don't drink a lot of them. I mean, not unless getting drunk is your goal. Still, not the thickest stout I've run across, but darn close.

One of the best sipping beers I've had the pleasure to enjoy.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Grolsch Summer Blond

Beer score: 4.3

Just to be clear, the folks at Grolsch still make a blond beer, but it's not this Summer Blond, which they discontinued a decade or so back. Still, I have a few notes.

This one was wet with lots of froth and a touch of lemon. It reminded me a little of Rolling Rock, though this beer wasn't even that strong.

This wasn't the greatest of beers, but it wasn't bad. I'll have to try Grolsch's other blond beer to see how it tastes.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 24 -- The Clan of the Cave Bear

by Jean M. Auel

Started: June 26
Finished: August 1

Notes: I've been meaning to read this novel for decades after recalling its popularity in the 1980s, as well as the popularity of the movie at that time. The notion of a novel set in prehistoric times has intrigued me ever since, so now I get to experience the book.

Mini review: A long book, in places more wordy than I generally appreciate, but it was worth it. Tens of thousands of years ago a girl who is homo sapiens is separated from her people but found by Neanderthals who then raise her. The tale is more complex than what I've written here, but I don't wish to spoil anything for those who might read this one. I will say this book could be a boon for historical and fantasy writers, as it shows cultures usually unfamiliar to most of us and the novel tells how they survived, mated, worshipped, etc. Now whether this information is correct or not is besides the point I'm making, because historical studies have continued since this novel was published 40 years ago, because writers could still learn from this information how to form their own unique cultures and how to write about survival.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Beer of the Week: Cerveza Caguama

Beer score: 3.9

Company: Cerveceria La Constancia S.A.
ABV: 4.5
IBU: NA

When pouring, this El Salvador beer gives off a pale yellow color but has plenty of foamy head. For better or worse, it gives off plenty of corn scent and perhaps a little bread or cereal.

The taste is fairly bland with a touch of corn, cereal, and some slight skunkiness.

This drink isn't awful and is quite reminiscent of Corona, Tequiza, and other Central and South American brews. This one might be a little wetter than the others, though. It comes with a goodly amount of carbonation, but not too much to hurt until you're near the end of the drink.

I found it to go well with beans and peppers.

The bottle has a story on the back that, in short, a "caguama" is a powerful turtle prized by villagers of Central America as a symbol of good luck. There's even a drawing of a turtle on the bottle.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Beer of the Week: Ayinger Jahrhundert Bier

Beer score: 5.9

Company: Ayinger
ABV: 5.5
IBU: 22

Pours a light golden yellow though is a little cloudy in a glass. Smells pretty tame, maybe with hints of corn and fruitiness.

This Bavarian lager has a smooth blond color and smooth, bitter taste with more of that corn and maybe a hint of honey. The bitterness is too strong for me, even reminding me a little of British "bitter" style ales.

Has a very nice, frothy head.

This one would score better, but that bitterness was just too overpowering.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: The Three Stooges Beer

Beer score: 3.9

Yes, this cheap lager with a little sweetness and fizz had a picture of More, Larry and Curly on the label. The label on the back of the bottle showed The Three Stooges in the middle of a room while gawking at several tables loaded down with beer bottles.

This one came from the Panther Brewing Co. of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, which no longer exists just like this beer no longer exists.

The funny bottle and the novelty of the drink could have been a hit at parties, but the taste wouldn't have been. Again, not the worst beer ever, but not an overly good one.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

A few words from John Dutton

I don't do quotes posts much nowadays, so why not ...

"Cowards rule the world these days. Coward's rules with coward's customs. To succeed today, all you got to know is how to blame and how to complain. I truly believe it's the survival of the un-fittest these days."

-- John Dutton (Kevin Costner) from the Yellowstone television show

Personally, I think Bob Howard could drink along with this one.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Beer of the Week: K├Ânig Pilsener

Beer score: 4.4

Company: Konig Brauerei
ABV: 4.9
IBU: 32

Comes to us from Germany.

When this one hits a clear glass, it's so light golden it almost looks like water. I didn't find the scent all that strong but not bad, a little bit of hops and maybe some citrus.

In the drinking, I found lots of carbonation here and a wet sweetness. There's a hint of orange and/or lemon, but that was about it. Nothing real special here.

Not an awful beer, but not a great one. There are better pilseners available.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Beer of the Week: Miller Genuine Draft

Beer score: 3.3

Company: Miller
ABV: 4.6
IBU: 12

Pours a light golden yellow color and smells like liquid corn poured from a metal can.

There's a little too much fizz for me here, but it's smooth and goes down fairly easily while giving off the barest hint of sweetness and more of that corniness. Maybe, just maybe, a little caramel in the flavor ... maybe.

Not a great beer. Not an awful beer. About the best I can say about it is that it doesn't offend. Oh, yeah, and it'll get you drunk, if that's your thing. Also, it makes a decent thirst quencher on hot days.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 23 - The Book of Haggai

published by Zondervan

Started: June 26
Finished: June 26

Notes: Another book from near the end of the Old Testament, this one also concerning one of the prophets.

Mini review: In this book, God calls for the building of the Second Temple after the Jews are allowed to returned to their homeland. A bit different than most of the other prophets' books in this part of the Bible.

Books read in 2023: No. 22 - The Book of Zephaniah

published by Zondervan

Started: June 26
Finished: June 26

Notes: I've slacked on my Bible reading somewhat this year and I'm trying to catch up, especially as I'm near the end of the Old Testament.

Mini review: This one holds familiar themes to those of the prophets in the latter part of the Old Testament: Jerusalem and Judah and Israel will be punished for their sins but eventually they will be redeemed by God and their enemies will be trampled upon. This part of the Bible really is repetitive and rather dull, so I can see why it's not preached about or studied nearly as much as other parts of the Bible.

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Olde Heurich Brewing Co. Beers

Another week in which I didn't get to try any beer, but as always I still have some old notes about a brewery that's longer with us, this one originally from the Washington D.C. area. So, enjoy.

Heurich's Foggy Bottom Ale
Beer score: 6.9
Had just a tad too much fizz for my liking, but went down smooth. Had a bit of a kick in the aftertaste that made this beer a little too strong for novice beer drinkers.

Heurich's Foggy Bottom Lager
Beer score: 5.3
Too spicy for me in a sweet, cinnamon way, but went down smooth and was frothy.

Heurich's SpringFogg Bock
Beer score: 7.2
Fairly sturdy, somewhat like a strong lager. Had a little froth and a little sweetness. Went well with cigars.

Heurich's WinterFogg Porter
Beer score: 5.8
Wasn't bad for yet another of those spiced-up winter brews, though there was too much carbonation. Had a fruity flavor mixed into a fairly sturdy maple texture. Was one of the better winter brews.

Books read in 2023: No. 21 -- No Country For Old Men

by Cormac McCarthy

Started: June 22
Finished: June 26

Notes: I've been meaning to read more from this author, and his recent passing has prompted me to delve into this novel. Yes, I've seen the movie, and yes, I remember the basics of the characters and the plot, but I don't think that will cause me too many problems in enjoying this one.

Mini review: Damn, but this was a good novel. No, correct that. This was a great novel. Better than the movie, even with as much fame as the movie has. And the story pretty much follows the movie almost line for line, though I've read McCarthy wrote this one as a screenplay before making it into a novel. Usually I don't care for novels which read somewhat like a screenplay, but here it work perfectly. I won't go into the plot or characters or details because most readers will already know from the movie. But this was worth reading, and I might even read it again at some point. This is the kind of novel that makes you want to write, and that's the best compliment I can give any literature.

I will add that this is not adventure fiction, though there is a fair amount of violence. This is a novel of ideas, of thoughts, of feelings, though I wouldn't necessarily say it's a novel of high ideals, though perhaps it is in some ways of thinking. It is a bit of a tale of nostalgia for simpler times and simpler people, but it also speaks frankly against such a notion, that simpler times and simpler people never really existed except perhaps in our memories.