Monday, May 20, 2024

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Devil Mountain Beers

This defunct brewery was originally brewed in an old railroad station in Northern California, but when I tried them a couple of decades ago, they were being brewed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Anyway, some decent brews here, so I hated to see when they went out of business, but here are some of my notes from long ago.

Devil Mountain Black Honey Ale

Beer score: 8.0

Imagine a stout with plenty of honey stirred in and you've got this beer. It was worth tasting. The sweetness came from African black honey. Though this drink was very stout-like, it didn't quite have the bitter strength of a typical stout, though it did have the texture and coloring of a stout.

Devil Mountain Five Malt Ale

Beer score: 6.0

This beer was so sturdy it could almost pass for a stout ... okay, a weak stout. The sturdy bitterness grew sweeter the more you drank.

Devil Mountain Honey Wheat

Beer score: 3.0

Was smooth and frothy but way too sweet, so much so that the sweetness lowered my beer score considerably.

Devil Mountain Railroad Gold Ale

Beer score: 5.7

A cloudy, pale-ale type drink with a little sweetness. Went down smooth and wet.

Devil Mountain Summer Mountain Brew

Beer score: 5.3

This beer was watery and weak but probably still too strong for your average Budweiser drinker. A slight bitterness here along with some fizz. The light fruity smell was quite nice. Not great, but there were plenty of worse beers, and still are.

Devil Mountain Tasmanian Pale Ale

Beer score: 5.9

Was a little strong for a pale ale, but it went down smooth. Very bitter, to the point it would have scored higher for me if that bitterness had been tamed somewhat. Supposedly the hops were from Tasmania, thus this beer's name.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 23 -- The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Philemon

published by Zondervan

Started: May 19
Finished: May 19

Notes: A short Bible reading while between other readings.

Mini review: A very short letter in which Paul sends Onesimus to Philemon.

Books read in 2024: No. 22 -- The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus

published by Zondervan

Started: May 19
Finished: May 19

Notes: My last book read took longer than I had expected, so I got away from my Bible readings a bit. Here I jump back into things.

Mini review: In this one, mostly Paul is writing to Titus (the bishop of Crete) to outline briefly what consists of a good Christian, especially a good leader within a church.

Books read in 2024: No. 21 --12 Rules for Life

by Jordan B. Peterson

Started: April 10
Finished: May 19

Notes: I've been reading biographies of late and wanted to continue that, but I couldn't find a proper biography in print for Peterson, so I'll settle for reading one of his books. I realize Peterson has become somewhat controversial in some circles over the last decade or so, but like him or not, the man is interesting and appears to weigh his words carefully. I do find him interesting, and I agree with some he has to say, but I also believe he has some blind spots. Who knows? If I enjoy this book enough, I might seek out some of his other books.

Mini review: It took much longer to finish this book than I had anticipated, mainly because I found this one such a slog, proving for myself that Peterson is a better speaker than writer. It's not that his text is necessarily written badly nor difficult to read, but that he writes much like he speaks, with plenty of examples and long comments about the very points he is trying to make. For me, once I got what he was trying to say, which was usually within the first page or even paragraph of his chapters, then it seemed he dragged on forever saying the same things over and over again. In other words, this felt like the world's longest blog post, once that could've been written in a thousand words or less. That being said, there is a lot of solid, good, common-sense advice here for living in and surviving in the modern world. Not everyone will agree with what Peterson suggests, of course, but I don't believe that lessens his words. For me, Peterson's writing here was at its strongest when he strayed away from politics and pithy sayings and focused upon the mythologies behind religion and sometimes upon his clinical background. In the end, whether he wants to admit it or not, he definitely comes down on the side of Christianity, not necessarily in belief but in practice. The world could do worse.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Michael Shea's Irish Amber

Beer score: 5.8

The Highfalls Brewing Company of Rochester, New York, made this brew when I tasted it back in the 1990s, but then the beer was bought by the Genesee Brewery folks who then retired this beer.

Looking back on my notes, it seems this beer didn't know what it wanted to be. It had the barest touch of sweet one minute, then it'd have a little bit of bitter on the way down. Wet but had way too much fizz. Overall, not a bad beer, even a good beer, but not a great beer.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Beer of the Week: Orval Trappist Ale

Beer score: 7.4

Company: Orval
ABV: 6.9
IBU: 32

This Belgian brew has a lot of carbonation and a strong alcohol flavor, almost as if you're drinking a weaker Scotch whiskey instead of an ale. The smell is slightly spicey, just barely, and a touch of citrus with perhaps some hints of grass.

Some sweetness here and very unique flavoring. Leaves a bitter flavor in the back of the throat. Quite wet despite all the carbonation. The flavor is like the smell, with an addition of some dried fruit taste and a metallic hint that's there but not annoying.

Not something I'd want to drink often, but worth tasting from time to time.

Quite pricey. Hard liquor drinkers should like this. One of the most unique beers I've ever tasted.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Beer of the Week: Michelob Ultra

Beer score: 3.0

Company: Anheuser-Busch
ABV: 4.2
IBU: 10

This is a low-carbohydrate light beer for that market.

As with most light beers, there's lots of carbonation here.

It's a light golden color when poured into a clear glass while giving off scents of corn.

Going down it's vaguely sweet with more of that light sweet of corn.

Really, this is a fairly bland beer. "Boring" might be the right word to use. There are worse light beers available, but there are also better.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Beer of the Week: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter

Beer score: 9.0

Company: Samuel Smith Brewery
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 32

In a clear glass this one is a sort of reddish-brown with tan foam. It smells a bit like chocolate and coffee, though the scent isn't overly strong.

It does, however, have an extremely strong burnt maple flavor that lingers in the mouth long after you've swallowed. There are also more hints of that chocolate and coffee. It also goes back very smooth, almost as easy as water.

Has quite the creamy texture in the mouth.

This isn't everyone's favorite beer, but I think it's top quality, one of the better porters around. But then I tend to love all the beers from the folks at the Samuel Smith Brewery.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Beer of the Week: UFO Hefewizen

Beer score: 7.0

Company: Harpoon Brewery
ABV: 4.8
IBU: 18

Kind of a cloudy mustard color when poured. Definitely has some citrus and perhaps clove on the nose.

Has a great, smooth taste and texture, and light enough you could drink this regularly. The taste has more hints of that citrus, definitely some orange and maybe a little lemon, and there's a soft sweetness that's never overpowering. There's a bit of a bready taste, and there's a little creamy texture.

Goes well with lemon or lime, in my opinion.

A pretty solid beer, all around, especially if you prefer or are in the mood for something lighter.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 20 -- The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy

published by Zondervan

Started: April 10
Finished: April 10

Notes: Having just finished Paul's first letter to Timothy, I thought I should go ahead and read this second letter.

Mini review: Here Paul talks a little about what to expect at the end of times, but for the most part he advises Timothy to remain strong in the Christian faith. Unusual for most of Paul's letters, Paul here also provides a short list of people to whom he has had disagreements or whom have done him evil, in his opinion, yet he does not curse these folks.

Books read in 2024: No. 19 -- The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy

published by Zondervan

Started: April 10
Finished: April 10

Notes: Now we get to the first of Paul's letters written to an individual instead of to a church, so it'll be interesting to note if there are any differences.

Mini review: In this letter to Timothy, Paul outlines some basic leadership for the church and the type of men who should be such leaders. Paul also provides some notions of what Christians should try to be in this world while looking ahead to the next world.

Books read in 2024: No. 18 --The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians

published by Zondervan

Started: April 10
Finished: April 10

Notes: Since I just finished reading Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, I thought I should read this second one.

Mini review: This book I found intriguing because Paul talks somewhat about the "man of sin" and how Jesus will deal with him in the end times, basically a warning about the individual commonly referred to today as the anti-Christ.

Books read in 2024: No. 17 -- The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians

published by Zondervan

Started: April 9
Finished: April 10

Notes: It might seem silly for me to count each of these books from the Bible as a book read, especially these shorter letters toward the latter part of the New Testament, but it helps me in keeping track of my reading. Plus, not to sound snobby about it, but this little blog is for me, not so much for others. Not that I'm not glad when others read this blog, but that's not my main occupation here, at least not at this time.

Mini review: This one I found interesting because Paul goes into some detail about what Protestants refer to as the Rapture. Now whether or not Paul meant his words literally, I cannot be sure, but from the text he seemed to mean it quite literally that Jesus will return from the heavens and Christians will float up from the ground to meet him.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 16 -- The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians

published by Zondervan

Started: April 9
Finished: April 9

Notes: I'm working my way through Paul's letters in the New Testament, and I'll be thankful when I'm done with them. Not that I don't appreciate Paul's importance and influence, but I'm looking forward to getting to the letters written by other than Paul, to see their writings, opinions, thoughts, etc. Over the years I've read nearly all this material before, but it's almost always been in piecemeal fashion with a verse here, a verse there, and so on. So I'm glad to be reading this books as a whole, and the whole Bible, for that matter.

Mini review: Here Paul is mainly laying out some basic doctrines for a church while mentioning names of other Christian leaders who might be visiting or writing.

Books read in 2024: No. 15 -- How to Talk Dirty and Influence People

by Lenny Bruce

Started: March 31
Finished: April 9

Notes: Between my Bible readings of late, I've been reading biographies, so I decided to grab another one from my to-be-read shelves. This one is an autobiography by the late, great comedian Lenny Bruce. I've long had an armchair interest in the artform of comedy, and I'm interested in Lenny Bruce, so hopefully I'll learn a few things here.

Mini review: I've oft heard something along these said by one person or another: Madness and genius go hand in hand, or are closely related. Something like that. And I believe it's the case for Lenny Bruce. He was obviously a man, a comedian, ahead of his time, though perhaps he was just right for his time. He was smart in many ways, but he allowed his own pain and inner demons to warp him, leading to his drug use and eventual early death. Of course, this book being an autobiography, it doesn't end with Bruce's death, but this book is made up of several lengthy articles published in Playboy magazine not long before Bruce died. There is humor to be found here, but there's also a fair amount of sadness knowing what is to come, not that Bruce's writing in this book is maudlin. No, Lenny Bruce writes like he speaks in his comedy routines, quick and snappy and to the point, usually with the point or three being made while also being funny. However, much of the writing and comedy here is quite dated, so a modern audience might not find it as appropriate or as funny. That being said, I think a lot of what Bruce said and wrote and joked about is still relevant to our world today.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Beer of the Week: Michelob Golden Draft

Beer score: 3.6

Company: Anheuser-Busch
ABV: 4.6

You would think Anheuser-Busch wouldn't need to add one more watery, tasteless drink they call beer to their lineup, but here it is. Then again, Michelob sales have been dropping the last couple of decades, and this beer is one reason why.

As one could expect from the name, this one pours a light golden color. It gives off very little smell, and what there is basically consists of a cheap beer scent, corn, rice, etc.

The taste is slightly sweet, slightly bitter, but nothing special at all. This beer is so weak it makes Coronoa look strong. Still, it is smooth enough and wet enough that it makes a good thirst quencher for days when you're out working in the yard.

The smoothness and wetness raise this beer's score for me, because there sure isn't enough taste to do it.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Beer of the Week: Grolsch Premium Lager

Beer score: 3.8

Company: Grolsch
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 28

This one pours a light brown color, almost golden, while giving off smells of corn and a little sweetness.

On the tongue it's weak but wet, with a slight bitterness but less sweet than is in the smell.

Over all, this seems more like a pilsner than a lager for me, and I hate to say it, but this is basically a Heineken-wannabe beer, a mass produced product for mass produced tastes. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that, just that it's nothing special for the beer connoisseur.

It'll get you tipsy and it's probably quite refreshing on a hot day, and it's not the worst beer on the market, but there are better options available for the price.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 14 -- The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians

published by Zondervan

Started: March 30
Finished: March 31

Notes: I just finished Ephesians, a rather short book of the Bible, so I thought I'd go ahead and read another.

Mini review: In this letter, Paul briefly goes into possible future plans concerning the church of the Philippians, but more than anything he expounds upon that church his own example of being faithful to God and he sets forth some notions of what it takes to be good Christian.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 13 -- The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians

published by Zondervan

Started: March 30
Finished: March 30

Notes: After a break, it's to get back to my Bible readings.

Mini review: I found this book to be somewhat strange for Paul. Usually in his letters he is quite clear about why he is writing to a specific church, but in this one he is rather vague. Mostly he lays out what he believes should be some tenants of the Christian faith, with quite a bit of focus upon grace. This letter was so different that I have to wonder if Paul even wrote it, and there have been questions over the centuries about whether or not Paul actually wrote some of the epistles that are allegedly from him.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 12 -- Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

by Andrew Graham-Dixon

Started: March 7
Finished: March 29

Notes: Being that Caravaggio is one of my favorite artists, I was quite thrilled a little more than a decade ago when I heard on the radio (probably NPR) an interview with the author of this biography talking about this very book. I decided I must have this book, but then time passed and I forgot about it. Fast forward a few years and I ran across this book in a bookstore. Of course I snagged it up. But that's been nearly a decade ago. Finally I'm getting around to it. I know some basics of the life of Caravaggio, but I'm looking forward to learning much more.

Mini review: Caravaggio's life is a perfect example of  Jesus' quote in Matthew 26:52, "for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword." A gifted artist, a man who could have had it all, Caravaggio's ego (and more than likely more than a little alcohol) took ahold of his life far too often and led him into a world of debauchery and violence. I mean none of this as a spiritual judgement upon the man himself, because I do respect him and his work. In truth, Caravaggio is one o my favorite artists, his use of darkness and light to exemplify specific scenes, his use of common folk to represent historical and mythological figures, all of it I appreciate. But he died at 38 in mysterious circumstances, most likely due to a wound he had received to his face during a fracas. He could have done so much more if he had lived, and he could have done so much more if he had lived a life less full of conflict he too often brought upon himself. But then he wouldn't have been true to himself and wouldn't have been the artist he had been.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Beer of the Week: Famosa Lager Beer

Beer score: 3.0

Company: Cerveceria Centro Americana
ABV: 5.0

Pours a very pale golden color, almost like one of the lighter champagnes. Really, this is one of the lightest in color beers I've ever seen.

Gives off a slightly sweet but skunky smell that's not overly appealing.

On the tongue, this one is sweet but not too sweet, though sweeter than the smell would indicate. It gave me a lot of corn taste, but a little bit of breadiness and bitterness that grows stronger in the aftertaste.

Not a great beer, pretty weak over all, but I've had worse. Is it worth trying? No, not really, not unless you want to be a completest and taste every beer you can. There are plenty of better beers available, but there are also some that are worse.

If this one is served cold, I suppose it could be a nice thirst quencher on a hot day.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Beer of the Week: Bud Light

Beer score: 3.0

Company: Anheuser-Busch
ABV: 4.2
IBU: 6

Lots of carbonation here, but that seems to be common among light beers.

Smells like premium beer, tastes like premium beer.

There isn't much taste here, but there is more fizz than in Budweiser.

If you're wanting a light beer because you are on a diet, you can't get much weaker or lighter than this one, though there are some with less carbonation.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Beer of the Week: 7 Clans Blonde Ale

Beer score: 4.2

Company: 7 Clans Brewing
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 31

Poured a light golden color with a little cloudiness while giving off smells of corn.

The taste is slightly bitter, though that bitterness grows the more one drinks of this. There's a little sweetness to be found here, along with suggestions of bread and maybe citrus or flowers.

To be honest, this was a disappointment to me, especially as blonde ales tend to be one of my favorite types of beer. It wasn't so much that this was an awful beer, but it didn't seem like a blond ale but more like a lager. Still, I'd be willing to try one again.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 11 -- The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

published by Zondervan

Started: March 7
Finished: March 7

Notes: I thought I'd stick another short Bible reading in between longer biographies.

Mini review: There are some interesting points Paul makes in this letter to the Galatians. Of course he writes the usual upbraidings, telling the church to remain true, but he also lays out quite plainly the differing traits between the "works of the flesh" and the "works of the Spirit." Also, he does write a fair amount about the disagreement in the early church about whether or not circumcision is necessary, with Paul coming down on the side that it is not.

Books read in 2024: No. 10 -- John Gardner: Literary Outlaw

by Barry Silesky

Started: Feb. 26
Finished: March 7

Notes: I've been reading a fair amount of works by John Gardner of late, and I admit to a fascination about the man, but it dawned on me I know little about the man other than a bare outline of his life. So, looking around for a biography, I found this one.

Mini review: This was a solid biography. Gardner is shown to be a complex character, tormented by the death of a brother, and always seeking to find some balance in his writing and his life between chaos and traditional values. In Gardner's case, as so often happens with artists, chaos seemed to win much of the time, at least in his life if not his writing. And one might argue that element of chaos even led to his early death. It was also nice to see a character who not only changed in their habits and opinions over time, but who showed little fret about having done so, which is something I've always understood because I feel human beings are almost always more complicated than to stifle themselves with the same thoughts, ideas, even actions, etc., all their lives. In other words, it doesn't surprise me when people change their attitudes and sometimes even their personalities. Was Gardner a great man? Ultimately, I would say not, though he obviously aspired to be and even yearned for it. But I believe within him there had existed the possibility, one which might have bloomed had he lived longer. Was he a great writer? Hmm, maybe. At the least, I would say he was a good literary writer, but I also believe he too often overlooked the simpler elements of our existence, at least within his writing, making things more complex than they needed to be. In other words, sometimes we do something simply because we want to, not because of some tragic past or deep thoughts, though that can happen, too. I'd also like to add that this book took me back to my college days as Gardner had also been a professor, one highly respected for teaching creative writing, and this brought me back decades ago to my own creative writing classes as a student, though I don't recall any of my professors being as thorough in reading student manuscripts as Gardner had been.

Monday, March 04, 2024

Beer of the Week: Paycheck Pilsner

Beer score: 3.9

Company: Fullsteam Brewery
ABV: 4.5
IBU: 26

This one pours a hazy golden color that's light while giving off aromas of slight, sweet breadiness.

The taste and texture I found nothing special. It's relatively light in the mouth, but the carbonation grows the more you drink, the not to the point of being obnoxious.

The flavors I found rather mundane. Not an awful beer, but reminds me more of a regional beer that's been bought out by a big-name beer and then dumbed down for a mass audience.

Would I drink this again? Yeah, if I was at a party and someone handed me one, I wouldn't turn it down, but I also wouldn't go out of my way to purchase one of these.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Beer of the Week: Black Stilleto Stout

Beer score: 5.7

Company: Gizmo Brew Works
ABV: 6.1
IBU: 31

Pours a dark chocolate color with a brown, foamy head. Not the darkest looking stout I've ever seen, but still pretty dark.

Gives off smells of coffee and dark chocolate.

Kind of light in the mouth for a stout, but also has a smoothness to it that borders on creamy.

The taste is mostly of burnt coffee with a touch of chocolate and a fair amount of bitterness, but there's also a hint of sweetness that lingers on the tongue.

Not a bad stout. Not the best I've had, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at this one.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 9 - The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

published by Zondervan

Started: Feb. 25
Finished: Feb. 25

Notes: Since I just finished Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, I thought I should read this second letter.

Mini review: To my surprise, Paul is actually somewhat apologetic here for the harshness of his first letter to the Corinthians. However, he does go on to expound in Christian belief and to give warnings against false teachers while also presenting his own ministry.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 8 - The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

published by Zondervan

Started: Feb. 22
Finished: Feb. 24

Notes: I've gotten behind somewhat in my Bible readings while I was into other books, so now I get back to it.

Mini review: In this letter, Paul is mostly lambasting the church in Corinth for reported wrongdoings. Paul also outlines somewhat his itinerary for travel.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 7 -- On Becoming a Novelist

by John Gardner

Started: Feb. 15
Finished: Feb. 22

Notes: I've been on something of a John Gardner kick of late, so I thought I'd read some of his non-fiction, which I usually prefer to his fiction.

Mini review: Though this is a short book, it is heavy in its text and in its ideas, not making it a fast read. I don't think Gardner ever wrote anything that wasn't overly "thick," so to speak, and I don't mean that as an insult, though at times reading him can become rather tiresome I must admit. Anyway, this book is mainly about the emotional and mental growth of becoming a fiction writer, mainly a novelist. There is some talk of craft and some advice about profession, but mostly Gardner focuses upon the inner life of a writer. Gardner has been accused of being somewhat pedantic and definitely snobbish, and he might not have even disagreed with such sentiments, but I find him to be more of a realist and more egalitarian than he might at first seem. While his own goals as a writer and his interests and advice are in the area of the literary writer, the "serious" writer, he has good things to say about genre writing and writing on less seemingly worthy matters. Gardner's viewpoint is almost always about art, not so much about the business of publishing, of making money through writing, etc. He's more interested in ideas and emotions, and not in telling about them but about showing them. He also has a penchant for allegory to some extent, though he might deny that claim; even if he would admit to such, he would likely say it was not intentional. So, why I won't claim Gardner as a favorite read, I will admit to having a certain fascination about the man.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Beer of the Week: Lagunitas IPA

Beer score: 4.5

Company: Lagunitas Brewing Company
ABV: 6.2
IBU: 51

In a glass, this beer appears a light golden color with hints of amber. It's not an overly carbonated beer, but it will form a decent head when poured.

Upon smelling, this beer gives off hints of bread and a little of sweet flowers.

I'm not a big fan of IPAs, mainly because too often when I've tried one there has been a sourness of which I'm not a fan. This one doesn't have much of that sourness, but there is a little of it the more you drink.

The smell and the taste mostly consist of "beer." That means it smells and tastes mainly like a mass-produced, premium beer common to the United States.

This isn't an awful beer, not by any means, but I can't call it a favorite. Is it worth drinking? Yeah, sure, if you're not on the prowl for anything unusual but just want a beer.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 6 -- The Bell Jar

by Slyvia Plath

Started: Feb. 8
Finished: Feb. 15

Notes: This novel, the only one ever published from the author, is the tale of a young woman's descent into madness and her attempt to kill herself. I do not know if she succeeds, but I do know the author killed herself in a manner which is apparently outlined in this book. It sounds like sadness all around, but I'm interested to see where the tale will take the reader.

Mini review: A young woman makes her way through a magazine internship in New York City in the 1950s and then returns home afterward during a summer between college classes. Once back home she begins suffering through a serious depression but she still remains functional, that is until her mother takes her to a psychiatrist who puts the young woman under electro-shock therapy. The change in character is immediate. As soon as this woman has her first bout of electro-shock therapy, she becomes suicidal. All she thinks about is killing herself. Does she manage to do it? I won't tell, in case you should read this book. Oddly enough, this tale isn't overly desperate or sad, at least not in the telling. There are moments of excitement and of desperation, but they are few, most of this tale being told almost as if by a journalist, in a very matter-of-fact manner. Also, though this is the better book, in my opinion, there's almost no way to read this without comparing it to Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Beer of the Week: Moravian Rhapsody Czech Pilsener

Beer score: 7.8

Company: Raleigh Brewing Company
ABV: 5.2
IBU: 37

Pours a light golden color with the barest hint of cloudiness while giving off little scent other than some floral touches.

Quite sweet on the first sip, but a cool bitterness grows upon further drinking. There's a bit of citrus in the flavor, though I didn't find it overly strong. There's also a bit of grassiness and floral notes in the taste.

Goes down very smooth at first, and though it remains fairly smooth throughout, some carbonation does show through the more you drink. It also gains in strength and bitterness the more you drink.

Yeah, I enjoyed this one. I could see spending an evening with a six-pack of this beer.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 5 -- The King's Indian: Stories & Tales

by John Gardner

Started: Jan. 28
Finished: Feb. 8

Notes: I feel I've read a fair amount of Gardner, most recently having read his novel October Light, but I've never read any of his short fiction. So, I was delighted to discover this collection in a used book store.

Mini review: Though Gardner's style is too literary for my usual taste, here he presents not only a couple of literary tales, but also several stories of the gothic and a few of fantasy in the fairy-tale tradition. The final story, a novella, is "The King's Indian," and it's a tale of a young man on a ship at sea and a mad journey he finds himself on. In my opinion, Gardner's biggest weakness are his endings, because he usually has none. His stories ramble on with great characters, decent plots, and plenty of insight, but then they just sort of peter out to nothing. In Gardner's defense, that might be the point. His stories often deal with the fragility of our beliefs, and I'm not sure he comes to any strong conclusions but presents a variety of possibilities, none of which are usually pleasing to the reader.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Brewery Hill Centennial Lager

Beer score: 8.0

Originally coming to us from Lion Brewery Inc. out of Pennsylvania, this is another fine beer that's no longer with us.

This was a smooth, soft lager that reminded me of blond ales but without as much carbonation. The light, layering sweetness was kind to the tongue and not overpowering.

Apparently the folks at this brewery know how to make beer, but it's a shame they did away with this awesome one.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Beer of the Week: Wurzburger Hofbrau Premium Pilsner

Beer score: 4.2

Company: Wurzburger Hofbrau
ABV: 4.9
IBU: 25

Sometimes when tasting a beer for the first time, I have high hopes. Sometimes not. This time I was in the middle of the road, so I wasn't disappointed, but I also didn't come away excited.

This wasn't a bad beer, it was just nothing real special.

Pours a golden color while giving off a slightly sweet and grassy smell.

Light and wet on the tongue with a gentle honey sweetness.

And that's about it. Not much to say about this one. If you're in the mood for a lighter beer that's not actually a "light" beer, then this could be just the thing for you.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 4 - The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans

published by Zondervan

Started: Jan. 26
Finished: Jan. 28

Notes: I'm finally getting to the "letters" portion of the New Testament.

Mini review: As often as I've read this book of the Bible, I'm still always surprised and not only how much Paul preaches the message of Christ but expounds upon it to a length that Paul brings into Christianity notions that Jesus himself did not mention, or at least not in the Gospels as we have them. I'm not saying Paul was necessarily wrong or misleading, but it does make one wonder whether these notions were Paul's own or if the Holy Spirit were speaking through him.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 3 -- October Light

by John Gardner

Started: Jan. 6
Finished: Jan. 26

Notes: Gardner is an author I've long admired, both his fiction and non-fiction, but I feel I should read more of his works. His most famous novel is likely Grendel, but I've also much appreciated his non-fiction book On Moral Fiction. Here's to hoping I'll find this novel interesting as well.

Mini review: This was what some might consider a "serious" novel, even a ponderous novel, and it's not the fastest or easiest of reads, but I'm definitely glad to have read it, though I doubt I'll ever do so again. The plot will sound rather mundane. It's the 1970s in rural Vermont and an old farmer lives with his even older sister in their family home. One night they get into an argument, he shoots the television, and chases her upstairs where he locks her in her room. The next day when he has come around and decides to let her out, she refuses, the sister going on something of a strike, refusing to leave her room or clean house or cook for her brother. Throughout the novel she stays in her room, surviving by using a bed pan and a crate of apples available to her. Soon enough other members of the family show up and try to affect things, and eventually even pastors and friends try to end this stalemate between brother and sister. All the while, the elderly woman in her room reads a "trashy" novel that she discovered, a book of drug smugglers and a somewhat suicidal protagonists. Interesting enough, no small amount of this "trashy" novel is given to the reader, so it's sort of like two novels in one. Again, all this sounds rather mundane, but this is a novel with depths, touching upon family relations, politics, religion, philosophy, and ultimately, grief and how we cope or don't cope with it. There are few surprises here, though there are a few, and no small amount of space is spent on memories of the past, of the older people's younger days and those they have loved and lost. I feel like I'm barely touching what this novel is about, but this is supposed to be a mini review and not a full-out one. Can I recommend this novel? Not for everyone. But if you're the type who likes to delve into a literary piece from time to time, this one should be right up your alley.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Kara-bu Ale

Beer score: 7.2

This raspberry porter was strong like a heavy porter or one of the lighter stouts, but with a little more fizz than I felt was needed. Fermented with raspberries, this beer had a fruity taste and smell but not an overly sweet taste and smell. If it had had a little less carbonation, it would have scored higher.

Unfortunately this brew was made by the H.C. Berger Brewing Company of Ft. Collins, Colorado, which went out of business more than a decade ago..

So much for a pretty good beer.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Beer of the Week: Samuel Smith India Ale

Beer score: 8.6

Company: Samuel Smith Brewery
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 46

I'm not a big fan of India Pale Ales in general, but this is one of the best ones around. It doesn't have the sometimes strong, grapefruity sharpness of many IPAs.

Pours a nice copper color while giving off scents of bread, earthiness, and fruit, perhaps bananas. If you pour this one too fast, it will leave plenty of foamy head, but practice makes perfect.

The taste is stronger than the scent, featuring a complexity unusual in most IPAs. Here the taste features that breadiness and fruitiness mentioned above, but it's stronger, and there are also balanced flavors of citrus, flowers, a touch of sweet maple, and more.

Fairly smooth, not too strong, balanced well.

As far as I'm concerned, Samuel Smith's doesn't make a bad beer. This one isn't one of my favorite Samuel Smith's brews, but look at the score I gave it. Not a favorite beer, but such a high score? That should tell you just how good Samuel Smith's beers are. Even one that isn't a favorite still scores pretty high.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Crooked River Beers

The Crooked River Brewing Company was putting out decent beers back in the early 2000s in Cleveland, Ohio, but unfortunately they went by the wayside about a decade or so back. Still, I have a few notes of the few beers I tasted from this brewery.

Crooked River Cool Mule Porter

Beer score: 6.4

Heavy and fizzy with a burnt/sweet syrup flavor. A good brew for those starting out with beer tastings. I wouldn't have called it a personal favorite, but I wouldn't have turned one down at a party or gathering.

Crooked River Black Forest Lager

Beer score: 6.2

The taste of this brew was initially very sweet, almost to the point of tasting like a cider. This was one of the sweetest lagers I've ever tasted.

Crooked River Lighthouse Gold

Beer score: 6.6

A nice, light thirst-quenching lager. Light enough you could sit around and drink these all evening without feeling bloated.

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 2 - The Acts of the Apostles

published by Zondervan

Started: Jan. 5
Finished: Jan. 6

Notes: I'm nearing my ending of reading the KJV all the way through, but I'm not going to get there if I don't persevere.

Mini review: Roughly the first half of this book consists of events and actions taken by the apostles after the ascension of Christ, while the second half of this book covers Paul's conversion and his preaching before finally arriving at Rome. I had forgotten, and found it interesting, the number of minor events that are sprinkled throughout this book, events that usually involved one miracle or another concerning named individuals who are never again mentioned in the Bible.

Friday, January 05, 2024

Marketing just isn't my thing

Today I was reading an article titled "The Top 10 Publishing Trends for 2024" and I pulled up short at trend 2: Authors Build Their Brands and Communities.


Now, let me say right here, I don't have anything against my fellow authors who work at their branding, at marketing, at building a community, at media or public relations, or whatever the hell you want to call it.

Allow me to repeat that for those who will start screaming "But ... but ... but ..." I don't have anything against my fellow authors who work at their branding, at marketing, at building a community, at media or public relations, or whatever the hell you want to call it.

All that work ... well, it works for some people. I'm sure there are those who even enjoy it, who like reaching out and making connections with their fellow authors, with readers, etc.

But that's not me.

Maybe you could call me an introvert. Maybe I'm a luddite. Maybe I'm just a grumpy old man. Go ahead. Call me whatever mean-spirited, nasty thing you might want to call me. This is the Internet and the days of social media and manufactured rage, after all.

Simply, frankly, I just don't care.

It's not that I don't care about other people. I do, but only in a general, I-wish-we-could-all-just-get-along kind of way. I do see and read about plenty of things that are worth outrage, but I also see and read about a lot of outrage that's focused upon things that simply are not worthy of anyone's time.

I'm tired.

I'm tired of social media, of this faux world we've created, of that fake outrage. And I'm frankly tired of humanity, mainly of what we've become because of our use of technology.

I'm not saying the technology itself is evil, nor am I suggesting all of humanity is evil, but I will say our modern technology brings out the worst of us and the worst in us. Our modern technology gives voice to every little thought in our heads, when maybe sometimes we should just shut the hell up about things that aren't truly worthy of rage.

Okay, I'm digressing. It happens.

Anyway, marketing, branding, whatever you want to call it ... I simply don't care.

I want to write, edit, publish, do some graphic design, that's it. I have no interest whatsoever in reaching out to my readers, to fans or possible fans.

I realize that sounds atrocious in this day and age, maybe even selfish. Okay, maybe I am selfish. But I write a book, it gets published somehow or other, the reader pays a few bucks for the book, reads it, hopefully enjoys it, maybe even leaves a review somewhere ... and that's where it should end, as far as I'm concerned.

If a reader reaches out to me with praise or damnation or questions or what-have-you, that's fine. I don't mind hearing from folks, and I try to answer.

But I'm not your buddy. I'm not your friend. Hell, I don't even want to be your friend.

There are a number of people in real life that I'd call friends even though I have not spoken to them face to face in years, maybe even decades in some cases, but they're the type of friends for which it wouldn't matter, that if I ran into them tomorrow it would be just like we saw one another yesterday. I also have a fair amount of acquaintances online and in the real world, people with whom I'm generally on friendly terms, some I know personally and some I know professionally.

But the truth is, I don't have a lot of friends. And that's on purpose. I'm not crying out here that I'm lonely or anything. Believe me, that would be far from the truth.

Maybe I'm just a loner. I have a beautiful woman in my life, and that's really all I need. I don't feel a need for a lot of close relationships, and I definitely don't feel a need for a lot of pseudo-relationships or fake relationships. I don't have a need to talk with complete strangers about anything, not even my writing.

If I have anything to say, it's in my writing or maybe it's here on this blog. In truth, at this point I'm even to the point where I don't feel much of a need to talk with other authors, because most of the talk usually comes down to one of about three conversations, usually involving money or marketing or maybe reminiscing about some book or author, but on rare occasions involving craft.

I don't care for marketing, reaching out, building community, etc. All this really came to light for me a month or so ago when the company I've been using for more than a decade for my e-mail newsletter informed me they were going out of business. My initial thought was, "Crap! Now I'll have to find another service." But then it dawned on me, why? I only send out a newsletter about once every other year anyway, and with my current state of health it's not like I'm churning out novels often, so why bother?

So, I'll keep writing, even if it's a slow process for me nowadays.

No, I don't wish anyone anything bad. I simply don't feel a need to reach out and make contacts with complete strangers.

If you enjoy my books, I'm glad. Truly. Really. I'm appreciative. But I don't need to go over ad nauseam with dozens or even hundreds of strangers about my writing process, or about what's coming next, or about my personal life. Hell, half the time I couldn't even answer any such questions because very often I simply don't know what's coming next, and my personal life is exactly that, person. As for my writing process, it changes somewhat depending on what's going on in my life at any given time.

I do recognize that marketing and all that goes with it is a road to success for many authors, but I'm simply not interested. Could I have more success? Sure, but I'm satisfied where I'm at, being a relatively unknown writer who still manages to eke out a living typing on a screen. Yeah, more money is always nice, but the emotional drain it would take for me to do all that marketing work? No, thank you. I'll pass.

So ...


There. I've given my grumpy old man rant for the day.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Books read in 2024: No. 1 -- The King's Daughters

by Nathalie Mallet

Started: Jan. 1
Finished: Jan. 4

Notes: Geez, I can't believe it's been 17 years since I read this author's debut novel, and I've been trying to read the follow-up book ever since. Better late than never, I suppose. The first novel was a mystery novel set in a fantasy world, so I'm expecting this sequel to be much the same.

Mini review: This was a fun read. An Arab-type prince travels to a frozen northern kingdom where a number of princesses are going missing. Meanwhile a monster is breaking into a castle at night and killing people. Mystery piles upon mystery, but in the end a solution is found. I tend to prefer mystery novels in which clues are available for the reader to try and figure things out on their own, which is sort of the case here, but I'm willing to give fantasy novels something of a benefit of the doubt. Either way, this one was a good read.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Beer of the Week: Guinness Extra Stout

Beer score: 9.6

Company: Guinness
ABV: 5.6
IBU: 40

It's nice to start off the year with a good beer, and this stout is proof a popular beer can still be a great beer and doesn't have to be dumbed down for a mass customer base.

Pours dark, so dark you can't see light through it in a clear glass, but also leaves a foamy but not fizzy head with nice lacings. While pouring, it gives off a dark, chocolatey smell with more than a few hints of roasted coffee.

The flavoring is much the same as the scent.

Guinness if one of the thickest, stoutest, and strongest beers on the market. It's so heavy, a six pack will get most beer drinkers more than tipsy.

My favorite of all the stouts I've tasted, and in my opinion is probably too strong for beginning beer tasters.