Friday, December 31, 2010

The Beer List of 2010

  1. Abita (Louisiana) - Turbodog (draft)
  2. Allagash (Maine) - Black (draft)
  3. Allagash (Maine) - Four (draft)
  4. Allagash (Maine) - Tripel (draft)
  5. Allagash (Maine) - White (draft)
  6. Amstel (Netherlands) - Amstel Light (bottle, can)
  7. Anheuser-Busch (Missouri) - Bud Light (draft)
  8. Anheuser-Busch (Missouri) - Budweiser American Ale (draft)
  9. Anheuser-Busch (Missouri) - Shock Top Belgian White (draft)
  10. Asahi (Japan) - Asahi Super Dry (bottle)
  11. Asia Pacific (Singapore) - Tiger (draft)
  12. Atwater Block (Michigan) - Vanilla Java Porter (draft)
  13. Avery (Colorado) - Ellie's Brown Ale (draft)
  14. Avery (Colorado) - India Pale Ale (draft)
  15. Aviator (North Carolina) - Devils Tramping Ground (draft)
  16. Aviator (North Carolina) - HotRod Red (draft)
  17. Aviator (North Carolina) - McGritty’s Scotch Ale (draft)
  18. Bavaria (Netherlands) - Bavaria Holland (bottle)
  19. Bavik (Belgium) - Wittekerke (draft)
  20. Belize - Belikin (bottle)
  21. Bell's (Michigan) - Oberon Ale (draft)
  22. Bell's (Michigan) - Special Double Cream Stout (draft)
  23. Big Boss (North Carolina) - Angry Angel (draft)
  24. Birra Moretti (Italy) - La Rossa (draft)
  25. Birra Moretti (Italy) - Premium Lager (draft)
  26. Bosteels (Belgium) - Pauwel Kwak (draft)
  27. Boston Beer (Massachusetts) - Samuel Adams Boston Lager (bottle)
  28. Boston Beer (Massachusetts) - Samuel Adams Noble Pils (draft)
  29. Boston Beer (Massachusetts) - Samuel Adams Octoberfest (draft)
  30. Boston Beer (Massachusetts) - Samuel Adams Summer Ale (draft)
  31. Boston Beer (Massachusetts) - Samuel Adams Winter Lager (draft)
  32. Boulder (Colorado) - Hazed and Infused (draft)
  33. Boulder (Colorado) - Kinda Blue (draft)
  34. Boulder (Colorado) - Mojo IPA (draft)
  35. Boulder (Colorado) - Mojo Risin' Double IPA (draft)
  36. Brooklyn (New York) - Summer Ale (bottle)
  37. Bulmers (United Kingdom) - Strongbow (draft)
  38. California Cider - Ace Perry (draft)
  39. Carolina Ale House (North Carolina) - Hat Trick Red (draft)
  40. Carolina Ale House (North Carolina) - Red Line Lager (draft)
  41. Carolina Brewery (North Carolina) - Oatmeal Porter (draft)
  42. Carolina Brewery (North Carolina) - Oktoberfest (draft)
  43. Carolina Brewing (North Carolina) - Pale Ale (draft)
  44. Carolina Brewing (North Carolina) - Spring Bock (draft)
  45. Carolina Brewing (North Carolina) - Summer Wheat (draft)
  46. Carolina Brewing (North Carolina) - Winter Porter (draft)
  47. Coors (Colorado) - Blue Moon (draft)
  48. Coronado (California) - Islander IPA (draft)
  49. Coronado (California) - Mermaid's Red Ale (draft)
  50. Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (Mexico) - Dos Equis XX Special Lager (draft)
  51. De Landtsheer (Belgium) - Malheur 12° (draft)
  52. Dogfish Head (Delaware) - 90 Minute IPA (draft)
  53. Dogfish Head (Delaware) - Burton Baton (draft)
  54. Dogfish Head (Delaware) - Palo Santo Marron (draft)
  55. Dubuisson (Belgium) - Cuvée Des Trolls (draft)
  56. Duck-Rabbit (North Carolina) - Milk Stout (draft)
  57. Duvel (Belgium) - Maredsous 10 Tripel (draft)
  58. Duvel (Belgium) - Maredsous 8 Dubbel (draft)
  59. Erdinger Weissbräu (Germany) - Erdinger Weissbier (bottle)
  60. Erdinger Weissbräu (Germany) - Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel (bottle)
  61. Founders (Michigan) - Dirty Bastard (draft)
  62. Founders (Michigan) - Nemesis 2009 (bottle)
  63. Fullsteam (North Carolina) - Carolina Common (draft)
  64. Fullsteam (North Carolina) - Carver (draft)
  65. Fullsteam (North Carolina) - Hogwash Hickory Smoked Porter (draft)
  66. Fullsteam (North Carolina) - Rocket Science IPA (draft)
  67. Fullsteam (North Carolina) - Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale (draft)
  68. Fullsteam (North Carolina) - Working Man's Lunch (draft)
  69. Great Divide (Colorado) - Hercules Double IPA (draft)
  70. Great Divide (Colorado) - Rumble IPA (draft)
  71. Green Flash (California) - West Coast I.P.A. (draft)
  72. Green Mountain (Vermont) - Woodchuck Pear Cider (draft)
  73. Grupo Modelo (Mexico) - Corona Light (bottle)
  74. Guinness (Ireland) - Guinness Draught (can, draft)
  75. Guinness (Ireland) - Kilkenny (draft)
  76. Guinness (Ireland) - Smithwick's (draft)
  77. Harpoon (Massachusetts) - Old Salt Ale (draft)
  78. Het Anker (Belgium) - Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (draft)
  79. Het Anker (Belgium) - Gouden Carolus Tripel (bottle)
  80. Highland (North Carolina) - Black Mocha Stout (draft)
  81. Highland (North Carolina) - Seven Sisters (draft)
  82. Huyghe (Belgium) - Delirium Nocturum (draft)
  83. Huyghe (Belgium) - Delirium Tremens (bottle, draft)
  84. InBev (United Kingdom) - Boddingtons Pub Ale (can)
  85. Kirin (Japan) - Kirin Light (bottle)
  86. Labatt (Ontario) - Labatt Blue (draft)
  87. Lagunitas (California) - A Little Sumpin' Wild (draft)
  88. Left Hand (Colorado) - Juju Ginger (bottle)
  89. Left Hand (Colorado) - Milk Stout (bottle, draft)
  90. Lonerider (North Carolina) - Shotgun Betty (draft)
  91. Lonerider (North Carolina) - Sweet Josie (draft)
  92. Lost Coast (California) - Keller Bier (draft)
  93. Magic Hat (Vermont) - Howl (draft)
  94. Mash House (North Carolina) - Irish Red (draft)
  95. Miller (Wisconsin) - Icehouse (can)
  96. Miller (Wisconsin) - Miller High Life (bottle)
  97. Miller (Wisconsin) - Miller Lite (bottle, can, draft)
  98. Mother Earth (North Carolina) - Endless River (bottle)
  99. Mother Earth (North Carolina) - Sisters of the Moon (draft)
  100. Mother Earth (North Carolina) - Weeping Willow Wit (bottle)
  101. New Belgium (Colorado) - Fat Tire (draft)
  102. North Coast (California) - Brother Thelonious (bottle)
  103. North Coast (California) - Old Rasputin Imperial Stout (draft)
  104. North Coast (California) - PranQster (draft)
  105. Ommegang (New York) - Hennepin (draft)
  106. Ommegang (New York) - Rare Vos Amber Ale (bottle)
  107. Orlando Brewing Partners (Florida) - Toasted Coconut Porter (draft)
  108. Oskar Blues (Colorado) - Dale's Pale Ale (can)
  109. Otter Creek (Vermont) - Stovepipe Porter (draft)
  110. Otter Creek (Vermont) - Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout (draft)
  111. Plzensky Prazdroj (Czech Republic) - Pilsner Urquell (bottle)
  112. Red Oak (North Carolina) - Red Oak Amber (draft)
  113. Reissdorf (Germany) - Kölsch (bottle, draft)
  114. Rogue (Oregon) - Dead Guy Ale (draft)
  115. Roth (North Carolina) - Dark Construct Stout (draft)
  116. Roth (North Carolina) - FoeHammer (draft)
  117. Roth (North Carolina) - Forgotten Hollow (draft)
  118. San Miguel (Philippines) - San Miguel (draft)
  119. Schneider (Germany) - Aventinus (draft)
  120. Schneider (Germany) - Hopfen-Weisse (bottle)
  121. Schneider (Germany) - Weisse Original (draft)
  122. Scottish and Newcastle (United Kingdom) - Newcastle Brown Ale (draft)
  123. Sierra Nevada (California) - Celebration Ale (draft)
  124. Smuttynose (New Hampshire) - Gravitation (draft)
  125. St. Bernardus (Belgium) - Christmas Ale (draft)
  126. St. Bernardus (Belgium) - Tripel (bottle)
  127. St. Bernardus (Belgium) - Witbier (bottle)
  128. Starr Hill (Virginia) - Dark Starr Stout (draft)
  129. Stella Artois (Belgium) - Premium Lager (draft)
  130. Stone (California) - Stone Imperial Russian Stout (draft)
  131. Stoudt's (Pennsylvania) - American Pale Ale (draft)
  132. Stoudt's (Pennsylvania) - Scarlet Lady Ale ESB (draft)
  133. Sweetwater (Georgia) - 420 Extra Pale Ale (draft)
  134. Sweetwater (Georgia) - Blue (draft)
  135. Sünner (Germany) - Kölsch (draft)
  136. Terrapin (Georgia) - Capt'n Krunkles (draft)
  137. Terrapin (Georgia) - Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout (draft)
  138. The Bruery (California) - Orchard White (draft)
  139. The Bruery (California) - Saison Rue (bottle)
  140. Tsingtao (China) - Tsingtao (bottle)
  141. Uerige Obergärige Hausbrauerei (Germany) - Uerige Sticke (draft)
  142. Unibroue (Canada) - Éphémère (bottle, draft)
  143. Van Honsebrouck (Belgium) - Kasteel Tripel (draft)
  144. Van Steenberge (Belgium) - Bruegel Amber Ale (bottle)
  145. Victory (Pennsylvania) - Storm King Imperial Stout (draft)
  146. Weihenstephan (Germany) - Kristallweissbier (bottle)
  147. Weyerbacher Brewing (Pennsylvania) - Merry Monks' Ale (bottle)
  148. Yuengling (Pennsylvania) - Traditional Lager (draft)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thanks for the High Life

This post might seem like a bit of catharsis, and perhaps that is the case. A few weeks ago, El and I ended our five-year relationship. I am not sure there was any single reason for the breakup. I guess we had different thoughts about the future, had different wants and needs, were growing apart, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, she moved out of the townhouse and into her own apartment a couple of weekend ago. Some of her friends from work came over to help her pack and move her things. El bought some pizza and beer for everybody while they were here helping.

Her stuff is gone, so now the place is pretty empty. Since I am not the most adventurous of cooks, we agreed that she should clean out the refrigerator and take whatever food and ingredients she knew she would use and I would not. The fridge was not particularly full before and was even more empty afterward. One of the few items left was a single bottle of Miller High Life that was left over from a six-pack she had bought during the move. It occurred to me that an ex-girlfriend leaving a bottle of High Life in the fridge would make a great country song. It would be appropriately titled "Thanks for the High Life".

Many country songs are written in a simple three-verse formula. I have not really listened to country music regularly since the 90s, so most of these examples will be dated. Songs that follow the three-lyric formula include "Don't Take the Girl" sung by Tim McGraw, "Copperhead Road" by Steve Earle, and "Love Without End, Amen" and "Check Yes or No" from George Strait. Incidentally, George Strait happens to be my Mama's favorite singer.

The first verse in this type of song presents the theme of the song in a straight-forward manner. It could be an innocent story about an early-life experience like learning to drive or memories of a favorite pet. It could be a reference to sports such as winning the big game. Another option is to present a challenge that has to be overcome. The first verse of my song would establish the story of a guy whose girlfriend has broken up with him and left a bottle of beer in the fridge. It would not have to be a single bottle in the song. Perhaps, a six-pack or a case would be more appropriate. This verse would end with a simple thanks for the beer.

The second verse continues the theme but usually with some twist. The childhood friend from the first verse could become a teenage girlfriend or a young wife. The high school football star could be shipped off to war. The second verse in my song would turn depressing with perhaps a touch of meanness. In this verse, the thanks for the high life would be a sarcastic reference to his lonely future without her. This verse might include lyrics about the beer helping him forget her with a sad joke about the sips being his first steps on the road to becoming an alcoholic.

The final verses of these songs continues the theme from the first two verses, but can take that theme in a variety of directions. If the song is a love song, the obvious answers are for the girlfriend to become a wife or for the verse to reflect on an older couple's life together. The final verses of country songs frequently include references to religion or patriotism. If the second verse is the low point of the song, the final verse can serve as the light at the end of the tunnel. The third and final verse of my song would turn reflective and show closure to the relationship. In this verse, the high life would refer to their relationship and how he appreciated their time together.

There are my thoughts for a country song. I do not think this will be the perfect country song like "You Never Even Called Me by My Name", but it is an idea.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Copy Cats

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the local movie theater and caught the alien-invasion flick, Skyline. The movie was not particularly good, and its stay in theaters was short. To me, the story and cinematography are reminiscent of the monster flick Cloverfield. The plot revolves around a couple who have flown to Los Angeles for the birthday of the guy's best friend. The friend is some sort of media mogul and is played by Donald Faison who is best known for playing Dr. Turk on the sitcom Scrubs. None of the other actors were familiar to me, but that certainly does not mean they are not well-known.

During the couple's first night in LA, they are awakened by bright blue lights coming through the window blinds. The lights are from spaceships belonging to aliens with not so nice intentions. When people see the mesmerizing lights, their body is frozen in place, and then they are vacuumed up into the ships. The rest of the plot revolves around characters either trying to hide or escape from the aliens. Neither of these approaches are successful. The military also makes some appearances to provide some action but little success. In the end, the audience is left to assume that the aliens were successful in their conquest of the planet Earth and the human species. I am not kidding. Not to worry, there is already a sequel in the works.

One thing that I noticed was the movie depends on the standard signals to inform the audience that the lead female character is pregnant. For anybody that does not grasp the subtleties of Hollywood symbolism, when a woman pukes and/or declines an alcoholic drink, it means that she is pregnant. I think screenwriters go to those wells far too often, but I guess it makes things easy for both the writers and the audience. There are few other reasons for either of those two situations to be worked into a story. I suppose if the story is about a woman recovering from alcoholism, it would be reasonable for her to decline drinks. If a female character is hungover, is being treated for cancer, or is being poisoned, then it is understandable that she would throw up. I think those examples are about it though.

Speaking of regurgitation, it seems increasing popular nowadays for movies and television shows to recycle previous ideas. As I mentioned above, Skyline is basically a remake of Cloverfield with the Godzilla elements replaced with the extraterrestrial elements from Independence Day. Moving over to the small screen, one frequent source of regurgitated ideas for American television shows is the BBC. Some of the best examples are ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, NBC's The Office, and TLC's Trading Spaces which was based on a BBC show named Changing Rooms. The show What Not to Wear is another example from the network TLC. The original hosts of the British version of that show even went on to have their own show on American television.

The latest show to get the BBC-to-America treatment is Top Gear. The British version of the show is shown here on BBC America. Let me say that I am definitely not a gear-head. I own a 1998 Honda Accord Coupe with peeling paint. It is the EX version with the 3.0-liter V6 engine. That is about all I know about cars. I do not change the oil in my car. The extent of my car maintenance skills are pumping gas, changing wiper blades, adding air to tires, and changing bulbs and fuses. I was quite proud of myself when I replaced the main relay in the Honda. Also, I do not know how to operate a manual transmission. It just seems a bit silly that I would watch a show about high-end sport cars that I would not even be able to drive if I somehow managed to afford. All that being said, I do enjoy the British version of Top Gear.

That enjoyment does not exactly carry over to the American version of the show. I have watched all the episodes so far, and the best I can say is that I do not hate the show. Unfortunately, the American version just does not work as well as the original. While the hosts from the BBC version have an easy, dare I say organic, relationship, the relationship between the three hosts for the American version seems forced. The individual segments are also a bit discombobulated. Some of the segments seem more like the bland car reviews from the PBS show MotorWeek. Other segments, such as the Stig test-driving supercars and celebrities driving on the track, are just straight duplicates of the British version. The one improvement to those segments is the little diagram that traces the path around the track. I always thought the British version should have something similar. I do not even know the shape of the track on the British version. I was glad to see this improvement included on the American version.

Finally, I watched the premier season of The Walking Dead which is a television show about zombies. The show is broadcast by AMC, and as one might expect from the channel that is known for the hit show Mad Men, the focus of The Walking Dead is more about the drama between the living survivors than their efforts at fighting off the undead. Of course, it would be impossible to do a show about zombies without borrowing from some of the many zombie movies. Despite the fact the Evil Dead movies are among my favorites, I am usually not one for horror flicks, but I have seen a few zombie flicks relatively recently including the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, the horror comedy Shaun of the Dead which starred Simon Pegg, and Zombieland which starred Woody Harrelson. I suppose working with zombies does not give one much flexibility, and the zombies from The Walking Dead are basically the same generic zombies as from those movies.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Beer Dinner

I have a list of draft posts that are aging in the queue. I also have a backlog of beer to discuss. At the end of the year, I hope to move the Beer List to a stand-alone post as a summary for the year. I want to cover those brews before then. The topic of this post dates back before my trip to China. Unfortunately, the Chinese government's block of Blogger kept me from posting while I was there, and I have not gotten around to finishing this post until now. The week before my flight to Shanghai, El and I attended a beer-sampling dinner at Zely & Ritz which is a tapas and wine restaurant in the Glenwood South area of downtown Raleigh.

El and I have always thought Glenwood South would be great for tapas hopping. The area has four tapas restaurants within a few blocks plus several great restaurants featuring a variety of cuisines. The tour could start at Zely & Ritz which is at the south end of the stretch. A block north is a relatively new place named Cashmere. I have never visited Cashmere nor the restaurant previously housed at that location which was first named April & George and then just the George. I have visited the final two stops on our proposed Glenwood South tapas tour. The next stop would be the Red Room which is another block north. Red Room is one of several local restaurants owned by Rocky Top Hospitality. Two others, Bogart's and Hi5, are in the same building. Our tapas tour would finish up at Tasca Brava which one of our favorite restaurants.

Back to the beer dinner, the featured brewery was Fullsteam which is located in Durham. The dinner featured four courses including desert, and each course was paired with a different beer. I kept a menu to help me remember which is very convenient since two months have now passed. Two representatives from the brewery, Sean (also from Pop the Cap fame) and Chris, were in attendance, and they regaled us with stories for each brew. Unfortunately, I have waited too long to write this post, and I have now forgotten their stories.

The first brew was their Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale which was served as people were arriving at the restaurant. This beer was the first produced by Fullsteam. I know that farmhouse ales are flavored by a variety of fruits and spices, but I thought the basil in this beer resulted in a odd taste which reminded me of soap.

The first course was a Swiss chard salad with goat cheese, apples, pecans and maple syrup. The brew paired with the salad was the Rocket Science IPA. I do not remember why they decided to call this particular beer Rocket Science. I suppose brewing a very good beer is complicated work, but the finished product is much tastier than a Saturn V. The IPA is an enjoyable pale ale that does not go too crazy with the hops.

The second course was an arugula salad with shiitake mushrooms and barley. It was paired with the Carolina Common beer which now seems to be named Southern Lager and is their flagship brew. The style is steam beer or California common beer and was made famous by Anchor Brewing out in San Francisco. This was my favorite of the brews we sampled.

I remember the third course being completely fabulous. It was smoked bacon and pork rib roast with mashed sweet potatoes. Some of the mashed sweet potatoes were purple which made for an interesting look on the plate. The pork was from Coon Rock Farm which is located over near Hillsborough. The paired beer was Hogwash Hickory-Smoked Porter. I was not overly impressed by the smoked porter. Most of the people in the place either did not like this beer at all or absolutely loved it. El fell squarely in the later category.

For desert, a local bakery named Crumb provided their take on the Moon Pie. It was another hit. The brew paired with desert was the Working Man's Lunch which is a chocolate stout. Both the desert and the beer were quite tasty and the pairing provided a great end to the evening.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beer in China

In my previous post, I discussed my recent trip to the People's Republic of China. As promised, the topic of this post will be the beer that I consumed while on my trip. Unfortunately, most Asian brews seem to be standard American-style mass-produced lagers. I only had one Chinese beer, and that was the ubiquitous Tsingtao. To me, it seemed no different than a Bud Light or a Miller Lite. I also had pints of two other Asian beers that were of similar quality. The first was Tiger beer from Singapore. The second was San Miguel from the Philippines. Neither was particularly memorable.

While I was in Shanghai, I stayed at the Swissôtel Grand Shanghai. The hotel is in the Jing'an District which is one of the more Western-oriented areas of Shanghai. Therefore, I was able to enjoy several European beers during my stay. The first was a draft of Kilkenny at Malone's American Cafe which is just down the street from the hotel. Kilkenny is an Irish cream ale. It is sort of a cross between stablemates Guinness and Smithwick's. The taste is Irish red with the creaminess of an Irish stout. I really enjoyed Kilkenny, but it does not yet have much of a foothold here in the US. The next draft was also at Malone's, but it was not a beer. Strongbow is a cider produced by English cider maker Bulmers. I honestly did not know was I was getting when I ordered the drink, but I was pleasantly surprised with the cider that I received.

Finally, I had two beers from Erdinger Weissbräu in the steakhouse inside my hotel. Erdinger is a German brewery. I had a bottle of their weissbier and a bottle of their dunkel. The weissbier is an hefeweizen, and the fact that I enjoyed it should be no surprise given my preference for style. The dunkel is actually a weissbier dunkel (or dunkelweizen) which is basically a dark wheat beer with a maltier taste. I think I enjoyed the darker beer even more than the lighter version.

Incidiently, Erdinger checks the letter 'E' off the list for my self-assigned task of consuming a beer from a brewery for each letter of the alphabet. However, I think the large brewing companies makes covering the entire alphabet a bit ridiculous. It is often difficult to decide exactly what to label the brewer for a particular beer. For example, the letter 'I' is covered on the Beer List by Boddingtons Pub Ale which was originally brewed by Strangeways Brewery which was sold to Whitbread Beer Company which was acquired by Interbrew which was included in a merger to become InBev, and is now part of corporate giant AB InBev. None of which is relevant to the beers I drank in China.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Where in the World is Jim?

This is another post that has been a long time in the making. I was recently in China for a three-week business trip. I spent the first week in Shanghai, the next week in Beijing, and the third week back in Shanghai. For those of you following along at home, that means I spent four straight weekends traveling. My trip started early one Saturday morning with a two-hour flight on United Airlines from RDU to Chicago's O'Hare International. The 14-hour flight from Chicago took an arctic route to Shanghai Pudong International. The next Sunday, I flew Shanghai Airlines from Hongqiao International to Beijing Capital Airport. The Sunday after that, I flew Air China from Beijing back to Shanghai Hongqiao. The flights between Shanghai and Beijing were around two hours each. The following Saturday, I left Shanghai Pudong for the trip back to Chicago and then on to Raleigh. Grand totals over the three weeks include four legs, six flights, five airports (RDU, ORD, PVG, SHA, and PEK), three airlines (UA, FM, CA, all Star Alliance members), around 36 hours in the air, and 16,750 frequent flier miles.

During my trip, I found out interestingly enough that the PRC blocks access to Blogger. That gives me a good excuse for not posting for several weeks, although three weeks of seemingly endless meetings are a much better excuse. I know now that Blogger allows posting via email which circumvents the block in China. However, I would have had to have set that up beforehand if I had known. It is still a good thing to remember for any future trips to the People's Republic.

I am not one to take pictures, so there will not be a slide show accompanying this post. I do not own a camera, nor did I take the opportunity to purchase one while I was in China. While in Beijing, I got one day to play tourist. I stayed at the Loong Palace Hotel which is on the outskirts of in Beijing. I booked a tour with an English-speaking guide through the hotel concierge. The first stop on the tour was one of the Ming Tombs. There are several different tombs around Beijing. The particular one we visited was Chang Ling. The tour did not include the underground tomb itself but the outlying buildings and structures.

After our visit to the tomb, we stopped by a government-sponsored jade "museum" which was really more of a giant store that offered a variety of jade jewelry, statues and other objects plus other goods including paintings, silk, and Chinese fans. While there, we had a traditional Chinese meal which involves a round table with a Lazy Susan in the middle containing many different dishes. I had a few such meals while I was in China. You either get use to people grabbing food with their chopsticks as the dishes go by or you go hungry.

After lunch, our bus made its way to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. The Great Wall is as impressive as advertised. It is also very crowded. The Great Wall stretches through hills and mountains. At Badaling, cable cars go about halfway up the side of the hill. After the ride in the cable car, the rest of the way is on foot. The tour guide described the journey to the top as heroic, although she passed on the chance to be heroic that day. Stairs of various heights and depths, inclines of various angles, and a mass of people made getting to the top and back down interesting to say the least. However, the trip was definitely worth the view.

As one would expect, the topic of my next post will be the beer that I had during my stay in China.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Defense of the BCS

This post is particularly in response to yesterday's Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ) by Gregg Easterbrook but also covers arguments made by many other people. TMQ articles are posted on every Tuesday during the NFL season with additional appearances throughout the year. In his articles, Easterbrook covers certain topics on a regular basis including repeated complaints against the Bowl Championship Series or BCS. The BCS is used to decide the champion for college's football top level (Division I FCS). Easterbrook, like many other people, see several shortcoming with the system.

The main argument that people have with major college football is that it needs to have a playoff. I find that argument to be moot since the BCS decides a champion via a two-team playoff in the form of a single championship game. In reality, there are two separate issues that people have with the BCS. One is how the teams are selected. The second is that the number of team qualifying for the playoffs should be expanded.

In regards to the first concern, the focus of the complaints varies. Some people complain about the human voters in the two polls that make up the selection formula. Others complain about the computer rankings. In my opinion, the criteria for selecting team is less important than ensuring that criteria is applied consistently. In that regard, I do not understand how the BCS system is worse than the backroom selection committees that decide the playoff teams for other college sports. What exactly is the criteria used by those committees for selecting teams? At least, most professional sports have defined methodologies for selecting playoff teams, but the criteria used often seems arbitrary. A perfect example is the system for breaking ties used by the NFL. What is meant by "Strength of victory" and why is it more important than "Strength of schedule"?

Increasing number of playoff teams, in my opinion, is simply a method of reducing the force of complaints from the excluded teams by expanding the number of teams with such complaints. Currently, two teams qualify for the championship game, and there are usually one or two teams with valid complaints for being left out. If it was decided that every conference champion qualified for a championship playoff, then every conference runner-up (if not third and fourth place teams) would complain about being excluded from the playoffs. The main reason for the expansion of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 1975 was to include teams that were not conference championship. The men's basketball tournament has expanded seven times since. Yet, every year there are still teams with complaints about being left out.

Above all, I do not think that there is any practical reason why a playoff is better than any other method for selecting a sports champion. This is admittedly a ridiculously rhetorical argument, but voting is considered the best method for selecting political leaders as opposed to say fighting it out on the battlefield. However, sports champions must be settled on the playing field in order to be considered legitimate. Why is that so? Why is voting for the best team not considered optimal? Or why not simply select the team with the best regular season record and break any ties using NFL-style tiebreakers?

There are valid arguments against using playoffs to decide champions. Playoff games add more potential opportunities for atheletes to be hurt. There are a fewer number playoffs games which take away from the value of the larger body of regular season games. Also, the standard complaint that the BCS is all about money is disingeneous. It is ridiclous to think that methods used by other leagues to select champions place a higher value on the purity of the sport over maximizing revenue. The ever expanding playoffs in other sports that continue to add more teams and more games are always first about generating more money and less about ensuring a true champion is crowned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Modest Proposal, Part IV

After several months, I am returning to my quite immodest proposal concerning the National Football League. I have three previous posts on this topic. The first post proposed eliminating the two legacy conferences. The second part covered realigning the divisions and handling the relocation of teams. In the third part, I discussed changes to the postseason. Why am I returning to this topic now? At the end of the third post, I promised an "innovative approach to the Pro Bowl". Unfortunately, my basic approach was recently co-opted by the National Hockey League for its All-Star Game starting this season. Some people are already proposing this format be extended to other leagues including the NFL.

6. Pro Bowl

One problem with my proposal to eliminate the AFC and NFC is the makeup of the rosters for the Pro Bowl, the NFL's annual all-star game. Each NFL season, the best players from the two conferences are selected to play in the Pro Bowl. Without conferences, a new process would be needed for picking the players for the game. In the NHL's new process, two captains will first be selected, one for each team. Those two captains will then pick the other players for their team.

My thought for the Pro Bowl is very similar in that there would be a televised draft for the game. Instead of the rosters being selected by two players designated as captains, I would suggest that the coaches for the two teams do the drafting. I have three suggestions for which coaches should be selected. One suggestion would be to follow the current process of selecting the coaches from the teams that lose the two semifinal games, but that would not be possible due to timing. Coaches from teams that lost earlier in the postseason tournament would have to be used as was done this year. Another idea would be to use coaches from the college ranks, perhaps the two coaches from that season's BCS National Championship Game. This would be similar to coaches from the NFL coaching teams of college players in all-star games such as the Senior Bowl.

A third idea would be to use previous NFL head coaches that are currently not coaching in the league. Many former head coaches, including several Super Bowl winners, are currently working for television networks. Perhaps the two Pro Bowl coaches could be selected from the network that has the broadcast rights for that year's Pro Bowl and/or Super Bowl. This season, FOX Sports has the broadcast rights for both the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLV. FOX's lineup of former coaches include Super Bowl winners Brian Billick and Jimmy Johnson. CBS has the broadcast rights to the 2012 Pro Bowl, and the CBS roster includes Super Bowl winner Bill Cowher. NBC has the rights to Super Bowl XLVI, and the NBC lineup includes Super Bowl winner Tony Dungy. ESPN has previously broadcast Pro Bowls and has "Iron Mike" Ditka and Jon Gruden.

The highlight of this Pro Bowl proposal would not be the game itself but the selection of the team rosters. This televised event would be the ultimate fantasy draft. Of course, the NHL has this idea covered as well. The list of potential players for the Pro Bowl would be available a few weeks prior to the draft to give the coaches time to plan. Last year, the Pro Bowl was played the week prior to the Super Bowl and did not include players from the two Super Bowl teams. Assuming that schedule is to continue, the list of available players would not be finalized until after the two Super Bowl teams are decided. Therefore, the Pro Bowl team rosters could not be set until the conclusion of the two semifinal playoff games. As previously stated, it would impossible for the losing coaches from the semifinal games to participate since the draft would probably have to start immediately following those games. To give the two teams another day to prepare, I would also suggest moving the game to Monday night.

In the next post on my NFL proposal, I will discuss how my changes would affect the contracts the league has with the television networks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Raiders of the Lost Earnhardt

I was a NASCAR fan when I was young, but I have not followed auto racing regularly since I was a teenager. I only recently noticed that back in July, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Subway Jalapeño 250 at Daytona International Speedway. This was Dale Jr.'s first win in a points-earning NASCAR race since 2008. The Chevrolet that Junior happened to be driving carried a Wrangle sponsorship and the number 3. That particular combination was made famous by his father.

The race won by Junior was part of the Nationwide Series. Relative to the top-level Sprint Cup Series, the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series are analogous to minor leagues in baseball. There is one important difference however between baseball and NASCAR in this regard. Baseball players from the major leagues occasionally make appearances in the minor leagues, primarily on rehab stints while recovering from an injury. A veteran player who no longer has a contract with a major-league team may also play in the minors in an effort to work his back to the majors. On the other hand, NASCAR drivers frequently participate in races at various different levels. It is not rare to see Sprint Cup drivers racing and winning Nationwide and truck races.

When I read about Junior's win, it occurred to me that Dale Jr. has sort of become NASCAR's version of the NFL's Oakland Raiders. Fans of both remember an earlier generation when the the objects of their adoration were known for being mean, nasty and overly aggressive. Both were also known for sporting black, but more importantly they were consistent winners. They would do whatever it took to achieve victory.

When Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was racing, the major-league NASCAR series was known as the Winston Cup Series. Senior won seven series championships which is tied for most with Richard Petty. Both he and Petty were inaugural inductees of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Dale, Sr. won 76 races out of the 677 Winston Cup races that he started in during his career. That means he won 11.2% of the time. On the other hand, Junior has won 18 out of 384 Sprint Cup races. Considering that NASCAR races generally have 43 drivers in the field, winning 4.7% of the time is not shabby. However, it pales in comparison to his father's achievements.

The history of the Raiders includes three Super Bowl victories and thirteen Hall of Fame players. Their last Super Bowl victory was Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. More recently, they lost Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the seven seasons since that Super Bowl loss, the team has only won 29 games while losing 83 for a woeful winning percentage of 25.9. Both Oakland and Junior continue to carry the names Raiders and Dale Earnhardt, but both current versions are mere shadows of the previous incarnations.

While discussing the subject of this post with El, she suggested including Johnny Cash in the mix. He was also known for wearing black and could be a bit mean. He is also dead which does not allow him to match up with his previous greatness. His first daughter Rosanne Cash has been somewhat successful in the music business. His only son, John Carter Cash, has been less successful. I suppose the analogy could fit Johnny Cash, however, I think it would be a bit of a stretch.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Carolina Hockey

This will be my second straight post discussing the Carolinas, but this post will be about sports, specifically ice hockey, and not beer. This year, two minor league hockey franchises have relocated to the Carolinas. Back in February, I posted about Charlotte getting a new AHL franchise. There is also a new ECHL franchise in Greenville, South Carolina.

Charlotte's new franchise kept the name of the city's previous ECHL team, the Checkers. The new team is the AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. Back in June, the Checkers unvieled new logos and jersey designs. The team's new primary logo is a duplicate of the previous logo, but with the colors changed from powered blue and navy blue to black and silver to match the colors of the parent club. To further tie the new team to the Hurricanes, the new alternate logo features the team's polar bear mascot carrying a hockey stick with a tropical storm flag. The new sweaters are just replicas of the three that the Hurricanes wear only with the Checkers logos on the chest.

Taken altogether, I do not particularly care for these changes. While I understand that the overall goal is to promote the parent club throughout the Carolinas, I do not think that making the Checkers clones of the Hurricanes is the best way of achieving that goal. The main problem is that the themes of two teams do not match. Why does a team with a polar bear as its mascot have jerseys with tropical warning flags trimming the bottom? In my opinion, the Checkers should have maintained the colors and jerseys of the previous franchise. The team should only have a single Hurricanes-clone jersey which would only be worn for certain games. That jersey would be red but with the team's alternate logo which I like. The games when those sweaters are worn could be specifically geared towards promoting the Canes. Perhaps, some of the Hurricanes players and Stormy, the Hurricanes' mascot, could make the trip down for those games.

The previous incarnation of the Checkers was affiliated with the New York Rangers. Replacing the Checkers as the ECHL affiliate of the Rangers is the Greenville Road Warriors. The Road Warriors were previously the Johnstown Chiefs before moving to South Carolina. The team will play in the BI-LO Center which is located in downtown Greenville. The name for the team was chosen via a fan-submission contest and is a homage to the area's link to the automotive industry. I like the team's colors and logo. However, I would drop "Road" from the team name and just go with the "Warriors" for the name.

Speaking of road warriors, that term could definitely be applied to the major league team in Raleigh. The Hurricanes are experiencing big changes this year. At the top, longtime captain Rod Brind'Amour has retired, and Eric Staal begins his first full year serving as captain. There are also several new young players. The Canes have gone from the second-oldest team last year with the average age of their players being 29.3 years to the 26th oldest this year with an average age of 27.2. Those players will be a bit older before the team's first true home game this season. The team's first home game will be the second of two games against the Minnesota Wild to be played in Helsinki, Finland. After returning to this country, the next five games for the team are on the road. This is primarily thanks to the North Carolina State Fair which runs from October 14-24. The RBC Center, the team's home, shares parking space with the fairgrounds and also Carter–Finley Stadium, home to the N. C. State's football team. The Wolfpack have an away game and a bye week while the fair is in town. The first game at the RBC Center for the Hurricanes is October 27 versus the Capitals.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Confusion in Carolina

No, this post is not about the woeful Carolina Panthers who are now 0-3 after a sloppy loss to the Bengals today. The Cats do looked confused on the field though. Things are not looking any better with upcoming games against the Saints and Bears.

Living in North Carolina and enjoying many different types of beers, I like trying the various local brews. There is one problem with beer from this area however, particularly if you are trying to keep track of what you are drinking. There are multiple brews available with "Carolina" in the name. In fact, there are two separate operations with "Carolina Brew..." in their name. The Carolina Brewing Company is located in the town of Holly Springs which is a short drive south of Raleigh. Their Spring Bock and Summer Wheat are on my Beer List, and I have previously had some of their other brews.

There is also Carolina Brewery which operates two brewpubs in this area. The original is in Chapel Hill. I have never been to that location, but I have been to their newer location in Pittsboro. Beers from Carolina Brewery are available in other places besides the two brewpubs.

In addition to the "Brewing Company" and "Brewery", there is the "Beer Company". Carolina Beer Company is located in Mooresville which is just north of Charlotte. They offer "Carolina"-branded beers plus specialty brews under the Cottonwood brand. Their Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale was the first pumpkin-flavored beer that I tried, and I still think it is the best pumpkin beer I have tasted. Try it in a half-and-half with Guinness or Murphy's Stout.

Finally, there is the string of Carolina Ale House locations. To be completely confusing, they offer their own special brews plus they have beers from the Carolina Brewing Company on tap. The Ale House's Hat Trick Red is on my Beer List.

Ordering a draft of the "Carolina" special around here is an iffy proposition. I was recently at a bar, and I had an oatmeal porter and an Oktoberfest from one of the "Carolina"-named companies. It took some investigation, but I was able to figure out that these two beers were from Carolina Brewery. First, I had the Oatmeal Porter. The Internet tells me that the addition of oatmeal to a porter or stout gives a smooth creaminess. That is definitely the case for this brew. It is a delicious beer, but one is really all I could drink. I followed the Oatmeal Porter with the Oktoberfest. Not quite as tasty as the smooth porter, but also a good beer.

While I am on the subject of local beers, I would like to mention a new brewery that recently opened in north Raleigh. According to their website, Roth Brewing Company was founded in 2008, but their beers have only started appearing in the past few months. I have only had two of their beers, and to be completely honest, I did not care for either one. Their FoeHammer is a big barleywine with a hefty 10.5% ABV. I thought this beer had a very strong alcohol flavor. It seems to be a high-gravity beer for the sake of the high-alcohol content. I have also tried their Forgotten Hollow which is suppose to be a cinnamon porter. It definitely was flavorful, but to me it did not taste like cinnamon. Even though I did not care for these two brews, I would still like to welcome Roth to the neighborhood. I am looking forward to trying more of their offerings, and I am sure I will find several that I enjoy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

That's a Great Idea

Today's post was originally going to be about beers from a couple of local breweries. I will get around to that post eventually. However, I was reading the most recent article from's Bill Simmons who has a familiar idea. In his article, he complains about the recent futility of the NFL's NFC West division. He blames the problem on the small divisions in the NFL and proposes to correct the issue via realignment. While he attempts to maintain the two conferences, his proposed alignment is very similar to one of my proposals. My first proposal eliminated the AFC and NFC and simply combined the directional divisions. My followup realignment proposal had the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins rotating divisions. The only difference between that proposal and his suggestion is that he has the Dallas Cowboys in the geographically-correct "NFC South" (my "South Division") which moves the Carolina Panthers to the "AFC East" (my "East Division"). Despite any excitement over this weekend's Lone Star showdown with the Houston Texans, I seriously doubt Cowboy's owner Jerry Jones would ever agree to give up the Cowboy's traditional rivalries with the other NFC East teams.

While our divisional alignments are similar, our schedule proposals are vastly different. He proposes a complicated 18-game schedule which includes only playing home and away games against some divisional opponents while only playing one game versus others. He also fits in eight games against teams from the other divisions. My proposal comes in 16- and 17-game flavors. Teams would play home and away games against each of the other seven teams in their divisions for a total of 14 games plus games against one team from either two or three of the other divisions. I just do not feel that the NFL will go to an 18-game schedule. I think the idea of expanding the regular season to 18 games is a negotiating ploy by the NFL team owners with the players union. If the idea does not get dropped completed in favor of some concessions by the players, I think the two sides will compromise by expanding to only 17 games.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Super Secret Formula

As I have previously discussed, I, like many people, play fantasy football. For the past few years, I have been in two leagues. As I think is common in fantasy leagues, both of my leagues release a weekly power ranking. Ever since I joined a 10-team league with some guys at work, the power rankings have been sent out each week as a large Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet tracks various pieces of data. First is the points scored by every team with the high and low scores from each week highlighted. Next, there is the number of other teams each team would have beaten for every week. Finally, there are the wins and losses for the season. The data in each category is cumulative as the season goes along. The ten teams are ranked in each of the three categories. The best team in each category gets 10 points and the worst gets 1 point. The teams are ranked based on the sum of the three rankings. Therefore, the best possible score would be 30 points and the worst would be three.

My other league has twelve teams. One of the other owners is Alan, a college buddy mine. His brother Matt is the league manager. The other owners are various friends of theirs. When the league first got started, Matt would post weekly power rankings based on his own personal opinions. Team StandingsWhile that was interesting and generated fun posts on the league's message board, I felt that I could come up with rankings that more accurately reflected the strength of the teams. I knew I would be using a spreadsheet, but I did not want to maintain data from previous weeks as is done on my other league. Therefore, I wanted to only use data available for the current week.

Both of my leagues are on The standings page on includes two tables. The top table has wins (W), losses (L), ties (T), winning percentage (PCT), and games behind the first place team in the standings (GB). The second table has points scored for (PF), points scored against (PA), home record, away record, division record, and streak of either winning, losing or tying. (I have seen a tying streak of two). In my fantasy leagues, the home and away records are meaningless. My 12-team league only has one large division, so in that league, the division record is also meaningless.

I have been constantly evolving my ranking formula since I first began. I started by simply copying and pasting the standings data into a spreadsheet and then playing around with it. Normalized ValuesI eventually settled on using four of the available data categories. To the right is example standings from last season showing the four components. I think PCT, PF and streak are pretty obvious. Teams with the best PCT and PF have good arguments for being the best team. The streak component answers the "What have you done lately?" question. Regardless of the other data, would you rather play a team on a long winning streak or a long losing streak?

Probably the only questionable component is PA which I include in the formula as an adder instead of a negative. In fantasy football, the players on your team have no affect on your opponent's performance. Therefore, it is my opinion that PA represents the strength of a team's schedule. I think including PA as one of the components helps teams that have scored a good number of points, but do not have great winning percentages or long winning streaks because they have played teams that have also scored a lot of points.

If you thought things were geeky already, it is now going to get even geekier. StreakFor each component, I normalize the values. Normalization is a mathematical technique were a set of values are mapped between one and zero with the highest value being set to one and the lowest value being set to zero. All the other values are somewhere in between. To normalize a set of numbers, each number is subtracted by the minimum value in the group and the result is divided by maximum value minus the minimum value. Here are the example standings again with columns added for the normalized values of PCT, PF and PA. I have highlighted the highest and lowest values for each component.

Normalizing the streak value is a bit more complicated since there can be winning streaks, losing streaks, and even tying streaks. Before doing the normalization, the formula converts winning streaks to positive numbers, losing streaks to negative numbers, and tying streaks of any length to zero. Here are the streaks for the example teams with the plus-or-minus values and the normalized values. Unfortunately, my snapshot from last year does not include any teams with a streak of ties, but if there were teams on a tie streak those values would be set to zero which would fall somewhere near the middle of the range after being normalized.

Of course, the four components are not all equal. RankingsI think winning percentage and points scored are more important factors and should have more influence in the formula. Streak should have less influence, and PA should have the least. The weight assigned to each of the components can be easily changed in the spreadsheet. I have the weights listed as percentages. The weights for the four components should add up to 100%. My spreadsheet does not strictly enforce that particular rule, but does make it obvious when the weights do not sum up properly. I chose to give PCT a weight of 30%, PF a weight of 40%, PA a weight of 10%, and streak a weight of 20%.

The component values for each team are multiplied by their selected weights and are then added together to give a score that should fall into the range between zero and one if the weights were chosen properly. The teams are then sorted by their scores to give the weekly rankings. Here are the scores from the example sorted from highest to lowest.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cruise Brews

Home Brew Update: Obviously, it has been more than two weeks since I bottled the latest batch of home brew. My opinion might be due to my lowered expectations, but the beer is not that bad. It is a little flat and seems a bit sour, but it is drinkable.

Moving on to other news, El and I just got back from a seven-night cruise of the western Caribbean aboard the Carnival Valor. Our "exotic" cruise departed from the Port of Miami. After a day at sea, the first stop on our itinerary was Grand Cayman. The Cayman Islands were part of the British West Indies and are now one of the British Overseas Territories. Grand Cayman was accessible from the ship via smaller tenders. El and I elected to skip Grand Cayman and stay aboard the ship. One of the drawbacks of cruise ships are the large number of people. The Valor has a capacity of 2,974 passengers plus 1,180 crew members. Spending the day on the ship with fewer people was a welcomed change of pace. We did see a fake pirate ship that roams the bay as part of a pirate-themed excursion.

The next day our ship docked at Mahogany Bay on the island of Roatán which is off the coast of Honduras. The area is known for a great strip of beach plus various water-based activities. Our ship shared the day in port with the Carnival Dream which is Carnival's newest and largest ship. El and I disembarked for a short time, but retreated back to the Valor due to the heat and the crowds.

The third stop on our cruise was Belize. El had us booked for a seven-hour tour of a Mayan ruins site. The morning started with a ride on a tender to the port of Belize City. After arriving in port, we were herded onto a tour bus for the ride out to Xunantunich. The main tour guide jokingly told us to pronounce the name of the site like "Tuna Sandwich". The ruins are accessible via a ride across the Mopan River on a hand-cranked ferry and followed by a quick van ride up the hill.

Prior to getting to the ruins, we stopped in a small welcome center which contained a scale model of the site. Then we proceeded to the ruins. There are multiple structures that are part of the site. The most impressive is the large pyramid known as "El Castillo". Our group climbed to the top of temple and were awarded with an amazing view of the surrounding area. The guides pointed out areas that were in Guatemala which is only two miles from the site.

After descending from the pyramid, we rode back down the hill and back across the river. Then we jumped back on the tour bus and headed off to lunch. We stopped at a restaurant in a small nearby town called San Ignacio. Lunch was the best red beans and rice that I have ever eaten, but that might have been due to our tired state. We also had chicken and fried plantains. To go along with lunch, I bought us two bottles of Belikin beer. Belikin is known as the beer of Belize. It is a run-of-the-mill lager that normally would have been uninteresting. However, it definitely hit the spot at the time.

After lunch, it was back on the bus for the ride back to Belize City. Outside of the compounds run by the cruise lines, you might expect the areas of Central America and the Caribbean to be in abject poverty and extremely rundown. What I saw of Belize during the ride to and from the ruins was better than that expectation. In fact, I really did not see much difference between outlying areas of Belize and many rural areas of the South.

The fourth stop of the cruise was Cozumel which is a Mexican island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It was our second early morning, since El and I had another excursion. After debarking and meeting our group, we were loaded into a taxi for a short trip to a zip-line center not too far outside of the port compound. The guides helped us into our gear, and after a short instructional briefing, we climbed up a wooden tower. I should note here that I am not a big fan of heights. It took some effort to just pick my feet off the ground and start trusting the cable. I finally took that first step, and after that, it got easier.

After returning from our excursion, we found the Carnival Conquest docked next to our ship. The Conquest is one of the Valor's sister ships, and it was pretty impressive walking down the dock with the twin ships on each side. It was reminiscence of walking around the downtown area of a large city with skyscrapers lining the street.

Other than the bottle of Belikin beer in Belize, I did not get the opportunity to sample any local brews. During the cruise, El and I spent most of our evenings after dinner in the piano bar. I downed several bottles of Pilsner Urquell and cans of Boddingtons Pub Ale while enjoying the entertainment provided by Randy on the piano.

Day seven was another day at sea. El and I had a very nice dinner at the steakhouse located on the tenth deck. On the eight day, we returned to Miami, and then flew back home.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Home Brew Update: It has been two weeks since I put the batch of Whispering Wheat Weizenbier in the keg. Today, I put the latest home brew in bottles. Same drill as before, another two weeks in the bottles, and then we will get to taste.

On Saturday, I continued my journey down the hoppy trail with two ales heavy on the hops. As I have discussed in previous posts (including the most recent), I have been trying more pales ales, IPAs and even double (or imperial) IPAs despite my general preference for beers with lower contents of hops. I find that some of these brews are strong and hoppy seemingly just for the sake higher ABV and IBU numbers. Those are the ones that I least prefer. Other beers in these categories are smoother and easier to drink. Here we have one of each.

The first brew that I consumed was Islander IPA from Coronado. This will be the second brew on the Beer List from the California brewery after their Mermaid's Red Ale. The website for Islander IPA brags about its "intense hop bitterness" which I found to be right on the money. There were some other flavors, but for me at least, the hops really overpowered any other taste.

To the rescue comes Capt'n Krunkles from Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Georgia. According to the brewery's webpage, Capt'n Krunkles is the tenth in a line of Side Projects and the first for the year 2010. The brew is called a black IPA which is an oxymoron. How can a beer be both black and pale? Other descriptions for this particular style of beer include Cascadian Dark Ale and American-Style India Black Ale which now seems to be the official name for the style per the Brewers Association. True to the style (whatever it is called), Capt'n Krunkles is a dark pour. The smell is very malty. I found the taste to be a great balance of roasted malts and heavy hops. I enjoyed this beer much more than the Islander IPA.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bottles and Cans and ...

"Bottles and cans and ..." well, pint glasses. The title of this beer post is a reference to the Beck song "Where It's At" which includes the aforementioned line, and this post will cover a brew from a bottle and one from a can, as well a draft served in a pint glass. That will cover the top three methods of dispensing beer, but of course, there are others. In addition to the ubiquitous pint glass, draft beer can be served in glassware ranging from the Kölsch glass to this thing. Draft beer can also be deposited into growlers that can be carried back to the house. Then there is that favorite method of the college-age crowd for consuming beer, the keg stand.

First up is the can. Recently, El and I were invited to a party by a pool which restricted our choice of beverage containers to the non-glass variety. Stopping by a local grocery store, I picked up a six-pack of Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewing Company which is located in Lyons, Colorado. I have previously sampled Dale's at local beer festivals along with as some of Oskar Blues's other canned offerings. This was a perfect opportunity to try a full can (or more) of the pale ale. As advertised, Dale's is a pale ale (as the webpage states, "duh"). However, I thought it was quite hoppy, even bordering on an IPA. The 65 IBUs would put it in the lower-end of the IPA category. I have been trying more pale ales, IPAs, and even DIPAs, and I liked Dale's.

Next, I am hitting the bottle. Last Saturday, El and I accompanied some friends of ours on a trip to the fine city of Durham. While there, we stopped for lunch at interesting shop named Parker and Otis which offers various sandwiches along with plethora of other goods. In multiple beer coolers were a variety of beers. I selected a bottle of Summer Ale from Brooklyn Brewery. The brew was a light and refreshing as you would like on a nice summer day (even those it was raining while we were in Durham).

Bringing up the rear is a draft beer. I recently had a pint of Turbodog from Abita Brewing Company which is located in Abita Springs, Louisiana. Turbodog is an interesting brown ale. The style is defined by Newcastle which has a nice flavor full of malts, nuts and caramel. Turbodog has a similar malty flavor, but perhaps not as strong. I think I prefer Newcastle.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yet Another Beer Post

Home Brew Update: Today, I mixed up another batch of home brew. I went with the Whispering Wheat Weizenbier this time. Unfortunately, I have little hope for this batch. I sanitized the utensils as usual, but then I kept forgetting and sitting the whisk that I was using directly on the counter instead of the plate that I had sanitized for that particular purpose. Then while I was sprinkling the yeast over the wort mixture, I dropped the whole yeast packet into the keg. I fished the packet out with my fingers which I assume does not create the most sanitary condition.

Moving on to beers brewed by others, El and I visited our favorite local watering hole yesterday. First up for me was Hazed and Infused from the Boulder Beer Company. I have previously had Boulder's Mojo IPA and Mojo Risin' Double IPA. Those previous Boulder brews sported hoppy tastes. Hazed and Infused was no different, but it was much more drinkable. H&I was not as over-the-top hoppy as the IPA and DIPA.

Next up was a big beer. In fact, the brew is one from Smuttynose Brewing's Big Beer Series. At 12% ABV, Gravitation definitely fits the bill. Gravitation is a Belgian-style quad or quadrupel. There were lots of strong flavors, but it was hard to get beyond the strong alcohol taste. Let me just say that half a pint was quite enough.

Now it's back to Boulder Beer for a not-super-hoppy beer. Their Kinda Blue is a blueberry-flavored wheat beer. I have tasted blueberry beers before, most recently Sweetwater Blue. As I stated in that previous post, I enjoy wheat beers, but I generally do not care for super-fruity wheat beers including the Sweetwater brew. Surprisingly (although I guess not so much based on the name), Kinda Blue did not seem to have a super-blueberry taste. It was just a very drinkable wheat beer.

Next is a solid porter from Otter Creek. Stovepipe Porter is dark brown in color. El particularly enjoys porters and stouts. She had a taste of this one and seemed to enjoy it. I agree with her.

El and I ended the night at the local Irish pub with some friends. While there, I enjoyed a couple of pints of Smithwick's which is one of the Guinness brands. Smithwick's is pretty much the definition of an Irish red ale. The amber-colored brew had a nice malty taste.