Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tracking Beer

After taking four posts and almost two months to cover my recent trip to Colorado, I am also almost two months behind on updating my Beer List. Granted, I did squeeze in a post about a beer tasting at the Wine Merchant in Cary, but now it is time to bring the list up-to-date. I have previously lamented about not doing the Beer List chronologically. In fact, I actually used the exact words "previously lamented" in a previous post. Unfortunately, the Beer List started as a Blogger gadget at the bottom of the page, and I did not think to include dates when I first started.

While I like the idea of tracking beers consumption like at the Flying Saucer downtown, I never really thought I would get up to the one hundred beers required to get a plate on their wall. Now, my Beer List is approaching 700 entries which is another nice round number. I am confident that I will be exceeding that number with my backlog of pending entries. However, I really do not know if I will be able to tell exactly which beer reaches that magic number. In addition to my normal tweets, I have two empty variety pack boxes from previously mentioned Blue Moon's fall seasonal pack and the Samuel Adams Harvest Collection Variety Pack, as well as also a list of brews from another recent beer tasting at the Wine Merchant.

Number 691 on the list will be a draft of Sour In The Rye from the Bruery located in Placentia, California. Number 692 will be a pint of Hell Yes Ma'am, a Belgian-style golden ale from Raleigh Brewing Company which is located right here in Raleigh, North Carolina. Next will be a draft of Double Don Golden Lager which is ... ummm... well... watermelon-infused. It is from Deep River Brewing Company which is located in nearby Clayton, NC. Number 694 will be a bottle of Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter from Redhook Ale Brewery located in Seattle in the state of Washington.

It is at this point that I remember that I have already added the brews from the previous beer tasting at the Wine Merchant to the Beer List. That event actually occurred after I consumed the beers listed in the paragraph above. To resolve that issue, we can just subtract five or so from the numbers above and probably also the next couple. It is also possible that one of the brews from that tasting was actually the 700th beer which would make this whole post a moot point. However, I am not going to worry about that technicality.

Number 695 will be a draft of Reverb Imperial Pilsner from Boulevard Brewing Company which is located in Kansas City, Missouri. Numbers 696 and 697 will both be from Ballast Point Brewing Company located in San Diego, CA. Their Tongue Buckler is an imperial red ale. I also had seemed to be a version of their Black Marlin Porter brewed with cocoa and chipotle peppers.

After some additional research, I have discovered that the brews from the beer tasting at the Wine Merchant fit right here chronologically. The numbering should be correct from here, so now we can stop doing all that subtracting in our heads.

Number 698 will be a draft of 4042 Stout from previously mentioned Deep River Brewing Company. Number 699 will be a pint of Crazy Pils from Aviator Brewing Company. I enjoyed that pint while touring their brewery over in the oddly-named town Fuquay-Varina. That bring us to entry number 700 on the beer list which I am pretty confident is a draft I had of Coronado Brewing Company's 17th Anniversary Ale. Coronado Brewing is, not surprisingly, located Coronado, California.

I have made it to 700 beers on my list. Of course, I still have a month's worth of backlogged entries including the two seasonal variety packs and the more recent beer tasting. I need to get cracking.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Colorado Trip 2013: Days Six and Seven

This post will be my fourth and final entry covering my trip with my girlfriend Sara to Colorado. In the first post, I discussed our first and second days visiting with my sister, nephew and niece. My second post on this topic covered days three and four which saw us journeying up to a cabin in the Rockies Mountains. The third post discussed the fifth day. On that fifth day, we drove back from the Rockies.

Sara and I had the sixth day of our visit mostly to ourselves. We decided to borrow my sister's car and drive into downtown Boulder. The main drag in downtown Boulder is Pearl Street. We found a place to park the car on the street in a residential area a few blocks from Pearl Street and walked the rest of the way. We walked up and down Pearl including stretch known as the Pearl Street Mall which is closed off to traffic. We stopped by several of the eclectic shops along the way and picked up gifts for April and her family. Sara also bought gifts for friends who were watching her cat while she was away.

Eventually, it was past lunchtime, and we were past hungry. We were looking for a place to eat that had a local flavor, but we did not find anything that excited us. Instead, we ended up at West Flanders Brewing Company which is located at the western end of the Pearl Street Mall. The location was familiar to me because I had visited during my trip back in 2011. The location was previously home to a BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. I found out that the BJ's had since moved to a new location a couple of miles down the road, and in 2012, West Flanders took over their previous location on Pearl Street.

With her lunch, Sara ordered a pint of Tree Hugger Organic Amber from Asher Brewing Company. I helped her with it enough to feel comfortable adding it to my Beer List. I had promised myself that for lunch I would not have another buffalo burger along with another beer sampler, but that is exactly what I had. I believe West Flanders tries to focus on Belgian-style ales as their name would indicate. I had four of their tasters, the Trippel Lutz, Third Kingdom IPACanniption Pale Ale, and Angry Monk. The Trippel Lutz is obviously a Trippel. The Canniption and Third Kingdom are an American-style pale ale and an American-style IPA respectively. The Angry Monk is a Belgian-style pale ale, but the brewery's webpage has a humorous story about how their Angry Monk was originally called a "Trappist-style Ale."

Day seven was getaway day for Sara and me. Our flight back to Raleigh was delayed for a bit, so we had time to grab a snack and, of course, a beer or two. At Timberline Steaks and Grille in the Denver International Airport, she and I grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. I enjoyed a couple of brews from Odell Brewing Company located in Fort Collins, Colorado. I had the Odell IPA and the Odell 90 Shilling Ale. Then we boarded a plane and flew home.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond 10)
The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In my opinion, the grand master Ian Fleming swung and missed on this one. I suppose one should not expect an author to hit a gland slam every time out, nor should one expect every book in a series to live up to the previous works. There can be duds, and this is one.

The main character and narrator is Viv Michaels, a young French Canadian who was sent to finishing school in England by her aunt. After school, she spends a few years in Chelsea. After a brief return to Quebec, she departs on a journey down the United States on her Vespa motor scooter.

I do not think having a female character narrate a James Bond thriller is a bad idea, and I appreciate the author taking a risk with this popular series. Unfortunately, that that risk just does not pan out in this book. Perhaps if the narrator had been a femme fatale, the idea would have worked much better. In this case, the first half of the novel basically reads how I think a bad Harlequin romance would open.

James Bond does not make his appearance until about midway through the story. The most interesting part of the whole work is one chapter that explains how Bond has come to arrived at a motel in the Adirondack Mountains. This one chapter almost makes this book an actual spy novel. I think a fleshed out version of Bond's adventure up to that point should have been the meat of this work.

After arriving at the motel, Bond finds our narrator in some trouble. Viv has been working at the motel ever since stopping a few weeks earlier, and now that the tourist season has ended and the main proprietors have left for the winter, she is manning the place on her own. Needlessly to say, Bond helps her out of her jam.

While the last quarter of the book is exciting, it does not compensate for the mind-numbing first half nor the tease of an spy novel that is the Bond's backstory. I am ready to put this one behind me and move on the next in the series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Colorado Trip 2013: Day Five

I am continuing my chronicle of Sara's and my recent trip to visit my sister and her family in Colorado. This will be the third post. The first two posts are available here and here.

On the fifth day of the trip and our third day staying in the Rockies Mountains, we all made a visit to Breckenridge, Colorado. We stopped by the town's Riverwalk area. There happened to be a marathon and half-marathon being held in Breckenridge that weekend, so we stopped and watched some runner finish their runs. Then we walked up and down the main street of town and hit a few of the tourist-trap shops.

We made it down the street to Breckenridge Brewery in time for lunch. I previously discussed Breckenridge Brewery in my post about my visit to Colorado in 2011 to see my sister. During that trip, she picked up a 12-bottle sampler pack that contained four of their brews. For lunch on this day, I once again ordered a tasting sampler. This sampler included three of the four beers from the sampler pack of bottles. Therefore, I had already tried their Agave Wheat, Vanilla Porter, and flagship Avalanche Ale. I seemed to have liked them from the bottle back then, and I enjoyed them as well on this occasion as drafts.

Their fifth main line brew, Oatmeal Stout, was also on the taster sampler as was the 471 Double IPA from their small batch collection. The other three brews on the tasting list seem less widely available. The menu says their Trademark Pale Ale is a local favorite. The menu also tells me that Zwickel Bier (or zwickelbier) is an unfiltered German-style lager. Then there was the Roasted Habanero IPA. Even with three of us taking sips, it took awhile for us to finish that one.

After lunch, we took the gondola up to the ski resort at the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the gondola closed for a bit due to some weather, so we ended up taking a bus back down to the town of Breckenridge. Of course, by the time we got back down, the gondola was running once more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Colorado Trip 2013: Days Three and Four

After a hiatus to discuss more recent beer consumption, this post is a continuation of the chronicle of Sara's and my trip to visit my sister and her family in Colorado. My first post on this subject covered the first two days of our stay. In this post, I will cover the next two days.

My sister's in-laws have a cabin in the Rocky Mountains near the tiny town of Alma, Colorado. On the third day of our visit, we drove up to the mountains. We stopped on the way for lunch at an restaurant in Fairplay, Colorado. I enjoyed a nice draft beer with my meal. Not unexpectedly, my cellphone got spotty coverage while I was in the Rockies. My texts to Twitter were randomly sent and posted whenever there was some decent coverage. I believe the beer I had at that restaurant was First Cast IPA from Elevation Beer Company which is located in Poncha Springs, Colorado. Honestly, I do not remember it being anything particularly special.

When we got to the cabin, I found that there was leftover beer in the refrigerator. I discovered a bottle of Caramel Apple Spiced Ale from Blue Moon which was probably from one of their Brewmaster's Seasonal Sample Packs for fall. I later purchased that sampler myself back in North Carolina, and I am drinking a bottle as I type this. The taste is sweet like caramel and has autumnal spices including, I would say, nutmeg.

On day four, we all got up early, climbed into my sister's Subaru Outback, and ventured into the Pike National Forest. Due to recent rain, some of the mountain roads were impassible for the Outback, but we eventually found our way to Kite Lake. The views were absolutely beautiful, but after awhile, we were ready from some lunch (and perhaps some beer).

We traveled down the mountain to Buena Vista, Colorado. We decided to have some lunch at Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery. Of course, I also decided to have their beer sample. It was not my first beer sampler of the trip, and it would not be the last. There is a photo of me on Facebook with a wooden paddle holding eight tasting glass. However, I only have the six brews shown in the accompanying photo plus one seasonal offering, their Innerglow Red Chile Porter. I do not know what the eighth glass would have been.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Keg Tapping

I am skipping the continuation of my most recent trip to Colorado to cover another beer tasting event at the Wine Merchant in Cary, NC. I previously discussed a beer event at the shop back in March when I won a bag full of beer. Sara and I have since enjoyed another event which focused on various types of IPA brews. This "Tap Takeover" event focused exclusively on beers from Olde Hickory Brewery which, not surprisingly, is located in Hickory, NC. This tasting featured five brews from Olde Hickory, and while I have currently have two of their brews on the Beer List (the Imperial Stout and Table Rock Pale Ale), all five of these offerings were new to me. Unfortunately, this tasting occurred over two weeks ago, so as with my previous post, I will be depending heavily on the tasting sheet so graciously made available for the tasting.

The first brew that we sampled from Olde Hickory was the Single Hop Comet Pale Ale. As stated in the name, this brew features a single hop which is the rare Comet hop. Wikipedia tells me the Comet hop is American-grown and was "originally bred for its bittering characteristics". The group with whom Sara and I enjoyed the tasting mostly thought this beer had an herbal smell and first taste that led into a bitter finish and aftertaste. The tasting sheet tells me that this is the first in a serial of single-hop ales from the brewery. It also tells me this brew is 7.0% ABV.

Our second sampling was Olde Hickory's fall seasonal offering, Oktoberfest. This brew is a Märzen which is a pale lager. The tasting sheet notes that seven different malts were used in this brew while Olde Hickory's website tells me Noble hops were used to balance the malts. This drinkable brew is only 6.0% ABV.

The third beer to be sampled was their Death by Hops which I have previously managed to avoid. As expected, this Double IPA is a super-hoppy brew. The tasting sheets informs me that five different hops originating from the West Coast are used in this beer. Those five are Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe, Centennial, and the popular Cascade. Did I mention this one was hoppy? Their webpage does mention that two types of barley, Carapils and Crisp Crystal, were also used in the brewing process. This one is another that is at 7.0% ABV.

Next was even more hops with the Redeemer which is one of the brewery's limited releases. This brew is an Imperial IPA and weighs in at a hefty 10.0% ABV. It also counts five West Coast hops (Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo, Cascade, and Zythos) among its ingredients list. Not only did I have to work my way through my portion, I had to drink most of Sara's since she decided to go ahead and move on to the next and final offering.

Rounding out the five taps was David The Bat which is a Scotch ale. The tasting sheet tells me this brew was the winner of a homebrewing competition hosted by Olde Hickory. This one is 8.0% ABV.

This was another fun and interesting beer tasting, and I am ready for the next beer event at the shop later this month.