Speaking of Fun With Beer…

Okay, okay…it will surprise exactly zero people to know I’m sitting in the taproom as I write this.  But I do have an excuse, this time.

It’s Beer Madness time…

Yes, you heard that right: Beer Madness.  Just like March Madness, but…well…a hell of a lot more fun.  We don’t sit and watch a bunch of players run up and down the court.

No, sir…that would remind us just how little we are able to run up and down the court.  Nope, instead, we do it right, we stick with what we are good at: beer.  Everyone chooses a beer to enter into the contest, then we have head-to-head battles until one champion reigns supreme.

You’d think this was my metier…you’d think I could dominate at this kind of thing.

You’d think, but you’d be wrong — I’ve never made it out of the first damned round.


This year, though…

This year will be different.

This year my Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Double Apricot Blonde will get me at least ONE win.  There is NO “next year,”not this time.  My beer & I are all in.  It’s full-Miracle, or nothing — hell, I can hear Herb Brooks in my mind right freaking now!

UPDATE:  Ahem.  I lost.  Again.

The Cold War Wasn’t Fun; Beer Should Be

951AE41E-D562-49ED-B8B0-B1E1911A4CBAAn American red, fighting for its life against a vestige of the Russian Empire. Rivers of the lifeblood of England, swirling and circling around as they fight with that of the Czechs. And Germany…Germany torn asunder, and clashing with itself, region by region.

The Cold War in beer.

What’s better: an American-style red ale, or a Russian Imperial stout?

Can an English brown beat a Czech pilsner?

How about a Munich helles lager, struggling against a porter from the Baltics?

We never fought with guns — let alone with the nukes most folks expected — but we DID fight with beer. Beer was a MUCH better way to solve our problems.87797B0D-966F-4C5F-9CB4-1A6FA99B9217

Look, there a million ways to guide yourself in choosing beers. Whether by style, or flavor profile, or region…take your pick. They all work, along with a dozen other methods. But…


But, you should have fun when you start exploring beers. You should, when you get right down to it, be a bit silly. Give yourself some guiding principle, some lodestone with which you can navigate — it doesn’t have to actually make sense, it just has to be fun.

You could do a great deal worse than to refight or relive the great struggles and moments of history through those beers that are “characteristic” of the players involved. Crap, what have you got to lose? Beer snobs are just as bad as wine snobs: they’re not gonna take you seriously, anyway, so have at it! Have fun!  Be silly, be stupid… Silly and stupid, by the way, are great ways to learn. Just ask any college freshman.

And, yes, I have indeed fought the Cold War in beer. The red team versus the blue. F0FF0B13-A4B5-44A3-96AF-8681BE701592We each picked a side — NATO versus the Warsaw Pact — then a country. Those countries fought, beer by beer, until the world stood under the domination of the winners. Until, when all was said and done, every palate lay under the beer-power of one side or the other.

I led a poor Czech division, I should mention, trying to use my pilsner-cannon to defeat a mighty fortress built from English brown ale. It was a hell of a fight.


The End Is Nigh!

bob3Cower in fear, for the Four Horsemen ride!  War and Famine and Death and…the other one!

The brewery is out of beer…

No, really, totally out of cans.

All the certainties in my universe are gone.  Innocence is forever lost, and my dreams crushed under the jack-booted heels of “production problems”.  Crap, it’s like they repealed all of the laws of motion, even the ones I didn’t like.  It’s like Einstein sat up in his grave and said he got it all wrong.

What’s next?  My word processor runs out of letters?

Crap, I didn’t even want the stuff to DRINK!  I had a delivery to make, one I have to reschedule now…


No, this is not a first world problem, goddamit!  This is universal!  Beer is either the second or third oldest drink in the world (after water and, potentially, mead), and one that was drunk for millennia in preference to water!*  Hell, it was beer that got the Israelis through that Egyptian-slave-thing; that brought the Germanic tribes strolling down to Rome to create the seeds of modern Europe; that got the Vikings off their fat asses and sailing around…

*The brewing process kills and filters most of the contaminants and little critters that made old-school urban water so…erm…questionable.

No, you say?  It’s more complicated than that?  Bah!  A pox on you!  It’s my blog, I get to interpret history however I want!


Sorry.  My production-problems-caused trauma is turning to full-fledged PTSD on me.


Wait a damned second…

ohno.jpgWhat if the beer never comes back?


Forget the Apocalypse…forget AIs exterminating us…forget nuclear wars and genetic plagues and all the other End of Days scenarios…THE BEER IS GONE!!

A Hint Of Food Porn

You don’t really realize just how satisfying it is to cook for yourself until you have to eat someone else’s cooking — every single damned day — for better than five months.


I love to cook. I love to cook…and I’m pretty damned good at it.

By now, I’ve made decent progress through the list I had in my head of the stuff I wanted to make when I got back. From basic steaks, to Thai green curry, to jambalaya (simmering away as I type this), the list goes on and on.  Now, it turns out, I’ve been sucked into a food & beer cooking/pairing contest.

Oh, not a real contest — just a group of friends, doing a beer-themed dinner. Except, like everything else we do, there has to be an element of competition to it. Of course it has to be a freakin’ contest — we’re the jackasses that would make a game of goddamned hopscotch competitive!

Okay, so the set-up: everyone drew randomly out of three hats for their course, for the protein they have to use and for the beer they have to pair and cook with.

Please, please, please…just not dessert, beef and IPA. Please, God, anything but THAT!

Nope, the universe (for once) smiled on me. I drew the third course (out of seven). Now, keep in mind: in a full, formal multi-course meal, that should really be a fish course…but not this time. Nope, this time I got pretty much everything I wanted from the universe. So, the dish:

Hand-made ravioli, stuffed with venison and mushrooms in a cherry lambic sauce.

Oh, shit, did I win the damned prize with those draws! I can feel my friends’ hate right now — it’s keeping me nice and warm…

And to the poor bastard who got the salad course and stouts? HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Err…sorry about that, got carried away for a moment.

Now, why do I like cooking so much? Well, aside from the fact that I absolutely love food (and, yes, beer), there is a bit more to it.

Cooking, you see, is in some ways a lot like music…and like writing. The common thread to those pastimes is simple: in almost no other profession/calling do you take a bunch of unrelated bits and pieces and create from them a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Now, I’m not much of a musician.  In spite of my love of listening, I pretty much top out at playing chopsticks on the piano*. But I am a cook…and a writer. There is, when you get right down to it, very little in this world more satisfying than sitting down and making that all, well, just work.

*And, yes, Mom…you were right way back when: I really do regret giving up the piano when I was 11!

To take “Characters A & B”, mix them with “Plot Points X, Y & Z”, bake them in “Setting N”, then come out the other side with a good story? That’s freaking magic. As a reader it’s magic, but as a writer it’s even more so.

Just like taking the worst cuts of meats you can find, and coming out with a charcuterie dish that makes everyone fall all over themselves for more…