Monday, December 29, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Bruery 7 Swans-A-Swimming and Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome

The Bruery 7 Swans-A-Swimming
Yesterday, we had some friends over to watch some football and wallow in misery at the Bears' situation.  We also drank beer.  One of the beers I drank was The Bruery's 7 Swans-A-Swimming.  Each year, The Bruery puts out a different winter seasonal beer named after one of the 12 Days of Christmas.  This is, obviously, the seventh in that series.  Each beer is different, and I know I've had a couple, but the one that stands out to me is the 4 Calling Birds, which was heavy on the licorice.  7 Swans-A-Swimming is a Belgian style quadrupel, which means it's strong and delicious.  It's not a traditional winter beer, but it is still very good.

Name:  7 Swans-A-Swimming
Brewery:  The Bruery
Location:  Placentia, California
ABV:  11%
IBU:  35
Good for drinking if:  you think it's funny that someone named a town Placentia.

Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome
Tonight, I went with an English selection, Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome.  Like the Rosey Nosey I had on Boxing Day, the Winter Welcome is more of an English ale than what you might think of as a winter beer.  It's a lot lighter in color and doesn't have any of the traditional spices, but it's still quite good.  I generally enjoy the other Samuel Smith's beers I've had, most notably the Taddy Porter (also the name of a great band) and the Oatmeal Stout (not the name of a great band, at least not yet).  That's about all I have to say about that.  I don't know why I just quoted Forrest Gump.  That's my boat.

Name:  Winter Welcome Ale
Brewery:  Samuel Smith's Old Brewery
Location:  Tadcaster, UK
ABV:  6%
Good for drinking if:  you're using your time off work to watch the entire series of Peaky Blinders.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Batemans Rosey Nosey and Hoppin' Frog Frosted Frog

Batemans Rosey Nosey
Yesterday was Boxing Day.  After giving all my servants a Christmas box and allowing them to retire an hour early, I sat down on the Chesterfield in the parlor to enjoy 500 ml of ale.  Since I don't have any Canadian winter beers on hand, I went with an English one:  Batemans Rosey Nosey.  While billed as a holiday ale, it doesn't have any spices that you might expect from a winter beer.  However, it was excellent.  I would describe it as a really good English style ale -- a little sweet, a little bitter (but not hoppy), and easy to drink.  I'll have to have my errand boy pick me up another bottle tomorrow.

Name:  Rosey Nosey Holiday Ale
Brewery:  George Bateman & Son Ltd.
Location:  Wainfleet, United Kingdom
ABV:  4.7%
Good for drinking if:  you are boxing.

Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Hoppin' Frog Frosted Frog
Tonight, I went with a more traditional Christmas ale:  Hoppin' Frog's Frosted Frog Christmas Ale.  At 8.6%, it packs a punch, but definitely doesn't taste that strong.  However, it does have a lot of flavor, with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon jumping out of the glass.  See what I did there?  Jumping?  Frog?  All right, I'll stop.  But not before I say this:  I applaud Hoppin' Frog for putting the IBUs on the bottle.  I think I speak for everyone who hates hoppy beers when I say that this should be a requirement.  Carry on, Hoppin' Frog.

Name:  Frosted Frog Christmas Ale
Brewery:  Hoppin' Frog Brewery
Location:  Akron, Ohio
ABV:  8.6%
IBU:  12
Good for drinking if:  you need a good winter beer to drink when spending the holidays with relatives in Calaveras County.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Two Brothers Peppermint Bark Porter

It seems like just yesterday, Joseph and Mary Christ forgot to make hotel reservations and welcomed their son Jesus into the world by putting him in a livestock trough in a nearby barn.  Today, we celebrate that blessed occasion by giving the Walt Disney Corporation ungodly amounts of money to appease our children.  Seriously, fuck Frozen.  

But I digress.  Tonight's beer selection involves two of my favorite holiday culinary traditions:  dark beer and peppermint bark.  Two Brothers Brewing is a solid little brewery in Warrenville, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago known primarily as "that slightly less conservative town next to Wheaton."  It has been around since 1996, but I feel like it has really started to spread its wings in the last four to five years.  Their winter "artisan" beer is called Peppermint Bark Porter, which is exactly what it says:  a porter that has a peppermint finish.  There's not much else I can say to describe it.  It's really good, and it's a refreshing alternative if you're looking for a winter beer that doesn't have the traditional winter beer spices (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, clove, etc.).  Get a bomber of it and enjoy.  Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Name:  Peppermint Bark Porter
Brewery:  Two Brothers Brewing Company
Location:  Warrenville, Illinois
ABV:  6.7%
IBU:  32
Good for drinking if:  you're sick of drinking Scope to mask your alcoholism.

Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Great Divide Hibernation and Ten Ninety Milk & Cookies

Great Divide Hibernation
Last night, I finished off the 12 Beers of Christmas at Rocks, while attempting to relive old glory on the trivia field.  One of the beers I had was the Great Divide Hibernation.  It's too hoppy for a Christmas ale, so I didn't take a picture.  That is all.

Name:  Hibernation Ale
Brewery:  Great Divide Brewing Company
Location:  Denver, Colorado
ABV:  8.7%
Good for drinking if:  you want a hoppy winter beer to drink while you cruise to a second-place finish in bar trivia.
Rating:  3.5 stars (out of 5)

Ten Ninety Milk & Cookies
I was at Binny's today because, what else would I be doing at noon on Christmas Eve?  I came across the perfect beer to leave out for Santa Claus:  Ten Ninety's Milk & Cookies.  Ten Ninety is a relatively new brewery in the Chicago suburbs.  I've had a couple of their beers, and everything I've had has been good.  Milk & Cookies is a milk stout with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and it says "for Santa" on the label.  Needless to say, I convinced my children that this is what we should leave out for Santa, along with actual cookies, as well as carrots for the reindeer.  Kids are idiots.  This beer, however, is delicious.  I was nervous at first smell, as it smelled a little hoppy, but my fears were allayed with my first sip.  It's pretty smooth, and it tastes like a gingerbread cookie mixed with a milk stout, which works well.  This isn't a beer that you would have a lot of, but it's perfect for consuming while wrapping presents and watching A Christmas Story and Bad Santa.

Name:  Milk & Cookies
Brewery:  Ten Ninety
Location:  Zion, Illinois
Good for drinking if:  you are Santa, or if you're just hanging out with Thurman Merman.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Bands and Artists Who Deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Last week, the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were announced, and I think it's a pretty good class.  The incoming crop includes Green Day, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Bill Withers, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Lou Reed, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

-Green Day is a no-brainer in its first year of eligibility.  
-Joan Jett is awesome and one of the most influential female rockers in history.  It is an abomination that Laura Nyro -- an artist for whom I still can't name a single song -- was inducted two years before Joan Jett, but then again, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters haven't exactly been known to make the right choices, especially when it comes to hard rock.  Regardless, Jett and her band are in, and that's all that matters.  
-Withers is a borderline inductee, in my opinion, but did have huge hits with "Lean On Me" (#1), "Use Me" (#2), "Just the Two of Us" (#2; with Grover Washington, Jr.), and "Ain't No Sunshine" (#3).
-Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble is probably the best blues rock band in the last 30 years, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band might have been the best one prior to that.  Vaughan and Butterfield lead guitarist Mike Bloomfield were two of the best white blues guitarists of all-time.
-Lou Reed has influenced a ton of artists after him, even if his solo career only featured one Top 40 hit (1972's "Walk On the Wild Side"). 

In addition, Ringo Starr will be getting the Award for Musical Excellence, meaning all four Beatles will now be in the Rock Hall as solo artists.  Also, '50s R&B group the 5 Royales are being inducted in the Early Influence category.  The induction ceremony is going to be in Cleveland on April 15.

Further proving that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters look to me to influence their voting, they voted in another two that I argued last year deserved to be in (Jett and Vaughan).  Since the voters are obviously reading GMYH, it is my duty to tell them who they should induct in the future.  With that, here is my list of the top ten Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs, in alphabetical order, with the year of the band's first album in parentheses.  I have, for the most part, just copied and pasted what I have already said about them, so deal with that.

Other snubs (in alphabetical order): Boston, Jimmy Buffett, Cheap Trick, Joe Cocker (now that he's dead, I would think he's a near shoo-in), The Cure, The Doobie Brothers, Duran Duran, ELO, The Guess Who, Jethro Tull, LL Cool J, The Monkees, The Moody Blues, Motley Crue, Willie Nelson, Nine Inch Nails, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne solo, The Replacements, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Steppenwolf, Styx, and Yes

1.  Pat Benatar (1979)
As I have said in years past, there is a noticeable shortage of rocking females in the Rock Hall.  With Joan Jett's induction (and Heart a few years ago), the Rock Hall voters are righting the ship, but there is still one glaring omission in the form of Pat Benatar.  A mainstay of the early MTV era, she has 6 platinum albums, 9 Top 40 albums in the US, including 6 that hit #14 or better, three Top 5 albums, and one #1 (1981's Precious Time).  Between 1979 and 1988, she had a pretty solid run of singles, with 15 Top 40 hits in the US, including four that cracked the Top 10.  Songs like "Heartbreaker," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Love is a Battlefield," and "We Belong" were not only big hits, but also songs that have held up pretty well.  She has unquestionably influenced female rockers over the past three decades.

2. Bon Jovi (1984)
Bon Jovi, like Def Leppard (see below), is lumped negatively into the hair band genre. Both were bigger than the genre, in my opinion. Bon Jovi has sold an estimated 142 million albums worldwide, and has managed to weather the '90s and beyond better than just about any other band that can be labeled a hair band. They have 10 platinum albums, 15 Top 40 albums, 11 Top 10 albums, and 4 #1 albums -- including Top 5 albums in the '80s, '90s, '00s, and '10s and a #1 album in 2013.  Their worst-charting studio album of their ten since 1985 went to #9.  They also have 17 Top 40 hits (8 of which were in 1992 or after), 10 Top 10 hits, and 4 #1s. When they come to Chicago, they play Soldier Field, which few other bands can do.

3. The Cars (1978)
The Cars get lumped into new wave and the '80s, but they were unique in that they had the new wave look and certainly used synthesizers, but also had more of a rock legitimacy to their music than a lot of new wave bands.  I would say that they are more critically acclaimed and accepted than a lot of other new wave bands.  "Just What I Needed" has held up better than most other songs that you might consider "new wave." The Cars released 7 studio albums (6 between 1978 and 1987 and one in 2011), and their lowest charting album still hit #26, with all but one of the remaining albums (their debut) breaking the Top 10. Between 1978 and 1987, they had 13 Top 40 hits and 4 Top 10 hits. You can hear (or at least I can hear) their influence in bands like The Strokes, Hockey, and Franz Ferdinand.

4. Chicago (1969)
Chicago is another one of those bands that is sneakily successful. The only American band with more success on the Billboard singles and albums charts is the Beach Boys. They have sold over 120 million albums worldwide, with 18 platinum albums, five #1 albums, three #1 songs, and 21 Top 10 songs. They were the leading US singles charting group during the 1970s. They released 12 albums in the '70s, five of which hit #1 and ten of which were in the Top 10. All but one of the 30 singles they released in the '70s charted on the Billboard Top 100, with 22 Top 40 hits, 13 Top 10 hits, and one #1.

5. Deep Purple (1968)
Deep Purple is one of the most underrated bands in rock history, in my opinion. The band was one of the pioneers of heavy metal, and a huge influence on the genre, be it Richie Blackmore's guitar, Ian Gillan's soaring vocals, or Jon Lord's fuzzed-out organ. They found success with various different line-ups, with 8 Top 40 studio albums in the US and 10 in the UK (and 22 total Top 40 albums in the UK including live albums and compilations). Songs like "Smoke on the Water," "Woman From Tokyo," "Hush," and "Highway Star" are hard rock staples.

6. Def Leppard (1980)
Def Leppard is one of my favorite bands, so I am admittedly a little biased, but then again, they deserve a spot in the Rock Hall. They are one of the most successful bands of the '80s, with both 1983's Pyromania and 1987's Hysteria being certified diamond albums by the RIAA, making them one of only five rock bands with two RIAA certified diamond albums (the others being The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Van Halen, all of whom are in the Rock Hall). Def Leppard has sold an estimated 65 million albums worldwide, and has 8 certified platinum albums, 6 Top 10 albums in the US (12 Top 20) and 7 in the UK, and 15 Top 40 hits in the US and 19 in the UK. Musically, they were much more complex than other bands from their genre, and unlike nearly every other band from the hair band era, Def Leppard has stayed together, continued to make music, and still tour successfully. Frankly, any band that can make a certified diamond album after its drummer loses an arm in a car accident deserves a nomination.

7 and 8 (tie). Iron Maiden (1980) and Judas Priest (1974)
You can't in good conscience induct one without the other, so I am including both. Maiden and Priest are two of the most influential bands in heavy metal history, hands down. Iron Maiden is a tour de force, with over 80 million albums sold worldwide and a rabidly loyal following across the globe, selling out stadiums and arenas for 30 years. They define the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Despite having virtually no airplay in the US, they have 8 gold or platinum albums, 13 Top 40 albums, and 2 Top 10 albums in the US. In the UK, they have 27 Top 40 albums, 14 Top 10 albums, 4 #1 albums, and 35 of the 41 songs they have released as singles have hit the UK Top 40, with 17 Top 10 hits and one #1. Judas Priest is the band that gave metal its black leather and pushed metal from the early sounds of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple towards the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, thrash, and hair bands. With their twin lead guitar attack and soaring vocals, Priest, like Maiden, achieved huge success with little airplay in the States. They have 11 Top 40 albums in the US. As with Iron Maiden, they achieved more success in their native UK, with 14 Top 40 albums, 2 Top 10 albums, and 5 Top 40 hits. There aren't too many hard rock or metal bands since these two came along that don't list them as major influences.  Of course, the Rock Hall has been behind the curve when it comes to heavy metal, so I'm not holding my breath on either of these.

9.  Journey (1975)
It's time.  I think Journey will be the next KISS as far as fan support clamoring for a band to be inducted, and I think it would be well-deserved.  Journey is one of those bands that rockers across genres tend to like.  Founded in 1973 after Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon left Santana, Journey went on to be one of the more successful rock bands of the late '70s and early-to-mid '80s, particularly after Steve Perry came on board in 1977.  The band has 11 platinum albums, 10 albums that cracked the Billboard Top 20, including 8 Top 10 albums and one #1 (1981's Escape).  They have had a Top 20 studio album in each of the past 5 decades.  On top of that, they have had 18 Top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including 6 Top 10 songs (with 1982's "Open Arms" being their highest-charting song, reaching #2).  Over approximately a five-year span between 1981 and 1986 -- between "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Girl Can't Help It" -- all eleven of the singles the band released made the Top 25, and their worst-charting song over that time still made it to #23. "Don't Stop Believin'" is the best-selling song on iTunes not released in the 21st Century.

10. Steve Miller Band (1968)
The Steve Miller Band is one of those bands that you forget how successful they were, but if you turn on a classic rock radio station, you are almost guaranteed to hear one of their songs within a couple of hours, whether it's "The Joker," "Jet Airliner," "Jungle Love," "Take the Money and Run," "Rock'n Me," "Swingtown," "Abracadabra," or "Fly Like an Eagle." They had five platinum albums (out of six released) between 1973 and 1982 (four of which hit the Top 3 on Billboard's album charts). During that same span, they had 13 Top 100 hits, 9 Top 40 hits, 5 Top 10 hits, and 3 #1s.  As a drunk chick once said, "Steve Miller is the soundtrack of my life."  I think that statement is probably true of a lot of people who grew up between the mid '70s and early '80s.  

11.  N.W.A. (1988)
I really thought N.W.A. was going to be inducted last year, which was their first year of eligibility, and I thought for sure they were going to be inducted this year.  Like I've said before, I have no problem with rap and hip hop acts being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and N.W.A. is probably my favorite rap group ever. They represent everything that is "rock and roll," from their innovative and gritty music to their fuck-the-establishment (and the police) attitude to their dissolution due to members being prima donnas.  They changed rap and hip hop, ushered in gangsta rap, and produced two of the most important names in rap and hip hop history, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.  Frankly, I can't think of more than a handful of rap or hip hop acts that I would consider more important and worthy of Rock Hall induction than N.W.A. (and most of the others are already in the Hall).

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Anchor Our Special Ale

Anchor Brewing in San Francisco is famous for their steam beer, appropriately named Anchor Steam.  What you may not know is that, for the last forty years, they have put out a Christmas ale as well, switching up the recipe and the tree on the label each year.  I've had this the past few years, and it's always good and usually full of spice.  This year's version follows that tradition.  They don't tell you what they put in it, which I kind of like because it forces me to concentrate more on the flavor.  It's pretty malty and toasty, and it tastes like it might have some nuts in it, along with some cloves, molasses, and ginger.  The aftertaste has some hoppiness to it, which I don't necessarily like, but it's offset by the Christmas spices.  It's another good offering from Anchor.

Name:  Our Special Ale (aka Christmas Ale aka Merry Christmas and Happy New Year)
Brewery:  Anchor Brewing Company
Location:  San Francisco, California
ABV:  5.5%
Good for drinking if:  you are watching your hopes of a third place fantasy football finish fade with Peyton Manning's tired arm.

Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: MadTree Thundersnow, He'brew Hanukkah, Chanukah, and Goose Island Festivity Ale

Another good weekend, and another many good winter beers.  Here are the only three I'm letting you know about.

MadTree Thundersnow
Friday, we took the fam over to the Hoosier State to visit Jester's family for a pre-Christmas Christmas.  John and Ari toted their brood over from Cincy, and John brought with him a sixer of local brewery MadTree's winter beer, Thundersnow, not more than two hours after my buddy Wee Wee texted me and told me that I needed to try this exact beer.  For you assholes who don't have to deal with Midwestern winters, thundersnow is an actual meteorological phenomenon where there is thunder during a snowstorm.  Thundersnow has all the qualities I look for in a beer:  dark, high alcohol content, low IBUs, and lots of malty flavor.  It's a little sweeter than some other winter beers, due to the vanilla beans in it, but it also has a lot of the traditional winter beer spices, like ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.  All in all, it's a really good winter beer, and I would give it a whirl if you come across it.

Name:  Thundersnow
Brewery:  MadTree Brewing Company
Location:  Cincinnati, Ohio
ABV:  8.5%
IBU:  18
Good for drinking if:  you want to have a beer with your brother-in-law that drowns out the sound of five children under the age of five trying to go to sleep at the same time.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

He'brew Hanukkah, Chanukah
Saturday night was the main event.  Not like Saturday Night's Main Event.  The Brooklyn Brawler and the Red Rooster weren't fighting.  Rather, we had a nice pre-Christmas Christmas dinner at Lizzie's house and then watched as five very tired children tore open presents and had simultaneous meltdowns.  While watching the chaos, I enjoyed a He'brew Hanukkah, Chanukah, which I'm pretty sure was the only thing remotely Jewish in Roanoke, Indiana.  I haven't yet come across the He'brew Jewbelation 18, which is their annual winter beer that, up until last year, contained the same ABV as the number of years it had been brewed (so last year was the 17th year and it was 17%).  Apparently, they had to drop the ABV to continue selling it in certain pansy states.  Anyway, the Hanukkah, Chanukah was a pretty good dark ale, brewed with 8 different malts and 8 different hops, coming in at 8% ABV.  It finished a little bitter for my liking, but not enough to make me dislike it.  Merry Chrismukkah!

Name:  He'brew Hanukkah, Chanukah
Brewery:  Shmaltz Brewing Company
Location:  Clifton Park, New York
ABV:  8%
Good for drinking if:  you're looking for a kosher beer that hits like a hammer.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Goose Island Festivity Ale
Tonight was another festive occasion, as our block had a holiday party at a nearby brewpub/bowling alley, where Daughter lost a tooth somewhere in a breadstick.  Upon my return home, I decided it was high time for my annual viewing of Christmas Vacation, and since that takes place in Chicago, I went with my first Chicago beer of It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer, Goose Island's Festivity Ale.  Goose Island switches up its winter beers every year, which I like because their winter beer is always good and always a different than it was the previous years.  This year's Festivity Ale is a delicious brown ale with lots of caramel and holiday fruit flavors (that is, raisin, fig, cherry).  I was surprised to see that it is 50 IBUs because it's not hoppy at all.  It's a beaut', Clark.

Name:  Festivity Ale
Brewery:  Goose Island Beer Company
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
ABV:  7.7%
IBU:  50
Good for drinking if:  the shitter's full and you can't find any Meister Brau.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Brew Kettle Winter Warmer

Tonight's selection is another one I purchased Thanksgiving weekend in Cincy:  The Brew Kettle's Winter Warmer.  Like Great Lakes Christmas Ale, it is another solid Christmas ale from Northeast Ohio.  The Winter Warmer has a good amount of spice to it, featuring ginger, cinnamon, honey, and orange and lemon peel.  While it's 8% ABV, it tastes much lighter than that, so it goes down pretty easily.

Name:  Winter Warmer Spiced Christmas Ale
Brewery:  The Brew Kettle Production Works
Location:  Strongsville, Ohio
ABV:  8.0%
IBU:  24
Good for drinking if:  you're frantically addressing Christmas cards while watching two of the worst teams in the NFL play each other on Thursday Night Football, and you need something to take the edge off.

Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Southern Tier 2xMas

Last night, I dined at legendary Chicago rib haven, Twin Anchors.  While I generally prefer smoked ribs to baked ribs, I do love me some Twin Anchors ribs.  They fall off the bone, and all of the restaurant's BBQ sauces are great.  But you didn't come here to talk about ribs.  Or maybe you did, in which case, I'm sorry to disappoint you.  Feel free to take me to Twin Anchors or Smoque to remedy this problem.

Anyway, Twin Anchors has a rotating Christmas brew selection on tap, and I don't if you know this about me, but I like winter beers.  On this particular night, the tap was Southern Tier's 2xMas, which is one of my favorite Christmas ales.  Inspired by Swedish glögg, 2xMas billed as a "doubled spiced ale," and that is an accurate description.  This beer smacks you in the face with holiday spices.  We're talking cinnamon, cloves, figs, orange peel, and cardamom.  I don't actually know what cardamom is, but I do know that it tastes good as part of this beer.  On top of the spice, like glögg, 2xMas is strong, clocking in at a solid 8% ABV, and it tastes heavy, which I like.  Sometimes you should know if you're about to time travel.  All in all, this is one of the better spiced winter beers out there, and I highly recommend it.

Name:  2xMas
Brewery:  Southern Tier Brewing Company
Location:  Lakewood, New York
ABV:  8%
Good for drinking if:  you feel like having a julekake before eating a full slab of ribs, but you just don't have the time, energy, knowhow, proper utensils, oven, or desire to make a julekake.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "The Chanukah Song" by Adam Sandler

Today is the second day of Chanukah and Chanukkah, as well as Hanukkah.  No matter how you spell it, there can be only one Retro Video of the Week that I can post to honor all of my Jewish friends:  Adam Sandler's original version of "The Chanukah Song."  It originally aired on Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live twenty years ago, on December 3, 1994.  That makes me feel really old.  Hell, the Seattle SuperSonics don't even exist anymore.  OJ Simpson is still not a Jew, as far as I know.

As an added bonus, here is a link to an article that has embedded the classic SNL sketch featuring Jon Lovitz as "Hanukkah Harry."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Things to Look For During the Christmas Story Marathon

We are only 9 days from Christmas, which means we are slightly less than 9 days from TBS's annual 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon.  Since I'm not sure if I'm going to have time to post a Tuesday Top Ten next week, I needed to post this today.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to live with myself come Boxing Day.  I came across this article on Mental Floss called "25 Things to Look for While Watching the 24-Hour A Christmas Story Marathon."  It has a lot of random facts, cameos, anachronisms, and Easter eggs that you can use to annoy the shit out of your relatives on Christmas.

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: SweetWater Festive Ale

One of my purchases during my winter beer purchasing binge whilst visiting Cincinnati a few weeks ago was SweetWater Festive Ale.  It's another one of those beers that I chose because (1) it was a winter beer and (2) I had never heard of the brewery.  SweetWater Brewing is located in Atlanta, which is no longer burning, apparently.  Their winter warmer, Festive Ale, is very delicious.  It's on the strong side, and its taste is heavy enough to let you know that it's 8.6%.  Dark, roasted, and malty, Festive Ale has some faint hints of cinnamon and mace, which, in this case, is a spice related to nutmeg.  I think that's a good thing because it would be weird if it was a beer flavored with pepper spray or a medieval weapon everyone confuses with a flail.

Name:  Festive Ale
Brewery:  SweetWater Brewing Company
Location:  Atlanta, Georgia
ABV:  8.6%
IBU:  23
Good for drinking if:  you are catching up on Sonic Highways, for tomorrow, you will dine on ribs.

Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Last night, I had a meeting at an ale house in the Old Town neighborhood.  I was hoping that I wouldn't have to double up on breweries for It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer, but the only winter beer available was Samuel Adams Winter Lager, which was on tap.  Winter Lager is another winter beer staple, first brewed in 1997.  Unlike some of their other seasonal brews, this is available outside of sampler packs, so you can get it in six packs, twelve packs, and on tap.  Winter Lager is a very drinkable bock, with a nice malty flavor, as well as some hints of cinnamon, orange, and ginger, although none of them are front and center, as they can be in winter beers.  

It's not my favorite winter beer, but it is still very good, and I'm never going to complain if I have to drink it, unless maybe I'm being held hostage and my captors force-feed me lots of Winter Lager as my only sustenance over the course of several days.  In that limited circumstance, I might complain if, a couple days after I escaped (by using reverse Stockholm Syndrome psychological techniques and karate), someone was like, "Hey brah, here's a Samuel Adams Winter Lager.  Catch."  After it soared four feet over my head and shattered against the wall, I'd say, "No thank you, Johnny Manziel.  I'm not ready for Samuel Adams Winter Lager yet, on account of the physically and emotionally taxing hostage situation I recently endured, where my captors force-fed me nothing but Winter Lager as my only sustenance over the course of several days, before I escaped using reverse Stockholm Syndrome psychological techniques and karate.  Can I please have another type of beer?"

Regardless of the situation you might find yourself in, this is another safe beer to bring to a holiday party because it's not too heavy or too spicy, and I think it's pretty universally liked, meaning someone who doesn't normally drink winter beers can drink this and enjoy it.

Name:  Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Brewery:  Boston Beer Company
Location:  Boston, Massachusetts
ABV:  5.6
IBU:  22
Good for drinking if:  you want something that goes down easy while you are watching the Bears once again get demolished on national television and simultaneously watching Matt Forte fail to score 25.8 points in a PPR fantasy league, thus relegating you to the third-place game and crushing your last hope in the one league you thought you could win.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, and Magic Hat Starlit

Here are my beers from the last few days.

Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin
Friday night was my company holiday party, after which a bunch of us went to a co-worker's apartment for some continued boozing.  Having had enough whiskey over the course of the night, I decided to drink a beer.  I like beer.  It was a stroke of luck that the guy happened to have some winter beers, including Firestone Walker's Velvet Merlin, an oatmeal stout.  I don't think I've ever met an oatmeal stout I didn't like, and this is one of the better ones I've had.  It's smooth, creamy, and easy to drink, with some chocolate and coffee flavor.  It was a good beer to have at the end of the night.  Plus, it has one of the best names ever given to a beer.

Name:  Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout
Brewery:  Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Location:  Paso Robles, California
ABV:  5.5%
IBU:  27
Good for drinking if:  you need something a little lighter than scotch to end the night.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Last night, Jester and I went to two holiday parties, and I drank a variety of winter beers, none of which I captured photographically for some reason.  At the second party of the evening, someone brought one of those five-liter mini kegs of Breckenridge Christmas Ale.  Whoever thought to bring this mini keg should be given a pat on the back, or at least a beer.  I think Breckenridge makes some pretty damn good beers, especially dark ones.  I especially enjoy their 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout, Vanilla Porter, and Oatmeal Stout.  Their Christmas Ale is one of my favorites, too.  It's pretty strong (7.4%), with a nice malty, caramel flavor.  Unlike many Christmas ales, it doesn't have winter spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg, but it doesn't need them.

Name:  Christmas Ale
Brewery:  Breckenridge Brewery
Location:  Denver, Colorado
ABV:  7.4%
IBU:  22
Good for drinking if:  you want a really good winter beer without a lot of spice.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Magic Hat Starlit
Tonight, I tapped into the Magic Hat winter sampler pack I bought a couple weeks ago.  The most intriguing of the beers in the sampler pack was the Starlit Star Anise Porter.  I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, since the word "anise" is in the name of the beer, but Starlit does, in fact, have a pretty strong anise flavor to it.  I don't really like anise, so I'm not sure why I thought I would like this beer.  It is a porter, so it does have some redeeming qualities, but a little bit of anise goes a long way, and it's impossible for me to taste anything else.

Name:  Starlit Star Anise Porter
Brewery:  Magic Hat Brewing Company
Location:  South Burlington, Vermont
ABV:  5.8%
IBU:  28
Good for drinking if:  you've ever thought to yourself, "you know what would make this beer taste better? Sambuca."
Rating:  3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Leinenkugel's Winter's Bite

After beers from Belgium, Colorado, New York, and Massachusetts this week, I decided to bring it a little closer to home tonight, with Leinenkugel's Winter's Bite Cocoa Spice Black Lager, which you can find in the Leinie's Winter Explorer Pack.  I enjoy black lagers, and this is a pretty good one.  The cocoa flavor isn't too strong, but you still get a nice little chocolate note.  I hate the fact that I just said "note," but there it is.  Winter's Bite also has some spices (tastes like nutmeg and cinnamon) that complement the cocoa.  Chocolate or cocoa-flavored beers usually lean to the heavy side, but this is pretty light and easy to drink.  I couldn't find any ABV info on the bottle, the Leinie's website, Untappd, or anywhere else, so you can assume it is somewhere between 3% and 10% ABV.

Name:  Winter's Bone Cocoa Spice Black Lager.
Brewery:  Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
Location:  Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
ABV:  N/A (as in not available, not non-alcoholic)
Good for drinking if:  you like what you're drinking and you're not sure how strong it is, so you're gonna pretend it's as strong as Michelob Ultra, drink the shit out of it, and see where the night takes you.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

New Book: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

About a week ago, I finished reading Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich, which is about collecting 78s, a type of record that hasn't been made in many decades.  As I mentioned before, the book details both the people who collect the records, as well as some of the artists and record companies that were making 78s.  Petrusich kind of immerses herself in the 78 collecting culture, hanging out with collectors and even going so far as to go scuba diving in a river in Grafton, Wisconsin to see if she could find any lost 78s possibly thrown into the river decades ago by employees of the Paramount Record Company that used to be there.  Overall, the book was just okay.  The writing was fine, but I found myself not really caring what happened, except for the scuba diving incident.  I was actually really hoping she would find some records in the river bed.  The book would probably have been more interesting if I was into 78s or more into the genres of music often found on 78s.  If anything, the book completely discouraged me from ever attempting to collect 78s, since it appears that all of the 78s of value are already owned by collectors, and almost none of them is willing to part ways with his or her 78s.  I do like some of the music that was discussed in the book (prewar blues, in particular), and I think perhaps the best legacy some of these 78 collectors have left is that they have lent their collections to record companies to release music that otherwise would never be heard again.

From there, I have moved on to Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.  It's a book about parenting written by one of my favorite stand-up comedians.  That's pretty much all I needed to know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale

Tonight's selection is an old favorite:  Sam Adams's Old Fezziwig Ale.  Back before the craft beer explosion, Samuel Adams was the original craft brewer.  After I turned 21, Santa would always bring me a Sam Adams winter sampler pack, which was always good, especially since I was used to drinking Natty Light.  While Sam Adams usually switches out a beer or two in the sampler pack each year, one of the constants is Old Fezziwig.  I credit Old Fezziwig for my love of winter beers, since I'm pretty sure it was the first one I had.  And I liked it.  In addition to having a great, Dickensian name, Old Fezziwig is dark, caramely, and malty, with some hints of spices, like ginger and cinnamon, but the spices are not overpowering.  And, at a relatively low 5.9% ABV, it's not going to give you visions of Jacob Marley.

Name:  Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
Brewery:  Boston Beer Company
Location:  Boston, Massachusetts
ABV:  5.9%
IBU:  25
Good for drinking if:  it's your daughter's fifth birthday and you feel like having a beer while she and her sister run off the massive amounts of sugar they have consumed this evening.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Retro Video of the Week: "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Continuing the theme of holiday songs for December's Retro Videos of the Week, this week I'm going with Johnny Cougar's 1987 version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" -- a tale of brutal infidelity through the eyes of a child witness.  The Coug's version is countried-up, with a fiddle, accordion, and steel guitar, and it was featured on the first of the A Very Special Christmas compilation albums.  The video stands out for two reasons.  One is Mellencamp's flowing lion's mane of locks.  Two is the inclusion of his then-young daughter Teddi as a tambourinist and, later in the song, as a clearly reluctant and terrified singer.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Ommegang Adoration

I generally like the beers put out by Ommegang.  Their beers are Belgian-inspired, and they do a good job.  If you like Belgian beers, I recommend their Three Philosophers Tripel or their limited edition, Game-of-Thrones-themed Valar Morghulis (which is a fantastic Belgian dubbel).  Plus, their logo has one of those fighting lions.  Can you imagine what you'd do if a lion stood on its hind legs and started to box?  I'd piss my pants.  Seriously.  I have nightmares about being in the same room as big cats that aren't caged. 

But I digress.  Billed as a "Dark Winter Ale," Adoration is a really strong Belgian-style ale.  It has a nice caramel color, and it tastes every bit of that 10% ABV.  Personally, I don't think it has the "winter" flavor that would distinguish it from your run-of-the-mill delicious ten-percent Belgian strong ale, as it does have any discernible spices.  That's not to say it isn't good.  It is a very good Belgian ale.

Name:  Adoration Dark Winter Ale
Brewery:  Brewery Ommegang
Location:  Cooperstown, New York
ABV:  10%
Good for drinking if:  you're watching your outmatched alma mater put up a good fight in the Jimmy V Classic against a top-five opponent, even though their going to come up short and you can't spell "they're," but in the spirit of the night, I've run around looking for someone to hug.  I've laughed, I've thought, and I've cried.  That speech never gets old.  Watch it.  Donate.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday Top Ten: Things You Might Not Know About Christmas Vacation

My favorite holiday movie is Christmas Vacation, hands down.  I haven't yet watched it this year, but rest assured, I will find time between now and Christmas Eve to watch it at least once.  While searching the web for Mae Questel nudie pics, I came across an article on Mental Floss entitled "27 Things You Might Not Know About Christmas Vacation."  I appreciate that the author is not arrogant enough to use the word "do" instead of "might" in the title, since I did know a couple of the things on the list.  You might too.  Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is #16, which explains that there is a website called Christmas Vacation Collectibles, where you can buy things like t-shirts, the moose punch bowl and glasses that Clark uses for egg nog, Cousin Eddie's dickie (and other costumes), and hideously overpriced ceramic figurines and replica buildings that allow you to recreate scenes from the movie in miniature form at your own house.  It's a real beaut', Clark.

Monday, December 08, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Victory Winter Cheers, N'Ice Chouffe, and Blue Moon Gingerbread Spiced Ale

I have a couple days to catch up on, so here you go.

Victory Winter Cheers
Saturday night, I went to Rocks to start the 12 Beers of Christmas.  The first beer I had was Victory Winter Cheers.  I generally enjoy Victory's products, especially their Golden Monkey, which is a really good (and strong) Belgian-style ale.  Unlike most winter beers, it is a wheat beer, and a pretty good one at that, although in the winter beer tradition, it is stronger than most of its wheat counterparts.  It is really drinkable, and it was a good start to the evening.  FYI, I didn't finish all twelve beers that night, although I know someone who did.  Good times.

Name:  Winter Cheers
Brewery:  Victory Brewing Company
Location:  Downingtown, Pennsylvania
ABV:  6.7%
Good for drinking if:  you want a refreshing change of pace from traditional, spicy winter beers, or you are very confused about what a winter beer should taste like.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

N'Ice Chouffe
Yesterday, I decided to go with another Belgian winter brew, N'Ice Chouffe, made by Brasserie D'Achouffe in Wallonia, the French-speaking southern region of Belgium.  It poured a little bubblier than I expected, which I took as a bad sign, but the first sip quickly quelled any concerns I had.  This was fantastic.  Like you would expect from a Belgian winter beer, it is strong, clocking in at a hearty 10%.  But it is also dangerously easy to drink and doesn't taste like a ten-percenter.  Basically, it's a really good Belgian dark ale with some added spice for the holidays.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The bottle even said that it can be cellared, which I thought was interesting.  Frankly, I don't have the patience to let a beer sit in my house for several years, much less something as tasty as this.

Name:  N'Ice Chouffe
Brewery:  Brasserie D'Achouffe
Location:  Achouffe, Belgium
ABV:  10%
Good for drinking if:  you need a strong, delicious beer after spending two hours putting up and decorating your Christmas tree and, twenty minutes after hanging the last candy cane on the tree, you watch as the tree topples over and crashes to the hardwood floor, causing your favorite Elvis ornament to lose three limbs in the process, one of which has still not been recovered.
Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

Blue Moon Gingerbread Spiced Ale
Tonight, I decided to go with one of the Blue Moon varietals from their holiday sampler 12-pack, the Gingerbread Spiced Ale.  As the name of the beer implies, there are some pretty strong hints of ginger in this one, as well as some molasses and cinnamon.  It's not bad, although the ginger taste is a little strong.  When I started drinking it, there was little to no aftertaste, which I didn't necessary like for a winter beer.  But as I got to the second six ounces, the ginger taste stuck with me a little more.  All in all, not my favorite winter beer, but still pretty drinkable.

Name:  Gingerbread Spiced Ale
Brewery:  Blue Moon Brewing Company
Location:  Golden, Colorado
ABV:  5.9%
IBU:  16
Good for drinking if:  you want to pound some gingerbread without destroying your kids' gingerbread house and putting it in the blender.
Rating:  3.5 stars (out of 5)

Friday, December 05, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Delirium Noël

If Great Lakes Christmas Ale allows you to time travel, Delirium Noël declares, with a devilish smirk, "Roads?  Where we're going, we don't need roads."  Clocking in at a healthy 10%, this Belgian Strong Dark Ale is, in fact, Belgian, dark, and strong -- exactly how I prefer my ales and my strippers.  It's malty, caramely, and doesn't have much of an aftertaste despite its strength, which makes it dangerously easy to drink.  And with that, I'll see you in the morning, which, for me, will seem like five minutes from now.

Name:  Delirium Noël
Brewery:  Brouwerij Huyghe
Location:  Ghent, Belgium
ABV:  10%
Good for drinking if: you want to drink a really strong beer out of a goblet while watching Santa Claus Is Coming To Town with your children, periodically cursing "that rat-dick motherfucker Burgermeister Meisterburger" at inappropriate volumes, or at least that's what the neighbors will tell you.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Dark Horse 4 Elf

Dark Horse is one of the many great craft breweries in Michigan's southwest quadrant (see also Bell's in Comstock/Kalamazoo, Founders in Grand Rapids, New Holland in Holland, Arcadia in Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, and Greenbush in Sawyer, among others), and I have enjoyed every Dark Horse product I've had.  Their stout series is particularly good (the Fore Smoked Stout being my favorite), and their winter warmer, 4 Elf, is also very good.  (If you click on the link, there is a nice video where one guy uses my "wedding ring as a bottle opener trick" with approximately the same level of success I usually have with it.)  

I enjoyed some 4 Elf last night at a local public house, before watching the Bears get embarrassed on national television yet again.  4 Elf is dark, heavy, and spicy, with some holiday spices like clove and nutmeg being particularly noticeable.  Even though it's 9% ABV, it's not overpoweringly strong.  Don't get me wrong, this is not a beer you can pound, or at least not without a complete disregard for the probability of a lamp shade finding its way onto your head while you belt out "All I Want For Christmas Is You" that was actually better than Mariah Carey's rendition at the NBC Rockefeller Center tree lighting a few days ago, at least in your mind.  To hell with what your wife's co-workers think.  Overall, it's a really good winter beer.

Name:  4 Elf
Brewery:  Dark Horse Brewing Company
Location:  Marshall, Michigan
ABV:  9%
Good for drinking if:  you need an excuse not to operate a wood lathe.
Rating:  4 stars (out of 5)