Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Greenbush Jadis

Today was a day off, yet a busy day, as I assembled some shelves, took down the ornaments and lights from the Festivus pole, and watched Empire Strikes Back with Daughter and Lollipop.  I wish I would have been recording Daughter's face when she found out that Darth Vader was Luke's father.  It was a combination of incredulity, surprise, and confusion.  "Why did he wait all this time to tell Luke he's his dad?!"  "I don't know," I responded, which I thought was better than "Because it wouldn't make for a good trilogy if we find out before the end of the second movie."  Tomorrow or Thursday, we're going to watch Return of the Jedi.  I wonder if the confusion will be the same when they find out Leia is Luke's sister.  "But she kissed him on the mouth?!"  I know.  Anyway, tonight's beer is Greenbush's Jadis.  It's a winter white ale, which can be a nice change of pace from the usually dark, heavy winter beer.  Greenbush is another one of those good southwestern Michigan breweries, and they have a rule that they won't make any beer with less than 6% ABV.  I can respect that.  Even though it's not your typical winter ale, Jadis is full of spices, like clove, cardamon, ginger, and orange zest.  It's definitely an easy one to drink while you're watching college football on a cold winter's night.

Name:  Jadis
Brewery:  Greenbush Brewing Company
Location:  Sawyer, Michigan
ABV:  6.1%
IBU:  20
Good for drinking if:  you want a beer that you can break out early in a party, then hide for a while, and then break it out again later in the night, solely because it will allow you to make a "Return of the Jadis" joke, because the groans will be worth it
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4 stars

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: The Last Six Nights

I've been busy the last six nights, going to parties, airing grievances, wrapping presents, traveling, and watching football, but rest assured, I have been drinking beer.

Redhook Winterhook #31
Wednesday night, we went to a party.  It was Festivus, so the children competed for the adults' affection by airing various grievances about each other throughout the night.  The adults, meanwhile, competed in feats of strength by seeing how many slices of cured meats we could eat before vomiting.  The answer is more than 30, at least for me.  I had a few beers over the course of the night, but I only took a picture of the Redhook Winterhook #31.  Redhook makes some good beers, so I trusted them when they described this one as "bold and dark."  They failed to explain that it was hoppy.  Fuck hidden hops.  There's my grievance.

Name:  Winterhook #31
Brewery:  Redhook Brewery
Location:  Woodinville, Washington
ABV:  6.0%
IBU:  45
Good for drinking if:  you find yourself raining blows upon another man and think to yourself that there has to be another way
Rating (out of 5 stars):  3.5 stars

Pipeworks Santa Vs. Unicorn
Christmas Eve, we went to the burbs to my mom's house, ate some food, had a few laughs, and then headed back home.  After putting the kids to bed, we wrapped the shit out of some presents.  For Santa, we left two chocolate chip cookies, one frosted sugar cookie, a small cup of milk, and a bomber of Pipeworks Santa Vs. Unicorn.  I like Pipeworks a lot.  It's a local brewery that cooks up some crazy beer concoctions, my favorite being their Hey, Careful Man, There's a Beverage Here White Russian Imperial Stout.  Santa Vs. Unicorn is deemed an "American Barley Wine Style Ale," which means it's strong as hell.  Unfortunately, it was a little too hoppy for my tastes, but still okay.

Name:  Santa Vs. Unicorn
Brewery:  Pipeworks Brewing Company
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
ABV: 10.0%
Good for drinking if:  you need something to help you come down after the rush of putting together a goddamn train set
Rating (out of 5 stars):  3.75 stars

Arcade Winter Slayer
Christmas Day was a whirlwind.  After opening presents at our house, we headed to my brother's house, where my family managed to get my kids more presents than they received from Santa and us.  We then headed back home, where I hooked up my new Blu-ray player.  You see, fair readers, my old Blu-ray player did not play Blu-ray discs.  It played DVDs just fine, but not Blu-ray discs.  And why would it?  I have had the Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV-VI), and I have been wanting to watch them before seeing the new one.  So, Daughter, Lollipop, and I sat down and watched Episode IV (their first viewing) on Christmas Day.  Jesus would have been proud.  That night, I kept it local again, going with a bomber of Arcade's Winter Slayer, while I watched Bad Santa.  Winter Slayer is described as an "oat wine style ale," and this was what I was expecting Santa Vs. Unicorn to be.  It's a good barleywine.  While the IBUs are high, it didn't taste too hoppy to me.  All in all, a good beer for relaxing after a day of excitement.

Name:  Winter Slayer
Brewery:  Arcade Brewery
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
ABV: 9.1%
IBU:  73
Good for drinking if:  you're kind of disappointed you didn't get another remote control helicopter, even though you know you would have broken it in less than 15 minutes by ramming it into the ceiling -- again
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4 stars

Flat 12 Glazed Ham Porter
On Boxing Day, we headed to Jester's parents' in Indiana for some more present opening.  But first things first:  IU was playing in the Pinstripe Bowl against Duke.  Before the game, I went to the local liquor store to pick up some beers.  I was looking for a winter beer made by an Indiana brewery, and I found Flat 12's Glazed Ham Porter.  It was really good.  As you may know, I like porters, and this was delicious.  It doesn't taste like ham at all.  Unfortunately, the game itself ended poorly for the Hoosiers.  It was exciting, no doubt.  IU missed a 57-yard field goal at the end of regulation.  In overtime, Duke kicked a field goal in its possession, and then IU kicked a field goal in its possession.  Or at least that's what it looked like.  The ball sailed over the right upright but just within it, which should mean it's good.  The ref standing under the right upright apparently wasn't watching the same game as everyone else because he said it was wide right.  Because the ball crossed the uprights over the uprights, it was not reviewable, and IU lost 44-41.  That's pretty much a microcosm of IU's season.  That said, I think the Hoosiers had a relatively good season (especially by IU football standards) and should have beaten four Top 15 teams.  Hopefully, those who are returning will use all of these near misses as motivation.  I expect nothing less than a Rose Bowl berth for the Hoosiers next season.  It's time.

Name:  Glazed Ham Porter
Brewery:  Flat 12 Bierwerks
Location:  Indianapolis, Indiana
ABV: 6.3%
IBU:  34.1
Good for drinking if:  you want to drink a beer made by an Indiana brewery, while you are in Indiana, while you are watching the State of Indiana's flagship university get absolutely fucked by a referee who can't tell the difference between a good field goal and a bad field goal 
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.5 stars

Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas
Last night, we were still in Indiana, staying at the sister-in-law's pad.  Most of the afternoon and evening was spent watching football, as I was in the finals in two fantasy football leagues.  I had clinched one win by the time the afternoon games were over.  In the other league, I was up by about 23.5 points going into the Sunday night game, and my opponent -- one of those tall, lanky motherfuckers -- only had Vikings kicker Blair Walsh left.  I thought I wouldn't have to fret, but Walsh kicked five field goals and four extra points, to get 22 fantasy points.  Thankfully, he missed an extra point in the second quarter, which turned out to be the difference between my greatest fantasy football season ever and my second-greatest fantasy football season ever.  While all this was going on, I was drinking beer.  My winter selection was Thirsty Dog's 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale.  This is a great winter beer.  It's strong, and it has a lot of good winter spices, like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and honey.  If you consider honey a spice.  I don't, asshole.

Name:  12 Dogs of Christmas Ale
Brewery:  Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
Location:  Akron, Ohio
ABV:  8.3%
IBU:  21.5
Good for drinking if:  you'd like to personally thank Julio Jones, Brandon Cooks, Allen Robinson, Jordan Reed, and the entire Texans' defense.
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select
A few hours ago, I got the news that Lemmy Kilmister had died after a short bout with cancer, just days after turning 70.  It didn't seem right to drink a beer tonight, given Lemmy's affection for Jack and Cokes.  I don't have any regular Jack on hand, but a few weeks ago at Costco, I was sucked in by the packaging of the Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select, a special version of Jack to celebrate what would have been the Chairman of the Board's 100th birthday.  Based on the internet search I just did, apparently I should have bought several of these because Costco's price was significantly less than what it's going for at other places.  It's fantastic, by the way.  But I digress. Lemmy was true rock icon and an original.  There aren't many more recognizable people in the metal world than Lemmy.  After being a guitar tech for Jimi Hendrix and being a member of space rockers Hawkwind in the '70s, he formed Motörhead, which he has fronted since 1975.  He played the bass like a lead guitar, his voice sounded like he smoked three packs of Reds a day (which he probably did), he laid thousands of women, he loved playing touch screen video games at the Rainbow in LA, his songs had valuable life lessons, and from everything I have seen, he was a genuinely nice and humble guy. I'm glad I got to see Motörhead live a couple years ago (where some dude raw dogged a chick in the bathroom), and I'm even more glad I dressed up as Lemmy for Halloween three years ago.  It's not often that I dwell on rock and roll deaths, but this one was different.  I honestly thought Lemmy was never going to die.  If you haven't seen his documentary or read his autobiography, I highly recommend both.  And in the meantime, have some Jack.

Name:  Sinatra Select
Distillery:  Jack Daniel's
Location:  Lynchburg, Tennessee
ABV:  45%
Good for drinking if:  dead men tell no tales.
Rating (out of 5 stars):  5 stars

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Samuel Adams Holiday Porter

The Samuel Adams winter sampler 12-pack is what gave me my love of winter beers.  When in college, I was too broke to drink much other than the standard light beers.  At Christmas each year, Santa would get me a Sam Adams winter sampler, and I would enjoy the hell out of the Winter Lager, Old Fezziwig Ale, and today's selection, the Holiday Porter.  It's a delicious, malty, caramely, English style porter.  It's especially delicious tonight, since I am officially done with work for the rest of the year, and I'm sitting on my couch watching Christmas Vacation not even caring about the fact that it's after eleven o'clock on a weeknight and I'm not yet in bed.  Happy Winter Solstice, indeed, motherfuckers.

Name:  Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Brewery:  The Boston Beer Company
Location:  Boston, Massachusetts
ABV: 5.8%
IBU:  40
Good for drinking if:  you couldn't hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant.
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

Monday, December 21, 2015

New Book: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

A couple weeks ago, I finished reading No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton.  It is a memoir recounting ATF special agent Dobyns's undercover work infiltrating the Arizona Hells Angels for several years.  Overall, it was really interesting, as Dobyns tried to balance his hardcore undercover alter-ego "Bird" with his family life as a husband and father of two.  Things got pretty crazy, and the whole time I was thinking "how can this guy stay in character the whole time?"  But I guess that's the difference between a good undercover agent and a dead undercover agent.  In the end, it was a little unfulfilling, not through any fault of Dobyns's, but because of how the ATF investigation and subsequent criminal prosecutions turned out.

Since then, I have started Destiny of the Republic:  A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.  This is another one that came highly recommended by a few people.  It's about the assassination of President James Garfield -- a president that most people (including me) probably know very little about, aside from the fact that he was assassinated and died only about six months after being inaugurated.  But it's also about the sociopath who murdered Garfield, the prevailing medical treatments of the day (which contributed to Garfield's death), and Alexander Graham Bell's attempts to help the president.  So far so good.

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: New Holland Cabin Fever

At about 4:45 this afternoon, I got a call from the wife.  Despite the fact that she refused to play "angry housewife and incompetent customer service agent" with me, I didn't hang up on her before she mentioned that she wanted to take the kids to Rocks for dinner to meet up with some friends.  Knowing that I still needed two beers to complete the 12 Beers of Christmas, I obliged, hiding my giddiness.  One of the remaining beers on the list was New Holland's Cabin Fever.  New Holland is one of the many excellent breweries in southwest Michigan (along with Bell's, Dark Horse, Arcadia, Founders, Greenbush, and Brewery Vivant, among others), and Cabin Fever is one of my favorite New Holland offerings.  It's technically a brown ale, but it drinks more like a porter, with a nice roasted malt flavor.  At 6.5% ABV, it's not too strong, either, so you can have a few while your kids don't eat the mac and cheese they ordered.

Name:  Cabin Fever Brown Ale
Brewery:  New Holland Brewing Company
Location:  Holland, Michigan
ABV: 6.5%
IBU:  25
Good for drinking if:  you got a pretty good laugh when your friend spilled a full pint of porter on the crotch of his khakis five minutes after sitting down
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Illuminated Fnord, Avery Old Jubilation, and Atlas Intemporelle Abbey-Style Quadruppel

Illuminated Fnord
Friday night was my company's holiday party.  Things got away from me, and next thing I knew, I was sitting at Twisted Spoke at 1 in the morning wearing little more than Santa tie, a green blazer, and a well-positioned kerchief.  I ordered what appeared to be the only winter beer on the menu that I hadn't yet had, or so I recall -- Illuminated's Fnord.  I had about three sips before taking this finger-blocked picture, logging the beer into Untappd, and then promptly deciding that I needed to go home.  I wish I could tell you more about it.

Name:  Fnord Wit
Brewery:  Illuminated Brew Works
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
ABV: 7.3%
Good for drinking if:  you need something to take the edge off after a long night of drinking scotch
Rating (out of 5 stars):  3 stars

Avery Old Jubilation
Saturday night, I went to Rocks to continue my work on the 12 Beers of Christmas.  One of the beers I had was Avery's Old Jubilation Ale.  I like most Avery beers I've had, particularly the Dictator series and Holy Trinity series of bombers.  Old Jubilation is a good winter warmer.  It has a relatively high ABV (8.3%), but doesn't taste too strong.  Unlike many other winter ales, it doesn't have spices, but it's still nice and malty.

Name:  Old Jubilation Ale
Brewery:  Avery Brewing Company
Location:  Boulder, Colorado
ABV: 8.3%
IBU:  45
Good for drinking if:  you have just really pissed off your wife by asking her if you could meet a friend at Rocks a night after staying out until almost 2 after your work holiday party, but she says yes anyway because she's awesome
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4 stars

Atlas Intemporelle Abbey-Style Quadruppel
Last night was our block's annual winter block party, which we have at Atlas Brewing Company, which is attached to Seven Ten Lounge, a bowling alley.  There's food, beer, and bowling, so kids and adults of all ages have a good time.  One of the beers I had was their Intemporelle Abbey-Style Quadruppel.  It's a really good Belgian quad, with some extra spice and maltiness for the holidays.  I forgot to take a picture, but I highly recommend it if you happen to go to Atlas (it's only available at the brewpub), although it may be more enjoyable if you are able to sit down for five damn minutes.

Name:  Intemporelle Abbey-Style Quadruppel
Brewery:  Atlas Brewing Company
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
ABV: 9%
Good for drinking if:  you are chasing a 21-month-old back and forth between a brewery and a bowling alley for about three hours
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.5 stars

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hair Band Friday - 12/18/15

1.  "Night By Night" by Dokken

2.  "Wild Side" by Mötley Crüe

3.  "Blooze" by Junkyard

4.  "Watching, Waiting" by Extreme

5.  "Life Loves a Tragedy" by Poison

6.  "We Can Work It Out" (live) by Tesla

7.  "Gimme' No Lip" by Dangerous Toys

8.  "Child Of The Wind" by Gorky Park

9.  "O Me O My" by BulletBoys

10.  "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister

Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Shiner Holiday Cheer and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Shiner Holiday Cheer
Last night was my annual holiday trek to legendary local rib joint Twin Anchors, along with nine other dudes.  It was magnificent, as always.  After gorging ourselves on pork, we waddled a few blocks north to Sedgwick's, where we happened to walk in right before trivia night was starting.  Needless to say, we grabbed some score sheets and got to work.  Unfortunately, R2D2 is a Cum Bucket didn't finish in the money.  Franklin fucking Pierce.  Who knew?  Anyway, the bar's holiday beer selection wasn't great, but they did have Shiner Holiday Cheer.  Shiner claims it's a dunkelweizen, but it doesn't taste like one.  It's definitely got some apricot in there, which I'm not a huge fan of, but it went down pretty easily after inhaling that full slab of ribs.

Name:  Shiner Holiday Cheer
Brewery:  Spoetzl Brewery
Location:  Shiner, Texas
ABV: 5.4%
IBU:  22
Good for drinking if:  you cannot name one of the two 19th Century presidents who were arrested
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4 stars

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Tonight, as we speak, I'm watching the Rams and Bucs play in what might be the Rams' last game in St. Louis.  While doing that, I'm questioning why the uniforms on both sides are so hideous (to paraphrase Rich Eisen, it looks like ketchup is playing mustard) and enjoying a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which stands in stark contrast to the Shiner Holiday Cheer.  This is a heavy, malty Russian imperial stout with a healthy amount of dark chocolate.  I'm not sure why it's called Black Chocolate Stout, since I've never heard of a white chocolate stout, but I'm willing to overlook the name because the beer is pretty damn good.

Name:  Black Chocolate Stout Stout
Brewery:  Brooklyn Brewery
Location:  Brooklyn, New York
ABV: 10.0%
Good for drinking if:  you want to experience the infamous "death by chocolate" in beer form

Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Retro Video of the Week: "Sleigh Ride" by TLC

This week's holiday-themed Retro Video of the Week is TLC's 1993 hip hop take on the holiday classic, "Sleigh Ride."  Chilli, Left Eye, and T-Boz spread Christmas cheer by, among other things, taking over ironing duties for a potentially unwed pregnant woman, giving a blind man a bowl of soup (even though he has a pretty cool blue radiator), providing mistletoe for a middle-aged couple to rekindle their long-dormant sexual desire for each other, and presumably burning down Andre Rison's house to keep Atlanta's entire homeless population nice and warm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday Top Ten: "Blue" Christmas Songs

We are now down to ten days until Christmas, which means that you are likely being inundated with holiday music wherever you go.  I like holiday tunes, from the classic to the cheesy to the rocking to the rapping.  Not all Christmas songs are all sleigh rides and anthropomorphic snowmen, however.  Some are quite blue, and I'm not talking about Elvis's classic, "Blue Christmas."  These songs are off-kilter, tongue-in-cheek, sexually suggestive, or just downright naughty.  With that, here are my top eleven "blue" Christmas songs (in alphabetical order by song title):

1.  "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Al Hirt and Ann-Margret
As I noted in my list of Top Ten Favorite Holiday Songs seven years ago, this is basically a date rape song.  I know Al Hirt and Ann-Margret's version isn't the original, but it's the one I have, and frankly, it's just as rapey as any other version.  From looking at the picture, perhaps this is the only way a guy who looks like Al Hirt could bag a dame who looks like Ann-Margret.

2.  "Back Door Santa" by Clarence Carter
The song is about banging chicks while their men are "out to play."  To get a nickname like Back Door Santa, presumably you have to be good at what you do, though.

3.  "C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S" by The Yobs
The holiday-time alter-ego of '70s British punk band The Boys, The Yobs decided to tell you what every letter in "Christmas" stands for.  "A is for the agony of catching your VD."  And that's one of the cleaner letters. You probably don't want to play this one at work.

4.  "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" by Elmo & Patsy
It's a cheesy, silly song, but at the heart of it, the song is about a drunken elderly woman getting trampled to death by a large, hoofed mammal.

5.  "Here Comes Santa's Pussy" by The Frogs
Setting aside the title of the song (although it supposedly means "cat," which I think makes less sense than the alternative), this song compares Santa to John Wayne Gacy.

6.  "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by The Ronettes
Originally sung by Little Jimmy Boyd, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is so ubiquitous that we don't really think about its lyrics.  The insinuation is that this kid is unknowingly watching his parents make out, but the fact of the matter is that this kid may also be watching his mom make out with a strange fat man.  I went with The Ronettes' version because any time I can hype the Phil Spector Christmas album, I will.

7.  "I Won't Be Home for Christmas" by Blink-182
This one is a typical Blink-182 song in its pop-punk sound and irreverent spirit, although it's the only one I know about hating Christmas.

8.  "Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt
Kitt oozes sexual innuendo in this one.  After explaining that she has not kissed many boys, she invites Santa to shave her pubic hair ("come trim my Christmas tree") and make quick love to her ("hurry down the chimney tonight").

9.  "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" by Bill Murray and George Clooney
The original version of this song by bluesman Albert King is a good one, but the version sung by Bill Murray and George Clooney during A Very Murray Christmas was pretty damn funny, so I'm including the video of that one.

10.  "Sexy Santa" by Steel Panther
Neo-hair metal masters Steel Panther update the Santa myth in a way that you would expect from Sunset Strip rockers.  Santa is now skinny, thanks to the Atkins Diet, and he has a "sackful of rubbers." This song is about as subtle as a Mack truck full of Sam Kinisons with bullhorns.

11.  "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg
The LBC's take on the classic Christmas poem features more sex and weed than the original, as you might expect.  Rest in peace, Nate Dogg.

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Begyle Flannel Pajamas

Tonight, I went with a local brew -- Begyle's Flannel Pajamas Oatmeal Stout.  Begyle was started a few years ago by some homebrewers, and they put out some pretty solid beers.  I am honestly not sure if their beers are available outside of Illinois, but if you get a chance to sample some of their wares, I recommend them (although the website could use some updating).  Flannel Pajamas is a nice, nutty, malty oatmeal stout that isn't too strong, so you can enjoy many of them on a cold winter's eve.

Name:  Flannel Pajamas Oatmeal Stout
Brewery:  Begyle Brewing
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
ABV: 5.4%
Good for drinking if:  you need something pleasant to drink to take your mind off the fact that your 21-month-old son has figured out how to get out of his crib, but is not mentally competent enough to handle a big boy bed, so he greets you with a smile and gibberish about eight times each night after you put him to bed
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

Monday, December 14, 2015

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

I wasn't going to repeat any beers that I reviewed as part of last year's It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer, but Anchor's Our Special Ale (aka Christmas Ale aka Merry Christmas Happy New Year Ale) has a different recipe each year, so it's like I'm reviewing a different beer.  I've never had a bad Our Special Ale.  2015's version is another good one.  Nutty and spicy, it's a dark and dry winter ale, bordering on porter status.  It's only 5.5% ABV, but feels heavier.  

Each year, a different tree is featured on the beer's label.  This year's tree is the Cedrus deodara, which, of course, is where the word "deodorant" comes from.  Legend has it that Olmec warriors would rub the tree's cones all over their body before attacking the nomadic tribes of Kashmir, so as to smell like the local terrain to sneak up on their Vedic enemies.  You can imagine the looks on the Gandharis' faces when hoards of Mesoamericans reeking of Himalayan conifers showed up wearing loin cloths and talking about bloodletting.  "How the fuck did these guys get here?," they likely said.  "Oh, wait, they probably invented the compass."  Well played, Po Ngbe.

Name:  Our Special Ale
Brewery:  Anchor Brewing Company
Location:  San Francisco, California
ABV: 5.5%
Good for drinking if:  you'd like to honor the 217th anniversary of George Washington's death without purposely draining half of your body's blood supply to fight a throat infection.  It all goes back to bloodletting today.
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Ridgeway Santa's Butt and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

Ridgeway Santa's Butt Winter Porter
Saturday night was my friend Chandler's annual holiday party, which has become a reason for everyone to bring bombers and share some beer and yuletide joy.  Here's a shot of the railing on the porch at the beginning of the night.  That didn't include probably another 8-10 bombers that arrived later.
One of the many bombers passed around was Ridgeway's Santa's Butt Winter Porter.  As a lover of porters, winter beers, Santa, and ass, I was predictably a fan of this beer.  Ridgeway has a good line of winter beers, including Bad Elf, Very Bad Elf, Seriously Bad Elf, and Lump of Coal, all of which I have enjoyed at one time or another.  If you see any of them in your local liquor store or tavern, grab at least one.

Name:  Santa's Butt Winter Porter
Brewery:  Ridgeway Brewery
Location:  South Stoke, United Kingdom
ABV: 6.0%
Good for drinking if:  your goddamned babysitter informs you via text message at 11:46 p.m. that she expected you home around 11:30 p.m. so that she can go out for her friend's birthday, and you need a robust road soda for the walk home, while you ponder whether you will be explaining to the babysitter that she will never see your children again
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
Yesterday was Daughter's birthday party.  We had a reptile guy and cake.  Chances are, I saw a turtle bigger than any turtle you saw yesterday.  Later that night, I watched a horrible Sunday Night Football game in neither Deandre Hopkins nor Danny Amendola scored a touchdown.  On the bright side, while watching said football game, I enjoyed a St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.  I'm a big fan of the Belgians and their beer (and their waffles and their frites, but that's a topic for another month-long daily blog series), and I've never had a St. Bernardus variety that I haven't enjoyed.  Their Christmas Ale is very good.  It's basically a strong dark Belgian ale with some winter spices.  If you like that sort of thing, you'll like this.  But at 10% ABV, like a twelve-foot ball python, it's both delicious and dangerous.

Name:  St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
Brewery:  Brouwerij St. Bernardus
Location:  Watou, Belgium
ABV: 10.0%
Good for drinking if:  there are no longer 20 children under the age of 7 in your house

Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.5 stars

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Ommegang Lovely, Dark and Deep

Tonight, I went to the local beer cafe to get myself a mix-and-match sixer of winter beers I have not yet imbibed.  One of those six beers was Ommegang's Lovely, Dark and Deep.  Even if they don't use Oxford commas, Ommegang generally does great things with beer, and Lovely, Dark and Deep is no exception.  An oatmeal stout, it's really roasty (almost smoky) and nice and malty, with some chocolate and coffee notes.  It's quite good, and it's not too high in ABV, so it's not too heavy either.  All in all, an excellent oatmeal stout.

Name:  Lovely, Dark and Deep Oatmeal Stout
Brewery:  Brewery Ommegang
Location:  Cooperstown, New York
ABV: 5.3%
Good for drinking if:  that's what she said
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.5 stars

Hair Band Friday - 12/11/15

1.  "The Threat" by Skid Row

2.  "Before My Eyes" (live) by Tesla

3.  "Lack of Communication" by Ratt

4.  "Love Hungry Man" by AC/DC

5.  "Crying In The Rain" by Whitesnake

6.  "Yeah, You Want It!" by Danger Danger

7.  "Blood Pollution" by Steel Dragon

8.  "Dead Horse" by Guns N' Roses

9.  "Dirty Little Mind" by Jackyl

10.  "Seasons of Change" by FireHouse

Thursday, December 10, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Schlafly Christmas Ale

Did you guys know there's a Saint Louis?  Neither did I until today, when I flew to his city via air coach for a quick day trip to see my beltless raincoat distributor.  Upon my return to the airport, I had an hour or so to kill, so I found myself sitting belly up at the Schlafly Bar, where I consumed the Schlafly Christmas Ale.  While the name may not roll off the tongue, their beer is good.  The Christmas Ale packs a punch (8%) and tastes a little boozier than a lot of other winter beers, but not in a bad way.  It also has a good amount of spices and holiday flavors, like orange peel, ginger, and cloves.  All in all, it's a nice strong winter warmer.

Name:  Schlafly Christmas Ale
Brewery:  The Saint Louis Brewery
Location:  St. Louis, Missouri
ABV: 8.0%
IBU:  30
Good for drinking if:  you find yourself in Concourse E in Lambert International Airport on a Thursday afternoon and want something to make you feel like you're sitting by a nice warm fire instead of some pharma sales rep on his cell phone and laptop.
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.25 stars

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Retro Video of the Week: "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney

It's time for some holiday videos for Retro Video of the Week.  This week, I'm going with Paul McCartney's very synthy 1979 holiday hit, "Wonderful Christmastime."  Technically, this is outside the parameters of Retro Video of the Week because the video was made before MTV, but sometimes I like to break the rules just to see if I'll get pissed off at myself.  "Wonderful Christmastime" is not my favorite Christmas song, nor do I think it's a particularly good McCartney song, but hey, he's a Beatle, so he was ahead of his time.  The synthesizers definitely sound like they should be in any variety of new wave songs a few years later.  Members of Wings appear in the video, even though this is technically just a solo McCartney song.

The song peaked at #6 on the UK charts and apparently makes McCartney an average of $400,000 a year.  Yes, just this one song makes him nearly a half a million dollars each year in royalties.  Instead of going to law school, I should have been one of the most successful songwriters and musicians in the history of the world.  Thanks, Obama!

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Goose Island Winter Ale

Tonight's selection is a pretty standard winter ale, Goose Island's aptly named Winter Ale.  On the bottle, it explains that it has "nutty chocolate aromas."  I got your nutty chocolate aromas right here.  Because I'm drinking the beer right now.  Chode smelling jokes aside, this is a pretty solid winter ale.  It does have some nutty flavors, and it's nice and malty, as a good winter ale should be.  Plus, it's not too heavy or too high in alcohol content, so you can drink a lot of them if you so desire.  And you should desire.

Name:  Winter Ale
Brewery:  Goose Island Brewing Company
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
ABV: 5.3%
IBU:  25
Good for drinking if:  you want to bring something to a holiday party that will be universally enjoyed, except by complete assholes.  And kids.  You shouldn't give this to children.
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4 stars

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Boulevard Nutcracker Ale

You know sometimes when you buy a beer at the store that holds itself out to be a winter warmer, and then it turns out to be too hoppy to be a winter warmer?  It's kind of like when you're a fledgling FBI agent, and you think you're just checking to see who owned Mrs. Lipman's house, but it turns out you've stumbled upon a man who is looking to create a dress out of female human skin.  We've all been there.

Name:  Nutcracker Ale
Brewery:  Boulevard Brewing Company
Location:  Kansas City, Missouri
ABV: 4.2%
IBU:  22
Good for drinking if:  your name is Jamie Gumb, Jame Gumb, John Grant, or Jack Gordon.

Rating (out of 5 stars):  3.5 stars

Tuesday Top Ten: Scott Weiland Songs

As you undoubtedly know, Scott Weiland died last week at the age of 48.  He was found unresponsive on his tour bus in Bloomington, Minnesota.  Weiland was the mercurial lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.  Throughout his music career, his drug use was often a problem, and I am sure I'm not the only one who is surprised he made it this long. Of course, it doesn't make his death any less tragic.

Weiland will certainly be missed.  I was a big STP fan in high school (and am still a fan).  "Plush" is my favorite song of the '90s.  I always found it annoying that STP was often dismissed as Pearl Jam imitators.  I suppose it was simply because STP showed up about a year after Pearl Jam and had a lead singer whose vocal range was similar to Eddie Vedder's.  However, I think STP's sound is a little harder and darker than Pearl Jam's, and frankly, Weiland's voice isn't all that similar to Vedder's.

Of course, after STP broke up in the early 2000s, Weiland rejuvenated his career for a few years as the lead singer of supergroup Velvet Revolver (alongside Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum from Guns N' Roses and Dave Kushner from Wasted Youth).  Velvet Revolver was a hell of a good rock band, putting out two albums before Weiland left in early 2008 to reunited with Stone Temple Pilots.  After STP fired Weiland in 2013, Weiland released some solo material and most recently with his backing band, The Wildabouts (with whom he was on tour when he died).

So, in honor of his work, here are my ten (read: twelve) favorite songs sung by Scott Weiland.  I could have included some covers (like when he sat in with the surviving members of The Doors for the taping of VH1's Storytellers in 2000), but I decided to go with all originals. Rest in peace, sweet prince.

10 (tie).  "Fall to Pieces" by Velvet Revolver
I think Weiland particularly shines on this power ballad.

10 (tie).  "Dead and Bloated" by Stone Temple Pilots
"I am smelling like a rose that somebody gave me on my birthday death bed / I am smelling like a rose that somebody gave me 'cause I'm dead and bloated."  Those are the first words, snarled by Weiland a cappella, on STP's debut album, Core.  What great imagery that set the stage for the dark and brooding song, as well as the dark themes of Core in general.

10 (tie).  "Unglued" by Stone Temple Pilots
This is an underrated, fast-paced song off of the band's second album, Purple.

9.  "Sex Type Thing" by Stone Temple Pilots
I think this was the first STP song I ever heard.  (It was their debut single.)  The song is a hard rocking anti-rape statement, which Weiland wrote after his girlfriend was raped after a party by three high school football players.

8.  "Vaseline" by Stone Temple Pilots
A classic STP tune off of Purple.

7.  "Slither" by Velvet Revolver
This may be Velvet Revolver's best song, with a swirling riff and quiet verses followed by outbursts in the chorus.  The solo and bridge section is my favorite part because Slash goes nuts, and then Weiland follows with a frenzy.

6.  "Crackerman" by Stone Temple Pilots
Off of the band's debut album, "Crackerman" kind of falls through the cracks (pun intended, motherfuckers) when thinking about great STP songs.  It's a great hard rock song that has been a staple on my running mix for years –- were I to run.

5.  "Wicked Garden" by Stone Temple Pilots
This is just a great '90s rock song.

4.  "Interstate Love Song" by Stone Temple Pilots
In my opinion, this is the gem of STP's sophomore album, Purple.  It's catchy, has a great riff, and has great lyrics.

3.  "Dirty Little Thing" by Velvet Revolver
A punch-you-in-the-mouth rocker, "Dirty Little Thing" is my favorite Velvet Revolver song.  For me, it highlights everything great about the band –- wicked guitars and a heavy riff, brooding and soaring vocals, and a plodding rhythm section moving everything along.

2.  "Big Empty" by Stone Temple Pilots
Every time I hear this song, I am taken back to the summer of 1994, when it was on the radio all the time.  The song was on the soundtrack to The Crow (as well as Purple).  My friends and I must have tried to see that movie five consecutive weekends that summer, only to be shut down each time because The Crow was R-rated, and none of us was 17 yet.  This song will forever remind me of driving around the western suburbs with the windows down.

1.  "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots
Like I said, this is my favorite song of the '90s.  It's dark, it rocks, it's lyrics are open to interpretation.  What else could you ask for in a '90s rock song?  Would you even care?

Monday, December 07, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Uinta Yard Sale Winter Lager

It's in bad taste to get bombed on Pearl Harbor day, so I decided to take it a little lighter tonight, going with Uinta's Yard Sale Winter Lager, which I had never had before.  Uinta is in -- I kid you not -- Utah.  Beer in Utah?!  Now I've seen it all.  Yard Sale is definitely more of a lager than some other "winter lagers."  It's easy to drink and a step above your average lager, but it's not too wintry.  I don't want to talk about this beer anymore.

Name:  Yard Sale Winter Lager
Brewery:  Uinta Brewing Company
Location:  Salt Lake City, Utah
ABV: 4.2%
IBU:  22
Good for drinking if:  you want to drink a beer from a brewery you can't pronounce that will appease all of your sister-wives
Rating (out of 5 stars):  3.75 stars

Sunday, December 06, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout and Summit Winter Ale

Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout
Last night, I started my annual quest to drink the 12 Beers of Christmas at Rocks.  I was a little irked that there were a four or five hoppy options on the list, but the nice thing about the 12 Beers of Christmas is that the menu turns over constantly, so hopefully next time I'm there, the tide will have turned malty.

Anywho, one of the non-hoppy beers on the list was Dark Horse's Tres Blueberry Stout, which is part of their winter stout series, which is excellent.  As the name of the beer indicates, Tres is a blueberry stout, but the blueberry isn't overpowering.  It actually works quite well with the stout.

Name:  Tres Blueberry Stout
Brewery:  Dark Horse Brewery
Location:  Marshall, Michigan
ABV: 7.5%
IBU:  20
Good for drinking if:  you're at a bar that's across the street from an Iowa bar during the Big Ten Championship game, so there are a ton of spillover Iowa fans, and Iowa loses in the last minute to Michigan State, so you decide to go with a beer from Michigan that is as close to combining stout and blueberry pancakes as you will ever come

Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.5 stars

Summit Winter Ale
This one was actually a holdover from last year, but it didn't appear to lose any flavor sitting in my fridge.  Summit's Winter Ale is a pretty standard winter ale.  It's malty, caramely (but not too sweet), and even a little nutty.  Overall, it's very good and very drinkable.  This is the kind of winter ale you can drink all night without worrying about waking up the next morning wearing nothing but a lampshade on your head, completely shorn, head to toe.  Again.

Name:  Winter Ale
Brewery:  Summit Brewing Company
Location:  St. Paul, Minnesota
ABV: 6.2%
IBU:  40
Good for drinking if:  you feel like sitting down on your couch on a Sunday night to watch some football, so you crack open a beer and pour it into a pint glass, and then your wife tells you that you need to go to that goddamned grocery store because "we don't have any string cheese, juice boxes, or bananas," as if your kids couldn't live a day without any of those, so you go to the grocery store, and when you get back, you sit on your couch and watch some football, while drinking a good winter beer

Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.5 stars

Saturday, December 05, 2015

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Birrificio Del Ducato Krampus

Yesterday, the film Krampus was released.  In honor of this, last night, I decided to break out a bomber that I had been saving just for an occasion like this, Birrificio Del Ducato's Krampus.  For those of you unfamiliar with the legend of Krampus, he is a horned, devil-like, anthropomorphic creature in Germanic (of course) folklore that acted as kind of a yin to Saint Nicholas's yang.  While Saint Nicholas rewarded good children by putting fruit and candy in their shoes, Krampus punished bad children by -- I kid you not -- kidnapping them, binding them in chains, and throwing them into a lake.

When my kids are acting like shits, I tell them about Krampus.  Even though my wife and I have told them time and time again that Krampus isn't real, they are still terrified of him.  As they should be.  I show them this picture, which I have saved on my phone (along with several others of Krampus) to use in times of insolence and refusal to brush teeth:
You may have your Elf on a Shelf, but my Krampus pics are just as effective.

So a beer named after Krampus has to be a good Christmas ale, right?  Wrong.  Remember that what Santa giveth, Krampus taketh away.  This was supposed to be a Belgian style strong ale (one of my favorite styles of beer), but I apparently kept this one too long because it tasted way too vinegary.  I looked a little closer at the bottle, and it said, "Brewed for Christmas 2010."  I bought it at Whole Foods in 2012 or 2013, so it was already a few years old when I got it.  Some beers can be cellared and be fine (or even better) after a couple years.  Five years was too many in this case.  Krampus wins again!

Name:  Krampus
Brewery:  Birrificio Del Ducato
Location:  Roncale Verdi di Busseto, Parma, Italy
ABV: 9.0%
Good for drinking if:  you have been very very naughty
Rating (out of 5 stars):  1.5 stars