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It’s beginning to feel like the time has come again to bring this page out of mothballs, dust off the accumulated debris, and launch some new content. Summer is fast approaching, so I’ll have some hiking posts to write. There are a lot of new restaurants our there (some of which are only new to me), and I’m still interested in exploring and reviewing them. We are nearly six months away from the Presidential election, so there’s a lot to cover there (some of which may even be original). I may even get to chronicle my bride’s progress as she builds her side business to mammoth proportions so that she can keep me in a manner to which I would enjoy becoming accustomed. Who knows what direction this journal may take?

My intent is to work up to a regularly periodic post schedule, but until I get into that habit things are certain to be sporadic. Don’t worry if some time passes between one post and the next.

Readers will, I hope, be entertained by my hiking, restaurant, and business articles. Religion and politics, however, have become blood sport of late. I hope you find my analysis of these contentious subjects useful and interesting, and that there is much upon which we agree. I would love to hear your comments, as well. And even if you disagree with the things I write here, that’s okay – we can probably still be friends. If you use the comments section to give voice to your displeasure I’ll try not to let my feelings get hurt. And if you promise to not think less of me for these opinion posts, I promise not to think less of you for being wrong. 😉

See you soon!

-Red

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Round One

Game Five:                Bell’s Oberon v. 21st Amendment Bitter American

9. Yeah, I know. If I hate wheat beers so much, why do they keep ending up in the competition? I don’t know either, so there. Bell’s is a terrific brewery, and Oberon was one of the first varieties I tried during my 100 Beers 2011 challenge, and I liked it – best wheat beer I can ever remember drinking. My first Oberon was almost exactly two years ago. And today? It starts with a nostalgic summer beer aroma, only a slightly cloudy pale yellow hue, and a bright crisp flavor with just a tang of pungency at the end. How is this a witbier? Better yet, why aren’t all witbiers like this? Delish, refresh, and a perfect session beer for today’s “sunny and seventy-five” weather.

10. Ah, the Bitter American – another favorite that has been worth purchasing several times in the past. (I remember my first time with this one, too. I had been debating Tea Party politics with a friend earlier that day, and the name of this ale seemed to speak to me.) I found it odd that this very different ale is identical in appearance to Oberon. But the pleasant hops aroma and crisp IPA flavor set it apart, and there’s a stark bitterness at the back of the tongue. Bitter American is an Extra Pale Ale that is about as highly-hopped as I ever like it; a good beer to satisfy my occasional IPA desire.

*** Winner:          This was a very, very close battle. I had so much trouble picking one over the other that the game went into extra innings. Finally, after exhaustive analysis, I declare Oberon by the narrowest of margins – and now I can drink all the rest of the Bitter American now that it has been knocked out of the tournament! What? Are you saying that may have biased the call?

Game Six:                Sweetwater Brown v. Highland Little Hump Spring Ale 

11. Sweetwater Brown. Well, it is brown. Also clear, with very little head or lacing, and a nice little old-style beer aroma. The first sip gives you a much stronger punch than you expect, with a hint of bitterness at the back. A pleasant and not overtly strong dark beer. It’s an odd turn that brings the Brown from Sweetwater (a brewer most known for a solid line of IPAs) up against the…

12. Little Hump Spring Ale from Highland (a brewery I most associate with their oatmeal stout); sort of like playing weak sister against weak sister. Little Hump is a bright yellow, hoppy and refreshing ale. Completely unexpected, with a clean highly drinkable mouthfeel and almost no aftertaste despite the weedy style of hops.

*** Winner:          Little Hump Spring Ale. I have high expectations for the Highland varieties because of their dark beers, and thought a light summer style would be out of their reach, so Little Hump was more than I had hoped for. Sweetwater Brown just wasn’t very interesting in comparison, even though it’s a good beer that’s very enjoyable and is always welcome in my frig.

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Round One

Game Four:                 Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale v. Pyramid Discord 

7. Lagunitas Brewery gets a second chance for the title with the new-on-the-shelf, oddly-named Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale. This clear copper ale with a nicely frothy head and great lacing smells hoppy, tastes creamy. There’s something about it that’s kind of sticky/sweet, though. Gets more aggressive as it warms, and finishes with a fairly bitter aftertaste – which ties in nicely with the great backstory. They call it an American Strong Ale on beeradvocate.com, but should probably be in with the ESBs.

8. Pyramid Discord is a dark IPA that pours like a great stout; even the frothy tan head sticks around, although as just a skim after several minutes. Smells decently hopped and tastes slightly more so. Blindfolded you would guess the color to be dark golden, because it tastes like the good IPAs or 2Xs, has the bitterness as well, and lacks creaminess. The malts only step up as it warms and provide almost a cigar character as you swallow.

*** Winner: Discord – which is odd because I thought, head-to-foamy-head, any Lagunitas brew was going to beat down and punish any Pyramid brew. Discord wasn’t very exciting but it was really good. I often enjoy the bitter style that Undercover represents, and it is a good ale I’ll probably have again, but the stickiness was too off-putting to win this challenge.

Round Two

Game Two:                Pyramid Snow Cap v. Pyramid Discord

It’s the battle of the Pyramids! This much anticipated showdown should be exciting, as I’ve very much enjoyed both varieties.

Sadly, Snow Cap may have reached its expiration a week earlier than the date printed on the bottle. Or maybe I had previously paired it with a highly complimentary meal – several times. Or maybe I suddenly fell out of love with Snow Cap. Whatever the case, during this session it had an unpleasant witbier aroma and flavor. I noticed no improvement as it warmed, either.

With no serious competition this round, Discord could win the game with its beautifully effervescent pour alone. Thankfully, there is some character there to back up its good looks. I have really enjoyed the way the malt-ness and ale-ness still comes through in what is unmistakably a well-hopped IPA.

*** Winner: Discord. I get the impression that Pyramid Brewing Co. gets sneered at by the microbrew elite, but this seasonal Dark IPA is one that I plan on purchasing in the future, like I do with Watership Brown – Discord’s next opponent. The next round should be interesting.

2013 Brackets: Insanity v. RHWB

Posted: March 29, 2013 in Fun, Hobbies
Tags: ,

I’ve changed things up a little and made the 2013 Beer Brackets page no longer password protected. Every one or two “games” will now appear as a regular mini-post on the main blog page, but the full article with updated posts and the brackets chart will remain available at the game page by clinking the link below. Don’t worry, that’ll make more sense as the tournament advances.
I’ll try to remember to include “Brackets” in the title so those not interested in this topic can easily skip it.

 Click here for the full article. 

Round Two

Game One:                Watership Brown v. Insanity

This matchup between the $1.50/12oz Watership Brown and the $3.79/12oz Insanity would be a David and Goliath story on any other blog. I’m honest enough to say that in a blind taste-test, I am unreliable guessing which beer is the “most premium”. There are some low-end beers I enjoy and some high-end beers I just couldn’t finish, and vicey-versy. These two brews rank among my favorites and I had no bad things to say about either one in their first round challenges. I’ll use a snifter glass for this competition.

WB smells good and malty like a porter and starts with a pleasant bitter flavor. This time I get a slightly burnt aftertaste, which is probably that “chocolatey note” the brewer was talking about. If so, it’s a raw, unsweetened dark chocolate. WB gets pleasantly spicy as it warms (but not as flavorful as Insanity), settling in to a solid example of the type but with American style (that’s the hops coming through).

That first blast of aroma from Insanity is so infused with whiskey and plum that it is surprising. Even the air above the glass is sticky-sweet. The color is as dark as WB, only opaque. All that prepares you for the heavy robustness of the first sip. Insanity is like a thick hot toddy (yum) but is probably even higher proof – it has an APV of 11.1, which is over 20 proof. Truly Insane.

Winner: Red Hare Watership Brown. I’ll probably get grief for this one. I really do like Weyerbacher Insanity, and can imagine there will be times I would purchase it. But there are such narrowly defined situations in which this is enjoyable that the win has to go to Watership Brown. challenge.

And Then My Head Exploded

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Politics
Tags: ,

guncontrol01A friend of mine (acquaintance, really, but I like the guy – he always seemed nice) recently posted this on Facebook:

I am not surprised by Sen Harry Reid’s treatment of “the gun bill.” Afterall his job is to get bills passed that are of interest to the Democratic Party and, in his case, the NRA’s thousands of dollars in Mr Reid’s campaign war chest. “The gun bill” will indeed be a fight up a very steep hill requiring continuing strong moral conviction, stick-to-it-tive-ness, convincing oratory, genius, and memory of the murdered children of Sandy Hook.

This time we had better not let our Congressmen go it alone. They need continuing encouragement and input from the rest of us. Join me in letting them know we want a US without killer weapons in anybody’s hands but the military and police. Remember the children.

I try to paint people in the best possible light – and so I nearly convinced myself he was being ironic, satirical or sarcastic. But it’s pretty clear: my friend is an idiot.

I nearly responded publicly to his post. I did not – not because I am afraid of repurcussions, but because I did not want to hurt my friend, or be seen as attacking his opinion. I typed a few things in as a reply, and good sense prevailed and I canceled my attempt at reason. You cannot change someone’s mind when they have their head that far up their ideology.

guncontrol02My favorite non-posted reply: “I cannot join you in your misguided dream of a US without “killer weapons” in anybody’s hands but the military and police. Tyrannies bloom and thrive in that atmosphere. Ever heard of China? Do you have the slightest idea how many millions have died because of that disparity of force? Even the most altruistic government will soon degrade into despotism if there is no barrier to it. Our founders understood this, largely because they had lived under a despotic ruler – and hoped to prevent his kind ever gaining a foothold again. You want a US in which only the government has weapons? The mere idea horrifies me.”

Annoying My Facebook Friends

Posted: January 16, 2013 in Fun, Politics

kindleI have been known to post political links, comments, cartoons and observations on Facebook from time to time. Many of my friends there are ideologically akin in our thoughts and beliefs, and enjoy the posts. A few of my friends are ideologically opposite to me, so I try not to be inflammatory when I post things. A few other friends find politics so distasteful that they object not to the specific content, but to the entire genre. I don’t wish to annoy anyone with my comments, so I give some thought to what I post. I wish others would do the same with more regularity – I have “unfriended” one or two people for the simple reason that they blasted every vapid thought in their head out to the world. It got annoying.

I’ve decided to keep my heavily partisan comments and posts here at this blog. Unlike Facebook, you already know what you’re getting, here.

I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas. One of my favorite features is the ability to send news articles, blog posts and editorials to my Kindle when I’m on my PC browsing Drudge, Townhall or National Review, so I can read the articles later. Kindle also allows me to highlight text in those articles and add my own notes. I haven’t quite worked out how useful this is, so this blog post is something of an experiment. Here are some of my recently highlighted items.

The Tea Party 2.0 by Scottie Hughes

…[In response to the mortgage bailout of early 2009,] millions of folks were united under the founding principles of the Tea Party: limited federal government, the protection of individual freedoms and choices, personal responsibility and accountability, returning political power to the states and the people and most important a free market system.

The need for those principles is only more urgent four years into the Obama presidency.   I believe the number of Americans who believe in those tents has increased over that time period, even if they do not call themselves members of the “tea party.”

The Case for More Guns (and More Gun Control) by Jeffrey Goldberg

…A survey of almost 2,000 convicted U.S. felons, conducted by the criminologists Peter Rossi and James D. Wright in the late ’80s, concluded that burglars are more afraid of armed homeowners than they are of arrest by the police.

…guns were used defensively between 830,000 and 2.45 million times each year. In only a minority of these cases was a gun fired; the brandishing of a gun in front of a would-be mugger or burglar is usually enough to abort a crime in progress.

…universities also acknowledge that they are unable to protect their students from lethal assault. How do they do this? By recommending measures that students and faculty members can take if confronted by an “active shooter,” as in the massacre at Virginia Tech.

…Otterbein University, in Ohio, tells students to “breathe to manage your fear” and informs them, “You may have to take the offensive if the shooter(s) enter your area. Gather weapons (pens, pencils, books, chairs, etc.) and mentally prepare your attack.”

West Virginia University advises students that if the situation is dire, they should “act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.” These items could include “student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc.”

“As a security measure, it doesn’t seem like advertising that fact is a good idea,” Adam Winkler says of avowedly gun-free campuses…

…opponents of concealed carry “make an emotional argument rather than a logical one. No one could show me any study that concealed carry leads to more crime and more violence.

[Dave Kopel says,] “Telling the population that they are incapable of owning a tool that can be dangerous means you are creating a population that loses its self-reliance and increasingly sees itself as wards of the state.” James Alderden put it another way: “Your position on concealed-carry permits has a lot to do with your position on the reliability and sanity of your fellow man.”

…encouraging learned helplessness is morally corrupt…

[Even moderate gun-control activist Dan Gross] pointed out some of the obvious flaws in concealed-carry laws, such as too-lax training standards and too much discretionary power on the part of local law-enforcement officials. [Personal note: Libertarians posit that any authority granted to government should be granted at the most local level possible.]

The GOP — Not a Club For Christians by Johan Goldberg

A few years ago, Robert Putnam, a liberal sociologist, reported this finding: As racial and ethnic diversity increases, social trust and cohesion plummets. “Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer,” Putnam found… The villain isn’t racism or bigotry or anything so simple. The phenomenon is much more complex… Part of the explanation stems from the fact that people with shared experiences and cultures draw strength from working together, whereas with strangers, language often becomes guarded, intentions questioned.

Notes on ‘Not a Christian Club’ by Jonah Goldberg

Ask, say, a Catholic charity to put its faith on the back burner to accommodate atheist or Jewish volunteers, and you’ll get more diversity but less esprit de corps. It’s not because Catholics are bigots, far from it. It’s just that certain groups attract people with shared values, cultures, and experiences. Take away that appeal, and you take away the appeal for many of the most loyal and dedicated members.

What unites these groups, and dominates their discussions,  is a love of country and a commitment to conservative and libertarian principles. The diversity of adding a few non-Christians to the room has no significant effect on the groups’ cohesion. (But, just to bolster my point about diversity, if you added some people to the room who didn’t like America or who were, say,  socialists, the only things left to talk about that wouldn’t sow discord would be the weather or sports).

Obama to Boehner: “We Don’t Have a Spending Problem” by Guy Benson

…consider Obama’s mindset on America’s unsustainable government outlays.  “We don’t have a spending problem” are the words of a cloistered ideologue, considering the incontrovertible evidence.  It’s actually frightening.

For Obama, the Economy Never Comes First by Byron York

In November, the federal government’s measure of those unemployed who are looking for work, plus those who want to work but have lost hope, was 14.4 percent.

Don’t Tread on Six-Toed Cats by Jonah Goldberg

After a decade of squabbling, a federal appeals court recently sided with the Obama administration, ruling the [Hemingway Museum in Key West] must comply with the federal [Department of Agriculture] diktat or get rid of the cats [which have become a tourist attraction]. To be fair, maybe the cats are a problem. But you know what? If they are, they’re not my problem. I don’t live in Key West. In other words, what on earth is Washington doing setting cat policy — polydactyl or otherwise — for Key West, Fla.?

Many Hues of Brews at Summits

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Food, Reviews
Tags: , ,

It’s probably a good thing that my favorite pub is a 20 minute drive from home, or I might be tempted to trash my budget and visit far more often. I have a deep-seated blue-collar affection for dive bars (I use only the most complimentary context of the term). All the proper elements are present at Summits Wayside Tavern in Snellville: a large group of regulars, a friendly and informative staff, a massive draft beer selection, and excellent pub food with a menu that often travels into “gastro-pub” territory for pleasant surprises.

Summits’ Snellville location was once a Taco Mac; the concept is still the same but they do it better. Superficially there are very few things that set apart the two Atlanta chains – both have plenty of TV sets, the wall of beer taps, a “world beer tour” passport club, and trivia nights – so it must be the staff (front and back) that make it superior. Summits keeps luring me in for their frequent pint glassware giveaway specials, but if I’m honest with myself that’s just an excuse to go get the food.

Choosing a beverage to start can be overwhelming for the newbie, because the available draft selection alone is well over 100 beers long and is updated weekly. If you enjoy craft beer but don’t know much about the breweries or beer styles all of the servers are trained to help you select the one you’ll most enjoy. As for grub, always ask your server for the seasonal menu. They don’t always have one, but it’s always worth it when they do. Sausage month was particularly memorable, as was Regional Sandwiches month and Flatbread Pizza month. And I’ve never been to another pub with a noodle bowl section on the regular menu. (Probably not quite what you get on Buford Hwy, but tasty, with generous portions and chopsticks.)

The food prices are reasonable when compared to other restaurants, but I’ve seen people blanche at the cost of some of the brews. A decent craft beer here will cost as much as a six-pack of the yellow fizzy watered-down stuff at your local Kroger – and it’s actually worth it, because you can’t usually get these on draft anywhere else. (One last thing about beer pricing: like every other bar, they charge about 3 times as much as the liquor store does for a 12-oz bottle of the same thing, and half as much as the ballpark would. Big deal.) The dozen or so high-gravity beers will add another buck or two to your tab and are served in a 10-oz glass.

So if you’ve always driven by and were too put off by the sketchy-looking front entrance to check it out, you’ve got new reasons to put aside your doubts. There’s good beer and good food to be had! Watch for the occasional Groupon special, and check out the website for holiday specials and events.