Birthday Times Two!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I am thrilled to announce today, April 30, 2008:
Jacob Samuel Smith
6 pounds, 11 ounces

Dominic Steven Smith
7 pounds, 9 ounces.

Mrs. Smitty came out of the c-section just fine, and the twins have each already had a second feeding and are eating like crazy.

We get to stay in lovely Sparrow Hospital until the weekend, when we converge on our home in a testosterone-laden heap of man-flesh.

According to Smitty Jr., the jury is still out on his level of capitvation with his new brothers, but he is showing early signs of coming around. I hink he's proud and joyful, just too "cool" to show it.


La Cerveza Inglesa Del Invierno Es Mediocre

Friday, April 25, 2008

My neighbor has been breaking into the "better beer" scene and, once a week, heads to the Beer Mecca to grab a few brews he's never tried before. Always admirable.

But several weeks ago, he grabbed Spanish Peaks Brewing Company's (subsidiary of Flying Dog in Denver, CO) Winter Cheer Ale. He came over one day, hands me three of these things and says "I tried this two weeks ago, and was really really sick the next day. You want 'em?"

With an endorsement like that...

So of course, I took the beers. They were free.

I am happy to report that they didn't make me sick. But they did make me bored.

The beer poured a deep ruby; so deep it was nearly dark brown. It came with a thick, foamy eggshell-colored head that had some real staying power and even left a little lacing on the glass.

I got a lot of caramel and molasses aroma, along with some deep, prune-like scents. I got some light citrus along with it, probably from the hops. Speaking of hops, the beer had a strong hop presence as well, maybe even a little hoppy for a winter ale, which I would expect to be more malty than this (judging it as an Old Ale, which is as close to an official Winter Ale as I could think of on the BJCP style guidelines).

Unfortunately, the taste just didn't measure-up to the aroma and appearance. It's not bad. It's just not very exciting and has a few off-flavors. The malt was nice and all (I feel like I'm describing an overweight interest to someone: well, she has a great personality...). It had the pruny flavor, some solid sweetness that I'd expect for this ale and even a hint of chocolate. But I got two really strong off-flavors that sort of hurt this beer for me. One is a strong metallic taste and the other was inordinately high levels of diacetyl (think butter or butterscotch). In some beers, this style included, low-levels of diacetyl are okay and are a part of the beer's natural brewing and fermentation process. But this had much higher levels; insted of being a background flavor, contributing to the beer's complexity, it was quite prominent and got in the way of the really good qualities of this beer. The hop presence was less in the taste than it was on the aroma, but this is still a well-hopped beer, which is a bit inappropriate.

The beer was medium-bodied, and had a moderate level of carbonation to it. Very smooth.

Ultimately, this is not a bad beer by any means. It's just not a great beer. You'll not do wrong to buy and drink this beer; it's quite drinkable. But with better examples out there, why stick with the "Gentleman's C" of winter ales?


Video of the Week (But Not Every Week) #10

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The History of the World Before Beer

We all knew there was a reason man created beer: the water tasted terrible. We just didn’t know how long ago it was that “man” realized the need for beer.


Early Exit Polls

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We just received the first batch of exit polls from Pennsylvania. They don't tell us much about the voting, but they give us a helpful insight at the electorate of the Keystone State:

63% believe that Rocky was a real boxer.
77% of those individuals still harbor a grudge against the Russians for killing Apollo Creed.

48% say "F*ckin' Eagles!!!!"
49% say "F*ck the Eagles. Go Steelers!!!"
2% support the Buffalo Bills. No one knows why.

83% don't know why Harrisburg is the State Capitol (nationwide, that number is 98%).

21% can refer to "Beaver Stadium" (Penn State's football stadium) without giggling.

96% think that Pennsylvania could TOTALLY whoop Ohio's ass. And who are you looking at, Maryland?


Pennsylvania Drinking Game

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's been far too long since the last primary. So, in honor of our return to the political morass, I present you the Pennsylvania Primary Drinking Game:

Take One Drink whenever:
~ Wolf Blitzer mentions the "Best Political Team on Television"
~ Anyone mentions "Change" or a "Change Election".
~ Anyone mentions "Superdelegates" (Two drinks if they shorten it to "the Supers")
~ Anyone utters the phrase "She needs to win big tonight"

Take Two Drinks whenever:
~ Chuck Todd or any other commentator draws on a map of Pennsylvania with the John Madden-style Telestrator, and tells us where Candidate X needs to get his/her votes.
~ Someone mentions a "Brokered Convention." Double it if the person speaking is a Republican trying not to giggle with glee at the idea.
~ A commentator does the "delegate math"

Take One Drink of an IPA or ESB whenever anyone mentions Obama's "Bitter" comments.

Shotgun a beer every time someone mentions gun owners.

Take a drink with your pinkie finger extended any time someone mentions "elitism".

Take a shot and drink a beer whenever anyone mentions Hillary taking a shot and drinking a beer, or the network shows footage thereof:

So... I'm looking for two things. First, I want any suggested additions to the drinking game. And second, I want predictions on tomorrow's results. Closest to the mark wins a prize*.

*Prize not real.


The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I was going to lay off the lists for a while, but this was too good to pass up.  Besides, I figured it was a great follow-up to the badass Presidents.  I am familiar with most of them and am not all that surprised.  The ancient world was a pretty violent place, so I am not all that surprised that these passages can be found.  I sat in for Sunday School teacher and #8 was the lesson for that day.  I immediately thought of this poster and chuckled:


A Dick By Any Other Name...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thanks to my younger brother, Brutha Smitty, for the following picture. Feel free to leave any caption or comments you see fit. But this was too fucking funny.

As for me, I now have a new name for my dick.


World Expo of Beer

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I skipped the weekly beer review because I judged at the World Expo of Beer homebrew competition this weekend. It was held at the Lumber Baron's Charcoal Grill in Bay City, Michigan, and had about 270 entries.

We judged in 3-judge panels, and there were anywhere between 3 and 5 flights, depending on the size of each flight for each trio. I was lucky enough to be matched up with a brand new judge named Mike from Berkley (MI) and veteran judge, Michigan Beer Guide Editor and Michigan beer icon Rex Halfpenny. I'm 3-for-3 in competitions, as back last July at the Indiana State Fair competition I judged with the creator of the very guidelines used to judge beer, Gordon Strong, and again last August at the Michigan State Fair competition, I got to judge with Dragonmead Brewery co-Founder and brewer, Bill Wrobel. So there I sat for 7 and a half hours with the be-all-and-end-all of all things beer in Michigan. Rex is a wealth of knowledge and it was a fun learning experience to judge with him. Though, I was tempted to cheat off of his judge sheets like I was back in high school.

I'm going to link to some categories over at Beer Advocate, but the Alstrom Brothers have a very different classification system that the BJCP does, so I'll do my best. I'm trying to find some samples of beers you can look-up so nobody's lost when I say "Saison" or "Biere de Garde;" instead, you'll have some commercial examples to view.

My first round of beers was a series of four "Amber Hybrid Beers." This category included 2 Northern German Altbiers and 2 California Common "Steam Beers." The altbiers won out here, as really the whole California Common classification was created for people to attempt to recreate Anchor Steam. If you're not using Northern Brewer hops and the right mix of malts, you're not going to get it right. It's a really narrow and very challenging classification. The altbiers, however, were really well-done.

Next was a series of 4 English Pale Ales. I had 2 Ordinary Bitters and 2 Extra Special Bitters (ESB). As wth the amber hybrid beers above, these were above-average examples of the style; obviously, these were some homebrewers who knew what they were doing. The gold medalist from this round was an ESB that remonded me in every way of Fullers ESB, the "gold standard" of the brew. A true pleasure.

The third flight for us was English Brown Ales. I was really looking forward to this category as I am a fan of Brit Browns, and if the success of the morning sessions was any indication, this was going to be a real pleasure. We had samples of all three from the category; Mild, Southern and Northern. The clear winner in this caegory was an especiall tasty Northern British Brown Ale that was reminiscent of Newcastle. Mild hop bitterness, calssic nutty and toffee flavors...the winner was a classic example. SOme of the other ones had some pretty common homebrew problems that you find with malty ales: "green apple" taste (acetaldehyde) from dead or unhealthy, sluggish yeast; lactic acid tartness from improper sanitation; wet paper taste from oxidation. None were truly foul, but in close competitions, little off flavors are what keeps a beer from scoring higher. We had 9 beers in this style, and it took us right up until about 2:15 pm. We started our first flight, above, at just before 10:00 am.

After lunch, we knew we had a style with 11 beers in it. With eager anticipation, we trotted upstairs to the judgng hall, and found our final session was going to be French/Belgian Ales. YUM! For our part, we did Saison and Biere de Garde. There were also 2 "Belgian Specialty Ales," which is a catch-all that allows a brewer to brew the "standard" style but do something weird to it. For example, one of the 2 specialty beers had mugwort added to it. I thought mugwort was something from Harry Potter. The other was fermented using 4 different yeast strains and fresh orange peel. The latter, by the way, was very very good. At any rate, this was the hardest category of all to judge, as each entry, with only a few exceptions, was absolutely amazing. The difference between the gold and silver medals here was the difference between tear-jerking and exceptional. The saison that took gold had every characteristic of a perfect saison, plus that...intangible something that just made it pop. It was so subtle and delicate, perfectly attenuated...I could go on and on. It was simply amazing. I would go out of my way to buy that beer in a remote store if it were commercial. The silver medal, one of the biere de gardes, was a glowing example of malty amazement.

Final results including best of show, will be posted later. But overall, it was a nicely-run competition with some very above-the-cut submissions. I don't recall once wondering if someone had even tasted their beer before they submited it. These were all outstanding efforts and it was a real pleasure to be a part of this competition. The only regret I'll have is that I'll miss out on judging the commercial brew competition for the World Expo of Beer, but the regret turns into sweet joy, because that competition will fall riiiiight about the time the Smitty Twins will be born!


Naming Ceremony

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Around the Keg contributor Sopor has moved his lovely brown ale into a keg. We are very proud.

But Sopor has an issue. He needs a mock-on-Prohibition-related name.

The comments section is open. Name that beer.


South Bend

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

To me, "South Bend" sounds like a tawdry sexual position. Kind of a bend-over-and-grab-your-ankles kind of position, don't you think? In fact, every time I hear South Bend, I chuckle to myself thinking about sweaty, rear-entry sex.

It is with that in mind that I wish to throw jeers and shame, with a small interjection of congratulations, to Around the Keg blogger B Mac on his acceptance to Notre Dame's fifth-rate law school.

The nice thing about the crazy cyber age we live in is that B Mac will continue to be able to post on this blog. And by all means, he'll have even more time to do so as I heard you don't really have to be able to read to get into this particular law school. We will of course still allow his wit and wisdom here because, though he is selling his soul to go to an unspeakable school, I can personally attest to B Mac's ability to drink. And that counts for a lot here on Around the Keg.

Congratulations, B Mac, on achieving the beginning of the end. While East Lansing bars may notice a decline in profit, we're still going to be damn glad to know you.

Even if you are going to Notre Fucking dame.


Happy Beer Day!!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

I thought I knew all of the important beer-related holidays and celebrations: St. Patricks Day, Oktoberfest, Wednesday...

But there is another one. A big one.

Happy Beer Day, everyone!


Pass the Pepper

Friday, April 04, 2008

I played hookey yesterday afternoon with my brother. He left work early and I headed down to lovely Detroit to hang out. We had tickets to the Wings game at 7:30, and it was 3:00 when I rolled into town.

He Suggested we go to a great BBQ joint called Slows. Wow. The food was incredible; I had a sandwich called "Triple Threat Pork." I mean, who wouldn't want a sandwich called Triple Threat Pork? The restaurant describes it thusly: Bacon, pulled pork & ham stacked high.

Smoked bacon. Smoked salted ham. Carolina-style pulled pork. Triple threat, baby.

Here's the best part: their beer list. Yum.

So besides for drinking copious amounts of my favorite brews from Stone, I decided to try Rogue Chipotle Ale from Rogue Ales Brewery. I have had chili beer before and was less than impressed (one even had a pepper floating in it like the worm in tequila), but I was willing to give Rogue the benefit of the doubt. I'm glad I did.

The beer poured a rich, thick golden color, bordering on orange. It yielded a thick white lace, almost like a paste in consistency, that retained throughout the entire glass.

As I expected, I got a mildly fruity and malty aroma typical of a standard ale. But under it all was this smoked pepper aroma. Totally unexpected but somehow fitting. It didn't overpower the ale aromas, and seemed to welcome a drink rather than scare you away from it with a searing hot pepper blast. Subtle.

A mild malty taste pleased the tongue right off the bat as I gulped; without the pepper this would be just a fine, sessionable beer. But almost immediately, this smoked hot pepper hit mymouth...but again, it was really pleasantly subtle. The heat was tangy rather than just plain hot, and I thought the tangy hops went well with what I suspect are Cascade hops. Already a tangy, citrusy hop, it married that tangy pepper really well.

As I drank, I could feel that peppery heat down the back of my throat, but interestingly not on my tongue. I was afraid this beer would slaughter my tastebuds and I'd have to drink North Coasts's Old Rasputin just to taste anything at all. But that's not the case with Rogue's effort here. It was spicey to be sure, but very well-balanced by the other characteristics of the beer. It finished very clean with no lingering heat nor lingering hops. Just that tad of spice down the back of the throat.

Crisp, smooth, rich and medium-bodied, this was a surprisingly pleasant beer. I wouldn't do more than 1 or 2 in a sitting because honestly the novelty would wear off. But as an interesting variation, I am glad I made the plunge.


Hot For Teacher

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Okay, folks. It's class time today. Take out your notebooks and pay attention.

Our first lesson today is on several different ways to open a bottle of beer if you don't have a can opener, but do have, say, a downhill ski. Or a recorder.Our next lesson is in venture capitalism. Watch this video to learn how to make a quick $20 at a bar by opening a beer bottle.This video probably explains a lot. Sociogeography.And finally, a bit of constitutional law. This has been accepted by the Supreme Court in the historic NRA v. Rationality decision as justification for the 2nd Amendment.Class dismissed.



Potential Drunks

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