Beer Fun

Friday, May 29, 2009

Unbelievably, I only had three beers this week, all of which are beers I have either reviewed here before or are so common that a review would be redundant. Well, that's not entirely true...I did polish off a 6-er of Guinness 250 last Saturday, and I have reviewed that beer before, so I will amend my statement to say that I have had three kinds of beer this week, not just three.

Plus, my brain has writers cramp.

So instead of a full-on review, we'll just have a little beer fun today. Like we're out on a patio on this sunny Michigan mid-70-degree Friday, shooting the shit and quaffing beers.

First, how you hold your drink says something about you (at least according to the BBC). Since I see myself as any one of three different examples given in the article at any given moment, I think I need psychiatric help more than anything. You?
Next, what do you know about beer? Take this quiz from over at MSN and match wits with the fellow keggers here at ATK! For my part, I got 8 out of 10. One I had no idea and another I had an unlucky guess.

Links within links: This press release from the Brewers Association includes a brief discussion of the "best" kinds of beer to drink in the summer. Big surprise: wheats, pales, lagers and saisons. But a linkl leads you to a web site about season beer pairings with the right kind of food. Pretty cool...but then I stumbled across this link, which is a full-color table listing 28 kinds of beer, what foods to pair them with, appropriate glassware, serving temp, etc. Way way way cool. Print it off and hang it on your fridges.
Still at work? Play beer pong. All of the fun, none of the too-sloppy-drunk-to-drive-home!

I know it's put together by the macro-breweries, but Here's To Beer is an entertaining and interactive site that burgeoning beer geeks may enjoy. At the very least, it has lots of pictures and things to click, which seems to suit beer drinkers well.

It's Friday, folks. Enjoy the beginning of the weekend. I know that this evening I am grilling salmon on cedar planks, and I'll enjoy it with some fine saison. You?


Giving the Republicans a Whole Lot of Rope...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

As a State of Michigan employee, I was keeping an eye on the possibility that Governor Jennifer Granholm would get the Supreme Court nod, so I was somewhat blinded by the significance of the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor was on Obama’s short list from the beginning. Her outstanding credentials have always been obvious, but what crept up on me was how brilliantly Obama put Republicans into a box.

Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity, was clearly an asset for Obama, but he doesn’t merely get to check off the Latina box on the list of historic moments, he has made a political calculation that is relevant for this moment in Republican history. This is one more make it or break it time for the already ailing minority party.

What are the R’s to do with Sotomayor? She has been appointed by two previous Presidents, one Democrat and one Republican and has already been confirmed in a bipartisan fashion. She is the first appointee by Obama, so the Republicans will want to draw a little blood and not be seen as weak. She is seen by many as very liberal and her comments on appeals judges creating policy surely infuriates the right of the Republican base.

I always thought that if the 2008 election didn’t go to the Democrats, demographic changes in this country would surely kill of the Republican Party as we know it today. The Republican base is shrinking as groups they have routinely alienated have grown, including black’s and Hispanics. Gays, another constant target of the party base, has gained greater sympathy in the public’s mind. People support science in stem cell research and the teaching of evolution. Religious participation is dropping.

According a friend of mine who has been involved in Hispanic civil rights since the 1960’s, this appointment has gone over huge, HUGE in Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican and all other Hispanic communities. According to her, rarely do these groups come together as one voice as they have in this instance. This is a watershed moment.

This leads us back to the Republican conundrum. The far right forces are itching for a fight, folks like Randall Terry, Founder, of “Operation Rescue” the anti-abortion group want a filibuster. The Repubs are clearly test-marketing labels, Such as “Che Guevara in robes.” Some have already questioned her intellect, just as opponents of Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas did, and just as people through out the ages have questioned the intellect of minorities. Some are attempting to label her a racist.

They have a choice. They can attack and discredit a clearly intelligent woman, and permanently lose the support of the Hispanic community or they can roll over and alienate the only part of the Republican Party not in taters: the religious far–right. Unless they find some lurid photos and can force Obama to retract her nomination, they should take the smart route, roll over and live to fight another day for the middle ground of voters.

I am betting they are not that smart.


UPDATE, May 29th:

It has been brought to my attention that I may have pulled a Dowd and plagiarized a friendly fellow blogger.

In his May 26th post, Mr. Furious states:

I barely mentioned the whole "empathetic judge" thing, but it appears to be a perfect example of Obama handing the Republicans just enough rope.”
While I had missed his blog post, I am taking this opportunity to give Mr. Furious due credit.


Fact Checking

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Before I get to posts about Sotomayor, I noticed (thanks to Mr. Furious) that McClatchy did a fact-check on Cheney's lines of bullshit in his speech last week against the Obama Administration's national security efforts.

Tangentally, it was being billed as a squaring-off. In reality, the Obama Administration could have given less of a flying fuck if Cheney spoke that day or not. This was being billed as a debate, which it wasn't. What it was was an embarrassing display of an Ex-Veep grousing about a new administration's policies.
And, it turns out, casting half-truths and lies. Color me shocked.

First, McClatchy,point-counterpoint style (click the link for all of it; I am just picking some of my personal favorites):

He [Cheney] quoted the Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair , as saying that the information [gained from waterboarding, etc.] gave U.S. officials a "deeper understanding of the al Qaida organization that was attacking this country."

In a statement April 21 , however, Blair said the information "was valuable in some instances" but that "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is that these techniques hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

A top-secret 2004 CIA inspector general's investigation found no conclusive proof that information gained from aggressive interrogations helped thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to one of four top-secret Bush-era memos that the Justice Department released last month.
— Cheney said that President Barack Obama's decision to release the four top-secret Bush administration memos on the interrogation techniques was "flatly contrary" to U.S. national security, and would help al Qaida train terrorists in how to resist U.S. interrogations.

However, Blair, who oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, said in his statement that he recommended the release of the memos, "strongly supported" Obama's decision to prohibit using the controversial methods and that "we do not need these techniques to keep America safe."
— Cheney accused Obama of "the selective release" of documents on Bush administration detainee policies, charging that Obama withheld records that Cheney claimed prove that information gained from the harsh interrogation methods prevented terrorist attacks.

"I've formally asked that (the information) be declassified so the American people can see the intelligence we obtained," Cheney said. "Last week, that request was formally rejected."

However, the decision to withhold the documents was announced by the CIA , which said that it was obliged to do so by a 2003 executive order issued by former President George W. Bush prohibiting the release of materials that are the subject of lawsuits.
— Cheney slammed Obama's decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and criticized his effort to persuade other countries to accept some of the detainees.

The effort to shut down the facility, however, began during Bush's second term, promoted by Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates .

"One of the things that would help a lot is, in the discussions that we have with the states of which they (detainees) are nationals, if we could get some of those countries to take them back," Rice said in a Dec. 12, 2007 , interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. "So we need help in closing Guantanamo ."

Now if only the MSM would pick-up on McClatchy's piece and shred Cheney's bullshit line for line as well, maybe he would finally crawl back under his rock.

But again, I am not going to act all surprised that he distorted the truth to make a case to a shrinking room of true believers.

What really surprised me about his speech is what it insinuates (again, H/T Mr. Furious, who credits Publius):
There was one part of Cheney’s speech that disturbed me though. From listening to Cheney (and others), you get the sense that they are now rooting for another terrorist attack.

In that respect, Cheney’s speech was more than a retroactive defense of past criminal acts. He was looking ahead. He was setting up the political chessboard to attack Obama and the Democrats in a particularly poisonous way if – God forbid – we are attacked again.
It's a quick read, and well worth it. The overall point is that blowback from Bush Administration torture and war policies will take a while to be achieved. It won't happen right away, but very well could happen under Obama's presidency, and Cheney will be the first in-line to use it as a hammer to say "I told you so."

Nobody wants that to happen, especially an administration trying hard to clean-up messes. But with as violently as Cheney is denouncing Obama's new takes on Bush-era policies, you gotta wonder if Publius is on to something. It's not that they are trying to make a terrorist attack happen. It's that they expect it, and are eagerly awaiting it, rather than letting Obama make his own way. Why else be so vocal if you don't otherwise mean to set the stage?


Shorts Brewery

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I am an active reader of this blog, and I usually contribute with politics or sports. So here is my first post to this blog dealing with beer. You all are the experts, so I usually just read this with interest.

But, over the weekend, I went to a very cool micro-brewery that had some great beer and I wanted to report it to you all. You may have been there already, but this was my first time there.

I went to Shorts Brewing Company in Bellaire, MI. It was awesome. They had a huge selection of their own beers (maybe 25 or more) and I sampled 4 of them. Bellaire Brown, Pontius Road Pilsner, Huma-Lupa (very hoppy IPA with a lot of flavor) and another I can’t remember. It was very good. They had all kids of Michigan Brewer magazines and stuff, and I understand that they had won some awards a few years ago. I also understand that they have 4 beers that they bottle and sell and you can get at Oades.

The place was very cool. It had all these beers and served food. We went Sunday night, and the place was packed. Bellaire is not a big village, but it must draw people from all around in northwest Michigan (Antrim county). It also must have drawn a significant number of cottage people who were there for the Memorial Day weekend. At 8:15, a local band came on and they were really good as well.

My wife and I purchased a growler (1/2 gallon) of the pilsner. We can bring it back over and over and have it refilled for $4. We will be going back there whenever we go to her family cottage. Her brother and sister-in-law have been going here for years, since it first openend.

Anyway, if you are going to Shanty Creek or are up north for any reason…stop into Shorts for an excellent micro-brew with great selection!


Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just wanted to wish you all a Happy Memorial day... but more importantly:

Thank you! To all the servicemen who have given their lives for my freedom! There is nothing I can do sufficiently honor your sacrifices.

Today, I will be starting Summer out right, playing a round of Disc Golf, then coming home to grill some steaks and enjoy some fine brews. I've actually got 5 beers for today... I just couldn't make up my mind! I've got Founders Pale Ale, Dark Horse Raspberry Ale, Dogfish Head Festina Peche, Mount Pleasant Brewing Company Stout, and Weihenstephaner Weisse.

Anybody else got big plans, or a simple day of enjoyment planned?


Tis The Saison...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Last weekend, I had the occasion to attend the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth, Michigan. I was supposed to have been attending a dinner with a group of Rotarians at the world-famous Zhender's restaurant. But...there was this big huge blue building. And it had all this beer in it...

My least favorite beer of the evening was an asparagus beer. It tasted like grilled asparagus. And that's it. Glad I tried it, and that's all I'll try.

I will try to intersperse, over the next few weeks, some reviews of some of the newer beers I had there. This week, in honor of Michigan's short burst of summery weather, I'll touch on New Holland Brewing Company's Golden Cap saison. I think I have made the statement before that I really like a good saison, and that as a "summer-time beer" I like saison better than a Belgian Wit or a German Weisse.

The tasting glass passed to me held a lazy, hazy, lightly yellow-straw colored beer with a thin but persistent pure white head. It looked inviting and refreshing, combining the best of summer sun and wheat-laden beer.

Golden cap had aromas filled with acidic and citrusy fruits, funky yeast, and a sweet malt character. Lemons, pears, pineapple, and tart green apples add the sweet-acidic aromas, followed by pepper and corriander to help give the hops a slight balance. It finishes with musty/yeasty notes of a nicely-aged saison.

Drinking the beer yielded the fruit flavors dominating the yeast and slight hop character. The beer is much more acidic and citrusy, with a hint of pepper over it all. Golden Cap is also pleasantly malty, helping cover over some of the funky yeast. As I sampled another (and another) Lemons and grapefruit flavors seemed to gain intensity.

Overall, Golden Cap walk a great line between dry and sweet, like a high-end white wine (for a third of the price!). Its medium body is balanced by a refreshing effervescence and while the citrus dominates, it still has enough malt to give it backbone and sweetness thus keeping it from being too tart. Overall, given the lean of this saison towards fruits and away from funk, I would say that Golden Cap is more approachable to a virgin saison drinker than the historic Saison Dupont. That said, a saison lover certainly won't be disappointed. I know for me, this beer will accompany many dinners this summer!


All is well, damnit

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Some of you may have heard that President Obama came to give a little speech in South Bend last weekend. And despite my earlier predictions, there was no rioting, murdering, rapturing, or brimstone-based precipitation of any kind.

I didn't get the chance to see the speech live, but I watched it later that day. And as the President got to the part about the "controversy about my being here", I assumed he would dance around it, the way most politicians would ("I will keep an open mind, and thank you for your heartfelt thoughts").

Nope. He came right out and used the words "abortion" and "choice". He talked about his faith. He acnowledged that he holds a position that pisses off Catholics (and Notre Dame). He pointed to common ground held by both sides, and enouraged continued debate (even from those with whom he disagrees). He didn't brush it aside; he embraced it.

This, in a nutshell, is why this President is so hard for his opponents to deal with; he has the ability to address issues directly. He's Ali-like. He can stick-and-move, and avoid issues when he wants to... but if his opponent comes inside, he hits as hard as anyone. Conservatives and the GOP don't know when to challenge him, because every now and then he'll call their bluff, take the initiative, and hit back.

We saw it with the Reverend Wright stuff during the primary, and we saw it again this weekend. Just at the peak of what seems to be an organized push to make Obama seem extreme, he steps very publicly to claim the moderate ground. And because he sounds so good doing it, the average American says to himself, "THIS is the guy who's supposed to be so extreme?" And in winning the I'm-Less-Extreme-Than-You game, he wins the day.

For their part, the students handled themselves beautifully. Most were vocally supportive of the President's willingness to speak to them. Some participated in silent, symbolic protests (such as mortarboard drawings), but were nonetheless respectful. Even those who chose to boycott and protest outside were, by most accounts, peaceful.

The real trouble-makers were the non-students. They were the followers of a guy named Randall Terry who used this commencement as a chance to try to "shock teh conscience". They flew airplane banners of aborted fetuses. They drove truck-sized advertisements of aborted fetuses. They carried posters of (you guessed it) aborted fetuses. They pushed strollers with dolls covered in fake blood. Only three people made trouble during the actual speech, and NONE of them were students. Moreover, those protesters were shouted down with chants of "We Are ND" and "We Love ND".

For a better summary, I encourage you to check out Mr. Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Bravo, ND...


Why Sportscenter Pisses Me Off

All I ask of Sportscenter is equal time.

I don't care if the bulk of your staff is clueless about hockey. Feign interest, pull together some clips, and let the post-game interviews do the talking for you.

I get that at this time of year, both basketball and hockey are in the midst of the playoffs. But for God's sake...for the sake of this still-thawing Michiganian...for the sake of many people who live above the Mason-Dixon line...I just ask for some equal airtime for hockey.

Last night, 20,000 fans packed into The Joe to watch one of the most storied rivalries in sports history play itself out. The game went into Overtime after a blazingly-fast 3rd period tie by the Blackhawks. The Wings won the game with a fucking textbook 3-on-1 play to smash the puck at a thousand miles an hour past a stunned Khabibulin, who to his credit made a valiant effort to stop a puck he couldn't see. The checking was furious. Abdelkader threw a Blackhawk judo-style to the ice. The Hawks played as fast and hard as I have ever seen a team play, and the Wings broke their back through attention to detail.

But this morning, as I blazed away on the exercise bike watching Sportscenter, I noticed the next 2 stories in the queue were the Lakers/Nuggets game, followed by the Blackhawks/Wings.

I had 15 minutes left of my 30 minute torture.

11 minutes and 38 seconds were taken by the basketball game. As "highlights" they showed what amounted to every fucking basket scored in the 105-103 game, and some of the baskets they showed from 3 or 4 angles. Then, the showed Kobe Bryant's bragging throughout an entire post-game interview. Then, the Sportscenter talking heads went on about every shove, push, bump and uncalled foul. Then, more highlights of bumping, pushing and uncalled fouls. Then some final words about the game from the talking heads. This was Game 1, by the way.

Then, they cut away from the talking heads to 2 guys who talked about the Wings game. They gave Game 2 of this series 3 minutes and 40 seconds. They showed all 5 goals of the game, one after the other, from one angle, just once, in rapid succession. Thy provided us with a closeup of Osgood, and a post-game closeup of Byfuglien looking mopey. Then, on to baseball. No post-game interviews. No talking head analysis.

THEN...during the Top 10 plays segment, they showed 1 from the Nuggets game, and 6 fucking dumb-assed baseball plays whereby a fielder runs and makes a diving catch. ALL THOSE PLAY LOOK THE FUCKING SAME. Just some fielder, like every other fielder in fucking every baseball game played yesterday who ran and made a diving catch. I swear, they just randomly pick 5 or 6 of those and throw them up there. AND IT'S NOT EVEN THE PLAYOFFS.

The Wings game got 1 highight from a game full of them. It was the winning OT goal. It weighed-in at #6. #1? A fucking diving catch in the outfield in some baseball game. Not even Byfuglien's through-everyone's-legs-and-past-Osgood goal made it. 2 "Top 10" plays were wasted on a "funny" Shaq color commentary and Labron James making a basket while sitting on his ass. Khabibulin and Osgood stood on their fucking heads blocking light-speed shots, and Top 10 Play #9 was Shaq being fucking "funny."



A Milestone Celebration

Friday, May 15, 2009

Some of the world's truly great breweries have been around a long time. The oldest that comes to mind for me is Weihenstephaner, which has been brewing since 1040. Yes, 26 years before William the Conquerer did all that conquering to create England, these guys were brewing beer and not giving a shit about what some Roman leftovers were doing fighting some guys named Norm.

And then there's Guinness. For 250 years now, Sir Alec Guinness....wait...wrong Guinness...Arthur Guinness' brewery continues to brew the beer that an entire country identifies with. 17 years before our founders drafted and read the Declaration of Independence, Arthur Guinness signed a 1,000-year lease on a brewery in Dublin and began producing the world's most recognizable stout.

And to celebrate a quarter of a millenium in existence, Guinness has brewed Guinness 250. And I was excited to try some.

Like its flagship beer, this stout poured coal-black at first glance, but interestingly showed a slight lightness; some ruby edges and russet-brown highlights. A bubbly, off-white head dissipated quickly to a half finger thickness, but left a good lacing down the glass.

250 smelled almost the same as a regular Guinness Stout: clean doughy yeast, coffee, roasted bitterness and a slight hint of sourness. I started to wonder if this was Guinness Lite...

The taste was different from a normal Guinness. It was as if I mixed Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (the stuff with a yellow label available in the U.S. but not in Ireland). I got more of a chocolaty malt flavor the traditional Stout, and it had a bit more of a milky quality. It did not have Guinness' more powerful roasted and black-patent flavors.

It also didn't have Guinness' thickness. Normally Guinness is a thick, heavy-bodied beer. This beer is much lighter-bodied (though still medium bodied by contrast to other beers), and while it has a smooth, creamy quality to it, it is also pleasantly carbonated.

This is sort of a Guinness Lite. It is a "gateway" stout. It lacks some of the extremely powerful coffee/burned/roast attributes of a lot of stouts, instead having milder roasted and chocolate flavors. It is not as thick bodied, and gives a much lighter impression on the tongue. If I was introducing a mass-market drinker to different beers, I would take them to this beer right away. It's dark, it's out-of-the-ordinary for the ordinary beer drinker, but is very inoffensive. For the Guinness drinker? Drink it because you should have at least 1 to acknowledge the milestone. But stick with Guinness Extra Stout.


“You Give Me a Water Board, Dick Cheney and One Hour, and I'll Have Him Confess to the Sharon Tate Murders”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Never thought I would quote Jesse Ventura, but what the hell.

Jesse Ventura, former Navy SEAL, former Governor of Minnesota on CNN's Lary King Live:

“You Give Me a Water Board, Dick Cheney and One Hour, and I'll Have Him Confess to the Sharon Tate Murders”
Funny stuff as linked from LLPN: video here.


Choosing the Family Car

Monday, May 11, 2009

This is meant to be a survey of sorts.
A manly discussion of the finer things in life.

For the last 8 years I have driven a small Chevy pickup truck with a smallish back seat that in no way can comfortably fit an adult, or safely transport a child. My cab-and-a-half only includes a small, sideways mounted jump seat that cannot accept a child booster. This is fine while I have a family of three, because wherever the three-year-old goes, so goes the four-door sedan normally driven by the wife…er Mrs. Bob.

The Bob household current only includes the three of us, but times are a changin’. We should expect Bob family member #4 by years end, so if the kids go in separate directions, I will need to safely transport a child in my vehicle.

My auto choices in this day and age are vast. I could go to a four-door pickup to not lose the utility I currently enjoy. I could go sedan. I could go for a cross-over. Mrs. Bob wants a van, which may be fine when her vehicle gets replaced.

Here is where the fine readers of ATK come in.

Considering my current vehicle doesn’t have any child-carrying capacity, wouldn’t just about anything with a back seat be considered child-friendly?

Is it possible to consider a Camaro a “family car”?

For those who are uninitiated, the new Chevy Camaro just stared production. It is a huge bright spot in the otherwise crappiest year ever for General Motors. The Camaro plant is the one GM plant (or the one auto plant on the planet) that is actually running overtime to keep up with the demand.

This is not your father’s muscle car. The new Camaro can be had with either a 304 horsepower V-6 or a fire-breathing 426 HP 6.2 L V-8 mated to a 6 speed manual and running through an independent rear suspension. This is tied together with all the high tech goodies to keep the rubber down, along with all the air bags to keep everyone alive. It gets pretty good mileage too. The V-6 gets 29 on the highway, the V-8 gets a not-so-bad 24 mpg. Jay Leno does a great video review of the car here.

A V-8-powered SS stickers for around $31k. Dealers are currently asking for $1,000 over sticker. In a year, I am sure it will drop.

I grew up crawling into the back seat of a 67 Impala 2-door as the family vehicle, which was followed by a 2-door Chevette.

Knowing this and knowing what I drive now, could I consider the Chevy Camaro a “family car”?


Birthday Beer

Friday, May 08, 2009

Today is my Birthday. I'm a whopping 35 years old, though due to sports, stress, and 8 years in the Marine Corps, parts of my body feel older than that. All in all, I am in great health, good shape, and fine spirits.

Speaking of fine spirits, this year is also another birthday: the 250 birthday of Guinness! And in honor of their 250th year of brewing beer, they have brewed "Guinness 250," a fine stout for their anniversary. According to the Guinness web site:

This is the year to celebrate! That’s why our Master Brewer has created the limited edition Guinness® 250 Anniversary Stout. We used a proprietary brewhouse process that combines the use of stout and ale malt for a distinctive carbonated stout with a clean, smooth finish. This is the first new Guinness® stout we’ve introduced to the US since we first started importing Guinness® Draught in 1967, but it’s only available for a limited time. So starting on April 24th, get out with some friends and try a pint of our brand new brew!
There has been much hype about this beer, and a quick phone call to my local beer mecca (Oades Big 10 on Clippert for my Lansing-area readers) shows that they have 3 cases of it on-hand.
For those of you who don't know, Guinness is the beer that started it all for me. For years, I drank what was cheap and affordable. There was a time when I considered Molson Canadian one of the finest beers on earth (I do still drink it by the gallon at tailgates in the Fall), and was regarded as an "afficionado" by my friends because I preferred a "foreign beer."

Then one day, a good friend introduced me to Guinness. The taste...the smoothness...I was hooked immediately. Guinness became the gateway to all of the myriad beers I drink now, shoving me off the safe cliff of macro-brewed light lagers into the stormy and unpredictable seas of craft beers. Mrs. Smitty and I honeymooned in Ireland, knowing our final destination was St. James' Gate in Dublin.

The rest!

On my way home tonight, I am purchasing a few bottles of Guinness 250. I will sample it, fittingly on my birthday, and report back. While I don't expect to be blown away, I do expect that it will be a pleasant pint.



Father of the Year

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Last week, on April 30, my twins celebrated their first birthday. I was remiss in putting up a blog post for several reasons, but I should have anyway. it is now.

Happy birthday, Jacob and Dominic!


Souter's Replacement

Sunday, May 03, 2009

I know this isn't new news, but I have been interested in the discussion over who people think should replace Justice Souter. I have heard a variety of responses, from "who cares" from the far right, to some on the left suggesting a "liberal Scalia." I have always been somewhat puzzled by the reaction that Scalia gets. In many ways, he seems to be a right-wing version of Ted Kennedy, a kind of righty boogeyman. Most of the criticism he gets seems to be from people that haven't bothered to read any of his opinions or follow his voting trends (this does not apply to the well-informed readers of ATK).

I have read many suggestions and the following people seem to be on Obama's list: Sonia Sotomayor, Merrick Garland, Cass Sunstein, Eric Holder, Elana Klegan, and Diane Wood. Some of these names I know, but others are people I have no idea as to ideology and opinion. This article on How Souter's Replacement Could Change the Court, from Volokh, is one of the more thoughtful I have read. At least more thoughtful than some of the tirades coming out. I tend to agree with the author. As much as I enjoy reading Scalia's opinions and find him to be thoughful and logical (even when I disagree with him), it isn't helpful if you are unable to faishion any kind of working solutions. I am certainly not suggesting that people of principle should just go along with everyone else, but if you are unable to convince others of your reasoning on a consistent basis, then maybe you are being too contrary.

I prefer a somewhat balanced court that tends to take a pragmatic view of what they are doing. As much as I tend to be a textualist and conservative, there are times when the Court has stepped out of this mold and done something that was good for the country. I also don't think it is a good thing when the court strays too far to the left or right. In the end, the discussion between the left and right is probably good for crafting solutions that are beneficial. Personally, I'd like to see Obama appoint a left-leaning moderate.


A Pale Comparison To The Original

Friday, May 01, 2009

Last week in my beer news roundup, I mentioned Founders Brewing Company has recently released Cerise, a pale ale with loads of Traverse City-grown cherries in every batch. This week, I had the opportunity to try some on tap at my favorite local watering hole, Brannigan Brothers. Cerise is the replacement for the recently discontinued Rubaeus, a raspberry beer, which had a broad following and was a very balanced fruit beer. Rubaeus fans have been grousing, and unfortunately, Cerise doesn't do much to satisfy their concerns. It doesn't help when Cerise is French for Cherry. Are we still pissed at the French?
My lovely waitress handed me a full pint of a hazy, dark pink beer. It appeared quite effervescent but had virtually no head. As I drank, it left lacing, but it did retain that thin foam cap.

The beer's aroma was predominantly sour cherries with hints of malt behind it. It is impossible to mistake this beer for anything other than cherry. A hint of "christmas spices" (think: mulled cider) hang out behind all that cherry.

My problem with the taste is that while I am sure Founders is being honest when they say they use 30 gallons of cherries in every batch, something in the taste just doesn't quite seem natural. It's so cherry that it seems contrived. As the aroma, sour cherry is the dominant flavor. It finished like a cherry pie where someone forgot to add the sugar: pucker-tart. It's very flavorful, but is missing the malt and hop profile to confirm that this is a beer and not an alco-pop. It also finishes with a hint of a lambic-like yeasty funk, which is about the best part of the beer.

Ceris is medium bodied with a syrupy quality. The carbonation separates it from a wine cooler, really.

I have to say I was disappointed in this beer. I love Founders; it's my favorite in-state brewery. But this just left me lacking. I liked (and many other people liked) Rubaeus because while you could taste the raspberry, there was a big malt profile and hop character that reminded you it was a beer. Rubaeus was a marriage between raspberries and a solid ale. Ceris? Cherry juice with alcohol in it. Sure to please people who otherwise won't drink beer, Ceris could be a "gateway" beer for someone looking for an intro to the world beyond mixed drinks and Miller. But for ATK regulars? Stick with a cherry wheat if you must.



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