Monday, March 9, 2009

Lump of Coal. How Ironic.

File this under “Ungrateful Bastard” If You Like.

Where I work, there really isn’t such a thing as a “promotion.” If an opening occurs above you, you must apply for that job and interview alongside the myriad other desperate folk, eager to make their way in the organization.

I’ve been “promoted” a few times over the years, but I only remember my last real promotion. It must have been about 1986. I was in the hallway of a three-storey barracks building in far west Texas, making my way outside to stand in morning formation. My sergeant stopped me in the hall and said, “Smitty, you’re out of uniform.” (My goodness, doesn’t every platoon have a “Smitty”?) Panicked, I looked myself over and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Smiling, Sergeant Nikita said, “You’re wearing the wrong rank. You’ve been promoted to E-4.” He then handed me two of his old Specialist-4 rank insignia. Ah, those were the days.

Well, I’ve been “promoted” in my current job, which is to say I applied for the job vacated by my now-retired supervisor and I’ve been chosen to take his place (big shoes to fill). Problem is, part of me is unhappy about the salary they’ve offered. The other part of me is telling the unhappy part of me, “Man up and be glad you’re not completely out of a job crybaby.” So I’ll let it go at that. Gee whiz.

In honor of today’s step up on the job, I finally popped open that bottle of Ridgeway Brewing’s Lump of Coal Stout. I’d like to say I was really, really impressed by Lump of Coal, but all I can say is that it’s the best of the Ridgeway products that I’ve had in the past few months.

Today’s tasting notes read thusly:
Dark coffee color, not opaque. Malt smell. Dry with a hint of chocolate but very faint. Medium to thin mouth feel.

I would also add that there’s a hint of licorice or other spice in the finish, especially as the beer warms in the glass. Not a bad beer and one that I’d be willing to track down next yuletide.

Guess I’ll finish up here, prepare myself for another week at work, and be glad for it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Beers For Smart@ss: Pipeline Porter.

I’ll try to keep this brief.

I have reports that Smart@ss is still on the no beer wagon. I’ve also heard that Smart@ss was recently wandering the aisles of a local liquor emporium, a dazed look on his face. I think Smart@ss needs a quick trip to Hawaii. Since I can’t spring for the cost of a flight to Hawaii, I’m springing for the price of a bottle of Kona Brewing’s Pipeline Porter. Who-hoo.

If you visit Musings of a Smart@ss (and I insist that you do), you’ll quickly figure out that he’s infinitely more intelligent than the head cook here at Beer Rant. (His comment about HopKnot IPA: They should come out with a beer that has no hops and call it Hop Not…who are the advertising wizards that came up with this one….I added that last part, sorry, I’m infantile.) You might also ask the question: if he’s such an articulate wordsmith when he’s been barred from drinking beer, what sort of writer, philosopher, scientist might he be when he’s on the brew? If you ask that question, log off and get the hell out of here! You think too much and ask too many questions and you’re spoiling the trip to Hawaii!

So, I’m thinking that Smart@ss has his smelly feet propped up on some convenient piece of rattan furniture on some glistening beach on “the big island” or the “second to largest island” or perhaps “that measly turd of an island that hangs out on the end of the chain,” I don’t know. It’s Hawaii for crying out loud! I don’t imagine the day is too hot or too humid since, though it’s relatively low in abv percentage, Pipeline Porter is probably best suited for a mild climate setting. The pour is coffee dark, the tan colored foam a beauty to behold. The smell is vaguely of coffee and chocolate. The taste is of roasted coffee with a slightly sooty finish. Smart@ss smiles, takes another drink and watches as the sun sets and the local surf folk amble up the beach retreating to their nocturnal haunts.

Cheer’s Smart@ss. Surf's up!

The Great Arizona Beer Festival is this weekend. I won’t be there. Why would I? Someone’s got to get Smart@ss back from Hawaii and he’s certainly not in any shape to fly the plane himself!! Geez! Do you people listen at all?

For a list of all the beers that have been “had” for Smart@ss, go over to Vbg-log where everything is way hipper than here at the Rant – he twitters! Hell I don’t even flutter anymore.

Not brief after all, huh? Suffah.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Working Class is Where You Find It: Steel Toe Stout

For me there is something of a disconnect between a beer that is hard to find or high in price and the notion of a working class guy or gal plunking down their last crumpled up wad of one dollar bills for a six pack. I think on a national scale, this is an unlikely scenario and that folks we think of as working class are probably still supporting the brewing industry by their purchase of Pabst, Bud and Coors…and Miller…oh, and Schlitz. Man, there are a lot of truly working class beers out there when you get right down to it. So, let’s leave cost out of the equation for the purposes of this conversation and deal with the availability angle.

I might consider Ska Brewing Steel Toe Stout to be a working class beer if I’m pulling it off the cooler shelf at a corner market in Durango, Colorado, but I don’t think of it the same way when I’m buying it at a national liquor store chain in Phoenix. This notion figures closely with Stan Hieronymus’s recent piece “The Importance of Drinking Local” in All About Beer magazine. Mr. Hieronymus speaks of the special experience that comes, as a visitor, with stopping by a local establishment to sample locally produced beers. I guess I’m flipping this scenario on its head and pointing out that a working class beer really only caters to the working class of the region in which it is born and that once that beer leaves the neighborhood in the back of a truck, it becomes a different kind of beer for the masses. Not a bad thing, just a distinction, folks. (I don’t include the big brewers like Miller, Coors and so forth in that equation since they are all around a different animal and have been playing both sides of the working class/white collar fence for decades.) I suppose this is another aspect of what I've been referring to as setting and circumstance.

Hard-to-find working class beers probably grow out of the old days when there were more local brewers who catered to the local working folk. I believe that situation is coming back into vogue in places like Oregon and Colorado and perhaps parts of California. Local working men and women latch onto a particular local brand of beer that’s made by the brewpub or microbrewery in town or just down the road. These are truly working class beers in the original sense. I think where the disconnect comes is when a beer leaves it’s neighborhood and receives wider distributorship; it becomes too much of a novelty in the other places where it’s offered. You can’t be working class, rare and quirky at the same time and (though I’d promised to leave price out of this discussion) you definitely can’t be all those things and expensive.

What about the beer, dummy?

I can’t say that I was bowled over by Ska’s entry into the milk stout category; it was good enough I suppose. I'm partial to all stouts and porters anyway. My notes from last Friday state: “Dark coffee color, almost opaque. Quick tan head with medium lacing. Faint coffee taste, slight sour finish then gone.” I suspect that, served on tap in some dimly lit bar in southern Colorado, this stuff is dynamite. I'll buy this again, if the price is right. I also like Ska's website and suddenly wish I could be in Durango today – especially since it’s going to hit 90 degrees here at Beer Rant Headquarters this afternoon! Browsing Ska's other beers, I’m also feeling inclined to go out and find some of their imperial porter!

See you 'round the jobsite!

Too Much Information....

Which brings me to the whole “working class” handle. I wear steel-toed boots every working day of the week. (Those are my clod-hoppers in the picture.) Am I working class? I have a college degree and spend about as much time in an office as I do out in the field. Am I white collar? I was summoned to a state senator’s office to explain a constituent issue a couple years ago; does that make me white collar? I wore steel-toed boots during my visit to the capitol; does that make me working class? During the introductions, when I gave my name, the senator indicated that I was the guy on the hot seat. I looked around the table and then at the senator and said, “I think I’m the lowest paid guy here, so that makes sense.” Does that make me working class, or just stupid?

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