Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beer Moment: Mr. Fix-It

I want to be that Papaw who can fix anything. I’m not, but luckily, I’m in the middle of that several year span in my grandchildren’s lives where they seem to think I can fix anything.

Today I returned home from my work as a low-level government functionary where I labor at tasks that rarely result in a satisfactory result and where I seldom seem to fix anything. With an eye to salvaging something of the day, I set to cleaning up the backyard, putting away the toys scattered during this past weekend’s visit. There in the lawn lay the broken end of a small scoop shovel, like the kind kids play with at the beach. I remember seeing it get broken Sunday afternoon and I remember calling Mrs. Beer Rant on her cell phone to ask if she’d please try to find another beach shovel during her shopping trip. True to form, Grandma found not just a replacement toy shovel; she found an indoor/outdoor soccer set and a toy barbecue grill. She’s a terrific grandma.

So here I stood this afternoon with the working end of a broken toy shovel. This, I can fix. I rounded up a short section of plastic irrigation hose and a tiny carriage style bolt with its appropriate little nut. I retired to what passes for a workbench in my garage with a freshly poured glass of Deschutes Obsidian Stout, one of my favorite beers.

In a minute or two the little shovel was serviceable again and with the tool boxes put away and the bench light turned off, I took the remains of my Obsidian Stout and flopped down at the kitchen table to sort the day’s mail, satisfied in a (small) job well done and satisfied in my choice of beer.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up at 3:30 and head back in to work. I’ll spin my wheels for a ten or eleven hour shift and then head home where I can do some real good. All the while, I’ll know that in just a few days, the grandkids will return and the toy shovels will come back out and we’ll get down to the real business at hand. And I think those little rascals will be tickled pink to see the newly repaired shovel. Grandkids appreciate the little things you do for them.

Monday, January 25, 2010


There’s just no getting past the 2009 Gimmick Poll. Figure I’d better man up and address the results before we progress too much further into 2010.

As you can see, there wasn’t anything in the way of a landslide. The predominant voting split between a focus on just western beers and hosting guest columns. Three brave folks cast their vote for some sort of “beer fiction” feature and I’ll probably get around to posting some of what I’d already prepared just to satisfy those nice visitors. Two people voted for a beer boycott and without some specific region or brewer, I’m left wondering what would have been their choice. Finally, one guy or gal cast their vote for more pictures here and less text.

So, let’s address the voting from least popular to most popular, and I’ll fill you in on how I hope to pursue that particular vision in the coming year.

More Pictures. Less Text. (“More Taste, Less Filling”) One Vote.
I think I’ve adhered pretty well to my 2009 resolution to use only images that I myself have produced for posting here at Beer Rant. In the past year or so, all of the beer images used here are images that I myself have taken – I call them “ensemble shots” if they’re of an empty bottle and a full glass of beer. I know that I’m a bit verbose at times – why use three words, when five will do, right? So, while I can’t promise that there will be less text here at Beer Rant, I can tell you that I will endeavor to post more pictures and that I’ll continue to focus on homemade images rather than cut and paste stuff from other sites whenever possible.

Boycott California (or some other beer). Two Votes.
And whom would you have me boycott? Personally, were I to choose without input from others, I’d choose to boycott California beers (sorry). Naturally, this sort of attitude simply reduces a person’s beer choices and that’s never a good thing. I suppose I could choose to boycott all the macrobrewers during the coming year, but that also reduces my choice. So, I choose not to make a larger proclamation about a beer boycott here at Beer Rant; instead, I will tell you that I will boycott Four Peaks products until such time as I’ve had a chance to sample something from San Tan Brewing and, going forward, I’ll make similar declarations as I see fit. The Four Peaks/San Tan deal stems from the dust up over the use of the “sun devil” trademark. You can see the details in my most recent previous post.

Start a “Beer Fiction” segment. Three Votes.
My thanks go out to the three intrepid souls who voted for this. Did you understand that you were voting to read a fictional story that I’d written centered around beer? I’ll admit, this was one of my personal favorites, though I viewed it with a bit of trepidation, since posting a fictional story centered around a beer theme would result in more work than was probably warranted given my literary acumen and the level of avid readership here at Beer Rant. What I had in mind was a serialized story centered round beer or brewing. More specifically, I’d actually begun the opening sections of a fictional story set in a post-apocalyptic United States (a’la Mad Max) wherein our hero sets out for the “forbidden zone” to find the last bastion of American brewing. (In this setting, beer has been outlawed and society’s high brow circles revel in “water sampling” parties.) Perhaps for fun, and so that the effort doesn’t go unused, I’ll post what I’ve got in the hopper so far.

Post “guest columns” by other bloggers. Six Votes.
This option tied for most votes and, it has merit because, frankly, it means less work for me! Consequently, my plan is to solicit four to six guest columns from other bloggers during 2010. I’ll work up a series of questions or topics and send them to some bloggers whose work I particularly admire and ask them to honor me with a guest post.

Drink only beers from the Western United States. Six Votes.
This is the topic that garnered the most comments but only managed to tie for the most votes. Comments revolved around the notion of what constituted “the west” and admonitions that doing so would only limit my options (understood). So, because of the tie, and because I don’t want to limit my options in 2010, I’m going to go with that I’ll call a “western-centric” angle here at Beer Rant. Which is to say, I’ll focus on beers coming out of the western United States, but I’ll include the odd “eastern beer” now and then. Also, I plan to push the “drink local” mantra in the new year. We beer drinkers seem to have ever more options when we sidle up to the bar and we should begin to voice our opinions when we can. I’ll start with a shot across the bow of such big name operators as “Yardhouse” in a coming post.

Whew. There you have the Gimmick Poll 2009 response. Now I’ll thank you if you don’t hold me to a single thing I’ve said here. Happy New Year!

In the tank:

Green Flash Stout

On the Desk:

Kirkland German Lager

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stick a (pitch) Fork In It

Devilish Hypocrisy

Well, I’d intended to make my next post about the results of the Beer Rant 2009 Gimmick Poll, however local news has come up and I think it warrants a mention, in lieu of my goofy, gimmick poll.

In the last week or so, I’ve followed (somewhat) a local story involving San Tan Brewing in the southeast valley. Seems brewpub owner Anthony Canecchia has been told by Arizona State University that he must stop using the name “Sun Devil Ale” to promote one of his fermented concoctions. (Don’t bother with my weak explanation of the back-story; you can see the East Valley Tribune article here.)

Disclaimer: I’m a graduate of ASU and a lifetime alumni member, but I’m no fan of ASU and I’ll tell you why. Everything that I ever got from ASU that was worth a darned, I earned with the dollars from a monthly GI Bill check and the sweat of my brow, wrung out over the pages of a stack of liberal arts textbooks. In return for my studies and an effort that earned the words Summa Cum Laude on my diploma, all I’ve ever gotten from ASU is a continual stream of what I call “mooch letters” asking me to upgrade my alumni status or asking me to donate to put other folks through school. In response, I say: I’m perfectly dissatisfied with the level of my alumni membership and don’t wish to “upgrade.” And as for others seeking to plumb my pockets to make their tuition payments, I say, “join the Army.” (So there’s your disclaimer. Even as an alumnus, I’m no fan of ASU.) Naturally, I rather admired the plucky determination of the small brewer in the face of the academic mafia.

Imagine my shock and dismay when I received in the mail today a tri-fold flyer touting the latest “alumni advantages” and upon opening it, I spied an article inviting me to a launch party for “Devil’s Pitchfork Pale Ale” at Four Peaks Brewery (find the link to their brewery yourself).

Okay. So it’s not alright for a brewer in the southeast valley to put out a beer called Sun Devil Ale,” but it’s okay for a brewer in Tempe to put out a beer called “Devil’s Pitchfork Pale Ale.”

Hmmm. This casts some of the gimmick poll questions in a new light. I smell boycott here folks. Granted, I’m not a big customer of Four Peaks but I have purchased their product in the last year, and I even shipped some to an out-of-state aficionado, bent on sampling some of their IPA. Will I refrain from patronizing Four Peaks now, in light of what ASU and the Alumni Association seem to be doing to Anthony Canecchia, a rival brewer? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not going to sign up to be one of the select few ASU alumnus who get to sample Devils’ Pitchfork Hypocrisy Ale at the launch party and I’ll be buying San Tan Brewing products before I bother with anything from Four Peaks.

We in the beer blogging world thump our chests and spout off about supporting the little guy and tell everyone to “drink local.” What do you do when one of the local brewers is using the might of an entrenched academic mafia to stomp on the efforts of another local brewer?

And what of Mr. Canecchia? Looks as though he knows hypocrisy when he sees it, too. Here’s the latest on his fight, in light of the announcement about Four Peaks Devils’ Hypocrisy Ale. Looks like news of the launch party has already reached San Tan Brewing.

I wonder if there would be trouble if I showed up at the launch party wearing a San Tan Brewing shirt.

I'll get back to you with something on the Gimmick Poll later. I'm spent.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Iron City. Oh hell yeah!

Hmmm. Let’s see. Were I to suddenly stop drinking any beer produced east of the common border of Colorado and Kansas, and I had to sample one last meaningful example of a beer from the eastern United States, what beer would that be? Hmm. Probably not something as common and low as Iron City.

Uh, too late.

Blatantly bland in it’s blandness.

The label touts this stuff as the official beer of the Pittsburgh Nation. I’ve heard of the Republic of Texas (I love their sheet cakes.) but I’m completely in the dark when it comes to this Pittsburgh Nation. I’m pretty sure it’s a football thing and since I’m more a NASCAR fan most of the time, I’ll stay out of that social milieu. (I said “milieu.”)

But enough! This stuff smells grainy and plastic-like, pours with no discernible head (but with very active and lively beading) and tastes vaguely sour and plastic.

On the plus side, it’s probably an eastern/Midwest/rustbelt version of a retro beer much on the order of a Pabst Blue Ribbon or a Schlitz. Another plus: I think the label is cool.

I actually bought this beer because the label states it’s brewed in Latrobe. Now back in the day, I drank me a few gallons of another Latrobe product known as Rolling Rock (or Rolling Boulder in my circle). Sadly, Rolling Rock has evidently moved out of Latrobe, having been swallowed up by the Bud monster. But alas, all is not lost for the good union working folk of Latrobe, because according to this Wickety Whacked Wikipedia Entry, Iron City has moved in to fill the void left by the Rolling Rock. (I wonder if Iron City now springs forth from those glass-lined tanks that used to produce Rolling Rock?) While I’m happy for the folks who might otherwise have been left jobless by the departure of Rolling Rock, this Iron City ain’t no Rolling Rock; a statement that strikes me as funny, since it’s akin to saying that turd there tastes better’n this turd here. (The departure of Iron City from it’s home in a Pittsburgh suburb to Latrobe apparently wasn’t without some rancor, but I’ll let you Google all that on your own if you’re interested in the dirt.)

But in the end, and in keeping with my philosophy about good and bad beers, I would not turn up my nose at a cold bottle of Iron City proffered by an old friend or a potential new friend. I think when I have another Iron City beer, I’ll likely drink it straight from the bottle and I’ll drink it while watching a sporting event in person or on television, and I’ll plan on having lots of greasy food on hand. Setting and circumstance? You bet!

Here’s the Iron City Brewing website. Maybe I should submit a picture of me drinking this beer for their photo contest. (Maybe I should send them a dry cleaning bill as a result of having violently ejected said beer onto my Sunday church clothes.)

Tick, Tick, Tick

I’ve got about 3 more days until I’ll have to decide about acting on the results of the 2009 year end Gimmick Poll. If trends continue, I’ll likely be limiting my beer blogging to beers brewed in the western United States. Meanwhile I think there may be one or two more “eastern” beers hiding in the garage that I should try to get at before time runs out.

By the way, if I elect to honor the results of the 2009 Gimmick Poll, and should my vast readership of roughly two dozen vote that I’ll only blog beers from the United States’ western region, you can rest assured that I’ll still try beers from the eastern U.S. I just won’t be bragging about it here!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sure the West's the best, but where the heck is it?

It’s January 4, 2010, I’m stuck at Beer Rant HQ waiting for a UPS delivery and, with voting in the gimmick poll leaning somewhat toward my covering only beers from the western United States, I find myself wrestling with the notion of what constitutes the true “American West.”

For years, in my mind, the American West had as its eastern border the eastern borders of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. (For the record, I never much bought into the old “west of the Mississippi” chestnut and when queried by an Army coworker if Arizona was located north or south of the Mason Dixon Line, I replied that it was WEST of the Mason Dixon Line.) In college, the American West was more rightly defined as the region “beyond the 100th meridian,” but that notion is as much a meteorological construct as a geographical construct, and as much as I’d like to use the 100th meridian as my demarcation, the line splits 6 states roughly in half! What to do?

Well, if I stick to my childhood notion of “the West”, then I freeze out the Dakota’s, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. If I use the 100th Meridian as my demarcation, then I’ll be forced to sort out all the brewers who ply their trade east of a line that runs roughly north to south through Pierre, South Dakota southward through a point just east of San Angelo, Texas. Hell, I’ll need a detailed map every time I visit the liquor store or a bar!

Now, I don’t know of any craft brews coming out of North or South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas or Oklahoma but perhaps they might turn up in this new year. On the other hand, I do know that there are some tasty beers originating in Texas. So, since I’m a beer drinker and lazy by nature, I figure that it might be best for me if I set the definition of “Western United States” as: Anything lying west of the eastern borders of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. This definition removes the need for me to sort out brewers who work west of the 100th line of longitude.

For sentimentality’s sake, I like the notion of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, as being the eastern edge of the “American West,” but gosh that has the potential for freezing out a lot of craft brewers – I think. Already, I’ve discovered that, regardless of what definition I choose, I won’t be blogging about the likes of Boston Brewing or Shipyard or Abita, or Lakefront. Ahhh, it’s a tough choice. Well, as Jim Morrison said, “The west is the best. Get here, and we’ll do the rest.”

Any thoughts out there? What constitutes “the West” in your mind? Perhaps you think more in terms of the Rocky Mountain West, in which case I’d guess that Kansas is off your map. I’m still rasslin’ with this so input will be helpful.

Meanwhile, while we’re talking about “the West” and at the risk of turning you on to a blog that’s infinitely better and cooler than this one, I’ll point you over to my cousin’s (infinitely better and cooler) site at The Field Lab. You won’t find too many specific references to beer but I know for a fact that John has tried Shiner Smokehaus – but of course, he’s in Texas!

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts