Archive for November, 2011

On the Giving of Gifts

Posted in Lagers on November 30, 2011 by wiseweizen

Welcome to the holiday edition of Pondering Pints. We’ll get to the beer eventually. First, watch this. While I don’t mind giving gifts, I am not a fan of receiving them.* That’s weird, right? I feel this has come about for two reasons: 1. for some reason my parents and girlfriends have never seemed to be able to get me anything I would actually want** and 2. I am terrible at feigning enjoyment of bad gifts. And… story time:

I’d just graduated college and my parents presented me with a small box. They said they wanted to give me a commemorative present that I could have forever. Said item turned out to be a gold necklace. I stared at it for a bit, then stared at them. They said “It’s gold and you’ll be able to keep it forever, isn’t it great?” I said – in the most neutral demeanor I could possibly muster – “I’ve never worn a necklace before, or ever expressed interest in doing so. What lead you to this as the perfect gift?” I wasn’t trying to be an ass, really, I wasn’t. Seriously though, after being my parents for over twenty years, you’d think they would have some inkling of what their son would consider a memorable gift. I mean, just off the top of my head in the under $100 range (and I’m sure the hunk of gold cost more than that) why not an FX Lightsaber, replica web shooters, or even the issue of Amazing Spider-Man where PETER GRADUATES FROM COLLEGE!*** Ok, to be fair, there’s almost no way they would have known such an issue existed unless they asked me or someone that worked in a comic shop. Still, they knew I collected comics and at the time I didn’t have the money to buy any of the really key older issues, I don’t think I had more then one or two issues lower than #150. They really could have taken a shot in the dark and even if they purchased a bad issue, I wouldn’t have cared because they actually put thought into the gift. Now that I’m putting thought into it, I’m only about 50% sure I even know where that necklace is right now.  The point is, I suck at receiving gifts. (Sorry mom and dad!)

Now, dear reader, I tell you that, to say this: when getting gifts for someone this holiday season do one of two things: 1. a gift card to somewhere you know they shop or, better yet 2. a gift that you actually put thought into and purchased based on the individuals tastes. Too many people seem to buy something that they would like on the assumption everyone else probably would want it too. Also, if you ask someone for a list, but then don’t buy anything off said list, that’s pretty much the definition of fail.

As a quick non-footnote addendum, before we get to the beer I just wanted to throw out there that just because they sucked at giving gifts (usually) doesn’t mean they weren’t pretty awesome parents (also usually).

So, tonight’s beer, which was a gift from Doctor Scott Valentine, is Sword Swallower, from Shmaltz Brewing Company’s Coney Island line of beers. Multiple websites list the ABV at 6.8, but the company’s website has it at a 7.2, so I’m going to split the difference and call it a 7.0% ABV.  The IBUs were similarly tricky to pin down so I’m calling it 60 IBUs. Now, the beer is actually a lager but brewed IPA style. I don’t know what to expect (haven’t actually taken a sip yet) but I put it in a glass with a griffon on it. My hope is that somehow, the griffon will make it taste good. The aroma is very hoppy, with a hint of citrus, and the beer has a hazy yellow/orange color. Ok, here goes nothing…

The griffon didn’t work. I can say without a doubt, that of beers I’ve reviewed thus far I like this the least. Also, it is the only one I’ve considered not finishing. Two sips and one gulp in and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over pouring the rest of this out. I don’t even know how to begin to give this beer a fair and balanced review. So yeah, I’m not going to. This beer sucks, don’t ever drink it. If anyone thinks I might be hurting Scott’s feelings by trashing his gift beer, don’t worry, he wanted to “get this out of his fridge” so I’m pretty sure there aren’t going to be any hard feelings. I am obligated to give it a rating though. So, on a scale from 1 to Excalibur, Sword Swallower gets a score of: Unevenly Cut Wooden Sword That Gives You Splinters When You Hold It. Oh, Christ on a Cupcake! Without thinking I took another sip. The next 3 minutes of my life are going to be full of an aftertaste called regret.

Ugh, next!

Cheers! And seriously, don’t get me anything for Christmas.****

* Exceptions include: beer, and gift cards to places that sell video games or comic books.

** Two notable exceptions come to mind: last year my then girlfriend made me a mix cd and got us tickets to a brewery tour / beer tasting, which was an excellent gift, and way back in the day Janet (who I never dated, though our parents probably suspect otherwise) got me a pair of fleece Spider-Man pajama pants. I may or may not be wearing them right now.

*** I actually ended up buying the issue as a graduation present to myself.

**** Unless it is a strip-o-gram. From a girl. That’s good looking. You might think those last two sentences go without saying, but I can think of at least a dozen of my friends that would have hired a guy.


Fruit, Friends, Football*

Posted in Dessert Beers on November 27, 2011 by wiseweizen

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Personally, I think it would have been a great opportunity for you to try one of the beers I’ve reviewed…

Tonight I’m giving a dessert beer a try, courtesy of Casey. Cherry Chocolate Beer, by O’Fallon Brewery. This wheat beer comes in at a decently robust 5.7% ABU but with a low bitterness factor of only 10 IBUs. Subsequent to uncapping the bottle and especially after the pour, a pleasant chocolate aroma fills the air. You may look at the picture and wonder how a wheat can be so dark, well, that’s mostly the chocolate though there’s a little caramel in there too. This little lady tastes exactly like a chocolate covered cherry.

Speaking of cherries… I was at a bar last night and there was a girl there with two pair of cherry tattoos, that looked exactly like this.** So, mostly sober, I walk over and politely ask if she also has a PAC-Man tattoo. She sort of stares at me for a second, non-responsive, so I follow up with: “You know, because cherries are the fruit in the first stages of all the PAC-Man games.” I then proceed to use my hand to mimic PAC-Man moving across a virtual screen, complete with sound effects. She walked away. This was disappointing. I wasn’t even trying to hit on her, I really did want to know if she had a PAC-Man tattoo. I would have settled for tattoos of other fruit, or a pretzel.

Back to the beer. This is a pretty good desert beer. Now that I’m halfway through, I must say I wish the flavor was as potent as the aroma. There’s almost no aftertaste, which is fine, but  unfortunately the flavors fade  fast and aren’t that strong to begin with. I’d consider this a beginner’s dessert beer. It still tastes enough like beer than a burgeoning beer aficionado won’t be too far out of their comfort zone, but they will get a decent sample of what a dessert beer has to offer. On a scale from 1 to Popped Cherry, I’m going to give O’Fallon’s Cherry Chocolate Beer a score of Cherry Fun-Dip.

Tomatoes. They are, botanically, a fruit. Way back in 1893 the supreme court decided that so far as customs were concerned, tomatoes are a vegetable. Recently, Congress has decreed that pizza sauce (traditionally made from tomato paste) now counts as a serving of vegetables. I find this troubling for two reasons. 1. Time, effort, and presumably money was spent to make this decision. 2. Despite customs considerations, tomatoes are still a fruit, so how can a fruit equal a serving of vegetables? I think I’m going to start a lobby to have beer added to the grain food group. We all know that’s the heart and soul of the food pyramid.***

As I mentioned, I was at the bar last night. Prior to that, I went to dinner with my favorite Viking at Gallo’s Kitchen. If you’ve never been, the food is amazing. In fact, if you do go and don’t have a foodgasm, I don’t think you’re human. Everything on the menu is to die for because the secret ingredients are love and a dash of crazy. Aaron and I know the owner/head chef Tommy, and were invited back into the kitchen after dinner (we’re kind of a big deal). After our feast we headed to the bar to meet up with some old friends. We went to Ace of Cups, which I’m not going to link because despite a decent “on tap” selection, the bar sucked a little. However, that’s where our friends were so that’s where we went. It was a crew of old college friends, some faces expected, other not. Its amazing, 6 years later, to look and see what’s changed about people and what’s stayed the same. One of the subscribers to this very blog (there’s a button on the right, click it!****) bought me a beer, thought I didn’t get the chance to return the favor. So, I owe you one. As the night wore on people started departing, but not all of us were ready to call it a night. We hastened across town to Surly Girl Saloon. I asked our waiter what hefeweizen they had on tap. His response: “I’ve worked here four years and have never heard that word. What’s a hefeweizen?” Congratulations, you’ve just failed at being a bartender. Despite uneducated wait staff, our evening of conversation and good times continued, finally ending with some caraoke on the way home.

Aaron, Justin, Niki, Sandy, Jen… it was good to see you guys. Then next round’s on Jared.

Confidential to Natalie: When you open up that restaurant, I call dibs on being the bar manager.

I’m going to leave you all with a tip to the ladies out there. Whether we admit it or not, we men like to feel needed every once in a while. I’m not talking “clean the gutters” I’m talking “pickle jar”. Every once in a while, even if you don’t need us to – let us do something for you. Also, a little “job well done” smooch goes a lot farther than you think.




*Just kidding about the football.

** Disclaimer: that’s a different girl. Thank you Google Image Search.

*** Yes, I noticed there’s a tomato in the vegetable section. Assume that I am filled with rage.

**** Shameless plug! Subscribe. Seriously, something magical might happen.


Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 by wiseweizen

Good (insert time of day), and welcome. The beverage on hand is Salmon Fly Honey Rye, by the Madison River Brewing Co. * I wish I could tell you what style of beer this is, I really do. The website doesn’t say, and the best Google could come up with is “Specialty Grain” whatever the hell that means. I can tell you that it is 5.6% ABV with a mild 23 IBUs. It is a lite honey colored beer, with a grainy aroma. The scent reminded me of a wet loaf of bread. Possibly organic bread, toasted, with honey.

The taste is very average. I like the hint of honey flavoring, and wouldn’t mind more. I’m half tempted to put some extra honey in, but what weirdo would add honey to beer? The drink is very smooth, just unremarkable. Remember any party you ever went to in college? This beer is better than anything you had there, though admittedly, that’s not saying much – as college parties tended to hand out beverages barely better than piss.**

If you were going to move to Montana, I’d recommend you drink about a metric shit ton of this beer. Why? Good question. There actually is real Montanian produced honey in this beer. Ingesting local honey is a great way to get your body used to the allergens and pollen of that region. I was going to drum up an article and link it, but you are just going to have to take my word for it on this one. So, if moving to Montana, I endorse. If not moving to Montana, I’ve discussed better beers, so read some previous posts. On a scale from 1 to Honey Badger, Salmon Fly Honey Rye gets a score of Sad Honey Bear.Yes, that is even including the bonus points for having a rhyming name. Before I move from the beer topic to whatever pops into my head next, I do want to give a shout out to Scott, who provided this beer. I’m sure the other he “just wanted to get out of the fridge” will be better…***

Spider-Bear**** is a lush. Fun fact (if you are a nerd): In Web of Spider-man #38 Peter Pand MJ host a party. One of the guests spikes the punch and Peter gets drunk. Eventually, he has to leave the party to go fight The Hobgoblin, while wasted. Hijinks ensue, Spidey almost dies, but manages to come out on top, and then in PSA-like fashion, says drinking is bad.

Here’s something awkward: pee on the seat. Ok, so I’m in the bathroom at work, and because I’m a shy peer, I’m going to utilize a stall. I notice that the person before me totally peed on the seat. Now, I have no intention of cleaning this, but think to myself that if someone sees me come out and they go in and see pee, they are going to think it was my fault. Me, I’m housebroken, so naturally I find this distressing. Ultimately, I waited a moment for the room to clear, then made a dash to the sink. But really, what’s a person to do in that situation?

As it turns out, I don’t have much to rant about today, so I’ll leave it at that.


* Which hails from Montana, not Wisconsin as you might expect.

** I’m looking at you Nattie Light!

*** That ellipse had a lot going on: hesitant appreciation, doubt, sarcasm, and a single drop of sorrow.

**** No, I don’t sleep with a teddy bear dressed like Spider-Man, he sits atop a shelf, guarding my graphic novels. Also, it was my mom’s, so there’s that.


Posted in IPA on November 6, 2011 by wiseweizen

Tonight, direct from the Harpoon Brewery, I bring you Harpoon IPA. This bastard is so hoppy it might just bounce out of your mouth. Or, that could have been a subconscious desire to spit the beer out because, well, IPA. Honestly though, despite my distaste for the style, this one isn’t too bad. He clocks in at 5.9% ABV with 42 IBUs. This beer has a great musk, smelling like a man walking through a flower garden punching things that are cute.  His golden-copper color, filling the glass, boldly bubbling as if to say: “Drink me you big sissy.” Also, there’s a hint of citrus. Who’s got two thumbs and no scurvy? This guy.

Alright, half a beer in and I’m kind of digging this. Not just because I want to complete my “Find an enjoyable IPA Side Quest”, but this is actually pretty good. Yes, it is bitter/hoppy, but there’s no bad aftertaste, and while it resides in your mouth there are several flavors that bound around in there. I’m getting hints of citrus, wheat, spices, and maybe a little essence of distilled testosterone.  In fact, I’m fairly certain that I felt five new chest hairs spring to life AND my beard grew.* I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I seriously would drink a second one of these. It feels lame to say Side Quest Complete after only two beers, so I won’t do that. However, Harpoon IPA is going to be the new benchmark upon which I judge other IPAs. On a manly scale from 1 to Chuck Norris this beverage gets an Apollo Creed.

I was at the grocery store the other day looking for an air freshener. I felt as though the vast majority of my options would leave guests with the impression that either a 15 year old girl or an old lady (possibly one with cats) lived in my apartment. Passionfruit? Lavender? Cookies and Cream? What adult hetero bachelor would want their abode to smell like that? I eventually settled on ”After the Rain”, despite sounding like the title of a Lifetime movie. ** For those that are curious, it smells… well, blue. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. The scent certainly ins’t that of a rainy (or post rainy) day.

I complain about this to my friend Erica, noting the only man scent I’ve ever found was a candle by Yankee Candle Co. called Fireside, which smelled like campfire. She insisted there would be more, so we took a trip to the mall. I was saddened to discover that the three pumpkin scents smelled like the odiferous offspring of a mutant pumpkin that had a one night stand with a bottle of perfume, and the fetus was injected with butter. I’m going to go ahead and apologize for any disturbing imagery that may have conjured in your brain. Anyways, amidst the Mistletoe, Farmer’s Market, Summer Breeze, Marshmallow, and an entire wall of pink candles was a shelf seemingly designed for men. Thunderstorm, Mountain Cabin, and Autumn Forest struck poses on the shelf, the reflections of the store’s lights gleaming off their labels. Before I go any further, I’d just like to say that my apartment isn’t stinky or anything, it just smells, well pretty neutral. Or like whatever I had for dinner. It isn’t as if I’m trying to overpower the smell of Cheetos and unwashed nerd. So, these mandles… Autumn Forest smelled like someone mixed cranberries with nutmeg. It wasn’t a bad smell, but rather it was a little too much “what’s grandma baking?” for me. Mountain Cabin though, those are manly right? I mean, there’s going to be fire, skiing, and maybe a Yeti or something. Turns out it smelled like a wet dog covered in pine needles humping a block of cedar. Pass. I saved my most hopeful candle for last: Thunderstorm. I love thunderstorms, so I hoped this was going to be awesome. I reached for the candle, thinking it would be a smell that not only encompassed all the power of the storm, but also have an aroma that could drop make panties drop from a block away. Admittedly, I may have set my expectations too high. The odor of perfumed laundry detergent was not what I was expecting. Disappointment abounded.

So, here’s what needs to happen: a series of man scents. I want a Bacon air freshener. A candle that smells like high priced beer. Pizza, freshly cut wood, rain, French fries, new car smell (or, for the nerds, new boardgame smell), pipe and/or cigar smoke, stripper*** – these are the smells I want. Seriously though, men are an untapped market for these sorts of things. I mean, who wouldn’t want a BBQ Burger or Hot Wings scented living room? If you’re already sawing logs, why can’t your bedroom smell like a lumber mill? What classes do I have to take to learn how to make scented candles?

A free tip for the men, totally unrelated to all previous topics in this post: Every once in a while, cook dinner for your significant other. They will almost certainly appreciate it. When they offer to help, put them in charge of dessert. Why? I’m glad you asked. There are several reasons including, but not limited to: so you won’t have to make it, to ensure they enjoy at least one course of the meal, and there are so many ways you could screw it up – ex “Why did you buy lite ice cream? Do you think I’m fat?” The most important reason though is that there’s about a 0.5% chance that for dessert they’ll show up with nothing but a can of whipped cream and a smile.

On that note… Cheers!


*So the ladies might want to pass on this one. Funny story, I made out with a girl once that had facial hair. No lie. We met at a bar, WHERE IT WAS VERY DARK. I chatted her up and amidst the conversation she says “I have a hornyness problem.” I think, jackpot. Eventually we decide to head to my place, and gentleman that I am, I walk her to her car. IT IS STILL DARK because its about midnight. So we get to her car and start making out, and I’m fairly impressed. Fast forward, we get to my place, the lights come on and her 5 o’clock shadow is more predominant than mine. At the bar I was a little too drunk to hear her correctly, but later realized she said”I have a hormone problem” which makes way more sense. Admittedly I did take a moment to weigh my being impressed with her kissing vs her stubble. Turns out I wasn’t that impressed. She makes a move to resume kissing, I feign beer related illness (which I thought was a better move than making a big deal out of her facial hair). So we ended up on the couch, watching a movie and cuddling, then she left. Guess who the Little Spoon was…

**My favorite Lifetime movie title: “Mother May I Sleep With Danger?

*** Safety Tip: Don’t utilize Stripper scented items when you know a lady is coming over. She’ll be super curious about why your apartment smells like a greased pole, dollar bills, and coco butter. The explanation “oh, sweetie, that’s just my stripper scented candle” probably won’t cut it. Not that I have a problem with strippers or stripping… just sayin.