Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ballast Point's Indra Kunindra is a spiced stout. It's far too overloaded for me to have very often, but I mostly enjoyed this bottle. It pours a dark chocolate brown with a thin, spotty head. The aroma is warm, sweet, and spicy. I definitely pick up on the pepper and cumin, and some of the toasted coconut. The flavor is sweet up front, with caramel and fig notes, and then a ton of spice hits mid-tongue. On the exhale there is a lot of cayenne pepper, walnuts, and mild chocolate. The heat from the pepper hangs around quite a while.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lost Rhino is a regional brewery, and New River Pale Ale is one of their regular releases. It's an indistinct American pale ale. Pours a cloudy orange color, the head is average. A little citrus/pine hop thing going on in the aroma. Mild malt on the front of the tongue, mild hops in the middle, watery finish.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Evil Twin comes up with some great beer, and gives it some of the strangest, most pretentious names in the craft industry. For instance, this porter: Imperial Biscotti Break Natale Pretty Please With A Cherry On Top. The price is as highfalutin as the name, too. But it certainly is good beer. IBBNPPwaCoT pours opaque brown, the head is dark tan but very brief and quickly evaporates to almost no foam at all. The aroma is strong, rich, roasted coffee; some sweet chocolate, some warm, boozy malt. The flavor is roasted malt and coffee. I don’t pick up on sour cherries at all, but something is definitely offsetting the rich chocolate in the aroma. Maybe the cherries are doing that. Regardless, this stuff tastes good, and the 11.5% ABV is entirely smothered in the malt. I won't buy this again, there are other porters that taste just this good for a lot less money. But I certainly enjoyed this bottle. My girlfriend, who usually prefers sweeter beer, liked it, too.

Monday, April 20, 2015

I'm not in love with bock beer, and Anchor Bock hasn't changed that. I like Anchor's classic Steam Beer much better than this offering. Anchor Bock pours a warm brown color with a lot of head. The aroma is sweet malt. It's very sweet smelling, and the flavor is even sweeter. A little spice, some nutmeg, some ginger, some fig... but mostly, a butter-sugar-molasses thing going on in the flavor. Kind of somewhere between apple butter and a nut brown ale. This wasn't bad but I won't have it again.

Over the past weekend I did two of the best hikes of my life. Both of them were in Shenandoah National Park. One of them was a hike in the Big Meadows area, and it was gorgeous in spite of the intermittent, heavy rain. You can see the pictures from the hike, and read the notes, at the Facebook photo album at this link.

The other hike was the popular Old Rag Mountain hike. Old Rag was, easily and beyond comparison, the best hike of my life. It was a life changer. People use that phrase too casually, I know. It's like the word "awesome." If we use that word to describe pizza and sci-fi movies, what word do we use to describe something that literally fills us with awe? We need a new word for that, I suppose. Hiking Old Rag Mountain was awesome in the literal, original definition of the word. If you care to, you can read my rambling hike notes and see my pictures at the Facebook photo album for the hike.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

16 Point is the DIPA version of 8 Point by Devil's Backbone. Because of it's proximity, I refer to the brewery as the brewery in my back yard. This the best thing I’ve had yet from Devil’s Backbone, and it's a beer I’d happily recommend to fans of the style. This beer pours a slightly cloudy golden color with a head that fades to a ring around the rim. The aroma is grapefruit, a little pine, a little grass... all hops, all very crisp. The flavor brings buttery malt to the back of the tongue, while the hops stay very forward, very aggressive. The close isn't a bit watery. Water on the back of the tongue has been my principle complaint with just about everything Devil's Backbone has turned out. I have no such complaint, here. Well done, DB. You've made this Virginia boy proud. 16 Point is exactly right.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Evil Twin's Freudian Slip Barley Wine is boozy in a big way. It pours a cloudy, dark gold amber color, the suds fade to some splotchy lace. The aroma is a little hot, but not in a bad way. There's some apple and fig, and a big malt that implies whiskey. The flavor is smooth up front, the finish brings a little hoppy tingle and big vapor from the ABV (north of 10%). Put on your big boy britches before you pop the cap on this one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I'm a Stone Brewing fanboy, but this chai-spiced version of their Russian Imperial Stout is an overwrought mess. It just doesn't work for me. It pours dark, chocolate brown with a huge, foamy, tan head that leaves a lot of lace. The aroma is just overwhelming. Lots and lots of spice. Too much spice. It smells like someone busted every jar in the spice-rack. A particularly strong black pepper and cloves thing is going on, here. The flavor is more of that spice overload. The rich, roasted malt is there in the exhale, but it remains subtle in the background. I struggled to finish this 22 oz bottle, and I won't buy another.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cedar Plank is a hop forward American pale ale aged in Spanish cedar barrels. It's another really solid, delicious beer from Green Flash. The beer pours a bright but cloudy, amber color with a ton of foamy, creamy head. The aroma is citrus and pine hops, a little bit of vanilla malt in the background. Big, spicy burn on the front of the tongue, and a warm, rich malt hits mid-sip. Then the character of the wood and some punch from the alcohol close it out. Green Flash does hop forward beer as well as anyone.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Firestone Walker is the brewery that turns me around on styles I think I've figured out and dismissed. Their Wookey Jack is the first black IPA that I ever went apeshit over. I'm not the world's biggest barleywine fan, but Firestone's Succaba is one of my top ten beers of all time. And now, after shrugging off saison as a lightweight ale, I've tried a Firestone Walker farmhouse saison that I loved to the last drop. Opal is just that good, and it's probably stocked plentifully at your grocery store.

Opal ppours a cloudy gold color with a tenacious, foamy head and a great deal of carbonation. The aroma has the Belgian/saison thing going on; breakfast fruits, bananas, citrus, plus dry wine notes and some twang from the hops. The flavor is all of that, but juicer and more tart through the middle than I had expected. Then the finish is bright and dry. Ommegang’s Glimmerglass had previously been my favorite saison, but I think this has the edge. And at 7.5% ABV, it packs a bigger punch than the other saisons I've had. Hell, Firestone could have probably justified throwing the word "imperial" on the label somewhere. Had they gone that way with the marketing, I'd almost surely have tired Opal long before now. Just by way of comparison, this is an infinitely better beer than Burning Rosids, which Stone marketed as an imperial saison last year.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ballast Point seems to be trying to force it’s way into my list of favorite breweries. With beers as good as their Black Marlin porter, I’m fine with that. Black Marlin looks like most porters, deep chocolate brown with an average, tan head. The aroma is smooth, sweet, and rich. Coffee and chocolate combine here, just as they do any of my favorite porters. The flavor is smooth and rich through the finish, with a little hoppy tingle rather than the watery slip that often closes weaker porters. I like this very much, and I will have it again.

This is a Constitutionals post, part of the continuing (but infrequent) series of posts about my attempt to lose weight and live a little healthier. I've posted recently about some of the hikes I've taken this year, and I've linked to some of the pictures I've taken, but I haven't said much about the personal progress I've made since my first post on the topic.

Well, I'm glad to say that I've actually made some progress. In fact, I'm enjoying exercising regularly, and I'm actually pretty happy making better nutritional decisions. It's only been eight months so far, but I'm down a little over a hundred pounds, and I hope to say that this is a new way of life for me. I still have work to do. I still have a mid-section that is an awful mess from years of neglect. Cardiovascular exercise alone won't correct that. But I've recently added strength training to my regimen, and I hope to see some benefits from that.

(The picture on the left is from last August.
The picture on the right is from today.)

One thing hasn't changed. I still enjoy wearing the ugliest shorts I can buy.


I'm constantly telling myself I'm going to write more movie reviews for this blog, but I never follow through. My main reason for wanting to write movie reviews here is simple; writing movie reviews is fun. It gives me a chance to think about movies and consider how good movies work, and what it is about bad movies that makes them fail to work. And it gives me a chance to savor what it is I liked about a movie I've recently enjoyed. Even if no one else ever reads a word I've written here (and, that's very likely going to be the case), writing a movie review still gives me a little more for my price of admission than I'd get otherwise.

Today I saw It Follows, which is, as of this writing, the best reviewed current release at Rotten Tomatoes (at 95% fresh). I absolutely love a good horror movie; The Exorcist is one of my five favorite films of all time, and even lesser horror movies often deliver the goods on one level or another. Some of the better horror movies of the last ten years include The Descent, Cabin in the Woods, The Babadook, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, all of which work in ways that transcend simple horror/gore conventions. And all of which were well reviewed by mainstream critics. So, with It Follows getting strongly positive reviews, I was certainly interested in seeing it.

In short, It Follows is the least of the movies mentioned in this review, but it is still a worthwhile film. It's a genuine movie, with subtext, good performances, and direction that gets the most out of a tight premise. I can't recommend it to people who don't already enjoy horror, and I'd especially not recommend it to people who aren't willing to do some of the heavy lifting required to let a spooky story get under your skin. But, if you can forgive a few weak plot points, and especially if you're a fan of classic horror movies, It Follows is worth a look.

Monday, April 6, 2015

This isn't really a review of a beer, it's a review of a recipe, you might say. Some time ago I started hearing talk on some of the craft beer forums of combining Founders Imperial Stout with Founders Rübæus, the brewery's seasonal raspberry ale. Now that Rübæus is on the shelves again (it's a warm weather beer), I picked up a bottle and tried the mix. I like both beers on their own, particularly the stout. I'm not surprised that I like the mix as well.

Different people like the two beers mixed at different concentrations. I tried a simple one to one ratio. The color of the mix was dominated by the black of the stout, as was the aroma. I picked up on a little of the tart Rübæus presence in the nose, but mostly smelled the familiar, strong, roasted malt richness of FIS. The flavor is where the raspberry really shines through. On the front of the tongue, all I noticed was the stout. On the swallow, that raspberry gets lose and really takes over. I was surprised again, as I always am, at how much Rübæus tastes like real raspberries. This isn't an artificial, raspberry-flavored-candy kind of thing. It really tastes like raspberries. Tart fruit notes dominate the finish. The overall effect, as I expected, is like a raspberry/chocolate dessert.

This isn't a combination I'd want every day. But, shared between two people, it might be a perfect drink for after a meal. I'll stick to the Imperial Stout in it's original form, as far as a preference. Founder's Imperial Stout is one of my very favorites. But I would not object in the least to another glass of this recipe, mixed at exactly the same ratio.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Imperial stout is familiar territory for Goose Island, and some of their stouts are among the best in the world. The Muddy is an imperial stout that's easier to find than legendary Goose Island beers, and it's much more reasonably priced than their top of the line. But the beer doesn't suffer a bit for being available and affordable. The Muddy pours black, the head fades quickly, and the lace is minimal. The aroma is big on roasted malt, with coffee and slight chocolate and sugar in the background. The licorice mentioned on the label is huge in the flavor. This thing doesn't have licorice "notes," it's a full-on blast of licorice, and the strong aftertaste lingers long after the swallow. And it's full bodied, absolutely coating the mouth. I didn't detect the 9% ABV in the flavor at all. I will buy this again.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Master of Disguise is one of Stone's experimental brews from the Stochasticity Project line of beers. They bill it as an Imperial Golden Stout. I bought it because Stone almost always does right by me, even when they try something that seems silly. Master of Disguise pours as golden in color as the name implies, with an average head that fades to a ring around the rim. The aroma is mild malt, peanut notes, a little bit of spice. And, damn if this thing doesn't taste like a stout. A little vanilla up front. Strong, rich, bitter coffee just floods the mouth in the finish, and the exhale is chicory and a hint of the nearly 10% ABV. This is more than just a novelty beer. I'd serve this after dinner to anyone.