The Six Beers of Xmas #2: New Glarus Fat Squirrel Brown Ale

As if I hadn’t reminded him lately that he has always been the best gift-giver on the face of the planet, The Korean Lover recently lugged an assorted six-pack of brews from the New Glarus Brewing Company all the way back from Wisconsin for my tasting pleasure. From now until Jesusmas, my tasting pleasure will become your tasting pleasure. Before this week, I’ve never had the opportunity to try their beers, but I’ve always heard good things about New Glarus Brewing. Their Wisconsin Belgian Red comes in at an impressive number 42 on BeerAdvocates top 100 beers list.

Fat Squirrel Ale marks the first time that, while inhaling deeply to absorb the maximum possibl, I actually sucked beer into my nose. Thankfully, my lovely wife was seated next to me to witness the situation and strain an abdominal laughing at me. Fat Squirrel is listed as an English Brown. The bottle says it’s a Nut Brown. It pours a deep, clear brown with a fleeting, off-white head.

The aroma is nutty and malty … there may even be a hint of maple in there as well. The flavor is robust and roasty, maybe even a little much for a brown ale. I’ve had porters with much less body and character than this. Mind you, I’m not complaining. This is a perfect late autumn beer. There’s a good nut flavor without becoming overly biscuity. Very little hop character, but it doesn’t need it at all. The finish is a little sour and the tannins linger with intent.

Fat Squirrel tastes great and does a good job as a Brown, be it English or Nut. But if you sat down one night and had a few too many of these, the next day, you would undoubtedly vomit, not because of your hangover, but because of the thick yellow fur on your tongue.

The Six Beers of Xmas #1: New Glarus Spotted Cow Cream Ale

As if I hadn’t reminded him lately that he has always been the best gift-giver on the face of the planet, The Korean Lover recently lugged an assorted six-pack of brews from the New Glarus Brewing Company all the way back from Wisconsin for my tasting pleasure. From now until Jesusmas, my tasting pleasure will become your tasting pleasure. I’ve never had the opportunity to try their beers, but I’ve always heard good things about New Glarus Brewing. Their Wisconsin Belgian Red comes in at an impressive number 42 on BeerAdvocates top 100 beers list.

The first beer on the list is the Spotted Cow. The style is listed as Cream Ale. The bottle says Farmhouse Ale. Usually, when you hear Farmhouse Ale, you think of Saisons and other strange spicy concoctions from the French and Belgian countryside, not of a pale, clear, light-American-lager-imitating Cream Ale. Right out of the bottle you can tell this is more of a Saison than a cream ale because it’s got the sandy-orange color, the loose vigorous head, and it’s cloudier than you great great grandmother’s eyeballs. I half expect my uncle Jean Claude to step out from behind the bottle bearing armloads of crepes and Brie soda. And I don’t even have an uncle Jean Claude.

The aroma is spicy and citrusy and there’s detectable corn alcohol. So far, all Saison. The Cream Ale designation seems unexplainable. Then I tasted it. A-HA! A wee bit under-carbonated. Good mouthfeel. But the flavor just dies on the tongue. The malt character is very thin and simple like … wait for it … A Cream Ale, or a light American lager, which Cream Ales were originally formulated to imitate.

One of the posters in the BeerAdvocate reviews posits a plausible explanation:

“This beer is not a cream ale nor is it a Saison. It’s a Wisconsin Farmhouse Ale.”

In conclusion, Spotted Cow looks like a Saison, smells like a Saison, tastes more like a Cream Ale than a Saison, and I would happily drink twenty or thirty more of these while screaming “PLAY SOME FUCKING BLACK FLAAAAAAG!!”

Celebrate what?

News flash: I am a beer snob. A beer nerd. One of “those” beer guys. I hate people like me. You know the type. I’m talking about the elitists who allow their modest slice of extra-curricular knowledge and their various social insecurities to manifest into the kind of social condescension that even a mother could hate. To these accusations I have a fairly simple response: “Fuck off. The beer you drink sucks.”

I would, however, like to take this opportunity to add some balance to my snobbery. Lots of my friends claim macro-swill among their favorites, and these are friends who I like and respect. Am I too good for American Lagers? Could umpteen million American beer drinkers be wrong? The answer to both questions is, obviously, yes, but who am I to criticize without giving the guilty party a fair shot? In our current lexicon, I believe this is known as “the up or down vote he or she deserves.”

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BUT, TONY!! WHAT ABOUT YOUR FRIGGING COFFEE MAKER?!?!

I’ve received a couple hundred emails over the past few days demanding the results of our recent quest for a new coffee making machine. Well, we did in fact come up with a solution last weekend. After a lot of research, and a lot of weighing the pros and cons of various features, I opted to go with the Cuisinart 12-cup Programmable Thermal Coffee Maker (Note to self: Write a note that says, “Note to Cuisinart marketing department: I hope you don’t actually pay the person who approved the name 12-cup Programmable Thermal Coffee Maker, because they aren’t earning their check.”)

So far, so good. I posted a review here.

Convergence

I’d like to bring together a couple of scantily related topics. After working at the new gig for about a month, I have gathered sufficient data to report on the facilities (aka “my office,” “my other office,” “the log cabin”). The other office at my last place of employment will be hard to beat. Stall walls that were fully framed and extended all the way to the floor. I usually hiked over to Tower 2 where the solid wood doors went all the way to the floor too. While neither the walls or doors at the new office are floor-length, the whole thing is kept very clean, the paper goods are soft, plentiful and provided in adult dispensers, and, most importantly, it is not too crowded. Nothing sucks worse than a high-traffic office — Odors persist. Awkward moments abound. Privacy is non-existent. And, everyone who likes sitting down on a seat that is still warm from the last person, raise your hand. That’s what I thought — The dimensions of the individual offices are balanced, as in, they aren’t so small that the person next door accidentally pisses on your shoes, but they don’t leave you feeling cold and vulnerable like the godforsaken handi-office. I hate the cavernous warehouse of the handi-office. Also, the new offices feature “the hook”, where, after a night of braveheart wings, I can hang my shirt and pants and really get down to business.

The other topic I wanted to discuss today is community. The socialist in me enjoys very much the idea of productive, efficient communities that operate on the fuel of its citizens’ individual contributions. Rarely does one get to experience this phenomenon, but today was a pleasant exception. One of the things about going to the office is that I often run out of work to do before I’m finished working … if yer picking up what I’m putting down. I’m not obnoxious enough (yet) to actually carry work (ie – a magazine) with me to the office. Today, as I was getting settled at “my desk,” I notcied something unusual in the Redneck Cowboy Hat dispenser. Someone had printed out all 5 pages of Bill Simmons’ ESPN Page2 column from yesterday and left it in the bathroom. The dispenser was actually the perfect size and shape to hold such reading material. Simmons’ column was similar to most sports columns of late wherein the writer gets all pseudo-philosophical and stiff-upper-lip-sentimental about post season baseball, all the while flexing their knowledge of post-seasons from 20 or 30 or 70 years ago. Baseball is boring enough without having to read what some other douchebag actually thinks about it. As it was, this was the best baseball column I had ever read.

In addition to the facts that a) someone brought reading material into the office and then left it there for everyone to enjoy, and b) the reading material was a sports opinion column (a safe bet to leave in an office for dudes), I was most intrigued by the idea that someone printed the article on the office printer to bring to the bathroom. I would like to think they were sitting in their cube thinking, “You know what all the guys in the other office would enjoy? Something to read.” More likely, they were probably in their cube plowing through their morning reading when WHOOPS it is time to go to work. It is time to go to work RIGHT NOW. “Oh hey, I’ll just print this bad boy out and bring it with me.” When he was finished, he probably just forgot it. I’ll just keep telling myself that I’m witnessing one person’s intentional charity for the good of the community. At least in the other office, everything is going to be just fine.

From death comes life, hopefully

A major event occured a little over a week ago, and I have neglected to talk about it here. I suspect I have been protecting myself through shock or denial or both, as full acknowledgement would probably cause a breakdown of unknown proportions. It’s actually a little difficult to type these words. I’ll just come right out and say it.

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I can't wait until this entry shows up on Google and drum corps kids start commenting about what an idiot I am

As I mentioned yesterday, I attended a live broadcast of the 2005 Drum Corps International Quarter finals last night at a movie theater by Perimeter mall. For those of you unfamiliar with DCI, I’ll explain, briefly: Drum & Bugle Corps are private, non-profit, marching bands made up of members 22-years-old or younger who tour the country during the summer competing with each other under the DCI umbrella. The season culminates in August during what is called finals week. Quarter-finals last night (Top 24), semis tonight (Top 17), finals tomorrow night (Top 12). Most groups start organizing for the summer in November with weekend camps and all-days and then they crank it up when school gets out in May/June and go full blast all summer.

I have a choppy history with drum corps that involves never actually getting to complete a season. I went out for Spirit of Atlanta in 1992 and made the tenor line, but I bailed before the season really got going because I was only 14 and I found the whole thing to be totally overwhelming. I went back in 1993 when Glen Carter had taken over Spirit’s drumline. At the first camp he announced that, in addition to practice all day every Saturday from January-June, the snares and tenors would be getting together every Monday and Wednesday as well. I said, “Oh HAIL no.” I went back out in 1994 and made the snare line, again under Glen Carter. We did the monthly camps and Saturday practices and, I must say, the snare line was killing it. Then, in late spring, everyone got a letter in the mail stating that Spirit was folding for financial reasons. That was it. I went to college the following year and never thought about performing in a corps again.

In the spirit of finals week, I offer the following brief commentary on some of last night’s performances.

Blue Knights: Tilted snare drums are for dweebs. That includes this year’s Redcoats if they follow through with the rumors I’ve heard that they’re tilting their drums. Also, you march like roosters and that’s why you never win.

Santa Clara Vanguard: As you were coming on the field I thought, “I’m sure their performance is going to rule and I’ll see that their wicked low ranking is a fluke.” Unfortunately, you played like a 10th place corps. The execution was round around the edges and the overall performance was uninspired. Only 6 Snares and they’re playing matched again? Knock it off. You’re better than that.

Carolina Crown: Your horn line sounds great. Unfortunately, your butter-colored uniforms make me wish you were dead.

Phantom Regiment: The camera man screwed you twice. The first was when that girl dropped the sabre toss while she was front and center and one of the only ones on the screen. The second was during the percussion feature. The snares played their lick, and, upon completion, pointed at the tenors who proceeded to nail their lick. Unfortunately, the camera stayed on the snares the whole time. Sorry, tenors.

Madison Scouts: One of the cleanest snare lines of the night. Not a shitload of notes, but very clean. Even cleaner than the Blue Devils. Yeah, I said it. Also, nice work adding a girl.

Blue Devils: Dudes. What? Your weird-ass dance contest-themed show aside, DON’T THROW THAT DIRT AT ME! I’ve seen pictures of Ann Coulter’s face that have less fuzz on them that your snare licks. Let’s clean it up out there. You might play three times as many notes as the Scouts, but that doesn’t do any good if you don’t play them at the same time.

Cavaliers: What is that? Are … is that … are you guys rocking? That’s not what Cavaliers do! STAND STILL! The Blue Devils can get away with spreading their feet and rocking out to their mad beats, but when you guys do it, it just looks like … like a Young Life twit going to a NOFX show because “jesus was a punk.” You’re not fooling anyone.

Cadets: You guys will probably win for the 40th time because all the judges are afraid you’ll kick their asses if they give you less than a 98. You are truly the Yankees of Drum Corps. I will grant you the fact that your battery owned everyone’s asses last night. But, since you march on the right foot (read: backwards) I will never like you.

Ale Boston Adams Sam

This started as a beer review and turned into a rant about a brewery.

If you commonly avoid Sam Adams beers because brewer Jim Koch is the Tom Shane of beer-makers and hearing his voice on the radio makes you want to pound on your own schwantz with a dictionary, you’re not alone. The Boston Beer Company is one of those breweries of which I will always be suspicious.

You’re no doubt familiar with the beer that put them on the map, a little amber ditty called SAM ADAMS BOSTON LAGER. Riding the popularity of their home-grown Heineken (demographically speaking), Boston Beer has grown into a hugely successful corporation since their 1984 inception in Koch’s kitchen. At this point, their size makes me hesitant to refer to them as a brewery in the conventional sense. I mean, they’re not quite the size of the big three, but they publish fucking earnings estimates fer chrissake. Corporate shenanigans aside, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Boston Lager. If I roll into an airport bar and my choices are Bud, Budder, Buddest, and Sams, I’ll ride with the patriot every time. But if I’m in a grocery store or gas station where Sam’s is as good as it gets. I might just save the money and get something in a can. The Boston Lager is just not tasty enough to me to justify giving microbrew-sized dollars to a brewery so huge they’re subject to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

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I hope you die. I hope we both die.

Here’s something everyone can relate to, unless, of course, you’re a soulless, music-hating, dick. Every so often, you discover a new band and involuntarily go head over heels for them. Something about them strikes a chord (ha!) and, suddenly, you find yourself searching out not only their music, but their biographical information. When I was younger, this would happen fairly frequently and with much greater intensity than it has recently. Actually, this whole phenomenon has followed the same arc as that of a lifelong drug addiction — as time passes, highs become less frequent and less intense — but that’s a different essay all together.

During a slow, sweltering, random afternoon at the beeatch this past weekend, some of the restless younger folk took a trip to the store. Two cousins, Fancy Paul, and I piled into a car and rolled into town to buy some cabbage for slaw, ice, and all the Sierra Nevada at Winn-Dixie. As we sweated East down Hwy. 98, Paul dialed up, on one of the cousins’ iPods, No Children by The Mountain Goats.

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Beer Review

All that talk of alcohol legislation yesterday got my tounge all horny for some fruits of the gwcb’s labor. Luckily, I was prepared. Sometimes when I’m at the liquor store, I’ll see something on the shelf and say, “You and I both know I’m going to drink the shit out of you eventually, so git’cher ass in the basket, toot sweet.” Last night I helped Brian change one of the headlights in his Mazda, and then following a lovely little dinner in the Whole Foods eatery, I returned home to quaff the sweet nectars of hops and barley and hops and hops, which I had procured a few days ago.

Today we will be discussing the Hercules Double IPA from the Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Calalala. I noticed a display of various 22oz Great Divide varieties at my local retailer last week, but since I had never heard of the brewery, I gave it little consideration.

Since HB645 passed last summer, there has been an obvious influx of new beers. 90% of them, however, come from Belgium and taste nothing like the wicked west coast IPAs that I have come to love so dearly. Occasionally, we’ll gain new distribution of a domestic brewery, but they’re usually from the East Coast and unless they start with Dogfish Head or Victory, I haven’t been all that impressed. (I’m looking in your general direction, Brooklyn Brewery.) Where is Laguinitas? Where is Anderson Valley? Where is Bear Republic? Where is Stone? Where the hell is stupid Fat Tire Amber already!! Fat Tire flows like Diet Coke everywhere else. Grocery stores in Atlanta would not be able to keep Fat Tire on the shelves, I guarantee. Possibly the worst offense is that there ain’t even no Bridgeport in these parts. Why is that the worst offense? Because Bridgeport is owned by THE SAME COMPANY THAT OWNS PETE’S WICKED, SHINER, AND IMPORTS MOOSEHEAD AND MODELO! (Modelo, for those of you who don’t know makes a little-known Mexican lager called FUCKING CORONA.) “Dear Gambrinus, how much Moosehead do you really sell in Georgia? You’re not fooling anyone.”

What was I talking about?

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