Category Archives: Beers

Clown Shoes The Ballad of Minnie Quay

So, Monday I pulled a pre-birthday treat to myself from my cellar. Clown Shoes apparently made The Ballad of Minnie Quay, an Old Ale, and aged it in port and whiskey barrels. Their website says they discontinued it, but they clearly brought it back, this time aged in brandy barrels. I find port aging to be usually over the top, but every brandy (and cognac) barrel aged beer I’ve had has been pretty good.

Old ales aren’t done enough and brandy barrels are even more not done enough. The aging of this species of beer in brandy barrels is perfect. Nothing harsh here, smooth flavors all around. Orange color, fruity aromas, and the 11% ABV is more kicking than most 11% beers I’ve had!

There is a down side to popping this…and it’s is a big one: I have to go on a hunt to see if I can find another to cellar.

I know where I saw some a month or so ago…fingers crossed. Spot the Octopus and Ganesha approve heartily.

Minnie Quay

The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real FoodThe Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was to add to the knowledge base, despite not being a fan of Oliver’s Brooklyn Brewery and I dislike most of the styles he crows about. Even though this was published in 2003, it still has value with respect to suggestions. He does a good job with descriptions, and food pairings (something that always makes me laugh, whether wine or beer related), and isn’t shy at all about recommending his own brewery’s beers as “notable producers” of the various styles he covers…most of which I’ve tried (the recommendations, that is…not the current menu) and not been impressed by, by the way, but that’s because my tastes are my tastes.

I am so not a lager or Belgian drinker, and he gushes the crap out of them. Most of the book is a lovefest with Euro beers, almost all of which I really cannot stand (Flemish oud bruins are an exception), but for those who do like them, the book will give you some good, albeit dated, tips. I wasn’t keen on his treatment of American beers, though he wasn’t unkind – just not as ebullient as he was for the lagers and …cringe…English beers. Oh My Flying Spaghetti Monster! We are so far apart on our evaluation of Irish stouts! Recognizing that so much has changed on the American craft canvas since 2003, I’m amused at most of his “notable” American breweries are second tier in my assessments – Anchor, Ommegang (third tier), Victory, Goose Island, … Brooklyn… Well, I know I am at odds with many fans, but as I said above…my tastes. I do think I need to explore some lambics. I’ve only had two – two individual beers – to date. I will be touring central Europe in the fall and though I will try Czech and Austrian beers just because, I’m steeling myself in advance.

Snobbery is in the eye of the beer holder. Your mileage may vary. Regardless of whether you agree with Oliver on his likes and recommendations, and though it is old in terms of modern craft, this is still a good addition to the toolbox.

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A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information AgeA Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As if I need any more book suggestions, I have a couple of feeds I’ve voluntarily signed up for and this popped up on one of them some time ago and I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I eat up the good stuff on critical thinking and this just appealed. Sure, there were few revelations for me, but the composition was refreshing and even though Levitin seems to churn out variations on a theme, this is my first by him, so gets a good nod from me. It gets an extra star because I like his coverage.

Levitin covers a lot. And he covers it well. His writing makes for easy reading and easier digesting if you’ve never read anything on the subject. for those who have, it’s a nicely packaged compendium with quotable sound bites. He addresses the usual numbers game, … and also words. Lies, damn lies and…

Statistics are not facts. They are interpretations.

All right. Important safety tip. (and spot on). And when he talks about infographics? (“…often used by lying weasels to shape public opinion” [my emphasis]) He’s also spot on that “they [the weasels] rely on the fact that most people won’t study what they’ve done too carefully.” Rather disparaging to the much maligned weasels, similizing the ilk to them. Advising the reader, wisely, when encountering just about any claim: “…ask yourself: How could anyone know such a thing?” Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer? Well, of course, but equally obvious…advise so needed and ignored.

On authority, he also advises (obviously) sagely:

The first thing to do when evaluating a claim by some authority is to ask who or what established their authority. If the authority comes from having been a witness to some event, how credible a witness are they?

And in a discussion later in the book he notes that “Experience is Typically Narrow” I recalled a discourse I had on The Petition Project…appeals to an “authority” beg the question as to the source of the authority; does the authprity have any pedigree at all on the subject in question? (Great pop culture reference in mind is the television show West Wing’s character President Bartlet eviscerating a sham talk radio host for masquerading her PhD in English as some authority in divinity or psychology…)

On things like Academy Awards – something I question when I actually take an interest – he makes a very good observation that

The award system is generally biased toward ensuring that every winner is deserving, which is not the same as saying that every deserving person is a winner.

Important distinction.

There’s a lot more here. I made a lot of electronic highlights and notes (that I should remember to save in event of another device glitch…) and though I like James Morrow’s “Science has all the answers. We just don’t have all the science”, Levitin notes, “Science doesn’t present us with certainty, only probabilities.” I might need to adjust my thinking.

Highly recommended for the beginner and veteran.

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The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak – finally read

The Goblin ReservationThe Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

File this under Books I Should Have Read Already. I carried around for more than 30 years (probably lots more) a worn paperback I got from a used bookstore, and it sat on a shelf next to Clarke, Anderson, Williamson, Blish, …unread. I started it a number of times, but never got that far and lost my well-traveled copy to a fire in 2013.

A decidedly odd book. Dated elements, but not overly so, given its oddness. I got a kick out of a subplot line involving the Goblins (actually, Little People…the traditional Irish type) and beer:

Scuttling down the path toward them came a tiny goblin, his multicolored, too-large shirt whipping in the wind of his headlong running. “The ale!” he screamed. “The ale!” He skidded to a halt in front of the three toiling up the path. “What of the ale?” panted Mr. O’Toole. “Do you mean to confess to me that you have been the sampling of it?” “It has gone sour,” wailed the little goblin. “The whole bewitched mess of it is sour.” “But ale can’t go sour,” protested Maxwell, grasping some sense of the tragedy that had taken place. Mr. O’Toole bounced upon the path in devastating anger. His face turned from brown to red to purple. His breath came gushing out in wheezing gasps. “It can, bedamned,” he shouted, “with a spell of wizardry!”

In 1969, Simak probably had no experience with Flanders ales, but then, if he’d ever had Guinness, well, that stuff is nasty sour and not in a good, intentional way.

I like Simak’s language he used for his Goblins:

“But these,” he said, “are dolorous topics on which to waste so glorious an autumn afternoon. So let us fasten our thoughts, rather, with great steadfastness, upon the foaming ale that awaits us on the hilltop.”

And a dig on fools who would chug:

He [O’Toole] put the mug to his mouth again and emptied it in several lusty gulps. He slammed it down on the table and looked at Maxwell’s mug, still full. “Drink up,” he urged. “Drink up, then I fill them yet again for a further wetting of the whistle.” “You go ahead,” Maxwell told him. “It’s a shame to drink ale the way you do. It should be tasted and appreciated.” Mr. O’Toole shrugged. “A pig I am, no doubt. But this be disenchanted ale and not one to linger over.”

Lost, for most readers I’m sure, among the narrative, Simak writes something I’ve been saying for much of my adult life…his main character Peter Maxwell observes:

“I do not like the word `intolerant,’ Mr. Marmaduke, because it implies that there is ground for tolerance and there is no such thing-not for you, nor me, nor any other creature in the universe.”

Wisdom in classic science fiction. It is there, you know.

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