Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beer Review: Dragonmead's Erik the Red

Happy Sunday Evening to all enjoying their last hours of freedom before work calls again in the morning. We've got another beer to review and this one's brand new to me. It's from the Dragonmead brewery in metro-Detroit. The name Erik the Red symbolizes this is an american amber ale. Alright, let's go!

A- Pours a dark amber color, slight haziness which is always a plus with me. White head rises to a half inch and then falls. No real lacing.

S- I'm smelling a lot of malts, very characteristic for this style. I'm putting this one up against my experiences with Bell's Amber, which I consider the best out there. There is simply loads of graininess in the nose, with maybe a splash of honey?

T- This one is very smooth but you can definitly get a firm hold on that malt content quickly. I get breadiness with a little yeast. No hoppiness detected anywhere, although I know it's there. This one really tastes like it could be from England it's so mild, I wonder how this one would taste from a hand-pull cask?

M- Pleasant, this one really doesn't pile on the chewiness, which is good. It's got a clean texture and is no where as mouth-coating as a big american IPA.

D- Sessionable for sure. This one won't wreck your taste buds if your having it with food. This one would actually be a great introductory beer to someone curious about trying a craft beer who never has tried one before. It's mild enough where it wouldn't offend someone not used to it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beer Review: Southern Tier Choklat

Evening All! Since it's my birthday next week I decided to treat myself early. I picked up a bottle of some rare and intense beer tonight. The beer is called Choklat, it's brewed by Southern Tier in Western New York state. It's part fo their limited Imperiel BlackWater series. Choklat is a big Imperial Stout brewed with pure chocolate resulting a beer so rich you'll think you just poured Hersey's syrup in a glass. This one is dangerous, it's 11% ABV.

A- Dark black, very little to no light coming through the edges at all. A small, creamy off white head forms about a finger thick and falls.

S- This is where it starts to hit you. Your first sniff, "woah!" Hersey's all up in the nose like it's never been before. There's so much cocoa in the nose you can't really detect any other scents!

T- I dare you...I'm waiting...BAM! Smooth, rich creamy chocolate hits you right up front. Then the richness of the beer rears it's beautiful head. It's slightly overwhelming to the taste buds. The sweetness is almost unbelievable, how can this even be a beer?! This is the third time I've had this beer (third ever release of it) and it never ceases to impress me. There is a slight bittering on the back of the tongue, but it's mostly bitter chocolates, only a little roasted cocoa bean. Most stouts have roasty everything, this one is puuuure chocolate, unbalanced as ever.

M- Very smooth, very rich and extemely coating. This one envelopes your mouth like drinking molases almost. Guiness isn't even in the same spaceship as this one.

D- Umm, share this beer with company as an after dinner drink or dessert accompaniment. If you want to try to go toe-to-toe with the whole 650 ml. bottle on your own, good luck. Drink lots of water with it!

This is the third ever release of this beer, it's been around for three years now. I must say that as powerful as this beer is, a lot of people have been saying it seems as though Southern Tier pulled back the throttles on this years batch from what it was the last two years. Having now tried this year's batch, I think I'm going to have to agree. It's still unmatched, but lacks that absolute knock-you-to-the-floor ability as the last two.

It runs about $7.89 a bottle, and only comes in bomber form (650 ml.). Try some!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

America, Beer, and Food

America has long had a love affair with beer.

It's been prescribed by doctors and banned by the government and fought over tooth and nail by the common population over the centuries.

We are in fact a people who's country was founded in some part on beer. How big that part is, is up to the individual to debate. Afterall, our landmass was "discovered" partially by mistake, and partially because those darn hard-headed folk on the Mayflower were out of beer, an essential part of survival in a time when clean water was unheard of let alone at sea!

In the following couple centuries, the number of breweries in our young, fledgling land exploded. The beer of choice was Ale, a top-fermenting beer from the English and Dutch that first settled the Eastern seaboard. However, when the Germans arrived, they brought with them a new style of beer; Lager. This beer, besides being a bottom-fermenting beer, was much lighter in it's body than the ales everyone in the new land was used to. It's the introduction of this beer that would forever change the landscape of alcoholic beverages in this country.

Just before the start of the 20th century at the back-half of the industrial revolution, there were around 2,000 individual breweries in the United States. Throughout the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century a few of those breweries began a growth that was unseen in the history of man. Brewers like Anheiser-Busch, Miller, Stroh's, Pabst and the Eli-Brothers of Schlitz used every advantage the modern age gave them to become justifyably world-famous and unimaginably wealthy. They used new refrigeration and rail technology to ship their beer across the country. They used new mechanized breweries (for their time) to produce as much beer in as little time as possible - over and over.

Slowly, the smaller brewries begain to get pushed out of the market. The new mega-brewers also began to use advertising to sell their products. This was a new industrial weapon not seen before in the world of beer.

When America entered WWI, things began to change for brewers big and small, fast.
Our war was with Germany. All one has to do is look at the names of the big breweries to see the ethnic connection. Those who opposed alcohol quickly jumped on brewers and made them scapegoats. They were "serving the Kaiser!" In fact they were simply hard-working Americans who's family roots were from Germany, but it didn't matter, America had found their scapegoat. After the war, the prohibition movement used all that momentum and carried it forward.

It all came to a seething head and on January 16, 1920 the United States went dry. When the ban on the "Noble Experiment" was lifted finally on Dec. 5th, 1933, it was too late. Thousands of small breweries in the United States were gone. Centuries of tradition and family craft were gone, only a handful of the small outfits would re-open. The bog-boys found ways to survive, their pocketbooks and resources deep enough to hold some assemblance of a company together in the dry-years. However, the country's new drink of choice was spirits, not beer.

In the coming years, more and more of those small breweries who had returned found themselves unable to compete, and the giant, ugly wheel of monopoly was in motion.

Now I wasn't alive at the time, but it is said that there was a bland-era. A dark time in culinary and brewing existance in the country. The only choice of beer was really the bland, mechanized product from the monoliths. If you wanted bread, it was white Wonderbread. Real wheat bread was hard to come by, and forget about any true ethnic breads! People ate cheese-food that came in individually wrapped slices, and ketchup was the condiment of choice. There were fewer than 40 breweries nation-wide, all brewing essentially watered-down lagers. In the 1980's we slowly began to pull ourselves out of the culinary and brewing nose-dive we put ourself in. We began to truly rediscover the neighborhood deli, if we even had one at that point!

We now have more kinds of bread than anyone can imagine. Salsa has topped the ketchup as the condiment of choice and I can go to my local store and find 5-dozen different kinds of olive oil, cheese, and deli-meat. Life is good again. Now what about that beer?

Since the early 1980's, there has been a serious craft and microbrewing revolution in this country. There are now over 1,200 breweries in the United States, with more than 500,000 homebrewers. These numbers grow every year as more and more Americans rediscover what had been missing for nearly a century in this country; real ales and flavorful lagers that taste as far opposite from their Bud, Miller and Coors counterparts as possible. The only reason people might not like flavorfull beer is because it has been denied them for so many decades they forgot what it was!

We now have the widest variety of English, Belgian, German and Czech beers available, as well as the thousands of varieties of very own beer, made right here in America by hard working Americans with a dream and a passion to stand up and say "NO!" No, I will not be forced to follow a single religous idealogy! No, I will not be forced to think the same way you do! No, I will not drink the single, bland, watered-down style of beer you want to shove down my throat. The revolution is so strong that the monolithic brewers have had to begin to counter the craft segment. They can no longer ignore us, and our momentum can no longer be stopped.

The craft-beer revolution really gets back to heart of the passions and ideals of what this nation were founded upon. Deep beliefs in independance, adventure and boldly going your own way even if it may be against the grain. So support your country and the next time you get beer, pick up something local.

Vive 'la Revolution!

By the way, tonight's MSU-UofM basketball game was one for the ages!


Monday, January 25, 2010

After more than two weeks - snow.

Well it had been January 7th the last time I visually saw measureable snow in Grand Rapids and today is Monday, January 25th. For the middle of January in the lake effect belt, that's a tad strange. Finally this afternoon very light granules of snow began falling and have continued tonight. We're supposed to get a couple inches, along with some pretty good winds tommorow. The snow trend looks to continue in some form or fashion throughout the week. It's yet to be seen if I head out of town this coming weekend or not.

I've once again gotten the great urge to travel, even after traveling somewhere in-state and a few destinations out-of-state almost every weekend in the fall and early winter. This one is a serious one, probably requiring airfare whenever the hell I can find something in my budget again.

What am I in the mood for? Randomness. I could pack a carry-on right now and GLADLY go on a 48 hour mileage run cris-crossing the country. Call me crazy, but I think the concept of mileage running (which I've done in the past) is quite entertaining.
The whole idea that I can go from Michigan to the West coast and back in several stops in less than 24 hours is just cool. What took people days to do only 100 years ago, we can do in only 4-5 hours.

Adrienne - "Don't you want to stay and see your destination?"

Sure a nice, long 4-day vacation is the goal. You get to see the sights (see above comment), eat the food, relax and do whatever. The there are the costs to take into account. If you have to get a hotel room costs go skyrocketing. Them you must think about food. If you're traveling, you're probably going to have to eat out for almost all of your meals unless staying with family or friends. Normal hotel rooms don't come with kitchens.

Mileage running allows one to truthfully say "I've been there!" Now, in most cases you really can't leave the airport to see anything. This begs the question; is it worth it? That depends on who you ask and what that person's goals are.

So, there ya have it. I'm seriously thinking about saving for airfare and asking my cousins in NYC if I could crash for a few nights this spring/summer. I've never been to NYC, the US orginins of my Irish family. So Emily, Bri, if you're reading this I'd be glad to slip ya a few bucks sometime in the coming year for lodging. I'll let you know how serious I am about it.

For now, I'm out peoples.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

ATC on a Sunday night...

Here's how my Sunday night is shaping up:

I've got the Saints and Vikings on tv, I'm also online simultaneously searching for sub-jobs for the week while listening to live air traffic control out of NY-JFK. I've already done all the laundry, shopping, lunch-packing and ironing I need to do for the time being.

If this shit gets anymore exciting a library is gonna break out. Luckily, the game is a good one, 14-14 as they just started the second half.

Tonight's dinner? Well that was homemade Indonesian brown chicken and rice made with love by madre herself. Dessert consisted of mocha almond ice cream on top of homemade applecrisp. Dangerously awsome and will mercilessly render any diet useless and impotent.

I'd like to stay up late, but I need to find a placement for tommorow. That quest has so far gone about as well as the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Anyone want to learn how to mileage run on airlines to get status? This site will hook you up with all the information you need to complete your air-travel quest.

That's all for me kiddo's, I'll see you in grip.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'm Not Fat...


My new favorite comedian, Gabriel Iglesias.

If you watch Comedy Central at all, and recently, you've probably seen him. He's hispanic, and he's big...noticably big. Big enough that he calls himself "fluffy" instead of fat. The endearing term has made him a cult craze, along with his dynamic personality and seemingly endless chache of voice impersonations he is capable of. At times he has the bouncy energetic aura of a 9-year old on a caffinne high, other times he's as measured, calculated and light-footed as an attourny. He's skilled enough to interplay the two simultaneously. If you are at all in-touch with your youthful side, he'll leave you laughing so hard you'll be in a ball on the floor with tears coming down your face.

Thank me later fool.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writer's Block and Career Block

Well tonight comes as a dissapointment after having a nice topic at hand to throw out there Monday night. I've got a case of writer's block and am feeling really random.

I'm trying to find a sub opening for Friday. Unfortunatly, elementary only has a half-day due to teacher planning in the afternoon. This means a barren crop for Friday. As much as I love picking my own schedule (to an extent) with subbing, financially I need to find a better compensating outlet of employment.

See, I really enjoy what I do, even if the kids make it challenging from time to time. It's working in the world of public service at it's very core which is very fullfilling, but I don't need to deal with the drama of teacher's unions and school boards. Also, my lesson planning is done for me. My day's usually run between 8am until 3:30pm, occasionally I'll be at schools that go until 4pm, but even that is earlier than the normal office job. I get major holiday breaks, the major downside being I am not paid for them. I also am offered benefits from my sub-contract company, something apparently rarely heard of in the subbing world.

Would I like to go into elementary education? After a year and a half I can tell you it's tempting. However, I would need to complete about 2 years of student teaching, during which I would not be able to work/earn money to pay my many bills. Outside of some random, highly generous donation that does not need to be paid back, this is out of the question. Also, the market for teachers is not the greatest at the moment.

So that leaves me looking for a job in my degree field. A field in which each new day I feel more and more ostricized from. The market for my degree is terribly small and far too saturated. These are the things we learn after graduation sadly. Furthermore, as I have gone along I have found fewer and fewer things I truly want to do in my field. These positions would not be paying me much more than I am already making. I feel less and less inspired by the business each day, each application I send, each follow-up phone call I make ending in being given the run around and ultimatly given the dreaded voicemail or simply hung-up on. My feelings have turned into one of frustration and apathy. If employers require ever higher amounts of experience they need to offer realistic opportunities for graduates with internships under their belts to GET paid experience from the ground-up. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. One however needs to be given the doorway to make that step, otherwise hypocracy is the result.

So with my predicament clearly stated, what is an almost 27 year-old nearly 3 years out of college to do? Grad school has been sounding mightly attractive, but I'm stalled as to what I would (or could) do with it. I don't want general communications, but something like public administration sounds attractive. The next obstacle is taking on more debt. The 500 lb. gorilla in the room is the question of "Is it worth the time and money?" What would my job prospects be after attaining my masters degree?

Third, if I would go into something else entirely, I am completely at a loss as to what that would be.

I feel as though I'm having a mid-life crisis at age 26-27. I know myself and what I want to do in life, and yet at the same time I have no idea what I want to do! My previous experiences have left me hanging, so what do I trust next? I tried the thing I said I'd never do, which is sales. After a true six month test drive I proved myself right in that it was not for me. I worked two jobs to support myself through college while having a high level of extra-cirricular academic involvement (including a small internship) and taking on a full-time class load. I worked full time for a whole hockey season post graduation while taking on a demanding, unpaid internship that in the end was one of my most rewarding experiences. Yet, I feel doors closing around me.

While all this is going on, I've tried seeking resume advice from people, however it has done nowhere. I feel my resume is severely lacking, however what I've gotten in response has either been "it's fine", or less than that.

Part of me is hoping that this blog will help lead me to a job I am truly meant to do and sees my experiences and efforts as valuable.

It's getting late and I do need a full night's sleep. Good Night to all!

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Day and the school closing controversy

Depending on where you went to school and who you are, today means something different to you. If you're a white suburban or farm kid, today probably doesn't have much meaning to you. There is only a small percentage of that demographic who's parents or teachers (before college) really gave them a quality insight on what Dr. King's movement really encompassed.

I went to public schools in the city, and MLK Day to our district was considered (and still is) a national holiday of reverence. Therefore, we had the day off school, without question. Upon entering college, I assumed it happened everywhere, at ever institution of learning. Well, every public university in the state of Michigan is closed on this day, except for my alma mater, Grand Valley State University. This was and is taken with mized emotions amongst staff and students. The school has a big march with local political leaders, and state's that they believe Dr. King would want them to remain open and honor his memory and movement in the spirit of learning.

Some students didn't care either way, it made no difference to them. Others wanted the day off simply for a day off, irregardless of the meaning behind it. Still more took the action of remaining open sincerly insulting, and felt somewhat embarrassed. I'm not talking only about the campus hippies here either. The fact that every other public university in the state closed save for our institution does make one raise an eyebrow, and you certainly leave your school on the firing range of criticism.

I realized today that the Dewitt Public schools were open as well. If you don't know, Dewitt is a rather affluent suburb/exurb of Lansing, MI. In their high school, graduates have commented that there are maybe 3-4 African American students out of around 900-1000 total high school students. All hyperbole aside, one can draw conclusions between the stats and the actions of the school board. If the Grand Rapids Public Schools attempted to remain open on this day, I would expect an immediate and rather harsh backlash. Their enrollment accounts for a majority of "minority" students system-wide. I'd wholly expect parents to keep their kids home today in lieu of the holiday.

In a school system such as Dewitt, I expect there would be a few off-hand opinions of the importance of the day, but nothing firey to be sure. The school board, students, parents and regular town population are very light on the minority demographics. They would have few dissenting opinions to sway their decision.

So by now you may think I'm reaching. You may even take offense to my theory. Go right on ahead, I'll even up you one. Do you honestly think a school system run by Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh would honor Martin Luther King Day? Not that Dewitt, Michigan and other suburbs like it are filled with Palin's and Limbaugh's, sometimes quite the opposite in fact. However the disgusting truth is that there are still a lot of racial undertones in this country. The school controversy on this day is but one highlighted facet of a much larger social issue. Yes, this is meant to spark debate, as open debate is the only way we can make headway on the issue.

I have immediate relatives who went into Alabama and Mississippi in the '60's and took part in Freedom Rides. In their efforts to bring our country through and out of a very dark, dark social era, they risked their lives. We owe them our thanks at the very least.

Happy MLK Day everyone.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Out of the Blue

The title is what it says. I'm watching the movie Out of the Blue, based on the Boise State Broncos football team and the dream 2006 season which included their Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

The movie is awsome and really delves into the world of college football and life beyond the scoreboard. It's an hour and a half long, and the full thing is on Youtube. I'll embed it below.

College Sports Spending.

I don't care whether you want a sports marketing/economics lesson, this is a great read. This article does a great job highlighting the massive economic disparities in college sports, as well as adds more fuel to the growing displeasure with the gross injustice that is the BCS system.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No Reservations

Just click play. I dare you to not like it.

In a short year and a half, No Reservations on the Travel Channel has become one of my all time favorite shows. Why, might you ask?

I think it's layers deep in reasoning. First, Anthony Bourdain is simply the man. His intelligence, wit, global/cultural experience and sarcatic humor are that of what runs in my very own family. It's what I love. Smart, funny and no bullshit. Second, I have a serious love of traveling. When I have the funds, time and logistical resources I am all about exploring the world as much as I can. I find high levels of self-fullfillment in travel and learning, which I guess gives me a high level of appreciation for a guy like Tony.
The third reason is quite simple...I love food. I love good food and lots of it. Thank God I occassionally excercise or I'd be 400 lbs instead of 156. Food is one of the human race's foundations of even being. Who knew it could be so interesting!?

Seriously though people, youtube some of this stuff or check out his new shows on the Travel Channel. Your IQ will grow.

Peace and Chicken Grease

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Making the Weekend Enjoyable

So what makes the weekend enjoyable to you? We all have different things we like to do or people we like to see in order for the weekend to get put in the really enjoyable category. Whether is be just sitting at home watching tv, a certain bar or group of friends, it's common across our human collage.

For me, I like spending time with my girlfriend and my friends from college. Either or both usually sets the scene for quite the fun-loving environment.

I also enjoy the dining out on really good food for not a whole lot of coin. So since I stated the term "really good", we can automatically leave out the applecrapbee's and McGrills around the country. What do I really enjoy? I'll give you a couple examples. First, is Relli's Pizza and bar in downtown Dewitt, MI. The portions are immense, and price is shockingly puny. Last night I once again enjoyed their all-you-can-east Fetticcini for $5.50. That INCLUDES a large salad to start (with homemade ranch on the side) and a big basket of fresh bread. If you want chicken or shrimp, it's $6.50, but STILL! That is truly one awsome establishment they have.

Some others to note as well for their portions, quality and price would have to be; Uccello's Sports bar in GR, half off all drafts and appetizers Sun.-Thurs. 10-midnight.
Yesterdog, Grand Rapids, MI. If you don't know, go.
Doc's Sports Bar in Livonia, MI. Unreal amount of tv's, great menu with really affordable prices.
Lou and Harry's in East Lansing, MI. Just go get a pita with fries. You'll know.
Benito's Pizza in Novi, MI. Umm, let's see...2 medium pizzas with 2 toppings each, benito cheese bread and a choice of salad or wings for $20. W-I-N.

There's more, but I can't name them all. Too much good food for a small penny.
What's common about all these? They're all local business to their towns keeping the money local. Get my drift?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

GVSU to South Bend

Laker Nation knows, and soon Fighting Irish faithful everywhere will know too.

The nation will know...more than they already do.

Former Grand Valley State head football coaches Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin are now leading the charge at the University of Notre Dame. Brian Kelly came from the University of Cincinnati to take charge, and Martin came straight from GVSU where he held an impressive record of 74-7 in his six years as head coach, including two national titles, three title game appearances, and five conference championships.

To Notre Dame, get ready to welcome back football relevancy on a national level within three years. You will be in a BCS game within three years, mark my words. They'll beat USC in two.

To the nation, here come the Irish. Hated by many for whatever reason they can conjure up. No matter the excuse, they'll hate them even more soon.

Kelly was and is the hot commodity in coaching these days. I guess you could say the same for Chris Peterson of Boise State, but I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon. Whether Kelly turns into the next Urban Meijer success-wise is yet to be seen. That is dependent on a lot of factors. Having seen both men in person, I feel I can safely say that this next decade of Irish football will be fantastic.

Let's go Lakers, and let's go Irish!!

Tiger Woods Ruined For Life!!!

Okay, so I'm kidding. I have no clue what happened with his relationship mess and don't care. I am however trying to get your attention as it is needed to save the planet....sorry, too easy.

So I've been sitting here expending brain power trying to figure out a somewhat efficient way to grow this blog and it's readership.

I know I need to do something with actually getting pictures and video on here, that's no mystery. First, I need to get a new camera so that it is possible for me to upload some images on here. I want to make this blog mine and not just a jumble of stuff taken from other sites as much fun as that is.

Second, how do you embed photos/youtube videos onto your blog from elsewhere on the internet? I guess I'm a real novice when it comes to this stuff, especially for 2010. Just means more time I need to spend looking this stuff up!

Alright now I will leave you with a little fun:

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year - Same Goals

Well 2010 is here and it brings with it the same goals and issues of the past several unfortunatly.

I hope all had a safe and enjoyable NYE celebration, big or small. I was out of town for the weekend and NYE, but I came home to fine out that the New Years Eve celebration in downtown GR had drawn over 30,000 people. Adrienne and I do slightly regret deciding not to head down there as that must have been quite an interesting sight.

Well, I'm still looking for a job in my field. The truth is I feel as though I don't specialize, or am an expert in any aspect of my degree. I have a great education with two internships under my belt. However the market since I have graduated has dictated that experience and specialization is the key. I'm struggling with finding a way to get that oh so precious experience.

Having done two unpaid internships, the time for that is over unless I can find a part-time one that will allow me to work to pay my bills at the same time while not lose my sanity from taking on too much. As much as I would love to go to grad school, all my job-searching has shown employers asking for anywhere between 4-9 years of experience post-internship. I figure a masters looks great, except where's the work experience? It would mean me continuing on my career path better than I am now, the problem is that I need to start making enough money to be paying off my current undergrad loans rather than adding more onto the mountain.

I'm trying to network, so if you know someone shout me one! I'd love ya forever.

I gotta look for sub jobs for tommorow. Peace out!