Monday, March 29, 2010

Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2008 Chardonnay - Monday, Mar. 29th

Robert Mondavi. Even to a man like me, one completely uncultured in the nuances of wine, this name rings a bell. I can only describe it like this:

Imagine, if you will, it is a lazy, hot Sunday afternoon and you're passing the time in a library. Perusing the classics section, you wander about aimlessly, reading off authors and titles as you amble by their dusty hard-bound covers. Every once and awhile you pull one off the shelf you've never heard of or seen and flip through the pages, only to put it back. You leave and weeks go by. You remember one of the novels from the library but not the title or the author. But it piques your interest none-the-less until you can't help but do an exhaustive search to find it that involves far too much time at the computer and a few too many cups of coffee.

For me, that's the Mondavi name. I can't remember where I first heard about the gargantuan name in the wine industry. Like the classic in the library, this wine merits shelf space on institutions of higher learning (read: booze shacks) all over the globe. I have always known the name but I can't remember why at this conjecture but that's not really the point. What I do know is that the higher end Mondavi wines are...indeed...higher end. Much more than I would pay for a bottle of wine at this point. I'm wine-stupid. Really. On a fine, blustery February day I found a bottle of Mondavi wine for the right price and the right varietal and I figured it was time to do that investigation. I think it was $8.99 or so; a far cry from his $40 and $50 upper-echelon wines. Here's a picture:

Here's the notes:

Nose of honey, fresh Red Delicious apple, some heat, oak is present in the background. Bit of peach. It smells overwhelming like a trip to an apple orchard on an early fall morning. Slight spice and woodiness from the oak coupled with a fresh-plucked apple smell. But...y' grape form.

Taste is wildflower honey with a buttery aftertaste. Apple from the nose comes through as well. Oak is less pronounced in the taste than in the nose but it still has a touch of woody spice. Smooth and a bit on the drier side but remarkably approachable for someone that typically prefers sweet wines. Not a bad value.

There you have it. I've tangled with the mythic beast that is Robert Mondavi wines. A decent cup, to be truthful with you. A fair price and a nice wine, if a bit thin and a touch hot on the nose. One day maybe I'll be filthy, stupid, crazy rich enough to try his other wines but until then, Mr. Mondavi, your other wines are too rich for my blood. Sorry chief.


In other news, I'm waiting to hear back from the Whisky Live people (from Whisky Magazine) as to the status of a press pass to their WhiskyLive New York program. Here's hoping I get in. If you're reading this WhiskyLive people, I promise that I will be clean-shaven and an excellent representation of professionalism and tact. I will wear my cleanest tuxedo t-shirt. There's a small mustard stain under the bow-tie but if the light's low enough it should just blend in.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stag Beer - Saturday, Mar. 20th

On the tail end of yesterday's post, I bring you a drinking beer. I can't exactly remember how I ran into the Stag brand, brewed by contract through the Pabst Brewing Company but I was enthralled by it. It is a no frills brand that has been around forever. Some of the footage in my Blues class from the early twenties and thirties have Stag beer signs in them. The distribution for Stag beer is very, very limited. Online accounts place it pretty much in only Illinois and Missouri (specifically St. Louis). This is a shame because it's actually not that bad for a mass market beer. Here are the specifics:

Picture of Stag BeerSmells sweet and corny. Some malt, and definitely stuff other than malt. Slight bit o funk.

Taste is pretty generic adjunct beer. It's smooth with no hops whatsoever. Very bready and yeasty. It's pretty much like what I'd imagine liquid Wonderbread would taste like. Touch of honey too.

Actually, it's not bad. Not great but not bad. It's not a craft beer. I'd definitely take Labatts over it and maybe Bud but I wouldn't say no if it was cheap. Tastes like a pizza beer. A cold 12 pack of these and a lazy day fishing seems right. Maybe get a 12 pack, tie it to a raft and float down the river.

The Pabst Brewing Company "Interactive Marketing Associate" (which I assume is a fancy phrase for "putting up with my drunken, belligerent ass") Debbie helped me get a case of this after much failure on UPS' part. They had to have lost two cases of this stuff somewhere in the mail. I felt bad for Debbie who had to put up with me the entire time just to shut me up with a case of beer. Sorry Debbie for all the trouble but I'd like to think it was worth it. She told me that the price point for a twelver is roughly $7.49 -$7.99. I've seen testimonies online stating that they got a twelver for about $6.99 or cheaper. For anywhere from $.66 to $.50 for a beer, this is a stellar deal. If it's around, this is an excellent cheap beer. Lots better than Mickeys.

The Difference Between "Tasting" and "Drinking"

A lot of people are worried about me. Many people ask me about what I do for a hobby or what my site is about and I tell them, quite simply: "I review alcohol". For some reason, they immediately make sure that I'm not turning into an alcoholic. It's true. Not only my family but friends as well. It's nice to see so many care but they're missing a huge aspect.

There's a difference between "tasting" and "drinking".

A lot of people associate "tasting" something with an high-brow, posh mind-frame which confuses me. It's not seen as a bad thing, per se, but rather something "fancy". A lot of people associate "drinking" with straight up boozing. Pounding back beers and Boilermakers of Pabst Blue Ribbon and cheap bourbon at a local blue collar bar is something, somehow, that is almost iconoclastic to the word "drinking". Either that or swilling luke-warm cheap beer to the thudding bass of bad rap music in a semi-lit frat house basement as you try to hit on anything that moves. The breadth of descriptions of "drinking" is staggering. But they all seem to be negative in some unconscious/subconscious way. I feel, mainly, that in modern culture a "tasting" is far more appropriate than "drinking" and that "drinking" has far heavier moral and social weights to it.

I think this is wrong.

There is a distinct difference between drinking and tasting but both are equally important and neither are negative. I feel that they are mutually exclusive, however. I myself have a great difficulty combining both drinking and tasting. Let me explain:

Tasting is the act of trying a consumable (food, beverage, cigar, etc.) in order to evaluate a taste profile and to determine whether it is appropriately matched to your palate. You drink/eat/smoke a lot of different things to build your personal palate: a vast index of tastes and experiences both negative and positive that help you determine what food, drink, and smoke you enjoy the most. The negative is equally as important as the positive in this situation as the sum of all your experiences help you determine what you want to put past your lips. Simple as that.

Drinking is far more complex. At it's socially defined heart, it's all about getting hammered. Blitzed. Shitfaced. Tying one on. Drinking the gigglewater. Cutting footloose. But, let's be honest, how many of you really strive to get absolutely blotto past your college years and maybe even mid/late twenties. Probably not a lot of you. Hell, even I don't get intentionally drunk anymore (excessive tasting is, unfortunately, unavoidable in my line of work). For me, drinking is at its core more about camaraderie than the effect I get from ethanol consumption. It's about having a nice quiet drink with friends and/or family while chatting, reading, or enjoying each others company.

This is why I find it so difficult to both do tasting and drinking at once. They're mutually exclusive. Tasting requires you to focus solely on the consumable at hand. Drinking is more about shifting your focus to those around you rather than what's in your hand. Whatever libation or conflagration you're enjoying at the moment is but a prop in small play, so to say. This also brings up an interesting topic for drinking as well that will, undoubtedly, clash with quite a bit of the craft beer community:

Cheap beer isn't the bane of all existence.

I'm going to assume you've watched a beer commercial. If you haven't, please let me know where you've been living so I can move there. You'll note that a lot of the ads feature prominently social interaction in some form (party, gathering, something). Hell, corporations even made up a damn word to describe what I'm trying to say here: drinkability. It's a terrible word but it illustrates a point here. The point is that cheap beer (in this instance, mass produced "big name" beer) has its place and time and that's usually while hanging out with friends. I won't lie to you fine readers. I drink and enjoy a lot of craft beer but one of my favorite beers is still Labatt Blue. Not because it has the greatest flavor profile I've ever seen. Not because it shows impressive flavor layering and an intense but pungent aroma. Nope. It's because it's just something I can drink with the fellas. No one turns their nose up at it as "too frilly" and I don't feel pathologically obligated to focus on its flavors (which may be a firm case for my institutionalization but that's besides the point). I mean, the phrase "session beer" wasn't discovered by accident.

I'm NOT saying that I agree with the marketing and distribution of big name brands and how they have a tendency to push smaller, more interesting brands off the shelf but I am saying that a cheap beer now and then isn't a bad thing. And I plan on doing more "cheap stuff" in the coming months too. I've got an ice cold Colt 45 in the fridge that's begging to be popped open. Honestly, I'm not scared of 40s anymore because I know that a beer like Colt 45 has its place just like the rest of all beers. It can be neatly summed up by saying that all beer, no matter what the price or quality ends up in exactly the same place.

My stomach.

If you thought something else, shame on you. You're dirty.

The Meaning of Customer Service

For a few weeks now I've been kicking around the idea of becoming certified by the Tobacconist University. They offer a few levels of certification, including a consumer one. I'm thinking about signing up for it, even though it is expensive to sit for the test. Yeah, that's right, I'm opting to take a test. Hell has frozen over.

In case you don't know what the Tobacconist University is, you should check out the website. If you're a budding cigar or pipe smoker they have a wealth of information available to everyone; not just those certified through their program. I like the fact that they do offer a program because it reinforces something that, in my mind, is completely dead in most of today's business and corporation-centric business models. That is customer service.

A long time ago, in a galaxy much like ours but not inhabited by the likes of Wal-Mart and smoking bans, customer service wasn't the name of a department in a store. It was just what people did. Only car salesmen breathed down your neck like a greedy leech, hoping to eek out that precious commission from your work-worn hands. On the other extreme, you weren't ignored either. People were kind and courteous and helped you. Customer service wasn't where you went to return cheap crap that had broken, it was an ethical code that business owners and staff lived by. Not just the customer is always right, no. More along the lines of "the customer is human and doesn't like being treated like complete trash".

It seems that in today's world, only the most vilified of luxuries still stick to their customer service roots, mainly tobacconists and bartenders. Coffee used to be in the same genre too but good coffee shops are being brow-beaten out of existence by Starbucks and their sugar laden, poorly roasted bastardizations of coffee. Seriously, that's not a cappuccino. Really. I swear. The only place that I really get any sort of customer service, some warmth and treatment that I'm not just another sale, are tobacconists and bars. My tobacconist, whom I have glorified beyond all recognition, is Israel Markevitz. He is a stand-up guy. Not only is he a great tobacconist, he is a generous and kind man as well. Let me paint you a picture of what happens whenever I step into Uptown Cigar.

I enter Uptown and immediately I am wrapped snugly in a blanket of cigar smoke. People look up from the chairs next to the door and smile, even wave. Diane or Dennis look up and crack a huge smile and say "Hey Scott, how's it goin". Diane and I chat as I amble into the humidor. Dennis makes sure that I'm doing okay these days, ever since he found out that I had major surgery over the summer. I enter the humidor. At this point, if Isy isn't around the front, Diane has generally made sure that Isy knows I'm here. Isy comes out of the back, typically wreathed in a cloud of smoke with a huge shit-eating grin on. He shakes my hand, asks how I'm doing, and follows me into the humidor. He points out what's new and what I should try. We chat for about ten minutes, just shooting the shit and discussing cigars in the humi. I pick out what I want (this generally devolves into Isy getting a front-end loader and knocking a wall out of the store) and I pay. He offers matches every time but I always bring my lighter. I sit down and smoke. Isy walks around talking to people, both his regulars and new customers. The air is filled with smoke and lively conversation. Sometimes he busts out some brews or some spirits. Other times he gifts cigars (like the Cabinetta). Every time I leave he makes sure to say goodbye and thanks me.

This is customer service.

It's the same way at a lot of bars. Tap and Mallet is a hell of a bar and I'm trying to get my "regular" status there by drinking a lot of beer. Joe runs a great place with nice bartenders that care. They're happy to make recommendations of both food and beverage and are just plain awesome. The Mallet make sure that their customers are both educated in terms of the beverages they sell as well as happy with what they've ordered. Joe's selection of beers is stellar and you can tell that he puts an immense amount of work and pride into crafting it. He listens to what people want and what's good. He actively runs the business too. You can find him in there quite a few days out of the week.

Even those that I've never met before in the business are genial and friendly. Lindsay Heller of Nat Sherman is another prime example. I walked in off the street not too long ago (right after the NYC Coffee and Tea Festival). I entered Nat with the intention of getting some smokes. I had talked to Lindsay on her Twitter about stopping down. I introduced myself to her and she broke out in a smile and a laugh. Introducing myself to her started off with me saying "Lindsay?" which put a quizzical look across her face. I guess people don't call her out by her first name often. Which is a shame because more people should know about her. She took me back to the humidor with their special Nat Sherman selections, helped me pick out three or four, and even treated me to one. Hell, she even helped convince my mom to get a cigar to smoke. I've been trying to do that for years.

This is customer service.

It is interesting that only the "sin" categories of business still abide by the customer service motto. I'm not sure why this is but it shouldn't be. Every business should be like this. I guess that the only civil people left in the commercial world are the very same ones people and government are deeming uncivilized.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

GT's Organic Raw Kombucha (Gingerade) - Saturday, Mar. 13th

Readers, I won't lie to you. I expected this to be horrible. Really based on one sole thing. How kombucha is made
I refer you to the Wikipedia article on kombucha: "Kombucha is available commercially, but can be made at home by fermenting tea using a visible solid mass of microorganisms called a kombucha culture or mushroom."

Yeah. It's made out of a f*@king bacterial mushroom. Seriously, look at this picture from the Wikipedia page:


It looks like a corpse floating in a jar. That's how you make kombucha. It looks like a bloody devil's drink or something, scooped out of the river Styx. Gyahhhhh. To be honest, I'm not even sure why I tried kombucha. I suppose it has to do with two things:

A. It is made of tea. It uses a tea base loaded with fermentables (sugar) in a controlled pH environment, allowing a fermentation using a special culture to take place.

B. It is fermented. I excel in fermented things. Beer, spirits, wine, sauerkraut, kimchi. They're tasty.

I found a bottle of GT's Organic Raw Kombucha at my local store Adams, one of the best stores in the world. I had been meaning to try this voodoo beverage for awhile after chatting with a few people about the supposed medicinal wonders of the beverage. My mom had always told me it was pretty damn horrible and she grew it once when I was very young. She said she took one sip and pretty much blew chunks. Spiffed biscuits. Prayed to the Porcelain Gods. Took a phone call on the white phone from Ralph. This did not paint a happy picture in my mind of how this beverage would taste. But, to prove my journalistic integrity and grit, I decided to try it. It's time to step outside my comfort zone here. Time to really try the weird, wacky, and the wonderful. That is what I profess to do, so by gods, I will do it. Here it is:

picture of GT Organic Raw Kombucha, Gingerade
I chose Gingerade because I like ginger ale and, in case I did get queasy, at least there would be some ginger in it to calm my stomach against the hordes of nausea. There was a slight problem with it though. Since it was raw, it was un-strained. This meant that there were cloud-like nebula of "mushroom" floating daintily through the bottle. It looked like Bespin's Cloud City, only instead of clouds it was icky floating bacteria. This grosses the shit out of me so I decided to filter it into a cup and pour it back into the bottle. This is what the filter caught:

At this point in my quest I started both doubting whether or not I should continue writing my blog but rather just fade quietly into the inky depths of obscurity. I also started fervently praying to any god that would listen or I could think of. I sat down at my computer (the bottle is sitting next to me as I write this) and I indulged in a sensory immersion.

It Easter. Remember dyeing eggs with those Paas kits? A delightful afternoon was spent dissolving those colorful little tablets into a vinegar/water mix? It smells like that vinegar/water mix. As Patton Oswalt puts it so eloquently, it "smells like a vinegar fart". The taste is...interesting. There is a definite tea background, in this case a black tea. This tea background is quickly overshadowed by a powerful wallop of vinegar tartness which fades into a crisp ginger taste. It is...unique. It's not bad, actually, but it's much too acidic for my tastes. It pretty much tastes just like putting a dropper full of tea in a glass and filling to the top with apple cider vinegar. It is obviously not disgusting (I've had about a quarter of a bottle) but it's definitely not something I could drink regularly. It's just too damn acidic. The supposed health benefits might have me drink some of this cut with water every few months as some sort of detox of my system. Because, let's face it, all I do is drink and smoke. My body could use the toxin flush.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Peace Tea Green Tea - Tuesday, Mar. 9th

I also reviewed the Peace Tea Ceylon, Sweet Lemon, and Razzleberry? You haven't read them?! For shame...You should get on that!

Unfortunately, this is the last in the "Interpretive Can" series of Peace Teas. Overall, they've been enjoyable products for their price with, frankly, fantastic cans. Let's not beat around the bush on this one. We leap in with the overall can picture:

Peace Tea Green Tea
As usual, it's got the Peace Tea logo with the hand doing a peace sign (like the Alanis Morissette song). Actually, before I go on with this, what happened to her? Has she done anything in the last 10 years? I just checked Wikipedia. It's looking like a "not really". Anyway, on to the Can-Terpretation (patent pending), brought to you by the letters Cigar and Scotch. First up...disgruntled Asian!

Boyfriend of the Oddly Disfigured Asian Girl on the Razzleberry can (see here), he continues to walk the Earth in a perpetual state of "Damn it all" after his once gorgeous girlfriend has been rendered into a poor interpretation of a female Two-Face. He spends most of his time chain-smoking outside of Starbucks, texting on his phone, and bitching about the good old days back when he had a hot girlfriend on his arm. Up next:

Uhhhh.....yeah. I'm going to take a shot in the dark here and call this one a "Vaguely female Napoleon Dynamite". And by "vaguely female" I mean if you squint and have a few shots of bourbon. It would help if you took your glasses off too. Or put them on, depending on your eyesight. Let's just stick to androgynous, actually. Jury is still out on this one. Next:

What's with all the angry people on this "Peace Tea" can. She looks eight shades of pissed off about something. Her hand is also kind of freaking me out. She's got T-Rex arms. Creepy.

As for the tea, I think this is my favorite of the bunch. The green tea flavor is readily apparent and I can barely tell the sucralose is there. If I was standing in front of a cooler of all four, I'd reach for this one first.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta - Monday, Mar. 8th

Apparently my tobacconist (hey Isy) reads my blog. I can't tell if this is a good thing, honestly. He'll have an inside scoop as to where to hit me where it hurts. Like "Hey Scott, we got in a whole bunch of corojo cigars and they're cheap! Only $30.50 a pop."

Like kryptonite, I tell ya.

Anyway, hot on the heels of my recent Joya de Nicaragua Dark Corojo Antano review, Isy of Uptown Cigar posted a wee comment on my blog about having a special cigar for me. Since I don't have a lot to do over break, I figured I'd stop by today and chat with him and see what treasure he's got. He pulled out a beautiful little bastard: the Joya De Nicaragua Cabinetta. It is a strange beast indeed.
From the foot to the band, it is wrapped in Connecticut seed Ecuadorian wrapper. From the band to the cap, it's Nicaraguan Criollo. The idea behind it is that you can enjoy the deliciously smooth and creamy Connecticut wrapper while the spice of the Criollo permeates your lips. Or so Isy says. This time I managed to bring my camera! Woohoo! Didn't fail on this one. Clipped it with the Palio and away we go!

The pre-light draw was quite delicious. It was a crisp and sweet tobacco flavor coupled with...wait for it....sweet black tea. It was pretty delicious. The draw on it was pretty loose, I have to admit but it sparked up and drew silky smooth the entire time so no complaints.

The first quarter had a nice peppery spice to it; like the Dark Corojo Antano but more easy-going and not as harsh. The criollo definitely gave it some spice on the lips as I smoked it but it quickly wore off. Towards the end of the first quarter, it started to tame quite a bit.

About half-way it mellowed considerably, becoming sweet and creamy like the draw. If you've ever had torrone, that delicious Italian candy, it's remarkably similar to that. It was sweet and slightly nutty on the tongue with a viscous, creamy smoke. It was really nice. It settled into quite comfortably. Since it had calmed and mellowed so much, I decided it was time to add libation into the mix. Isy, ever the generous host he is, just happened to have two lonely bottles of scotch: a Balvenie Double Wood and a Clynish 14. They looked so sad being almost empty and Isy managed to convince me that they needed a home. In my stomach. Om nom nom:

He gave me a healthy pour. Healthy like the way fat guys call ourselves not fat but "healthy". It was a good afternoon. About this point we start getting to the last quarter. Sorry for the quality on this one, it's hard to smoke and take pictures at the same time. Especially after scotch.

At this point the spice started to kick up a bit as it got closer to the Criollo and it went from just creamy and mellow to almost like a spicy flan. It was still creamy but it was spicy and had a bit of caramel coming out too. I really wanted to get a good picture of the profile so I decided to smoke it down past the dual-wrapper joining point.

About a minute after it went into the Criollo section, a peppery spice kicked up that was really nice. Unfortunately, it was getting a bit bitter and burning hot at this point so I only let it go down another half inch before I let it go out.

This was a very nice cigar. I am curious to know how much it will cost when it does come out as I could definitely see myself buying these regularly. The duality of creamy Connecticut seed and the Criollo spice was a very intriguing juxtaposition. Yeah, that's right. Them's $2 words right there. Thanks, University of Rochester.

Big shout-out to Isy from Uptown Cigar for the hook-up. If you need cigars, he's where you should go. I don't know how to put this...but Isy is kind of a big deal. So, buy your stogies from him. Do it.

Do it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Joya De Nicaragua Dark Corojo Antano - Saturday, Mar. 6th

For many people, spring break means getting crazy drunk and doing regrettable things in exotic locations. For example, Ryan (of Pulling A Ryan) fame is in an all-inclusive resort somewhere in the tropics. Dominican Republic? Probably something like that. That all-inclusive includes the sweet sweet water of life. All he can drink. He may come home in a box. For me, however, spring break heralds in a wonderful time of years called "Warmth". Yeah, it's finally getting warm enough that I can stand to park my ass outside on a not-as blustery day and smoke a fine cigar. Or, in this case, head to Uptown Cigar and chat with Isy and the regulars. One cigar I had been paying particular attention to in the cigar community was the Joya De Nicaragua Dark Corojo. I am a corojo junkie. If corojos were turkey, I would be like Ralphie's dad in A Christmas Story.

You've never seen A Christmas Story? Shame on you. Go watch it and then continue on with the review. I'll wait. Really, scoot. You don't have time? Alright, alright. I'll give you the Cliffnotes if you promise to watch it next Christmas. Here you go:

Ok. If you replace "turkey" with corojo, you get the gist of things. Now, I'm not sure what hoodoo and voodoo that Johnathan Drew does to get a corojo wrapper so deliciously dark like that but it looks goooooood. The fact that it packs a healthy punch of ligero in it helps a lot too. I loves me some strong cigars. When I saw Isy had it on the shelf, my perennial problem of trying to figure out what to smoke when I step into the Uptown humidor evaporated like a morning mist. So how was it? Well, I don't have pictures but here we go. Watch your feet because I'm about to drop some knowledge:

It started out, admittedly, rough. The pre-light draw was spice and chocolate, like one of those Aztec milk chocolates you get that has the chile powder in it. The first quarter was a spice blast and it almost felt like a discordant spice. I didn't think it was that good, honestly. It bit into the back of my throat and made my mouth tingly. I was worried. I love the hell out of the normal Antano, I love corojo, and I love ligero. Why is this not going well? Luckily, once it progressed to the half-way point it had calmed considerably and mellowed out. The super pungent spice faded a bit and hints of caramel started to come out. Leather in there too but not fresh leather like a pair of new oxford shoes but rather like an old catcher's mitt. It had leather but it was in the background; faded through years of use so that it was just a faint whiff when the ball smacked meatily home. But, uh, in cigar form. Getting down to the last quarter was pretty static. It was a nice flavor but it didn't evolve much past the mid-point.

In short, it was an alright smoke. It was $9.85 with NYS tax so I'd imagine it'd be about $6-$7 for most other people which I would pay again, I think. I'd like to see it with 6 months/ a year of age to see if the beginning mellows out because it was really rough for me. My friend Pat described it as almost "gritty" which I agree with. Also, as a note, three of us were smoking them there and Pat and the other guy were having burn problems. They have a tendency to tunnel from what I've seen. So be forewarned.

Sidenote: As I was perusing the internet looking for the Joya de Nicaragua website ( doesn't work for me), I went through the Drew Estate website. In their brands is the "Kult of Drew" offerings with a "coming soon" sign on it. I dunno what it is but I want it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sponsored Posts

Chat time again!

As you know, I hate ads. I've ranted on this. There is one key thing that ads bring in. Money. Cash. Greenbacks. Dough. Benjamen's. Phat loot. Normally, people put ads on a website to make money. Hence this "SEO" craze that boggles my mind. People make money off of telling people how to make money. It's the best scam ever. It goes as follows:

Step 1: Pay for my services.
Step 2: My services = just do what I do.
Step 3: ...

It's pretty easy. And sad. But that's not what I do. I'm not here to earn money. God knows I'm burning it hosting the website and buying sweet sweet booze and tea to review. There are, however, things that I've toyed around with attending. Here's the list, in chronological order:

Whiskies of the World Expo
: March 27th. They have an amazing range of spirits. Let's play a game called "Spirits Attending That I Want To Pour Onto My Tastebuds". Answer? Dry Fly. Hibiki 12. Yamazaki 12. All of the Ardbeg stuff. Actually, all of the scotch list. Y'know what, let's just make this easy and short. Go here. Read the list. If it's an alcohol, the answer is yes.

WhiskyLive New York: April 7th. The pour list is probably amazing because it's Whisky Magazine. I read it religiously.

Indy Spirits Expo: April 8th. It's in Las Vegas. I'll be honest. I'm not sure of the pours list but, hell, it's all gravy baby.

World Tea Expo: June 11th - 13th. It's divine providence that I should go because Ron White is playing at the Mirage on the 12th. I love Ron White. He drinks and smokes on stage while telling jokes. He's got an even sweeter gig than I do. And I review alcohol and tea. It's the Woodstock of tea festivals. Peace, love, and Assam.

The 78th Annual IPCPR Trade Show
: August 9th-13th. The holy grail of trade shows for me. I've been dreaming of going to this trade show since I started smoking cigars which, frighteningly enough, was 4 years ago. Scary. It is a trade show with every single big name cigar maker and a metric shit-ton of small time cigar manufacturers. The year's new products and lines are introduced and samples are given out. The only problem is it's trade only. Sad...

There are a variety of other things I'd enjoy going to as well: Tales of the Cocktail is one that I'd enjoy going to as well.

In order to finance this harebrained scheme of booze-fueled jetsetting (read: paying for the bill at duty free stores), I am going to be opening up "sponsored posts". Sponsored posts are exactly what they sound like. Since I hate ads everywhere and, more often than not, they're grossly inappropriate, I'm gonna go with sponsored posts. If you want to sponsor a post, just contact me. It'd be simple, really. If it's an event, you can sponsor a post by helping me get there. If it's an item, you can either donate money or send me whatever it is you want sponsored. Simple as that. If you're interested, contact me at drinkreviews at and I will answer ASAP.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beer Advocate Now Redux - Wednesday, Mar. 3rd

Beer Advocate.

I've talked about Beer Advocate in the past. Many of you may know this. It's why my page count went from about 200 to 5000. It still gets hits every day, despite how submerged it is in not just my Twitter stream and archives but in my subconscious as well. People still care.

I still care.

In case you haven't seen it, you can read the article here. It' shall I put it...vitriolic. I was angry at how I and several others were treated. I put on my rant-pants and furiously cranked that bastard out with all the hellfire and brimstone I could muster. I hit "Publish Post" and let it at that. What was born as an angry post by a tiny, minuscule blogger turned onto a behemoth monstrosity of hatred and frustration. Hell, it even spawned a few Twitter accounts chronicling the entire thing. How crazy is that? But, as the comments that once so rapidly poured in stemmed from a deluge to a trickle to finally halting, I let the topic fade. I bring it back, not to pour salt in wounds but to explain and remedy.

Life is too short to hold grudges and animosity. If you've never peered back in the archives, you'll see that, at this blog's heart, it was not just something for me to keep note of what I've tasted for my own personal benefit but to keep me occupied during a terrible time in my life. As I've said before, I don't share a lot about myself on this blog so I'll open up a bit more. I am a product of modern medicine. Without it, I would not exist, as simple as that. My ailments range from the mundane (toe surgery) to the massive (spinal fusion and thoracic vertebrae replacement). I have been to hell and back and I thank whatever is up there that's helping me to "keep on truckin". I've learned at hard expense the value of the spark that is life and how rapidly and suddenly it can be snuffed out. This hard knocks school of mental and physical training has afforded me a rather circumspect view on life. Today's culture of materialism et. al. angers me. Life is too short to be focused on obtaining things. You should focus on obtaining experiences and emotions. Who gives a shit about a Nintendo Wii? Go out and see the world, explore different lifestyles, foods, art. The Wii is a piece of plastic, silicon chips, ceramics, and wasted time. Yeah, yeah. I know you're saying "But Scott! You play so many video games!" This is true but I don't play them solely for the fact of material gain in game. I don't spend all my time trying to obtain that one thing that no one else has. I simply play because I enjoy spending time with the people I've met through it. I've met fascinating people through all walks of life through games like Final Fantasy XI and Team Fortress 2. Video games are an amazing sociological environment, especially massive-multiplayer online games. But, I digress.

Life is too short to hold grudges and I will waive my grudge against Beer Advocate right here and now. I've been in contact with Jason and we both feel that life is too short to carry this on. We've agreed to put this behind us. There is no more between us than just people that enjoy good beer. However, this isn't me rescinding my opinion, no. At the core of that piece is the dislike I still have but I have been able to identify the true target. It was folly to pin the blame on Beer Advocate, pure and simple. I will explain.

What really made it clear for me was a recent article by New Brew Thursday, an online beer blog that I hold in great esteem. Using (to great effect) John Gabriel's Theory of Assholes and Anonymity, they explain what had angered me so much and that caused me to place blame on BA. If you check the comments, you'll see my post. Here it is, in it's sad splendor:

"I love this post.

I know many of you know how I feel about Beer Advocate. While my fervor has calmed quite a bit since my first incendiary post, I still stand by some of what I said. The craft community, at large, is a wonderful community of people that not just care about beer itself but all those involved in it. It is, at its core, a big family. Many home-brewers are completely willing to loan out needed stuff to budding brewers. Many seasoned beer veterans with well stocked beer larders break out the rare and aged for those that haven’t had it with a maniacal glee only seen in the craziest of crazies. Those filled with knowledge take great joy in sharing and discussing what they know. It’s a beautiful thing that so many from such different walks of life can come together and bond over something so simple as beer.

However, this is in person and unfortunately the same sentiment doesn’t always carry over online. True, there are some that go above and beyond the call of duty to the craft beer scene online and are almost more helpful than some I’ve met in person. There are also those that go above and beyond the call of duty to be snarky, rude, and difficult online. There are those that feel that if you don’t come into a situation with, not just a basic but rather advanced, knowledge then you are unfit for the community at large. It is a shame but it happens.

You know how I feel about BA but you also don’t. For years I’ve loved Beer Advocate. I first came upon it my freshman year at college. My first beer was a can of Busch Light and it was the worst thing I’d ever tasted. I couldn’t help but think: “There must be something better than this.” I did a quick search online and came across Beer Advocate. It opened my eyes. Through means of which I won’t discuss here, I procured my first bottle of craft brew: Dogfish 60 Minute. It was the second beer I ever had and I loved it. I would regularly spend hours upon hours on the Beer Advocate site, making up intricate shopping lists (much to the chagrin of one-stop shoppers). I waited patiently for three years to sign up for the forums. I respected them so much that, in the face of internet anonymity, I waited for the 21 year old age minimum. That’s how much I loved them. And, I still do to some extent.

I won’t deny what the brothers have done. They are an immense service to the craft beer community and will continue to do so through their festivals, magazine, and website. The post I wrote was hurtful, I agree and some of it was exceedingly harsh. It was not pure malice and hatred but rather hurt and betrayal at the events that had happened. Brothers, if you can here me, I won’t lie. Even after the fiasco I still visit the forums using a proxy, just to read. If you ever want to have a beer, let me know. I would willingly have a beer with you and try to fix things in the name of craft beer. I wish that things had gone better. I wish that the snide and snark on the forums was better controlled. But what can I do aside from having a beer."

New Brew Thursday is completely and astoundingly right. Beer is SUCH a humble hobby. It was born of a need to use grain and have a safe beverage that wasn't contaminated like their groundwater. It was a food for the working class in olden times. How can a hobby coming from such meek origins have people in it that continue to be huge, pompous assholes. It boggles my mind. While the Brother's run a good site, there are people on there that make it extremely difficult for newbies to use it. They are just outright vicious and hurtful to anyone that doesn't come in with a Cicerone-quality level of knowledge (not slamming Cicerone, they are awesome). For some, if you don't know the proper cave lagering temperature for a Czech pils in the 1800s before you go on there, you're shit outta luck getting aid from them. There are genuinely helpful people on there, true, but there are some major dicks on there taking hearty pulls and deep draws from their bottle of Bitch-Sass flavor Haterade (which, again NBT uses to great effect). Why? I don't understand it. I'd appreciate it if the Brothers could shift their moderating powers from repeat threads and such to curtailing this but they're only two guys.

NBT says it probably better than I can, so I'll repeat their tag-line (sorry for the cop-out guys): Advocacy for great beer starts by not being a straight up hater. And so help me, that's what I'm going to do. So, join me my fellow brethren. Put down the bottle of hatred and pick up a bottle of craft beer. Papazian says it best: Relax, have a (home) brew.

Stay classy, readers.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Fat B's

I realize that I talk an awful lot about what I drink and not really about myself. In an effort to open myself up to my readers, I figured I'd talk about my likes. Here's a small list:

Bioshock (1 and 2)
Charles Bukowski
Robin Hobb
Beef brisket
Baja Blast Mountain Dew
Bowls of soup

This is just a small sampling of things that I like but hopefully you get the general idea. There's a lot of B's in what I like. This is a problem for me. Why?

I'm a fatty.

I freely admit it, no qualms. I know I'm fat. I'm not proud of it but I'm comfortable enough with it that I can own up to it. I don't wear grossly inappropriate clothing in a vain attempt of delusion that yes, I am thin and svelte like a supermodel. I'm husky. I'm healthy. I'm fluffy. I don't enjoy it but I don't cop out on it. It's who I am. I'd argue, in some cases, that I wear it well considering my actual weight. But I am a little butterball, it's true. Some days my pant size is bigger than my IQ. That's right, that's a double sick burn. That's the "burning a candle at both ends" kind of burn. It's beautiful.

Anyway, as to why this is a problem. My friend Ryan (who will soon be getting his very own tag on the website due to his intrinsic nature) and I were talking on the way to getting Taco Bell to soothe the savage beast that is hunger. After deciding on my usual order (the $5 box with a bean burrito, hard taco, and a Baja Blast) we ended up on the topic of "The Fat B's". Illustrated below is the explanation of "The Fat Bs" or "B-Word Fat", courtesy of Comedy Central and the amazing Patton Oswalt (NSFW):
Patton Oswalt - B Word Fat
Read Patton Oswalt's biographyWatch Patton Live at the New York Comedy FestivalFind more from this comedian in the Shop.

So now you know. The list above is a deadly indicator of my phat/fatness level. Heaven forbid, one day I will be inexplicably ousted by the things I love. Perish the though that one day I'll have to come up with alternate words for the things I hold so dear. Seriously, how can I come up with another word for bourbon and blues? Southern Sauce and sad songs? That'd just sound like a gas leak after awhile. Too many S's. Anyway, this is just a small insight into my life and how my brain functions (or doesn't) on a daily basis. The more you know...

Extra credit: After watching the Patton Oswalt thing, go back and read through this entire post and fill in every word with a B in it with a fat B.