Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Three Year Retrospective

As of yesterday, this blog is three years old. Three years. That's a long time. Do I think it ironic that I find myself in the exact same medical situation that I was in when I started this blog? Not really. I went through the same surgery that I referenced here about a month ago and I'm still recovering. I actually found out / decided today to prolong my convalescence an extra 3 to 5 weeks to avoid some nasty...technicalities. A decision I make with a heavy heart but with the best of intentions. It seems that it's the summer of '09 all over again.

But then again...it's not. From the short quips and constant swearing of my first posts, this blog has blossomed into something far bigger than I ever imagined it ever would be. I covered Whisky Lives and the IPCPR. I've gone from being a budding Chemical Engineer to holding a Masters in Brewing and Distilling Science. Things have certainly changed, even though my predicament (once again) is the same. If you will allow me, dear readers, I'd like to wax nostalgic and philosophical on you. This is what I've learned in the three years of running this slapdash blog.

Embrace Honesty

If there's one thing that I've learned it's that honesty is best. I could be trite and say "honesty is the best policy" but hearing "policy" makes me think of something pinned to a cork board in the employee lounge of Sam's Club and frankly, that's depressing. So let's just stick with "Honesty is best." You may note that I've caused my fair share of controversy that continues to this day. I won't mention names, or quotes, or even links but I'm sure that if you search hard enough, you'll find what I'm talking about. I'm not afraid to post bad reviews, nor call out injustices I see going on. I try to be as frank with you as I can because, well, that's who I am. And I'd like to think that my website reflects that. Sure, it's cost me. I can measure that in dollars and cents. But I don't really care. The fact that I can speak my mind and potentially help people make informed choices about what they consume totally makes the $100 I spend a year on this website worth it. That and the search terms people use to find it. TOTALLY worth it. Seriously though, if I have ever influenced your purchases, I'd like to know. And thank you for listening to me. I try to be honest and constructive with my feedback and I'm always trying to better reach my readers and fine-tune things. So if you have any criticisms...let me know. I like honesty whether I'm spittin' it or you are. So lay it on me.

Take Risks

I suppose its easy (and honestly, a bit cavalier) for me to say this because I'm only 24 and I've got time to iron out my screw-ups. This, this is true. But from 7 to 75, I'd still tell you to take risks. When I first started this blog, I was a junior in Chemical Engineering. Three years later finds me a MSc in Brewing and Distilling Science. Was it a huge risk? You bet. Giving up an engineer's salary for one half that. Taking out a $32,000 loan and traveling half-way across the world. Dedicating myself to a calling that would earn me several inquiries as to whether I need AA. Do I regret it?

Not one bit.

It not only taught me a lot about my field but a lot about myself. It taught me my strengths (few) and my weaknesses (many). It showed me what I was capable of doing and what I wasn't capable of doing. And, sure, it cost money. But I came out all the better for it. I had my ups and downs throughout but I worked through it. I had my times of doubt and "what am I doing with my life" but I persevered. And as I stand now, I'm pretty happy with what I've done. So I urge you...take risks. Stretch yourself. Test yourself. Best yourself and learn from your defeat. It makes you stronger, quicker, and more secure. Remember: what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Unless you're already super strong. Like, Hulk strong. Then I got nothin' for ya. It didn't kill ya, I guess? Silver lining?
Love What You Do

Yes, there's the cliche saying of "if you love your work, it isn't work" or something along those lines. Sappy but true. I suppose this section ties in with the "take risks" part as well. Always be constantly defining what you want to do. Not what's expected of you, not what you're trained to do. What YOU want to do. Training can be acquired and people that expect you do something can politely (but firmly) be told to fuck off. You are never too young or too old to start. If I can include a wee touch of T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" here:

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
                                Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Death is ever present, ever watching, ever waiting. The countdown of our lives is ever ticking down to zero. And there is no beautiful, grand finale waiting for us all. There is no orchestra to play us off; no choir to sing our worldly deeds. The times of heralds and bards are dead. When we go, we go; as a whisper on the wind. So it's up to you, dear reader, to make the time you're given "the bang". Because you won't get it at the end.

Broaden Your Horizons

For the longest time, I was all malt. No, I'm not talking about homebrewing. I'm talking about what I was drinking. Whatever passed my lips for the longest time was only made of the grain. Barley, wheat, rye, corn. Beer, bourbon, whiskey, whisky; I was naively focused. But then I tried something here that wasn't grain based. Then I tried something else that wasn't grain based. I delved deeper into vodkas. I started into rums. I hit the absinthe pretty hard. Gin, liqueurs, amaros. And not only did I find a whole bunch of awesome, tasty beverages that I wouldn't have found otherwise...but it helped me to sharply define my palate. Drinking the same flavors over and over wasn't helping me define them; they needed context. So always keep an open eye to everything. Frank Zappa, bless his Muffin Man soul, gave us the quote "The mind is like a parachute: it works best when open." And damn it, he's right. My ignorance and self-limitations did me no favors. And don't let it limit you like it did to me.

Admit Your Flaws and Try to Fix Them

Here they are:
1. I don't post regularly enough
2. I don't post about cigars as much as I'd like
3. I don't post about tea as much as I'd like
4. I take terrible photos.

There. I said it. It's out in the open. It KILLS me that I don't write more. For some reason, I just can't find the motivation. Not sure where it went; maybe it went into my career? Maybe it evaporated? I dunno. All I know is that I just never post, even though I have something like 50 posts saved in Draft that, with a bit of writing to round it out and adding the pictures, I could post. But I don't. And I have no clue why.

As for cigars, they're a more seasonal thing for me. It's just starting to become cigar weather which is good, and hopefully I'll be able to do a lot of reviews over the summer to catch up. Also, now I have a designated smoking spot where I won't be interrupted or stared at like some sort of caged animal. That's good. You'd think for how much Scotland smokes, they wouldn't give the stink eye to a guy trying to smoke a cigar. But I digress. I do try to keep as involved in the community as possible through Twitter but, truth be told, I'm all talk until summer rolls around. So forgive me for that. But that's just the way it's gonna have to be until I get an apartment I can smoke in.

As for tea...it's complicated. Without going into to much detail, I'm drinking a lot of tea at work these days but I can't discuss it. When I do drink tea outside of work, it's generally nothing special. An iced chai from Starbucks. Sweet tea from McDonalds. Not special stuff, really. I do have some lingering pu erh and a bunch of samples from Harney that I have to go through (I ran a train on the last of their 2010 Darjeelings awhile back before the 2011 crop came in). And now that I have the Zojirushi back from work, perhaps I'll fire it up.

But mainly here, I'll try to work on motivation. I'm not sure how yet...but if you have any ideas, PLEASE email me. Actually, even if you don't have any ideas, email me. I LIKE emails. I don't get them frequently. Email me. I like chatting with my readers. And maybe I can share what little knowledge I have. Actually, the more you email me to post, the more likely I would be to do it. So let's go with that. Feel free to spam me with emails to get me to post. Please.

Write Your Retrospective BEFORE the Date of Your Anniversary, Not Way After

Yeah......about that....
Bacchus, out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Snapple Snap Tea Green Tea - Tuesday, May 16th

As my convalescence comes to a close, I've decided to catalog the tea that has sustained me throughout the ordeal. The British are right, really. A cup (or several gallons) of tea will fix things. Normally, I'm a sweet tea man when the chips are down. Strong brewed cheap black tea, plastic cup with ice, and enough sugar to kill an army of Wilfred Brimleys. But since green tea is all sorts of good for you, and I AM on medical leave, I figured I'd try to work a bit of that in there as well.



You caught me.

It was on sale.

Snapple decided to release gallon jugs of its "Snap Tea". Information on it is sparse. Well, nonexistent, actually. It's not even on their website. I remember seeing it in green and black tea flavors and, if I remember correctly, a GALLON was a buck and change. Maybe $1.59? Under $2, I'm sure.  Obviously trying to test it out on a market. When grocery time came around and I requested "MORE TEA", this showed up in all of it's mass quantity glory. Don't believe me. Fine. Here. Prepare to eat humble pie:

Made with HFCS, sadly, but it was CHEAP. And served ice cold, it's not too bad. But it's no green tea. Not at all.

See that wee little sentence that says "Flavored with other natural flavors"? The flavor, I guess, they were going for...was melon. It tastes pretty much like either cantaloupe or the rind of a watermelon. The only thing that hints that there's tea (concentrate) in it is the fact that after about a half of a glass your mouth, lips, and throat are coated in a tannin pucker that you could crush marbles with. Drink enough and it's difficult to swallow; the tannins just catch in the back of your throat and form a phalanx against anything that dares try to pass.

That being said...it hasn't really slowed me down. That jug up top is almost empty. Thrown on ice you barely notice the tannic nature and, frankly, I kinda enjoyed the surprise melon flavor. But don't buy it expecting a light green tea experience. Would I buy it again? No, not what I want. It was a (surprising) change of pace that broke things up for me (I've been drinking sweet tea and a gallon of water every day for three weeks) so that was nice...but it's not really tea. I'll probably try and find the black to try that out and see how it goes. Maybe...hopefully...better.