Surly “BAOW” Barrel-Aged Oat Wine

Oat wine ale aged in rye whiskey barrels? Okay. I’ll try that!

The label reads:

“Lands on the pallet like a right hook in velvet gloves. It starts with sweet multi flavor – thank coffee and pastry – and a smooth, robust mouth feel. The finish hits with a hint of vanilla and a round, oak driven punch.”

I’m sitting on my back deck under a brand new umbrella which is protecting me from a gentle spring rain. I pop the top on this 750ml bottle, and take a hearty whiff. Unfortunately, I can’t smell anything but hand sanitizer, because a few minutes before I had put my hand in bird poop. So much for savoring the aroma…

The first sip hits with a very smooth dark roast malt flavor, highly infused with rye whiskey. The mouth feel is in fact very buttery. I’m not getting vanilla or Coke in the aftertaste as much as I am a malty maple flavor.

Oddly, the label does not state and the alcohol content. I’m having to look it up on the Internet. It’s 9.6%, much lower than I had suspected. I know barley wine, and I know how strong that could be, so I thought this would be the same. I’m not disappointed, because it tastes so damn good.

I’ll send this up by saying it is in fact a groovy brew.

Writing Down the Bones

Several years ago a lovely and talented writer turned me on to Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

I’ve had this book all these years and I haven’t even finished it. I can only read about two pages before I suddenly have to put the book down, rush over to my desk, and write something.

This book is so unique you can judge it by weight. It’s light, yet it holds more inspiration per ounce than anything I have ever hefted before in my life. It’s like condensed inspiration, slowly and lovingly rendered down to almost pure form.

I know I’ve touted this book before, maybe here, definitely elsewhere, but even if I’m repeating myself it deserves to be repeated. I sometimes wish I’d discovered this twenty years ago, but no. Things happen for a reason. The universe has a timing all its own. Something brought Jennifer and I together one morning at a Starbucks, and I think her gift to me was to tell me about this book. So the book came into my life at a time where I can really appreciate it, and savor it, and let it inspire me one page at a time.

I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who writes. Not just novels, but poetry, business reports, sales receipts, shopping lists … even if you don’t write at all. It teaches you in a very Zen way to appreciate life as it happens.

It’s a writer’s job to notice things. Moments. Instances. If you notice them, you appreciate them. Then you can write about them.

But the real gift here is that you learn to notice them.

Thank you again, Jennifer.

And thank you Natalie Goldberg.

Double Positive

A linguistics professor was lecturing his class.

“In English,” he explained, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However,” the professor continued, “there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up. “Yeah, right.”

– From our big dusty archive of funny email
(Authors Unknown)

Origin of Darkness: Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout with Black Truffles

This weekend I found yet another Origin of Darkness beer that’s aged in bourbon barrels, this one brewed with black truffles, and just after I had typed this first line, right after the words “black truffles,” I spilled it.

Everywhere. All over everything.

On my notebook, on my Echo Show, all over the desk, on the white carpet (just after telling my girlfriend how I’d managed to not spill anything on this carpet), and some even got on one of my cameras. It’s amazing none spashed up onto my computer keyboard. There’s some on my wall.

It’s dark and sticky. My first taste was to quickly cover the bottle’s opening with my mouth as a bunch of it began foaming out.

It’s all under control now. At least, it’s all cleaned up except for part of the wall, which I missed. All in all, I only lost about 5 ounces of it, thanks to some quick reflexes that I can only attribute to years of video gaming. And so, I now take the first sip, without panicking, to see how it tastes.

Not great. That’s my first impression. It tastes … earthy, but not in a pleasant way. It tastes like there’s mud in it. Seriously. It tastes like beer mixed with dirt water. Whatever bourbon notes are present are overshadowed by this bitter, filthy taste.

Very disappointing, especially considering how much I loved the last two. I mean, I loved the last one so much I practically swooned.

This is a hard pass for me. I will finish it, because I paid a lot of money for it, and I have a hard time wasting beer — even if it’s not wonderful. But, yuck. I guess the Universe was trying to save me from a bad experience by causing me to spill it.

To sum it up: this one is not Yummy Mojo.

Origin of Darkness: Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout with Vanilla and Coconut

I’ll sum it up for you right here: this is vanilla bourbon beer candy.

So impressed was I with their miso beer, that when I spotted this variation at a store in the Chicago area I snatched it up.

Popping the top I can smell chocolate malts, vanilla, and hints of coconuts. If it didn’t say anything about bourbon, I wouldn’t have noticed it, but being that I know it’s there, I can catch the faint ghost of it if I stick my nose practically inside the bottle.

First sip: oh my heavens. Oh, praise to the goddess Ninkasi. This is a dessert beer to be sure. It’s delicious with a capital “DAH.”

It has the smoothest, richest mouthfeel I have encountered in a beer in a good long while. If I were still searching for “the holy beer” as I used to in my old GroovyBrew beer blog, this would instantly qualify. Wow.

The taste: bourbon and chocolate right up front, hints of coconut highlights, and sweet as a dark milk chocolate bar. No coffee notes in this one. No upwelling of bitterness at all. It’s vanilla bourbon beer candy.

Okay, though, you must know: I like my beers rich, dark, and on the sweet side. I’m not into bitter or ultra-hoppy beers. If you are, then this will probably not be a beer for you.

I like it! And I wish I’d bought more of it. But then again, it was not cheap, and I’m pretty sure drinking an entire bottle is probably the equivalent of eating two loaves of bread and at least three donuts. That is to say, this is exactly what you would want to drink if you needed to pack some pounds onto your frame.

Which is the opposite of what I need to do.

More information about this and other beers from the same series can be found at COLLECTIVEARTSBREWING.COM

Diversify Your Creativity

Refuse to be classified.

Once upon a time, when I was a young lad of 16, I set my sights on being a Science Fiction author. I’d been writing stories since the 2nd grade, but when I was 16 I was on a beach in California, wandering up and down the shore, barefoot, writing a story in my head.

The whole thing came to me in a rush. I went back to the apartment, whipped out my trusty Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, sharpened it to a razor point (which immediately broke), and scribbled down 50 college-ruled binder pages of the best stuff I’d ever written.

I spent the better part of that month typing it out, rewriting and refining, and finally popped it into a manila envelope (with a properly stamped, self-addressed return envelope) and sent it off to a science fiction magazine.

It got rejected. Of course.

But the kind editor, George H. Scithers, wrote me a nice letter telling me what was wrong, and how to fix it, and encouraged me to keep writing. Because, he could tell — it was rather obvious — I was a young teenager.

That was it. For the next umpteen years I was dead set to become a successful Science Fiction author. That’s what I concentrated on. That was my only vision of success.

In college, I wrote on the college paper — but I didn’t want to be a journalist, so I didn’t care. I was a Science Fiction Writer.

After college, I wrote computer software manuals and articles for tech magazines, but I didn’t care. I was a Science Fiction Writer.

I wrote articles for photography magazines. I wrote speeches for upper management presentations. I wrote instructions on how to repair escalators. But, I didn’t care … I was a Science Fiction Writer.

So when I got my big break, and an actual New York publisher accepted one of my manuscript to be published, I was ecstatic. I’d made it. Sure, I’d had some short stories published before, but this was a book. This was the real deal.

Yeah, it happened. And then nothing happened.

Life went on. I was a Science Fiction Writer, but so what? It led to nothing. Years of focus, of heartache, of sacrifice, and … nothing. Nobody cared. And the worst part of all, neither did I. After the thrill of it happening, there was an emptiness that lingered, and I wondered just how much of my life did I waste?

It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t writing Science Fiction that made me happy in life. It was creating. Anything. The act of being creative.

So, I began creating anything that interested me. I wrote and created videos. I built websites and wrote blogs. I reviewed beer, and tech, and wrote articles about lizards. I wrote about childhood adventures that I didn’t realize were special, until someone pointed out to me that I had a very different childhood. I became an “Online Content Creator” rather than a “Science Fiction Author.”

And that has led to much more happiness and fullfillment.

So that’s my takeaway from this article. I would advise young-up-and-coming creatives to diversify what you work on. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. Do what interests you and gives you joy, sure, but mix it up a bit. Write, make videos, take pictures, draw cartoons, create things that bring you satisfaction.

This is exactly what I would have told my angst-ridden 16-year-old geeky teenage self if I had a time portal. I’d say, “Don’t just write Science Fiction.”

I’d tell myself: “Follow all of your dreams.”

And don’t wait until you’re in your 40’s.

Dumping and Dumped

Dumping

Dumping someone sucks almost as much as it does getting dumped.  If you’re a kind and compassionate person, it hurts you almost as much as it does the person you’re breaking it off with.  Because of this, many of us stay with someone longer than we’d like — often years.

NOTE: This article was originally written in the summer of 2007 when I had just started dating again after my divorce. It drew some very angry responses from people who apparently had just been dumped. In resurrecting this website from the mothballs, I still see the truth in what I’ve written here, and please know my intention is to help anyone who is going through this emotional turmoil.

Here’s the thing.  You’re not really doing that person a favor.  Staying in your relationship merely to keep him or her happy, in the long run, is only going to hurt them more.  The longer you are together, the more attached to you they become, and the longer it will take them to get over the trauma and move on with their life.

So you find yourself having doubts.  He or she seems serious about you.  Maybe marriage has been discussed.  You may have even thought it a good idea.  Then something happens, and you wonder if you’re making a mistake.

Stop immediately.  Think it through.  Discuss it with trusted friends or family.  If you have sane parents (lucky you!) discuss it with them — they’ve been through it.  Maybe bring it up with a counselor or psychologist, if you have that resource.

Can you see yourself with this person five years from now?  Can you see yourself having children with him or her?  Do you think you’ll be happy?

No?

Stop the relationship immediately.  Don’t let it linger. You owe it to him or her, as much as you do to yourself.  The sooner you break it off, the sooner they’ll get over it, and the quicker they’ll get back into their search for their own special person.

There is no easy way to break it off.  Being you’ve read this far, you obviously care enough about this person to want to let them down easy.  Unfortunately the chances are if he or she is already attached to you, there is no way to let them down easy.  Research (and my own personal experience) shows the best way to do it is suddenly and absolutely.

Think of it like peeling off an adhesive bandage that’s stuck tight and is going to hurt when you remove it.  Peeling it slowly may hurt a bit less, but it still hurts and you’re prolonging the pain.  Pull it off quickly and it hurts a bit more up front, but then at least it’s over with, the pain fades faster, and you can then move on to other things.

There’s no real way to say what would work best in your situation, but generally speaking you should consider writing it out in a letter.  Outline in simple terms why you want to break it off, and explain it’s just as much for their sake as it is for your own, and that there’s no room for negotiations.

Hand the letter to them and stand there while it’s read.  Say you’re sorry.  Fend off any attempts to change your mind.  They’re going to go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance.  No telling how long this will take (weeks if not months) but right up front you’ll be dealing with their denial, and possibly the anger and bargaining.

If you’re the tender-hearted sort (being that you’re bothering to read this, you probably are) this is where you’ll be in the most danger of caving in.  If so, you need to make a quick escape.  Either that, or opt to do the less honorable thing and don’t deliver the letter in person.

Here is where I’m going to disagree with most of the “expert” advice out there on this subject.  The goal is to break off the relationship, right?  You’re doing it as much for him or her as you are for yourself, right?  So what is the point of doing the “honorable” thing of actually facing the person as you’re breaking off the relationship if that gives them more a chance of overcoming your resolve?

Really, think about it, the more a jerk you are about it, the more likely you are to succeed. The better you succeed the better for you both.  I’m not saying you should be mean to them or damage their self-esteem.  I’m saying you should consider handling it in such a way that they (and their friends) may label you as a coward.

Consider this scenario:  you try to break it off in person.  She cries, and you can’t stand seeing her cry.  So you cave in, and try to make it work.  Months later you come to the same conclusion, and so try it again, this time by simply leaving a letter.  She shows up on your doorstep, sobbing, miserable, and you cave in again.  Finally much later you still come to the same conclusion and in desperation break off the relationship in a much-less-than-honorable way.  End result: you’ve wasted a good chunk of her life (and yours) because of misplaced good intentions.

What would have been a better way? Buy a plane ticket, change the locks on your doors, change your phone number, and then slide a compassionate but final goodbye letter under her door before leaving town for a week or two.  This would give her time to go through the denial and be deep into the anger by the time you return.  If she’s successfully transferred into the anger stage, she won’t want to see you again.  Later, during the bargaining phase, you will have some distance and hopefully built up your resolve enough to resist it.

Is this cowardly?  Maybe.  Is it the right way to do it?  Probably not.  Is it the best thing for the both of you?  That’s up to you, but I’ve made my argument.  If you’re strong enough to not give in on the first time, then wonderful.  If you are, though, why are you reading this article?  Just go do it.

There’s nothing wrong with being tender-hearted.  It means you’re compassionate.  Unfortunately there are times when you have to save yourself from your own compassion, and this is one of those times.

It sucks when you have to hurt someone.  Just like it sucks when you get hurt.  But you have to be true to yourself, and that’s the final word.

Been Dumped

So you find yourself on the other side of this.

Let yourself grieve.  It’s going to have to come out, so you might as well get it all out at once.  You have to go through those stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance.

Accept that it happened.  That person, for some reason or another, decided that you two were not a good match after all.  Unless there’s a major misunderstanding involved, you just have to trust that person is right.  For a permanent relationship to work, you both have to know it’s right, not just one of you.  So, it was not meant to be.

Even if it feels like it, this is not the end of the world.  It is a bitter thing to do — accepting that there must be life after this person.  But there is.

You need to resolve immediately to move on.

Lean on your friends for a while.  Not too much, but enough to help you cope.  If you find you’re overwhelming your friends, talk to a therapist (they’re paid to listen).

Avoid alcohol.  It makes everything worse.  Trust me on this.

You may find you’ve lost interest in everything.  You may also find that since you’ve displaced all your original dreams with the ones you shared with this person, you end up with none.  This can be the hardest part.  If you can’t resurrect your old dreams, start casting about for new ones.

Resolve to continue moving on.  You’ve already tried telling yourself to do it immediately.  Keep telling yourself that.

Also keep in mind that the past does not exist.  No time machine will ever take you back.  The past is gone.  You have only now, and you have to stay in the here and now.  The things you do now will shape your future.  You have to start now in making your future brighter.

That being said, you’re probably in a state of mind where you don’t care at all about the future.  You don’t care at all about anything.  So, start searching for things you enjoy doing, even small things — and as long as they’re not harmful, then revel in doing them.  Do things that give you pleasure.

Stop dwelling on what happened.  Dwell instead on now, and what you’re going to do tomorrow.

Continue moving on.  Put yourself out there.  It doesn’t matter that your confidence is shattered … fake it.  Everyone else is faking it too.

Move slowly with your next relationship, unless you find someone who is temporary and agrees to be temporary.  If you find that person, get wild with them.  Be safe, but have fun.

Whenever a horrid upwelling of sadness hits you — and it will — immediately remind yourself that it will soon pass.  You’re going to get through this okay.  You will reach a point where you can look back on this with relief that it’s over.  Every day moves you closer to that point.

Continue to not dwell on the past.  Continue to move forward.

You’re going to be okay.

Trust me, you will.

Beats Studio 3 vs. Bose QuietComfort 35

Quick lunchtime review, because I have both headphones, and they’re both very nice. But there are pros and cons to each:

The Bose QuietComfort 35 has much stronger noise canceling. I swear, the first time I put them on it was like being in a room that suddenly had all the air sucked out of it. Swooooph! Silence. Total silence. It was almost alarming.

The Bose headphones, as the name implies, are far more comfortable. It’s not something you’ll notice between the two right away, but after an hour or so, there’s a major difference. I can wear the Bose headphones with no problems for hours until finally, the heat from being enclosed starts to bother me. With the Beats, it’s the pressure on the ears that becomes oppressive.

The Beats Studio 3 headphones sound better. Here is the caveat, though: if I wasn’t listening to both at the same time, on the same song, swapping them back and forth, I would not have known the difference. Both sound wonderful. But when compared, the Bose headphones sounded slightly dry and flat. The Beats sound simply amazing.

The other advantage of the Beats is that, if you’re listening via Apple products, it has an Apple chip in it. The handoff and switchover from one device to another is effortless. Of course. Also the Beats headphones have a remarkably longer wireless range than the Bose headphones, probably also due to the embedded Apple W1 chip (which means the extra range probably works only for those listening via an Apple device – but that’s a guess).

The noise canceling on the Beats, however … not as immersive. They’ll do the job, they’ll help you focus on the music, but they don’t “suck the air out of the room.” They merely depressurize it by about 70%.

Both are wonderful headphones, and I like both, and that is why I’m keeping both. One will live at home, the other will live at the office.

So, to sum it up, if you are more concerned about the utmost sound quality, the Beats win.

If you intend to listen for long periods of time, and comfort is your main concern, and you really want the utmost noise canceling, then the Bose headphones win.

And with that, I’m going back to work.

While listening to music.

Origin of Darkess

I’m drinking the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard of: bourbon barrel aged miso beer. Like, miso from miso soup … beer. Insane, right? Ridiculous.

Not a joke. April 1st was yesterday.

This is also not a joke: It’s wonderful. I don’t know how or why miso plays a part in it. I mean, I love miso soup, but I’m not picking up any taste connections here. It must be too subtle for me to suss out. It’s huddled far under the cover of the thrumming warm cello notes of the barrels of bourbon that was this beer’s literal womb.

First sip: dark milk chocolate malt, dark bread, and an almost instant upwelling of rich woody bourbon. And, really good bourbon, too. So warm, so toasty, so fine! But … miso? Not getting it. It must be contributing to the notes somehow, but if it didn’t proclaim right out front that it had something to do with “white miso” I would never have guessed.

There is a lot of alcohol involved. 11.5% per volume, in fact, and I’m feeling it rather than tasting it. But then again … bourbon. It is not a surprise. And this is a heavy dark bottle holding 1 pint and 9 fluid ounces. My dear reader, I will not be driving after drinking this entire bottle.

From the bottle’s label itself:

Origin of Darkness, 2018 Release

The Origin of Darkness project is a collaborative effort with our brewing friends from around the globe. The mission: to infuse “terrior” into premium barrel aged brews by including ingredients that are representative of each brewer’s homeland.

R. Morrow, Brewmaster

It’s imported by The Wild Beer Co. into the good state of Illinois, USA by Collective Arts Stowe, VT USA, and is a product of Canada brewed by Collective Arts, Hamilton, Ontario Canada. Website: COLLECTIVEARTSBREWING.COM

If I were still searching for the “Holy Beer” (as I was back in my beer blogging days) I would definitely have counted this as a holy beer contender and would have rated it high on the scale. This is up there in the best 10 or so beers I’ve ever had, which is why I’m bothering to write this, in 2019, a good 11 years after I gave up beer blogging.

It’s that good.

If you see it at your local connoisseur beer emporium, and you like anything to do with bourbon-barrel aged brews, snag it.

Avery Mephistopheles’ Stout

Here’s the brew to drink when you want the excuse, “The devil made me do it!” Being that it’s 16% alcohol, you won’t really be lying. Especially if you’ve had six of them.

Officer: “Have you been drinking, son?”

Mephistopheles Drinker: “It was Satan, I tell you! Satan!”

I’m drinking this one tonight by special request. My old friend Michelle emailed me, saying, “Tried this one yesterday and wanted to suggest it: Avery Mephistopheles Stout. Really, really good!”

This girl knows her beers. I am giving it a try.

Popping the top, I give it the old sniff routine. Don’t even have to put it near my face, I can smell it from where it sits on the table. The scent of sweet dark malt drifts out, slithers around, caressing my olfactory pleasure center. A deeper whiff tells the story of strong hops buried like treasure in the darkness.

I can also smell that alcohol, giving a vodka edge to the scent.

Okay, enough sniffing. Time to raise it to my lips.

My mouth is watering in anticipation.

Okay, my initial reaction is “Wow.” That is a good sign. The taste is a multi-dimensional bomb that goes off in slow motion, the fire running through every color in the beer spectrum: Sweet, tart, hoppy, vodka-alcohol, brown malt, bitter, and more hoppiness. The initial aftertaste is a sharp bitterness that quickly fades to a dull balanced malty bitterness that lingers a long while.

Each successive sip runs through the same explosion.

Halfway through the 12 oz. bottle, I am already feeling a buzz.

Four-fifths the way through the bottle, my palate is too numb to experience the flavor bomb. It’s faded to slightly sweet, alcohol-soaked dark malt. Heck, even the bitterness is subdued.

My tongue is drunk. I daresay I’m not too far behind. I definitely wouldn’t go driving a car right now. This bottle is the equivalent of drinking four or five regular beers at the same time. If you’re talking about 3.2 beer, it’s like an entire 6-pack in one bottle.

Officer: “Son, are you sure you’ve only had one beer?”

Mephistopheles Drinker: (Vomits on Officer’s shoes)

Okay, I’ve finished the last slip. The predominant taste is sweet. It like beer candy. I give a healthy belch and feel the burn of alcohol fumes.

My god, how disgusting. Well…

The devil made me do it!