Pinhole Sunset

I missed posting yesterday. Packing and preparing for this long trip along with work, life, etc proved too busy for me.

I came across a neat photo project on Kickstarter:

I’ve yet to back a photo project on Kickstarter, but this one really caught my interest. It’s straightforward, basic, and is about subject matter that I’m passionate about. I backed it, and good luck to Ashley.

I’m on the road now making my way to Big Bend. The sunset on highway 90 tonight was beautiful. I HAD to pull over :-)

Always have a camera with you! :-)

Beer Review 8

Wow, it’s been almost a year since my last beer review. If you’re new to following my blog, I offer simplistic reviews of better beer (or at least I used to).

My reviews are basic. I don’t get into dissecting flavors and pulling out whacky, obscure tastes that the average person wouldn’t care about. If you’ve ever read a beer or wine review that stated something like, “hints of fresh ground snot-grass seed on a warm summer day” along with the words aroma, palette, or bouquet and thought that sounded stupidly snobby, then you’re right with me.

I’ll definitely tell you if it tastes like ass or not. Not that I know what that tastes like, but I think it’s safe to say that isn’t very good, i.e. “I won’t be buying that ever again”.

First up, we have three from Avery Brewing Co.. I like their beers and have enjoyed trying the different varieties. One of my favorites from them is The Reverend (reviewed here, a hearty quadruple ale.

Kaiser (Imperial Oktoberfest Lager): Good, very good. This one has just a tiny bit of the heavy sweetness (the candy sugar heart as they describe it) found in The Reverend. Like a lot of breweries, each seems to have a signature flavor found in their offerings. I’m beginning to think that Avery’s is this sweetness. It’s darker, tastey (great, FULL taste), and just slightly hoppy.

Salvation (Belgian Strong Golden Ale): It’s been so long since I tried this one. Best I can remember, it was pretty good. It’s a lot lighter (taste and color) than The Reverend and the Kaiser in comparison. I’ll have to try this one again someday.

Hog Heaven (Barleywine Style Ale): This beer was interestingly different. It’s the hoppiest beer I’ve ever tasted (note that while I don’t really get into the different flavor descriptions typically seen in the “snob” reviews, the “hoppy taste” is one strong, prevalent flavor found in some beers, and a good beer drinker should recognize it :-) ). That being said, the intense hoppy flavor is incredibly well done and smooth. I don’t really like a strong hoppy taste in my beers, but this one does not leave your mouth in a bitter pucker. It’s quite good. Their website describes it as having a “caramel candy-like malt finish”. Sounds about right :-)

Saint Arnold is a local (Houston, TX) “craft” brewery. I’ve had a lot of their beers and have enjoyed most of them. I’m quite fond of wheat beers, so here ya go.

Texas Wheat: This has just a great, basic flavor. It’s simple. It’s good. Kinda like eating toast without the jam. It’s not made with any spices, so it’s completely different from other wheats (i.e. the citrusy ones like Sunshine (New Belgium) that go well with a slice of orange). It does not have a fruity taste. It’s pretty good!

Allagash is another one of these small breweries like Avery that I’m seeing more and more here in the liquor stores. I first tried their Triple Reserve (Belgian Style Ale) last year and really enjoyed it (see review here).

Allagash White (Belgian wheat beer): Smooth. Very smooth and very good. Here is their own description of it: “Our interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer, Allagash White is unique and truly refreshing. Brewed with a generous portion of wheat and our own special blend of spices, this beer is light and slightly cloudy in appearance, with a spicy aroma. Overall, it is a beer that is very drinkable and smooth any time of the year.” Now that’s a review I can read and understand, and after actually drinking it, I agree 100%. The bottle even has directions for proper pouring printed on the side!

Chimay Ale Grande Réserve (aka Chimay Blue): A hearty, typical strong Belgian monk-brewed ale. I can’t really say much that distinguishes it from other beers of similar types (i.e. the liquid bread types, the doubles and triples) that I’ve had. But I really must try this again to fully appreciate it. It was good and worth getting again. (Chimay website)

Shiner is my favorite local brewery. They’re celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.

Commemorator (Shiner): Dark, smooth, and not hoppy. But it’s a different smoothness than their black lager. It’s almost like a Belgian ale. This one is extremely good!

Hefeweizen (Shiner): Interestingly tart and citrusy. Slightly hoppy. Cloudy and light in appearance. It’s pretty good, and is definitely a refreshing thrist-quencher if you really need a drink on a hot day.

The next beer, from Ommegang, was a wild pick from Specs. Just a guess to try something new. Came in a neat 4-pack.

Abbey Ale (Belgian Style Dubbel): The first sip stopped me for a second and my first thought was, “damn! this is good!”. Seems like a lot of good flavors going on (yeh, maybe some obscure fruit, nut, or berry, but definitely no ass) that all wrap up to a fresh, full flavor. It’s not too overpowering, and is one of the best doubles (dubbel) that I’ve had. Definitely in the “liquid bread” class, this beer is awesome. I’ve consumed two 4-packs now (not in the same weekend :-) ) and will definitely keep in high on my list.

And just for fun, here’s a mini-keg of Oktoberfest (Paulaner). I’ve reviewed their Oktoberfest before (see here). It’s good. All the Paulaner beers that I’ve had are quite good.

Unfortunately, the math doesn’t work out so well with this mini-keg. It’s only about a 10% advantage to buy this versus multiple 12-oz bottles. Plus, the keg isn’t pressurized, so you have to drink it right away or it will go flat quickly. But, despite the marginal economics involved, having beer in a larger quantity usually means it tastes better. I guess it stays fresher longer or there’s something about a larger volume that preserves the taste better.

Just for the record, I did share this keg. I didn’t attempt to drink it by myself (although the thought crossed my mind :-) ).

Hurricane Aftermath

I’ve been busy lately dealing with this recent hurricane (Ike) and the after effects. The greater Houston area got hit pretty hard. The media likes to focus on Galveston, but the rest of us inlanders suffered quite a bit too. Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula got smacked, and I’m very sorry. But the 4 to 5 million people living nearby are dealing with some bad stuff too.

We were extremely fortunate to get power so soon after the storm. Most of the Houston area is still in the dark. Some places will be without power for several weeks to possibly a month or more given the damage that was done to vital transmission lines.

Aside from many places being without power, the other big issue at hand is the lack of gasoline. The very few stations that are open right now are swamped with people. I’ve read reports that it takes only a couple of hours for these stations to run out of gas after they’re replished by a tanker, and the tankers aren’t coming real fast.

A few grocery stores are open and have dry goods only. All schools are closed. Most businesses are still closed too (including my employer). Houston could very well be in a state of anarchy and chaos, but most people are dealing with the lack of vital resources pretty calmly.


So what have we been up to? Well, it’s been non-stop work pretty much since before the hurricane. We prepped our house and yards before the storm came.

We lost some sections of our fence, a load of branches from our trees, and have a new roof leak. We faired pretty well. There are those much less fortunate. Some of the major damage in the area reported is from large trees falling on houses. We also did see some outright wind damage on some roofs.

Sunday morning was the kick in the face. We got 12+ inches of rain in about 2 hours. Our street flooded (as did many other areas) and our neighbors who had parked out on the street got their vehicles flooded.

We’ve been working every day to clean up the yards and get our house straight again. Thank God for this recent cold front! The temps outside are quite nice, and for the first time since last winter, we have the AC off and the windows open :-)

We’re thankful that we faired reasonably well. We’re surpised that we didn’t get more damage than we did in our area despite seeing winds so high. So, say a prayer for the folks down here in the Houston area.

p.s. I have a ton of photos from our trip to Big Bend last week. I’ll be getting them online shortly, so stay tuned! :-)

In Remembrance

Today marks one year since the sudden passing of a young and dear friend, Mike.

I promised myself that I’d perform some “Mike-ism” today in honor and memory of him. Something along the lines of:

- watch a stupid movie and then spend the next 6 hours quoting it and laughing
- get involved in a lively discussion about politics or sports
- fart and pretend that it didn’t smell
- drink single malt scotch straight
- create a massive spreadsheet to analyze and plan my next major purchase
- stop for a green light
- laugh and laugh some more at a stupid joke
- not get pissed off, no matter what angered me
- smile all day long

Mike was the kinda guy that you would like only after 30 seconds of knowing him. He always wore a smile. He always had good things to say about things and people, no matter what. Even the jackass that just cut him off in traffic.

His wife and three young children miss him terribly. We all do. Life is just a little less bright and fun without his presence.