Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brewfest at the Ives Center


Ives Center BrewfestHere's a picture of the gang (Bob, Chris, & Damian) hoisting one of several samples of beer at the Connecticut On Tap craft beer festival at the Charles Ives Center on WesConn's westside campus. This was on Saturday the 13th. Fortunately, there were some very large tents set up as it rained during the festival. Oddly enough, the rain started just as Chris and I got there and ended with a mere fifteen minutes to go.

It's been three years since I've been to a brewfest. I admit that they were getting a bit repetitive and losing some of their lustre, so I took a break. I'd wanted to go to a "Beer, Bacon, and Bourbon" fest in upstate NY over the summer, but those plans fell through. Anyway, this one purported to be primarily Connecticut breweries with several other notables represented by distributors (I think). It was good to be back in one of these again, though I had a wicked case of heartburn later on.

I saved my notes. By no means were we able to sample everyone, nor did it appear that every brewer listed on the menu attended. C'est la vie.

Back East Brewing Company (Bloomfield, CT) was there with their namesake ale and the Misty Mountain IPA. The menu listed them as bringing their porter (a must have for me), but they didn't have enough to bring (or some other lame excuse). I settled for their namesake ale, and it was good.

Black Hog Brewing (Oxford, CT) was new to me. Apparently, they bought Cavalry Brewing's shop and equipment back in May (RIP Big Wally Porter). I went with the Granola Brown and liked it a lot. Must've been the chocolate malt.

Cambridge House has been at several local brewfests that I've attended in the past. They're a brewpub located in Granby, CT. I had their Big Hoppy. I'm not one for extremely hopped beers, so I wasn't sure what I was in for. While it was indeed hoppy, it was still quite good.

Another hoppy beer that didn't beat up my tongue was Wadsworth IPA from Charter Oak (New Canaan, CT). I've enjoyed their brown ale and pale ale in the past, but they can be a little pricey. I can now add their IPA to the list of good beer.

DuVig Brewing Company (Branford, CT) was another brewery that I'd never heard of, but they're only a year old. Apparently, their beer can only be had at restaurants and the occasional tap takeover at select bars. Bob and Chris had their Cream Ale and said it was good. I had the Brown Ale and enjoyed it immensely. It reminded me of an oatmeal stout, but in brown ale form.

Ferrari was an odd one. There's an Italian brewery called Ferrari, but these guys aren't it. I can't seem to find a website. Maybe they're on Facebook. I placed their accents at New York, and I think they were operating out of a restaurant, but I'm not sure. I tried their Pop Pop Porter, but it tasted sweet like a scotch ale. It had that honey taste to it. I left them confused.

Foolproof Brewing journeyed all the way from Pawtucket, RI, which is almost Massachusettes. They serve some of their beer in cans and some in bottles. I had the Augtoberfest, which is a seasonal bottle offering. While it was quite good, I would've loved it if they brought either their robust porter or Russian imperial stout.

Jack's Abby Brewing hails from Framingham, MA. I indulged in their Hoponius Union, which had a fruity taste to it. I assumed that it was an IPA, but in fact, it is an IPL. Yes, folks, that works.

Keegan Ales is located just over the border in Kingston, NY. Well, it's a bit of a drive from Danbury, but it's close enough. I had the Mother's Milk Stout and it was quite good. Certainly worth a trip.

Olde Burnside has become a bit of a staple at brewfests in Connecticut. It's also probably the best thing going in East Hartford. Not having had any in a while, I double dipped, recalling the fine quality of their Ten Penny (a Scotch Ale done right) and Dirty Penny (black & tan) ales.

Revival Brewing journeyed here from Providence, RI. If you're ever in Providence, as I had the good fortune to do this summer, you can find them throughout the city, including Trinity Brewhouse, their unofficial home. Anyway, I had their Double Black IPA which probably had one of the best balances of hops and chocolate malt one can possibly achieve with this style. Highly recommended.

Rogue was there, too. I don't know why. They don't brew in Connecticut. I'm not complaining though. They brought their Double Chocolate Stout, which was divine. A couple of "dudes" saw me with it, and they were like "Where did you get that?!" I helped them find it.

The Shed Brewery (there are a couple breweries with "shed" in their name) came down from Vermont. I had their Mountain Ale, which was a decent Strong English Ale. However, I wish that they'd brought their Nosedive Porter.

My first exposure to Sheeben Brewing (Wolcott, CT) was their Black Hop IPA in a can. It was not good. It seemed flat and tasted blah. I offered one to Bob, a more adventuresome beer drinker than myself, and even he didn't like it. I still have two cans in my fridge which I'm thinking of mixing with the Two Roads Ol' Factory Pils Chris left at my house. I hate pilseners, so I'm hoping two wrongs make a right.

Anyway, I wasn't optimistic when I saw them at the brewfest, but I figured that I'd give them a shot. Bob went with the Concord Grape Saison and was so surprised that he suggested that I try it. Saisons are hit or miss with me (usually miss), but I tried it anyway. It was surprising, in a good way. The sweetness balanced out the bitterness quite nicely.

I saw an old guy there (No, really. He was like 70.), and he had the Rye Porter. I said, "Ahhh, the porter. A kindred spirit." He didn't reply. Instead he took a drink and scrunched up his face. I thought, "Guess he thought I was dork. Oh well." Then I tried the porter. Ugh! It was terrible. If he loves porters as much as me, he was making a face about the beer.

I was about to move on but Damian suggested I try their Cannoli Beer. I was intrigued. I love cannolis. Cannoli flavored beer? Could it possibly be good? I tried a sample, and yes indeed, it was very good. Definitely a dessert beer.

I'll give props to Sheeben for being adventuresome, but I think that they need a tasting panel to decide if a beer should make it to market.

Around here, I typically see the same old offerings from Shipyard (Portland, ME). As such, I only really connected with their limited offerings like Smashed Blueberry and Mint Chocolate Stout. It'd been a while since I had Export so I gave it a whirl. It actually tasted kind of lagery. I didn't care for it. Now if the Blue Fin Stout ever came around, I'd give that a try.

Southport Brewing Company is a small chain of Connecticut brewpubs that I've never been to, though the food on the menu sound tasty. Their Southtoberfest was good.

And that's it. While it might seem like I drank a lot of beer, the truth is that the sampling glasses were small, like two ounces (see the above picture). Enough to give you a taste, but you'd have to work hard to get wrecked.

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DED

Friday, April 25, 2014

Overdue Thoughts on the Nutmeg Book Festival


Me at the Nutmeg Book FestivalHere I am looking all bright-eyed and caffeinated (note the Monster) just before the start of the festival. And I would have a great time. I met fellow indie authors, fielded questions from interested readers, and hung out with friends who stopped by to show support. I was sorry that it had to end (and I had to bolt to get home to drive Alex down to NYC for a hockey game). With any luck, Terri and Sharon (Thank you!) will invite me back for next year's event, which doesn't give me much time to get the next book done.

I sat next to Martha Edmond Bishop, who was simply marvelous. She's the author of Rafe's Grand Performance (Info, Buy it), and her enthusiasm for her craft was wonderful. She built this diorama—it's a hobby of hers—that featured the characters from her book. She even had a raven perched on her shoulder, which the kids loved. She regaled me with her resourcefulness at finding material for her dioramas and her life story. I had a great time just listening to her talk—the sign of a truly great storyteller.

I'm not good at self-promotion—not a great trait for an indie author—so when people approach me and ask me to tell them about either me or my work, I struggle (Yes, yes, low self-esteem, self-worth and all of that. I've got it, not going into it here.). But it was good to have the opportunity to talk with would-be readers about my work and the writing process. And I guess I did a good enough job as I sold several copies of both books.

All in all, it was a good day, and I wish there were more of them.

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DED

Monday, November 18, 2013

Nutmeg Book Festival


Nutmeg Book FestivalSaturday (11/23) is the Nutmeg Book Festival! I will be one of twenty authors present, meeting the public, signing books, and socializing.

The book festival will be held at the train station in downtown New Milford, CT from 10-4.

More information about the location, author roster, and genres represented can be found on the website.

And if you missed it elsewhere, thanks to switching to a more affordable publisher, the print version of Armistice Day is now permanently marked down to $10.

Hope to see you there.

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DED

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Brewery in a Box


Finally a good use for a smartphone!

This project appeals to me on different levels. First off, there's the homebrewer aspect. I have an electric range for my stovetop. Regulating temperature is tricky. When you're steeping your malt grains you really need to keep them in a five degree window for optimal extraction of the yummy stuff. The way stoves work is that the heating element is either on or off and the dial regulates how often it sits in those two states. Somehow you have to figure out which number on the dial will help maintain that temperature. Go too high and you can extract the wrong variety of compounds from the grains (boiling is bad at this stage). Go too low and you won't be able to extract the proteins you want.

I've been dreaming of splurging for a temperature controlled immersion heater so I don't have to worry about it. However, I don't know how hard I'm going to have to look to find one that will work with my brewpot. This contraption offers that temperature control and removes the need for my brewpot. Ok, it's too big for the kitchen, but that's fine. I'll just brew in the garage.

I also love this from the chemical engineering angle. A brewery in a box! Back in college, I would've killed for this kind of process control. The equipment we had to work wasn't much different from my stove. Calibrating all of it was a pain in the ass—the interfaces were all knobs and dials—but you had to do it or else your end product would just be crap. And out in the real world that means money lost. This is all so neat and tidy and user friendly.

So if you're a homebrewer who wants to take their craft to the next level, or you're an investor who appreciates craft beer, why not head on over to Kickstarter today and pitch in. But please do it soon, for as of today, you only have three weeks left.

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DED

UPDATE 11/1: They reached their funding goal! Hurrah!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Books Reviewed Over at Podler


Wow! Four months between posts. That sucks. Anyway, here's the list of books that I've reviewed over at the New Podler Review of Books so far in 2013.

Strictly Analog by Richard Levesque. An analog private eye in digital California. Has a cyberpunk feel to it. Should appeal to early Gibson and Sterling fans.

The Mighty Quinn by Paula R. Stiles. Weird goings on up in Vermont. Paranormal terrorists with humor mixed in.

The Scottish Movie by Paul Collis. A twist on the superstition regarding Macbeth. Offers a behind the scenes view into how movies are made.

Embustero by Scott Cleveland. The sequel to his sci-fi debut Pale Boundaries. Solid sci-fi.

A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock. Augmented humans learn what it means to be human in dystopian England.

25 Perfect Days by Mark Tullius. Anything but. 25 short stories spread over 40 years showing the decline of the USA.

Mostly sci-fi. It's what I like to read.

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DED

Friday, May 24, 2013

Beer In Review: Two Chocolate Stouts

Normally, Memorial Day weekend is the festive unofficial start to summer. BBQ and summer ales should be on the calendar but this year the northeast is socked with rain (it was practically a monsoon yesterday) and a cold front, leaving us damp and cold. With a forecast of only 50 tomorrow, it's time to break out some beer that is more suited for the colder months.

Hooker Chocolate Truffle StoutToday we have not one, but two chocolate stouts. The first one is Thomas Hooker Brewery's (Hooker for short) Chocolate Truffle Stout. Hooker is one of Connecticut's few breweries. The brewery was originally in Hartford (success enabled them to move to a larger facility in Bloomfield) and named after the state's founder, a Puritan sepratist. But enough of the history lesson and on to the beer.

On the pour, we get a very dark brown body briefly topped by a toffee-colored head which settled too soon. A roasted malt and smoky aroma greets the nose. The roasted malt carries through to the tongue and predominates on the taste buds. It has a sharp, dry finish. I didn't really notice the chocolate though. Perhaps I had it at too cold a temperature (stored at 40°F and poured into a room temperature glass). While it clocks in at 7.1% ABV, it's subtle.

I feel bad that this was somewhat disappointing. Don't get me wrong; I'd drink this anytime, but it wasn't awesome. The website states that Munson's cocoa powder was added to the boil and cocoa nibs were added to the fermenter but I didn't really get it, which is a bummer. Maybe it should've been served at 50°F.

Harpoon Chocolate StoutI had better luck with Harpoon's Chocolate Stout. As expected, the beer poured out dark brown and had a creamy, toffee head. A rich chocolate aroma said hello to my nose. It had a smooth and silky mouthfeel and the chocolate taste wasn't hiding. There was even a slight hops bite. The finish was clean with lingering chocolate notes, but not too sweet. 5.9% ABV.

So Harpoon wins in my book and my wife agrees. I must admit that I have good luck with certain breweries and bad luck with others. Hooker is one of those that I just can't seem to match well with. The Blonde was ok, but the Watermelon Ale was a disaster. I haven't given up on them yet. On the other hand, after a bad start for me in the 90's, I've really come to enjoy Harpoon. Their 100 Barrel series is a great idea; I'd just wish they'd revisit some of them for another round.

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DED

Friday, May 3, 2013

My New Book Is Now In Print

We'll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the SeaJust in case you only read this blog and don't follow my PR blog (Launchpad) or my "news feed", my short story collection, We'll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea is now available in print from Amazon and CreateSpace. What's the difference? For you, nothing. For me, quite a bit.

CreateSpace is Amazon's indie print publishing platform. They offer higher royalties to me without charging you more money. The problem is that no one goes to CreateSpace to buy books; they go to Amazon. Amazon has a far easier to navigate site, a recommendation engine, free shipping, (when you buy enough stuff) and sells more than just indie books, films, and cd's. Buying my book there means less money in the short run but potentially more down the road as word of mouth spreads.

As for e-books, you can only get it on the Kindle for right now but I will be releasing it in other formats over the summer. Kindle Select, in and of itself, isn't some magic spell that you can cast to make sales appear. I'm under contract through the end of June so we'll see what happens.

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DED

Friday, March 22, 2013

My New Book Is Live

We'll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the SeaJust in case you only read this blog and don't follow my PR blog (Launchpad) or my "news feed", my short story collection, We'll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea is now available from Amazon.

A tiny star appears in a little girl's bedroom. An alien's first encounter with an Earthling is a dog. A couple find themselves adrift upon the Pacific Ocean in their hotel room. A trio of friends journey to Neptune to mine diamonds. These are just some of the stories included in this speculative fiction collection.

You can only get it on the Kindle for right now but I will be releasing it in other formats over the coming months. Paperback is next.

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DED

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Beer In Review: Two Porters

Genghis Pecan Pie PorterFrom the weird brewery names file comes Clown Shoes Beer. You can read their story on the website. As an avid fan of both pecan pie and porter, I knew I had to try this one.

On the pour, I got a dark brown body that was almost black with an ample brown head on top. The aroma wasn't there. I inhaled deeply, hoping for the pecans but all I got was standard brown porter, which is not a bad thing mind you, I was just expecting more.

It had a roasted malt taste with a slight tingle from the hops. There was an average sweetness in the middle that carries through to the end. There's only a slight hint of pecans, far less than I expected. Although it's 7% ABV I didn't notice the alcohol.

Perhaps I had it too cold but others who've had it on Beer Advocate had similar results.

Unfortunately I think the label (that's Genghis Khan hurling pecan pies at turkeys) was more interesting than its contents. Maybe I'll try it again at cellar temperature, but its out of rotation so it may be a while (if ever) before it comes back.

Breckenridge Vanilla PorterI had much better luck Breckenridge Brewery's Vanilla Porter. Like Flying Dog Brewery, these guys are based out of Colorado and are enjoying wider distribution, lucky for me.

On the pour, the beer has a brown body with an ample cream-colored head which offers fine Belgian lace as you drink more and more of it. Hold your glass up to the light and the beer instantly turns ruby. It has a faint classic porter aroma.

When it hits your tongue, vanilla is there from the start, but well-balanced. The body is smooth and lighty sweet which carries through to the finish. At 4.7% ABV I could drink this one all night and with the taste I'd want to.

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DED

Monday, February 25, 2013

Russia Is Crazy

You would think that a meteorite exploding over one's country would elicit some kind of emotional response. Nope. Not in Russia. The Daily Show found out why.

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DED

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First Beer Review of 2013

It's been a while since I've reviewed any beer but I hope 2013 will be different. For Christmas, my wife got me a bucket of beer, most of which I haven't had before, from a new liquor store that opened in an old department store down on the coast. I sense a road trip coming on.

Hobgoblin - Dark English AleFirst up is Hobgoblin, the flagship brew from the U.K.'s Wychwood Brewery. It's classified as a Dark English Ale, which it is if you're comparing it to the sickly yellow swill that's so common. It has a reddish-amber body, "ruby", if you prefer. It has a slight hop aroma that arises out of a solid tan head. For me, it tasted like a Bass Ale, when it was still a good beer. The beer finishes with a hoppy bite at first, but then it fades. 5.2% ABV

The website states that they use a blend of Styrian, Goldings & Fuggles hops, which I would expect from an English Ale. The chocolate malt and crystal malts provide the sweetness and color, though there isn't too much of the former as this would be a darker and sweeter beer. I don't notice the "toffee" or "biscuit" taste notes, but as I don't my beer at the recommended 60°F maybe that's why.

Overall, this is a good solid session beer (for me at least). The English are good about that. I'd drink it again and will try others if the price is right. Sales of Bass (now owned by InBev) declined 64.6% from 2001 to 2010 (see, I'm not the only one that noticed the quality dropped). If you're feeling nostalgic about it how it used to be, try Hobgoblin instead.

Peg Leg Imperial StoutA far different beer is Peg Leg Imperial Stout. It's been a while since I had any of Clipper City Brewery's Heavy Seas line and this was a good way to come back to it.

On the pour, a chocolate aroma arises from the glass. An ample brown head covers a black body. A bright light will reveal hints of ruby color hiding within. It has a robust taste, coffee mixed with chocolate.

The website states that Warrior, Simcoe and Fuggles were used, with the Fuggles used for dry hopping. Warrior is a recent creation so I'm not familiar with it, though the website says that it was the primary bittering hop. Simcoe is no slouch though.

Despite this beer's robust character it has a very smooth finish. Just as the last molecules leave your tongue, it reminds you that this is an Imperial. Until this point, you'd be forgiven for not noticing that this is an 8% ABV brew. And after a couple more you might not notice at all.

Definitely a really good beer and one that I'd get again.

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DED

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