Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thirsty Thursday!

Good evening, folks!  You know what day it is, right?  That thirstiest of weekdays, Thirsty Thursday!

On-tap today (or in the bottle, actually) is Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss.  True, this selection is perhaps more befitting of summer than the newly-come autumn, but I'm maybe not quite ready to let go of those humid nights in mid-July when crickets compete with the crack of ball bats for the dominate evening sound.  In any case, I'm slipping in one final taste of summer before fully embracing fall.

What to say about Berry Weiss?  I've always enjoyed Leinie's beer, from the Original to its line of seasonal brews.  Berry Weiss falls in that special niche of fruit beer.  It's aroma is instantly recognizable as a pungent blend of berries.  The taste is full-on berry.  All berries, all the time.  It's not over-sweet, but it comes close.  In short, it's good for one or two bottles but I wouldn't sit down with a six-pack.  If a quick lick of summer on a cool autumn night is your cup o' brew, then I recommend Leinie's Berry Weiss.  If you're a beer purist, steer clear.  This is more of a soda-pop sipper; the last bastion of summer.


Style: Fruit beer
Alcohol by Volume: 4.8%
International Bitterness Units: 13.5
Calories: 207
Carb. Grams: 28.0
Fat Grams: 0.0
Malts: Pale and Wheat
Hops: Cluster
Serving temperature: 45°
Color: Orange/Pink

Glass Used: Pint
Food Pairings: Chicken Cordon Bleu
Cellaring Notes: Enjoyed 82 Days Before Best By Date
Reading Material: Chicago Tribune Sports (specifically about the departure of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen following a disappointing season, which prompted two more bottles of Leinie's.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thirsty Thursday!

Good evening, folks, and welcome to another edition of Thirsty Thursday, named for the ever-popular pre-weekend day enjoyed by beerophiles everywhere.  Tonight, I decided on a quick review of an old favorite: Blue Moon Beer.  This particular brew is technically called Blue Moon Belgian White, though the name comes off a bit deceitful since the beverage itself bears a cloudy deep citrus color and tastes of oranges and lemon rind.  In fact, a Blue Moon isn't a Blue Moon unless garnished with an orange slice.  I like to let the orange steep a couple minutes in the beer; doing so, I've found, brings out the natural fruitiness of the drink.  The beauty of Blue Moon is that it can be enjoyed easily with or without a meal; I prefer mine while watching ESPN or browsing the 'Net on my laptop.  The aftertaste is practically nil.

Blue Moon is available in bottles, kegs, and now cans and comes in several varieties including the aforementioned Belgian White, Spring Blonde Wheat Ale, Summer Honey Wheat, Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and Winter Abbey Ale.  No season is left unturned, and I look forward to sampling each in the appropriate timeframe. 

StatisticsStyle: Belgian White (witbier)
Alcohol by Volume: 5.4%
Potent Ingredients: Malted barley, white wheat, oats, orange peel, coriander
Color: Orange-amber

Glass Used: Pint
Food Pairings: Shelled Peanuts
Reading Material: Yahoo News

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Comics: The Funny Papers

Hello, folks! Last week in Cold Brood, I covered the five least funny comic strips still in syndication. My beef with these is that they simply are not funny. To recap, the offending titles included Broom-Hilda, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, and the abysmal Fred Basset.

Now, allow me to share my top 5 countdown of the absolute most hilarious strips to ever grace the funny pages. Without further ado:

5. Garfield (by Jim Davis). Ok, so the fat cat who made his debut in 1978 isn't as funny as he once was. But I cut my teeth on Garfield from the time I was old enough to read and, darn it, the early stuff was funny. About the time creator Jim Davis quit writing and illustrating the strip and hired a team to tackle it, the lasagna-loving, mischief-making, dog-despising feline started down the slippery slope to meh-dom.

4. The Lockhorns (by Bill Hoest). The ever-feuding man and wife who first bickered back in 1968 somehow manage to stay fresh week after week in the Sunday funnies. Maybe it's because we all know someone like them, an aging couple who trade deadpan potshots with one another. Why do they stick together if their marriage is so miserable? Well, it's more fun than if they were divorced and trading alimony checks or death threats.

3. Non Sequitur (by Wiley Miller). This laugh riot started in 1992 as a single-frame cartoon before evolving into political satire and finally, in its current stage, a more traditional multi-panel strip centering on the Pyle family from Watchacallit, Maine. 

2. The Far Side (by Gary Larson). This uproarious funfest ran from January 1, 1980 through January 1, 1995. Not before and not since has a single panel brought about such hilarity (in this blogger's humble opinion). Larson is a master of understatement, which composes the core of The Far Side's humor. 

1. Calvin and Hobbes (by Bill Watterson). The ultimate comic strip about a hyper-active and hyper-imaginative boy and his stuffed tiger who periodically comes to life (or does he?) is the stuff of genius. It ran between November 1985 and concluded beautifully on December 31, 1985. Watterson somehow managed to tackle issues such as education, environmentalism, bullying, and family ties by infusing it with sharp wit and biting satire. Never once during my in-depth reading of C&H did I ever shake my head and sigh. Always hilarious, often poignant, sometimes thought-provoking, what made this cartoon even better was Watterson's unflinching integrity in refusing to license his characters: no stuffed animals, no Saturday morning cartoons, no bumper stickers. Just pure art. And pure fun. 

So what do you think? Am I on target? Any fans of the funny papers care to add their own favorites? Can't wait to hear from you on this. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thirsty Thursday!

Hello, folks! Yes, yes, yes it is that wonderful prelude to the weekend again: Thirsty Thursday!  Tonight we depart from the local microbrew scene for the northern climes of Minneapolis, Minnesota, from whence this week's featured brew comes: Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider!  And with the coming change from summer to fall, what better time to break out the cider?


Style: Hard Apple Cider
Alcohol by Volume: 5%
Calories: 170
Naturally Fermented: Yes

Glass Used: Pint
Food Pairings: Turkey and Swiss on Italian bread with lettuce, mayo, and applewood smoked bacon with tomato bisque soup
Cellaring Notes: Enjoyed 89 days before Best By date
Reading Material: George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones

The thing I like about reviewing a hard cider is there's no discussing hops or color or aroma.  You know what you're going to get from the jump.  Apples.  Crushed in a press and fermented into alcohol.  I knew going in that Crispin was going to have tough competition.  See, I don't always drink hard cider but when I do, I prefer Woodchuck Hard Cider.  Woodchuck's had my loyalty for years.  You know something?  It still does.  While Crispin offered a light, refreshing, season-appropriate appley tang, it just didn't have the same full flavor that belongs to its superior counterpart.  Nonetheless, it poured nicely over ice, possessed a crisp bite, and served to acceptably cleanse the palate.  I wouldn't sit down and drink a six-pack of it, but it was a pleasant complement to a meal.

Grade: B

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wordy Wednesday: 5 Favorite Words

Writing a story, article, or blog is similar to building a house (or a skyscraper if your work happens to be a Melvillean novel). Words are the bricks writers use to build. As English is the language with easily the most words (with German as a distant second), writers have many bricks to chose from when building. 

I suspect I am not alone when it comes to favoring certain words, or that those words happen to change on a fairly regular basis. I mean, really, there are just so many of them...choosing your top 5 would be like trying to choose your top 5 songs: impossible. 

Today I'd like to share my current crop of faves, as follows:

5. Circumlocution. An ambiguous or roundabout figure of speech, such as "a wheeled motorized vehicle with four doors used as a mode of transportation" for "sedan." 

4. Tincture. Can be either a verb or a noun. As a noun, it is a medicinal solution usually steeped in alcohol (yum!).  As a verb, it can mean "to tinge."

3. Affinity. A natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship

2. Bauble. A showy, usually cheap, ornament or trinket

1. Milquetoast. One who is mild, meek, or timid

So there you have it, folks. Five pretty awesome words, if I do say so myself. Check with me again in a couple of weeks and this list will have changed completely. But for today, these are the winners by a proboscis. Tell me, what are words you find luscious?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Comics: The (Un)Funny Papers

Each day when I sit down to breakfast, I read my Chicago Tribune in the same order: Sports, News, Comics. (That probably speaks volumes about my priorities, but that's neither here nor there.) The point is, after reading the bevy of invariably depressing articles about Chicago sports and the even more depressing news stories of the day, I want something to cheer me up. I rely on the daily comics to do that. 

Only they don't.  In fact, many of them only serve to further depress. Most of them are simply...awful. Is it too much to ask for my funny papers to be funny?

What follows are five comic strips that are vastly out of touch with their readers and should be concluded as swiftly as possible. After you review, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

1. Broom-Hilda. This one is so bad that the Chicago Tribune has had it going head-to-head with several other strips to see if it can be discontinued by readers' votes. Please. Get rid of it.

2. Blondie.  This strip was created by Chic Young in 1930. How is it still fresh? Answer: it isn't.

3. Hagar the Horrible.  A fat, mead-guzzling Viking and his quirky family and friends must have been a hard-sell when it first ran in 1973. Today it would be impossible. 

4. Beetle Bailey.  This is a strip about a shiftless army private who shirks his duty and gets beat to shredded wheat by his drill sergeant. For all the years I've regularly read the funny papers, since roughly 1985, I've never once laughed at Beetle Bailey, which has been running consistently since 1950. Literally. Never. Laughed. 

5. Fred Basset. For as many times as I've never laughed at Beetle Bailey, I've never even cracked a smile for this stinker of a strip about a hound's musings. Except perhaps out of embarrassment to its creator, Alex Graham (may he rest in peace). I defy you to find a Fred Basset strip that can make me a liar.

Next Sunday, I'll offer up my picks of five absolutely timeless strips that have made me laugh aloud virtually every reading. What do you think? Am I wrong about my choices of unfunny comics? Let me know.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thirsty Thursday!

Hello, folks!  It's that wonderful day of the week again, Thirsty Thursday!  Last week, I launched my first beer review with Chicago's Goose Island India Pale Ale.  I decided I like the local microbrew scene enough to stick with it this week, but this time it's even closer to home.  This week's selection is Two Brothers Domaine DuPage. 


Style: French Style Country Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 5.9%
International Bitterness Units: 24
Color: Deep Amber

Glass Used: Pint
Food Pairings: Chicken Kiev
Cellaring Notes: Enjoyed 67 Days Before Best By Date
Reading Material: Chicago Tribune Sports

Let me preface this review by saying that this little number was part of a microbrew variety pack given as a gift a few weeks back.  I love when this happens.  Not just with beer, but with anything: hidden gems in a pile of coal.  I once gleefully discovered a signed edition of Farenheit 451 in a bag of books I bought for $2 at the second-hand shop. 

And Two Brothers' Domaine DuPage is a gem.  The fact this beer is brewed in Warrenville, IL, just up I-88 from my homestead, is an added source of awesomeness.  When poured, the color is auburn without the barest hint of cloudiness.  Little head, white in color.  Caramel undertones to roasted malt aroma is a scrumptious prelude to the main event, which is slightly bready but reminiscent also of dried fruit.  Slightly bitter without being acidic, this brew paired wonderfully with the spice of the Kiev, replicating nearly perfectly the color of the buttery interior of the entree.  As its website correctly boasts, this beer is a premier palate cleanser: I immediately wanted another before dessert. 

Grade: A-

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Texas, Hold 'Em

They say everything's bigger in Texas.  Ten gallon hats, steers, land mass.  That goes for games, too.  Texas Hold 'Em is the biggest card game the world has ever known.  Entire fortunes are won and lost in a single hand.  Everywhere you look – Bicycle Poker kits on special, gaming chips cheap, World Series of Poker DVDs for sale.  Instructional manuals.  Heads-up matches at the local VFW.  All my friends, playing Texas Hold 'Em.  All of them jumping on the bandwagon of a fad game. 
            I don't play it.  Texas can keep its silly odds and call-or-raise betting. 
            Let me explain my family.  They're card players.  I avoided this allure, watching them wind their way through circuits of games.  In the 80s it was Hearts.  The 90s belonged to Spades.  Currently the game of choice is Euchre.  But these are so much more than games.  These are languages. 
            You see, no one much speaks to each other in my family unless it's over green felt.  Then you can't shut them up.  They become multilingual.  And if you don't pick up what's dealt you, you might as well not speak at all. 
            Thus far, my family has avoided the Hold 'Em frenzy with the exception of one cousin who is a gambler by nature and thus doomed to a permanent card-table slouch before age forty.  I'm still into Spades.  I may be behind in familial gaming, but I'm catching up.  For, over the years, I've learned the only way to be fully accepted is to snap up the cards.  Cards are the unifying factor.  And, indicative of our era, quality time comes at a price.  Nickel a point for Hearts, dollar per set in Euchre.  If you renege?  Twenty bucks per infraction.  Might as well open a vein.    
            I decided enough was enough.  I wanted in.  No more holidays spent in mute solitude like the balked teenager forced again to sit at the kid's table.  I made up my mind and learned the languages of my family. 

            This task was done by purchasing a comprehensive game for my home computer and studying until every nuance of every game had been absorbed.  I sat until my stats were cranked and I could tell what my computer partner would play before it did.  I played until my eyes felt like prunes and my back ached with preliminary shootings of card-table slouch.  It was time to test my newly-acquired strategies on human players.  The computer, I discovered, did not speak during the games and so learning a language through it was like learning Kung-fu from a book: worthless. 
            On Father's Day, I sauntered up and announced I would be sitting at Euchre today.  I made a passing comment that just because I was the new guy, I should be given no special treatment.  My team lost, but the margin was slight enough for my father to raise his eyebrows.  In the end, I was sheared of only five bucks (which my father offered to cover and which I declined). 
            I practiced.  Held home games.  Insisted on Euchre when my friends pined for Hold 'Em.  By Labor Day, I walked into my father's lair with a high head and square shoulders and walked out with twenty bucks.  I'd learned my family's languages, then mastered them – even though, throughout that final fateful match, when it came down to game point and my Jack trumped his Ace, my father never spoke a word.  It was the biggest game of my life and, perhaps, his. 
            So all I have left to say is Texas, please hold 'em.  No more games.  The size of your contests has nothing to do with me.  Through a simple sport of numbers and symbols, of faces and aces, I learned to speak my family's languages and I've no desire to go further.  Being multilingual is hard work.  The ability to not only speak but to be heard at the family table is an undertaking and an honor.  The holidays are approaching, you see, and I've much to say this time around. 

© 2006 Aaron Gudmunson

Monday, September 5, 2011

Smells Like Team Spirit

Happy Labor Day, folks!  Well, it's that time of year again.  Opening week of NFL football.  My favorite time of year.  Well, one of them anyway.  And part of what makes it so great, aside from watching your team (hopefully) march down the field and into the end zone, is watching the fans.  But not just the fans.  The super-fans.  The men, women, and children who make every Sunday during the season into Halloween.  Check out a few super-fans flaunting their fashions and team spirit, then feel free to vote on your favorite in the comments section. 

New England Patriots' Flag Face w/matching Santa Hat

Atlanta Falcons' Bird Lady

 San Francisco 49ers' Banjoman

 Seattle Seahawks' Green Elvis and Sourpuss

 Minnesota Vikings' Kissy Viking

Oakland Raiders' Creepy One-eyed Skeleton 

 Cincinnati Bengals' Tiger Boy 


 Chicago Bears' Grizzly Guy

 New Orleans Saints' St. Maul

Enjoy your holiday, everyone, and get ready for some football!  Break out the face paint and let's see your spirit, fans