Monday, January 29, 2007

Teetotalers, Just Turn Around and Walk Away

I have what you call "writer's block." Looks like I spilled the beans on everything significant that happened to me over the last three months. (At least the stuff that won't get you fired for reading it at work. Wink!) So I've decided to point you to my BeerAdvocate profile.

For people who know my propensity for making lists, there could not have been a better site created than Beer Advocate. It allows one to digitally log beer into a computer database, which then sorts and ranks all the beers one has tried. Basically, whenever I am at liberty to record how much I love a certain beer (and yes, cool-kids, I sometimes drink with a pen and pad to write stuff down, sue me!), I can enter the scores on each of the categories (Appearance, Smell, Taste, Mouthfeel, Drinkability) and the computer machine will calculate what my favorite beers are -- and least favorite. More than just a log of the best beers, it also salvages the experiences of drinking a terrible beer by allowing me to trash it. I win either way!

Yes yes, I know. This is the apex of the masturbatory nature of blogs, where we just start throwing out information and/or lists that are of no interest to anyone else but he who posts it. But I am not doing this for prurient self-flaggelation. There are two reasons I put it out there for public consumption: one for you, one for me.

First, the reason for you. I love beer. I love it so much that it actually hurts me that 90% of Americans drink bad beer. Let's face it: Bud is shit. Labatt's is subpar. Miller is mediocre. For years, I put up with the adjuncts (which is when they use rice or corn to make the mash instead of barley) and the piss-yellow color of normal beers. Now, I'm not dismissing these out of hand; sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I cut my teeth on Beast Ice and Natty Light, which is the beer equivalent of ramen noodles: you drink it cuz it's there and cuz it's cheap.

Many of you might say, "Bill Shannon, I drink good beer. I like Heineken / Guinness / Smithwick's / Blue Moon / Amstel. I don't need your guidance." Well, maybe not. But I submit that if you are willing to shell out the couple extra bucks for higher-end beers, maybe you're willing to follow me just a few steps further. You are already spending more than the average person at a bar for beer that, while perhaps trendy, is really in the lower tier of beers. I don't say this to sound condescending; I'm saying this because I want to help. It's one thing to have good beer; it's a completely different experience to have transcendent beer.

and I have talked about this, as we talk about beer almost all the time: right now the United States, on the whole, is making the best beer in the world. We are in the midst of an American Microbrew Revolution! Think of it, right in the same country in which you live, brewers are making some of the finest beers in the entire world. Germany, Belgium and England may have the history, but we are arguably doing it the best. So many fantastic breweries to choose from: Middle Ages, Victory, Stone, Dogfish Head, Smuttynose, Lagunitas, Brooklyn, Stoudts, Mendicino. They are all making phenomenal beers of all styles, and those are just the ones on the coasts. And even the second tier micros -- like Long Trail, Magic Hat, Saranac and Ithaca -- are starting to become available in retail grocery stores at good prices.

So if you get a chance, please give the site a few minutes of your time. It can likely direct you to a beer you will love. If you like the dark porters, stouts or strong ales, it can give you the highest rated. Or if you are a non-beer-lover, it will direct you to the best hefeweizens, belgian whites and lambics so as not to overwhelm you with that beer bite. I think it's worth exploring.

The second reason I put this link up there (and on my blogroll) is because you can read my beer reviews. It's not like you are going to find any fine writing, but you can sort the beers by my highest rated and maybe pick me up a sixpack or two here and there. (My birthday is coming soon, cough-cough.) Basically anything that rates 3.9 or above is in rarefied air.

Maybe you think this is the first step toward becoming a true alkie. I can understand. Due to the fratboy lifestyle and the stereotype of people like Billy Carter and Homer Simpson (who is otherwise heroic), beer has taken a backseat to wine and liquor in terms of class. But you betta recognize.

I would like to think that Javen and I have helped spread the good word of great beer to our many faithful companions (hetero!) and maybe challenged them to try new things. The gauntlet has been thrown down, American citizen, will you pick it up?

I am spoiled to live in Syracuse, which is truly one of the better beer towns on the East Coast. It's plentiful, it's affordable, it's available. People here flat-out know beer. Get on that gravy train, babies.

Ziggy sokky, ziggy sokky, Hoy! Hoy! Hoy!

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