Friday, August 7, 2015


 I'm done, drained, pooped, hit the wall, worn thin, run ragged, exhausted.

I love my job. I love talking to folks about my job, my company, my field of expertise, my zone. Finding that common ground, making a quick connection, making a bond. It's fun, exhilarating, exciting, it validates myself and my work.

It's also hard, scary, makes me nervous, gives me mild panic attacks. 

I'm, as my boss has told me jokingly, a "reformed" introvert. I gain peace from solitude, from a book and an old record, from zoning out and letting my mind wander to strange and scary places, from lying on the couch on my porch and listening to a spring thunderstorm, from staring out the window of my hotel while sipping a beer.

Crowds, people I don't know, odd situations, pushy extroverts, chatters on planes, professional events outside my area of expertise. All these things drag me down. I can "turn" on as needed to get things done, to do my job, to teach people, to do my best not to be the awkward quite person. I've learned to push back against the voice in my head telling me to run away, to find a dark  and quite corner. I can push it away, but it empties all my reserves, cuts my soul bare, turns my mind to mush.

I'm ulgy when I'm worn thin. I snap, say shit I don't mean, act awful to the people I care about. I wish I could help it but the  damn has burst, the filter gone, my internal 5 second delay and dump button is short circuited. 

So if you know me, and catch me just back from a work trip, give me time. Let me build my defenses back up, regain my wit, my sense of humor. Tell me I'm being an asshole, make me self aware.

I have to learn, to help, to direct, to train. Why? Because I know one of my sons is like me. Thoughtful and deep but dark and moody when invaded. I hope one day he will let me into his world and we can just sit and listen together.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The "College Bar"

What makes a College Bar? 

It used to be cheap beer, cheap food and loud music. Craft beer has changed this. More and more I stumble upon good local bars and brewies offering really good beer and really great prices. Sure, there is a time and a place for keg races using Coors Light or Milwaukee's Best but more and more college kids are getting exposed to good beer earlier. 

I find myself sitting in the Moscow Alehouse in the edge of the University of Idaho campus. It's a Tuesday night between semesters and the place is hopping. An odd mix of professors, students and other locals gives the place school vibe. The Tuesday night special is called "Tap a Keg Tuesday". $1.75 pints and $6 dollar pitchers of 2 kegs of microbrew until the blow. Tonight the legs are a Fat Tire Snapshot and Big Sky Itty Bitty IPA keg. Good choices on and standard night and excellent choices for a special night. Back in my younger years we were lucky to get a $5 pitcher of Amstel Light (yes, get off my
Lawn and take your empties while you at it).

So Bud look out. Keep catering to the folks that don't know better. Keep insulting craft beer drinkers and your employees. Let the little guys keep bringing in the college kids, showing them that really great beer isn't inaccessible, in fact it's right down the street. Served and made by their own class mates. Ready to show everyone that you want to cheer the guy hauling the new local brew keg and not the distributer showing up with 10 kegs of Bud for the weekend rush. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

An Ode to the Dive Bar

As I sit here in my favorite dive bar, my mind ponders a question, "Why do some bars just feel right?"  The answer? Truthfully I have no idea. I've been all over  most of these United States, visited countless bars, breweries, speakeasies, holes in the wall and dives. Had a great time at lots, a decent time at some and terrible times at a handful (a BW3s in Lawerence KS comes to mind hazily). But for what ever reason there are maybe 2 that I can feel like they fit my like a well worn glove. They slip right on, the beer comes quickly and cold. The music is always just right but keeps me in my toes. I can feel the blood pressure and worries drop away and my spirits lift. Why do they fit me this way?

One I've been to countless times, spent way to much of my small amount of cash on hand during college. Had multiple days where I would show up right when the doors opened and stay until they closed up shop. Sang along (poorly) to countless one man bands, had my first tastes of Guiness, Harp, Boodingtons, Jameson and Bushmills. It was my college bar, my stress reliever, my mind eraser, my get drunk and bitch about life place. It felt more like home than many an other place in my adopted city of Atlanta.

The other? Strangely I've probably been to no more than 20 times yet it's has hooked me. A hole in the wall on the edge of downtown in my hometown of Savannah. A strange little place with an odd mix of cheap macro and excellent micro. Funky music and an eclectic crowd pull me in. Bare brick, old wood, exposed beams and comfy reclaimed chairs. I prett much modeled the basement in my first house after this place. I could bring a cot and live here. 

So here's to the dive, the hole in the wall, the local joint, the place where everyone may know your name. Here's to Limerick Junction and Abe's on Lincoln. May I haunt your halls for the years to come and may I always find a cold beer and good time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale Beer Review

Picked this one up one a sour beer run to my new favorite beer store, Ale Yeah in Roswell, GA.

Pours with a lot of big sticky foam and a dark cherry colored. Hint of vinegar on the nose. Currants as well maybe? Fizzy at first in the mouth. Tart, smooth, sour finish. Hangs around for a little bit but not too long. Granny Smith apple kind of pucker.

A pretty good example of an entry level Flanders Brown. Good but not great. I'll give it a 3 out of 5.

Happy Drinking!!

I should have the next Vinyl and Alcohol post up later this week. Thinking The Association meets Mikkeller.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vinyl and Alcohol: New Belgium Lips of Faith Tart Lychee Review and ZZ Top "Eliminator"

Now, we flip the script and head to the other end of the Alphabet to give the last album in my catalog a spin.  ZZ Top's 1983 smash "Eliminator". It was either this or my first foray into the Association.  After a hard day at work I really wasn't feeling the whole 60's boy band/barber shop quartet vibe.  Was much more in the mode for some good Texas Blues infused Rock with a side of 80's synth for good measure.  Billy shredding away on the guitar with Frank and Dusty just trying to keep up.  Paired this listen with a bomber of New Belgium's Lips of Faith, Tart Lychee.  Why?  Why not, had this sitting in the fridge for about a week and have been looking forward to popping the top.  Love this beer, anyway... on to side one!

Boom, right out of the gate: "Gimmie All You Lovin'", "Got Me Under Pressure" and "Sharp Dressed Man".  Talk about the 1927 Yankees of 80's rock.  You would be very hard pressed to find three better side one, track one through three.  All three walk the perfect line between grungy bluesy guitar riffs and polished, synthesized 80's rock.  Out of the three I like "Sharp Dressed Man" the best.  Great lyrics, an unforgettable guitar hook, just blasts straight through the whole song, not a down note in the whole thing. If I had a band this would be one song I would insist that we covered. 

The Beer: Yum!!  For some reason my pallet has moved on from big hop bombs and on to sour and wild ales.  Love the funk, the unpredictability.  The Tart Lychee has a slightly vinegary nose, smooth in the mouth, picked up raspberry, cinnamon, vanilla.  Just the right amount of oak, not to much to come out in the flavor but you can tell its back there playing second violin.  Nice pucker, hangs around in the mouth quite a bit after you have swallowed.  Head flattens out quickly, color is a hazy light copper.  Really wish this was a year round brew.  I'll rate it 4 pints out of 5.

Back to the tunes.....  After basking in the afterglow of "Sharp Dressed Man", the rest of side one back off a bit.   "I Need You Tonight" sounds like something off a Thin Lizzy B-side (not entirely a bad thing).  "I Got the Six" picks the speed up a bit, sounds like Dusty is singing this one, Dusty shouldn't sing any.  It does sound like a great song to haul ass to in the middle of the night though.

Side jumps right back off the mat and hits you in the face with "Legs".  Anyone of a certain age remembers this video, the car and the girls.  I do like the song but have always felt it could drop about a minute and a half and be just about perfect.  The outro gets a bit repetitive and long winded.  "Thug" is next, did Law and Order come on all of a sudden?  Base line sounds just like the old Law and Order intro from the early 90's.  Did Dick Wolf own this album, here this song and say "I want that base line as part of the intro for this new series I have thought up" ?  Other than that teaser, a completely forgettable song.  "TV Dinners"? Ugh, no thanks.  This is when I really start to remember why being able to skip songs quickly on a CD was such a big deal.  A few words on the rest of the songs; "Dirty Dog" a slightly worse take on the Legs theme, "Flag Her Down" Was Swing time rockabilly infused Texas Rock ever popular?  Had to be written in the middle of a 3 day bender, "Bad Girl" Sounds like Sammy Hagar used this to write Wango Tango from, that is not a good thing.

To Wrap up, I really wanted to love this album, and I really like 3 and a half songs out of the 11.  Too much filler, drum machine (sounds like a 5 year old programmed it at that).  The "filler" songs may have sounded fresh in 1983 but end up all sounding waaaay too dated now.  I do love my some ZZ and am looking froward to listening to Tres Hombres in a few weeks.  Wonder how that one will end up grading out?  If I am going to have to start giving a score, let's just use a scale of 0 to 10.  I'll give this one a middling 5. 

Happy Drinking and Listening!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

AC/DC - "Back in Black" and "Dirty Deeds" meets Southern Tier Pumking Review

So, why Vinyl and Alcohol? Well I happen to have a few hundred records that I have acquired through either charity (thanks Mom, Dad and others!) or through my own purchases. Besides trying to find good local beer when I am on the road, I also try to hunt down independent local record shops. Anyway, after a bit of inspiration from Counterbalance columns over on PopMatters, I have decided to try to work my way through listening to all my albums. There are a good number I have never even dropped the needle on so I am looking forward to hearing some new things. I'll start with "A" the first week then flop to "Z" the second week and then back and forth. This should break up some of the multiple albums by the same artists a bit (and keep me from reviewing the Beatles for about 9 straight weeks). I figure I have roughly 300 albums, so I'll finish up sometime in the middle of 2018! And since I am going to be listening to some good tunes, what goes better than a good beer. I'll try to pair each listening with a new beer, should give me a good chance to go through some of the interesting stuff in my cellar. Anyways, here goes!

Music: AC/DC - "Back in Black" and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"
Beer: Pumking by Southern Tier First one off the rack

The 1980 rocker by AC/DC with new front man Brian Johnson.  I don't think that I have ever actually listened to the album.  I don't mind AC/DC but I have never really sought them out, never had a "Man, I really need to listen to some AC/DC right now!" moment.  Looking at the track listing, this thing reads like a greatest hits album.  6 of the 10 tracks are in regular rotation on the classic rock channels, heck I am pretty sure I know most of the words to the songs. 

Ok, on to side one (yes kids, records have these things called "sides", you have to get up and physically turn the record over when you get to the end of the song).  Boom, right off the bat "Hells Bells" blasts onto the scene which then goes right into "Shoot to Thrill".  Rest of side one rolls along quite nicely, just good straight forward rock.  Not songs that I love but probably the perfect background music if you were shooting pool in a bar somewhere.  Side 2 kicks off with "Back in Black" and then you deal with the murderers row of classic rock staples of "You Shook Me all Night Long", "Have a Drink on Me", "Shake a Leg" and closing with "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution".  Pretty solid record eh?  A good one for sure.  I may not ever seek this record out in the "Man I really need to listen to Back in Black tonight" vein, but if I ever have a few friends over to throw darts, shoot pool and drink some beer then this one may very well make it on the turn table.

Beer pairing with a record is a bit new for me so I just grabbed the beer I've been really looking forward to having again, Southern Tier Pumking.  Damn I love this beer.  Not too much pumpkin, good balance, just the right amount of spice and sweetness balanced well with the alcohol notes.  I have got to get a few more bottles of this before it rides off into the sunset for the next 10 months.  A solid 4.5 pints out of 5.  Really went with the mood of the AC/DC session, smooth, straight ahead good beer.

Ok, now the most surprising review of the night. An oddity in terms of release date, AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap".  Originally released in 1976, it was not released in the US until 1981, a year after "Back in Black".  So you have an album with original lead singer Bon Scott first showing up in the US a year after the mega hit that was "Back in Black" was released with the new lead singer Brian Johnson.  Huh?  Yeah.  I have the US pressing, which apparently is missing some songs from the Aussie release and has others edited a bit differently than the original.  Only two songs I had ever heard from this record were "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and "Big Balls".  The rest were the first time I had ever heard them.  So what did I think?  Well, I really like this record better than "Back in Black".  Yes BnB is anthem rock royalty but there is just something a little cooler about this record.  Bon's lyrics and delivery are far better than Brain.  He exudes cools and character in every word, BJ just kind of shouts everything on BnB.  The song type varies a lot more on this album, makes it a  much more interesting listen.  I actually have found my favorite AC/DC song on this record, "Ride On".  A menacing slow burn of a song, sounds like AC/DC ripped off Bob Segars "Turn the Page" a bit.  A very cool track.

Final thoughts:

I am going to look forward to listening to a lot of music I have never heard before and finding plenty of hidden gems (like "Ride On").

AC/DC, I am going to have to try to find some of their earlier Bon Scott albums to go through.

Pumking: One of the best seasonal pumpkin beers around.

Happy Drinking (and listening) Everyone!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Records and Beer

After a great week plus of some amazing beer and great live music I got to thinking.  Why don't I try to pair up some music reviews with my beer drinking?  I am a bit of a vinyl record collector, have a bunch that have been donated to me from friends and family, plus a lot that I have picked up along the way (in addition to trying to hit as many local breweries while on the road I also try to seek out small independent record shops).  Anyway, I think I am going to attempt to work my way through my entire record collection.  I'll review one record and one beer each week!  Yep.  I'll start with the letter "A" week 1 and then letter "Z" week 2 and alternate from one end of the collection to the other (that way I figure I won't be reviewing 7 straight Beatles records) until I meet in the middle somewhere, going to guess around Billy Joel (I have them sorted by last name or band name).  Looking forward to listening to some records I've never pulled out (the Dionne Warwick records may be a bit tough to get through) and force myself to try a new beer each week (should also force me to go through some of my cellared beers when the right record calls for it!).  Anyway, going to kick it all off tonight!  Wish me luck!

Happy Drinking!!