30 04 2007

It occurred to me tonight that my posts here revolve almost completely around three topics:

1.) Baseball
2.) Beer
3.) Heartbreak

There’s more to me than that, I swear.


Hoppy Days

30 04 2007

I attended my 11th(!) beer class tonight at Tria Fermentation School. I’m such a regular there that the staff knows my name. Should I be embarrassed by that? I just really like it there. Oh, and I really like beer.

Tonight’s session was led by Mitch Steele, the head brewer at Stone Brewing Co. in San Diego. Like a lot of West Coast craft brewers, Stone is notable for its hops-heavy beers. So, naturally, Steele’s topic was hops (“Hoppy Days Are Here Again,” to be precise). And I have to say I learned quite a bit. Hops, of course, are added to beers to provide bitterness, which—in a good brew—will balance out the sweetness provided by the malt. Hops can add fruity, earthy, floral, and spicy flavors. Hops help a beer retain its head. And hops help prevent spoilage, which is why, back in the day, those British brewers packed their products with hops before sending them off to India, giving us what we now know as India Pale Ales (IPAs)….

All that said, I’m not always a huge fan of hops. There are so many good flavors in beer, and I’m more than a little perplexed at the emphasis that so many brewers place these days on hops. And for my palate, anyway, I need some real sweetness to balance out the bitterness that hops provide.

So, coming into tonight’s session, anyway, I was skeptical about Stone and its hops-heavy brews. But I was pleasantly surprised. We tasted seven Stone products, and five or six of those brews certainly featured hops over other components. It was nevertheless a tasty evening for me. Of the seven brews, one of my particular favorites was actually a fairly hoppy brew—Stone’s 10th Anniversary Ale. If there’s any justice, that limited-edition brew will gain a regular place on Stone’s roster. It was pine-y and anise-y, and the bitterness of the hops somehow didn’t overcome those flavors.

I often like the smell of hoppy beers a lot more than the flavors. Tonight, for instance, I thought Stone’s IPA and, particularly, it’s Double Dry-Hopped IPA smelled incredible. The flavors were good, too, but—somehow or other—it was the smell that primarily sold me on those beers.

My favorite flavor of the evening came from Stone’s Old Guardian Barley Wine. It’s not completely clear to me what makes a barley wine, and that’s something I should work on in my, um, beer education, I guess. Anyway, the Old Guardian Barley Wine is strong (11.3% alcohol), dark, yeast-y, and sort of maple-y(?). Actually, I swallowed my sample of Old Guardian Barleywine before I could completely figure out why it was so appealing to me. It definitely didn’t strike me as overly hoppy. There’ll be a next time for me to try Old Guardian Barley Wine, I hope….

What else did I learn tonight? Well, I learned that I should’ve attended UC-Davis, where I could’ve majored in Brewing Science. I don’t know how I’d’ve explained that to my parents, though. I should’ve asked Steele how he’d explained it to his parents…. If you’ll make me 19 again, I’ll go back to school and do it right this time. (No, really, I don’t want to be 19 again. Ugh.)

Some of the beers we sampled tonight just aren’t available on the East Coast, so it was awfully cool to have the chance to taste them. When I visit San Diego, though, I’m definitely headed to Stone Brewing.

Florida Marlins 11, Philadelphia Phillies 5

28 04 2007

Pretty much on impulse, I decided to risk the forecast for showers and head to tonight’s Phillies game against the Marlins. (Yup, that’s three games in a single week.) Most of my favorite players are either Phillies or Kansas City Royals, of course, but I have a soft spot for Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins. When I saw he was pitching tonight, I realized that was just the reason I needed to head out to Citizens Bank Park. Being bored out of my mind helped, too.

As much as I like D-Train, I wasn’t hoping he’d pitch all that well. The Phillies were going for their seventh win in eight games, and I definitely wanted to be there for a win. It wasn’t to be. Willis pitched like hell, but he out-performed Phillies starter Adam Eaton, who gave up seven runs in four-and-a-third innings. Sigh.

I sprang for a seat behind home plate—well, 30+ rows behind home plate, anyway. I probably would’ve been happier in the cheap seats because my seatmates were particularly annoying. Not only was the man on my left so tall and heavy that he was in my personal space, but he spent the entire game coughing. (If I develop tuberculosis, I know who’ll be to blame.) A man behind me kept trying, loudly, to impress his friend (date?) with his knowledge (although he frequently couldn’t even figure out whether we were in the top or bottom of an inning!). And worst of all, an annoying family of four sat in front of me. Neither the two little girls nor their parents seemed at all interested in the game. The girls enjoyed some ice cream and jumping up and down on their seats. The mom, who was so tall that she sometimes made it difficult for me to see the action, was alternately preoccupied with the girls and a beer. The dad purchased goodies and wiped chocolate ice cream off seats, chins, and armrests. I should just be grateful they left after the third inning and never came back. Actually, I am grateful for that! But why do people like that even go to ballgames???

In any event, the game wasn’t all that memorable. What I’ll mostly remember, I suppose, is this: First baseman Ryan Howard had the night off, and his absence led to some wholesale restructuring of the batting lineup. I think it makes a lot of sense, anyway, to make the thriving Aaron Rowand the Phils’ leadoff hitter. Rowand, by the way, continued his streak: He’s now had a hit in 16 consecutive games. He’s the man.

Now, what will the boredom lead me to do tomorrow?

Washington Nationals 4, Philadelphia Phillies 2

26 04 2007

Two of my colleagues and I ditched work this afternoon to attend the game. After a horrid start to the season, the Phils were going for their sixth straight win. It didn’t happen, but it’d be hard to complain too much. The Phils didn’t really lose this one so much as the Nasty Nationals just played too darn well. Nats pitcher Shawn Hill worked solidly for eight innings, and the offense backed him up with eight hits. The Nationals’ not-so-ace closer tried to give up the game in the ninth, but the Phils could only score one additional run.

Still, most of the Phillies looked good today. Memorably, Pat Burrell made a helluva throw from left field to throw out Ryan Zimmerman, who looked to have a cinch double. Aaron Rowand, one of my favorites, had a homer: He’s batting .364, and he’s had a hit in 14 consecutive games. Zowie.

It was a strangely chilly late April day here in Philly. The sky was gray, and a chill wind was circulating throughout the park. It’s not the kind of day I was imagining when I planned this outing.

Wiki Wednesday #4

25 04 2007

It’s time for this week’s installment.

1.) Go to Wikipedia.
2.) Click on “Random article.”
3.) Report on the outcome.

Here’s this week’s result:

Thumbs Up

A Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down is a common gesture represented by a closed fist held with the thumb extended upward or downward in approval or disapproval respectively. These gestures have become metaphors in English: “My boss gave my proposal the thumbs-up” means that the boss approved the proposal, regardless of whether the gesture was made — indeed, the gesture itself is unlikely in a formal business setting.

Wow, for a change of pace, I actually know what this entry is about. And so do you. Still, it’s pretty cool that the entry, which goes on for quite a bit, actually exists. Did you know that the genesis of the gesture is uncertain? Or that the phrase existed in ancient Rome? (Wikipedia cautions that it’s not “certain that the contemporary gestures are identical to the gestures performed” back then. How else might the gesture be performed? Hmmm.)

The entry even has a reference to Fonzie on Happy Days. But, um, was he really giving thumbs-up-style approval for anything when he did that “aaaay” thing?

Be careful out there. In many parts of the world, the gesture has a negative—”Up yours, pal!”—connotation. And perhaps even scarier, at Texas A&M University, the thumbs-up sign seems to mean “Gig ’em, Aggies.”

By the way, if the gesture is “unlikely in a formal business setting,” should I stop doing it at work? How about if I actually mean “gig ’em”?

Just wondering.

More Cow Pie, please.

25 04 2007

Cheese Close-Up
I attended my second all-cheese-tasting tonight at Tria Fermentation School. If you’re keeping track, and I hope you have better hobbies than that, tonight’s class makes 10 beer-tastings and two cheese-tastings for me. Apparently, I love to eat and drink.

Tonight, we tasted cheese from Pennsylvania’s Hendricks Farms and Dairy. It was all pretty much downright delicious. My favorite cheese of the night was Hendricks’s Cow Pie. Yup, Cow Pie. It’s the farm’s take on a Camembert; it was all gooey and earthy. As I understood it, the sample we had was about as old as the Cow Pie gets…. The farm’s executive chef, Phil Falsone, explained that the Cow Pie is made from the cows’ evening milk, which is fattier (since the cows have been eating all day). I couldn’t get enough.

Coming a close second for me was Hendricks’s Grass Stains cheese (great names, huh?). It apparently starts life similarly to the Cow Pie, but it gets seriously jacked up with salt, herbs, and pepper. A lot of pepper. I could go for some more of that right now, too, in fact.

I also enjoyed Hendricks’s Telford Tomme, a mild, creamy cheese. Really, there wasn’t a cheese tonight that I didn’t enjoy. Hendricks’s blue cheeses weren’t quite as, um, smelly and blue as I sometimes crave, but the Dirty Laundry blue cheese was certainly tasty. I wouldn’t hesitate to have it again.

Hendricks Farm, by the way, isn’t that far from Philly. Since I first read about the operation in Cheese By Hand, I’ve been thinking I should drive up and check things out. Now, I absolutely want to do that—and soon. A springtime visit sounds nice….

Tria served an apple cider and two wines with the cheeses. The cider, Farnum Hill’s Extra-Dry, was amazingly tasty. I don’t know enough about cider, but it definitely left my palate ready to try the cheese…. I also have nice things to say about the white wine we tried—Standing Stone Vineyards‘ 2006 Riesling. (I didn’t really like the pinot noir we had, but I think that probably says more about my palate than the wine….)

What else can I say about tonight? Well, there weren’t many men at the cheese-tasting. Is cheese not manly? That said, Falsone, the chef from Hendricks, was 100% cute and adorable. Is there anything sexier than a man who could feed you well?

Contact me. Really.

25 04 2007

In lieu of providing you with any actual content, I’ve added a Contact Me page.  It’d be great to hear from you—even if it’s to complain that I haven’t provided any actual content.  You could tell me what to write.  Or you could just say hi.