What Kind Of Week Its Been

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2014 by cueball

Work Growler

It has been a week and I offer this bit of advice:  Don’t do what I did.  If you leave one job to take another, please take a week between jobs.  Try not to do both at the same time and give yourself a break.

Last week I started working at Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop while I was working at Lowe’s.  That would not have been too bad if I was getting more than 4 hours of sleep per day.  I stuck around to help the store do inventory.  That meant being up at 5 a.m.  By the end of last week I was ragged out and exhausted.  I now have a true understanding of the effects of sleep deprivation.  After a couple of days off, lots of sleep, and home projects that required no real thinking this week was great.

First, it is just fun serving and talking about beer.  I finally get to use all the random beer knowledge stocked in my brain for good and not my own personal drinking.  Second, we have a good team. From Dan and Alyson down through the rest of the team, we are a solid team that gets along with each other.

I’ve made the right decision.  That isn’t in doubt for me, but I would be lying if I said on Friday when I drove over to Craft that the thought, “I quit my safe job at Lowe’s, what the hell am I doing?” didn’t float through my mind repeatedly.

Anyway, my favorite beers we have on tap right this moment are:  Lonerider Brewing Sweet Josie Brown Ale, Greenman Brewery IPA, Granite Falls Elephant Peanut Butter Ale, Howard Brewing Lake Fever Black IPA, and Blue Mountain Dark Hollow.  Come by soon if you want to try these because once the kegs are empty we bring something else on line, but you’ll end up liking those just as much.

Now that I am actually sleeping like a normal person and my life has settled down a little, I’ll be back to writing most if not every day.  I’m making progress on my Road To Cicerone German Styles studies.  I will hopefully wrap that up in the next month or so and then start on the British curriculum.

I’ll be heading over to Craft this afternoon, see you soon.

Over 1000 Words (What!?) On Why I Took A Job At Craft Tasting Room

Posted in beer, life with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2014 by cueball

“Well, I’ve been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.” – Rob, High Fidelity

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot today.  Today, I gave my notice to Lowe’s Home Improvement in Shelby, NC so I can essentially go and become a bartender (It is more complicated than that and I will get into that later.).

I’ve been thinking about that quote because, since announcing this move, I’ve been getting some well-meaning advice and concerns from friends and family.  I think the reason for this is, for most people this seems like something that has come out of the blue and seems to be a lark.  A move that makes little to no sense because it seems to be a step down from what I am currently doing.  My past history probably contributes to that feeling.

While this particular job, bartending at Craft Tasting Room and Growler House in Charlotte, did arrive on my doorstep suddenly, the planning for a move like this has been ongoing for at least six months.  Actually, it started before that.

In the last year, I’ve applied for two jobs at Lowe’s and I got neither.  The first that I applied for, was for a job with the Lowe’s Foundation that had the same description as the job I held at Foundation For The Carolinas.  I would kind of be doing the same work I left 6 years before, which is a whole other set of issues that were thankfully avoided.  I didn’t even get a telephone interview.  I do not even know if I really wanted the job, but I knew I had the skills to do the job.

Not even getting an interview forced me to rethink many things.  I decided to stop and reevaluate what it was that I truly wanted (mostly I knew I didn’t want to stay at Lowe’s on the sales floor for much longer, but not much more) not just as a job but how I wanted to live. That sounds like a bunch of new age bullshit, but I felt myself falling into patterns that were dangerous for my mental and physical health. Let’s put it this way, I really like beer and bourbon.

So, I rededicated myself to my rudimentary study of Zen Buddhism and mindfulness training while actually taking the time and effort to think about my life from the ground up starting with the most basic question, “How do I want to live my life?” This was not some abstract philosophical question.  This was a day to day logistical question of what a normal day for me would entail in my perfect life scenario.  Once I had that I moved to the specifics of where would I live to have this life and what would be doing for work to have this life.

There were four places I would like to choose from to eventually settle permanently:  the Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville, or Denver, CO. Then I had to figure out what kind of job would I have to live this perfect life scenario.  To get to that I thought long and hard about what skills do I have and what are the things I like.  Then I tried to manufacture a way to combine those things.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you can probably guess the job/jobs that will provide me with this life scenario I created involve writing and beer.  Here is the problem, there was no direct line from the job that I have to the type of work that I want.  The last six months especially have been about doing what was possible working a full time job with shifting hours to train and prepare myself for getting the work I eventually want.  At some point I was going to have to make a choice and make short-term sacrifices to get to where I wanted to be.

So over the course of a week almost a year ago, I actually set out a path for myself with what I wanted my life to be like and how I planned to get there.

Oh yeah, I did apply for another job at Lowe’s.  This time I applied for an Assistant Store Manager’s position at a neighboring store.  I did get an interview, but I think I subconsciously tanked the interview and didn’t get the job.  I say I tanked the interview because as I left the interview I remember thinking, “Do I want to be a store manager,” because getting that job would have put me on that path.  The more I thought about it, the more no was clearly the answer.

At that point, I knew I wanted more than to be a department manager or an ASM for the next ten years.  Watching that life unfold in my mind’s eye was as chilling as any horror movie.

This isn’t to denigrate anyone who does those jobs.  There are some people who are built to manage in retail and they are great at it, and I’ve worked with some of those people.

Not long after that, I decided to become a Certified Cicerone (I’ve earned the Certified Beer Server designation) and dedicate myself to the study of beer.

So, while this may seem to be sudden and foolhardy move on my part, it has been something I’ve been preparing myself for, for almost a year.  This isn’t a move without risk and it is not risk taken lightly or with no forethought.  To get where I eventually want to be, I need to be in the craft beer industry full time and I need to have the time and ability to really study craft beer as a product and as an industry. I believe this job at Craft is the perfect opportunity for that and it is an opportunity that met the preparation I began almost a year ago.  This is not the end point of something, it is the beginning of it.

What does all this have to do with that line from High Fidelity? This move isn’t something silly I’ve thought up and just decided to do with no conception of the consequences.  This is the first time I’ve actually thought out the direction of my life and what I really want it to be and taking this job is the second step in getting that life. Up until now, with the exception of one decision (the conscious decision to move to Charlotte after a time in Greensboro), I’ve gone with my gut during every decision.

Taking the time to think out what I want, how to get it, and the consequences of attempting to get it this time has taught me, I was a lot like Rob.  I looked around at where I was and what I was doing and I realized my guts had shit for brains.  They put me a hundred miles from ever a semblance of the life I wanted.

No life goes exactly as people think it will.  I’m probably not going to have everything in that perfect scenario I have in my head, but in the attempt to get that, I think I will get close enough to have a life that I actually like.

Rules for Great American Beer Festival

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2014 by cueball

My vacation this year has taken me to Denver, CO for my favorite event on Earth: Great American Beer Festival.  Here are a few rules I’ve developed from previous trips.

Rule #1

If you have tickets for the opening day, don’t try to get in the Convention Center right at 5:30. There will be a line.  A very long line.  It will seem endless, and it won’t be moving.  If you can, enjoy Denver, grab a bite to eat and walk around the downtown area, it is beautiful.  Then, once its 5:30 go to the line and start walking towards the entrance.  You will get in, in no time.  Trust me, I’ve learned this one the hard way.

Rule #2

Either get the GABF app for your phone or make sure you grab a program on the way in. They both will provide you with a floor map and brewery list.  It makes finding the breweries you want to try really easy.  The reason you will need a map and a brewery list is you need a plan.  There are around 600 breweries and 3000 beers at this shindig. You will not be able to visit every booth and taste every beer even if you go all three days.  Now, you don’t need to work this like the D-Day Invasion, but you do need to have some idea of where you want to start and what you want to taste.  Personally, I pick a style or two I want to try and then concentrate on then start at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic sections.  Once I’ve spent time going through those sections I just go and find other beer to try in the styles I’m concentrating on for the night.

Rule #3

Do not wait in a long line for a taste.  Again there are 600 breweries and 3000 beers, in all likelihood if you go walk around and taste other beers the line will probably go do if it is something you really have to try.  Also, if it is a brewery that has a national distribution do not stand in line for that beer.  The only two exceptions to this rule are a special brew from a nationally distributed brewer or a brewery that has a lot of buzz and little national distribution at this point.  This year’s new brewery with ridiculous buzz is Asheville’s own Wicked Weed.  Well-deserved buzz by the way. I’m glad I’m NC local because I was not going to stand in that never ending line last night.  Long live #NCBEER.

Rule #4

Experiment.  You are in a place with almost 3000 beers. Try a style you’ve never had.  Try a style with experimental ingredients.  Try a brewery you’ve never heard of and try a couple of their beers.  If you see a booth with no one tasting a beer and one of the brewers or someone else who works at the brewery standing there looking bored, go up try a couple and talk to the pourer. You will learn so much about the beer and the brewery and you will find something new to drink.

Rule #5

Don’t taste big flavors early.  If you start the day with smoked beers, bourbon barrel aged beers, gose’s, or any other strong flavors you will spoil your taste buds for a bit.  Save those big flavors for your last tastings. You’ll enjoy them a lot more.

Finally, a bit of advice.  Use Google Maps to find food if you are not from Denver or like me have a friend who lives in Denver to go with you. My recommendation:  Sam’s No. 3 Diner.

Notes On The Occasion of My 40th Birthday

Posted in life with tags , on September 15, 2014 by cueball

I’ve been trying to think of some deep and considered advice I could give to whomever reads this as I officially pass the point where the end is closer to the beginning.  Most of what I wrote (this is not the first draft) are the same bromides you can read in the better greeting cards.  So here it goes. By the way, since I woke up this morning the line from Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage”, “The lunatic is on the grass,” has been flowing through my mind.  Not the whole song.  Just that one line.  Anyway

Find that one thing you love and do it.  If you can do it for money that’s great.  If you can’t do it for money, do it anyway.  Have things in your life that give you pleasure and that you make time to do not just find time to do.  You need something that takes your mind from the griminess of the real world or at the very least puts in perspective and helps it make sense in your mind.

It is OK to be a selfish asshole on occasion.  This is a hard thing for a lot of people to learn.  You are taught from an early age to not be selfish and to think of others before yourself.  At some point in your life you will have to walk your own path and many people around you won’t understand it. Learning how to say no is a very important and underrated skill.  It will keep you from going down a lot of dead end roads.

Find a job where the people you work for don’t think paying you means they own you.  Especially when you are younger, you will have jobs where you are low man in the pecking order and sometimes people will treat you like you are sub-human.  Leave those jobs as soon as you can.  Life is too short to deal with jackasses like that.

Now, after you have done all that selfish stuff to find your happiness, remember you still have to pay rent and put food on the table. That means there will be times you have to suck it the hell up and do what you have to do and work where you have to work.  Just make sure you give yourself a plan to get in and to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.

Speaking of plans, you don’t need a step by step plan for your life.  Mostly, because life will get in the way of that plan and blow it up, also, what do you do once you reach the end point of your life’s plan?  You do however need goals and you need to stay mindful of your decisions and how they affect achieving those goals.  Some people work great with plans, some don’t. For those that don’t (like me) two goals are all you need:  Where do I want to live and how do I want to live.  Once you figure those things out, you’ll fill in the details along the way as long as you stay mindful of all the decisions you make and how they point you in those two directions.

Finally, whenever you are about to use the bathroom, always, always, always check to make sure there is enough toilet paper before you sit down.

The One Where I Babel About Manhattan (the television show)

Posted in television with tags , , , , , , , on September 2, 2014 by cueball

For most of us on a daily basis, we have a choice between telling the truth and telling lie.  Most of us choose to tell the truth because we have been taught that it is the right thing to do and it is easier to remember then the lie.  There is a new show this summer that shows the effects of having that choice taken from you and being forced to lie in almost all situations. 

Manh(A)ttan is one of the best new shows of this summer and one of the shows no one knows anything about.  Unlike the best show of the summer, The Honorable Woman, it doesn’t have a movie star as its draw like Maggie Gyllenhaal. The roster of Manhattan is made up of a bunch of “that guys” and role players acting their collective asses off in each scene. It does not have the cache of being on The Sundance Channel. It is the second show produced for WGN, the Chicago superstation. If this show was on HBO, AMC, or even SYFY, it would be the talk of the whole television/entertainment internet. 

What has really drawn me into the show is how the pressures of being part of the Manhattan Project effects the scientists, soldiers, and their wives.  The first thing I noticed was these characters drink a lot.  As the show has gone along, it became obvious the drinking and the sex are “symptoms” of the pressures of the jobs and the pressures of the continuous lies the characters are forced to tell.  Everything about this last episode highlights how in certain situations the greater good is served by lies and not by the truth.  Not only lies to the public, but lies to everyone you know.

Dr. Frank Winter is the main character and the lead scientist of one of the teams working on the project.  In this episode he assigns one of his junior scientists, Fritz Fedowitz, the task involving figuring out the best metal to use for an atomic bomb.  Fritz makes a mistake and basically swallows half of the world’s supply of plutonium.  Because we now know the effects of ingesting the most radioactive substance on Earth means Fritz is going to waste away and die over the course of the rest of the season.  Frank also knows this and in trying to get Fritz the medical help he is going to need, he finds out the medical services they are provided are a sham to keep all of these people from truly knowing how dangerous the things they are doing are.  At the end of the episode, Frank is given a choice, expose the farce of the medical situation or not. The rub is if the exposes the farce, the German atomic bomb project will move even farther ahead of their American counterparts.  What is the right thing? Tell the truth to help your friends or lie to benefit the greater good of the war effort?

It is not only lying to the public that is effecting Frank, it is the fact that he has to lie to his wife Liza who is a brilliant scientist in her own right.  Liza is a botanist who has noticed the flowers and honey bees she has grown dying mysteriously.  Liza is close to figuring out what the scientists are actually working on, but Frank tells her to stop before she figures out the truth.  John Benjamin Hickey and Olivia Williams play the hell out of this scene.  The pain on Frank’s face for not only having to lie to Liza, but to also have to ask her to stop using her brain and her skills to protect the lie, is wrenching.  Equally impressive is the confusion and simmering anger at what Frank is doing on Liza’s face.

The mystery of this show is not how the Manhattan Project ends.  The mystery is how the process effects the people involved.  How does lying to everyone you know and work with at all times change you?  How does working with plutonium and creating atomic explosions effect you? 

Sierra Nevada Flipside (2014) Red IPA with Bush’s Black Bean Tortilla Chili

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2014 by cueball

The recipe

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Black Bean Chili

This is a simple chili recipe from Bush’s Beans.  It takes about an hour with prep to cook and serve.  It can be a bit spicy with the 2 tablespoons of chili powder and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  You can take some of the heat off just by cutting the cayenne or cutting back on the chili powder, but that’s why you serve it with sour cream.  Here is the link to the complete recipe.

The beer

I look forward to the Fall and Winter because they are my favorite seasonal beer times of the year.  All three of the seasonals I look forward to every year from Sierra Nevada, Celebration, Ruthless Rye, and Flipside, are Fall and Winter beers.  This is the Flipside time of year, so I decided to see how this would pair with the chili. First, a little about Flipside. 

As with every beer that Sierra Nevada puts out, it is very well done.  Flipside pours a nice clear dark copper color.  Piney and grassy hops aroma are evident immediately with a bit of a biscuity malt aroma in the background.  The taste starts off with the grassy and citrusy notes of the hops with very little alcohol heat and little to no evidence of the caramel or chocolate malts included in the recipe. It is pretty light on the tongue and actually provides a kind of refreshing taste.  It would be a pretty good sessionable beer if not for the 6.2% ABV. 

The pairing

I have learned through strenuous testing that I prefer brown and amber ales with spicy food, especially Mexican and Mexican inspired food.  I had hoped with the use of the darker malts, Flipside would go well with a chili.  It went OK.  My goal was for the caramel and chocolate malts would bring out the caramelized taste of the browned onions (I browned the onions longer than recipe instructs.  Going for depths of flavor.).  With little to no taste of the malts I was targeting, this did not work out as well as I had hoped.  However, if your pallet does not lean towards the darker malts and caramelization tastes as mine does it, you will probably enjoy it a bit more.

An idea to make this recipe a little more beer friendly is simply to add beer to the recipe. I would probably use a more floral/citrusy hoppy pale ale to bring out more of the cumin flavors.   If you look at the recipe the only liquid included in the ingredients comes from the liquid the canned corn comes with.  You could drain the corn and instead use about a half to a full cup of room temperature beer in its stead.  That would probably improve the flavor as well as eliminate some of the salt from the recipe. 

The conclusion

In the end this is a good simple and quick recipe and a good high quality beer that just did not work together (Sounds like most of my dating relationships).  This is a recipe that I would recommend pairing with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Lonerider Peacemaker Pale Ale, or Foothills Brewing Pilot Mountain Pale Ale

My Life: The Movie

Posted in Daily Prompt with tags , , , , , on August 28, 2014 by cueball

I first really noticed that people think of their lives as movies when the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal exploded.  Every talking head on sports television had to get out and scream about how if they had been Mike McQuery and they had seen Sandusky with the boy in the shower they would have gone all caveman and beaten Sandusky and rescued the boy and got him to the police.  Just like in a Bruce Willis movie. 

Whether they would have or not is irrelevant to this blog post (though it is interesting how a lot of guys on ESPN keep getting other people in fictional fights), what is relevant is that they all thought about it like an action movie.  We all think of our lives in that way at least a little.  We all day dream our lives like they were on the big screen.  We all have the same question, “Who would I cast as me in a movie of my life?”

Now, here is the interesting thing, I don’t have an answer to that question.  I do think of my life as a movie, complete with soundtrack.  Even if I am walking somewhere without my iPod, I hear some cool song playing in the background. However, I never cast the movie of my life that is in my head. 

I think there are two reasons that are slightly combined and another reason that stands on its own.  The first two reasons are 1) that I think of the people in this movie of my life in terms of characters and not as actors and therefore 2) I would need to see someone read for the character to cast it properly.  This probably comes from my attempts to write fiction and develop characters, who are inherently based on people I know, have known, and/or have talked to for 15 seconds.  I’m too close to the characters to see them as anything other than who they are as characters independent of any actor.  That is kind of weird, because often when I am reading a book, I cast the characters in the book as known actors in my mind.  I always have thoughts like, “If this becomes a movie, Sam Elliot would be perfect for that character.”

The other reason I do not think like that about the actors for My Life:  The Movie, is that until recently, I have not seen many true representations of me or the people I know in movies or television by actors.  I don’t just mean African-Americans, I mean Southerners both white, black, and Latino with whom I work and with whom I am friends. 

Rectify and to a lesser extent Justified are the first television shows, certainly in a long time and maybe ever, that have representations of any true Southern characters to me.  Rectify is the first television show I’ve seen in a very long time that doesn’t treat a Southern drawl as a sign of stupidity.  It does not treat small towns as some place that time forgot filled with all these quirky and interesting characters that show our protagonist, usually a white northerner, the true meaning of life.  Rectify treats its small Southern town as the living and possibly dying place that small Southern towns actually are and the people that inhabit that town as complicated actual humans and not caricatures. 

Speaking of caricatures, there is one other show on television filmed in the South and that is Reckless on CBS.  I will give them credit for filming in Charleston, which is the setting of the show.  However, my favorite thing about the main cast is that they only have one cast member from the traditional South, Anna Wood originally from Mt. Airy, North Carolina who plays a character originally from Chicago.   

The actor who I would cast as me in My Life:  The Movie?  I haven’t seen him.  At least not an African-American actor who I would cast, since only the same 10 guys audition for and get all the “black” parts on television.  This is another reason for me to go digging into African-American independent cinema.

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