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Vegetable Pot Pie and Hi-Wire Brewing Bed of Nails Brown Ale Pairing

Posted in beer, food, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2014 by cueball
Tastes better that it looks

Tastes better than it looks

I used to think I was a pretty good cook.  I thought that because I can chop onions and mince garlic and put some stuff in a slow cooker and make a pretty good meal.  Yeah, I know how to cook good rice but today’s recipe was easily the most complicated thing I have ever made.  Vegetable pot pie has so many moving parts.  I take that back.  It has a major, huge demonstrably difficult moving part called pie crust.

Anyway, we’ll get to the food in a second.  On to the beer.

Bed of Nails Brown Ale, Hi-Wire Brewing

I’ve become really fascinated with English and English-style beers since thinking about and trying this pairing experiment.  Bed of Nails Brown is another English-style American beer, this time from a relatively new brewery out of Asheville, Hi-Wire.  The reason I chose English-style beer for nice bit of comfort food made was precisely because while it is full of hop bitterness it is not overwhelmed by the more American hop taste.  You get a lot of the hop aromas in the glass, piney and citrusy, with this beer, but it does not over power you with that same piney/citrusy taste.  The hop bitterness works well with the cocoa/chocolate bitterness to make a very well-choreographed and easy drinking beer.

Vegetable Pot Pie

I got his recipe from  I tweaked it a little, but not much.  It actually tasted very good.  Better than it looked actually.  The crust was a little gummy as I figured it would be.  This is the first pie crust I’ve made.  Anyway the vegetables tasted it great.  They were cooked to the perfect texture and were seasoned well.

Back to the crust for a second.  In the short time I’ve really been trying to work on my home cooking skills I have found baking to be the hardest thing.  I haven’t burned anything in the oven yet, but you don’t have to do that to screw up a pastry.  Timing and temperature have to be so precise in baking that the slightest mistake can screw up a dish.  That makes it not to dissimilar to brewing.  I have learned the same thing through a couple of screwed up home brew batches.

Why this pairing worked

By being an English-style beer Bed of Nails hops are less assertive then the more American-style browns like Duck Rabbit Brown or Lonerider’s Sweet Josie.  The use of the soy sauce with the primarily root vegetables and mushrooms fit perfectly with the less hop forward taste.

In my time trying to find good beer and food pairings I have come to one conclusion, besides the one where pale ales, to some extent, work with almost anything.  This is the conclusion:  Brown ale + umami = awesome.  This word is borrowed from Japanese where it literally translates to, “pleasant savory taste.”  To me it means more than that.

It is the idea of the comfort and home comfort food, Southern food, and “Soul” food represents.   It is the food equivalent of that favorite quilt you have that you always wrap yourself in when you have flu.  For me brown ales tend to accentuate that taste and feeling in foods.

I haven’t posted in a little over a week because of a weird cold that never turned into an actual cold, but wouldn’t go away and a bout of insomnia caused by the cold that then made the cold feel worse, but I’m back now.


Roy Keane blames Sir Alex for Manchester United’s depth; Fair or hot air?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2014 by cueball


The soccer feels ready to pounce on David Moyes at any point, a perfect storm of Manchester United critics feeling their time has arrived and Sir Alex Ferguson supporters finding new ways to laud the former Red Devils mastermind (“Look what he did with nothing!”).

Nevermind that the club Moyes took over is lacking in depth, and that the manager’s been largely without two of the better players in the world in Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Rarely shy in any way, leave it to Roy Keane to point out that Fergie may have played a role in this “mess” of Manchester, with the Red Devils in seventh place ahead of today’s tilt with Arsenal.

Keane told

“I think Man United need five or six players. If it happens in the summer then instead of being fearful of it, embrace it – it’s exciting.

“They’ve kind of cut…

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A post full of a lot of nothing. Not quite mailing it in, but close.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2014 by cueball

This is one of those days that thing I tried to write for the blog actually got written.  Then I thought about it and then I read it and I came to the conclusion that it was crap.  Not that I don’t believe in the subject matter, but that I may have overstated my thesis and in retrospect I detest my own approach to it.

What I was trying to write about is how many of the cultural elites in today’s Internet/Twitter age speak to each other and to us in an echo chamber.  They not only all seem to live in the same metropolitan areas (the DC to Boston corridor or Los Angeles) they also all talk to each other and to us via Twitter and blog posts.  Name a controversial/popular subject and within two days of each other at least five separate writers will post slightly similar takes on the subject with each seemingly building on something the previous posts said.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know what those things say because I read them.  I read most of them.  However, there are moments when I’m reading something and it dawns on me that this writer and I, despite agreeing on many things, see the world in totally different ways.  That is not a problem.  The problem is that the next four articles I read on the same subject make me think the same thing.  Why is that?

I don’t know.  How about that?  I’ve been trying to write this thing for five hours over two days and all I can say is that, I don’t know.  (Imagine that.  A blog post that doesn’t come to a definite conclusion.)

I cannot be education.  I have a similar education to most of the writers I read.  Is it the things that we like?  Possibly.  The depth of knowledge of one subject is the coin of the realm for pop culture geeks.  It creates a myopia that could color how you think or what you write.  Again though, I think the same way so that doesn’t really hold water as to why I sometimes feel out of touch with the premise of the articles.  Could it be geography both physical and through social media?  Again, I don’t know.  I think the echo chamber of the Internet/blogs/Twitter maybe the biggest contributing factor, but again I am a participant in that echo chamber.  Why do I still see things completely different?

So what am I getting at?  Nothing really.  This was a tale told by an idiot, full of (some) sound and (very little) fury, signifying nothing.

It Started With Odds and Ends and Stopped with Alan Watts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 20, 2014 by cueball

I haven’t posted in a few days.  Not because I haven’t had thoughts and threads of ideas.  I have.  I always do, but nothing coalesced into a single piece.  My work schedule didn’t allow me to do much writing in that regard.  So here are some of strands, observations, and ideas I’ve had over the last few days.

I’ve been reading two books.  The first is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  It is part of my year of going back to classics.  This is the first on the docket.  I will also read Ulysses, continue my exploration of Faulkner and Hemingway, and drop a little Conrad and Camus into the mix this year.  However, after finishing Invisible Man I’ll probably read the Barry Hannah short story collection Long, Last, Happy to keep my Southern dirty realism run going.

The one thing had forgotten was how much I disliked the narrator.  Dislike is probably the wrong word.  I had forgotten how unreliable and naïve bordering on stupid the narrator is.  I cannot help but wonder why Ellison created this character in this way.  Maybe it was to make the character and the book less threatening and polemic then say Richard Wright.   I have to think it about more.

The other book I am reading is Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity.  It is a wonderful and funny introduction into Eastern philosophy.  What has struck me most about it is Watts’ continuous discussion of how symbols begin to obscure what they are supposed to symbolize.  (This is where I could drop some Derrida and talk about deconstruction, but nobody wants that, least of all me.)  For example, money has come to be happiness for many people when in fact money is only a symbol of happiness for those people.  Money represents the ability to purchase more symbols of happiness which in the end do not actually provide happiness.

Even before reading Watts I have been thinking about how celebrities and other famous people have come to be symbols either out of circumstance or worse by choice.  They are not human they are these famous objects that we can talk about with impunity.  We talk about these human beings as these things (athlete, movie star, reality star, professional celebrity) because they have ceased to be human in our eyes and are only symbols.  While I believe treating people this way (even if they have asked for it) demeans us as a public, it must be hell to live your life as a thing and not a person.  Watts would say, the people who have chosen to live life like this in pursuit of the happiness they believe fame and money will provide them is illusory because there will never be enough fame or money to give them actual happiness which come to us internally.

I had other thoughts on college sports, Richard Sherman and, Sherlock, but those things have been talked, tweeted, and blogged about  to death this morning.  To go back to Watts for second, the endorphin rush from getting a lot of page clicks, follows, and retweets is not a good substitute for happiness, so adieu.

Finding Happiness By Going Goalless

Posted in life, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by cueball

This is the time of the year when health clubs expand their membership, all the vegetables at the grocery store fly off the shelf, and people buy actual books.  It is resolution time.  People make resolutions to exercise more, eat better, and read.  Only 8 percent of the people who make resolutions manage to keep them, but people continue to try because they know they should and they at some level do want a better life.

So why isn’t that the resolution?  Why don’t people just say, “This year I will live the life I want to and/or should live.”  We all want to improve ourselves, but are we going about it the right way?  Are we going about it in a way that actually improves our lives and makes us happy?

Besides the hobby of improvement we also like lists and goals.  We like goals with achievable and measurable outcomes.  I did the same thing.  I would create a goal, set my objectives, define the outputs to use to achieve the objectives, give myself a time period to achieve these objectives, and create measurable outcomes to show my success.

If that sounds overly methodical, it is.  I was a grant writer for many years and in crafting grant proposals one of the main things the grantor wants to know is what are you going to use the money and how will you measure if you are successful.  That is where SMART comes to play.  Your objectives must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

The problem was they became things I simply wanted to achieve or do.  They were points on a checklist and as such they lost meaning to me.  They were always things I really wanted and if achieved should have given me some sense of happiness, but by making them tasks I became fixated on getting the things done and not enjoying doing them.

Essentially, the tasks became too myriad and too big to easily achieve and it became so much about completing them that I would abandon them.  So this year I will simplify it.  These are things that align more with the life I want to live and believe will make my life happier.  I’m trying not to set goals.  I am trying to change the fundamental nature of how I live.

In no particular order, here are the four things I will do this year:

I want my life to be about beer and literature.  Will I do things over the course of the year that could be seen as tasks to facilitate these four things?  Yes, I will probably seek to be published.  I did write a book last year and I may edit or rewrite it or I may write a whole other book.  I may try to find another job that will give me time and access to the things that will make achieving those four things possible and easier.  Giving up the idea of goals is not about giving up the idea of achieving the things you want on in life.  It is about achieving them while keeping yourself happy.

If I do the four things I listed, I believe I’ll be happier in general.  So, if I were to say there is a goal for this year, it would be mindful of everything I do, be present in each moment, and try to do the thing that is right for me and those around me at all times.  Be Mindful, Be Present, Be Happy.

Christmas Eve Odds, Ends, and Incomplete Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 24, 2013 by cueball

Besides providing a connection to the larger world and insight into the human condition, art is an attempt to capture moments in time.  Whether it is a painting, sculpture, photograph or a short story, novel, song, or play they all seek to find the moment of transcendence.

As a piece of the cultural and artistic puzzle, a review should do the same thing.  The reviewer should communicate his feelings at the moment he understood whether and why he did or did not like the thing he was reviewing.

I have read many reviews of books, movies, television shows, albums, beer, wine, restaurants, etc. that have been too concerned with verbal gymnastics to clearly state whether they like this thing they reviewed and whether it is worth the reader’s time to check it out.

Reviewing has to find a way to tell you the what and the why in an entertaining and educated way without sounding pretentious and grating.  Most importantly it has to convey the joy, disgust, or boredom the reviewer experienced.


Outside of seeking the basics for survival almost everything a human does is an attempt to bridge the gap between himself and his knowledge of others.  One of the truest things in life is that no one really knows anyone else.  We may have great insight into those who are closest to us, but we can never truly know them.  We usually only catch glimpses of their true selves at most.

So all the art, all the fiction, all the sports, all the culture we create is an attempt to learn as much as we can about others and our surrounding world.  What we inevitably learn is that we are simultaneously very similar and very different.

At base, we are all human and we all have the same basic needs and wants.  All of our societies seek the same stability and safety.  The differences and the reasons for those differences is where it gets interesting.  Those differences are shaped by when and where you grow up.  Essentially, people are the same everywhere except for how they are different.

If you doubt that, watch Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.  He is basically being paid to travel around the world, eat, and talk to people about their city and country.  It is fascinating and you can see the differences, but in those differences you can also see the similarities.


I will hopefully, finally get the first of the IPA beer reviews up today.  I have been having a time making it interesting.  I might write tomorrow.  Of course I’m going to write tomorrow.  I have nothing else to do for most of the morning.

pic of the week 12/16 – 12/22

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23, 2013 by cueball