Elysian Brewing’s 5th Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival

October 12th, 2009 by Adrian

We’ve been to a few beer festivals in our time, but this one was right up Jenny’s alley: Elysian Brewing hosted a weekend blowout tasting, for pumpkin beers only!  Almost 30 different Pumpkin beers were on tap, with about half of those coming from Elysian’s own kegs.

Our first visit was foiled when we showed up at the downtown location on Saturday only to learn that the festival was a Capitol Hill exclusive.  So we tried again on Sunday, and our persistence paid off.  Although a few of the beers were sold out, there was plenty of sunshine on tap, and that made everything ten times more fun.  (In fact, when the sun finally dipped behind the neighboring condos, our high spirits started to go with it.  We high-tailed it out of there within 10-15 minutes.)

Detailed tasting notes follow for nine or ten beers. (Since we were having such a good time just chatting and drinking, we forgot to write anything down for a few of ’em!)

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When it Comes to Superheroes, Size Matters

January 5th, 2009 by Adrian

This Christmas I was reminded once again of just how great it is to be living in a world where so much content can fit into such a tiny package.  My first glimpse of how awesome the world of digital media was going to be came when I got my first MP3 player with a hard drive.  Sure, I jumped on board the Diamond Rio bandwagon back in ’98, but it didn’t offer any great quality of life improvements over a CD player.  32 Mb fit about 8 songs — not even a full CD’s worth of music. So when I packed for a two-week trip through Turkey that Fall, bringing along a great soundtrack still meant toting a CD wallet that probably weighed about 15 pounds.

Fast forward into Y2K, and I could fit all those CD’s and more on my Nomad.  I was in love with that thing, and took it everywhere… until it got stolen on a roadtrip in Vancouver.  I almost pitied the thieves trying to figure out how to get the damn CD out.  Almost.  

Still, once you’ve gone digital like that, you’ll never go back.

And now it’s 2009. Everyone and his little sister has a 40 gB iPod and can download 99¢ tracks a la carte.  We can rip a hundred DVD’s to our hard drives, or stream feature films down to our XBox 360’s.  What could possibly make a dent in my blase shell of digital complacency?  Am I jumping on the Kindle bandwagon?

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Sympathy for the Devil

December 24th, 2008 by Adrian

Rumor has it that Keanu Reeves is pulling together a crew for a (presumably live action) film based on the “Cowboy Bebop” anime series.  I don’t know which is worse: the idea of seeing the meandering, episodic storyline of the cartoon compressed into a neat 2 hour package, or the prospect of Spike Spiegel portrayed by the stoic & deadpan stylings of Mr. Reeves.  Oh, wait, yes I do.




Speaking of Keanu Reeves, here’s a fun and slightly annoying game to play the next time you run out of gossip on a long car ride.  It’s called the “Johnny Mnemonic Game,” and it goes like this:

Person A:  “Hey, what’s that movie, it stars Keanu Reeves I think, about a guy who gets computer chip planted in his head?  But it gives him some deadly disease that makes his lymph nodes puff out like grapefruits?”

Person B:  “Oh, you mean Johnny Bubonic?”

Person A:  “Yeah, that’s it.”

Person B:  “I saw that one.  But what’s the other movie with Keanu Reeves, where he gets a computer chip planted in his head that short-circuits or something, and his muscles all lock up and he goes into a stupor?”

Person A:  “Uh… you mean… Johnny Catatonic?”

Person B:  “Right, right.”

Person A:  “Sure, that was OK.  But I really like the movie with Keanu Reeves where he gets the computer chip planted in his head that helps him read by sounding out words!  What was that called?”

Person B:  “I dunno… wait, I got it: Johnny Hooked-on-Phonics!”


…and so it goes.  

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What happens in Queen Anne, stays in Vegas

December 16th, 2008 by Adrian

I’ve been doing a lot of shopping online this Christmas season (big surprise, right?)  Up through last weekend there was a constant game of delivery chicken to be played… weighing the chance that everything would get here in time for Xmas by ground against the cost to ship it by airm.  And it was when I started looking closely at the shipping estimates that I realized: I now live in Las Vegas.  At least, according to Google maps.

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Washington 2008 Winter Beer Fest

December 7th, 2008 by Adrian

As much as I love hoppy IPA’s, a big rich stout or full-bodied porter is the perfect beer for a nippy Winter day.  So far the weather out here in Seattle has been pretty mild, but it’s still a good excuse to tuck into the seasonal brews.  And what better place to do it than the 4th Annual Washington Winter Beer Fest

The biggest surprise of the festival was Snipes Mountain Brewery.  Neither of us had heard of it before the festival, which isn’t surprising since they’re located East of the Cascades in Sunnyside, and don’t have great distribution out here in Western Washington. But we voted their Cask Pumpkin Death as Best of Show.  (Despite the name, there’s not much “pumpkin” about it; it’s just a fantastic, chewy Imperial Stout.)

All together we  put away 17 different tasters, and passed favorable judgement on most of them.   Individual notes are listed below the jump…

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When Collaborative Filtering Attacks

November 30th, 2008 by Adrian

I got this product recommendation from Amazon the other day:


Wait a sec… are all the D&D geeks who are playing World of Warcraft, LOTR, Guild Wars, and Neverwinter Nights really flocking to pre-order a game about pampering their pets?  (Excuse me, their virtual pets?)   Somehow I doubt it.

I’m used to Amazon sending me product recommendations that are a little off-kilter, including suggestions for items I’ve already bought from them.  But this is like Netflix suggesting “Beethoven” based on my interest in “28 Days” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”  

Epic fail. 

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Fallout 3 — The Review

November 24th, 2008 by Adrian

Well it’s been almost a month since I cracked open Fallout 3.  And with over 60 hours under my belt, I may not have seen everything the game has to offer, but I’ve seen enough to pass judgment.  And my judgment is: pretty damn good.  8 out of 10.  I can’t agree with Eurogamer, which raves that Fallout is “a game of life-affirming brilliance that will be heralded as a classic, and talked about for years to come.”  But I can definitely back GameSpy’s more reserved recommendation: “Fallout 3 is a must-have title for most RPG fans.” 


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Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout

November 23rd, 2008 by Adrian

Jenny and I swung by Full Throttle Bottles the other day on the way back from Ikea.  With all the Christmas beers out right now, it’s easier than usual to find a nice rich ale at the local markets, but there are still some things that don’t get stocked outside a specialty store.  Great Divide’s Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout is one of them.

When I first tasted the Yeti on tap at Brouwer’s, it immediately vaulted into a cozy spot near the top of my all-time favorite beer list.  It was still remarkable even when compared to all the competition at the Seattle Beer Festival this past summer.  At $10 for a 22-oz bottle, it’s a bit expensive, but worth the occasional indulgence.The most memorable thing about this beer for me is the mouth feel… it’s very smooth and creamy, heavy and thick — almost (but not quite!) syrupy.  Very pleasant.

The taste is strong, a mix of dark chocolate and whiskey notes from a very noticeabley roasted set of malts. It’s a pretty complex flavor, and almost overpowering in its sheer presence.  This beer pretty much screams “craft brew,” as the flavor profile is not even close to anything else you’ve tasted in the last week, but it doesn’t feel like a novelty act at all.

The intensity of the roasted, smokey flavor together with the warm whiskey notes makes this a beer to nurse slowly.  If you’ve got some lightly salted (not roasted!) nuts nearby, they’ll help cut the flavor between sips and keep it from drowning you.  Jenny and I didn’t have any nuts, so we made do with a bag of popcorn.  No complaints!

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The Sixteen Pleasures

November 12th, 2008 by Adrian

The department of fifteen-second book reviews was granted a temporary reprieve extending their alloted time slot to well over a full minute. Here’s what they came up with:

As The Sixteen Pleasures opens, Margot Harrington is sharing a train compartment with a pair of American divorcees.  She’s headed for Italy to assist in a massive restoration effort; they’ve embarked on a European vacation to gather “material” in support of their literary aspirations.  We’re treated to a glimpse of their creative process in action:

“Did you get the man with the pipe?”
“Got him.”
“The sheep?”
“What sheep?  I didn’t see any sheep.”
“Hah!  How about the announcement on the PA system?  Did you get that?”
“Pardonnay something-or-other, that’s all I got.  How about you?” 

The conversation then shifts to reflect on their workshop instructor’s sexual appetite (they’ve both appeared on the menu), and eventually they share the prosaic yet deeply personal childhood memories around which they hope to craft meaningful stories.   We’re invited to smile condescendingly at the bourgeois naïveté that leads them to mistake accuracy for truth, knowing that their earnest attention to detail will not by itself imbue the mundane with a sense of artistic profundity.

Unfortunately, the author doesn’t seem to have taken his own object lesson to heart.  The Sixteen Pleasures is a light coming-of-age of story in which the 29-year old narrator rediscovers and redefines herself through her adventures abroad.  It’s Fear of Flying, but filtered through the soft-focus lens of Eat, Pray, Love.  Interesting and detailed nuggets of information pop up almost every other page:  methods of manual book-binding, the chemistry of 15th century frescoes, and foibles of marital politics in modern Italy are all stitched together to provide a lovely backdrop for the narrator’s journey of self-discovery.

As pleasant as this backdrop is, there’s very little to care about in the foreground. Margot falls in love, suffers heartbreak, heals, achieves a professional success and makes peace with her past…  none of which is particularly dramatic.  Margot is borne through these events by a gentle, twisting current of narrative.  We bob along with her, observing everything that happens with an idle curiosity, but never any sense of tension or concern.   In the end, the ride is unremarkable.

If Margot were real, it’s easy to see how this story would be a compelling one, for her – it’s her life, after all.  But the author’s challenge is to craft a story that feels both true and immediately meaningful for us.  Like the ladies on the train, Hellenga succeeds in faithfully imparting what happens without convincing us that we should really concern ourselves with why it happens at all.

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Fallout 3

October 31st, 2008 by Adrian

Way back in 1996 Bethesda Softworks released a MS-DOS role-playing game called Daggerfall.  Daggerfall revolutionized the CRPG genre,  introducing an unprecedented amount of flexibility and open-ended content into a space that was dominated at the time by a host of D&D clones – some terrific, most not.  Its sequels (Morrowind  and Oblivion) have continued to build on that legacy with ever-more-beautiful artwork and visuals, and both games have been instant favorites of mine.

So ever since I heard that Bethesda acquired the license for Fallout, I’ve been looking forward to playing Fallout 3.  Fallout has its own distinguished history, and infusing some fresh creative blood (as well as a lot of cash) into the franchise sounded like a great idea.  (Though certainly not one without its detractors; handing off the torch for a cult favorite is a tricky business.  For every Battlestar: Galactica success story there’s at least one clunker like The Wiz out there.)

I’ve been so psyched for this game that I even ponied up the extra $20 for the Collector’s Edition.  Those who know what a frugal shopper I am will now go back and re-read that sentence… yes, that’s $20 above than the regular $50 retail price, for a single video game.  Was it worth it?  Well since the game just arrived a couple of hours ago, I haven’t actually played it yet.  But here are some shots of the very cool packaging to look at while you breathlessly await my expert critique.  (I think the lunchbox is worth at least $15 on its own, don’t you?)

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About Sips from the Can

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