Friday, April 11, 2014

IPA Taste Tourney April 2014

The IPA taste Tourney Returns. The brews have changed but the rules remain the same:

The beer tasting crtieria will be easy. Whichever I find tastes best. Whichever I feel like I could keep drinking. Whichever is most enjoyable. Extra points go to the IPA with a big improvement in overall taste from bottle to glass.

This is the most expensive IPA Taste Tourney yet. All beers came in a four-pack and an exorbitant price. I'm overpriced and under beered in this tourney. Every sip is important.

The seeds for this tourney are completely random. I also haven't tasted all these beers. For some I will be going into the taste test blind.

Without further ado and before I fill my special IPA glass let's introduce the beers for this challenge.

1 - Dogfish Head Sixty-One

I have had this beer before and think it is great. Excellent. It's not as hoppy or powerful as other IPAs from Dogfish Head and the other challengers. It makes up for that lack of power with terrific taste and suitable drinkability. I am actually interested in how it fares.

2 - Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

One of three Double IPAs  in this tourney. Yay me for drinking them. I haven't yet had this one from Great Divide. If you remember back to the last taste Tourney Great Divide Titan IPA made it to the seecond round before succumbing to the eventual winner Racer X.  Lets see if Hercules can move worlds better than Titan. 

3- Ass Kisser Double IPA

 I have never had any beer from Ass Kisser. Another Double IPA. Interested and excited to get going on this one. 

4 - Breckenridge Small Batch 471 Double IPA

This is another great beer I have tried before. Not to be biased but this is my favorite going into this tourney. A fantastic beer to drink. Enjoyable in every way. 

5 - Stone Ruination IPA

I haven't had this beer in a long while. Looking forward to popping it open again and trying it inthe IPA glass. Stone IPA was in a previous tourney and never made it out of the first round facing tough competition from Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

6 - Brewery Ommegang Hop House Pale Ale

OK, this isn't actually an IPA. One of my favorite beers is Three Philosophers by Brewery Ommegang. I wanted to see how they worked with a more hoppy ale rather than the traditional Belgian style beers they excel in creating. 

7 - Fegley's Brew Works Hop'solutely Triple IPA


Well, well, well. A triple. Yes, a triple. I have not before drank a beer by this brewery or do I think I have ever tried a triple IPA before. 11.5%. Interesting. Let's see how it does. 

8 -  Big Eddy Imperial IPA

Haven't had this one before either. Big Eddy seems to be a craft brewery by Leinenkugel or as by Jacob Leinenkugel Brewery as indicated on the label.  Fancy that it is imperial. Ooh la la. 

Results to be posted as soon as I can crack open the bottles, pour into the glass, and drink them down. The only reason I can think of to cause delay is if I need seconds and thirds just to make sure.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

This post presents the second paper I wrote for the American Film Genres class I took years ago. The first paper - Sympathy for the Monster - and more info about this class can be found here.

I remember enjoying writing this paper. I think The Wild Bunch is a tremendous, groundbreaking film and I was hay to see it on the agenda even though I had watched it many times previously. It was a contrast to other westerns we studied in class, notable High Noon and Shane. In reading this over now, I feel I may have been a bit too derivative in describing the laughter in chronological order from the film, although presenting it this way did fit into my overarching theme.

A comment my professor made about this paper is one I wish I made myself somewhere. She noted that nowhere did I point out how mirthless all the laughter between the Bunch was. It's a point that seems obvious to me after she said it aloud. I am disappointed that I was not astute enough to include it this paper. Oh well.

Laughter in The Wild Bunch 
Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. – Victor Hugo

In The Wild Bunch laughter exhibits a joining or rejoining of the group, a way of acknowledging certain truths about life, and a moving on with life. It is because of the brutal nature of the Wild Bunch’s lives that laughter is used as an intermission between events in their lives. At first glance the laughter by the characters may seem inappropriate due to the excessive violence in the film. But we will see that, more than a simple coping mechanism, laughter is both a closing door on the recent past and a springboard to the next event. This paper will examine the role of laughter in The Wild Bunch and how this may differ from the traditional conventions of the western genre.

In the opening scene, laughter by children precedes a robbery attempt turned ambush. This laughter brings the audience into the first event. The Wild Bunch, stern-looking and stoic, pass by the children who are laughing while observing a fight between red ants and scorpions in a dirt pit. The camera stays on the children even after the Wild Bunch pass them. We see most children smiling or giggling, checking to make sure that others laugh along with them. One child laughs as he prods the ants and scorpions with a stick. Two children are stone-faced and catch the eyes of other children but laughter is more contagious. The film comes back to the children as the Wild Bunch leave town bloodied from the ambush. The children continue laughing as they drop burning twigs on the pit ending the insect fight once and for all. While what just occurred in town is no laughing matter for the Wild Bunch, the children, distanced from both the battle between the ants and scorpions which they facilitated, and from the shoot-out which they did not witness, continue to laugh as the Bunch ride on past.

The children’s laughter and their actions with the ants and scorpions are different than what is seen of children in other western genre films. In films such as The Searchers and Shane children are looked on upon by the traditional western hero as representations of civilization worth protecting.   The Bunch notice the children but don’t pay any particular attention to them; some even seem to be taken aback by the enthusiasm surrounding the ant and scorpion battle. While the children, ending the battle with the burning twigs and dispersing, can be seen as analogous to the shoot-out that just occurred in Starbuck, it is by no means looked upon as worthy of protection or symbolic of civilization.
The Wild Bunch’s first group laugh comes only after the realization of what an utter failure the robbery attempt was: they were ambushed, lost several men, and the sacks of coin they pilfered turned out to be metal washers. Old Sykes, who was not part of the failed robbery, so he is already distanced from it, begins smiling and laughing at the sight of the washers. Tension has already risen among the Bunch because the Gorch brothers, Tector and Lyle, wanted to get more pay than Angel or Sykes. Sykes, whose demeanor is that of the caricature of the demented 49er dancing and exclaiming, “There’s gold in dem dere mountains”, continues to laugh. The group only begins to laugh after talk turns to the Gorch brothers whoring while Pike was planning the robbery. The laughter starts as Dutch says, “And Pike was dreamin' of washers... you were matching whores... in tandem!” Not only does this change the subject from the botched robbery and payment issues, it allows the Gorch brothers to rejoin the Wild Bunch. The laughter begins as the truth of the situation unfolds. As in Aesop’s fable, Pike was like the ant, setting up and planning everything, while the Gorch brothers were like the grasshopper, out playing and whoring. The shared laughter acts as forgiveness of past transgressions and allows the Bunch to move forward. Now that they are back as a Bunch they can all distance themselves from the violent episode that just occurred.

Further use of laughter as a result of revealed truth can be seen as the Bunch recover from the ambush in Angel’s village in Mexico. While most of the Bunch are busy enjoying themselves, Don Jose, the village elder and leader, tells Pike, “We all dream of being a child. Even the worst of us.” Laughter ensues as Don Jose indicates he knows the truth about the Bunch. Once again laughter occurs after a truth is revealed. Along with this laughter is acceptance from the village as the Bunch enjoy a festive night. The night in the village will also be their last before they venture into Agua Verde and the next event.

Laughter is used not only to signify a joining or rejoining of the group but to show acceptance within that group. This can be seen after the Bunch steal munitions off the military train and escape Thornton’s posse by blowing up the bridge. After Sykes stops any revelry after the get-away by mentioning that Thornton will be back, a whiskey bottle is passed around. The whiskey bottle makes its way through the members of the Bunch while Lyle looks on longingly. At one point Lyle is like the monkey-in-the-middle reaching for the bottle as Sykes throws it to Angel. Angel finishes off the bottle dumping what dregs remain on the ground in front of Lyle and then drops the empty bottle into Lyle’s arms. Lyle drops the bottle to the ground and walks away while the rest have a good laugh. Just as with the first group laugh scene after the failed robbery, this acts as a way for the Bunch to distance themselves from what just happened and begin to move forward to the next event. It just happens to be at Lyle’s expense that the group laughter occurs. This happens to Lyle once again after the Mexican revolutionaries come into the Bunch’s camp to collect their rifles. Tector says to his brother, “Now you listen to me, Lyle. You get up and help once in a while, I wouldn'a got caught near s'easy.” This again causes laughter from everyone after a particularly tense moment. It is also a moment where the Bunch begin to move forward to the next event and go deal with Mapache.

This action of laughter to indicate a completion of an event begins to manifest itself after Mapache is gunned down in the showdown at Agua Verde. After Mapache slits Angel’s throat and is killed, Dutch and Tector smile and laugh. Then Pike shoots the German officer causing the explosion of violence. Pike realized that just killing Mapache was not an end. Angel was dead and Mapache’s army had them surrounded.  This was not something that the Bunch would be able to distance themselves from and move forward. Laughter could not be used as an intermission as seen earlier. Although Mapache was dead, the showdown - this event - had to continue. 

The film also shows truncated scenes of laughter in areas where some truths are too hard to face and laughing is made more difficult due to a rejection of that truth. In talking about Mapache, Dutch describes him as “just another bandit grabbing all he can.” Pike responds laughing, “Like some others I can mention.” Dutch takes umbrage to this, stopping the laughter and stating emphatically that the Bunch “don’t hang nobody.” Although Pike was willing to laugh at some similarities between them, Dutch was rejecting it as a whole truth. 

Rejection of the truth is also seen in all of Thornton’s scenes with his posse. This occurs as Coffer explains what is found in Mexico: “Mexicans, what else?” and also when Coffer yells “Bang!” and acts as if to draw on Thornton, while joking around with T.C. Never once does Thornton even crack a smile and his steely gaze stops the cackling of his men immediately. Thornton is rejecting the truth of his situation – chasing the Bunch rather than being part of them - and not capable of using laughter as an intermission between events. Only when Thornton hears gunshots off in the distance indicating the posse has been killed after the massacre at Agua Verde does he crack a smile. Thornton does not laugh until after Sykes asks him to join the Mexican revolutionaries.  Sykes expounds truth in saying, “You want to come with us? It ain't like it used to be; but it'll do.” Thornton’s laughter closes the door on his posse-leading Bunch-chasing recent past.  Laughter is used by Sykes to welcome Thornton into the new Bunch. Echoes of laughter from all the main members of the Bunch are used to show acceptance of Thornton, as he joins Sykes, in the final scene of the film.

The scenes of laughter in The Wild Bunch are not during any light or comic relief scenes. They occur before or soon after highly tense, violent scenes in the film, particularly the Starbuck robbery and the Agua Verde massacre. This may explain how the laughter can be seen as inappropriate, uncomfortable, or annoying, as expressed during class discussions. The need of the Wild Bunch to laugh is not the same as the viewer’s need to laugh. The laughter of the characters is for themselves and not the viewer. Although there are a couple of scenes that elicit a chuckle, as when the Temperance Union attempts to repeat the alcohol abstinence vow of the preacher only to murmur some of the words back, and when Mapache, after shooting up Agua Verde with his new machine gun, exhorts his men to “put in on a tripod!”, the film does not use comic relief in order to allow the viewer some breathing room from one scene to the next.  Although the characters have their intermission between scenes by laughing, the viewer is pulled along without being made to laugh by the film. This is in stark contrast to a film such as The Searchers where interaction between Laurie and Martin and most scenes in the Jorgensen’s house are light in nature if not overtly comic. While it can be argued that these comic scenes are out of place in The Searchers it does allow the viewer a respite from the unfolding drama of the film. No such respite is provided in The Wild Bunch, even though characters such as Coffer and T.C. come close.  Scenes of bickering from Thornton’s bumbling posse over booty from dead bodies never reach the point of comic relief based upon the circumstances surrounding its occurrence.

The scenes of laughter may also seem out of place due to the western setting of the film. The members of the Wild Bunch lack the traditional qualities and ideals associated with the tropes of the western genre. Not only are the Wild Bunch outlaws and killers but they have the temerity to laugh after terrible events unfold. Western heroes are normally not seen laughing especially when gunplay is involved. Laughing is reserved for the likes of the grinning, black attired, gunfighter Wilson in Shane. Will Kane from High Noon and Shane take their duties as protectors too seriously to laugh. Ethan in The Searchers may laugh after uttering “That’ll be the day” but it is always a derisive laugh.  These heroes, unlike the Wild Bunch, never get to have an intermission between events; their idealized role as protectors is continuous.

This juxtaposition of the Wild Bunch committing violent acts and laughing afterward as they regroup is what allows the Bunch to continue to the next event and continue to function. The Bunch existed before the laughter of the children in the opening scene and Sykes and Thornton will continue on after the departed Bunch’s laughter in the closing scene.  In this way, although the film is contained between these scenes, the audience is invited to keep thoughts about these characters open. Even after the film ends there is no intermission granted to the viewer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sympathy for the Monster

Oh, around 8 years, while I was seriously deliberating on whether to attend grad school, I enrolled in a Continuing Ed course to see if I would like being back in the classroom. I decided to take a course offered in the English Lit dept called "American Film Genres". The course consisted of a film list. The students needed to watch two films a week and then during each class that week we would discuss the films and breakdown the themes and tropes, as if we were dissecting a book. As the course title indicates it was all American film and the genres were comedy, horror, western, noir, science fiction, war, etc. Lots of good movies watched. Some I havd never seen before, some I watched for a second or third time just for the class. The grading was based upon two papers and a final exam.

The professor was excellent. She was brilliant and insightful and excited about film. I learned a lot and she taught me even more about writing as she reviewed my submitted papers with me and offered all sorts of helpful tips on critical writing. It was a wonderful experience and I subsequently went to grad school for Public Health and never took a class on film again.

I was thinking about this experience since The Walking Dead just started up again and a remake of Carrie recently hit the theatres. Carrie was one of the films as part of the horror genre. One of the paper subjects that could be chosen dealt with Carrie as a sympathetic "monster" and I think asked to use Carrie and another film monster a subjects. I used zombies. I love zombie movies, specifically George Romero zombie movies. Probably my favorite monster genre, although huge creatures stomping cities can give it a run for its money depending upon my mood.

Presented below is my paper, unedited, as submitted; before my professor reviewed it with me. I thought of including her copious notes and suggestions but that would require me to dig up the hard copy and take away from the rawness of the original. One comment my professor did make to me was to wonder why I just didn't ask her to drop Carrie and just focus on the Romero zombie movies (of which there were 4 at the time of this writing). Without further ado, here are my thoughts on Carrie and zombies as sympathetic "monsters".

One final item before that: my second paper for the class had to do with The Wild Bunch, as great a western film as the Romero "Dead" series are zombie movies. 

Sympathetic Identification With Horror Film “Monsters”

In horror films a clear divide usually exists between the “monster”, the victims, and the hero, where the audience identifies with the hero.   Occasionally, this divide is blurred, and the “monster” exhibits identifiable traits. The films Carrie (1976) and the George Romero directed “Dead” series [Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005)] all invite the viewer to identify with their respective “monster”. In these films, identification with the “monster” is achieved by evoking the viewer’s sympathy.

Although identifiable characteristics within the zombies can be found in any of the “Dead” films, the entire series will be discussed.  One of the conceits of the “Dead” series is the zombies’ continual evolution from one film to the next.  The identification process for the zombies takes a bit of maturation because from the first sighting in Night of the Living Dead zombies can be viewed as the “monster” and therefore need to overcome that stigma. Conversely, Carrie White is first viewed as an unfairly mistreated high school student and the qualities that may make her viewed as a “monster” come to light later.

As a result, the identifiable traits become apparent to the viewer at different times. Carrie becomes “monstrous” during the climax of the film, while in each subsequent “Dead” film the zombies become more human-like. The viewer, then, is invited to have sympathy for the “monster” in different ways.  Examples of identifiable traits that can evoke sympathy are the “monster’s” familiarity, innocence, and victimization. 

Familiarity with the “monster” is put into motion using “normal” settings.  Carrie is set at an All-American high school with recognizable characters. The viewer can appreciate the trials and tribulations a high school student such as Carrie must endure.   Most viewers can relate to the desperate feeling of not being recognized as when Carrie’s principal continues to call her by the wrong name. Carrie’s sentiment that “All the kids think I am funny” is another way of involving the audiences own memory of times they have felt different. But, while different, Carrie neither looks nor acts like a “monster” for most of the film.

Familiar settings also exist in the “Dead” series, notably in Dawn of the Dead, which takes place mostly in a shopping mall. While the zombies, being recently dead, differ physically from humans - purplish skin, rotting flesh, evidence of death - familiarity still exists because of their past humanness.  As the films progress, an abundance of zombies betray their past lives by their clothes, accessories, and actions. In Night zombies that were buried in their Sunday best to others wandering around in their underwear are seen. Dawn begins to show an ethnic diversity of zombies, reflecting the world in which we live, that will continue through Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead.  Everyday recognizable outfits worn by the zombies throughout the films include a little boy in his Little League baseball uniform, doctor, softball player, cheerleader, butcher, clown, construction worker, a woman still clutching to her purse, and various blue-collar work uniforms.

As the films move forward, the actions of the zombies become more familiar.  One technique used to enhance this is a focus on an individual zombie rather than a mass volume of undead. Day, mostly taking place within a military bunker, limits the actual number of zombies on screen.  Bub the Zombie is seen responding to music, attempting to use a razor blade and read a book, saluting Capt. Rhodes and shooting a gun.  This coincides with Sarah expressing that the zombies are “…learning, they are actually learning”.  Land expands on familiar actions, bringing to the forefront the zombies’ past humanity.  During a raid for supplies by the surviving humans, a group of zombies, gathered with wind instruments under a gazebo in the town center, fruitlessly try to make music. Big Daddy, a former gas station attendant, now zombie, responds to another zombie inadvertently stepping on the bell line at his gas station, by coming out to pump gas. Big Daddy, so identified by the nametag on his work overalls, becomes the de facto leader of these zombies, uttering growls and cries to which the denizens of the undead seem to respond. Just as in all the films humans are witnessed becoming zombies, the ability of the audience in the last two films to view zombies as individuals emphasizes their former human lives. It portrays zombies relying on what they remember of being human to get by.

Both Carrie and the “Dead” series rely on memory to allow the viewer to identify with the “monster”. The “Dead” series relies on the zombies’ memories to trigger sympathy. What began in Dawn, with the zombies flocking to the shopping mall, and is crowned in Day and Land, is an influx of “human nature” on the part of the zombies (Williams 91). What is described as  “some kind of instinct” to travel to the shopping mall in Dawn, becomes Riley telling the other survivors that the zombies are just “looking for someplace to go…same as us” at the end of Land. This indicates an intersection of desire and memory shared by the living humans and the undead zombies (Williams 91).

Rather than emphasize certain character’s memories, Carrie relies on the audience’s memory of high school and feelings of being ostracized or considered different to identify with Carrie. These high school memories are meant to focus on the “typical” victimization and relative innocence of the outcast.

Carrie is viewed in the opening scene as an outcast by other students, blamed for losing a volleyball game, and then alone in the shower.  Her innocence is displayed as she reacts to having her first period. Even before her telekinetic powers are revealed, Carrie’s na├»ve reaction immediately marks her as different from her peers. (Sobchack 183)  Carrie demonstrates a lost innocence here. Not only does having her period reflect a burgeoning sexuality, but immediately after the bleeding occurs, Miss Collins is trying to help, and the first glimpse of Carrie’s power is shown as a light bulb explodes in the shower.  Carrie’s loss of innocence through natural means and by the taunts of her peers allows Carrie to be identified with even as she begins to show “monstrous” characteristics. The sympathy towards Carrie due to the helplessness she feels allows the viewer to live vicariously through Carrie as she unleashes her telekinetic powers.

Carrie’s innocence, although lost to some extent now, reasserts itself in preparation for and during the prom.  It is this innocence that causes her victimization at the hands of her fellow students. Carrie is seen sewing her own dress and putting on lipstick and make-up, presumably for the first time.  Carrie maintains a child-like glow of wonderment as she enters the prom. Carrie is portrayed as an innocent in a new world until the pig’s blood drowns that illusion. From this additional loss of innocence, sympathy is again aroused. In this respect the viewer is excused from feeling a sort of gratification as Carrie uses her powers to take revenge. This gratification dims as revenge is taken on both friend and foe, although sympathy still exists.

The zombie’s innocence arises partly from the possibility that they exist at all. Although a feeble explanation about radiation is proffered in Night as a reason for the zombies’ sudden appearance, it is never verified.  The zombies attack and eat the flesh of humans for no other reason than they are zombies.   Like a young child writing with crayons on the wall, the zombies conduct themselves in this manner without ever realizing it is aberrant behavior.  In fact, most of the zombie victims killed throughout the films are caused by the “sheer stupidity” of the human characters (Newman 200). The zombies have a perpetual look of otherworldly confusion, look in awe upon the most mundane objects and are portrayed as oafish throughout the series.

This innocence of lacking realization compiled with limited memory and brainpower results in the zombies’ victimization from the humans around them. What begins in Night with the posse excitedly walking through fields exterminating zombies and humans alike culminates in Land as the zombies are used as target practice and in gladiator games. In each subsequent film human behavior towards the zombies grows more barbaric.

Even though zombies become identifiable, unlike Carrie, there is no great gratification in watching a zombie eat live human flesh, other than to appreciate the special effects.  This changes somewhat in Day and Land where “bad” human characters are present along with the focus on individual zombies. Throughout the films certain human character’s behavior, towards zombies and other humans, is abhorrent. This assists identification with the zombies not by having zombies look appealing but by having humans look unappealing.

In Carrie many of the feelings of sympathy and identification come not from Carrie herself but due to the actions of other characters toward her. Issuing vulgarities, throwing feminine hygiene products at her, writing insulting graffiti on the walls, and laughing at her constantly only enhances the sympathetic identification to the character.

In addition to the traits that invite sympathy and identification with the respective “monster” in each of the films, there is also an aspect of “rooting for the underdog” present.  Carrie is viewed as a different yet nice girl, treated horribly by her schoolmates and repressed by her mother. The audience wants Carrie to have some sort of revenge and knows that Carrie possesses unique abilities that can enable revenge.  

Although the zombies become ever more numerous with each passing installment they still never shed their underdog status.  This is partly because as described by George Romero, zombies “are the lower-class citizens of the monster world” (Williams 14).  Also the zombies, as is Carrie, are never portrayed energetically with the evil or negative connotations usually seen in horror film monsters (Wood 114). The zombies are not even made out to be “particularly frightening” or surrounded by an “aura of frightening mystique” (Newman 199-200).

The viewer sympathetically identifies with Carrie and the zombies because exhibiting familiar traits allows them to be seen as unfamiliar as a “monster”. This creates an unbiased initial reaction that resonates with the audience and enhances all other identifiable traits. Ultimately, as remakes, sequels, and spoofs involving “teenage outcast with unique ability” and “oafish undead” themes continue, identification may occur less from evoking sympathy than just the result of saturation.

Works Cited

Newman, Kim. Nightmare Movies. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Limited, 1984
Sobchack, Vivian. “Bringing It All Back Home: Family Economy and Generic Exchange.” American Horrors: Essays on the Modern American Horror Film. Ed. Gregory A Waller. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987. 175-194.
Williams, Tony. The Cinema of George A. Romero: knight of the living dead. London:
Wallflower Press, 2003
Wood, Robin. Hollywood From Vietnam To Reagan. New York: Columbia University
Press, 1986

Thursday, September 19, 2013

IPA taste Tourney II - The Semi-Finals & Finals

IPA Taste Tourney Semi-Finals

 #1 Great Divide Titan IPA vs. #6 Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA   

In the first round Titan bullied its way to a win while Racer 5 finessed it's way to the next round. Now it's the Titan's strength versus a Racer's slickness. Titan is a beer that gets better with every draught. Racer is even-keel throughout and stays calm and collected. The strength of Titan that drove it to the win last round would be it's downfall against a sublime drink like Race 5. Another tough round but Racer 5 is the beer that takes it. Just an enjoyable beer to drink.

#2 Hop Hog IPA vs. #5 Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

Last round I was surprised that Big Eye IPA beat Smuttynose IPA. That may have been a fluke win as Hop Hog rolls over Big Eye this round. Maybe the farthest apart two beers have been in all the tournaments. A hoppy blowout. taste, flavor, strength, drinkability. Hop Hog easily to the the finals. 

 IPA Taste Tourney Finals

#2 Hop Hog IPA vs. #6 Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

The finals. A bittersweet moment. Time to reflect upon all the beer drank before and hope to enjoy those brews yet to come. A repeat of the last IPA taste Tourney Finals with a PA IPA that has "hop" in its name vs. a CA IPA. Two excellent beers. One thing I have noticed throughout this tourney is that Racer 5 doesn't do anything great. It just is an excellent beer that is extremely enjoyable to drink. Hop Hog is like a good wine. You can taste the flavor and hold it for more enjoyment. As good as Hop Hog is, it's just not good enough. Just like last tourney, the California IPA takes it. Racer 5 is the new winner!! I think I'll have one now. 


Monday, September 09, 2013


Round 1is in the books.

Eight great beers competing against one another. I drank them all.

#1 Great Divide Titan IPA vs. #8 Otter Creek Hop Session Ale

Great Divide Brewery Titan IPA is a full bodied brew. From the bottle it tastes much more compact than from the IPA glass. The IPA glass maintains the full body while smoothing over the taste; stretching the flavor, if you will.  Otter Creek Hop Session Ale is smooth but pales in comparison for hoppiness and body. Perhaps the fact that Hop Session Ale is not a true IPA holds it back from being something more. On strength alone Titan IPA moves along to the next round. 

#2 Hop Hog IPA vs. #7 Saranac High Peaks Imperial IPA

This was a well enjoyed round of beer drinking. Both beers flavor and taste was amplified from the bottle to the IPA glass. Not in any real significant way but the IPA glass helps both. Ina subtle way. This was the closest round of this tournament and the previous one. For a quick moment I thought I was snookered and both beers were one and the same. Both had strong flavor and taste. Both had excellent body. Hop Hog stayed heavy on the tongue in a good way. Hop Hog edges it by a slim margin.

#3 Big Daddy IPA vs. #6 Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA 

Another tough one. Really enjoyed both these beers. Once again the IPA glass provides a subtle taste and flavor difference for both of them. Two well rounded good IPA's.  I wish both could move to the next round. This contest came down to what do I enjoy drinking more. The answer to that question is Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA.

#4 Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA vs. #5 Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

I had high hopes for Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA. I have liked all the Smuttynose beers I have tasted in the past. Ballast Point was a newcomer. I just saw them at the beer distributor and decided to give them a try. At first I thought Ballast Point Big Eye IPA was too perfumey, too flowery. That was when I drank it on its own. Those proved to be strong points against Smuttynose. Smuttynose IPA seemed to have gone in for the hops. The flavor and taste seemed to be neglected along the way. Not much balance for Smuttynose. While I love hoppy beers I like to have a well rounded beer.   Ballast Point Big Eye IPA moves on. I'm beginning to think that Big Eye may be the big sleeper of this tourney. 

Updated bracket:

Friday, September 06, 2013

IPA Madness Tourney Returns

Back with 8 new IPA hoppy beers. Same rules apply as in the first tourney: 

The beer tasting crtieria will be easy. Whichever I find tastes best. Whichever I feel like I could keep drinking. Whichever is most enjoyable. Extra points go to the IPA with a big improvement in overall taste from bottle to glass. 

The seeding was done by random number generator.

The new line-up and competition.

#1 Great Divide Titan IPA vs. #8 Otter Creek Hop Session Ale
Colorado brewery vs. Vermont brewery. I enjoy snowboarding in both. I have enjoyed beers from both. Only one can move on. Otter Creek Hop Session is technically listed as "somewhere inbetween a pale ale and an indian pale ale..." but if it's got some variation of hop in its name it's fair game for this tourney. 

#2 Hop Hog IPA vs. #7 Saranac High Peaks Imperial IPA

PA vs. NY. Amish country vs. Adirondacks. Saranac had an entry in the previous tourney - Red IPA. I like Saranac beers so I gave another one a try again. Incidentally, that first round match-up was also against a PA beer, Hop Devil. It's becoming a tradition that Saranac goes up against a Pennsylvania beer with "hop" in its name. 

#3 Big Daddy IPA vs. #6 Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA 

Two well respected California IPA brews. I was disappointed with the random generator that these two had to go up against one another. Them's the breaks, I guess. A California IPA won the first tourney. (belated spoiler alert). This cuts down Cali's chances for # 2 right off the bat. But what can you do? 

 #4 Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA vs. #5 Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

New Englanders vs. Southern Californians. NH vs San Diego. Smuttynose makes lots of good beers. I hadn't yet tried Ballast Point. Just like the days of yore. The tried and true from the east coast against some new fangled concoction from the west coast. 

May the best beer win!

IPA Madness: Final Round!!!!

The final round is here. Eight excellent IPA's. Down to two.

3 - Lagunitas IPA vs.  4 - Victory Hop Devil

In the semi-finals the bitter hoppiness of Victory Hop Devil and the fruity pineapple flavor yet latent hoppiness of Lagunita won out. Which one will out in the final round? Another tough taste test. The flavor and hoppiness of Lagunitas IPA wins the final.

Overall the biggest winner was me drinking all these great beers.


IPA Madness Semi-Final Part 2

It's a shame that any of these two great tasting beers needs to lose. My consolation is that after this taste tournament is over I still have a fridge full of excellent brews. I win no matter what.

2 - Sierra Nevada Torpedo vs. 3 - Lagunitas IPA

During the first round battle of Lagunitas vs. Dogfish Head 90 I mentioned the great presence of both beers. I can probably copy and paste all that for this semi-final round.  I n the first semi-final round the hoppiness of Hop Devil won out over the smoothness of Dogfish Head 60 Minute. This time around, we have powerful hoppiness mixed with a consistent smoothness from Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Lagunitas provides us with a fruity aroma and flavor followed by a latent hoppiness. I think either beer may win on any given day. But on this beautiful May afternoon the beer I enjoyed more, the beer that provided a more refreshing repast, the beer that I want another one of is Lagunitas. 

Finals are set: Victory Hop Devil vs. Lagunitas IPA.
Updated Bracket:

IPA Madness Semifinals Part 1

The semifinals of the IPA Madness Taste Tournament utilizing specific IPA glasses has begun! Sorry for the delay but life interfered with the beer tasting. "What!?" you exclaim, "Beer tasting is life!" I can only ruefully respond that in this case it had to be delayed and offer no further explanation or excuse. Now that beautiful weather has seemingly arrived, view my return to beer tasting as you would greet the spring: hopeful and with a renewed sense of vigor.  

1 - Dogfish Head 60 Minute vs. 4 - Victory Hop Devil

Two great beers. Two extraordinary IPA's. Yet two vastly different tastes. Boy, is it hard to choose a winner this round. This round was (bottle) neck-to-(bottle) neck. (Yes, I know I use specific IPA glasses for the taste test. Allow me to use beer bottle humor at my prerogative. Thank you.) I remember first tasting Hop Devil years ago at the beginning of the hop revolution in IPA's. It tasted hoppier and more bitter than anything out there. It certainly seems the intervening years have really produced beers where hoppiness is the main goal. Hop Devil, while hoppy and bitter, possesses a sweet honey aroma and an overall consistent smoothness that a lot of the subsequent IPA's do not.  Dogfish Head 60 Minute is even smoother and lighter. The taste is not as powerful as Hop Devil but your tastebuds will know what an excellent concoction it is. Dogfish Head 60 Minute is a classy beer, perhaps in a class by itself. It's the type of beer you can bring to a snooty dinner party where everyone else brags about some vintage wines all night long. 

The overriding judgement of this taste tournament is my enjoyment of drinking the beer. After this round the beer I would have wanted more of was Victory Hop Devil. As I tell my wife: "I like my beers like I like my women- bitter!" Hop Devil to the final round.   

 Updated Bracket:

IPA Madness Round 4

Last round before moving to the semi-finals. Lots of good beer matched up but this was the toughest one yet. Difficult decision.

3 - Lagunitas IPA vs. 6 - Dogfish Head 90 Minute

Th presence of both these beers is sky high. Great beers. The IPA glasses brings out the best in the Lagunitas. The glasses brings out all the peppiness of this beer. It doesn't enhance as much as completes it. Dogfish 90 Minute brings strong flavor that smooths out the more you drink. The IPA glass also makes it a pure joy to drink. So much back and forth. Such a hard decision. I don't know if the finals will be this tough. (I hope so, though.) The peppiness of Lagunitas wins out. Another time, different circumstances and maybe I would have chosen Dogfish 90. Who knows. It's a shame that this had to be a first round match-up. Onto the semi-finals.

Updated brackets:

IPA Madness Round 3

An old favorite vs. a newcomer. An East Coast battle. Philly vs. Upstate NY.

4 - Victory Hop Devil vs. 5 - Saranac Red IPA

Victory Hop Devil was one of the first of the newfangled hoppy beers I tried. That first taste led me to wanting specific IPA glasses and this taste tournament so many years later. I have always liked Saranac beers. I thought the Red IPA was different s I gave it a whirl. A good beer. But nt good enough to overcome the old favorite. Hop Devil moves to the semi-finals with a superior taste, smooth and strong yet not too much.

Updated Brackets:

Previous IPA Madness Taste Tournament 2013 entries:

IPA Madness: Round 2

Another tough round. Both beers taste is enhanced by the indispensable IPA glass. But there can be only one.

2 - Sierra Nevada Torpedo vs. 7- Cricket Hill Hopnotic

When a beer has some derivative if the word hop in its name you can pretty much know what to expect. The Cricket Hill Hopnotic deliver son the hoppiness but also has a pleasing fragrance and flavor. The IPA glass greatly enhances the flavor. However, Sierra Nevada Torpedo is a balnced and smooth, yet strong, ale, which the glass also brings out the best of its taste. This was another tough one. In Round 1 I ended up going with flavor over strength but in Round 2 its the opposite. The balanced strength of the Torpedo beats out the hoppy flavor of the Hopnotic. 

I look forward to drinking more of both - two excellent brews - but Sierra Nevada Torpedo heads to the next round.

Updated bracket: 

 Previous IPA Madness Taste Tournament 2013 entries:

IPA MADNESS: Round 1 Results

The first round of the IPA MADNESS Taste Tourney is complete.

To begin: Here is the refrigerator ready for all rounds and then some.

1 - Dogfish Head 60 Minute vs. 8- Stone IPA

This was a tough first round. Two great, yet different, beers.It was a difficult decision...yet a winner must be chosen. The Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA was smooth and flavorful. The Stone IPA was strong and powerful. I think I would choose one or the other on any given day depending on my mood. This was a neck-to-neck battle. Ultimately, the flavor of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA won out today.

Stone IPA may be out of the tourney but I will enjoy all drinking the rest left in the fridge, don't you worry 'bout that.

Updated Bracket (spell checked this time):


Here's the official bracket for the IPA MADNESS TASTE TOURNAMENT 2013.

First up is Dogfish Head 60 Minute vs. Stone IPA. I didn't realize I have already finished all the 60 Minute and have to replenish. I'll start soon.

(Originally published at


After a friend referred me to this short NYT article regarding an IPA specific beer glass. I made subtle hints about wanting these and next thing you know I have some for my birthday!

The glasses are produced by Spiegelau and were made in conjunction with Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Breweries. Jean surprised me with the glasses stamped with the Dogfish Head insignia.

I have always liked strong IPA's. I gotta say these glasses make drinking nice, hoppy IPA's even better. Downright enjoyable. 

As a result of getting these glasses I now have a refrigerator full of IPA beers. I like them all!

Over the coming days I will set up a March Madness like tournament of beer tasting with these glasses. 

The beer tasting crtieria will be easy. Whichever I find tastes best. Whichever I feel like I could keep drinking. Whichever is most enjoyable. Extra points go to the IPA with a big improvement in overall taste from bottle to glass.

The top seeds in this tournament are:

1 - Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

2- Sierra Nevada Torpedo

These are top two seeds because these companies are partners in making this glass and in my initial drinking from the glass these two beers are excellent and the front-runners as far as I am concerned.

The remaining seeds were selected randomly. These are beers I have enjoyed in the past, one local, and one I never had before but seemed interesting.

3- Lagunitas IPA

4- Victory Hop Devil
5- Saranac Red IPA
6- Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
7- Cricket Hill Hopnotic
8- Stone IPA


1 - Dogfish Head 60 Minute vs. 8- Stone IPA
This is going to be a tough elimination as I really enjoy both of these beers tremendously.

2 - Sierra Nevada Torpedo vs. 7- Cricket Hill Hopnotic
One of the favorites up against the local (Fairfield, NJ) underdog

3 - Lagunitas IPA vs. 6 - Dogfish Head 90 Minute 
Another tough first round elimination.

4 - Victory Hop Devil vs. 5 - Saranac Red IPA
Hop Devil is one of the beers that first turned me onto the real hoppy taste. I like Saranac beers and thought the Red IPA was an interesting twist. We'll see how it fares.

Results posted as they occur. Check back often!

(Originally posted at