Rollin’ Golden Pub – 2016

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It’s year three and the Rollin’ Golden Pub (RGP) is getting some serious mileage, literally and figuratively.  The RGP takes residence in a nearby parking lot, and we thank the property owner and its patrons for being mostly oblivious to Captureour rather public activity, not to mention the tell tale signs of our passing - cooler ice dumped onto the asphalt and various puddles of bottle rinse.  That said, the RGP has tacit permission to carry on, as one manager of the property pointed out in passing that “We do sell beers inside.”   Duly noted, and when we’re in a pinch and forced to settle for peasant beer, we’ll… well, actually, no we won’t.  But thank you for your support!
We’re proud to produce our 2016 Annual Report, which provides suitable detail to warrant the astonishment and jealousy of our admiring public.     For a detailed listing, click the logo above.

2014 2015 2016
# of Pub Visits 12 15 16
# of Beers Sampled 34 63 65
RateBeer Avg 98.5 97.1 97.9
BeerAdvocate Avg 94 91.7 95.2
# of RateBeer 100’s 10 17 31
# of BeerAdvocate 100’s 4 5 9

We tend to select our beers primarily on BeerAdvocate ratings, which provides an objective summary of so many subjective opinions.  This requires a fully charged smart phone when exploring beer aisles, but it’s worimageth it.  In any case, we draw your attention to BeerAdvocate Avg row in the table above.    Our 2015 beer ratings suffered in comparison to 2014 due to almost doubling our output input as well as our focus on sampling a beer from each of the 50 States.  In 2016, however, we kept the pace in consumption while surpassing our 2014 BA average, setting a remarkable new benchmark of 95.2.  In BeerAdvocate’s words, “world-class.”

For those that may desire to model their own RGP or equivalent in other locales (you know who you are in Chattanooga, Raleigh, Hartford, Portland ME…) we’re not so exclusive that we can’t at least share our secrets for qualitative and quantitative success:   Head to Massachusetts.  Tree House Brewing and Trillium Brewing provided 21 of our beers this year, almost a third.  We love Californian beers (nine this year), but comparing geographical size and the number of breweries, MA is clearly our brew state of the year.  Add in Vermont and Maine, and the Northeast is a significant contender as the beer lover’s paradise.

We were pleased to complete our pursuit of beers from each State, which required product from WY, NV, AR, and SD.  The first three of these States offered beer of surprising quality given the relatively limited choices of breweries and known people who might travel somewhere that those beers are distributed.  South Dakota’s Pile O’Dirt Porter, on the other hand, was adequate for its purpose, but we forgive it for its exclusivity.  In other words, we thank all of our beer mules heartily!

Metrics aside, it’s also important as a tasting group to express our opinions about the various beers sampled.  We do this regularly.  “That was good.”  “That was great.”  “That was outstanding!” “The more I drink it the more I like it.” “That was my favorite of the day.”  You can see we’re verbose about our beer.   Sadly, we lack the diction, patience and time to remark “Hazy unfiltered orange color with no head.  The nose shows intense and juicy orange and grapefruit without any bitter or heavy citric edge.  The palate is full bodied and somewhat pulpy with moderate carbonation.  Juice and intense flavors of blood orange, grapefruit and mango.  Light zesty bitterness on the finish but extremely harmonious.  Mouthfeel is almost like pulpy orange juice with light carbonation.  Extremely drinkable, refreshing.  This is damn near perfect.”  Thank you online reviewer jc1762…

Now, I can read that description, and I understand what is being said.  I can even relate, because if I had to hire a writer to describe Tree House Brewing’s Julius, that would fit the bill perfectly.  But it’s not our words.  We’re three years into this folks.  We know we can do better, especially when the stars and beer mules align for a Hall of Fame assembly of beers, rated 100 by both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.  Yes, it’s the makings of a blind tasting:


Of these, Tree House’s Julius garnered unanimous votes for best of the bunch, with Pliny the Elder, the venerable Californian legend, a consensus second place.  We expected more from Heady Topper, an early favorite of the group in 2014, but… that’s why you have a blind tasting.  So, we’ve now contributed in some way to beer lore, for whoever may discover this writing.  Tree House.  Julius.  Get some. 

As you’re observant folks, yes, we’re also proud of our recent upgrade to the RGP, a veritable bar surface providing a steadier pouring platform for our enjoyment (and less chance of offending a Mrs. who may otherwise detect slight stains or absorbed goodness).  Only a couple of weeks after the tasting, we enjoyed a “Who’s Who” from Tree House Brewing:


Old Man, an English Bitter and newer effort by the brewery, was the outcast of the bunch.  It’s decently rated, but probably due to reviewer’s favoritism for the brewery.  Even with  86/66 ratings by the different sites, it didn’t dent our average scores.  Otherwise, well, we’re just bragging about sampling five beers from a brewery who only sells four days a week, from their brewery in Monson, MA, and typically with no more than two canned styles at a time.  Yes, we’re bragging.

This relates to the (beer) trade of the century:  We appreciate beer mules, products of careful  manipulation cultivation, instruction and/or pleading.  The key is to groom those who regularly traffic in highly rated and narrowly distributed beers.  We try to treat them fairly, but sometimes… sometimes you just have to take advantage of a situation, such as our key mule in Hartford, CT.  His wife loves Sweetwater Blue, a blueberry ale that is commonly available in Atlanta.   For this, he trades rarities from Vermont (The Alchemist’s Crusher and two cans of Focal Banger) as well as, I think, a Tree House beer and a CT favorite.  It’s clearly a “Win – Win” right out of negotiation class, but we know who’s winning more.  (Thank you, sir!)

Lastly, a word on sediment or solids that settle into a bottle.  We haven’t noticed a difference in taste, but after some reading, it’s possible that these may adversely affect the brewer’s intended flavor.  The Alchemist’s Focal Banger can specifically instructed that the beer should be poured without these for the best flavor.  They’re commonly called “Floaties” and occur regularly in unpasteurized or unfiltered beer.  Yeast and protein particles fall out of solution over time, so these can be considered an indication of the beer’s age in most cases.  The yeast is full of B vitamins, so it’s not a health issue to drink them.  At other times, a brewery will bottle condition a beer where sugar or wort are left in the bottle intentionally.  This creates CO2 and helps extend the shelf life.  That said, we’re from the South, so we call them “giblets” and consider them good drinking.


In case you missed our last outings, here’s the links to those.  Note that last year’s epistle contains handy by-laws for a group such as ours, which is Holy Writ except for an unstated but understood “margin” on the 72 ounce limit.  Bottle ounces don’t always add up to exactly that, now do they?

2015 RGP
2014 RGP

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Merry Christmas!

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I was recently reading a Brent Weeks fantasy novel, one that often borrows from biblical theology, essentially taking many of the ideas and applying it to a different world and different gods.  One godlike presence says something similar in response to the question of his identity – “I am.”  

When Moses asked for God’s name, his answer was, among most translations, “I Am that I Am.”   There is significance among the capital letters for theologians, and I’ll skip all that.  Whether one views the old and new testaments as holy writ, mostly true, oral traditions, fanciful stories, useful for instructing children or a means of societal control (or insertiPhoneJan2015-152 your other view), it has always struck me that if there is one god, creator of all, what a marvelous answer that is.  “I Am.”   I don’t know that man is creative enough to have invented something so rich, elegant and comprehensive in so few words.

I have a number of favorite Christmas songs, sadly now lacking in the Atlanta airwaves when driving around…  In any case, one of those is “Mary Did You Know?”  First, it’s a very pretty song, but lyrically it relates.  It doesn’t question faith but neither does it stridently state it.  It speaks to the our wonder about Mary and the virgin birth, but also in very human terms, her intimacy with God.  Not coincidentally, the song essentially closes with the “I Am” affirmation.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know

Written by Buddy Greene, Mark Lowry • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

Jesus also claimed that title when being asked by the Jews he was:  “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.”  (John 8:58)  Note that the repetition of “Verily” was a Herbrew form of emphasis.  He claimed other titles as well: I am the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way and the Truth and the Life, and the Vine – each has its meaning and import, but none match the defining “I Am.”

While Christmas is the celebration of his Christ’s birth among believers, the holiday offers an opportunity for people to reflect on who he was and claimed to be.  The answer one comes to defines in many ways the course of our life.  The question is larger than a fact check; it’s the question that everyone comes to: Is there a god?  If there is or is not, how does that inform a person about questions as to the origin of life, the nature of morality or the relative presence of evil and good, the meaning of life, and our destiny.  Christianity answers those in a cohesive worldview.   If you’re undecided, decided against, too busy to consider it… my closing is the same:  Merry Christmas!

I don’t know that the definitive version of this song has yet been recorded.  This is a good one, though. 

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In Defense of the Electoral Vote

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One nice thing about Facebook is that I get “Feeds” on things I like.  Clemson football news, new releases or concerts by favorite music artists, and funny/interesting things that friends choose to post.  But then there’s election season, when a good number of my friends become stridently liberal or conservative, as opposed to pleasantly mute on the subject.  Their offerings – videos, articles and the like – aren’t meant to persuade.  They’re efforts to say “The election wasn’t fair.  The wrong person won.” I’d hoped that these would disappear, but two persistent threads remain – Russian hacking affecting the vote and the popular vote margin, either or both of which should cause Trump Electors to change their votes in favor of another candidate. 

I get that most everyone had reasons to vote for either candidate, and I get that most everyone had reasons to vote against either candidate, including both policy preferences and character issues.  But this is the system, and, for the losers, no.  Participation trophies are not handed out. 

The hacking argument is shell game hoping the audience loses track of the ball.   The argument essentially opines that if the Russians hacked/obtained damaging emails about Clinton, then Trump is implicitly guilty of winning by outside influence.  Eh, sorry.  The email releases on Wiki and elsewhere document deceit and collusion among Clinton, her staffers, the DNC, and the media – ensuring Sanders finished second in the primaries, coordinating protests and confrontations at Trump rallies, arranging media talking points…  Talk about an inconvenient truth.  The truth is there are consequences to actions, and Clinton assuredly suffered just that in the general election.

As for the electoral system, there are actually two parts with traction.  The first is that Trump is unqualified to lead.  He’s got some unpleasant baggage and observable gaffes in public discourse via Twitter.  That said, the other candidate had a lot of baggage too, stating that half of Trump supporters were deplorable which reinforced a persona focused on political gain rather than actual concern for the American voter.   The strongest point against Trump may be the allegations of his treatment of women, but as he adroitly pointed out, liberals had no problem with Bill Clinton among allegations that were much worse.  It’s an unpleasant result regardless of who won.  That said, post-election, many may not like Trump’s Cabinet choices, but they do reflect well on his campaign priorities.

The second aspect was that the majority should have a voice, that the net 2.9 million people weren’t “heard” in the outcome.  That makes sense to people who don’t pause and consider things in context.  If Clinton had won, then 63M voters for Trump wouldn’t be “heard” either. 

This was a good time to revisit and see if I could find unbiased information about its origins and intent, actually, not the easiest thing to do among all the recent decrying of the system.  Here’s one, though, that seems factual and absent opinions.  One notable quote from this article – not a Constitutional citation by any means – is that absent an electoral system, “the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.”   Well, that doesn’t seem fair, either, does it?  Let’s test the theory.

“Battleground” States.  FL, OH, PA, WI, VA – only in Florida did Clinton record more votes than President Obama in 2012.  If 800,000 or so of those 2.9M votes were spread across four States, Trump would have been steamrolled.

Then look at the States with large cities – New York, Illinois, California.   Clinton gained fewer votes than Obama in these Democratic strongholds as well.  She wasn’t nearly as popular with her own party, even in a campaign where many were likely to vote if only to keep Trump out of office.

  Obama 2012 Clinton 2016
CA 7,854,285 7,362,490
FL 4,237,756 4,485,745
IL 3,019,512 2,977,498
OH 2,827,709 2,317,001
NY 4,485,741 4,143,874
PA 2,990,274 2,844,705
VA 1,971,820 1,916,845
WI 1,620,985 1,382,210


But here’s the clincher, given that the most recent reports show that, again, Clinton is ahead in the popular vote by 2.9M votes.  California: The difference between Clinton and Trump, as of the time of this writing, is 3,446,281 votes in favor of Clinton.  The total votes in the other 49 States therefore give Trump, who gained more votes than any other Republican candidate in history, a majority elsewhere else.   Is it still fair that Clinton should win? 


Results by state, shaded according to winning candidate's percentage of the vote 2016.svg
Image by Ali Zifan -2016, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link




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Earthside – A Dream in Static

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One day I wake up and I’m listening to Prog Metal.  I’ll blame Spotify for the introduction just as much as I’ll credit them for their algorithms.  There was a time not too long ago that I thought my music tastes were softening – a sudden embrace of Frank Sinatra’s 50’s and 60’s albums, a warming return to 70’s MOR pop, a growing appreciation for Americana…  earthside

But progressive rock still draws me.  Fairly bored with 2016 music, Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist places music in front of me based, apparently, on songs that I indicate I like or that I otherwise sample.  Sadly, there is no reset button, because I’m being deluged with prog rock or variations thereof, even though there’s another James McMurtry out that I’ll have to discover elsewhere.

Here’s the thing.  I used to identify with a certain amount of rage in some of the music I listened to.  The Who.  King Crimson. Music was an outlet for so many things that at the time frustrated or fascinated me to no end.  Contemplating distant death.  Future relationships and current crushes.  Anticipation of leaving home.  The desire for autonomy.  The God question.  Jerks in school.  Whatever those teenage angsts begat.  Now, years later, I can multitask on the computer, drink a double IPA, and find myself in a similar place but with entirely different frustrations… and they’re not even related to politics.  Somewhere in this blog, I tried to explain that music is what sorts my nerves and/or soothes my spirit.  I feel better having listened to it, absent any other factors.  My music collection continues to grow not just because I’m a “collector,” and not because I’m searching for something new or even for the joys that come with appreciating artists and their art – that curious creative outworking that often reflects societal values as much as it’s informed by them.

Anyway, Earthside, a band based out of Connecticut, that apparently taps the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, records in Sweden, and borrows vocalists from a number of other prog-metalish bands… all on their debut release.   Their music is aggressive, certainly, consistent with the genre, unrecognizable as a descendent of classic rock, but rather an outworking of early 70’s progressive rock that taps rage, in power chords, guitar flash, and a style of vocal delivery that works for a narrow slice of the public.  Yet the music retains the velvet glove of surprising musicality and instrumental and even orchestral varieties.

Earthside describes themselves as “cinematic.”  I’ll buy that, the shifting moods, the reach for… enlightenment, we’ll say.  And, in fact, this CD’s lyrics do a comparatively fine job of exploring metaphysical questions and doubts, fairly linear in thought as opposed to obtuse approaches favored by so many.  That said, the problem I have with this CD is with every song on which lyrics are sung.  The genre seems to demand that singers scream their angst, switch to falsettos for a lighter stanza, then find a guttural croaking when words build to something that really matters.  I guess it works.  People buy this stuff, and now so have I.

But the four songs without vocals are awesome.   Varied, reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, smartly put together, the stuff that modern progressive rock should aspire to.  For the remainder, the music is generally just as good, but not a whit of it supports a melody, a chorus, or anything other than singers extending a word over multiple bars because the genre demands that tone and lung capacity trump any clear association between the words and the way they’re expressed.  This CD would actually be stronger with prose offered for audience consideration as they listened to the the music without vocals… cinematic, right?  I guess that doesn’t sell or entertain concert goers.

Ah, well. I’ll enjoy the music and hope that they noodle over, if not Lennon & McCartney, then Genesis, Kansas, King Crimson or any other group that either planned melodies or created space for them in their instrumental passions.

Oh, and as this clocks in at just over an hour, I’m still left with over 40 minutes of music that hits the spot. 

4 of 5 STARS_thumb


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