Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beyond the Horizon...

So after years and years and years of being a member, I have tentatively taken a step into The Great Beyond, and joined a Flickr group. Flickr Friday posts a new challenge every Friday, then you have all weekend to take a picture encapsulating that week's theme.

Last week's theme was "Beyond the Horizon". I took a picture on Friday but only added it (and myself!) to the group today.

Snow field

This was my view, for one last day, from my office high above the Carleton campus (11th floor of Dunton Tower), looking across the Canal and the Experimental Farm, near the Hartwell Locks. On Monday, we moved back to the library. It's a nice, new space, following extensive renovations, but alas - only second floor, and no windows for me.

Can't promise that I will always participate in Flickr Friday, but it was fun this time around, and I look forward to seeing future themes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Of Beer and Men

Of Beer and Men

Last year, I made only one New Year's resolution. It was a good one, and I managed to keep it all year. I enjoyed the execution of that resolution so much, in fact, that I made it again this year (plus a few others).

I resolved to drink as many new and different types of beer as possible.

Those who know me well (and, OK, even those who know me not so well) know I like beer. I'm not a heavy drinker, but I do like a good beer.

Last year, not entirely coincidentally, I also started frequenting Pub Italia, an Italian-restaurant-meets-Irish-pub just down the street from where I live. Truth be told, its food selection is mostly mediocre, but you don't go there for the food - you go for the Beer Bible.

Usually when I go, it is with my friends Jon and Jess. Jon is a beer nut - he wholeheartedly endorsed my 2012 resolution as well as my decision to trudge it out again for 2013. He has, however, no pretension to be classy about beer. Every night at Pub Italia with Jon is an adventure. He decides on a "theme" - beers in great bottles, beers with the most vowels in the name, beers that start with P, etc. One of the more memorable evenings was the night he kept challenging the waitress to bring him the most awful beers she could think of - we had some terrible ones that night, but one or two were decent.

I am not as dedicated to the cause of beer as Jon is, and as I'm usually only having two beer in the evening (and only rarely a third), I want them to count. Jess is the same way. So we don't always go all-out and join Jon in his theme, though we do of course engage in much aiding and abetting.

Sometime this past summer, we came up with a great rating system. Forget beers that have "notes of oak that last with you like a lingering summer breeze", forget a standard ranking from 1-10. Our rating system is visceral. You just GET it. We rate beers like relationships. The Kronenburg White with Frulli on top? It was like that time in college when you decided to experiment with, ahh, alternate relationships. Titillating at first, but ultimately not your thing. There was a beer that tasted like smoky bacon (I forget its name, unfortunately), that was like that guy you just couldn't shake out of your mind - the bad relationship guy where you knew it wasn't going to last; he was going to run off with that redhead in the end; but you just had to keep going back for a little more each time. You knew you shouldn't like him, but you couldn't help it. And the beer that is the gold standard, the one that is so good, the one you want to be still waking up next to when you are 80. For me, that beer is Innis & Gunn. There might be more exciting beers, more refreshing beers, more beers that have more punch or zing or zip, but in the end, I'll come back to my Innis & Gunn. Bliss.

The problem last year is that I drank a lot of new beers, but didn't keep track. So I decided 2013 would be different. 2013 would be the Year of Beer Documentation. We'll see. I'm not as good at keeping resolutions that involve some kind of regular, recurring action [see: blogging]. But I'll try.

A couple of weeks ago, Jon, Jess, and I went to Pub Italia, and I took notes. Yes, I am just that nerdy. But now, you get to read them!

Yellow Snow IPA from Rogue Ales
Described to me by the waitress as "citrusy with a bitter finish". I was in a weird mood, so anything with bitterness at the end struck me as being very à propos. This beer was kind of like the guy you date for a month or two - you want to like him more than you do, and you wish he liked you more than he obviously does. So you keep agreeing to another date for no good reason, even though you know there are better beers out there. (Full disclosure: I may have been projecting a prior failed why-did-I-bother relationship onto this beer.)

One of Jess's beers. Comes in a cute bottle (a stubby). There's a rebus puzzle in the cap. But as Jess said, the beer itself is the one referred to in those generic Canadian beer commercials, where the guy says, "If you wanted to drink a lake, you'd drink from a lake. Get yourself a real beer." The package is pleasing, but the product is boring, dull. This one lives in Barrhaven.

Hawaiian Pale Ale from Spearhead Brewery
Jon's first beer. (Challenge: beers with lots of letters. In the menu, this was listed as an Indian Pale Ale, so there are 2 more i's and one more a for you.) Starts out great and makes you go, "Wow," but fizzles off into empty feelings soon enough. A good time, but not The One. Which is sometimes all you ask from a beer.

2XIPA from Southern Tier
Jon's second beer. This one was the friend who ends up at the bottom of your favourites list. He's a nice enough guy, but nothing more there. You'll call him if you're having a big party and inviting everyone else; otherwise, you probably won't bother. Sorry, Double IPA.

Hacker-Pschorr Weisse
Jess' second beer. It was really very good, but in the end, not the beer for me. It was, as Jess said, the beer you don't want for yourself, but you want to set up with someone awesome.

Westmalle Abbey Tripel
My second beer, a Belgian Trappist beer. Not for the faint of heart. A sophisticated beer. Jon instantly thought that it could very well be the beer for him. I was not convinced. But then, later, I realized the beer had a hidden sweet note, and it was growing on me. Will definitely revisit this one (all - eep! - $15 and 9.5% of it).

Wellington's Iron Duke
Jon's third beer. I've had this many times before. I think it's good and deserves a good go at seeing if a relationship could work out, but not for me in the end. Would I set it up with a good friend? Sure! Jon and Jess think, on the other hand, that I need to give it more of a chance - that it could be one of those beers that start out weak but end up developing into an amazing relationship, as it has a lot of subtle flavour that creeps up on you.

There have been other beers in the last couple of weeks. I went, for example, on a tour of the Kichesippi Brewery which is just off Carling Avenue in Westboro. I love Kichesippi beer as a good, honest, friendly beer that never disappoints. Sad to see their seasonal Logger go - pictured above is the last growler I enjoyed - intrigued by the replacement seasonal Wujack (sp?) Black IPA. Richard is not crazy about the IPA; he finds the aftertaste too strong. I know what he means, but I find it oddly compelling.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

New Year, New Roomie

I have a house guest! New Year, New Roomie He arrived yesterday and is staying for another 9 days. So far he has proven himself to be handy with catching runaway toys (even those that don't belong to him), warming me up on the couch, and sleeping solidly. He also likes going for walks along the beach or elsewhere, and is bemused by the vast quantities of snow in my backyard, previously unsullied by any other canine paws. He's not much of a cook, and isn't the best at cleaning up after himself, but otherwise, he's a perfectly decent roomie.