Beer Review: 21st Amendment Back in Black

21st Amendement Back in BlackLet me start off by saying I’m a big fan of the 21st Amendment (both the brewpub and the amendment, of course); we go way back.  They’re one of my two favorite brewpubs in San Francisco (the other being Magnolia) – heck, there’s even video evidence of my past hanging out there at a F*ckedCompany.com party during the dot-com crash (skip to minute 1.03 if you have a burning desire to see the much-younger me speak).  I love that they’ve been pioneers in canning craft beer, and they are never afraid to experiment.  With that in mind, I had high hopes for Back in Black – I love the style, especially Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Victory Yakima Twilight and Deschutes Hop in the Dark – and whether you wish to call it a Black IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale or something entirely different is a point I’ll leave up to you.

With that somewhat rambling prologue out of the way, I’ll get right to the review – I’m disappointed to say it was only OK.  It looked great when poured – deep brown, tan head, nice (if somewhat unexpectedly subtle) hop aroma, but when it came to the actual taste, that’s where things weren’t exactly right.  I’ve sampled some homebrewed beers in this style that don’t quite get the hops and roastiness working together as they should, imparting a somewhat ashy taste, and I’m sorry to say I noticed a very similar taste with Back in Black.  While that flavor was at the forefront, it also lacked a certain depth beyond that; one of the great things about this style is that there are usually a number of different complementary (granted, some would say competing) tastes, while this was very one-note.

Was it terrible? No – it just wasn’t up to the usual very high standard set by the brewery.  Sublimely Self-Righteous is still the standard in this category – but it’s great to see more brewers jumping on board.  A willingness to experiment, even when it’s not always 100% successful, is a fine thing – and something that sets the craft beer industry apart.

Beer Review: Tommyknocker Hop Strike!

Tommyknocker Hop StrikeWhile Ninkasi’s Spring Reign and Black Raven’s Tamerlame were both fabulous, this entry from Colorado’s Tommyknocker Brewery is now also a serious contender for my favorite new (or at least ‘new to me’) beer this year.  I won’t go through the entire BJCP checklist (aroma, appearance, etc.), I will say that it’s got a particularly pleasing grassy hop aroma – yes, the official description says ‘citrusy’ and there’s a bit of that there, but it’s not a full-on west-coast-style hoppiness.  Perhaps the most surprising element of the beer is the deep chocolate flavor contrasted with the hops; it lends an oatmeal-stout-like silkiness, yet the mouthfeel (yes, I just said ‘mouthfeel’) is completely different – it’s still clearly an IPA.

While not sweet (beyond the general maltiness), it lacks the roasty bitterness one might expect when first examining the beer – there’s a pleasing hop bitterness, to be sure, but it’s balanced well with the malt to offer a unique character.  The history of this one-time beer is worth noting: it was brewed to honor Free the Hops, an Alabama organization that successfully lobbied their state legislature to lift the 6% ABV limit imposed on locally-available beers.

So, is this beer worth a little extra effort to seek out?  Most assuredly.

Welcome to WeirdBeerGirl.com (yes, another domain)

Weird Beer GirlWhy, you may ask, have you added yet another domain?  Why not just update your Philadelphia Beer Bars Examiner blog more often, as you used to?  The answer is twofold: first, I want to write about beer from beyond Philadelphia (even if I’ve most likely consumed it in a great Philly-area bar or restaurant), and, perhaps more importantly, while I have time to dash off a quick review, keeping abreast of everything that’s happening locally takes more free time than I have at present.

So, what will you find here? Beer reviews, plugs for bars and restaurants I like and general craft beer evangelism; if I can add to the ranks of Ladies of Craft Beer, I’m doing my job!

And if you’re a first-time visitor (welcome!) who wants to know whether the ‘weird’ modifies the beer or the girl, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume it’s a bit of both – I’m a BJCP-certified beer geek (and beer runner) who enjoys seeking out new and hard-to-find beers, but without the slavish devotion to Westy 12 – I like it, sure, but I like many other things much more.

In addition to the Examiner link above, there are a few year-end beer roundups to get you started; and so, without further ado, the first quick review under the new system – read on!

For quick comments on beer (and geekery), follow me on Twitter.

New Things, Old Things

Superfectablog screenshotAfter much CSS/PHP/JavaScript wrangling, DVAG Wire is finally up and running. I have no doubt, dear reader, that you have been desperate to know what has been going on behind the scenes at a number of Philadelphia archives: now you can keep track automatically.

Sticking with redesign mode, I’ve finally migrated Superfectablog from Blogger and over to WordPress and redesigned it, from logo to layout – as the site was approaching its fifth birthday (with only one-and-a-half major redesigns), the move and facelift were long overdue. While the new design is not a huge departure from the old one in terms of layout, the greater control and flexibility afforded by WordPress is very pleasant indeed – it makes up for the temporary traffic drop I anticipate from the move.

While planning the redesigns, I did a little digging for inspiration (or, perhaps more accurately, to review lessons learned) and found some old work in the Wayback Machine: a little feature I did on The Phantom Menace (before discovering its full horror), an old music review and a website for a radio show I built long ago.  While not universally the case, the fact that many of the ads were preserved is oddly pleasing to me.

General Superlatives: 2009

Arctic Club, Seattle
Arctic Club, Seattle

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Rather shamefully, I have no books on this list; while I read many, not a one was published in 2009 – my excuse is that I’m waiting for the new Nick Hornby novel to come out in paperback.  So, in fractured order, here are this year’s Things I Liked A Lot:

Best Thing I Wrote This Year: On Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Memory
Best Race (live): The Haskell (just edging out the Preakness)
Best Race (televised): Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best (human) Race: Dogfish Dash 10K
Best Soccer: US beats Spain, Confederations Cup
Best Trip: Seattle, Arctic Club/MLS Cup/REI pilgrimage/new light rail
Best Airline: Alaska Airlines
Best Live Show (overall): Leonard Cohen, Tower Theater
Best Free@Noon Show at World Cafe Live: John Wesley Harding/M. Ward
Best Beer (draft): Stone/BrewDog Bashah
Best Beer (bottled): Pretty Things Saint Botolph’s Town
Best New Bar: Varga Bar
Best Album: John Wesley Harding: Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead
Best Concept Album: The Duckworth-Lewis Method: The Age of Revolution
Best Random Song: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Home
Best TV: How I Met Your Mother
Best Event TV: Doctor Who
Best Movie: (500) Days of Summer
Best Movie Franchise Reboot: Star Trek

I Am Everywhere, Like the Latest Meme

Luckily THATCamp Austin is done now (although I continue to manage the THATCamp Austin twitter account, to help promote the other regional THATCamps that are springing up), for I have added yet another new writing outlet to my ever-expanding stable.  I’ll be blogging for the NTRA leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, with a focus on the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.  That means you can find me writing about horse racing on my own blog, on the NTRA site and on TVG’s Community; if it’s archives you’re after, go for A Movable Archives – for beer, I’m at the Examiner.  If you’re looking for the most recent updates, you can always come here and have a look on the right-hand side – new articles are added automatically.  I can be hard to avoid at times.

Because You Can Never Have Enough…

I have yet another new blog, this one in my capacities as a BJCP judge, Beerdrinker of the Year semi-finalist and Lady Beer Geek About Town. Granted, it’s not as pretty as one I would have designed myself, but I decided to go ahead and give the Examiner model a try. So far, I have yet to receive preferential treatment of the sort real food and drink critics get, but I’d be more than happy to accept it if any barkeeps wish to offer those services. In any case, please do check it out.

I’m also the webmaster, designer, sys admin and Jane of All Trades for THATCamp Austin – if you’re going to be in town for SAA and want to talk digital humanities, please do check it out!

A Musical Update

In honor of our new design, I’m posting a hopefully-comprehensive if rather sad list of every band, artist and/or comedian I’ve ever seen live (not including theatrical appearances – that would be an entirely separate and altogether too-geeky list). Without further ado, the music/comedy list – an asterisk indicates multiple shows for each artist in a particular city:

Artist City(ies) Notes
The Aislers Set San Francisco*
The Auteurs London
Bill Bailey London
Ballboy Philadelphia, San Francisco* Under-rated
The Beautiful South San Francisco
Andrew Bird Philadelphia
Board of Education Philadelphia
Saul Broudy Schwenksville Philadelphia Folk Festival (PFF)
Mark Burgess New York
Neko Case Philadelphia
Cast Chelmsford V96
Melanie Chisholm San Francisco Yes, that one
Closet Queen London Obviously a cover band
Leonard Cohen Philadelphia
Harry Connick, Jr. St. Louis
Shemekia Copeland Philadelphia
Crowded House Philadelphia*, Washington, DC Fantastic live
The Cure St. Louis
Terrence Trent D’Arby St. Louis Opened for Duran Duran
David Devant and his Spirit Wife London*, Manchester*, Oxford With their Spectral Roadies, of course; I’ve probably seen them more than 50 times
The Dead Milkmen St. Louis
The Divine Comedy Berkeley, Bristol, Brooklyn, New York, San Francisco* Can you tell which band is my favorite?
Duran Duran St. Louis They know why you are there
Elastica Chelmsford V96
Liam Finn Philadelphia* Both solo & w/E.J. Barnes
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit Philadelphia Support from James Mathé and Caitlin Rose
Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams Schwenksville PFF
God Street Wine New Haven
Goldfrapp San Francisco
Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci Chelmsford V96
John Wesley Harding Camden, Philadelphia*, Sellersville Solo and as part of the Cabinet of Wonders with Eugene Mirman, Jonatha Brooke, Chris Mills, Ken Kalfus, David Morse; at XPoNential Festival w/The English UK, Megan Reilly, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
Herman’s Hermits St. Louis
Hoots & Hellmouth Schwenksville, Philadelphia* PFF, also in Philadelphia w/Birdie Busch.
Whitney Houston St. Louis It was the 80s
Lee Hurst London At the Comedy Store with Alan Davies
Indigo Girls Philadelphia
Eddie Izzard London, San Francisco
James Bloomington, Philadelphia Amazing live
Joan as Police Woman Philadelphia
Kansas St. Louis
King Missile St. Louis
The Ladybug Transistor Brooklyn, San Francisco*, Washington, DC They often seem to open for bands I like
Sondre Lerche Philadelphia
Bobby Long Philadelphia
Los Campesinos! Austin With The Smith Westerns, Girls
The Lucksmiths Brooklyn, New York, San Francisco*, Washington, DC Love, love love
Manic Street Preachers San Francisco
John McCusker San Francisco
Audra McDonald New York
Don McLean St. Louis It was free
Donna McPhail London At a random comedy club
The Mike Flowers Pops London
The Monkees St. Louis See ‘Whitney Houston
The Moody Blues London, St. Louis*
Morrissey Chicago Love The Smiths, hated him live
My Life Story London*, Manchester, Wolverhampton Yes, even Wolverhampton
Gary Numan Chelmsford V96
Ardal O’Hanlon London He was the ‘surprise guest’
Okkervil River Philadelphia
Ooh Baby Ooh London 3-piece a capella group; opened for DD&HSW
Parker & Lily New York
Mandy Patinkin St. Louis Met him afterward and he did his Inigo Montoya bit for us
Peter, Paul & Mary St. Louis*
Pulp Chelmsford V96
Kate Rusby San Francisco
Pete Seeger Philadelphia Linus’ first ‘real’ concert; Tao Rodríguez-Seeger and Guy Davis also shared the bill
Sigur Rós San Francisco
The Smiles London*
The Soupdragons Bloomington
Stereolab Chelmsford V96
Still Flyin’ Washington, DC
Supergrass Chelmsford V96
The Tallboys Seattle
They Might Be Giants Boston, Cambridge*
Tom Tom Club Bloomington
VHS or Beta New York I hated this band
Rufus Wainwright Philadelphia with Lucy Wainwright Roche
M. Ward Philadelphia
Waterson: Carthy Philadelphia Norma Waterson was absent; Tim van Eyken came instead
The Wedding Present/Cinerama New York*, Philadelphia, San Francisco*
Mike West New Orleans with Myshkin
The Wiggles Philadelphia See ‘Pete Seeger
Robbie Williams San Francisco
‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Eureka A surprisingly good show for a theme park
Pete Yorn Philadelphia