Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beer and football — week seven

The game: Patriots at Chargers
The beer: Stone Imperial Russian Stout
The result: Win, 23–20
The commentary: The closest I've come to a heart attack since the dreaded helmet catch. Holy, holy lord. I got a late start on the Stout because A. and I went out for lunch and a few errands and got some iced chais from Starbucks on the way back, and that carried me through the recorded portion of the first half (yeah, errands took longer than I thought). That fourth quarter was almost catastrophic but this could turn out to be one of those character-building wins. And I couldn't agree more with something I read the other day on Patriots Daily (essential reading): last year's team would have lost. The beer was excellent, by the way, even though the bottle turned out to be a little sticky. Eww.

Up next: The Pats host my man Randy Moss and the Vikings. It will be fun to root against Brett Favre as a fan of his opponent and not just a fan of decency. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beer and football: A seventeen-week diary (and hopefully longer)

I love to watch the Patriots win and I love to drink good beer. So in 2006 I said "Hey, man, I should get myself a fancy beer for every Pats game!" And by fancy I mean one of those oversized singles, usually stocked in the fridge farthest from the Coors Light. I was living in Cambridge at the time and the two liquor stores in my neighborhood didn't really offer a whole lot—the closer one wasn't open on Sundays anyway. The other, though, always had a few different Samuel Smith offerings. They're a fantastic brewer and I enjoy everything of theirs I've tried, even the IPA, and I don't really like IPAs (more on that later). So I thought I had a nice little thing going, particularly once I remembered that nearby Davis Square had a great store.

In 2007 ("that season") I really grabbed on and didn't let go. I was sure to have a Samuel Smith in my hand for every game, and since they kept not losing I felt my beers and I were somewhat responsible. When I went to a friend's house to watch the Colts game (in which I astounded everyone by correctly predicting Manning wouldn't remove his helmet before shaking Brady's hand afterward) I made sure to bring enough Nut Brown Ales for everyone there. I wasn't about to blow this thing.

Despite the delicious Imperial Stout I explicitly saved for the Super Bowl, we all know how that went down. Regardless, I more or less kept the tradition going the last two years and into this year, and now I'm going to journal-tize the experience to see if any patterns emerge. I guess it's mostly an excuse to write about beer, and who doesn't like reading about beer?

The goal is to post an update each week, though since I'm getting a late start I'll be forced to cover weeks one through five, plus this past Sunday's game, on memory. Should be challenging because I can't remember anything anymore. No kidding.

Week one
The game: Bengals at Patriots
The beer: Berkshire Coffeehouse Porter
The result: Win, 38–24
The commentary: The first game of the year calls for my favorite beer in the world. The Coffeehouse Porter seems to have saved the day when it appeared the defense likely couldn't. Nothing else stands out except for Chad Ochocinco patting his future head coach on the ass.

Week two
The game: Patriots at Jets
The beer: Mohegan Honey Porter
The result: Loss, 28–14
The commentary: Special circumstances with this one—A. and I left that Sunday morning for a few days on Block Island. Admittedly, my first priority after dropping our bags off at the B&B (shudder) was to find a place to watch the game. I was a little nervous to interrupt the whole beer-at-home thing so soon in the season, but we landed at the Mohegan Cafe where they brew their own. The crab cakes were amazing and the Honey Porter was just OK—fittingly, the Pats looked like shit in the second half. But the view was nice and A. was a good sport for accompanying me. I'm glad, though, to have had some vacation time to forget about this stinker.

Week three
The game: Bills at Patriots
The beer: Pretty Things St. Botolph's Town Rustic Dark Ale
The result: Win, 38–30
The commentary: Some married friends of ours are craft-beer maniacs, going to festivals and whatnot, and they've gotten to know the couple responsible for Pretty Things. I'm shallow enough to like this brand because the labels are attractive and they stole the name with one of my favorite bands. Plus, the two or three I've tried actually are really good. This dark ale is my favorite so far, and for additional shallowness reasons it might have something to do with having "St. Botolph" in its name. St. Botolph Street runs through the eastern part of the campus of Northeastern University (where I excelled at being a mediocre student and a full-time music snob) and is where the shitty hockey team's arena is located. The Huskies haven't won a Beanpot since 1988—it's almost too easy to call them the Buffalo Bills of the Beanpot tournament. Thankfully, the Pats played a horrible Bills team on this day, thus fulfilling the metaphor. The way they looked I don't think they could have beaten anyone else.

Week four
The game: Patriots at Dolphins
The beer: Berkshire Lost Sailor India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 41–14
The commentary: Last month I attended a beer dinner at the Cambridge Common restaurant, one of our favorites from our People's Republic days. It was right up the street from our apartment and practically served as our kitchen. They've been having these dinners for years and only after I moved twenty miles away did I finally attend one. It was hosted by Berkshire Brewing Company, and one of the founders was there and gave a little talk about each of the five beers we had. One of them was the Lost Sailor IPA—I generally don't go for IPAs, I guess because they're too hoppy. But he sold me on theirs: he said IPAs were originally brewed with extra hops so the ales would survive British seafarers' long hauls around the Cape of Good Hope on the way to and from (ch-ching!) India. The Lost Sailor is this "English" style of IPA, and not the "California" style where batshit American brewers just go hop crazy. That kind is what I don't like, and it's most of what you find around here (Harpoon being a popular offender). So when I saw a bottle of the Lost Sailor at the local liquor store I figured it was the perfect choice for what I thought would be a difficult road game against a competitive division foe. Turns out it was the best game I'd watched in a couple of years. Score two for BBC!

Week five (bye)
The beer: Belhaven Wee Heavy
The commentary: Didn't actually get to watch much football during the bye weekend but I did create enough time to drink a smaller-than-usual (about eighteen ounces, compared to twenty-two for BBC, Samuel Smith, etc.) Wee Heavy from Belhaven. There are few beers as good as Belhaven Scottish Ale off the tap and so I was excited to see a Wee Heavy in a store in Danvers. I lived in Northampton for a little over two years and the Northampton Brewery (which I miss and think about often) served one of my all-time faves, "Maggie's Wee Heavy." My wife (girlfriend, at the time) lived in Boston and, bless her, would take the bus out to Springfield every other Friday. I'd pick her up and we'd head straight to the brewery nine times out of ten for dinner. I loved the Winter months because they always had Maggie's going and I always ordered it. Unfortunately, the Belhaven version wasn't nearly as good—granted it's out of a bottle and not a tap, but still disappointing. I'm glad I didn't save it for a Pats game.

Week six
The game: Ravens at Patriots
The beer: Southern Tier Iniquity Imperial Black Ale
The result: Win, 23–20
The commentary: This ale was a bit of a gamble, but I figured it was worth it since a lot of people picked the Ravens for the Super Bowl. Another fantastic game… eventually. We were lucky to be down only three at halftime because the defense was fully terrible. The fourth quarter was a blast, and it's nice to have Deion Branch back (I will miss Randy Moss and I thoroughly enjoyed his time here, but it's nice to at least resemble the old Super Bowl teams). The beer turned out to be good but a little rich, and I noticed halfway through that it was nine percent alcohol—I was pretty all set. It was exactly the push I needed to ride the half-drunk ups and downs of a game-winning field goal followed by the realization that there's a flag on the field before it's revealed to be a penalty on the Ravens. And then Brady's day-after response to a whining Terrell Suggs reminded me of some 2003/2004 dominance and a little 2007 arrogance. I am very excited for this season to play out.

Up next: The Pats travel to San Diego so they can watch Philip Rivers make weird frat-boy faces while throwing for four hundred yards. Cheers!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Item! Run-on sentences are acceptable when discoursing on abstract art

Have you ever unsubscribed to a magazine… without success? It's quite an adventure. My Newsweek subscription was set to run out a month or so ago and I did originally return the re-subscription mailer like a good always-two-or-three-issues-behind reader. But before I sent in payment, the magazine was sold to some old dude for $1. One US dollar. Sure, the guy assumed the magazine's debt as well, so it amounts to $1 plus (x), but still.


It turned me off, and I was honestly seeking an excuse to free up reading time in order to tackle the pile of books I've not tended to for far too long. After days of measuring the pros and cons (I might have taken the decision a little seriously, but I have been reading for fifteen years and feel I'm better for it) I decided to call customer service and cancel my renewal. She didn't even try to talk me out of it, as she's probably more bitter about that dollar than I am.

I was to receive my last issue the week of September 6. OK. That one arrives and I liked the symmetry when it happened to be Jon Meacham's last as editor. I knew he was leaving and that contributed to my not renewing because I enjoyed his tenure—he oversaw the major, controversial redesign (which I loved until they essentially rolled it back) and the change in focus from a source for news (seemed reasonable to me at the time, since it's gotta be tough for any printed weekly to compete with an RSS reader) to a more exploratory essay format. I was excited until I realized (only very recently) that essays (or, poorly written ones) don't really provide context. So if you don't know the story behind what the writer is going on about then you're probably out of luck. I read it all and understood some. (Even while this was going on, Fareed Zakaria remained their most focused and cogent columnist, but that ship has sailed: he just took his talents to Time Beach.)

September 6 comes and goes, and issues continue to get cozy with my mailbox. When I received the September 20 issue I called and told them so and that they better not try billing me. She said no, the September 27 issue would be my last, and I would not be billed (she, too, never turned on the salesmanship-o-matic). September 27 comes and goes and I'm still getting them, still reading them and still waiting for it to stop. (Though I'm happy to have received last week's issue with the Android cover story, since I am the proud new owner of an HTC Incredible—naturally sporting the inept and amazing guitar solo from Blue Cheer's "Out of Focus" as its ringtone—and, regardless, I really enjoy reading Daniel Lyons. But then I got another one this week. What in the worldwide fuck!)

This lack of unsubscribability has forced me to recognize some strange trends. The first is that George Will is completely batshit—I used to enjoy his sober conservativeness during a messy Dubya era but now I'm afraid he would shoot me dead if I told him it was warm outside. Another is that Jersey Shore and Sister Wives qualify as print-worthy, even considering the magazine's A&E team often exhibited questionable, overly ironic taste in just about everything. Still another oddity is the sequence where a columnist purportedly writes about one topic but then uses that as an opportunity to write about something completely different. Jeremy McCarter recently pulled an elusive double buttonhook by writing about a movie (The Social Network) in order to label Facebook as some enabler of "American loneliness" so he could then casually (in three separate instances!) mention Jonathan Franzen's new novel Freedom. Just review the book already!

However, the most frustrating byproduct of the above-mentioned design/format is that run-on sentences are now satisfactory. Maybe this has been the case for years and I haven't noticed. Maybe it went into effect only after Meacham departed. Most likely, it is encouraged only for nonsensical raps about art—check out this shit. Even the writer's name runs on: David Wallace-Wells. It seems one first name and one last name are insufficient for serial killers and, now, know-it-all Pollock-blowing nitwits.

Think my graphic example at the beginning was an exaggeration? Well it was, but only by thirteen words in a Wallace-Wells world. How about this sweet excerpt, clocking in at seventy-six words:
"Many of these canvases will be unveiled when a remarkable retrospective opens at New York's Museum of Modern Art on October 3—remarkable in large part because it will be drawn entirely from the museum's own holdings, a reminder of how few enthusiasts forged the outsize reputation of abstract expressionism in its heyday, and how large a role a single institution could play (and continues to play) in an art world of small, critical clusters and long speculative collecting."

Followed soon by this sixty-seven-word gem that's somehow worse:
"The sentinel émigré Hans Hofmann—itinerant painter, teacher, and mentor to much of the New York school—was German-born, had lived in Paris, and seemed to his students the living embodiment of a standing European tradition that the American painters would pillage and repurpose in their own canvases—most explicitly the work of Russian abstract painters Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich and the surrealist exiles Max Ernst and André Masson."

What an asshole. (I'm occasionally that asshole as well but I'm not a professional writer.) Let's take a streamlined fifty-nine-word example and have fun with it, striking every other word to turn it into merely an overlong sentence:
"The truly indigenously thing abstract was the rhetoric celebrated—the magazine, chiefly Rosenberg Greenberg, made of into and crucibles, aesthetic to tests a teleology, presented belated embrace European as world event."

It's as lucid as the rest. ("The rhetoric celebrated"—I love that.) I wish I were his editor so I could leave Freshman composition textbooks on his desk and make hand gestures indicating that he needs to tighten things up. I'll say this though: after a minuscule thirty-four sentences over two pages (!) the guy wraps up with a four-word sentence: "It published only once." He buttonhooked me!