Category Archives: Beer

A less-than-fond farewell to 2017

I know I’m not the first one to say this, of course — 2017 was not fun, and for many people, that’s a monumental understatement. Personally, professionally, culturally, politically…this year was a godforsaken mess. I’m far less inclined to toast the year that was, but I’m quite ready to embrace the one coming down the pike, and I hope you are too.

So let’s start with the elephant in the room, which would be Trump and his coterie of destructive buffoons. I’m not going to go into his policies, or the rapacious GOP’s attempts to create a permanent, uneducated American underclass to serve the top 1%. But I know full well that the very presence of this looming threat to American values and democracy, and the utter barrage of weaponized fake outrage and falsehoods, has taken its toll on so many of us, myself included.

Now, let’s be quite clear in that I’m a straight, married, white male, so when I say “taken its toll,” the bill for me is extremely light compared to women, people of color, folks with chronic physical and/or mental conditions, our LBGTQ+ friends, etc. In fact, it feels slightly disingenuous to be bitching about things when my family and I are doing well, and may even see a tax cut next year.

But while my toll is far less, it’s there. 2017 has messed with my head. In so many areas of my life, I found myself waiting for something, waiting for change. Yes, I ramped up my contributions and I joined a protest at Trump Tower and I spoke out and all that good stuff. But the rest of it was kind of living in a defensive crouch in the corner, trying to go about my business and waiting, hoping, praying for the support to help all of us turn a corner.

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Support Worldbuilders! And let’s talk about beer at r/Fantasy today!

I’ve been involved with Worldbuilders now for…four years? Something like that. It’s an incredible charity that’s raised millions of dollars for Heifer International. And each year I offer up, among other things, a critique of your writing. This year, my critique is part of the Worldbuilders lottery, which means your $10 donation gives you a chance to win said critique, along with many other fantastic prizes.

Here’s the details on what I’m offering. Just click on the nice big DONATE button at the top right of the page to enter. And don’t be afraid to go for it — I’ve seen just about everything over the past four years, including a couple stories that pleasantly surprised me with their craft. Whether you’re starting out or just want another set of eyes, I’d be happy to help. And again, it goes to a great cause.

To help celebrate Worldbuilders, I’m participating in a “Ask You Anything” event over at Reddit’s r/Fantasy subreddit today. This is an opportunity for authors to ask YOU, the readers, what’s on your mind. And since this is me, I’m asking about beer and books. Here’s the thread — come say hello!


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2016 in review: The year in beer

Before I head off to the New Year’s Eve revels — I believe this year they’ll involve viewing The LEGO Movie with the family, followed by a debate over whether to stay up to watch the ball drop on the telly — I thought I’d do a quick roundup of my year in beer, following the tradition established last year.

According to Untappd, the beer aficionado’s social media app of choice, I checked into 226 new beers over the past year, out of a total of 257 total beers. That’s compared to 230 unique beers and 254 in total for 2015. In other words, I really, really like trying new beers, and don’t repeat myself very often.

Once again, American-style India Pale Ales — those super-hoppy beers — topped the style list, with 31 different ones sampled this year. No surprise here, as most breweries will do at least one IPA, if not several; it’s kind of a craft brewer must-have. I also had 13 American pale ales, which are slightly less bitter but still have a very noticeable hop character, and ten “imperial” or double IPAs, which as you can imagine, punch you in the face with hops.

My actual favorite beer styles are largely Belgians, and I had several different kinds this year, including 19 saisons and 11 Belgian tripels. These are far less hoppy, typically far more alcoholic, and much more subtle and flavorful, a lot like wine. I also went on a bit of a cider kick this year, notching 17 different ciders.

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Guest posts! Interviews! A Reddit AMA! Giveaways! It’s the latest random roundup!

MJ-12-newcoverSo I’m back in the New York City area, and feeling a bit less burned out than when I posted last, which was toward the end of a very enjoyable but very long week-plus of travel. And as the rollout of MJ-12: Inception continues, I have a bunch of stuff here to share with you.

Goodreads Giveaway! It’s almost over — you have about nine hours left to sign up and get your hands on one of ten copies available. Click here to enter! (You need to be a Goodreads member to do it, which isn’t all that onerous. You like books, right? Do it!)

Guest post! Today I did a guest post for Alternate History Weekly Update — an excellent site if you’re a fan of alt-history and/or historical fantasy — on confronting racism and sexism in quasi-historical fiction, something I faced head-on while writing MJ-12: Inception. I can only hope I did it justice. Check out the post here.

Interview! I talked with Stephen Geigen-Miller over on his blog, part of a series of interviews he’s done with authors about breaking into the publishing industry. Smart question, really nice guy. Here’s what I had to say.

Thriller Roundtable! As part of International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill, I’m doing a roundtable with a bunch of other talented thriller authors about characters with moral ambiguity. We’ll be trading posts all week, so surf on over if you have a chance.

Reddit AMA tomorrow! I’ll post about this separately in the morning, but for now, consider this a reminder: I’m doing a Reddit AMA (that’s Reddit-speak for “Ask Me Anything”) all day tomorrow on r/Fantasy. I’ll post a link in the morning, and you can, well, ask me anything. I’ll also do beer pairings with your favorite books, since that was a fun thing I did last time.

And…whew. That’s about it. Obviously, still feeling a bit whirlwinded — I’m totally making that a word — from all the stuff going on. I’m very pleased by the reception MJ-12: Inception has received, and I thank you for giving it a go, spreading the word, and all that good stuff. My thanks also go out to all the folks who’ve hosted interviews, guest posts, giveaways, etc. You’re all awesome!


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Beer O’Clock: Tasting through the brewery

Occasionally, I’ll be at a brewery or brewpub with the chance to do some tasting flights. This tends to fill my Twitter feed with a variety of Untappd mentions, leaving the occasional follower to wonder….

Yeah…sorry about that. I’ll turn off the notifications when I’m settling down for a tasting flight.

For those unaware, a tasting flight is anywhere from four to six (or even eight) small tastes of various beers, usually 2-4 oz. each. They’re a little more expensive than a single pint, but there’s obvious benefit to tasting flights. Primarily, you can find beers you like, while avoiding paying for a full pint you end up hating. You get to see what’s on offer and even what might go well with the food you ordered.

Personally, I like getting tasting menus from breweries and brewpubs where all the beers come from the same place. Not only do you get to sample most or all of the beers from that brewery, but you get to see how a single brewer or brew team approaches the brewing process and how they see themselves in the bigger brewing world.

That sounds more pretentious than I wanted it to. Lemme explain.  Continue reading

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Beer O’Clock: Which beers should Barnes & Noble serve?

There were a few jokes made at Barnes & Noble’s expense when it announced last month it would begin serving beer and wine at four select stores around the country. Personally, I think this is fantastic on a number of fronts.

One, it can reaffirm a bookstore’s place as a community gathering space. Once upon a time, before Amazon, bookstores were the place to be for many people. Barnes & Noble and the late, great Borders had plenty of seating, cafes and a generally welcoming atmosphere. Stay a while, linger over books, talk with friends, attend events — and yes, walk out with a few books.

This move reaffirms that notion of the bookstore as gathering place. If there were ever a bookstore near me with a bar like that, you bet I’d be hanging out a lot more often, and likely buying more books. I’d probably get more interested in events there, too.

Second, think about the potential sales! Go for happy hour after work, kick back a few beers, and lo and behold, you’re walking out of there with the next Brandon Sanderson book, a bargain-rack treatise on Roman infantry tactics and copies of both Tattoo magazine and the Utne Reader. Nothing like a higher blood-alcohol content to open the wallet, amirite?

So this naturally leads me to a very important question: What beers should Barnes & Noble offer?

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Beer O’Clock: Southwestern adventures

When I think about craft beer meccas, I tend to focus on California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and parts of New England. That said, there’s a ton of great beer being made all over the country. New York State has great breweries like Brooklyn and Ommegang. Sweetwater down in Georgia does fine brews. I recently had The Temptress, an imperial stout from Lakewood Brewing Co. in Texas, and it’s one of the best stouts I’ve ever had.

So whenever I land in a different city, I do my best to explore what the locals are drinking. And Phoenix — home to one of my favorite conventions — is where I can get one of the most interesting and refreshing beers I’ve ever had, the Papago Orange Blossom.

Papago Brewing is right in Scottsdale, and Orange Blossom is one of their flagship brews. It’s a wheat ale flavored with vanilla and mandarin orange, and while purists might decry this as heretical, this sucker works. The brewer describes it as something like “a liquid old-fashioned creamsicle,” but that sounds gross, and Orange Blossom is the opposite of gross.

Instead, you get a very drinkable beer — think of it as a pilsner without that hoppy bite and less carbonation — with a mellow vanilla taste and just a hint of orange. Not enough to make it tart or overly sweet, but enough so that it works well with everything else. Really refreshing as a starter beer, and doesn’t clash with food, either. In fact, it complimented spicy tacos quite well.

So now, basically, I can’t go to Phoenix without having at least one Papago Orange Blossom. Worth seeking out.

The other Arizona brews I had were pretty good, too. SanTan’s LimeLeaf is billed as a cream ale, but really it’s just a drinkable ale spiked with a hint of lime — not a Lime-A-Rita or anything, and far better than, say, a Cornoa with a lime wedge in it. Great on a hot day. The Arizona Trail Ale from THAT Brewing Co. and the 8th Street Pale Ale from Four Peaks were both perfectly fine pale ales — hoppy, but not as much as an IPA. Nice middle ground, very drinkable.

I thought the Red Ale from Lumberyard Brewing was good, but there are more interesting reds out there. And the Grooving With A Pict from North Mountain was really lacking in the peaty flavor you’d expect in a Scottish ale, though it was still a pretty good beer. Finally, the Scottsdale Blonde is not strictly a blonde ale; it’s a kolsch, but a decent one.

So my beer-ventures in Arizona were, overall, pretty great. Plus, the wonderful Beth Cato gifted me with a couple more brews to take home — keep an eye on my Untappd feed for those!

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