We Interrupt this Program…

In the 1930s, folks became very worried when their favorite radio programs were interrupted by special news bulletins. News back then tended to include things like Depressions and Nazis, so that was a pretty reasonable reaction. These days, the phrase “We interrupt this program…” is a pretty harmless declaration used half ironically to state things like how I’m not going to drink that much beer for the next six weeks or so.

See how I slipped that in there?

Fear not, this is but a temporary situation, undertaken on a whim. Blogging will continue, very possibly at the same 3-4 post per week rate (but let’s not count on that, mmmk?), though it will not all be about beer (more on this later). Blasphemy, I know, but I’ve actually been looking forward to this for a while. And lord knows this isn’t a particularly strict regimen I’m going to engage in here. Fat Weekend is coming up in a few days, and all bets are off there (but then, Fat Weekend was never particularly good material for blogging anyway, seeing as though I’m too busy yucking it up with the famed quorum of portly gentleman I don’t get to see as often as I used to). And the following Wednesday is beer club, which is still on. But the bulk of my beer drinking, which tends to occur on weekends, will be on temporary hiatus.

There are several reasons for this, all of which are self-imposed and not the result of any particular problem. First, I probably drink too much. I know for a fact that I drink a lot less than other folks, but that doesn’t mean I don’t drink too much either. The other day, I was heartened to answer “0” for the first three questions in this essay, but there are plenty of times when my answers would be much worse and the phrase “I don’t have a problem” still seems problematic to me considering how much beer I’ve drank (at a pretty steady pace) for the past 5 or so years. And if you read this blog, you can see that I don’t exactly shy away from the high alcohol brews. So I’d like to prove to myself that I’m not a slave to my favorite beverage by not drinking it for a few weeks, if I can manage that.

Second, the health component. While I absolutely savored every damn dromp of that Bruery Mash last week, it occurs to me that a bottle of 12.5% ABV barleywine represents at least 700-800 calories, which would be a non-trivial portion of my diet on a normal day. A few years ago, I came close to hitting 200 lbs and realized that I wasn’t 23 anymore, so I started eating better and exercising more. I’m actually much healthier now than I was back then (and am down into a more svelt 170-180 lb range), but I again find myself thinking “I don’t have a problem” and that attitude worries me sometimes. So let’s try this little experiment and verify that, shall we?

While I’m on the subject of health, I’d like to air out a pet peeve I have about beer boosterism. I follow a lot of beer blogs and keep pretty close tabs on twitter, so I see my fair share of “Beer is healthy for you” articles, and it kinda drives me up a wall. Yes, some studies have shown that, for instance, alcohol can help boost HDL Cholesterol (aka “Good” cholesterol) but the thing that most of us conveniently downplay is that those studies are about “moderate” consumption. Guess what? I don’t think Bourbon County Brand Stout counts as “moderate”, nor does taking down a couple Hopslams. What’s more is that while alcohol can have a good effect, it’s rarely the best way to get that effect. If you want to raise your HDL, exercise, eat better, and lose some weight. I bet your doctor won’t actually recommend to increase your booze intake. There are other benefits of moderate consumption and plenty of things specific to beer, but it’s probably best to be wary of something that your body treats like poison. Obviously I love me some alcohol (as evidenced by the fact that I’m not actually giving up on alcohol!), but I think it’s important to be clear headed about this stuff. No use in fooling ourselves.

I’ve been particularly bad about my health of late. The Holidays are always rough, but then we kept getting snowed in, I got sick, and my elliptical machine broke. Most of these were basically excuses to stop exercising and drink more beer, which in retrospect was probably a bad idea. I don’t feel any real ill effects or anything, but I have put on a few pounds and those jeans are getting a little more snug than I’d like, so I’d like to do a little course correction now before it becomes an actual problem.

Third, sacrifice is a good thing. I grew up Catholic. Nothing particularly strict, but my family went to Church on Sundays and most of my schooling was through Catholic institutions. In case you didn’t know, Lent started last Wednesday. I always hated Lent growing up, but as an adult, I’ve found it an invaluable way to break bad habits and/or try new things. 40 days is an excellent length of time to give something up. It’s short enough that it’s achievable, but long enough that your routine can be changed for the better. I suspect that even if I became a firebreathing atheist, I’d still find value in Lent (or do it some other way, like how some people had a dry January). Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not giving up beer, strictly speaking. I know it’s a cheat to give things up a week at a time, but to me, this is actually more about the health aspect. As I mentioned above, a little course correction is needed. And like I said, sacrifice is a good thing, and a little delayed gratification can be very rewarding. This is probably an unpopular sentiment in our age of on-demand everything, but screaming “Don’t care how I want it now!” won’t get you anywhere in life.

Fourth and lastly, I want to explore other worlds. As a culture, we’re leaning away from mass media. Oh sure, we’ve still got superstars and blockbusters, but the really interesting stuff is happening in the fringes and in the niches. Not a day goes by that I don’t run across some absurdly specific, single-purpose website like Brides Throwing Cats or Stephen King’s Boners. In its own way, this is a good thing, but then, there’s no reason to isolate our beverages into siloed worlds that don’t touch each other. For instance, I spend a lot of time obsessing over bourbon barrel aged beers, so why wouldn’t I dip my feet into that bourbon world for a bit and see what its like? I think it would do a world of good, and give me some valuable perspective on the booze world. And, of course, nothing needs to limit this to alcoholic beverages. I plan to spend at least one week checking out some decent tea (despite Padraic’s relative hiatus from blogging, I’m sure he’ll be a helpful guide).

Starting tomorrow, blogging will shift from solely beer-focused posts to include other beverages. This week, we’ll be talking about bourbon. Next week, I’m thinking Port wine, though Fat Weekend may inspire me into a different direction. I plan to spend a week on wine, and another week on Scotch. There will definitely be at least one post on rye whiskey. And the aforementioned tea will get some love too. I figure I should be able to get a comprehensive understanding of these expansive worlds of booze in a single weekend, right? Well, no. All of these are beverages I already know and like (not starting from scratch here), but I would like to know more about them. To a certain extent, I’ve already progressed far down that path and will certainly continue far beyond these six weeks, but I’ve never really laid down the gauntlet. The primary reason I blog is to learn, and so here we are.

I am an unabashed lover of beer and that hasn’t changed, so I will naturally still be writing from a beery perspective, even if I’m writing about bourbon or wine or whatever. Hopefully these posts will still be interesting and maybe even enlightening. There’s a reason this is a beer blog, but that doesn’t mean we can’t mix things up a little. I doubt many whiskey/wine geeks are reading this particular post, but if so, I should say that my tasting notes for your preferred beverage will be dramatically, frustratingly bad. I already know that my vocabulary for this stuff is horrendous, which is one of the reasons I’m doing this (again, I blog to learn). Plus, it’s not like I’m ruling out any pure beer writing either. I’ve had a few ideas for posts bouncing around in my head for a while, and it’s about time I sat down and knocked them out.

Last weekend, I had naught but two drams of bourbon, and a couple small glasses of port as a nightcap. So perhaps not super healthy, but I haven’t had a beer for a little less than a week (and it’s not like I didn’t follow up that Bruery Mash with a dram of bourbon, so I’m doing pretty well here so far). I’ve been getting back on track with my exercise regimen too. I feel good. This will be an interesting 6 weeks and hopefully you can join me on this beverage journey. Stay tuned, for tomorrow, we take a trip to Black Maple Hill.

9 thoughts on “We Interrupt this Program…”

  1. No shame at all in quitting for a short or a long time. Beer is appealing not simply because it tastes good, but because of its mood/mind-altering properties. Realigning, losing some weight, detoxing a bit is always a good thing. I’ve been there myself and will be again – kudos to ya!

  2. Thanks Jay, so far so good. Kinda looking forward to babbling about some other potent potions in the meantime, hopefully it will still be interesting for readers like yourself. Otherwise, I’ll probably be back in beertastic full swing soon enough.

  3. Relative hiatus is generous, but thanks =) I’ll have to think of some good recommendations for you.

    I suspect a periodic detox, so to speak, is probably a good idea. I find frequent drinking, even at a reasonable level, too often kind of wears down my general sense of feeling good. Granted, I don’t sleep enough, but still,I think the occasional break is a good idea.

    I’ve deliberately avoided nerding out on port. I’ve had a few I really like, but have avoided getting too heavily into it. Better, I think, to have a few enjoyable pursuits on a simpler, more relaxed level. Though truthfully, I don’t nerd out on whiskey much anymore. I know what I like and largely that’s enough for me.

  4. I look forward to your recommendations (if I can buy stuff online, that would be best:)

    I used to be pretty good about limiting drinking to weekends and exercising during the week, which works for me, but there’s always exceptions and it seems that lately, more exceptions (holidays, being snowed in, etc…) have been wearing me down.

    I haven’t really nerded out on Port yet either (basically just been working my way through the $20 options), but even looking at what I’m doing for next week, well, it’s getting pretty expensive. I’ve got a regular port and a Vintage port that I’ll be covering, and the Vintage stuff is amazingly expensive. That’s where I see the geekery when I look out on the interwebs, but I can’t see myself spending that much on Port in the long term. I just like to have something decent to tipple after I have a beer or two. Makes a nice nightcap for me.

    Incidentally, my favorite port so far has been Grahams Six Grapes. Slightly more expensive (like $1-$3 more than your typical $20 port), but worth it in my opinion. I haven’t cracked open a Vintage port yet, but I’m curious to see if it can really justify the price.

  5. Apologies, I’ve been meaning to write up some recommendations, but things have been even more hectic than usual. I’m sick for the third time in three weeks, and starting a new job in a week.

    Still, I can suggest browsing through Upton Teas (uptonteas.com) and Culinary Tea (Culinaryteas.com). Those are my two main sources for tea online, and their selections should cover most of your bases. Culinary Tea has a lot of flavored teas, which my wife loves and I don’t mind, but they also have a decent selection of flavored blends and single estate stuff from all the major regions and some good samplers…I’m a sucker for a sample pack.

  6. Continuing, Upton Teas is top notch for blends and single estate stuff from every possible tea region out there. I’ve never tried their flavored stuff, so I can’t comment on that. I highly recommend trying a bunch of small packets from all different regions (again, sampler packs are great here, but you can mix and match on the cheap too).

    I started out partial to Assams, and I had some killer stuff from there, Banaspaty, Namalighur, Amanda Bag, Mangalam. These are big, thick teas with tons of malt, and sometimes cocoa, radian, or jammy fruit notes, the last being the best, I think. Good Scotch comparisons here.

    I also grew to love Ceylons, which are lighter bodied and dryer than Assams, with a bit more diversity. These can feature citrus notes, but more interesting are wood notes like cedar or sandalwood. I can’t recall any specific names here, but there’s a ton to try.

    Nilgiri is somewhat similar in taste and body to Ceylone. If you’ve had Irish Breakfast, it often features Nilgiri…it smells like toast and tastes pleasantly lemony. Not as many estate offerings, I think a lot ends up in blends. Still, worth the exploration.

    I never had much success with Darjeeling, though it is very highly regarded amongst tea folk. I often think I didn’t give it the attention it needs, as it can be pretty finicky. Still, I’d give it a try if you like lighter, afternoon teas.

    I tend to prefer white, mild green, and jade oolongs (lightly fermented, mostly green) if I’m after a lighter tea. Silver Needle White is astonishing, but also astonishingly expensive. Still, it’s worth $5 or so for a sample size, and you can multiple infuse it. A much cheaper nice white is Upton’s Moonlight White.

    Pakistan Jade oolong was really nice, though I only started to scratch the surface of that style.

    And for smoke, seek out Upton’s Formosa Lapsang Souching, easily the best Lapsang I’ve had and the smokiest. My wife swears that steeping it next to her strawberry tea made hers taste of pine smoke =)

    I hope that’s a few good recommendations, I’ll try to think if some more. I need st get back to tea, I miss it. Parenting, work, and not enough sleep means lots of coffee, and while I love good coffee, I don’t nerd out over it, and I’ll drink swill if I need the pickmeup. Still, New job is better hours, so that should get way better =)

  7. Whoa, thank you sir! Just placed my order on Upton for:

    Mangalam Estate FTGFOP1 Cl (Assam, the only specific one I could find from your list)

    Sencha Special Grade Yamato (Green, but otherwise a mostly arbitrary choice)

    Lapsang Souchong (Smoky, per your recommendation)

    Silver Needle Organic (White, again per your recommendation, I splurged on a sample size)

    I got all the sample size things, so the order is relatively cheap, and I already have one of them single serving infusing ball thingies, so I think I should be all set. Thanks again for your help Padraic! Assuming this stuff gets here next week, expect the following week to be teablogging. Looking forward to it!

  8. Upton is easily the best tea company I ordered from, huge selection, fast shipping. And they take tea very seriously, seeking out new estates based on quality and availability. I like to browse their print catalog too.

    I look forward to hearing what you think of these, they’re all favorites of mine. I hope they’re an impetus for further exploration and enjoyment =)

    And I’d be thrilled to recommend more, though I may have to look through (find) my notes.


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