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2013 January

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Wheel Of Time: An Ending

Without any spoilers..

 

It’s been years in the making, but the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (With much help from Brandon Sanderson) finally came to an end this month with the final book, A Memory Of Light. I enjoyed the book a lot, and initially read it slowly letting my mind process and enjoy it. However, once I got to the Last Battle and the final conclusions we’d all been waiting for for decades, I couldn’t put it down and read the final 300 or so pages at once, until 1:30 in the morning.  Luckily there is a lot of action and plot development in this book, something that’s not as present in other books of the series.

 

This actually has the effect of making the book feel rushed. Robert Jordan created such an expansive world that he kept taking us down new branches of story, to the point that it was difficult to see the end coming. Certainly this make people disgruntled, even though I often wish my favorite books didn’t have to end. It’s often about the journey more than the destination. So when Robert Jordan died, despite promising he would get to the point, it took Sanderson three books to wrap it up, and he probably needed more. There were a lot of interesting story lines that I felt could’ve been expanded on, but perhaps I’m just used to it taking multiple books for things to play out.

 

I’d love to see more from Sanderson, or even another author, in this world. There are plenty of untold stories along the way like a prequel based on Tam’s journey, and there are plenty of adventures that could be expected to take place after. Even knowing what’s coming, a couple of books on the world leading up to the sealing of the Dark One in his prison and the Breaking of the world could be a good read. I know Brandon Sanderson is not Robert Jordan, but I think he did an admiral job with the three final books. It’s a tricky thing to do, but I arrived at the end of the book satisfied with it. There were sad moments and triumphant ones, expected conclusions and some interesting twists. (At least if you hadn’t endlessly nitpicked every sentence of the previous 13 books already) Ultimately, I felt it a believable ending even if it’s not exactly how I would’ve expected it to go.

 

Without revealing anything, I felt the ending/epilogue was a little short. The book tries to touch on each and every character in some way, but there is a lot left unresolved and it feels like there was a little too much lingering on one or two secondary/minor characters than others. I understand the idea of wanting to leave the world very open ended, I just felt like there was a thread or two that needed to be tended to.

 

Overall, it was bittersweet to see the series finally come to an end. I enjoyed it immensely, even the meandering books in the middle. Thank you Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and now bring on the next epic fantasy series!  I welcome suggestions on what to read next. I’m up to date on the Dresden Files, and The Song of Ice and Fire. Who’s the next Robert Jordan?

January 21st, 2013 by Ceetar in books, life
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Singlecut Beersmiths: New Queens Brewery Is A Keeper

Photo by CeetarI had the chance to get out to Astoria to visit Singlecut Beersmiths this weekend and check out the beer. I was not disappointed. I don’t have to tell you how craft beer has taken off over the last decade or so, and like so many other tidal waves of change, it washes up a lot of muck along with the gems. We’ve all tasted those craft beers that are merely “Not Bud” or simply ordinary, so when a new brewery opens up it’s not uncommon to meet it with a little skepticism and wait to see if they’re going to do more than create pale imitations of the popular craft beers already in the market. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with Singlecut.

 

The beersmiths put care and effort into crafting these delicious beers, and it shows. They had four on tap when I got there, and they’ve got two IPAs coming very soon. Photo by CeetarForward to back is the 19-33 Lagrrr!, the Jån Olympic White Lagrrr!, the John Michael Dark Lyric Lagrrr!, and the Dean Pacific Northwest Mahogany Ale. The 19-33 was a crisp Czech-style pilsner, enjoyable although basic. The Jån is described as a uniquely hued and flavored Lagrrr! and you can see it’s opaque like a hefeweizen. Their blog says it’s brewed with Matzoh Meal. It was delicious, and the one my three companions enjoyed the most. It’s still a lager and enjoys all the qualities of a lager, but with a richness and flavor akin to a wheat beer. Next up is the Dark Lyric, which was my favorite. I’ve been on a black lager and black IPA kick for a while though, so perhaps that swayed my vote. Dark Lyric did not disappoint, providing a moderately hoppy beer with a gentle roastiness to it. Lastly, for now, was the Dean Pacific NW Mahogany Ale. This one was extremely hoppy, perhaps too much for the style, but I like hops and don’t care about defined styles so I’m not complaining. The bitterness masks some of the other flavor you’d expect  so it trended more towards an amber than a brown, but the Pacific Northwest is known for hops so it’s not unexpected.

Photo by Ceetar

We visited at four on a Saturday and the place was pretty crowded. It was a neat little place that seems to be drawing a lot of interest. They had barrels stacked in the fermentation, and I’m told they were a Bock being aged in rum barrels, so I’m excited to try that in the future. They framed some of the bags of malt they used in the beer and hung them on the walls, which was a neat idea. The record player and records for music was a nice touch as well, and fitting with the music theme. I appreciate the quirky descriptions of their beers (check the list on the website) but could’ve used some more basic tasting notes, beyond just IBU and ABV, both on the website and at the tasting room. I overheard some talk about a homebrew club on weekends and noticed one of the guys behind the bar with a Brewstoria shirt (who is also the foursquare mayor), and although I’m not going to go over the bridge for such a thing, it’s a good idea.

All in all I enjoyed my visit to Singlecut and recommend checking it out. Particularly if you’re a Queens native looking to support local businesses. (especially if you’re say, a professional baseball team?)

January 14th, 2013 by Ceetar in Beer, Breweries, Uncategorized
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Taphouse Grille Rare Beer Event

Yesterday I went to Taphouse Grille in Wayne, NJ for their second anniversary rare beer event. Great beer list.

Obviously my first problem was trying to figure out what not to order. One person by himself, who has to drive home after, can only have so many special beers on a Wednesday evening. Some of them I’d had already, like Ithaca Excelsior! fourteen and Flying Fish Exit 4. Both of those are breweries I love and pay close attention to. Next I ruled out the barleywines, even though some sounded good, because I generally don’t care for the style.

 

I went with the hyper-local beer, which must have been added after that list I linked; Cricket Hill Smoked Rye, small batch. Cricket Hill is brewed in Fairfield, NJ which is only a stone’s throw from the Taphouse. I like rye beers, and I like smoked beers, so this seemed a great choice. It didn’t blow me away or anything, but I did enjoy it immensely and it got better with each sip. It had a nice amount of smokiness, and almost a wet mossy maltiness to it.

 

I agonized over my second choice, and ultimately went with something I knew wouldn’t be made again: Firestone Walker XVI. This is almost the opposite of local, since it’s brewed in California, but I do have a friend from that area and I visited one of the restaurants when I was out there for a wedding. They make good beer, and the anniversary ale was no exception. I was happy of my choice, getting to taste a truly special beer. It was served in a 10oz snifter glass and even that may have been a tad much. XVI is a beer that was aged in 226 oak barrels and was a blend of eight different beers. To say the taste was complex is an understatement, and the brewery’s description of the beer is pages long! There were so many nuances to it that it was like sipping a rich expensive bourbon. Each sip is a new discovery of flavor, and it packs a rich bourbony punch. That you can get this experience at a fraction of the cost in beer is part of what’s so wonderful about beer. This was the best blended beer I’ve ever had and has me wondering if I can still find a bottle of it locally somewhere.

 

Near misses: I trust Founders to make good beer, so I was intrigued by Double Trouble. Epic’s Smoked and Oaked looked good, but one smoked beer is enough.  The Terrapin Reunion Ale ’12 with cocoa nibs, vanilla, and cinnamon sounded great, and if I see it again it’s going to be my first choice.

January 10th, 2013 by Ceetar in Beer
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New Year’s Resolutions and Beer

Weight loss is a popular resolution this time of year, and it’s a good one too. Being healthier in general is always a good goal, no matter what prompts the decision to lose some weight and eat healthier. This does not mean you have to give up beer.

 

Clearly having routine happy hours at the bar and drinking many beers in a day is not conducive to losing weight, but having a beer with dinner or on it’s own is not a deal-breaker. There are a variety of health benefits of drinking beer, but even just looking at it from a calorie standpoint, beer is not the enemy.

 

While the more alcohol in the beer the more calories it’s likely to have, the average craft beer probably has between 150 and 250 calories. In a diet where you’re eating healthier and working out to burn more calories, one beer a few times a week is not going to tip the scales against you. Being able to still enjoy a tasty beverage is a good way to keep yourself motivated to stick to your resolution. After all, how tough can it be if you can still enjoy a beer? As with most things, moderation is the key.

 

The trick is to make the beer the indulgence, and perhaps the sole indulgence. Some people might tell themselves they can have a sweet treat once in a while as a reward. Others don’t want to give up a Sunday morning donut ritual with friends. For some, beer can be that treat. I find I can pour myself a beer and it lasts. While i’m drinking it I do not feel the desire to snack or munch on other things, and I can certainly watch television or do other tasks around the house while I’m drinking it. It’s a relatively low calorie treat that I’m enjoying over a lengthy amount of time. To balance it out, I try to stick to a rule of only enjoying the beer on days I go to the gym. This links the treat to the exercise and gives me motivation to get my workout in.

 

Ultimately the only true way to lose weight is to consume less calories than you burn, and fitting a beer into the consumption list is not at all difficult.

January 3rd, 2013 by Ceetar in Beer
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