Indian Monsoon Coffee Review (Blame The Cigars)

Coffee Beans!Talk about an unintended consequence. Ever since I’ve been smoking and reviewing cigars on my blog, I’ve started noticing crazy things in the food I eat and the drinks I down. Things like flavor. And I’m talking about flavors beyond “good” and “nasty.” I think I must have broken something. God, I hope this isn’t life-threatening. I have two full humidors of cigars to smoke. Some of them extremely desirable and controversial. (No, I’m not gonna tell you what I mean by that.)

This is kind of new to me, I spent my formative years training for the food Olympics. Food came between me and running around outside or playing video games. And my parents knew this. If I dawdled, they’d tell me things like “the sooner you finish your dinner, the sooner you can go play!” So I earned my nicknames of “Hoover” and “The Vacuum” and easily got in an extra half a childhood more than my more finicky sisters. My folks couldn’t have been happier. They still refer to me as the “easy” kid.

In much the same way speed-eating makes tasting food difficult, speed smoking is a liability when it comes to evaluating cigars. In my early cigar smoking days (before and during the 90’s boom), I’d suck down a hour long cigar in half an hour. Smoking that way is rough on the tongue and throat, and results in a very consistent smoke across all cigars. Tarry, charred and bitter. A rough flavor I would have called “cigar” a decade ago.

But I started slowing my puff-per-minute down once I got out of college and started smoking decent cigars in decent places with decent guys. (Sorry Shorty, your decency has been compromised for the sake of clever repetition. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) That made it a more pleasant experience. And recently, I’ve slowed it down even more and have started really savoring the flavors. More than savor, I hunt for them. Kind of like the way silly folks with binoculars wander through the brush seeking out the Black-Throated Huet-Huet, Red-Footed Booby and Scaly-Throated Leaftosser. (Want more? You know you do. Go here and indulge your need for comical bird-name innuendo.)

I guess this focus on flavor has awakened my existent, but dormant taste buds. Because I’m tasting stuff everywhere now. And I’m afraid this means I’ll never enjoy Velveeta Cheese ever again.

This brings me to my Indian Monsoon Coffee. (I bought it last week at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Atlanta, in case you’re interested in picking some up and live in Atlanta. Funny, you can also get it through Amazon!) I bought it because the neat little charts indicated it was a full bodied coffee, but with extremely low levels of acid. In short, the perfect coffee to over consume! ๐Ÿ˜€ And when I tasted it, I immediately noticed that this coffee has an unusual flavor. While discussing it with some other bean-heads in the office, I realized I was talking about it like it was a cigar. That gave me an idea. Why not review it like I’d review a cigar?

So here goes.

Coffee Stats
Body: Medium to Full
Strength: Seems to have slightly less caffeine than average…
Acid: Very Low
Grind: Coarse
Maker: French Press
Price Per Pound: $5.69 (Farmers Market), $12.99 (Amazon)

I’ve noticed that the ground beans appear to be of mixed color, with some lighter colors than I expected to see in coffee reported to be full-bodied. The grounds have a rich smell, with a noticeable element of sweet caramel. (Also, I could totally smell the store in the grounds, which is both cool, and a little scary.)

The coffee produced a great thick layer of crema when brewed and I noticed that the coffee has a distinctly more reddish brown color than most of the coffee I’ve had before.

The most striking thing about this coffee is that it’s smooth. Smooth as a stout on nitro. Actually smoother. If you normally like to put creamer or half and half in your coffee, taste this first. You’ll probably decide not to.

It definitely has an earthy full flavor, but the most interesting part of the flavor was the aftertaste. I detected dry straw or grain. My first instinct was to say it tastes like dry open desert areas of Eastern Oregon around Pendleton, but there’s only a couple of thousand people out there that would know what I mean. (And I don’t think any of them read my blog.)

It just occurred to me that the flavor kind of reminds me of Mate (or Yerba Mate), the somewhat popular coffee alternative I’ve tried in the past. (<conspiratorial whisper> It’s tea! </conspiratorial whisper>)

The Burn
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it to light. Not even with my butane torch. So, not applicable. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Verdict
This is a great coffee if you’ve got a sensitive stomach due to ulcer or just drinking way too much coffee. It’s also a fun alternative to the more popular lines of coffee out there. I don’t think this is going to become my regular brew, but I will probably buy it from time to time. (Besides, I’m a coffee slut, I can’t commit to just one bean.) And you can’t argue with that price (from the Farmer’s Market), it’s well below anything you can buy in the supermarket or coffee shop.

In Summary
Like It: YES
Buy It Again: YES
Recommend It: YES (And I have to the people stop by my office to “chat”, i.e. steal some coffee.)

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Fighting Off Abe And The Beave With Kiwi

You donโ€™t have to look like this to be a good I.T. consultant.Sleep deprivation is funny. I don’t make the rules, it just is. Don’t believe me? How else could you explain the knock-out pill commercials featuring a cantankerous, news paper-reading beaver and a vaguely injured Abe Lincoln? And don’t tell me you haven’t spent at least one all-nighter laughing your ass off every time your lack of coordination broke the lead off the end of your pencil. Nights like that are what college is all about. That and hot co-eds. Nights without sleep, laughing outside the windows of hot co-eds. (I kid, I never did that. The windows were too high off the ground.)

Anyway! Last night I experienced full-blown insomnia. So today I’m about as sleep deprived as they come. I can’t even make it to the coffee pot in the break room in a single trip. Take for instance, my last trip for hot wake-up juice. I grabbed a Kiwi and headed for the break room, playing catch with the weird fuzzy fruit as I walked down the hall. As it turns out, kiwis, while fully functional as a fruit (and semi-functional as a baseball), are quite deficient when it comes to fluid retention, scoring only mildly higher on that scale than river rocks.

So in the shirt pocket goes the kiwi, and and back to the office go I. Normally all the extra exercise would make me grouchy, but I’m kind of shifting in and out of robotic automaton mode. I’m mentally checking in when things go wrong, like when I try to pour coffee into a kiwi.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the coffee retrieval trilogy. (Yep, 3 round trips, and the kiwi is still in my shirt pocket.) The scary thing is that I’ve been more productive today than any day in the prior week. That can mean one of two things: 1.) I’m a phenomenally good programmer, and I don’t need to actually be awake to solve problems, or 2.) I’m going to have one hell of a mess to clean up tomorrow. The part of me that checks in from time to time has been alerted to the likelihood of scenario 2.

I feel like I should leave you with a few pointers now. So here goes. (Consider the source before taking action on any of these items!)

  1. A diet high in fruit helps make up for a night low in sleep.
  2. Kiwis have poor fluid retention, but are fun to bounce of the ceiling.
  3. Don’t try to pack your lunch if you didn’t sleep the night before.

Have a restful day. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Air Trumpet? I Call Bullshit

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in a country with an ultra-repressive government sporting a Virtue and Vice Ministry (which is kind of like living under a rock) you’ve likely been exposed to it. If you live in the United States, and you watch any television or even pass through a major city on your way to work, you’ve seen it. You simply can’t escape it. It’s the manic, flailing-haired, iPod-bearing, convulsing silhouette. And there’s no apparent cure. But I’m not interested in curing you. (If you’re infected, that’s your problem.)

Like the slick little MP3 player, the commercial seems to be tremendously popular. Probably every ad that has ever been shown on TV has made it to YouTube, with titles and comments indicating that each new one is much better than the previous. Bullshit. Each new one is the same thing, with different music and different background colors. But that’s not what this post is about.

What I’m really calling bullshit on is the “Air Trumpet”. (I’ve trademarked that term. Wanna use it? It’ll cost you. But we can come up with a reasonable payment plan.) Of all the instruments you could pretend to play, the “Air Trumpet” is only slightly more likely than the “Air Tuba”. (Also thoroughly trademarked.) Does anybody really play air trumpet when they’re listening to jazz? Or anything else with a prominent brass section? And before you correct me on this, you need to know that I’ve eliminated actual trumpet players from consideration. They actually have a reason to wiggle their fingers.

Offending iPod Commercial (“Air Trumpet” at about 0:22)

What makes this even more ridiculous is that I’ve seen the air trumpet in at least two iPod ads, the latest (above) and another I couldn’t find. (Actually I got too sick of watching iPod ads to finish my pursuit.) What I don’t see is air guitar. You know there’s a lot of that being played behind locked doors to music being cranked out of the iPod. Way more than air trumpet. So I’m calling bullshit there too.
You know what really bugs me about these commercials? The narcissism. I have no time for narcissism other than my own. (OK, and in some blogs I read, but they have the added benefit of being amusing/funny.) It’s irritating to have somebody other than myself making a scene in my living room. I want to reach a silhouetted hand into the screen and tap them on the shoulder. When the figure momentarily halts his epileptic fit, I lean in with my silhouetted head and whisper, “you know, you look like a complete idiot dancing by your self like that.” I envision myself talking to Mr. Stompy-Dance in this video (about 9 seconds in):

And the worst thing about this popular silliness is that it inspires lesser mortals to make (huge, labored sigh) their own iPod commercials. And that invariably involves acting out an old Barenaked Ladies song while while walking on a treadmill or standing on a desk in your socks. View at your own risk. There’s a reason this one carries the prestigious one-star designation. (Safe for work, but not safe for your mental health.)

But surely, you say, there’s one of these innovative commercials you like, Brian. Oh yes, there is. But probably not one that CrApple sanctions:

You’ve been serrrrved! (Still don’t know what it means, but it seems like such a great way to end a post.)

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CAO Vision Catalyst: Bucking The Trend

CAO Vision CatalystBy now, just about everybody in the cigar smoking community has heard the buzz about the CAO Vision line. A nearby brick and mortar store had 2 boxes of these cigars (the robusto and torpedo sizes) and they were completely gone within a few days. If you haven’t seen these cigars in person, you’ve probably seen this video (or one like it), or pictures on any number of cigar websites.

But in case you don’t already know, the biggest attraction to the Vision isn’t the cigars. It’s the box. These cigars come in a box that’s the cigar world’s equivalent of the iPod. It’s creamy white, and when you open it up, blue lights lining the edge of the box illuminate. Of course, that means the box is battery powered, but it gets better. The box is itself a humidor, designed to maintain a constant 70% relative humidity. And how can you tell? Why with the digital readout mounted on the front of the box, of course.

In short, the CAO Vision humidor box is marvelous. And I want one. But this post isn’t about a swanky cigar box. It’s about what’s in the box.

[UPDATE: Since I made the effort to take and upload them I have a few other good pictures of these cigars here and here.]

Cigar Stats
Size: 5 x 50 (Robusto)
Wrapper: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Secret Codes: 0014998 and 0014991 (I just don’t like calling anything to do with cigars “serial numbers.”)
Price Per Cigar: $13.40

The Pre-Smoke
At first glance, they’re pretty good looking cigars (there were some weird veins, but I’m not gonna dwell on them). I’m not a big fan of the band, but I don’t hate it either. Closer inspection revealed little, disappointing imperfections. In both cigars, the cap leaf appeared to be imperfectly stuck to the cigar. I also noticed a crack or two in the wrappers of both cigars. (I don’t think the cracks in the wrapper turned out to have any noticeable impact on the quality of the smoke.) Theoretically, I should not have bought these particular cigars with these visual impairments. However, the box I selected them from was nearly empty, and these seemed to be the least noticeably flawed of the bunch.

I was proven right in my analysis of the cap. When I clipped the first cigar, the cap leaf almost immediately came off, stucking to my lip. Talk about annoying. Fortunately, the cigar didn’t unravel or noticeably loosen. Still, annoying. Noticing similar cap construction issues in the second cigar, I opted for the punch instead. That did the trick, and proved to be the better clipping decision.

Before I lit them, both cigars had a prominent sweet smell with a noticeable barnyard/hay note.

The Burn
With both cigars, I had an inconsistent burn for roughly the first half to two thirds of the cigar. While this probably didn’t have a pronounced impact on the smoke, it was annoying. Fortunately, these issues worked themselves out in both cases in time for the final third. In one cigar, a crack that was present in the final third before lighting began to lift away from the cigar as it reached the burn line. Again, an irritation, but nothing serious.

The punched cigar seemed to have a better draw than the one with standard clip. Initially, it was almost like a jet of smoke, but as I progressed through the cigar, the smoking experience was not noticeably different. If you choose to smoke one of these, I would recommend using a punch.

I’m not sure what it means, but I noticed the wrapper actually sparking as I smoked it, particularly in the first third. And by “sparking”, I mean little flashes of fire on the wrapper. Kinda cool, actually.

In both cigars, the final third burned a bit hot for my liking, despite my conscious attempt to smoke the second cigar more slowly than the first. It’s not clear to me that this cigar smoked better at a slower pace.

The Flavor
My notes on the cigars’ flavors differ considerably. I think that’s because this cigar seems to like to wander. Some might equate that with complexity. To me, it just seemed kid of random and abrupt at points.

Generally speaking, I noted creaminess and cedar in the first quarter to third of each cigar, with occasional pockets of spice, almond and what seemed like apricot. (Seriously. I know you’re saying “B.S.”, but I swear. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) At this stage I also noted an unusually long, but pleasant aftertaste. The flavor transitioned toward a toastier, nuttier, leathery flavor in the middle third, again with unexpected pockets of almond and cinnamon. And finally became a mildly peppery molasses flavor in the final third.

The Price
Even though I’ve decided to start noting the price I paid for each cigar in the stats section, we still need to talk about it. Some more fortunate reviewers were able to pick up this cigar for a few bucks less than I did, but I still think that’s too expensive. The guys at Stogie Review think it would be better priced at $8. Personally, I liked the CAO Gold much better than this cigar, and that’s easy to get in the $4 range. And I can say I’ve never had as many construction annoyances with the Gold as I did with this cigar.

The Verdict
The title of this post is probably misleading. Because it isn’t the cigar that’s bucking the trend, it’s me. I’ve read a lot of reviews recently praising this cigar and recommending it to others. (To be fair, many of them complain about the price.) However, I just can’t give the Vision a passing grade. This cigar just didn’t work for me. And I’m not sure why, because there are elements of the flavor that I did enjoy. It just didn’t settle right with me for some reason.

Both times I smoked it, I was basically laboring through it. Once finished, the Vision put me out of the mood for any cigars for a couple of days. To give you an idea, it took me 3 weeks to smoke these two cigars- after the first, I didn’t want to try the second. I don’t think it’s the power of the tobacco, I’ve smoked (and look back fondly on) other cigars that really messed with my head. It’s a shame too, I really wanted to like this cigar so I had an excuse to buy the box! ๐Ÿ™‚

Quick Summary
(I got the idea for this section from the reviews over at StogieCast. I told ’em I’d give ’em credit for it if I snagged it! ๐Ÿ™‚ )
Like It: Not Really
Buy It Again: No
Recommend It: No

What Other People Are Saying

My Other Reviews

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5 Passive-Aggressive Super Heroes (And Baldwin-Tron)

Alec Baldwin on 30 RockOne of the dangers of excessive blogging is that it opens a brain-geyser of random nonsense that doesn’t stop flowing when your head hits the pillow at night. And for me, its often still flowing when I wake up in the morning. Friday morning, as I was trying to get to the office, my brain had fixed on two things. Passive-aggressiveness and super powers.

I think it had something to do with a poll I found online the previous day regarding the virtues of being able to change water to Colt 45 versus the ability to summon the Baldwins to do your bidding. (Please note that Colt 45 is not featured in my parallel universe Irish pub. It is, however, available in the alley behind it.) Apparently my comment was uproariously funny to be accepted by the blog’s owner (I can understand that, I’d hate to draw attention away from his poll with my witty banter).

My thoughts on the matter is that summoning the Baldwin brothers would be a great thing if you call them individually for specific task (“Quickly Alec, that kid’s being a selfish little pig! Use your power of scathing voicemail!“), or all together, if you were shooting a bad action movie. Or a funny, self-deprecating TV show about showbiz. The deal would be made even sweeter if they could all come together to form Baldwin-Tron to fight Godzilla. Or the Decepticons.

Anyway, back to passive-aggressiveness and super powers. Combining the two, I’ve compiled a list of likely super heroes/villains that you should watch out for:

The Tire Flattener
This super hero has the ability to flatten all the tires of any car improperly or illegally parked. Meaning that if your tire is touching a yellow stripe or your bumper is resting over a handy capped pavement graphic, one glare from this irate super hero will have you calling a tow truck.

However the Tire Flattener is powerless against a properly parked vehicle. And traveling vehicles, for that matter. And angry assholes toting tire-irons who park improperly, but are able to put two and two together. One evening the Flattener will himself be flattened and found laying in the tracks of a monster-jacked-up truck in his own lawn.

The Eavesdropper
The Eavesdropper could be friend or could be foe, but will always be a pain in the ass. He has the ability to hear past dialog by standing in the same place as the person who spoke earlier. The challenge here is that people rarely stand still while talking, which means this guy has to play charades with himself to get the full scoop. This leads the Eavesdropper to perform no end of ridiculous activities. Alone. And sometimes in office supply closet.

The thing that keeps this villain from achieving levels of greatness in the corporate world is that everybody hates a gossip, especially one with a quiver full of daggers with everyone’s name on them. They have the uncanny natural ability to alienate. Combine this with his weird antics alone in the board room and supply closet, he’s destined for short flight to the sidewalk outside the company’s front door. But not before he spills the beans to everyone on Peggy and Bill’s forbidden office affair, outs Tom in accounting, and gets you fired for toilet papering the boss’s car. (Hey, if you wanted to get away with it, you shouldn’t have had that whispered conversation in the conference room.)

The Trash Teleporter
This cranky office laborer is annoyed by other people’s messes. And when her rage builds to the point that blood vessels tango on her forehead, she assumes the power to beam a heap of garbage directly onto the pillow of the offending party.

The good news is that her secret power is never wrong. The bad news is that she never gets the satisfaction of seeing the look on the slob’s face when he finds the balled-up, half-used stack of paper towels he threw on the break room floor on his bed after a hard day of being a messy prick. This lack of closure will ultimately lead to her succumbing to a massive heart attack, but not before doubling the price of Bed Bath and Beyond stock. (You know, ‘cuz they sell bedding. Get it? No? Well, your blog isn’t funny either. I’m kidding. I love you blog. Really. It’s the only one for me.)

The Tear Jerker
This jerk is able to summon ambient moisture in the atmosphere and direct it into a persons eyes and throat, making them appear to be totally losing it. Though he will use this in meetings to emasculate his competitors for the open position in upper management, this bastard prefers to use his power on underlings in public. The combination of uncontrollable sobbing of a coworker with the heavy pepper of his ridicule in a public setting is his caviar.

Though more deserving than most super villains to be defeated utterly (but as passive aggressively as possible), this ass will continue to thrive well into old age. Ultimately, he will make it to the top of several large corporations, pillaging them one by one, screwing shareholders and employees alike by expensing luxurious personal vacations in the French Riviera and acquiring other poorly-managed irrelevant businesses so he can get their product for free.

His only weakness is unbalanced, unrealistically beautiful women. He will realize this flaw only moments before one shoots him aboard the “corporate” yacht at the ripe old age of 89. His power will be useless, because this synthetic beauty will already be crying, and likely on a nearly lethal combination of pain killers and antidepressants. Hey, it was a good run, jerk.

The Petard Hoister
This villain has the magical ability to steer people toward courses of thought, speech and action that ultimately result in them being “hoist on their own petard.” He has a supernatural talent for drawing out people’s natural inclination to try to screw the him, and even boasts the ability to cultivate the desire when none previously existed. In short, the Petard Hoister is a bastard.

Though the source of numerous career suicides, untimely deaths involving explosives and computer mice and two freak car accidents, the Petard Hoister is truly untouchable. And by virtue of the inherent convolution of his power, he is likely to remain that way, at least until his backfire backfires. Until then he lurks as a consultant I.T. world, and blogs in his spare time about passive-aggressive super heroes.

Having achieved the necessary volume of narcissism required on a per-post basis by this blog, we draw our super hero list to a close. Be safe out there, and clean up after yourselves. Feel free to use these ideas in this post for a summer movie blockbuster. All I ask is that I’m listed in the credits as “executive production stallion”. And a million bucks. And merchandising. I really don’t think that’s asking too much.

And careful about those mean thoughts you have about me, they’re not good for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

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If I Ran The Pub

Beer Means More Here“But if I chose the brew,”
Said Brian, beer guru,
“I’d make a few changes
That’s what I’d do…”

Though my reputation for alcohol consumption in certain circles has reached mythic levels reserved for naked, bearded Greek guys living on Mount Olympus, I have yet to actually discuss the matter of booze in any thorough manner. Well, I can’t allow this over sight to continue.

Imagine if you will, a parallel universe. In this alternate universe, I’m the new owner and operator of a Irish pub. And in this parallel dimension (which is heavily influenced by American television sitcoms) I’m magically able live a trendy lifestyle with comical problems that are generally resolved with in the hour.

Anyway, I have an important decision to make in my alternate universe. What beer will I put on tap? I’m not subject to weird protectionist booze inter-state/country import policies or odd restrictive laws that harsh real-life buzzes. Nor am I slowed down by limited productions of the rarer or seasonal beverages. Of course, as a resource, I can rely on the parallel real me, who drinks far more than he should, doesn’t resolve his problems nicely in an hour and faces the often unfortunate consequences of his misguided actions.

Between the two of us, we’ve come up with the following list, sorted by beer style for your reading pleasure.

India Pale Ale (IPA)
Bridgeport IPA – This hoppy award winner is a staple beer in Portland, Oregon. Recently it’s gotten a wider distribution. Seek this one out, it’s worth it. Or have your parallel self stop by my pub. My uncle from Virgina fell in love with it in one evening. He promised to never leave it, but he did have a plane to catch. The beer’s heart was broken. I think your love is all it needs to mend.

Sweetwater 420 – According to the website, this is a “West Coast Style Pale Ale” which is probably why its been my beer of choice the whole time I’ve lived in Hotlanta. It’s hoppy, it’s got a clean finish and it’s got an arbitrary number for a name. And it’s tasty. That’s all I need to tap the keg.

Amber / Red
Golden Valley Brewery Red Thistle Ale – This beer balances mysteriously between an Amber and an IPA, and is absolutely fantastic. In the real world, you better head to Oregon to find this gem. Even then, your only sure bet is heading to the sleepy little college town of McMinnville in the Oregon wine country.

Flying Dog Old Scratch Ale – I don’t know why, but I simply can’t put into words how much I like this beer. Nor can I understand why this is the single hardest Flying Dog brew to find. Fortunately, in my parallel universe pub, this guy is made exclusively for my pub. And its the most popular beer in the world. So business is good. (For research purposes only, I cracked one of these guys open. If a lightly hoppy, cinnamony malty beer sounds good to you, go pick up a cold six. If it doesn’t what’s wrong with you? Is the peer pressure not coming through strongly enough?)

New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale – This beer is sweeping the nation in real life. (I might hold that against it, if it weren’t such a great beer.) However due to the aforementioned weird voodoo booze-import policies, nearly every state in the union has this gem, except my adopted home of Georgia. This tasty “toated malt” flavored concoction of hops and yeast poop is so popular, it even appears in wikipedia. Resistance is futile, but the implants are so small, and the procedure nearly painless, you might as well get it over with.

Blonde / Hefeweizen
Caffrey’s (Official dead website) – This is the obscure Irish cousin of Boddingtons, that gets the same respect as the Irish did in the U.S. in the 19th century. The awesome thing about this beer, aside from the flavor, is the honey-colored Guinness-style cascade. In the real world, Coors owns the rights to U.S. distribution of this beer, and elects to sit on its giant corporate thumb instead of blessing us with this nectar. (If you want to see it in the U.S. again, give Coors a call at 1-800-642-6116).

Hoegaarden – With a double ‘a’ like that, you know its gotta be Belgian. It was over this cloudy, golden liquid heaven I seduced my then girlfriend with my wit, charm and fluid capacity. In the real world, this nectar is widely available in the bottle, and every now and then, on tap.

Leffe Blonde – Though I don’t get to enjoy this brew often, it merits a tap because it holds a special place in my heart. A place that probably was originally responsible for important blood circulation. In any event, this beer is responsible for my lack of memory of several Friday night chicken vindaloo trips I made to Brick Lane while I was working in London. It was also an unpleasant Saturday morning companion on the train to Edinburgh and Paris.

Stout / Brown / Porter
Guinness, Murphy’s Irish Stout and Beamish – This should come as no surprise to anybody. You have an Irish pub, you need an Irish beer. Especially for St. Patties. And I’m not going to discriminate, we’re boasting the full Irish stout trinity.

Bridgeport Porter – Not only do I love this beer for it’s caramelly-chocolaty goodness, we (meaning the beer and I) teamed up to corrupt my friend “I Don’t Like Beer” Dana. It’s a hard beer not to love. And for some reason porters are not a very easy beer to find. They’re so hard to find that you won’t even find a mention of it on the Bridgeport website!

Peroni – I first tried this in Italian train station. The kind of place that featured guys with pencil-thin facial hair and immaculately pressed pastel Armani outfits. So a typical Italian train station. I was as dry as a prune and happy to sample a local beverage. This one surprised me. For a light beer it was crisp and delicious. And the good news for those of you firmly stuck in reality, it’s probably available in your area.

Tiger Beer – This is on the list because I want a beer from southeast Asia. And I’ve had to many rough experiences with Singha. (Mark, if you’re reading this, you know what I’m talkin’ about!) This beer won by heart by virtue of being free during happy hour in the executive lounge in the JW Marriott in K.L. And the ads they ran before movies in Malaysia were so ridiculously funny.

Fruity/Odd Ball
McMenamins Ruby – This beer, like the McMenamins pub chain is a pacific northwest cult favorite. The ruby is basically a raspberry hefeweizen. But its hard to focus on the beer when surrounded by the surreal, quirky hotels, schools and theaters they serve it in. Though my parallel universe pub is Irish, it would definitely steal a page from the McMenamins design handbook.

21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat – This beer was a hit with my wife, my friend Cowan, and his wife also at the 2006 Oregon Brewers Festival. I thought it wasn’t bad either. What can I say, I’m a man of the people. I want my parallel universe customers to be happy, and this beer was out faster than any other beer at the brewfest. Wanna drink one in real life? Head to San Francisco. Hold on there! Quit the humming and drop the flowers, we’re talking about beer.

Jalapeรฑo Chili Beer – This was a seasonal beer put out by a California brewery for the 1996 Oregon Brewers Festival. To my knowledge this beer has been lost to time (and the internet) in the real world. (I’ve seen some evidence that it might have been a product of the late Russell Schehrer, head brewer of Wynkoop Brewing Company…) But, in my parallel-universe, Irish pub paradise, I can resurrect this beer and serve it. Because everyone should have the opportunity to taste a beer that tastes like hot nacho cheese with jalapeรฑos. Even when it’s cold. Kind of like the jelly bean that tastes like buttered popcorn. Only this guy will get you drunk, and as a bonus, will wreak havoc on your digestive system. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ Hey, I never said my pub had to be practical. And just try to tell me that that wouldn’t be bottled awesomeness.

So whaddaya think? Up for a trip to McBrian’s? (Maybe I should all it O’Brian’s?) Feel free to recommend a beverage to add to the list, the parallel reality Brian has no trouble with distributors! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Cuesta Rey 1884: Plugged Pain To Nutty Friend In 3 Smokes

Cuesta Rey 1884 LonsdaleI honestly don’t remember why I picked up the 5-pack of 1884’s. I think it was the newly purchased, but empty humidor. Or maybe it was the enticing write up on TodaysCigar. But I’m glad I did. I feel like I learned a thing or two from smoking it, and it rewarded me with at least one extremely pleasurable smoking experience.

Cigar Stats
Size: 6 3/4 x 44 (Lonsdale)
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic

The Pre-Smoke
These cigars have an inconsistent feel when given the squeeze test. The first one I tried seemed to be the worst offender, and consequently the one with the most burn issues. (More on that later.) The second and third cigars seemed a bit more solid, with less uneven give. They also happened to look less and less ugly with each passing cigar (and no, I didn’t smoke all three of them back to back). The second and third cigars had fewer noticeable bumps, and while they all had pretty prominent veins, they actually seemed to be placed very specifically to create a cool pattern. Especially on the third one.

The cigar also had a pleasant sweet, almost caramel smell before lighting.

The Burn
This cigar is another good example of never judging a box by a single cigar. The first one I smoked had nothing but trouble. It went out at least 3 times and plugged up twice. Fortunately, it gave me the opportunity to try out my new, super-premium Brian’s Draw Poker. The following two cigars burned much more nicely, requiring at most a single slight touch up. Each of these cigars produced a good solid inch to inch and a half of ash before dropping.

The Flavor
This is a cigar that really rewards you for taking your time. Draw issues with the first cigar made me smoke it too fast and resulted in a harsher charred flavor than those that followed. The second was my favorite, it was a rich nutty flavor from the foot to the nub, beginning with a creaminess in the first third and ending with a bit of cinnamon and hints of sweet almond just at the beginning of the final third. The third cigar was very similar, though less creamy. However, it had an amazingly tasty initial 2 or 3 puffs. If the entire cigar tasted like the first 3 puffs of that third cigar, I’d buy a bunch of boxes, quit my job, run into the hills, start talking to myself and never smoke another type of cigar. Fortunately for other manufacturers (and my wife, and myself), it doesn’t smoke that way. It was that tasty.

Another thing I noticed in the third smoke was that the burning cigar smelled delicious. I’m not talking about the smoke, the actual cigar. It was like toasted hazelnuts. I probably looked pretty silly smelling the unlit end of the cigar between puffs, but I didn’t care. And it helped that nobody was around to laugh at me either. This was just too good a cigar to waste putting on on somebody’s forehead. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Price
With shipping, I picked a five pack of these guys up from the troubled (and possibly finished) TodaysCigar for $4.33 a cigar. I don’t think that’s a terrible price for a cigar of this size, a bit high maybe, but I think in the future I might pick up the #47 (robusto) and hope for a price in the low $3 range. This cigar was a perfect companion for the 2 hour season finale of 24, but it’d be nice to be able to invest slightly less time in it and save a buck or two at the same time.

The Verdict
The first one I smoked, I really didn’t enjoy, but the second I loved just as much as I hated the first. The third secured this cigar in the buy-more-column. I wouldn’t say this was my favorite cigar, but I can see picking one up from time to time. Well, let’s put it this way, there’s a good chance I’ll have at least one of these my humidor. If I had to give it a letter rating, I’d give it either a B- or a B. (It gets the B if I don’t encounter any more burn issues with the ones I have left.)

What Other People Are Saying

My Other Reviews

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When Simple, Single Purpose Tools Fail You

You get pissed off. You mistreat the things on your desk. You close the door to your office so you can swear more loudly. And you sure as hell give that quirky optical mouse a reason to jump up to right corner of your screen. And eventually, you visualize beating the figurehead of the company responsible for the tool nearly to death with his own defective device. Or an umbrella. Or perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you drink decaf and are in bed by 8:30.

I won’t tell you which style I prefer, but I will tell you that I’m never in bed by 8:30 and I don’t drink decaf. And very simple, single purpose tools are failing me today, left and right. For no good reason. And I’m tired of teaching my quirky optical mouse a lesson. He doesn’t seem to learn, and he should have a Ph.D. by now. And its hardly fair to imagine pummeling Bill Gates when you’re writing Java with open source tools. You just can’t blame the guy for the things his competitors do, no matter how hard you try.

So with my productivity officially shot for the day, I seek solace in ridiculous quizzes on the internet to tell me things that I didn’t know about myself. Things like, what will my last words be:

Your Famous Last Words Will Be:

“So, you’re a cannibal.”

I can buy that. It’s got a certain implied Indiana Jones quality that seems very applicable to my current career of I.T. consulting. I am, after all, great with a whip.

Here’s a list of equally possible final words I might say.

  • Bubble, bubble-bubble, bubble bubble-bubble-bubble. (In the unlikely case of a water landing.)
  • Hey, you said you weren’t married!
  • Honey, I just got another box of cigars in the mail!
  • Dude, check this out. (Alternately, “Hey, lemme try that.“)
  • Is this “Bankhead Highway“?
  • Aw, dammit. (This is probably the most likely, especially if I see it coming.)
  • You will find the Holy Grail in the Castle of Aaauuuggghhh
  • *Huff* *Puff* *Huff* *Puff* (Either running up stairs, or from angry indigenous peoples with a priceless artifact.)

So to sum up: Simple tool breakage causes anger, asinine online test-taking, silly speculation on your own mortality and delusions of grandeur. Be prepared, bookmark some online quizzes now, you never know when you’ll need them. No need to thank me now, I’ll assume the check is in the mail.

What, you were expecting some profound conclusion? The best I can do today is a Simpson’s quote. (I’m still nearly incoherent from inhaling 700 miles of Georgia and Florida.)

“It’s true… I’m a rageaholic! I just can’t live without rageahol!” — Homer Simpson

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Atlanta’s Accidental Herf: Southern Georgia

Donโ€™t Mess With Smokey, He WILL Eat You.If this post sounds a bit unusual, you should know it’s because I’m high. I’ve been smoking the worlds largest cigar all morning. It’s so big, I’m actually smoking it with a lot of people at the same time. A lot of people. Curious? The cigar is the southern part of the state of Georgia. And right now all of Atlanta is taking part of in a giant, unplanned herf.

As a guy who’s all about turning lemons into lemon vodka, I’ve decided as long as I’m puffing away on southern Georgia, I might as well review the experience. Hey, I’d do the same with any bad cigar.

Cigar Stats
Size: Nearly 700 square miles
Wrapper/Binder/Filler: Georgia swampland and Florida
Price Tag: $30 Million plus.

The Pre-Smoke
Nobody was aware that yesterday was the pre-smoke. And as such, I took no notes. There was nothing especially noteworthy about the air quality yesterday, and the sky was clear. Nothing I noted yesterday prepared me to be punched in the lungs with burning swampland this morning.

The Burn
As far as burns go, this sucker is more like a cigarette than a cigar. To say it burns fast is an understatement. This is one beast we wish would go out in the ashtray.

The Flavor
I seriously evaluated the scent on the way into the office. Since it’s impossible for me to know exactly where we are in the burn, I can’t give a third-by-third analysis. I definitely detected wood and peat and something tangy that I suspect was furry woodland animals. The wood part was almost pleasant (if a bit over powering) while the peat was kind of like inhaling Talisker single malt scotch through a straw. The cumulative effect is like a flying elbow to the sternum.

The Verdict
Don’t light fires in your state/province/principality/whatever. Be sure to stomp out your cigars, cigarettes and camp fires, douse them with water and/or urine and bury them. This is one herf you don’t want to attend, and one you definitely don’t want to be responsible for causing. And no, I don’t think the differences in your location will lead to a better quality of smoke. If you do start one, I will personally help Smokey the Bear maul your ass. (He has a passport, so don’t think you’re off the hook over there across the pond.) And taking time off work makes me grouchy, so I won’t be much for polite conversation either.

More information on the fire here, here, here and here. (Yes, I know, I’m goin’ to hell for this post. But if you laughed or cracked a smile, I’ll see you there. I’ll be the guy with the cigars.)

My Actual Cigar Reviews

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How To Lose 5 Pounds In 5 Minutes Without Throwing Up

The Places Iโ€™m BigAccording to the most granular view of my “ClustrMap” I’m huge in Kansas City. And it looks like I’m also nearly the mayor of a city named Churchill in Manitoba, Canada. (It’s way up there, we’re talkin’ eye-level with Hudson Bay here.) Of course, this has gone straight to my head. And like anybody else with a engorged cranium and an audience, I’m going to write a self-help book. A diet book. And according to the established rules and precedents of diet book authorship, I don’t need to be concerned with a reasonable burden of proof, medical training, or actually being in reasonably good shape. (Exhibit A, Dr. Swill Phil, Exhibit B, The Book) Moving anecdotes about people who might be real, written sincerely enough, are the same thing as facts. I’m totally sincere about that.

Of course, to reward my loyal fans, I’ll let them buy this book from me, and reward them by scribbling on the title page of the book with a flamboyant, but bogus signature. It will work out great. I’ll get rich (because I’ll sell at least 20 books) and my fans will lose weight. At least a couple of pounds. I’ll advise them to pay for the book with as much small change as possible, because coins are heavier than bills. And of course, the more books you buy, the more unsightly weight around your waist you’ll lose. (Pocket change is so lumpy and ugly. Seriously. Not at all hot. Let me help you get rid of it.)

Now all I need are some good platitudes. Some very basic, simple things that will make people feel slightly motivated, but won’t challenge them all that much. I’ll probably stick with things with things people already believe to be true. That way, they’ll feel really smart when they read the book, because they already knew the secrets to weight loss. I’ll put a lot in, so it people will think I’ve made new connections between health principles, and have broken new ground.

Man I feel I’ve given so much already, I’m gonna tag this post “charity”. All this helping people out is hard work. I may have to outsource the actual text to a ghost writer. I mean, I’ve basically done all the hard work at this point, it’s just a matter of putting a bunch of words on paper. Anybody could do that. (And they better do it for less than half of minimum wage, because I’m not made out of money. Not yet.)

Wanna buy a book? Its gonna be a hot fad soon, and it’s always best to be on board with the latest trend as early as possible. Because that makes you look both smart and connected. It’ll only cost you $30. But if you buy it right now, you can have it for $25. And I’ll throw in something else, free. (Hey, what’s something inexpensive that I could give you to get you to give me $25? It shouldn’t cost me more than five bucks, but should be kind of glitzy.)

I think I’ll call the book “How To Lose 5 Pounds In 5 Minutes Without Throwing Up.” That’s a pretty good start. I think it needs a catchy subtitle too, because that makes it look even more intellectual. (More words always equals more brains and therefor more credibility.) I think I’ll go with “You’re Smarter and Fatter Than You Think You Are.” Insulting and uplifting at the same time. Awesome. That should chip away at the ego enough to make people think they need the book, and complement them just enough to make them believe the book will help them.

Whew, man, tough day. I think I’ve earned a beer and a cigar.

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