Kuka IPA

Kuka IPA
Kuka’s IPA

OK, that’s an odd one. Name is Kuka IPA, the subtitle is “ale brewed with maca root.” Made by the Andean Brewing Co., in Blauvelt New York, certainly in the foothills of that part of New York bordering Peru. Right? I didn’t even know what maca root was, but the Wikipedia says it was found at “the Meseta of BomBom close to Junin Lake” in 1843. Riiiight, just outside the Bronx i’m sure. And then it says: “women had to be protected from the Inca warriors, as reportedly they became ambitiously virile from eating such quantities of maca.”

So this is America, so obviously we’ll put it into beer because, well because America. USA! USA! USA! The extra odd thing about this beer is that it’s gold-ish almost to amber, but it’s completely opaque. What it really looks like is fresh raw cider, but it smells like a very hopped IPA. So far so good, and so far, so odd.

The moment of taste: whoah, that’s really odd. There’s beer, there’s hops, but there’s something else in there, must be the maca, a bitter and leathery taste, like an old shoe that was worn while stomping radishes. The Inca thought it was a delicacy, but “studies have shown a very low acceptance of the particular maca taste in consumers when first exposed to it. Apparently, the taste is acquired,” meaning that if you already like radish shoes, then you’ll simply love maca.

Huh. More sips and my tongue’s able to separate out more of the beer and hop tastes to better isolate the maca. Slightly sweet, if you’ve ever eaten a raw plantain, then think of that. Or biting the white part of a leek. Huh, this is odd beer. Not terrible, but i think it might take a while to ‘acquire’ this taste. I can see why they tried this with an IPA, the strong hops are like an overcoat, masking the maca from indecent exposure. And trust me, they needed some whomping hops to do that.

The beer reports itself as 6.2% alk, probably a good idea in this case, not a bad thought to bump it up to 7.2% in v2.0 if that ever happens. It’s a physically thick beer, the last few drops came out of the bottle with more of a drab than a drip, and getting to the bottom of this glass it seems even thicker. Not sure if it’s my imagination, but my head is starting to feel a little funny here. It’s like i’m over-alert but it’s different than a caffeine or nicotine alertness. There’s no heart-rate bump and no fine-focused awareness like with caff or nick. It’s like a relaxed intentness, makes me feel like i want to breathe deeper and makes my feet fidgety.

OK, am going to set this review down for a quarter hour and try to figure out what exactly is going on here…

Wow, and i mean wow. Maca root is something real, unlike most goofy diet supplements. This was my first beer o’ the evening, and at 6.2% alcohol it shouldn’t have done this to me. Not exactly a 90-pound weakling here, and i have dranked beer before. I recall that the first beer in your life hits you with a hammer, but i am, let’s just say, “experienced”. I normally have a new beer for review before anything else in the day, freshly arrived at home, when my palate is clear. And 6.2% alk is not enough to make me swimmy. But this one did.

Not really drunk, but all squirelly. I feel the alk, which i shouldn’t. I feel calm but ready to go, tingly in the calves and mind rolling from thing to thing, with a strange kind of concentration but unable to groove on any one thing for long. Wonder if this is what ADHD feels like? Interferes with the ability to write, like so many words are just beyond the tip of my tongue.

Yeah, i can see what this does to me and extrapolate what “copious amounts of maca” might do to an Inca warrior. Totally can imagine running off into the jungle with a club, and if we don’t find the enemy, just might thud a few unlucky sloths on the noggin.

The aftertaste of this beer clings to the sides of the tongue, where the ‘bitter’ buds reside. The taste got better, as in less odd, as the glass emptied. But the psycho-physio effects are remarkable. Feel sped but without the nasty effects of normal upping compounds. Alas, don’t really feel “ambitiously virile” but then again i only had one bottle of this, lucky for the lady sloths.

Not sure how to rate this drink. It’s not really an IPA, just a delivery vehicle for maca. The taste is not great compared to real beer IPA’s, this might rate a 4 or 5 purely as a beer. Reading more on Wiki, maca contains “(1R,3S)-1-methyltetrahydro-carboline-3-carboxylic acid, a molecule which is reported to exert many activities on the central nervous system.” Damn slappy true there. Now i’m all cooked up so won’t bother reviewing another beer this evening, wouldn’t be able to be objective, and this should wear off by tomorrow. Hopefully.

What i can tell you is that there’s something going on inside a bottle of Kuka IPA, try it and judge for yourself. Holy crap, this beer is nutso. As a beer i’d rate it a 4.1 but as an interesting experience this gets an 8.1 so might as well split the diffy and call it at 6.1 …but don’t call that a low review, you’ll have to try this yourself.

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Ballast Point's - Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA

At last, it’s time for the highly anticipated Sculpin. One ugly damned fish on the label, i think if i caught one i’d just lash my pole up and down on the deck until that nasty thing fell off the hook. Then i’d kick the squishy remains overboard. But the IPA named for the thing comes highly recommended. When i went looking for an answer to what a “session” IPA is, the Goog threw me to a website with small useful articles about all kinds of beer terms. And there, a short list of IPA’s, the ones that writer thought were top-notch.

Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA was on that list. So here is me, with a sculpin in my glass, at long last. Damned expensive, $15 for a six-pack, so had to wait until i found one on a pick-a-six rack. COlor is a shade dimmer than golden, and the noseful of grapefruit in the glass portends well here. There’s bubbles, nozzled out of nowhere at a few points inside the glass, so we know it’s carbonated, which will be a nice change from those Uinta beers.

And a sip o’ sculp… ooo, that’s nice. Creamy, hoppy, balanced beer body is not overwhelmed. A smidge of piney hops, taste is less fruity than the smell was, and the fruit notes are a little more sweet than tart. At 7.0% alk, this is not a minnow, but not a whale either. That sweetness makes the hops more floral than zesty, and make no mistake, the hops are center stage. The beer body lurks in the wake, not obliterated but not jumping out in front of the bowsprit.

This one has the “balance.” Body just sturdy enough to support hi-hopping, alcohol is just high enough to keep volatile oils squeezed from the hops in solution. Near the end of the glass, the hops turn more piney and the body peeks out a touch more. Not a Top Fiver, but a very concentrated attempt at making a great IPA. Easy to drink despite 7.0% and the flavors don’t overwhelm the experience. Mighty fine beer, better than BP’s Big Eye IPA, i’ll give this a respectable 8.5 for high hops and good balance.

Yuengling Light

Yuengling Light
Yuengling Light

Continuing on the tour of crap beer, another light but this one’s from the maker of my beloved Black & Tan. And actually it’s not the terriblest. The color is nearly amber, but we can assume that this is caramel food coloring. Like most lights, this one’s about 100 calories per dose, or fashionably just under that, 99 in this instance.

And in this instance the taste is probably the best light i’ve had, but that’s like saying it’s the dumbest rock in the quarry. It’s a light beer so it’s watery, doesn’t smell like beer, rather some kind of pungent soap. The taste is beer-water so don’t be fooled by the color. A step above some lights, on its own this beer-like liquid rates 2.3.

Not for solo consumption, but i bought it for this anti-quest, and it works just fine for blending with YB&T. They are cousins, after all. And they kiss like it. Together they make a beer which is not sad to drink when you’re chilling, although Yuengling Light is also as sweet as Yuengling Black & Tan, so the combination is fairly darned sweet. I don’t think i could binge-watch some show with this as my only blended beer.

Milk And Honey And Rockstar

Put the lie to the light, and it shrivels. A conspicuous one this century is that “America was founded as a Christian Nation.” No. That’s a lie. A convenient lie for those nutjobbers who want to float racist ‘identity’ in a rickety canoe of religion. Rather, the first few English colonies were founded as christian refuges, notably by heretics of the day.

But “America” was founded 160 years years later as an explicitly non religious nation. Part of the genius of the enlightened scions, aside from what is obvious crime today, the founding of the USA was a step forward for all humanity. Looks like a baby step from today’s 20/20 hindsight, how lucky are we to have a political system survive so long to have even a shred of it to stand upon, to look back?

We have to keep repeating it until everyone knows it by reflex: the USA is not a christian nation. By original design, it is not a Christian Identity Nation. It was On Purpose that the US was not founded as a christian nation.

Reagan’s unholy reach-around with the evangelicals is finally bearing mis-shapen fruit which is unable to propagate itself without depleting the soil it grew up in. Most political movements only need simple manure, but this one now requires outright cheating to survive.

So it will pass. Trouble is, that the nebulous feelgoods of the left are not going to succeed as a replacement. Have argued here before that colonizing space will only work if we incorporate the gung-ho conflict-loving part of the populace. We must declare War On Space. If we only send botanists and geologists, we risk a higher proportion of hotheads remaining on Earth, rooting for each new war with a “cheeseburger on the end of my d*ck.”

So it is, for religious hotheads in today’s America. Leave the web of beliefs intact but incrementally marginalize it, if you want it to blow up into extremism. This happened last century: petrol multinats used dictators to marginalize islam, and it blew up into a festoon of jackassery. Here and today, there must be a new chord of christianity to accompany the fading of the previous note.

A more productive way, the forward thinking way, would be to cobble together a perfectly reasonable flavor of christianity via synods of perfectly reasonable widely respected church leaders. This is the perfect way to fail utterly. Making a new religion by consulting experts is exactly the right way to make it fall flat on its face, and waste a buttload of money meanwhile.

No, the next religions have to rise organically. And they will. The brightest billboard from the last two communication revolutions, glaring now in our 20/20 rearview mirror, is the profound changes they brought to religion. Writing collapsed polytheism in to mono-, printing dropped the god –> community relationship down to god <–> me.

Nobody can stop the new religions, not even a vestigial communist party which can force both Hollywood and the NBA to drop balls. Certainly not a vestigial communist party which has no qualms averse whacking a rival don at mass. Chicago had a Ness, the Big Apple had a Giuliani (wince), so one prelate in St Petersburg with the balls of Thomas Beckett could change that nation more, and faster, than Gorbachev. If only he’d have the balls to die for it… but isn’t that kinda what christianity is all about in the first place?

Replacements are coming, for christianity, for islam, for hinduism, for buddhism, and for liberalism and for conservatism too. There will be dozens of them. Hundreds. But, if history is a teacher, only a handful of them will survive to grow. I predict that none of those will preach: “it’s OK to poison your political rivals and their daughters with polonium.” That strain of evil thought will persist in the dark dreary NrChans of the future, but it’s going to be wiped out from the global mainstream.

How can we be sure? Because the new religions are going to be “new”. Thus all the converts will be new converts. And we all know what that means: zealots. New belief is always the strongest. Born Again might last a lifetime, but newborn life is the most fervent.

Can’t tell you where the new religions will rise from, the new communication regime makes Zaire just as likely as Zurich or Zanzibar. Can’t say which blends of god/person/science will make it past their first year. No idea what role sex will play in the final handful, nor how that topic will mutate between the prophetic phase and the pontifical phase. Only thing we can see for sure now, is that there will be a lot of them to begin with and we’ll get a spate of miniature crusades while the field winnows itself down. Pity that, but we are just monkeys after all. Messy critters who find inexplicable mirth in poo.

Fermi’s Paradox is not

Drakes and Fermis and Malthussusses, Oh My! Why has SETI no incontrovertible proof after 50 years? Hawking was worried about our EM broadcasts inviting the “wrong kind” of attention. Yet after 120 years of that, nobody out there seems to care. Hawking’s tripstone was assuming that ETs would be vastly overtech past us, and implicitly assumed faster-than-light travel as a given to our future conquerors. He thought that it would be light-speed signal leakage that would give us away. Might be possible, but this implies that our space overlords should have been here by the 1920’s. If they ain’t here by now, they’re not coming.

So why? That’s Enrico Fermi’s paradox, codified by Drake first but not best, which is how science works. The nature of the question itself assumes that humanity has already attained a level of sustainability against all anticipated threats. But we haven’t. Until we do so, Fermi’s stumper is just masturbation after all. We have to get sustainable colonies on at least two other rocks in the Solar System before we can start to feel safe from the species-level threats, those ones which we can’t do anything about. Yet.

500 million years from a cell to a capsule in orbit. It implies many millions of years beforehand, of chemical reactions organizing one by one into chains of process. We know it happened here, now we can see other planets where it could happen, so where are they? Why are we alone?

It’s because we’re early. 1 billion years early. That’s a guess, but a darn good one. It’s not just a convenient round number, the one billion years. The universe is 13 and a half billion years old, and it will be about 14.5 billion years old when it changes. Space is an effect of matter, so if space is expanding then that means more matter is being created from the matter/energy substrate. But this won’t always be so.

Predicted it 25 years ago, but never thought it’d be observed until we could travel beyond the Milky Way’s ecliptic: Dark Flow. Wish cosmologists would stop it already with the word ‘dark’, but the observation is that not only are galaxies fleeing apart from each other, but they are all moving slightly towards one distant spot in the sky. And that spot is 15.5 billion light-years away.

The universe is not a thing, nor a collection of things. It is an event, not a thing. The event we’re almost halfway through, is an event which takes about 29 billion years.

Everything is an event, even lonely matter sitting there minding its own business. We are accustomed to think of only interactions as “events” because something “happens” when matter or energy undergoes a change. But the fact that a particle merely exists, in a place at a time, is an event inherent of itself. In both senses, the universe can be seen as full of events, but now as an event itself.

Matter and energy are the same thing, both arise as knots, as fluctuations of various organization from the same substrate. Thought this was true using the theory of the Higgs boson years ago, and now we know that the Higgs beast exists. Now, we know that every bit of the universe winks in-to and out-of existence about 4 quadrillion times a second. It’s what Schroedinger said about the cat, now we know it’s all true.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s alive or dead, science has proved that there IS a cat in a box. No word yet on whether it’s wearing a hat.

We are about 1.0 billion years away from our universe’s halfwaypoint, when numbers which we thought of as physical constants crest and start drifting contrarywise. That needs ‘splaining. There’s a constant in physics, the “fine structure constant” for simplicity called ‘alpha’ which is 1 divided by 137.0359. It worried Richard Feynman, who said it’s: “a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man.” Enrico Fermi also had a piqued internal feud with “alpha”, it consumed much of his later career.

If alpha was a hair smaller, stars would not create carbon, and if alpha is a touch higher, carbon atoms would decay much faster. The scope of this essay means skating over details which the reader can find on the ‘net or in decent a library for further reading, but here’s some backstory.

We can make nuclear fission today, and also we can study how it happened naturally 1.7 billion years ago, in a cave in Africa. Differences in the fission byproducts neodymium and samarium suggest that alpha has decreased slightly over time. In addition, observation of chromium expelled from quasars also suggests that alpha has decreased. Not by much, one proposed rate of change is on the order of 1 part in 1,000,000 parts, per billion years.

Alpha is defined as the charge of an electron doubled, then that result divided by a denominator which is Planck’s constant multiplied by the speed of light then that result divided by 2 times pi:


Or: e4pi/hc, if you like.

That’s the same equation, only with math tricks, and it means “alpha” equals the charge of an electron multiplied by 4, then that result multiplied by pi, and then THAT result gets divided by Planck’s Constant times the speed of light.

The constancy of alpha between the subatomic and cosmological scales really bothered Enrico Fermi. It is the reason Fermi posed his “paradox” in the first place. But Fermi lived too early, and now we know more. The equation above might seem like a good candidate for glossing over, but you should be able to apply some simple algebra to see for yourself, what a decreasing alpha means.

If alpha trends lower, then that means either: 1) electrons are becoming weaker over time, or 2) the speed of light is increasing over time. Pi won’t change, and Planck’s constant is unlikely to change, so that leaves e or c as our variables. Now refer to earlier paragraphs here to tie it all together. Space is an effect of matter. Matter and energy are expressions of the same thing. Einstein showed an effect of gravity on the speed of light, and matter loves gravity. If space itself expands all around an innocent photon, what choice does it have, but to shift red?

So is it e, or is it c, which is our variable? The charge of an electron, or the speed of light? It’s both of them, and they’re bound by the proportion of matter/energy in the universe. As alpha falls, the spectrum shifts slightly towards more matter than energy. That would mean space expands. Check, we’ve got that. As alpha falls, we should see higher and heavier elements produced in the universe, another checkbox, we see this everywhere as time marches on.

We should find more and larger black holes, which are merely the outward face of matter which has passed a threshold of organization, and yet again: Check, we see that today. Should also see fewer supernovae and fewer gamma-ray bursts, but time will tell on that. Several decades are not enough sample size to know about that yet.

If alpha is falling, we are gaining matter, which is just a more highly organized flavor of energy. Every aspect of a falling alpha points towards more life “as we know it,” our kind of life based on matter. This does not preclude life based more on energy than matter, which David Brin puts out in the 1st and 6th books of the Uplift Sexology. Get your mind out of the gutter, we’re talking science here. It’s just a series of six books.

More matter (and more stable matter) means more planets capable of sprouting life, and a more stable stellar environment for such cradles of chemical invention, since more matter means more gravity, and then faster absorption of stray planet-altering rocks within an innocent star’s accretion disk. If alpha is falling, then the universe should become far more hospitable to any life based on matter, “Life as we know it”

But this will not always be so. Back to the tippy-top of this essay, the universe is an event 29 billion years long. We are highly sure that there was a Big Bang 13.5 byr ago, and it looks like something’s attracting matter 15.5 byr’s away. The universe looks to be 1.0 billion years from the midpoint, which might mean the height of matter over energy, via the current falling value of alpha, which may be the unwitting abettor of life as we like it. A billion years from now, does alpha bottom out and begin to rise? Instead of getting further from the big bang, now it’s in front of us, and getting closer.

Don’t worry, it won’t be as catastrophic as flicking a switch and the universe flies into a Big Crunch Smoothie. It would still take billions of years for our kind of life to become untenable, as carbon itself slides from the list of ‘stable’ to ‘radioactive’. In the meantime, we’ll have continuing carbon production among aging stars on both sides of the event, and we would see shrinking space and more freely available energy… shouldn’t take much imagination for a curious ape, to think up what to do with that kind of universe!

Drake plugged in numbers and came up with 50,000 fellow galaxians in 1961. Forgan came up with 31,574 back in 2008. But still Fermi echoes down the hall: “Where is everybody?” The more science uncovers, it appears that we are an early beneficiary of a side-effect of how the universe changes over time. Alpha is falling, so we should expect a wave of more frequent (and more complex) arrangements of matter for the next billion years.

In a billion years, there will be a crescendo of intelligent life filling space with transmissions. If we survive to see that, we will be the “ancient ones” who shepherded a billion worlds. If we don’t, someone else will, because they’re coming, soon and lots of them. We are just early to the party. We are probably not the first in this universe, but we are very early in the wave.

Any ape knows the advantage of being the first to an unpicked berry bush, but the smarter ape tastes the soil in which berry bushes grow, then poops on the same kind of plot further along the creek. Humans can explore and expand, but there are no aliens to either embrace or exterminate us. We greenhorn humans are just early, that’s all. There will be plenty of aliens later, because a decreasing value of alpha enhances the stability of existing carbon.

Fermi’s Paradox is not a mystery. The permanence and stability of matter itself is increasing all across the universe, as far as we can see. In a billion years this will reach a high-water mark, then ebb. Because life on Earth was 3 billion years early, implies that we’ll keep meeting new galactic neighbors for the next several billion years. Hey SETI, enjoy the relaxing silence while it lasts. A billion years from today, the noise will be deafening.

If all this speculation is true, then there are strategic aspects. METI, for instance, doesn’t mean a thing, one way or another. There’s either zero or few possible recipients of our call. SETI however, becomes much more important with each passing million years. When each new life gets to the level of EM leakage, we want to know about it.

Foolishly taking our own example as a median, the path from the discovery of magnetism to space travel could take anywhere from a hundred years to 50,000,000 years. Took us a couple thousand, but from supraplanetary EM ejaculations to space trips, only took us 70 years. By the time we see alien sitcoms, we will either be spacefaring because we’ve been smart or will become spacefaring in a crash program in 30 years at great cost, because we were too wrapped up in our own little world.

J.W. Dundee Honey Brown lager

J.W. Dundee Honey Brown lager
J. W. Dundee’s Honey Brown lager

Mentioned this beer in an earlier review, so thought i’d better explain, expand, and expound on it. Made by J.W. Dundee, which is a sub-nameplate of Genesee Brewing that arose in the 1990’s. Dundee came out with a few other beers, but the Honey Brown Lager was the only one which really stuck, and AFAIK the only one still regularly sold today.

Name comes from the fact that they use honey in the brew, and you actually can taste it. Not so brown a beer, more amber-ish these days, i remember it being darker in the 90’s. But it still has that same taste, a rich and warm sweet, even when served cold, and though the label calls it “extra rich” i don’t know if i’d go that far, but it is definitely “regularly rich”.

Being a lager at heart, there’s a swarthy feel to the beer in the mouth, a meal beer, not a prancing dessert beer, even if it is sweet. And that’s the real rub here: Honey Brown is good because it’s honey-sweet, unexpected in a lager and pulled off well by Gen- err, Dundee. Something about being in beer makes the honey taste like dark honey, if that’s even a thing. This honey is to real honey as brown sugar is to plain sugar.

And that rub again: great taste and a fine way to shake up your beering once in a while, but just can’t drink two of these in a row. The first sip is refreshing and surprising, the rest of the gulps are heavy with a sweetness you’re glad to have. Your first Honey Brown is always great. But try and drink another one, and it suddenly tastes… less great.

Don’t misunderstand that. If you’ve never had this beer, by all means try it. You’ll love it. There’s a reason why they still make it. But if you bring a 12-pack of it to a party, there had better be 12 people there. They will all love it. But make sure nobody has seconds. After one, they’re saying “hey that was fantastic, gimme another one!” Don’t let them do it.

A second Honey Brown in a row lets the sweetness take control and you no longer taste the lager, all you taste is the sweet. Same rule with wedding cake. After you’ve been working up a sweet-tooth at the reception with a few drinks and choice of haddock, chicken french, or spag bolo, a hunk of over-frosted cake is fantastic and gives you the energy to force Aunt Regina to do the Limbo. But your second piece will only have one bite missing, and might force the rest up backwards if Aunty Reggie forgot to wear her undies.

I found this in a 24-ounce can, and as i write, am now into the second half. Sure enough, i’m a little less eager to grab the next gulp. The first half was excellent, something new and different (haven’t had a HB in a few years). But now it’s getting more towards a cloying sweet, and it feels more like a duty than a joy to finish the last 10 ounces. It’s really an unusual beer, how the contrast between your first and your second is so glaring.

So you’ve been warned, one of these every week is just right, but more often and you won’t like it. Don’t hold that against it. I’ll rate the first Honey Brown at 6.8, just be circumspect about how often you drink it, since the rating plummets fast after one beer.

Yuengling Black ‘N Tan

Yuengling Black & Tan
Yuengling’s Black & Tan

Goofy, that i haven’t reviewed this one yet. It’s a staple beer for me, always have some on hand. Usually, the beers i review are ‘spensive and high-alk so i only have a few at a time, at most. But for regular old sit-and-have-a-beer times, Yuengling’s Black & Tan is the most important beer in my house. So at long last, here’s some chatter about it…

A Black & Tan is normally understood as 1/2 lager and 1/2 stout, though there are other places which do it different. In any case, it’s blended beer. A good bartender can make you a B&T which actually stays separated in the glass before you drink it. once you drink it, of course, it mixes together. Or, you could buy it in a bottle (or can) pre-blended. This is what Yuengling does.

For years i avoided Yuengling because i’ve had some Chinese and Japanese beers and they just didn’t wow me. Lol, come to find out that “yuengling” is a German name, who would assume that? But the stuff is made in Pennsylvania, the brewery’s been independent since 1829, and they are one of the few true and blue independent family-owned breweries who never got gobbled up by a corporation.

That’s a big reason why i buy Yuengling, now that i know it’s not made in Shanghai, and now i know that my purchases help keep a major indy brewery going. For general consumption, their lager is darn good, and priced nice at $10 for a twelver. Their IPL is good, and they come out with seasonal things all the time, and i frequently try those, just because their B&T is so integral to me as a utility beer.

On its own, YB&T is a good beer. It’s got the attacking quality of stout with the friendly handshake of a lager, the oats and sour and pumpernickel of the stout blended with the barley and light hops of the lager. For those who remember the brief fashion of dark beers in the 1980’s, this is the culmination of that fad. Sweeter than most, damn near opaque in color, a heavy taste in the mouth which invites cheddar and rye crackers. Pretty sweet but pleasingly heavy, on its own i’d rate this at 6.7.

For just sitting around watching a game, you don’t want hi-alk and some people can’t afford to casually quaff craft beers at $11 per sixer. I can’t, anyway. That’s where Yuengling’s Black And Tan comes in. About 3 years ago i discovered something about YB&T, something amazing which no other beer can do. This beer can be used as an ingredient to make ANY other beer tasty. No lie, ANY other beer. Obviously, you don’t want to add this willy-nilly to a beer which outranks it… i’m not going to try mixing this into a Smuttynose, for god’s sake.

But for reals: i tried it with over a dozen beers and it works every time. Just pour a 12-oz beer into a 16-oz pint glass, then top off with Yuengling’s Black & Tan. The injection of YB&T takes over, you can see the dark brown cloud mixing in as you pour, and the taste is worlds beyond the original substrate beer. And further no lie: i went on a quest, or more accurately i went on an anti-quest, to find the crappiest, cheapest beer i could find. Works every time.

Pabst, Old Swilltaukee, Genny, Busch, Rolling Cock, Swilltaukee’s Worst, Hamms, Coors, Budweezer, Swiller, and many more. I could not find a beer cheap enough to avoid YB&T’s civilizing influence. Most of them were undrinkable on their own, but with just a few ounces of Yuengling they’re actually delicious. This is the secret of YB&T, one 12er of this turns a 30er of crap beer into something you can drink and actually enjoy, and it doesn’t break your debit card in half.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Try it yourself. Obviously, don’t go to your regular beerstore and pick up some PBR. You don’t want them to think less of you from that moment on. But stop at a corner store and pick up the cheapest thing they have, the most nasty and crabshacky thing on the shelf. Try it naked first, spit it out of course, then add a few oz of YB&T. Voila! Sudden craft!

Well, it’s not craft beer, and it’s not great beer, no brainchild of any brewmaster here, but for just-havin-beers, this secret trick of YB&T transforms rote sipping into something you can enjoy tasting. Or at least drink without gagging.

The later part of the anti-quest has been to try YB&T mixed into light beers, known as the crappiest of the crap, and sure enough, this stuff makes a light beer tolerable.

Bud Select 55

Bud Select 55
Bud’s Select 55

Now, as you know i’ve long been searching for the crappiest beer known to mankind, because i have yet to find a beer which cannot be made into a tasty pint by adding a few ounces of Yuengling’s Black & Tan. I exhausted all the regular bland dribblers sold around here: the ones which come in a 30-pack for $13. Severe lightbulb moment, when i realized that light beers are, as a species, entirely crappier than cheap regular beers!

So the anti-quest continues. This time, it’s Budweiser’s “Select 55” light beer, named after the number of calories in a can. Most light beers have about 100 calories per 12 ounces, including Michelob’s Ultra, which you would assume they mean ultra-low-cal, but instead they mean it’s ultra yummy for a light beer… naturally that’s both a paradox and an oxymoron at the same time.

This here ultra-light is the lightest of the lightest, 55 calories is the lowest i’ve seen. That’s the kind of technology which a vast brewery-industrial complex can buy. Miller has a 64-cal one, but i have yet to gamble on it. And in the end, no matter how crappy this one is, it follows the other crappy sheep and is easily made tame and tasty by mixing in some Black & Tan.

So mission accomplished there, but what is Bud 55 Select like on it’s own? I took the plunge into icy waters so you don’t need to. Surprisingly, it nearly tastes like beer. Moreso than the Mich Ult, this one has a faint shadow of malted grain, even if it is rice. No hop character to speak of, but we already know it’s cheap, 67¢ a can. It’s thin, it’s watery, they don’t say but we know it’s low-alk, and it’s slightly carbonated. Sort of like a fizzy wet rice cake.

With YB&T mixed in, it’s fine as a base, and that’s the real shocker. I don’t believe a beer exists which can’t be juiced into semi-yum by Yuengling’s dark influence. But on its own, Bud 55 is only a situation beer, like when you head over to a buddy’s house for a bbq and his wife has decided that he needs to lose a few so she’s stocked the house with Bud Select 55. You have to tell her that it’s fine. In your mind, though, this beer rates a 1.6 flat.

Bells 2 Hearted Ale

Bells 2 Hearted Ale
Bells’s 2 Hearted Ale

This had damn well better be good. Went looking for what a “session” beer is (this is not one), and found some other reviews, and they raved and drooled all on, about Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Around here it was a couple bucks off on sale last month, but i didn’t take the bait. I paid full price for a sixer of this, $10.99, so it had durn better be great.

Color is deeper than pale but not getting into amberland, heavy head and even effervescing. No mention what kind of hops, just that they “stuffed” them in, and it says “Ale” on the front but on the back label they call this an “IPA style” beer. Good enough for me. 7.0% alk so it’s far from sessionistic, and the smell is all good: orange blossoms, ferns and pine forest.

So far, such good. The taste.. oh my. This has got the creamy flavor of the top IPA’s like Full Sail and Smuttynose, and that explains how the nasal appreciation nearly reminded me of a creamsicle. But it’s not a creamsicle, it’s a beer, and it’s really good.

This will take a while, a couple pints at least to consider the ramifications here. #5 on my Top Five IPA’s is Sam A’s 48º Latitude rated at 9.1 but this may be the fish who knocks Sam off. A Michigan product, and you know that’s where all the Germans and Poles settled in the USA, and somehow the brewing know-how of the old Country survived some depressions and a prohibition.

Oooh, this has the hops that turn into other things in your mouth. You ever had those squishy semi-circle lime candies, back in the days before gummi things were invented? They came in lemon, orange, and lime, and a red one which i’m not sure what it was supposed to be. They were the gummis of 2 generations ago. The hop side of this beer has the taste of those lime-wedge candies, minus the crust of sugar of course.

Oooof, nice sweetness to the beer body, and just balanced enough to not be sweet but tart-sweet in the final taste. But no escaping it: this is a sweeter IPA than most. Creamy, sweet, citrus… no wonder “creamsicle” sprung to mind. These Michiganders have got the right idea, except for the sweetness. I know that’s what the typical American palate leans toward, but in this case it’s a touch overdone.

So no, this one will not displace Sam Adams from the Top Five. It’s a very, very good IPA, the beer body has that astringent quality that makes German beer the best in the world, even before it gets the overlay of hops. I prefer heavier body, in beer if not in ladies, and this one is medium-heavy but extremely well done for its size. You can really tell that this is all barley, a “real beer” made the way that Opa Krauss made it in the root cellar a hundred years ago. It even got a burp out of me 1/3 the way through the second pint.

My pint is an 18-oz lager-style glass, heavy glass to hold its pre-chilling, and 18 so that you get a full pint after accounting for head. For this beer, i needed those extra two fl-oz’s because the head is so luxuriant. More evidence that this is a competently made beer from head to toe. It’s really hard to identify the taste that makes German beers the best. The closest i can come is comparing the almost tinny back-mouth taste to the dust that gathers on cuckoo clocks. Honestly, that’s the best i can do. It’s like the dry side of the pillow on a hot night. It’s like a heated icepick. It’s like the final few days of the Sahara Forest. I told you, the dusty cuckoo was the best i could do.

Well, this beer is about 60% of the way towards real German beer. And that’s a helluva lot further along than most American beers, crafty or uncrafty. At heart, that is the greatest compliment i can bestow on a beer: “it’s closer to German than most.” So very enjoyable, a treat to taste, but the sweetness is a subtraction here. I don’t have the most typical American palate, sue me or don’t.

Suspect that the sweetness is from a faster fermentation run, leaving some grain sugars uneaten by the yeast army. This is probably on purpose, because Michigan is in America. But i taste everything else in this beer, and more than “yum” i say “what if?” What if they ran the yeasts into their microscopic graves, and ate up half of the residual sugars which they now bottle? What if Bell’s Brewery made a Three Hearted Ale? Of course it would be stronger alk, but with the hops and malts they’ve got going, this contestant might be the first American brewery to duplicate real German beer.

Ah, what if. Meantime, Two Hearted Ale is pretty good. Could be better but would it be as popular if they made it better? Dunno, but do know that i’d rate this as 8.7 for good beer and balanced hops, with deductions for sweetness.

Keegan Bine Climber IPA

Keegan Bine Climber IPA
Keegan’s Bine Climber IPA

Don’t know what a bine climber is, but a busy little can here with plenty of info, and we like that. Geek humor is always great too, and according to the label i am holding 3.02 x 10^-3 barrels of IPA. To the math-fearers, that’s .00302 of a barrel, and to the truly thick, that’s 12 fluid ounces. A can of beer. Don’t worry, just drink it.

They list out the malts used (2Row, Pilsener, Munich and wheat), and the hops (Columbus, Citra, Falconer’s Flight, and Cascade). IBU’s are at a healthy 44. Also has a SRM number, which is a mystery to me but this IPA has 3.9 of those, whatever they are. The one piece of info missing on the can is one of the crits: the alk content! But since this is a “session” IPA we can infer that it’s at 4.5% or so.

Actually, now that i think about it, a bine climber might be a hop plant. Not sure, but there’s a maybe there. Anyway, the color is roundabout gold-ish, with plenty of floaty specks in there, which is usually a great sign for an IPA. The aroma is plenty hoppy, pine and sharp fruity, with a hint of schnozzberries.

Now down to it: the drinking of the drink. Catches in my throat a little bit, this one wears its 44 IBU’s well, and it had better because the malts are clearly overshadowed here. According to Keegan, there’s some wheat in here, but i can’t pick it out. The hops are hard and heavy, and i like this blend’s taste. It’s got my fave, Cascade, and truthfully here, this is one of the hoppiest IPA’s i’ve ever had. This one gives Hop Stoopid and Hop Hunter a run for their money.

Being “session” and thus low-ish alcohol, this would be an ‘easy drinking’ beer if it wasn’t hopped to the gills. I can declare it a good Summer beer, with the tart and foresty hops leaving your mouth dry and salivatey, this would be refreshing on the back deck on an 85º evening. But i can’t imagine drinking more than 2 or 3 of these in a row, the hopsy-turvy attitude would get absurd fast.

So if you buy this, prepare to share. As the glass went lower, and my mouth grew accustomed to the full-on hopslaught, the malts, the beer’s body, started to peek out from under the gtreen curtain. I can at last tell that there’s wheat in here, and the pils, and the other grainy tastes must be the other 2 malts, which i know nothing about. For that matter, i’d never heard of Falconer’s Flight hops, but there it is on the can.

The beer body is light, and the hops are all erect, so this one doesn’t have great balance. If you’re on The Quest for Hoppier-Than-Thou, then you owe yourself a tonguewash with this IPA. They really do hop the hell out of it. Other than that notable, there’s not much to shout about. I’ll rate it 7.0 for the hop madness, without that it’d be 5-something.