Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #6

November 13th, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I finally scored a beer I’ve been looking for and I had to write it up. My writing/blogging friend Hillary Jacques told me about it and claimed it was to die for; I have taken her at her word because she’s from Alaska, and people have died for stranger things than beer in the land of salmon and short summers.

The beer is Alaskan Smoked Porter, and it comes in big ol’ dated bottles. For such an august brew I broke out the seminal autumn cuisine and a very serious dwarf to guard it.

That’s a grilled brat with sauerkraut and mustard, accompanied by some kettle chips. The Alaskan Smoked Porter stands majestically to one side. And on duty today from the dwarf kingdom is Einar Ericksson, high atop the seeded bun, shining a light in the dark cave of tasteless beers and leading us to liquid gold.

Einar’s motto (“I seek treasure and beer and often don’t know the difference”) is an example for us all. And in truth, he’s something of an archetypal character, guiding us through menus of tasteless swill to find a brew with gustatory substance. Do you doubt his archetypal muscle? Behold:

See, they’re really the same guy. The hermit is a bit longer in the femur, that’s all. And maybe he could use a Snickers bar. But Einar is carryin’ a freakin’ GUN, son! That’s because he can lead you through the mines past the Balrog to the legendary casks of Shaft-Aged Scrumptious Shit, brewed by the celebrated hopmaster Steinar Thorvaldsson. And if any demons from the old world show up to try to mooch a pint, Einar will pop the bastard between the eyes with a black powder ball! Ain’t nobody gonna snake my Smoked Porter with Einar on the job.
Speaking of which: I can see why so many Alaskans have died for this noble brew. Jerry Hoffman of Fairbanks lost his life when he attacked a Kodiak bear trying to break into his cooler of Smoked Porter; he was armed with nothing but a pair of BBQ tongs. Fisherman John O’Bryan of Anchorage accidentally dropped an unopened bottle in the sea, dove after it, and got eaten by an orca that mistook him for wayward chum. (“Carry On, My Wayward Chum” is the unofficial anthem of Alaskan fishermen.) If you get a chance to snag a bottle, do—you can always age it in your silver mine for a few years if you don’t have occasion to drink it right away. It’s awesome.
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Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #5

August 28th, 2010

I think there’s probably this preconceived notion out there that miniature dwarfs only defend meat and beer. But that’s a vicious lie—probably spread by miniature elves. Dwarfs acknowledge that consuming the occasional vegetable fends off scurvy and aids digestion. Hence the following:

 Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #5

My good friend Sigurd Kneecapper is guarding my Greek salad and a delectable brew called Easy Street Wheat in an Ommegang Witte glass.

The Greek salad is simple stuff: Roma tomatoes and cucumber, chopped basil, sprinkled with feta cheese, olive oil, and fresh-ground black pepper. Easy Street Wheat is from Odell Brewing in Ft. Collins, CO, and it was recommended to me a couple weeks ago by Anonymous in the comments after I sampled 90 Shilling Ale from the same brewer (in Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #3). Best Anonymous tip I’ve ever received—this beer has won five medals, including two golds, so you don’t really need me to tell you it’s freakin’ good! It’s exponentially more drinkable than that mass-produced beer that makes claims to drinkability, and it has just a whisper of sharpness to its taste that keeps it refreshing. Ommegang is a brewery in upstate NY near Cooperstown, and their Witte is very good. Their Three Philosophers Ale makes a guest appearance in my third book.

And now let’s take a closer look at the stout sentinel, Sigurd:

If you try to score some of my Easy Street, Sigurd isn’t going to make it easy for you. He aims low, you see—and I don’t mean because he’s a dwarf. He’s swingin’ for the knees first, and then when you’re down and screaming, he’ll leisurely swing that hammer at your squishy parts. You won’t be thinking about my awesome beer at that point.

I pay Sigurd very well to guard my grub. That’s why his (pick one) gromril/mithril/yourmomril armor is gold-kissed, from the chain to the plate to the spectacle helmet.

Remember to come back on Tuesday, when I’ll have my 3:2 Interview with Gail Carriger!

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Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #4

August 15th, 2010

I was really hoping I could get hold of the Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing Company for this one, since blogging/writing buddy Hillary Jacques has spoken so highly of its divinity. I journeyed for many leagues all the way out to this specialty beverage establishment only to find out that they had everything from Alaskan except the Smoked Porter. Color me crushed.

But I have to tell you, I think I might have found something equally divine. It might be my new favorite.

Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #4

Behold: Oberon Ale from Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, Michigan, in a glass from the Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff, Arizona; a turkey sandwich on a poppyseed roll with kettle chips on the side; and a dwarf ready to throw his own personal kegger. (Better pictures of him below)

I had to buy the Oberon Ale, because one of the main characters in my series is named Oberon. He’s a doggie—an Irish wolfhound, to be exact. He kind of looks like this:

If you’re wondering how a main character can be a dog, you’ll have to wait a bit to find out. I promise you, however, that it’s nothing like those execrable children’s movies where animals talk. Oberon is a constant source of joy to me as a character, so when I saw a beer with the same name it became a moral imperative to see whether it might also be a source of joy.

It is, my friends, it is. It’s bottle-conditioned, so you should pour it in a glass to enjoy it properly. As a summer ale, I can’t think of when I’ve tasted a finer one. It’s smooth and refreshing and I can’t believe I was lucky enough to run across it. I mean…look at this distribution map. How messed up is that? Midwest, south…and Arizona. That seems really random to me, but I’m grateful, because it suits me perfectly.

The Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff is my favorite brew pub so far. I’m not saying it’s the best ever, because there’s always a chance I’ll run across a better one in my travels, but so far it’s the best I’ve found. And it’s right across the street from Macy’s European Coffee House, which is my favorite coffee joint EVAH.

And now let’s take a closer look at that miniature dwarf:

This dude is ready to party. I’d neither want nor be able to keep up with him. He’s got a giant stein o’ suds, plenty of refills ready to go on his shoulder, and he’s even shaved his upper lip clean because it’s just going to get covered in beer foam anyway. Oh, and in case you think this guy’s a pushover, check out the side view:

He’s got an AXE slung back there out of sight, son, so don’t mess! If you make him drop his keg to pull it out, he’s not going to put it back without your blood on it!

I haven’t given up on the Smoked Porter. Alaskan’s website says it’s available in several places in Arizona, so I’ll hunt it down eventually.

Just finished a round of edits on Hammered and sent it back to my editor—she made some outstanding suggestions, as always—so I’m excited about the shape it’s in and feeling good about life. Oberon probably has a little something to do with that too. :)

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Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #3

August 1st, 2010

Been out o’ town for a few days, visiting Anaheim for school stuff. I got to geek out about fonts and play with InDesign and laugh at puns.

But I’m back now and working on a map for my epic. Luncheon comes around and here’s what’s laid out on the table:

Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #3

Chili dogs with mustard and a fine brew called 90 Shilling Ale in a glass from the Carver Brewing Company in Durango, Colorado. All of which is guarded by a dwarf troll slayer, who is holding very graphic evidence of his troll slaying skills. Said troll looked at my beer the wrong way, see.
Here’s a closeup of the dwarf troll slayer:

What amazes me most about this guy is how hairless his chest is when his chops and eyebrows are so epically gifted. I thought he’d have a happy trail down the center, at least. Coming in a close second is the fact that his left hand could probably engulf his entire head. And in third place is the fact that he’d be hard pressed to fit a kneecap under that grass skirt, much less thighs and calves and other goodies. How is this guy even ambulatory?

The answer is that it doesn’t matter. He’s a badass miniature dwarf troll slayer and that’s all there is to it.

The 90 Shilling Ale is from the Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s a Scottish ale that’s been lightened up a trifle and it’s remarkably smooth and flavorful. What’s that beer that keeps bragging about its drinkability? Is it Budweiser? They’re lying. Bud is overcarbonated, tasteless swill, and it’s not even an American beer anymore. It’s owned by the Dutch. If you want a drinkable American beer, try this 90 Shilling Ale—or almost any beer that doesn’t have a national ad campaign. That’s where all the flavor and drinkability is hiding. Still looking for that smoked porter that Hillary suggested to me in the comments from the last Dwarf and Beer post.

If you ever get a chance to visit Carver’s in Durango, please do. It’s kind of an unusual place because they’re known as a brew pub, but they also do a brisk breakfast business with great coffee and baked goods. I haven’t been there in a few years and I miss it. Here’s what you do: hit Carver’s in the morning for the coffee, get on the railroad for the trip to Silverton, then try out the beers when you get back in the afternoon. It’s beautiful country up there.

Summer’s almost over for me and I’ll have to go back to work soon. Think I’ll have to squeeze in a trip to Flagstaff before it’s over, introduce you to the joys of Macy’s European Coffee House.

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Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #2

July 23rd, 2010

OK, my camera is back and now I can take a half-decent picture with the kind of focus I’d like. Today my miniature dwarf is guarding my sausage pizza and frosty beer with a brace of black-powder pistols:

Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #2

If anyone touches my pizza, that dwarf thunderer will pop a very tiny cap in his/her ass.

The beer is Longboard Lager from the Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii. The glass is from Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in Colorado Springs. The dwarf is Einar Ólafson from Nidavellir (That’s the Nordic realm of the dwarfs. If my Icelandic is correct, that’s pronounced NIH-dah-VET-lir, because a double l gives you a ttl sound).

You may not be able to tell from the picture above how serious Einar is about protecting my luncheon. So here’s a closeup or two:

Now you can clearly see that Einar is really with it. Look at the care and feeding of that beard. It’s epic! Nothing is going to get by a dude who can keep track of all that facial hair.

Whoa! Those are the eyes of a killer, my friends. His pistol grips are capped with the skulls of wee animals that tried to snarf one of my Pop Tarts. He has sent two and twenty ruffians to the grave using only one and twenty shots.

It’s a good day. Besides working on my miniature dwarfs, I’ve squeezed out the first chapter of an epic and I have an excellent interview with Kelly Meding to look forward to on Tuesday, the third installment of my 3:2 Interview series. Make sure you swing by on Tuesday to check it out!

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Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #1

July 18th, 2010

Okay, so in an earlier post I firmly established my Nerd Cred. Follow me now I descend fully into madness, kind of like those guys who went exploring the House of Leaves.

See, my friend Alan got me started painting miniatures. And for some reason, the idea of painting miniature dwarfs really tickles my sense of redundancy.

I’m painting a dwarf warband to play a game called Mordheim, which is a skirmish-level version of Warhammer where you can start out with six or seven dudes and build up to maybe 15. And when I’m not playing Mordheim (which is most of the time, I swear), then I can just chuckle at the fact that I have a collection of miniature dwarfs.

Alan is a Golden Demon award winner, which means he paints miniatures so well people send him fan mail and pay him to paint their miniatures for them. When Alan decides to paint dwarfs, they look like they’re going to hack you up if you don’t give them a keg of ale right now. (By the way, that’s a dwarf king being carried on top of a shield by two minion dwarfs. I explain that because I originally thought this was a dwarf mother protecting her children.) Anyway, my dwarfs ain’t that cool. But they’re ready to find some treasure in Mordheim, by golly. Left to right, you’ll see my Engineer, one of my Thunderers, and a Troll Slayer.

Still Life with Dwarfs and Beer #1
You might notice that my dwarfs are a touch out of focus; that the beer, in fact, seems to be far more central to the composition. I could not gainsay you. But I am going to make an excuse: I took this with my cell phone, and its depth of focus sucks just a wee bit. My real camera is in New York and I’m in Arizona, so until we are reunited, I must make do with what I can. Still, there is much to appreciate here:
1. The beer is Mothership Wit by the New Belgium Brewing Company. The pint glass is from The Pike Brewing Company in Seattle, an underground establishment I enjoyed visiting a few years ago.
2. The color of the beer and the color of the Thunderer’s beard are remarkably similar. It’s almost like I planned it that way.
3. The modeling paints have excellent names, like Vomit Brown and Graveyard Earth.
4. You can look forward to more of these Still Lifes because I have plenty of dwarfs yet to paint, and it’s not like I’m going to stop liking beer tomorrow. :)
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