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Oakes Weekly - Feb. 20, 2003


A Plethora of Ponderous Pontifications
Oakes Weekly February 20, 2003      
Written by Oakes


Vancouver, CANADA -



<P>It's been a while since I cleared my throat, and there seems to be an inordinate amount of phlegm in there. So allow me to pontificate if you will.

<P>First, Ratebeer to me is a place where people can hang out and share a common interest. We learn from one another, we entertain one another and we teach one another. Every now and again, though, somebody takes it upon themselves to ridicule other users, or take jabs at the site itself. I'll put it as plain as can be - if you don't like Ratebeer, don't come here. If you don't like the people who run Ratebeer or the users who come here to share their beerological experiences with others, then you have two choices as far as I'm concerned - you can keep it to yourself or you can leave. If somebody has what seems to be odd tastes in beer and you feel you have to say something, be constructive. While some of the young bucks here may be exempt, the vast majority of us were macro drinkers at one point, so riding someone for liking bland beer is hypocritical, if nothing else. Ride the producers of swill, sure, but leave the users out of it. Or at least avoid naming names (there are a lot of macro drinkers, so why pick someone out of the massive crowd?)

<P>It should go without saying, but apparently needs to be said, that the ridicule of others does not constitute an acceptable form of humour. You want to laugh at jokers in the bar, knock yourself out, but at this establishment nobody needs to log on and see someone trying to get a laugh at their expense. Why people can't just come on here and enjoy the site for what it is, I'll never know.

<P>Next up, Canada Post. Of all the government-legislated monopolies we have up here in Canada, this one is by far and away the most offensive. I had a package of beer intercepted by them the other week. Beers that, I might add, aren't going to be replaceable any time soon. They steal my beer and send me a letter. I've seen this letter before, and it says that sending intoxicating beverages by mail is against Canada Post regulations. The last time I got this letter, it was a fair claim they were making - I knew the policy and knew I was violating it.

<P>This time is different. Last year, Canada Post entered into an arrangement to distribute beer, wine and spirits for the SAQ in the province of Quebec. This to me renders the old policy null and void. Canada Post apparently doesn't see it this way, and stole my beer just the same. Explain to me this - how can it be against regulations for Josh Oakes to have beer sent to me from South America but not against regulations for Josh Oakes to have beer sent to my friend's place in Montreal from the SAQ? It seems as though Canada Post either has no set regulations, or has no problem ignoring their own rules for the sake of a good business partnership. Double standards of this sort are bad enough in private firms, but this is a public company - in theory answerable to all of its constituents, myself included.

<P>I have sent a formal complaint to the ombudsman, and eagerly await the reply. If the double standard is upheld, I will be seeking legal advice. What's good for the SAQ is good for everyone else, under any just system of law. Considering my zeal for eliminating both the world's least efficient postal system and the ridiculous nanny-state distribution system we have, this is a fight that the post office would be well advised not to pick. I dismantle and negotiate my way past bureaucracy every day, so I'm well equipped to straighten out these hypocrites.

<P>If you don't know already, don't take Tylenol for your hangover. Acetaminophen and alcohol are a potentially lethal combination, even in minute doses. The combination causes hepatoxicity - severe liver damage. If potentially lethal acute liver failure isn't enough to convince you to switch to other hangover remedies, nothing is. Ibuprofen (Advil) is not recommended due to the risk of stomach bleeding, though at least it won't kill you. Aspirin is your best bet. If you don't believe me, ask your doctor or look it up on the web.

<P>Now, I've had some serious beers already this year. I thought I'd just drop the names of a few that I think are well worth checking out (and why). You'll have to go to the pub, but Diamond Knot in Mukilteo, WA has an excellent barley wine called Icebreaker. Most users will be familiar with the reputation of their IPA, which I feel is well-deserved, but if you're in Seattle/Everett, it's worth taking the trip to Diamond Knot because Icebreaker is the biggest beer I've had with that brilliantly pure Maris Otter character. It's not the easiest malt to work with I'm told, but obviously there's some talent behind this beer because when you nail a Maris Otter beer, it is very evident.

<P>Drive north then to Vancouver for some Crannóg Hell's Kitchen Organic Irish Ale. This style is one that usually comes up a little empty, but not here. Maybe it's the potatoes. But whatever it is, I find this another example of a brewery making a session style to a high level, something you know I appreciate. The other thing I love - the price. Same as any other micro. Some organic beers (that shall remain nameless) sell at a significant premium (in the 40% range), citing the cost of organic ingredients (this despite using 40% less fermentables and significantly less hops than a standard 5% beer). I'm not saying organic malt and hops don't cost more, but the cost of malt and hops in a pint of beer is miniscule. Beer is like Kool-Aid, pennies a glass. Adding five or ten cents per pint to the ingredient cost should, by my calculation, add five or ten cents to the final cost (hell, I'll give you a quarter if you use a multiplier for markups). Anything more and my eyebrow is raised.

<P>Great Lakes Burning River is one that I had a very difficult time getting hold of, but I'm glad I finally did. It reminds of me other C-hop pale ales with near flawless balance and cleanliness - Sierra Nevada, Orchard Street, Liberty Ale, Mirror Pond.

<P>Limfjords Porter is worthy because I love Baltic Porters and while they can be an acquired taste (Okocim, anyone?), some of them are downright wonderful - this is my latest Baltic discovery to capture my heart.

<P>Beersel Oud Kriek - they are out of business, for starters, so your window of opportunity is running out. But also because this is one of the truly great lambics that I feel is approachable.

<P>Burgerbräu Wolnzacher Hell is a brilliant helles. It is unfiltered, which I always dig (to me this makes it landbier, but that is a whole other debate which is far from settled), and not overly complex but it's a different type of beer appreciation to love a beer for its simplicity. The execution for the brewer is a different animal, too. There isn't a lot going on, so everything you do has to be perfect. Usually they're not, but when they are, as in this beer, it is really something special. You can't write a lot of notes, and you won't be dazzled with layers of complexity, but there is beauty in purity, too.

<P>Eggenberg Dunkel Eisbock is one that needs more ratings. Plain and simple, get it. I know most of you haven't had so many eisbocks, so what are you waiting for? Bock magic, this is, from the bock masters (so good they made a drinkable Samiclaus!)

<P>Fanôme Hiver is the opposite - very complex, very layered. Dany's beer are always furious, swirling flurries of flavour and this is another example of why his beers have a cult following every bit as rabid as that of the more famous Gargoyles, Floydians, and Rogue Nation.

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