Merry Christmas to all from The Ferm!

I was pleased to see at my local grocer a new progressive beer product, the "Pick Six" beer sampler. The a la carte beer buying technique gives the power to the consumer to assemble his or her favorite beers without being locked into six of 'em (or multiple six packs to satisfy varying tastes). As I offered before, I prefer to stay on one beer for more than one when enjoying multiples, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to try this out. After all, I'm a sucker for beer gimmicks.

Upon deciding to try it out once, I immediately gravitate toward things I haven't tried and may not like or things I know I like, but don't really want to go for the full six. After much consternation, I go with this lineup.

1) Kona Longboard
2) Sam Adams Black Lager
3) Guinness
4) Sapporo
5) Smithwicks
6) Spaten-Oktoberfest

Each has its reason...
1) I'd been dying to do a blind taste test b/w Longboard (a beer I vow to love) and St. Arnold Lawnmower (a beer I typically avoid, but had one saved in my fridge for just this reason). Results coming later in the blog, stay tuned.
2) I really like the Sam Black, but it's tough to drink more than one, perfect filler here
3) Guinness is always great on tap and they try the fancy little pellets, etc. to make it the same, another good add.
4) Love Sapporo when eating Hibachi grill or Sushi, just don't need six of 'em.
5) Solid beer, one of the better options.
6) Oktoberfest (which I own via the 2nd overall pick in the "Anything Mock Draught") has obviously come and gone and my taste buds stayed with it, but it was an Okt that I hadn't tried (or remembered trying). Getting one definitely a must in case I don't like the flavor.

I was mildly surprised at how much trouble I had filling out the six. By the time AB, Coors, and Miller products are eliminated (despite some tricks of theirs to make beers look like independent labels) there were a handful of imports or "meh" choices, stuff I try and enjoy all the time (some St. Arnold products, Fireman #4, Shiner, etc.). But I was happy with my six and all were enjoyed the following days. The Guinness was the biggest disappointment, the capsule thing sure didn't provide much carbonation, and it tasted flat. Nothing like the smooth flavor out of the draught. The rest were as advertised, enjoyed as something I don't usually get!

Before I move onto the second very loosely related part of the blog, a quick cost analysis shows that the "Pick Six" is not a bad deal. Each beer was priced at $1.49, so that's $8.94 for the six of them. If I were to buy a six pack of any of those, they were between $8.49 and $8.99. So the premium price paid for each is less than 10 cents a bottle, not bad in the grand pricing scheme (less than one cent per ounce).

As a follow up, I tried another "Pick Six" a week or so later, this time focusing on all German beers. I really had trouble finding much interesting and probably disliked half of what I picked. The next time I stopped by the aisle, the novelty had worn off and there wasn't much I really wanted to try that was new, and what I liked I'd prefer to get a sixer anyway. So there is a diminishing return associated.

So as for the taste test, I frequently execute home, blind taste tests, using a couple of sampler glasses and a coaster marked underneath with each. Most of the time to test myself rather than the beers, can I really tell the difference b/w two similar products of the same style.

While looking away, move the beers around in circle on their coaster enough times that my mind can't recall how many. Most times, I don't look at the beer before sampling, as hue or other visible factors might give it away.

So for this bout, in the Red Corner, we have the Hawaiian Puncher, the Lei Lager, the Pacific Rim Pilsner...Kona Longboard Lager!

In the Blue Corner, we have the Houston Hopiness, the Texas Titan, the Bayou City Beer...St. Arnold Lawnmower!


Blue Corner
Red Corner

And the winner was honestly a tie. During the test I could barely distinguish, and after about four rounds, I guess which was which only half the time. Now I'm not a connoisseur by any means, purely amateur. But I'd say going forward I could buy either. This surprised me, I thought I'd be able to pick the St. Arnold flavor that is pervasive throughout their beer line, but I couldn't.

One disclosure regarding the test, the Longboard in your mainland store is brewed up in Oregon as I understand it. I first tried Kona from taps on Maui, brewed locally and (at least in my mind), vastly superior. Of course when drinking a beer in 80 degree sun on a Lanai with the beach a stone's throw away might have affected my mind! I also really prefer the Fire Rock Pale from Kona, but it gives me hangovers (and I usually don't get those) so I have to avoid. I've also tried the Wailua Wheat, which has a hint of passion fruit and is worth a try if you can find the seasonal spring brew.

J.R. Enjoys Kona Draft in various Maui bars

The "Pick Six" is a great way to do your own blind taste test, or try things you might not otherwise. I'm hoping my grocer mixes up the options a bit more frequently, or I'm probably not going to go that route very frequently. But all in all, a victory for beer drinkers, just having the option!

The Session #34 – Stumbling Home

Posted by K Dub | Thursday, December 03, 2009

Hello, my name is K Dub, and I’m a stumbling homer. I know a lot of you might be saying to yourself, “What a responsible and handsome individual,” but let me be the first to tell you that stumbling home is a serious condition that is very difficult to treat. My wife sometimes says, “Why don’t you just say you’re ready to go instead of just disappearing in a stupor?” Unfortunately, I do not have a good answer for that question, perhaps it is just my style to leave in such an unorthodox fashion while under the influence.

That’s why I’m here today typing on the blog thing, as part of this month's The Session blog, to describe to the masses my three favorite methods for stumbling home. I’ll start with the easy one and work my way up to an advanced level of home finding. Try to remember that for most people stumbling home of all kinds has one common end game, going to sleep. Grab you pencil and paper because I’m about to learn you something, trust me, I’m not a doctor.

Method #1 – Get in a Fight with your Crazy Girlfriend, Walk one and a half miles back to your house and kick a hole in the bathroom door
· I would say that this is the most basic of stumbling homes that happens a lot more than you would think. There’s really not that much technique involved here, it basically involves that the stumbling homer consume adult beverages at his favorite bar for around six to ten hours. The next ingredient is that your manic-depressive girlfriend shows up and wants to leave and go have dinner somewhere else. You inform said girlfriend that you have already eaten, twice, and that you are no longer hungry. The girlfriend then begins to yell at you in front of all your friends, and since you’ve been paying the bartender cash, you simply place your beverage down and walk home. This eliminates the catalyst for your girlfriend’s anger and reduces the amount of whining that your friends have to listen to.
· Note that there is room for improvisation, one ‘accidentally spill’ beer on the girlfriend or even tell the girlfriend choice words before leaving, but doing these actions can spark further arguing by your girlfriend and continue your public humiliation.
· To really make this one fun try stumbling home in brand new boots that haven’t been broken in, that makes for a fun and exciting trip. Also, don’t forget to try and look sober, you never know if a police officer is watching you. Just keep telling yourself, to yourself not out loud, that ‘you are sober, and nobody will notice you if you just stay cool.’ Note that if you do get caught with a P.I. please understand that the police officer is only doing their job, serving and protecting the public and probably yourself.
· Once you’re home, you’ve got this one in the bag, you simply find the door that irritates you the most and test the structural integrity of the door approximately six to eight inches above the floor. Then all you need to do is your nightly routine and off to bed you go.

Method #2 – Have too much to drink and wait in the car for your wife/friend to drive you home
· This absolutely has to be one of my all time favorites which I have repeated on several occasions as I see fit. First of foremost you need to make sure that a) Your wife is very loving and patient or b) Your friend is trustworthy and won’t write anything on your face while you slumber in the car.
· Once you have the above taken care of the rest of the exercise can take a few steps to completely successfully. Go to a tolerable watering hole and enjoy yourself around your friends and accidentally consume a little too much. At this point ask for the keys but ensure the giving party that you DO NOT intend to drive and that all you would like to do is to, “lay down in the car for a while” or explain that “I’m done, want to go home.”
· If the driver for the evening is not willing to leave the good times just yet explain that you’ll just go to the car for a nap and that you do not feel sick, even if you do feel sick.
· At this point you need to remember how to get back to the vehicle (one may need to use techniques described in Method #3) and to make sure you look sober while walking (see Method #1).
· Once inside the vehicle there are many positions to assume for maximum comfort and deep relaxed sleep.
o Sitting in the front seat at a decline offers many advantages and is quite possibly the most popular. However this position can offer problems to backseat passengers and result in waking you up for a seat adjustment, resulting in anti-slumber. Another downside to this position is the sleep slump, which is where you slide down in the seat while sleeping which can result in a crick in your neck.
o Lying down in the backseat bench is also another favorite where one can almost spread out and achieve comfort in the fetal position. This is a highly recommended sleeping position during the winter months as the fetal position offers additional warmth be contained, ask Sirron about this, it’s his kind of engineering, not mine. Be careful with this one as seat belts can be a problem and a terrific nuisance.
o My personal favorite requires the use of an SUV of some sort where one will take over the rear cargo area (no third seat) with your human body. There is almost unlimited freedom of movement for various sleeping positions which is an important thing to the irritable drunk man. Scout out the location prior to slumber time as cargo areas attract trash, tire irons, speak boxes and other obstacles which may result in an unpleasant sleeping experience.
· When you reach the vehicle you just need to make yourself comfortable and wait for the ride home. Naps are of course completely natural and highly recommended at this point. Once at home proceed with your nightly routine and head off to bed, distractions such as Forest Gump on TV may be tempting to watch, but be strong and go to sleep.

Method #3 – Walk back to a hotel from a bar you’ve never been to in a city that you have never visited
· This method must only be completed by professional stumbling homers and should not be performed by amateurs under any circumstances. This method will include the use of handheld GPS devices (cell phones), unfamiliarity of your surroundings and severe lapses in judgment.
· Again, one should start while at a bachelor party (preferably your own) at a terrific bar that serves handcrafted artisanal fermented beverages (craft beer) in a City that you have never been to before. After you sit down and the room stops spinning you must quickly exit the bar without telling anyone what your intentions are or where you are going. Just get your belongings and out the door you go, do not divulge any information to your friends, they will only try to get you to stay out and party with them.
· Once you are about three blocks away from the bar and you realize that you are good and lost is when the cell phone with GPS becomes critical. A quick map search of your hotel will indicate that if you keep walking straight you will bump right in to it.
· Now again, distractions can play a negative part in this method as well but be mindful that you must stay strong. Such distractions include seeing a person asleep on the side of the road who looks so comfortable and thinking that it would be a good idea to cuddle up for a good night’s rest or even a photo opportunity. These distractions will only bring you down and might get you in fisticuffs with others, that’s why it is highly advised to stay the course and get back to the hotel as quickly and safely as possible.
· Please note that this method can be very disorientating and may result in cries for help or a taxi, but with some preliminary practice this is a very achievable stumbling home method.

While there are many other approaches, techniques and skills on successful home stumbling that’s all we have time, and space, for today. Maybe one day in the near future I can share “How to stumble home in your going out clothes from the night before” the ever popular “How to fall down in the street in your suit while leaving a wedding reception” and a one time favorite, “How to talk yourself out of stumbling to the Capitol.”

Until then, stay classy and walk the line.