Wednesday, April 26, 2006

New theme at Capitol Brew-haha

Maybe I should change the description of Capitol Brew-haha to "Where political musings, beer, my life and tacky figurines can find a common home." St. Paul Cave Dweller brought this sweet one to my attention. You can find more like it, and buy them if you like, here.

I promise I won't fill too much space with more of these--God knows there are enough of them out there.

And I promise I'll return to more important issues, like beer, soon.

White House gets Snow-ed

It was only a matter of time that the current occupants of the White House and Fox News merged into one entity, albeit not officially but in appearance anyway. And why not? With Bush's approval ratings well past the toilet, flowing through the sewers of the mainstreet America, what have they got to lose? Bush owes Fox for the network's unwavering biased reporting, and what better way to do that than make one of their anchors your press secretary and official mouthpiece?

Today, Tony Snow was named White House press secretary, replacing recently-resigned Scott McClellan. You may know Snow (or,as is more likely the case, probably not) as host of Fox News "The Tony Snow Show," and of "Weekend Live with Tony Snow."

To his credit, Snow does have an impressive resume. From his official bio at

Before joining FOX News, Snow was a nationally syndicated columnist with The Detroit News from 1993 to 2001. He was also a columnist for USA Today from 1994 to 2000. Earlier, he served as an editorial writer at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, VA; editorial page editor of The Daily Press in Newport News, VA; deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News; and editorial page editor of The Washington Times. Snow’s career in journalism began in 1979 when he was an editorial writer for The Greensboro Record in North Carolina.

In 1991, Snow took a sabbatical from his job as editorial page editor at The Washington Times to work in the White House for President George H. Bush. He first served as the deputy assistant to the president for communications and director of speechwriting, and later as deputy assistant to the president for media affairs.

So I'm sure he's qualified, but it is still just a little troubling to me. Hopefully I'm not the only one.

Monday, April 24, 2006

It's the little things

Nothing political- or beer-related today. No, just some life milestones for those that care (and if ya don't, well that's too bad.) Briefly, Adrian (9 months on the 25th) is making all sorts of progress. I mentioned earlier that he's crawling, well he also just started pulling himself up with ease, pointing, waving, eating finger food and generally loving life. He also has two teeth!

I'll get some pictures of Dylan up in a day or two, but at 3 1/2 the landmark things just aren't as cute (spelling, jumping on one foot, singing ALL THE TIME).

In other family news, I'm an uncle! My sister gave birth to Liam Webster Conley on Saturday morning. Weighing in at 6 lbs 9 oz, he is doing great. Congratulations, Molly and Sean!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Warriors of Oz?

For only $29.95 you too can own a "sculpture collection portraying the heroes and villains of Oz as you've never seen them." My wonderful wife, who knows and understands my affinity for tacky figurines, found an ad for these in Sunday's paper. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that people buy these things. Check out Toto. If you're interested (or just curious) check out the manufacturer's website.

The Happy Gnome is a little sad

The Happy Gnome, on Selby Avenue east of Dale a couple blocks, is kinda like a James Page beer, in that all the ingrediants are there for success and you feel like you should like it more. After all, it's local, it used to be great, and you keep trying it and expecting it to be better each time.

Their niche is beer, of course. Lots of high quality beer. The Gnome easily has the best selection of beer in town, hands down. The row of 24 taps and close to 100 bottles, with a focus on domestic microbrews, sends chills down my spine. And better yet, you can't get a Miller, a Bud or a Coors on tap. I'll gladly pay a little more to be able to try beer from a brewery that only makes a couple hundred gallons of beer a year.

But everytime I go there I keep thinking, "Gosh it was so much better when it was Chang's." The prices were a little better, they had a nice happy hour and you could buy pitchers (that's right, no pitchers and no happy hour at the Gnome). And right now, the patio--what Chang's was perhaps known best for--is closed until they get the proper license. I miss the down-to-earth feel, and the unique Asian-Irish motif. Because let's face it, gnomes are silly, and is that a gnome being hanged on the sign?

So I went to the Gnome the other night with two good friends whom I hadn't seen in a while. We were looking forward to catching up and more importantly, trying some unique beers. By far one of the best deals at the Gnome are the 22 oz. bottles of beer from Rogue Brewery from Oregon. They're only $8.50 and perfect for sharing. And they're amazing. We were torn between the Younger's Special Bitter and the Shark Tooth Ale.

Now, one would think that if you work in a bar that caters to beer snobs like me, the wait staff should be able to describe each beer or find someone who could.

Me: "What's the Shark Tooth Ale like?" Fair question. I'd had the Younger's and loved it.
Her: "Well...I didn't like it." But...what's it like?
Me: "Is it very bitter?" Another fair and easy-to-answer question.
Her: "Oh yeah. It is." Really?

Being torn and the fact that there were three of us, we got both bottles. Shark Tooth: not very bitter. A nice hoppy finish, but I wouldn't put it in the same realm, as say, a HopDevil Ale from Victory. Even on the bottle is says, "Enjoy this crisp, cool ale with a hoppy bite." It was a great beer nonetheless, but it wasn't bitter. This has happened on several visits to the Gnome, where I've been lead astray, told a bock was an ale or they don't have a beer when in fact they do.

But like every visit to the Gnome, the vast selection of great beer trumps any negative experiences. We also had a round of Furious from local brewers Surly. Now this is a hoppy bitter beer. But it's sooooo smooth. And better yet, it was bought by Omar, the owner of Surly, who was sitting next to us. Thanks! (As an aside, St. Paulites can now drink Surly at Sweeney's and the Highland Grill.)

We finished off the night with a 22 ouncer of Hog Heaven from Avery Brewing. Whoa. The label says it's a "barleywine-style ale," so we were immediately skeptical, as they tend to be way too matly and strong, but this one was excellent. Clocking in at 9.2% alc, with 104 International Bittering Units (your standard American lager has like 10 IBUs), it was still smooth and a great beer before going to bed.

So I'll give the Happy Gnome 6 out of 10, it's saving grace being the beer selection. Once the patio opens and once they update their website, it might make it up to an 8. Until then, I'll keep going. After all, it's local, it used to be great, and I keep expecting it to be better each time.

Exit Stage Right

Is the White House clearing out in an effort to save face for Republicans going into the midterm elections? Or, as is more likely the case, is the president's staff trying to save face so they can find jobs in the future? Former Chief of Staff Andrew Card left a couple weeks ago, Press Secretary Scott McLellan resigned today, and Karl Rove is scaling back his duties. Not that anyone can blame them; when the ship is sinking, you best jump. I'm surprised Rove isn't leaving altogether. There are bigger smear campaigns to be run, other lives to destroy, more lies to be spread--and a lot of money to be made doing it. One good thing can be said about Karl: he is committed.

It's a little bitter-sweet actually to see the Bush administration scrambling to improve their standing in the eyes of the world. There would be something to be said for having Bush on the ballot one more time, just to be able to resoundly and convincingly beat him. Then again, who really thought Bush would win in '04?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thank you Summit Brewing!

Big news for beer drinkers in Minnesota: Summit Brewing has announced plans for two more limited release beers. This comes on the heels of their fantastic oatmeal stout and their solid amber ale.

The first, Scandia, comes out April 20, and "is a Scandanavian interpretation of a famous Belgian ale." With Blue Moon turning lots of folks onto the rich, spicey brews from the small country northeast of France, I imagine this will be a hit. I like Belgian ales in small doses, so won't likely be drinking lots of this, but am excited nonetheless. (Also, I just learned that Blue Moon is brewed by Coors. Damnit. Guess I'm not drinking it anymore. This is why.)

The second is an ESB. Oh my God. It's about time. Summit's website doesn't have any details, only that it will be available "summer of 2006." No matter, its an ESB; dedicated readers know of my love for the Bitters. Unfortunately, Summit never (or rarely) bottles their limited release beers. I guess I'll be spending more time at the bar.

My condolences to those that can't find Summit in their liquor store or bar. If you come to Minnesota, let me know and I'll take you out for a tasting.

Monday, April 10, 2006

It's About Sharing

Like many people, I can get pretty obsessive about music, with one artist dominating my interest during any period of time. This has been true throughout my life, whether it was the Doors in winter of 87, Public Enemy in spring of 92, Jayhawks in 99, Phish for a couple years in there, or Neko Case more recently.

But during all of my musical obsessions, I continue to wade through my CD collection (which isn't very large compared to some people I know...) and sample my wares. It's mine, I love it, and I enjoy the art of choosing three or four CD's and playing them on shuffle.

Which is what "Current Musical Endeavors," located on the right side bar, represents. While I haven't been updating it nearly as often as I would like, it contains brief reviews of albums that pass in and out of my CD player--some old, some new, some good, and some bad (tho not many--they are in my CD collection after all). You'll also find links to intersting websites, other blogs I read sometimes, polls, and my site counters (mainly because I'm curious).

So take a glance over there from time to time. What's in your CD player right now?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bush to Fire....Himself

Remember when President Bush said he would fire the person in his administration who authorized the leak of former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity? I guess if we're to take Bush as his word (hahahahahahahahahahaha) that means we can expect a resignation soon since he was the one who authorized it.....

As usual, The Smoking Gun has the court docs and other info on the breaking news. (While you're there check out their great collection of mugshots.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The People's Business

Spring has seemingly arrived in Minnesota, bringing with it plenty of rain and the half-way point of the legislative session. On Tuesday of this week the Senate Judiciary Committee heard the proposal to define marriage as one man and one woman, because God knows, that's The Most Important Issue Facing Us. It's great to see so many people committing so much time and resources to solving a problem that doesn't really exist. The irony was not lost on people that before, during and immediately following this hearing, the Higher Education, Early Childhood, Crime Prevention and Transportation Committees were putting together their omnibus policy and funding packages. I wish we had to have security and overflow seating for these hearings. Not surprisingly, the DFL-controlled committee voted down the proposal.

More interestingly though, was that the step-sister of the bill's author, Michele Bachmann, chose the hearing to come out of the closet. I'd love to be at those family gatherings. You go girl!

Movies and mobility

Rainy days are great times to go see a movie. Dylan and I were spending some quality time together last Sunday, and while I really wanted to see "V is for Vendetta," I thought "Ice Age: The Meltdown" might be more up his alley, especially for his first movie.

The whole experience got increasingly better for him. He was really into the marquee "with the lights that go around." Then after every preview he said "oh, there's another one!" When the movie finally started, I thought it might be a little loud, but I have to put in a plug for the Highland Theatre as far as kid-friendly theatres go. The noise level was perfect. And Dylan sat still for the whole thing; granted, he didn't get the fart jokes or not-so-subtle environmental message, but he laughed at the silliness and only asked for popcorn once.

In other kid/family news, Adrian started crawling last week! Which is great on several fronts, but also means we now have TWO mobile kids.

Mmmm, Neko (and Guinness) (and peanut butter jelly)

Readers of Capitol Brew-haha are probably aware of my, um, infatuation (obsession?) with Neko Case. I went to her show last week at First Avenue and the in-store performance at The Electric Fetus the night before. I won't bore you with my gushing reviews of the shows, only to say that they were amazing, especially the in-store. Arriving a hour before paid off dearly, as this picture, taken by the Rev. Kevin Gregorius, Esq., who was standing in front of us, shows:

Yes, we were that close. Love the guitar strap! G-R-R....

Lots of beer has been drunk since my last beer-related post on St. Paddy's Day. The holiday set off a stout-infused couple weeks. I've gone from Beamish to Murphy's to St. Peter's to Summit and to Guinness. While a friend had lamented that Beamish was the "Miller of stouts," I actually found it pretty solid. Murphy's seemed a little watered down to me, but then again, it's owned by Heineken, so that could explain it. St. Peter's shouldn't really be in the same category of these other stouts, as its about 7% ALC, super-bitter and meant to be drank over a longer sitting. And they have cool bottles! Summit has an amazing stout--thick as hell, with a nice bitter finish that leaves you smacking your lips. Too bad it's only on tap.

But nothing stands up to a Guinness for drinkability and all around greatness. Every stout I've drank since March 17, except for maybe Summit, makes me wish it was a Guinness. The only bad thing about 'em is that its easy to drink 6 or 7 in under an hour. (If you want to try something different, pour a can of Guinness in a blender, add one egg and a couple tablespoons of sugar and mix thoroughly. Trust me. It's amazing. Kudos to J and T for introducing me to this.)

Finally, a beer to stay away from, at least for the price. I bought a couple bottles of Traquair for about $4 bucks a piece. The flavored ale was alright, and the house ale was just boring. I know Scottish-style ales aren't my favorite, being heavy on the malts, and maybe I was expecting more, especially at 7.2% ALC, but c'mon. These were some of the more disappointing beers Ive had in awhile. But now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

I'll leave you with this little bit of wisdom about peanut butter and jelly. It's apparently been out there on the 'Net for awhile, but I cant stop laughing everytime I see it.