Beer Review: Pretty Things American Darling

Beer: American Darling – Good Time Lager
Brewer: Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
Source: 22 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass
Rating: *** (7.0 of 10)
Comments: Another beer from my new favorite local brewery.  It’s a lovely golden beer with a thick head, a grainy aroma, and tastes like a crisp pilsener with bready flavors and grassy hops.  After sipping the glass is lightly laced and the head sustains.  Lager is not my favorite style but this is lager done right.


Beer Review: High & Mighty Purity of Essence

Beer: Purity of Essence lager
Brewer: High & Mighty Beer Co.
Source: 650 ml bottle, poured in a pint glass
Rating: ** (6.8 of 10)
Comments: Lager is an ordinary beer, at least in the United States, and this tastes like an ordinary lager.  That’s no slight as it’s seemingly easy to make crappy lagers as our commercial brewers put forth.  It’s a golden beer with a thick, bubbly head.  The smell and taste are hoppy and plain, in a good way.  It gets a little sticky towards the end.  In the end, not a bad beer, but probably not one I’ll be coming back for.  Still, if you like lagers, check this one out.

Book Review: Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway by Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll

Author: Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll
Title: Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip
Publication Info: Fulcrum Publishing (2007)
ISBN: 9781555914516
Summary/Review: I’ve long been a fan of the art of Ray Troll who specializes in drawing realistic but whimsical representations of fish and prehistoric creatures.  This book is written by Kirk Johnson, a paleontologist from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science who teams up with Troll for a fossil-gathering road trip through the Rocky Mountain states.  Johnson does a good job of balancing the roles and importance of academic and museum work with commercial diggers and fossil collectors, showing respect and admiration of all.  The journey detailed by Johnson visits many beautiful and awe-inspiring locations that are richly illustrated with Troll’s art and photographs.  It’s a great book for anyone interested in paleontology, travelogue, and popular art.

Recommended books: Planet Ocean: A Story of Life, the Sea, and Dancing to the Fossil Record by Bradford Matsen and Ray Troll
Rating: ****

Book Review: Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

Author: Jonah Lehrer
Title: Proust Was a Neuroscientist
Publication Info: Brilliance Audio on CD (2008)
ISBN: 9781423374206

Previously read by same author: How We Decide


This book explores the work of eight artists and how their art revealed truths about the human brain that would later be discovered through science.  A quick search of Google brings up several reviews that dismiss Lehrer’s work as “popular science” but I think they’re missing the point that readers can learn scientific concepts  through an artistic lens.  Of course, with my humanities background I’m biased to the idea that the arts have something to offer to scientific study.  The artists include Walt Whitman (feeling), George Eliot (malleability of the brain), Auguste Escoffier (taste), Marcel Proust (memory), Paul Cezanne (vision), Igor Stravinsky (music), Gertrude Stein (language), and Virginia Woolf (self).  The conclusion of the book is an appeal to end the artificial divide between arts and sciences that I strongly support.

Favorite Passages:

“Nature, however, writes astonishingly complicated prose. If our DNA has a literary equivalent, it’s Finnegan’s Wake.”

Recommended books: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson, Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science–From the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness by Alva Noë, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Author: Suzanne Collins
Title:  Mockingjay
Publication Info: New York : Scholastic Press, 2010.

Books Read By Same Author: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire

Summary/Review: The final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy is the strongest of the series.  The whole series is built on moral ambiguity and in this novel Katniss Everdeen finds herself among the revolutionaries in an austere and militaristic society.   She once again finds herself being used as a symbol for propaganda and uncertain who to trust.  Collins does a great job of detailing the unromantic truth of war and the ignoble motivations of those involved, even the “good guys.”
Related books: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson and The Dead Republic: A Novel by Roddy Doyle
Rating: ***

Book Review: The F-word by Jesse Sheidlower

Author: Jesse Sheidlower
Title: The F-word
Publication Info: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.
ISBN: 9780195393118
Summary/Review: Not the book I expected.  I thought it was going to be a cultural history of the word “fuck” through history and various usages.  That was just the introduction which was pretty good.  The main body of this work is 269 page lexicon of different usages and phrases of the f-word.  It perhaps make a useful reference book, but definitely not something I’m going to read end to end.

Rating: **

Beer Review: Annie Schwartz Black Lager

Beer: Annie Schwartz Black Lager
Brewer:  Haverhill Brewery Inc.
Source: 22 oz. bottle poured into a pint glass
Rating: *** (7.2 of 10)
Comments: Haverhill’s German-style black lager is a dark mocha-colored beer with a frothy head. It gives off a dark chocolate scent with a burnt, chocolaty flavor. The mouthfeel is a bit thin with a nutty, malty finish and aftertaste. The head dissipates quickly and leaves no lacing. All and all a good beer, although it seems more suited to a crisp, cool day than the heat of summer.

Beer Review: Notch Saison

Beer: Notch Saison
Brewer: Notch Brewing
Source: 22 oz. bottle, poured in pint glass
Rating:  **(6.8 of 10)
Comments: Inspired by a style of beer once enjoyed by farm laborers, this beer is refreshing and goes down almost too easily on a beastly hot summer evening. The beer is a hazy, sunny orange with a slightly floral, hoppy aroma. The taste is simple and clean, a little spice and a little bubblegum but nothing too challenging for these temperatures. Definitely a great summer beer and a good reward for a hoeing a field.

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Latitude 48

Beer: Samuel Adams Latitude 48
Brewer: Boston Beer Co.
Source: 12 Fl. Oz.
Rating: *** (7.0 of 10)
Comments: It’s a pretty beer, copper-colored with a thick, yeasty head.  The scent is not strong, but there’s a whiff of sweet caramel and bready hops.  For a beer dedicated to hops (Latitude 48 is where many hops-growing regions fall around the world) it has a nice balance of sweet and bitter, with caramel & citrus preceding the hoppy aftertaste.  The head dissipates quickly with little lacing but the color is still attractive.  This is a good beer and a worthy addition to the craft of my local brewery.

Beer Review: Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale

Beer: Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale
Brewer: Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Source: 1 pint 6 fluid oz/ bottle
Rating: *** (7.5 of 10)
Comments: Gorgeous copper-colored beer with a thick, enduring head and good lacing.  The aroma is full of floral hops. The taste is a sticky, sweet caramel balanced by some hoppy goodness.  A lovely brew.