Of Resolutions and Whiskey

Once upon a time I set a goal for myself. That goal was to bring my weight down to 200 lbs.

I have yet to reach this goal.

I am not one to submit myself to the falsely noble new year’s resolution. I find that resolving to accomplish something in the new year loses its appeal when the new year feels less fresh. I like to set goals, and sometimes I am successful with them. Other times I struggle.

My weight is such a goal that has led to many years of intense struggling. I have the means, I know the methods. I simply find myself edging back toward the great abyss of sugar and empty calories. I have developed quite a relationship with these calories over the 30 plus years of my life. It is an abusive relationship, however, in that I reach out for them when I find myself becoming depressed or disappointed. They comfort me for mere seconds, and then I am left with a cold emptiness in the pit of my stomach that is somewhere between guilt and confusion. Over time repeating this process, I gain weight. I have lost it and gained it back and then lost it and gained it back again. It is a cycle, and it is tiring.

I have set a new goal for this year, to be completed by the 31st of December, 2014. My goal is to be able to enjoy an especially fine bottle of scotch. Not the whole thing at once, of course. Just a serving. In order to receive this reward, I must get myself to my goal weight of 200 lbs. This will be difficult because as of the last time I looked, I was in the 270s range. This means losing somewhere from 70-80 lbs in one year. Thus, about 6 pounds in a month, nearly 2 a week. This is not impossible, but I must fight with every inch of my being to avoid falling into traps that I have laid in my own mind. I must avoid the self abuse patterns that I tend to travel in.

I know that I can reach this goal. But I have to want to reach it more than I want to console myself with food. It will be a challenge, but the challenge is set in the stone of internet notoriety at this moment.

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The Griswold Effect

More and more it seems holidays come by, namely Christmas and the New Year, and go on and never turn out exactly as I had planned. I have this grandiose vision of myself and my family gathering in front of a warm fireplace calmly enjoying the general peace and quietly relaxing in the overall aesthetic of such picturesque imaginings.

But nothing ever goes this way.

First, there’s the fact that we’re waiting for either of my brothers-in-law to show up though they’ve given explicit times of arrival. Then, either on or the other brings along a girlfriend that we were absolutely certain that they were no longer dating or seeing casually or generally sleeping with occasionally and we scatter to confer about what to do considering the lack of gifts that are available for this recent arrival. Then our daughter needs a nap. I mean, “Can she wait another hour or two?” I GUESS THAT’S A NO AND HOLY HELL HOW DID SHE LEARN TO MAKE SOUNDS LIKE THAT? Was the cat just licking this half of the turkey? Which cat? I saw Chevy jump down from the counter. YOU saw Taboo up there? Does it matter which cat was licking the fucking bird? OH shit we forgot to start the mashed potatoes. Where did your brother go? What do you mean he left? Is he coming back?

Dot dot dot…

And yet, I have this intense desire to host a large family gathering at my house when I have a house in which to host it. Why the hell would I want to do that? Awww Yiss…mother fucking movies man. I call it the Griswold Effect, named of course after the forsaken Clark W. Griswold of National Lampoon fame. One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. No matter how much goes wrong, Clark is determined to have that perfect Rockwell holiday. And after it all falls apart, he realizes that maybe that was the reality of the dream. There is no perfect holiday. Nothing comes out quite like the pictures. No Bing Crosby singing carols to the family as Dick van Dyke carves up the turkey in the background and Ma Cleaver sets the table as a great fire roars in the stone fireplace next to the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree dressed in beautiful baubles. Nope.

But do I still strive for such a holiday. Of course I do. It is the manly thing to do, I guess. The testosterone drives my to do it. Perhaps I’m the only one stricken by the Griswold Effect, but I certainly hope I am not.

I Officially Refuse to Acknowledge that Question

I’m kind of getting sick of seeing Duck Dynasty stuff everywhere I turn. And then I saw this:

And I still have yet to figure out why anyone cares about these people. They make duck calls, I guess? And they have beards.

I’m sick of getting asked if my beard growing decision was in response to the popularity of this show. No. The answer is no. I’ve had this beard, in some form or another, for longer than these people have known fame. And it shall continue beyond the point when said fame whittles away into some forgotten wasteland. Into the depths of Reality Show Hell in which people like Doctor Drew console the likes of Snookie on her recent decision to give up crystal meth.

I find their beards oddly false. That is not to say fake, because I can say with near certainty that they are real beards. I however do not believe that these individuals even once cared about the beard itself, and are moreso considering the look of the beard and bandanas and camouflage as the look of the common man or the “Joe Sixpack” as was the popular turn of phrase pre-2008. I mean, look at this:

I do not honestly know if they make an effort to tell those around them that their bearded ruggedness is genuine and not simply an appeal to the uncivilized world about them, but I’m officially sick of being asked about any connection between their beards and my own.

Carbs, Glorious Carbs

So the daily prompt suggested the dissemination of information regarding a food you cannot, in good conscience, turn down. For those who have read this blog up until this point, you will understand that I frequently deal with matters that are related to the manly, bearded things in life. And one would assume a man with such a glorious beard would consider my paramount of all things food to be bacon.

You would wrong.

I am, in fact, a vegetarian. I have not always been, but I most certainly am now. And no, it is not impossible to be a great bearding man and to be a vegetarian simultaneously. In fact, it is quite simple. It comes down to flavor. And there is, if nothing else, something that always sets my taste buds aquiver: Carbs.

I love carbs in such a way that I could write poetry about them. They are a must in tandem with soups and dals and other such stewed sorts of foods. They make up some of the foods that I am addicted to in the most glorious of ways: Oreos, beer, and whiskey. No meal is complete without some form of them.

In the end, for my Thanksgiving meal, I would be lost without my stuffing and my potatoes. I have tried numerous variations on the two, but they will remain staples of my holiday gustation. Because is there truly a finer food?

Bearded Beer I: Fitger’s

As I am sure I needn’t elaborate, bearding and beer just go together. In fact, beer actually operates as a driving force of manliness in general, and may enhance one’s ability to grow a successful beard or moustache (this statement not supported by any relevant research whatsoever).

That being said, I felt it entirely necessary to begin a series of highlights on various brewers that I know and love. If you’ve read my Bearding Way page, you understand that I believe myself to be an enthusiast of all things. I also consider myself to be a connoisseur of beer. A rather discerning one at that. Colloquially I label myself a beer snob. This, however, does not make me an expert in the ways of the brewing world. I just have a great love for the concoction. Considering, at this point, how many different beers I have sampled over the years, I decided the best first option for my Bearded Beer series would be Fitger’s Brewery in Duluth, MN, one of the towns I have called home over the years.

Fitger’s began brewing beer in Duluth in 1857. The first brewery began on the edge of the soon to be called Brewery Creek, close to today’s current location of the Fitger’s complex. As the brewery grew, it was bought by Michael Fink in 1881, who eventually built the site in which the brewery operates today. At this time it was known as the Lake Superior Brewery, named for the great lake the city sits upon. Fink’s company hired as brewmaster a young German immigrant named August Fitger, a graduate of a brewing school in his home country. In 1884, Percy Anneke bought the company and renamed it A. Fitger & Co.

As can be expected, the company fell upon hard times when prohibition was enacted in 1920. However, Fitger’s was not lost as many other breweries were during this period. Being innovative in many ways, the company chose to redirect their attentions to the production of sodas and candies to keep themselves above water while they waited out the inevitable repeal of the eighteenth amendment.

Fitger’s production continued after prohibition ended, and business boomed during the 1930s. Their endeavors branched outward from beer and eventually included Silver Spray Champagne. After many years in business, the brewery finally closed its doors in 1972. In 1984, however, the complex reopened with a hotel, two restaurants, and a retail outlet. In 1995 it was purchased by the current owners, and in time the Fitger’s Brewhouse opened as a brewpub, brewing great beer and excellent and eclectic food, including, in my opinion, one of the greatest wild rice burgers you are likely to find.

All that being said, on to the beer. Fitger’s was potentially one of the first craft beer outlets I was ever introduced to, back in the old days of 2003. I have since remained enamored with the regular palette of beers which remain on tap as well as the seasonal cycling of new and interesting brews that appear as they are completed. I’ll list a few of my favorites here:

El Niño IPA

El Niño is a powerful IPA. By far this remains my favorite brew at Fitger’s. It is very hoppy, but balanced well with its malt character. It has its citrus notes like any good IPA, and has a pleasant but not overwhelming bitterness on the aftermath. At 7% ABV with a nice level of carbonation, it is an excellent sipping beer that you won’t want to speed through. Instead, take your time sipping the awesome bitterness and take time to bask in the feeling of your chest hair growing.

Big Boat Oatmeal Stout

This is the one and only stout that remains on the Brewhouse’s tap list year long. It is deep, black as the night, and almost chewy in its thick, oatmeal character. It has a slight bitterness, but it is pleasantly roasty and inviting. This is the type of beer that you want to enjoy in front of a roaring fire, luxuriating in your flannel finery on a log or the back of a buffalo. And if you thought this beer couldn’t get any better, it does. The brewers, in all their bearded glory, occasionally age this concoction in bourbon barrels, enhancing the flavor of this pleasantly roasted stout with the smokiness of whiskey. If that doesn’t warm you up in the dead of the Duluth winter, I don’t know what will.

Witchtree ESB

This is a salt-of-the-earth sort of beer. This is extra special bitter at its basest, yet finest, elements. Named for the famed Witchtree on the shores of Lake Superior near the town of Grand Marais, this beer is mild and nutty and caramelly. It is a generally great all around beer that can be easily enjoyed in with burgers and fries or while spearing the great sturgeon beast in the depths of a winter gale. Either way, you’ll be happy with your choice.

Ol’ Redbeard Barleywine

At 10% ABV, this is a slow sipper. And you’re in luck because this is a short pour. You’ll receive your Redbeard in a 10 ounce glass and notice immediately the deep red color. Upon the first sip, you’ll be transported to a land where all your companions come with bright red beards. In fact, you’ll notice that you have consequently grown a red beard. However, if you are like me and already the companion of a red beard, you will notice that your red beard has grown a red beard in the manliest of ways. The flavor is deep, strong, somewhat sweet and sour all at once, malty and pleasant. This is not a beer for those who don’t appreciate flavor. This is a beer for the adventurous types.

There is a ridiculous number of beer styles that Fitger’s has tried over the years, and I have sampled many of them. These are just a few of my favorites. If you are interested in any of the others, let me know. If you are considering a trip to Duluth to sample the beer, you are in luck, because Fitger’s is not the only brewery in the area. And in due time, I will discuss some of the others. Minnesota is like a mecca for great beer. Throw a stone and you’re likely to find a great brewery.