I’m A Guy, And I’m Wearing Beer

So, I’m a guy and I went to buy an aluminum-free deodorant and came across this:


Then I turned the deodorant around to read the back and I found this label:


I can just picture the scene around the conference table at the Tom’s of Maine marketing meeting:

Director of Marketing: Ok people, listen up, especially you guys. We’re having a hard time moving our men’s deodorant. Sales continue to decline, and so I need to hear ideas and solutions!

Larry & Ed, what does our market research tell us?

Larry: Well, on the bright side, we do have the name “Tom” in our brand name, which is considered by 97% of those surveyed to be a sufficiently male name.

Ed: And, when you consider that we have the “Tom’s of Maine” brand name on all of our products, including those for women…

Director of Marketing: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, I know. We were founded by a guy name Tom and he’s from Maine. What else positive can you tell me.

Ed & Larry: Um, nothing, sir.

Donna: Director, if I might, the problem isn’t our name on its own. Rather, it has to do with our name in comparison to the names of our competitors. Our research shows that brands with names like “Speed Stick”, “Gillette”, “Right Guard”, “Axe” or “Old Spice” conjure images of tough, edgy, macho men, whereas “Tom’s of Maine” conjures up some hippie guy walking in the woods.

Larry: I’ve got it!

Director of Marketing: Wellllllllllllll?!!

Larry: What do guys love more than anything else?

Director & Ed: Beer?

Larry: RIGHT! So, we put beer in our deodorant…or…um…rather, we put hops in our deodorant. You see, hops smell like beer, a manly smell, so that when men sweat it will seem like they just came from the brewpub, a manly place to hang out, and even though the Wikipedia page on hops says nothing about hops having odor-fighting properties, it does say that hops are used as a natural treatment for anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia, and so guys who wear our deodorant will be so mellow and relaxed that they won’t care!

Director of Marketing: Brilliant!!!

Needless to say, I bought the beer deodorant.

Day 1: Not working very well, but I am craving an ice cold India Pale Ale.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Beware the Belgians!

Originally Published: November 19, 2009

When I read this morning that the European Union has elected a Belgian, Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy, as their new president, I didn’t think much of it. After all, Belgium is an incredibly vanilla, low-key, non-aggressive country that a lot of people, especially Americans, know very little about.

What could possibly be the harm?

Well, then, a few hours later, I read the following on my beloved Boundary Bay Brewery‘s Facebook Page:

Boundary Bay Brewery our brewers today are crafting a Belgian Tripel. Admittedly odd for us, but our contender for 2010 Seattle Belgianfest http://bit.ly/URKaW

Coincidence? I think not!

Boundary Bay has NEVER brewed Belgian ales before as far as I know, and I’ve been going there religiously ever since they opened in 1995.

And, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, The Washington Beer Commission decides to announce its “1st Annual Belgianfest.” That’s “1st Annual”, meaning they’re not just planning on having one fest, they’re going to make it an annual tradition?

What the HELL is going on here?!

This van Rompuy guy is obviously a force to be reckoned with, not wasting any time before exercising his new EU muscle.

Is this just the beginning of new era of Belgian world dominance? We’ll just have to wait and see.

I, for one, will be keeping an eye on them.

(Ironically, I happen to like Belgian beers, but that’s just the kind of vulnerability a political force hellbent on taking over the world will exploit.)

Tweet of the Day: @TomMINT

Back in April, I wrote about a new brewery that opened up here in Bellingham, making it pretty clear how much I liked it.

Then, today, while I was sitting at my desk at work, my friend tweeted from Kulshan, leading to the following exchange:

Welcome, Kulshan Brewing Company!

It’s starting to be the case that I can measure how long I’ve lived here in Bellingham, Washington by how many breweries have started up, and, in one case, have shut down.

Back in November 2009, I wrote about the two breweries we had at the time — Boundary Bay Brewery & Chuckanut Brewery — both are still going strong, winning numerous awards for their craft beers and ales, and, according to Wikipedia, Boundary Bay has become the largest brewpub in the country based on the number of barrels sold per year.

And when I mentioned in that 2009 post that Boundary Bay better watch their backs, because Chuckanut had significantly stepped up their game, having won the 2009 Best Small Brewpub award at the Great American Beer Festival (they won the Best Small Brewing Company award in 2011), I deemed this welcome and healthy local competition.

But when I heard rumblings some months ago that another new brewery was opening up in Bellingham, I really had doubts that our small city could support three breweries, especially considering that there were also several bar/restaurants in town that served good selections of craft beer.

Enter Kulshan Brewing Company, which just opened a few weeks ago, and already all doubts have been put to rest.

I went there last night for the first time, the place was packed, everyone was raving about how good the beer is, myself included, and so it seems they will really have to screw up big time in order to fail.

The ambiance is casual and comfortable, the crowd was a nice Bellingham cross-section, and they have a novel approach to food that I was initially skeptical about: food trucks.

They currently have three different trucks that rotate throughout the week, offering sandwiches, BBQ, and pizza depending on the day, and they plan to eventually widen the selection. Early criticism of the idea suggested that people won’t want to eat out of to-go boxes when they are out drinking $4+/pint beer, but the folks I talked to LOVED the idea, reported that the food was great, and, best of all, considering how pricey the beer is, the food was cheap! (My friends had the Cuban Dog from StrEAT Food last night, which was huge, delicious, and only $4.50!)

Finally, the beer.

I sampled all of the brews that they had flowing and was VERY impressed with how consistently good they were. Not all of them were unique or stood out, but they seemed solid, delicious examples of the styles they represented.

American Wheat Ale: Let’s just get this out of the way: I don’t like wheat beers. I tasted it, didn’t care for it, but folks who I talked to who were drinking it said that they liked it.

Bastard Kat IPA: I was doubtful when it was poured, because it was so light in color. Other light-colored IPAs I’ve had were WAY out of balance, insane hops and not enough malt, resulting in a beer that is too bitter for me. Bastard Kat, on the other hand, was a good example of a standard Pacific Northwest IPA, with great, citrusy hops and plenty of them, but balanced nicely with just enough malty goodness to make it HIGHLY drinkable. Yum!

Midnight CDA (Cascadian Dark Ale): Basically a dark IPA, this was my favorite of the bunch. Pours almost black, and has a really nice, full viscosity without being syrupy. The hops weren’t as dominant as the IPA, but nor were the malts overbearing. It was surprising how drinkable it was. I’m not sure what the ABV is, but the alcohol was not overpowering (nor was it for any of the beers, for that matter).

Porter: Probably the most unremarkable of the bunch, but not in a bad way. It’s simply a good example of a Porter, with very tasty roasted malts, a light, drinkable body, and a dark, rich color. Porters aren’t my favorites, but I think that a Porter fan would enjoy it very much.

Russian Imperial Stout: This, to me, was nearly an exact copy of my favorite imperial stout, Lost Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Kulshan’s is undeniably delicious, with a high alcohol content nestled in heavily roasted malts. Not a beer for sunny weather, in my opinion, so I’d be surprised if they kept it on tap for much longer.

Sadly, they had just run out of their other beer — Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale — so I wasn’t able to try it, but people were talking about it and saying it was a great session beer.

I’ll be returning to Kulshan for sure, and I recommend it heartily!

Drinking for art!

You can say what you want about the potential evils of drinking alcohol — obnoxious behavior, self-destructive addiction, abuse of others, turning automobiles into weapons of mass destruction — but then the artful structure you see here to the right wouldn’t exist if a lot of people hadn’t consumed a lot of beer.

From Inhabitat:

Using 33,000 everyday, ordinary yellow beer crates like giant Legos, Architects SHSH assembled this visually intoxicating pavilion to pay homage to the fiftieth anniversary of the 1958 Universal World Exhibition…

Why beer crates? “Understanding that the sense of the temporary can only be truly successful when it is free of waste, the pavilion is built using an unusual and ephemeral component which after the event returns to its normal daily use,” say SHSH on their site. One of the coolest things about the pavilion is that it isn’t a purely rectangular space – inside, the crates are stacked to form architectural features such as columns, arches and even domes.

While they don’t specify what type of beer was in those crates, this was built in Brussels, Belgium, and Belgians are known for their brewing…and their ambitions of world domination, which I wrote about in November 2009.


Goin’ Calorie-Neutral!

The weather is FABULOUS right now in Bellingham, and when the weather is FABULOUS, even though I commute to work by bicycle rain or shine, I tend to want to ride my bike everywhere.

So, I’ve mentioned my treasured nights out with the guys, but I haven’t mentioned that we’ve given our group a name: The Beer Klatch.

Anyway, there was a Beer Klatch meeting last night, and the plan was to meet at Boundary Bay Brewery, have a beer, fill up a few growlers, and head to the house of one of the guys to enjoy the sunset over Bellingham Bay from his deck. Three of the guys play guitar, and so instruments were invited as well.

And then, an idea came to me in a flash!

By now, thanks to that pesky global warming, everyone’s heard the term carbon-neutral. And while I was disappointed to find out this morning that it’s not an original idea, what came to me in a flash was to attempt a calorie-neutral Beer Klatch!

Let’s get one thing straight. I am a solidly right-brained individual, numbers aren’t my thing, so I wasn’t going to be doing any detailed analysis of the actual calories consumed and burned. Rather, my carbon-neutral Beer Klatch would be based on the grossest of estimates, a gut feeling (pun intended), if you will.

So, at 7:30pm, after a hearty meal of Spinach Fontina & Roasted Garlic Gourmet Chicken Sausage from Trader Joe’s, with a rice pilaf I improvised, containing green onion, celery, broccoli (finely chopped), sundried tomatoes, pesto, and balsamic vinegar, I mounted my bicycle. On my back was my guitar in its gig bag, and in the pocket of the gig bag was my empty growler.

I pedaled across town, enjoying the sunshine over Bellingham Bay as I passed over Taylor Dock and through Boulevard Park, eventually joining the Klatch members in the glorious Boundary Bay beer garden, where I rewarded my efforts with a lovely, refreshing IPA as I cooled down from the ride.

Then, at 8:30, I had my growler filled, put it back in the gig bag, making the load on my back considerably heavier. I refused the offer to throw my gig bag and the growler in the car of one of the guys, and I set out to climb South Hill, past the campus where I work, and then a few blocks to the house where the Klatch was meeting.

More beer was consumed, along with some chips and pretzels, the sunset was FABULOUS! and the music jam short but sweet.

When the meeting concluded, I put my growler, empty once again, into my gig bag, turned on my head and tail lights, and rode home back across town.

Now, I’m pretty sure that the calorie count for dinner, beer, and snacks exceeded the number of calories burned, but I had a blast, and I felt great this morning. In my right-brained calorie-neutral calculation, I’ve included pollution prevention, mood enhancement, and a happy body as calorie offsets, and so I’m pleased to report that I did, indeed, achieve calorie neutrality!

Stuff We Don’t Need: Chili Beer

Listen, everyone who knows me knows that I LOVE Boundary Bay Brewery. I love the beer, the ambiance, the clientèle, and the food’s not too shabby either.

That said, I’m no Boundary Bay sycophant. I don’t like all of their beers, and I don’t like their policy of serving select seasonal beers in smaller glasses for the same price as a pint.

Oh, and I can attest that this beer, which I tried last year, is terrible:

Chili Beer

A spicy yet refreshing beer for Cinco De Mayo. A light bodied ale spiked with roasted Anaheim, Jalapeno and Serrano peppers. It’s not as hot as it sounds because the roasting takes away some of the heat but leaves all the flavor. Try some with your favorite dish. Salud!

Some things were simply not meant to go together: fish and bicycles…um…I mean: bicycle tires and broken glass, bare feet and dog poo, marinara sauce and white shirts, and…

…chili and beer. Chili-laden Mexican food is great when washed down with beer, but the flavors do NOT belong in the same glass.

Then again, that’s just me. If for some crazy reason you want to judge for yourself, by all means, go check it out why it’s available.

In the meantime, order me an Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

Video Fridays: CR Avery

As I mentioned in one of my first posts here at Fish & Bicycles, I LOVE a night out with the guys at a pub.

If last night all I did was meet up with the boyz at The Copper Hog, where I enjoyed a couple of pints of the very tasty Terminal Gravity IPA from The Middle of Nowhere Enterprise, Oregon, it would have been a fantastic evening.

However, as we exited The Hog, my friend John asked for a ride home, and on the way down State Street he suggested we stop in at the Green Frog Acoustic Tavern.

What a treat that turned out to be. Performing last night was a guy from Vancouver named CR Avery, who struck me as a Hip-Hop Tom Waits.

The guy’s a one-man-band — in this clip combining spoken word, singing, beatbox, harmonica, and keytar — but he also played a couple of songs on banjo.

He’ll be back at the Green Frog on May 11th, so check him out if you can.

In the meantime…


Watch your back, Boundary Bay

The first few times I tried the offerings at Bellingham’s younger brew pub, Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen, around the time they opened about a year ago, I was thoroughly unimpressed.

I’m not a big fan of German beers, so I don’t hold it against them that their taps at the time were dominated by Pilsner, Lager, Kolsch, and Schwarzbier. However, I do hold it against them that that their IPA was TERRIBLE!

When I learned a few weeks ago that Chuckanut earned two gold and two silver medals, as well as the Best Small Brewpub award at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, I figured that either I don’t know ANYTHING about beer or Chuckanut has made a dramatic improvement in one year.

It is my pleasure, then, to report that I thoroughly enjoyed the beers I tasted on a recent visit.

Chuckanut is bucking convention, eschewing the trend of naming their beers for entertainment rather than identification. Therefore, rather than something like Angry Angel Kolsch, Chuckanut offers, simply, a Kolsch. Rather than Harpoon Leviathan Big Bohemian Pilsner, you’ll find, simply, Pilsner. Fortunately, their beer tastes much better than their boring, utilitarian names suggest.

On my visit I sampled three of their beers that I hadn’t tried before: Foreign Stout, Strong Ale, and Brown Ale. (Screw those German beers!)

The stout was my favorite, the perfect pint for a cold night in Bellingham, very nice complexity, malts roasted to perfection, and great full body and mouthfeel. Yum!!!

The Strong Ale was incredibly well balanced between the hops and malts and had a very full body that belied its light amber color. Like the stout, its 6.5% alcohol level was not overwhelming at all, and, rather, offered a very nice warming effect. (Again, nice on a cold night.)

The final offering was the biggest surprise of the evening. The Brown Ale is not a style that I’m particularly fond of. My experience with them is that they tend to be too thin, malty, and sweet, leaving me wanting the greater complexity and full body of a good stout. The brown was ordered by a friend and I was offered a taste, otherwise I wouldn’t have been tempted to try it.

Chuckanut’s Brown Ale, while still not as full-bodied as I’d prefer, a fault of the style not the brewer, was the most delicious brown I’ve had. The malts, like those used in the stout, were roasted perfection, offering similar coffee and chocolate notes, and there was just enough hops to avoid the sweetness that can ruin other browns for me.

While my beloved Boundary Bay Brewery still retains favorite pub status in my heart, they now have the first serious competition right here in Bellingham since Orchard Street Brewery went out of business in 2004. Hopefully this will be a healthy competition, inspiring both breweries to uphold their considerable standards and offer an expanding variety of beers in the future.

Work in Progress: Boundary Bay vs. Chuckanut

If you know me, you know that I loves me some fine, hand-crafted fermented grain beverages, particularly down at Boundary Bay.

Well, I recently moonlighted at our other award-winning brewery here in Bellingham, Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen, and naturally I’ve got something to say about it.