Beautiful New Business Cardholders

Entrepreneurship

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For all the mind-numbing busywork of starting a new business, certain tasks come with real  emotional rewards.  That’s certainly the case in choosing this new business card holder.  Like practically every other piece of start-up research, this one took time and shoe leather.  After visiting four physical shops and nearly two dozen Etsy stores, I finally settled on this handsome handcrafted wooden piece.

What clinched it for me was the manufacturer, Inelastic Goods, is a one-man operation based right here in Madison.  Steve, the creator of the line, delivered the item himself, eager to show me six or seven different models.  I jumped at the chance to buy two additional cardholders at a discount.

I’m keeping the white oak for myself and have bought two of the darker wenge wood models for gifts.  The wenge wood model is striking in the contrast of two dark planes sandwiching a lighter maple side piece.  The white oak does the opposite, playing up the continuous grain and color, as if the box were carved from a single block of wood.

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All models come with a magnetic closure that clicks shut oh so satisfyingly.  I catch myself playing with it constantly.  Plus, beyond the visual delight of the hand-finished hardwoods, Steve’s execution of the clean, minimalist design is unparalleled.  Each piece feels stunningly smooth in the hand, the joinery, edges, and curves so silky and organic.

By day, Steve works as an engineer for the state of Wisconsin.  On his own time he exercises his entrepreneurial spirit, refining his craft, streamlining his processes and tools, with the aim of not only perfecting the product, but boosting productivity.  His woodshop has become so efficient, he’s recently made good on a private order of sixty business cardholders to a private individual.

Head over to Steve’s Etsy shop for a look at the different models:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/InelasticGoods?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Beer Roundup #7: Three Midwest English Barleywines

Food and Drink, Health

Whole Hog BW

To Buy or Not to Buy?
1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best 

A Note on the Style:  English Barleywine

I prefer the malty “English” style barleywine over the hoppy “American” style.  All barleywines have a stiff malt backbone and generous sweetness, but the hop-forward American-style is often so bitter as to be indistinguishable from a high-alcohol double IPA.  Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are double IPA’s; I love me a double IPA when it’s got intense sweetness to offset the high IBU, like Bell’s Hopslam, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, or Founders Devil Dancer.

Despite my preference for the maltier English barleywine, it’s curious that I’ve found way more good American barley wines than English ones.  

How to explain this?  Is the English style BW less common in the US?  Not really.  Nearly every brewery that produces American barleywines also produces English ones.  The more likely explanation:  brewing a good English barleywine is more of a challenge because it doesn’t have the pronounced hops to balance the jacked-up sweetness.  Hence, many are sickeningly sweet, like Anchor Old Foghorn or Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot.

But all three specimens below are really good.

Stevens Point Barley Wine Style Ale (Whole Hog Series), Stevens Point Brewery

Rating:  4.44 / 5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  10.2% abv, 73 IBU.

From a very reasonably priced 4-pack ($7), the first sip has me totally psyched.

It’s not a great looking pour into a tulip glass, with barely a half-finger of white head atop the opaque, red-tinged, brown murk. Sticky lacing, with legs.

Very little in the aroma, probably just too cold. But bready, mildly floral, and of course malty in the nose, plus a grape-like, mildly acid wine character. Even after it warms, the nose remains reserved.

But in the mouth, now this is a provocative surprise. Stevens Point Brewery, for those of you not from Wisconsin, is an old-time adjunct-lager outfit, one of the oldest breweries in the US. My Midwest beer friends rarely say anything nice about SPB, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from this brew. But this is right up my alley. It’s a complex sweetness, like that of my two favorite English BW’s,  JW Lees Harvest Ale and Midnight Sun Arctic Devil. The grainy biscuit flavor is what backstops the sugar-sweetness, not any bitterness. Some will call this cloying. I love it. The sweetness rounds out with an estery, mossy oak. The butter/caramel is of the burnt variety. There’s milk and coconut, too.

The mild to moderate carbonation is a welcome cleanser and leavener of the oily-sticky feel.

I’ve gone back to Riley’s Wines and snatched up the last two 4-packs. One goes in the cellar, the other down my gullet!

Schell’s Barley Wine (Stag Series), August Schell Brewing

Rating:  4.46/5

On tap,  9.5% abv, 80 IBU.

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, thinking of Schell as merely an adjunct-lager outfit. What an awesome surprise.

On tap at Mason Lounge (Madison).  In a snifter, a handsome pour, a clear coppery amber with a finger of white head and good retention and lacing.

The aroma is a bit reserved.  There’s a diacytel caramel, dried fruit, piney hops, and a bit of sharp ethanol.

Flavor in the mouth offers sweet caramel, stone fruit, a bit of citrus, and a floral hop bitterness on the back end.  Finishes sweet, with a hint of grassy hops.  Alcohol is hardly there.

Upland Winter Warmer, Upland Brewing

Rating:  4.05 / 5

On tap,  8.5% abv, 47 IBU.

Pours a hazy, ruddy copper, topped by a fluffy, two-finger head.

A seriously complex aroma, the sweet swirls with the hops.  The hops come as white grapefruit and a bit of must.  The lovely roasted caramel struggles to dominate and ultimately does.

In the mouth the malt/hop tension from the aroma comes down solidly on the side of the malt.  Simple syrup on the front end, sweet butter and bread in the middle, plus fig and cinnamon-raisin ice cream on the back of the tongue. Goes down with just a rumor of bitter hops.  

Feels like a much bigger beer than it is, chewy, even.

Not nearly as good as the other two in this review, but it gets points for availability, as it’s pretty common to find on tap in Midwest bars in the colder months.

How to Create Pre-Press PDF Files on a Budget

Entrepreneurship, Media
bus-card Adler GRACoL 2006

Need to order a commercial print job from an online printer, but don’t have Adobe Illustrator ($560)?  That’s my situation.  I’ve laid out a nice business card in PowerPoint (above), including the logo I also designed in PowerPoint.  But Powerpoint does not produce vector graphics.   Printers need vector graphics.  They also recommend submitting PDFs that have been “pre-flighted” using certain Adobe Acrobat presets, such as PDF/X-1a.

Huh?

That’s what I said.  What a bear it was to research this.  And for an additional challenge, I wanted to see if I could accomplish all this on a budget.  I assumed I could find some vector-graphics freeware with which to reproduce my designs.  But the question remained:  how to  save the graphics file in the “pre-flighted” PDF  format that online printers specify?

(In case you’re considering skipping the preflighting step, know that preflighting helps avoid printing glitches such as font substitutions and color alterations.)

Turns out, the key to all this is Adobe Acrobat.

Some of this terminology rang a bell, as I used to  own the Adobe Creative Suite (ACS; back then, $1500) when I ran my photo equipment rentals business.  ACS includes all the programs that produce file formats press printers require, such as .ID (InDesign), .EPS (Photoshop), .AI (Illustrator), and of course .PDF (Acrobat).  I needed all four of them to design marketing materials for that business.  But that was four years ago.  For the past four years I’ve been running my healthcare business, with no need for ACS, at all.  Now that I’m starting up my freelance commercial writing business, I’ve been crossing my fingers that I won’t need to spend $1000+ on design software.

The bottom line is, yes, one can create vector graphics using freeware/shareware (I used Inkscape to recreate my PowerPoint designs).  But for press printing, you need to create properly preflighted PDF’s.  For that, you must have Adobe Acrobat (price varies depending on version and how purchased, $100 – $429).

I verified this by downloading the free trial of Acrobat 11.  With Acrobat installed, the Acrobat Virtual Printer will appear in your list of devices and printers.  (This is in Windows, obviously.)  You simply design your graphics in your vector software, then follow these steps to preflight your PDF:

1) “Print” your file (That’s right, “print” not “save”!)
2) In the print dialog, select Adobe PDF as the “printer.”
3) Click preferences (or printer properties).
4) In Preferences, the “Default Settings” area offers a drop-down menu of PDF format presets.  For business card printing, Moo.com specifies the preset PDF/X-1a:2001.  For printing a brochure, Vistaprint.com requires PDF/a-1b:2005 (CMYK).
5) Click okay to get out of preferences.
6) Click print.  You’re done.

Now you have your vector-based,  properly pre-flighted  PDF to upload to your online printer.

Cheesecloth? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Cheesecloth (To Drain Yogurt)

Food and Drink, Health
Coffee Maker yogurt

Coffee maker: the better yogurt strainer

The Better Way to Drain Yogurt

In the past when a recipe has called for strained yogurt, my wife and I have always gone with the conventional method, rigging up some version of the mouse-trap variety involving cheesecloth and gravity.  Hanging the yogurt-filled cheesecloth from a banana hook and draining the liquid into a bowl seems to perform well.  But it sure is a pain to set up.  The most commonly recommended method, fitting the cheesecloth inside a colander, simply doesn’t drain well; the larger surface area disperses the force of gravity, and the yogurt drains at a snail’s pace.

It finally occurred to us to try a Melitta coffee maker.  It sets up in a New York minute.  It drains the yogurt faster.  And it streamlines the task on the back end, as well:  after the yogurt fully drains, just tip the strained yogurt out of the filter, and finally squeeze what yogurt has stuck to the paper — like squeezing cake frosting from a pastry bag.  With cheesecloth, you’re left with a gooey mess that requires a spatula to salvage what you can, leaving wasted yogurt smeared in the woven fabric.

The finished product (drained yogurt)

The finished product (drained yogurt)

My Rental Studio Business: Big Multiday Photo Shoots

Entrepreneurship, Media
Magazine cover shot in my rental studio business

Magazine cover shot in my rental studio business

My Rental Studio Business:  Big Multiday Photo Shoots

Weddings in Houston, the city’s premier wedding vendor resource, shot many of its covers at my photography rental studio, Silver Street Studio.  Editor and publisher Radhika Day put together a crew that fired on all cylinders over the three-day shoot.  Crack stylist Summar Salah plied her stagecraft on three different glittery sets and twelve wedding gown wardrobes.  Hair and makeup by The Perfect Face transformed the models into showstopping brides.  And photographer Larry Fagala captured all the drama with technical expertise.

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One of three sets during the three-day shoot

Beer Roundup #6: Three from My Cellar

Food and Drink

bourbon County brand Stout

THREE FROM MY CELLAR

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

A Note on My Cellaring Experience:

Two things had me feeling anxious about all the beer in my cellar.  First, my wife and I moved apartments last summer, and all the beer suffered a potentially bruising trip, jostled in the back of a moving van in hot weather.  Second, the storage unit in the basement of our new apartment building didn’t stay cool summer long.  In fact, for a period of at least a week or two, temps down there rose into the upper 70s if not lower 80s.  Thankfully, I didn’t detect any ill effects in my test samples at the end of the summer, nor in any of these three beers, here.

Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout, Central Waters Brewing Co.

Rating:  4.88/5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  9.5% abv, 70 IBU.

This is the “2012” from my cellar, 13 months of aging.

Pours nearly perfectly black, with a rim of tanned leather at the 2mm of fast-dissipating khaki foam, plus bits of lacing and legs of running alcohol on the glass.

In the nose it’s an umami cocoa, first and foremost.  How choco-wonderous.  Then aromas of toast, burnt sugar, and bourbon, with hints of coffee and vanilla.  But one really has to work to get this complexity, as the aromas are whisper quiet.  (In fact, I’ve demoted the aroma score.)  The oak barrel is nice.  People talk about toasted coconut in the aroma, but that’s one note I’ve been unable to fathom.

In the mouth it’s a spumoni ice-cream cross of vanilla and chocolate.  It’s so good, one tends toward big mouthfuls to swish from side to side, front to back.  It’s nearly the vanilla heights of Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout.  Perhaps it’s the aging, but the bourbon comes muted. (But my wife feels the bourbon is highly present.)  Roasty malt and charred oak walk with maple syrup, burnt caramel, and chewy biscuit.  Then the dried fruits come, some raisin or prune, and a candied cherry.  The merest suggestions of pine-hops and anise twist the thumbscrews of complexity.  It all washes down with coffee and cream on the backend.

Medium- to full-bodied, fabulously smooth, with a modest carbonation and a mild boozy heat.

Decadent, delicious.  It goes down fast.  Something this rich, you would expect it to be a one-and-done type of deal.  But I feel I could have several. Perhaps that’s the beauty of a sub-10% abv.

I’m just as impressed with this as I am BCBS or Mikkeler Black Hole or Midnight Sun Berserker.  It puts into perspective Tier 1 vs. Tier 2 imperial stouts.  Now relegated to Tier 2 are:  Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Founders Breakfast Stout, Southern Tier Mokah/Jahva, Weyerbacher Tiny, and Goose Island Big John.

Brewers Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine Ale, Central Waters Brewing Co.

Rating:  5/5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  11.2% abv, — IBU.

This is a “2013”, so eleven months of aging.

A clear reddish-caramel in a tulip glass, with almost no head, even after an moderately aggressive pour (hence the 11.5% alcohol).  Lacing is sparse, but with serious stick-to-it-iveness and dripping legs down the glass.

How I miss this aroma.  Brings me right back to snowy April of last year.  Bourbon in the nose seems nicely muted compared to my memory of it.  I remember the bourbon being more pronounced in the aroma.  The vanilla, too.  Oak and char and melted butter bring further bouts of nostalgia.  Brown sugar and raisin, too.  Yeah, baby.

In the mouth the aging is instantly evident, with the hop bitterness knocked way back (though there’s still a ghostly, earthy pine bitterness on the back-end, for sure).  Pushing against the simple-syrup sweetness, the quiet hops present about an 80 or so IBU.  The flavor is wonderfully round:  soft sugar cookie, ice-cream-caramel swirl, fig and prune, then the bourbon.  I put more in the glass, and pie crust fills my nostrils.  Plus Juicy Fruit Gum and marshmallow.  It’s massively toffee sweet, and yet the mild hops and tannins from the oak–not to mention the brightness of the still-respectable boozey ABV–bring balance.  It drinks like Dogfish Head 120 Minute.

Despite a fairly significant carbonation, the smoothness makes me want to cry.  It gives the feel of a super-syrupy moscato di asti.  Definitely more an English Barleywine profile, at least after the aging.  How astonishing to experience true beer nirvana.  I feel like I did two years ago sipping a JW Lees Harvest Ale for the first time.

CW’s detractors denounce them as a one-trick (bourbon barrel) pony.  Not only is this wrong (duh, Illumination?  Exodus?  La Petite Mort?).  But even if true, this is bourbon-barrel aging at its very best.

Bourbon County Brand Stout, Goose Island Beer Co.

Rating:  5/5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  15% abv, — IBU.

This is a 2012 BCBS, so 18 months-old.  It’s much smoother, sweeter, with less astringency than it had last year.  There’s still almost no head to speak of, poured into a snifter.  It looks like soy sauce with some floating bubbles.  I might have said it also smelled of soy sauce, or at least chilled soy sauce.  Then I realized the aroma was tart plum, fruitcake, and moist spice cake.  Wow.  What eye-popping clarity in this complexity.  I’m beside myself (even if my less craft-beer-minded guests are non-plussed) with how amazing an aged BCBS is.  The most astonishing surprise here is a distinct peppermint stick aroma.

Can you say “Port Wine”?  My wife just asked me what I would think if tasting this without knowing anything of its provenance or vintage.  I tried to imagine it, and I think, yep, port wine.  Charred nuts, dried fig, and burnt raisins make for a thematic, seasonal flavor–it’s that fruitcake flavor from the aroma.  The bitterness resembles molasses more than it does hops.  Balance comes from the spicy alcohol.

Creamy and thick on the palate.

I can only say thank God I’ve got four more 4-packs in the cellar.  This is the shiznet, by all standards.

The Moment Buffy Hits Her Stride

Media, Writing

Buffy with stake 2

I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan.  But as much as I admire the series, re-watching Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m struck by the wildly disparate quality from episode to episode.  As a whole, the twelve installments are certainly lovable, yet marred by spans of such forgettable mediocrity, I feel lucky I started with the series during its syndication run, watching Seasons 5, 6 and 7 first.  Otherwise, I might never have survived Season 1.

That said, what’s neat is to witness the series molting from erratic, adolescent amateur to self-assured and cultured pro.  That transformation takes place during Season 1, ep. 12, the season finale.  Specifically, the intro segment of the episode contains the moment when the series hits it’s stride.  Buffy is attacked in the cemetery by the latest vampire.  The camera point of view is traditional monster-horror pic, with a closeup of the vampire’s sadistic grin:  he enjoys Buffy’s fear as he moves in for the kill.  But the rhythm of the editing is all camp.  As the camera pans behind her, Buffy produces a sharp wooden stake she had concealed beneath her jacket.  It’s an iconic image of table-turning reversal, a la the poster art for I Spit on Your Grave (compare screen cap of Buffy, above).

Thusly, Buffy flips the helpless-bimbo trope on its ear.  The narrative mood shifts radically from comedic-camp to slasher-horror, a la Friday the 13th.  Only it’s Buffy in the role of Jason.  Next image, a closeup of the vampire’s sadistic glee replaced by the frowning fear of mortality.  As Buffy sets upon the vampire, the action is filmed in a thrilling, Bourne-identity style, close-in combat realism.  Buffy charges, overwhelming the vampire’s strength with three massively powerful strokes.  She dusts the vamp in a rhythmic, athletic grace.  And one feels the series has turned the corner.

Even this show’s biggest fans would have to admit that, up to this point, Season 1 comes off as uneven at best.  Whedon’s biggest and most legitimate excuse?  He signed on to the WB lineup with Buffy as a mid-season replacement series; this meant he had to produce Season 1 in its entirety, without the benefit of audience feedback.  In other words, Whedon and company had to work in the dark, as it were, not airing episodes as they were completed, not knowing what worked and what didn’t, unable to recalibrate between episodes.

Episode 12 pulls the season together on the strength of Whedon’s story-telling chops.  He writes and directs this one, getting the narrative engine firing on all cylinders.  He amps up the driving force of the drama, centering it on an infallible prophecy:  that if Buffy fights The Master, she will die; if she doesn’t, human civilization will end.  Whedon stiffens the clout of the prophecy via the show’s two authorities on the dark arts–Giles and Angel.  Giles so recognizes the certainty of the prophecy, he determines to face The Master himself, in Buffy’s place, a mission of certain suicide, thwarted only by Buffy knocking Giles unconscious.  Angel, never one to shun a fight, steers clear of this one, knowing there’s no way to help the girl he loves and wanting not to witness her slaughter.  News of the prophecy reduces Buffy herself to a state of denial.  She begs her mother to take her on a weekend trip out of town.  Denial gives way to despair, and Buffy hands herself over to die.

The episode works beautifully as a season finale, with long-running plot pots brought to a boil.  Xander finally works up the courage to ask Buffy out on a date.  When she turns him down, he invites Willow, instead, who turns him down, too, fed up with being his second choice.  Miss Calendar emerges from the casting cocoon as an adult associate and potential love interest to Giles, defusing what potential creepy awkwardness there had gone before as Giles survived alone in a universe of teen hotties.  Cordelia gets in on the season finale action, saving Willow’s life in a suspenseful sequence by wielding an anti-vampire weapon available even to a newbie:  her car.  In all of these, the acting feels noticeably more human, the editing more on-task.  And the resulting air-tight thematics push the notion of being “the chosen one” to the realms of inexorable tragedy.

Beer Roundup #5: Three Midwest Strong Scotch Ales

Food and Drink

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To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

A Note on the Style:

Regular Scotch Ales (5% – 7% abv) generally leave me unmoved.  Their watery, ambiguous malt profiles come off as enfeebled APA’s, without even the hops to save them from abject anonymity.  But boost the alcohol to 8% or more, and the complexity emerges as lucid, jumping layers of sweets and fruits and grains.

Louie’s Reserve, Lake Louie Brewing

Rating:  4.36/5

10% abv, 40 IBU, 12 oz. bottle (4-pk)

The bottle version of this brew isn’t quite as stellar as the draft version (which I gave a 4.6).  It’s a beautiful pour into a snifter.  Golden clean viscous motor oil.  The finger of off-white head dissipates quickly, and the tiny-bubble lacing slides down the glass from the slippery alcohol.

The aroma is really nice, moist zucchini bread, cookie dough, and a workaday flour malt.  It presents itself as a polite breakfast syrup sweetness, reserved in its hints of other character traits:  a faint grassy/grainy earthy aura that surrounds the grainy sweetness.

In the mouth the high alcohol gives a fruity zip to the sweet malt.  And the hop bitterness pulls it further ceiling-ward.  A diacetyl toffee smoke puts one in mind of breakfast and pancakes and burnt, buttered toast.

There’s a metallic tartness that I wish were less bright (something I don’t remember from the draft version).  Middle to high carbonation is somewhat of a drawback, for what otherwise would have been simple cream.

Still one of my favorite Strong Scotch Ales of all time.  Definitely rivals Founders Backwoods Bastard, which makes its own weather because of the barrel aging.  Beats my other two commonly found go-to’s, Oskar Blues Old Chub and Dark Horse Scotty Karate.  Much, much better than Skull Splitter or Sticky McDoogle.

Backwoods Bastard, Founders Brewing Co.

Rating:  4.54/5

10.2% abv, 50 IBU, 12 oz. bottle (4-pk)

Bourbon barrel aging gives this beer a leg up on the other beers in this roundup.

On tap at Dexter’s, Madison.  A Founders tap takeover is a beautiful thing!  Dexter’s serves its 5 oz. pours in these handsome little snifters.  I’m drinking this alongside a half-snifter of Devil Dancer.  What an awesome combo.

This pour is a beauty:  dark-coppery brown with high clarity and a fluffy off-white head.

In the nose you get ripe cherry–a big old waft of cherry that’s just really remarkable.  Then bourbon and buttery caramel and a bit of umami and vanilla that’s somewhat sickeningly sweet.

Surprisingly roasty-sweet malt first on the front of the tongue.  Then that stone fruit from the aroma coats the mouth, with booze and hop bitterness in the finish

Near-syrup viscosity, and a bit of alcohol warmth in the throat, with mild-to-moderate carbonation.

Scotty Karate, Dark Horse Brewing Co.

Rating:  4.26/5

9.75% abv, 30 IBU, 12 oz. bottle

A finger of khaki head fluffs up and dies readily, with almost no lacing on my tulip glass.  The fluid itself is a reddish-brown murk.  Caramel greets the nose assertively, along with topsoil and animal feed grain.  Wood and grass dry out the sweetness in the aroma, with a stone fruit twang.  The palate gets washed with buttery toffee sugar, pie crust, and wood barrel.  A surprising coffee and cocoa in the dry, acidic finish.
The medium body is a bit of a letdown.  It fills the mouth well enough, but could be longer in the finish.

ice storm

Food and Drink, Health

ice storm

We came out of Karaoke Kid and I had to ride home on my frozen bike.  For the two hours we were karaokiing, my bike was outside on a pole, getting sleeted to death.  On my way home, nothing worked.  Not my brakes, not my shifters.  Couldn’t hear the usual zippy-hum of my studded tires — they were encased in ice.

Beer Roundup #4: Three Midwest Imperial IPA’s

Food and Drink

Lupulin Maximus

THREE MIDWEST IMPERIAL IPA’s

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average (many better beers out there, won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

A Note on the Style:

Imperial IPA, a.k.a. Double IPA.  A friend of mine recently asked about the terminology.  Rather than referring to  increased ingredients  or number of fermentation stages, “double IPA” is a nickname for “imperial IPA” (from the acronym “IIPA”).

Lupulin Maximus, O’so Brewing Co.

Rating:  4.38/5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  9% abv, ? IBU.

From a bottle into a tulip glass, it pours a hazy amber, with a thin white head.

A reserved aroma.  Sweet and grainy, rye bread, molasses.  Pine needles, nuts, black pepper, and leather, all overlying the sweetness.  Plus some citrus — lime, actually.

Sweet and bready up front.  Some will call this cloying; I love it.  It’s an adamant sweetness that tugs against the grassy hops all the way through this long, complex ride through flavor land.  Brown sugar and biscuit, absolutely identifiable, here.  Plus some diacetyl that makes for a butterscotch candy delight.  Wood and grass shake hands with the sweet notes and introduce the hop bitterness.  The sweetness becomes tropical fruit in the presence of the hops, mango, I’d say.  Finishes dry and salty, a long finish of simple syrup and oak aging mellowness.  The alcohol says hello before it’s done.  And, yet, there’s something not quite great about this flavor.  Too busy, perhaps?  Still, totally impressive.

Wonderful in the mouth, viscous, syrupy, creamy, despite the moderate, cleansing carbonation.  Mouthfeel is the raison d’etre, here.

Wildly complex.  So many star turns for the various flavor profiles — bitter, sweet, spice, umami, salt, tart.  Will definitely divide audiences due to its uncompromising, disparate sensations in the mouth.  Cannot find IBU listed anywhere, but my guess would be around 70 – 85; probably on the higher end, to account for the intense sweetness.

Bell’s Hopslam, O’so Brewing Co.

Rating:  4.76/5

On tap at Maduro, Madison.  10% abv, 70 IBU.

A beautiful pour in a Bell’s tulip glass.  Inch of fluffy-snow head.  And glacial lacing on the glass.

It’s often more of a challenge to write a review in a bar, given all the distractions and working on a cell phone touchscreen keyboard.   That’s particularly true of a cigar bar.  Great aroma in this beer, though the cigar smoke in here is obstructing any and all nuance.   I’m getting generic concepts of high hop bitterness, a foundation of bready grains, and a syrupy sweetness that pulls it all together.  Gonna have to find a bottle of this to try it again at home, as this is blowing my doors.

In the mouth the piney hops and candy sweetness team up to beat back the tobacco smoke.  There’s only room on my palate for one alpha flavor.  If you’re bothered by tobacco smoke, have one of these!

It’s noteworthy to find my favorite of these three beers to be the one with the lowest IBU (international bitterness units).

Founders Devil Dancer, Triple IPA

Rating:  4.43/5

On tap at Dexter’s Pub, Madison.  12% abv, 112 IBU.

So lucky to have stumbled upon this Founders tap takeover at Dexter’s Pub.  Classic kid-in-a-candy store excitement going on in here.  Each of us have ordered three beers at once, all five-ounce pours:  Backwoods Bastard (bourbon barrel aged imperial Scotch ale), Curmudgeon Old Ale, and Devil Dancer.

Incredible.  Beautiful brown poor in a 6 oz. snifter with a finger of off white head.  The aroma is surprisingly tame (maybe just too cold).  As it warms, the bubblegum/juicy-fruit gum aroma gets enveloped by citrus and floral hop bitterness.

Triple IPA?  Yes, with its 12% ABV and 100+ IBU, this drinks like an American-style barley wine.  Listed at 112 IBU, the caro-syrup sweetness pushes the complex hop bitterness to the next level of palate phenomenon.  Butter-caramel and plum/raisin in the back end.  Very mild, fruity alcohol on the breath.

Intensely flavorful, like electroshock therapy to the mouth.  Not as refined or beautiful as the Bell’s Hopslam, but definitely one to remember.