Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home of the Brave, My Ass!


Attention, comedians who come from outside the United States but who are planning to tour there: watch what you say, be careful what you tweet. Homeland Security is watching you.

For example, if you just performed in the U.K. and received rave reviews, before you head to New York, do not tweet "I just killed in London and I'm hoping to do it again in the Big Apple."

Chances are, the idiots at airport security will whisk you away to some back room and ask you asinine questions, search your luggage for a murder weapon, and then lock you in a cell.

Something similar happened when a couple from Britain were detained and then deported from the States for tweeting in slang, using "destroy" to mean "party" and taking a quote from an American cartoon.


What gets me is that the American Homeland Security sprung to action based on words, without any investigation, without finding out who these tourists were, what their background was. They acted without any context. They acted without any solid evidence. They acted purely on a keyword search.

All I can say is that everyone involved in the detention of these two travellers are, without a doubt, stupid, lazy, and above all, more frightening than any terrorist threat. Because these morons honestly think that what they are doing is right, even though their actions affect more people than any people who may want to do harm to Americans.

Because they disrupt lives and give the world a poor impression of American authority.

Since 9/11, Homeland Security has maintained a climate of fear. Land of the free? Hardly.

Home of the Brave? My ass!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Battle of the Hops


Remember last week, when I was so excited about the opening of Mill St. Brew Pub, how I was thrilled to learn, by Twitter, that the much-anticipated pub had opened its doors early? Remember how I said I would return for the grand opening, when I would sample a couple of the Ottawa-only brews on tap and then provide a review today?

Well, that didn't happen.

Why?

Because, as great as Mill St. was at tweeting about its soft opening, it was absolutely mum over the fact that Friday's opening was an invitation-only affair. There wasn't a single tweet about it.

And I wasn't on the list of the elite invitees. So imagine my surprise and disappointment in arriving, during a snow storm, with five people in tow, only to be turned away.

So there is no Mill St. review this week. Only scorn (don't worry, it'll be short-lived. I still consider Mill St. my favourite Ontario brewery).

Instead, I decided to do a little comparison taste with a beer I reviewed earlier this month and a competitor, a beer from a brewery whose beer I tried in early December.

As you know, I absolutely love porters and stouts. But over the past few months, I've really developed a love for IPAs too. So here are the beers I compared:

Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA and Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA


To refresh your memory with my Mad Tom review, click here.

Here is the low-down on Smashbomb:

Smashbomb Atomic IPA
Barrie, Ontario
LCBO: $12.75, 6 x 355 mL; 6% alc/vol

Smashbomb reveals a deep orangy-gold hue that is a little murky when held to the light. The colour is in keeping with traditional IPAs. It is much deeper in colour, compared to Mad Tom. Going by colour alone, I prefer the appearance of Smashbomb; and so the point goes to Flying Monkeys.

On the nose, I was immediately hit with the powerful hops. In fact, the hops were all I could detect. It took a while, in the glass, for the ale to settle down and open up, to allow me to detect notes of citrus: a little orange, a touch of lime. Having to wait for the beer to settle down at first was a little off-putting, but when the flavours came, I was thankful for them. Compared with the immediate notes of lychee, grapefruit, and orange from Mad Tom, I prefer the up-front delivery. And so the point goes to Muskoka.

It's all tied up.

On the palate, Smashbomb has a good balance between the hops and the fruit. The hops are strong (at 70 IBUs) and are immediately backed up with grapefruit. Both flavours carry through to a long and satisfying finish. The Mad Tom, by comparison, hits you full on with an incredibly powerful mouthful. Even though it is not quite as bitter as the Smashbomb (Mad Tom rings in at 64 IBUs), I found the hops more intense.

These are both amazing ales. I like them both for different reasons. I like Flying Monkeys for its easy drinkability. I like Muskoka for its intensity in the mouth. And so I have to call it a draw.

I know that that sounds lame, but it's true. If I showed up at a party, and someone offered a choice between the two beers, I'd have to say "surprise me." And it would be a pleasant surprise, no matter what was brought to me.

When I first reviewed the Mad Tom, I mentioned that it might replace my regular beer. The beer that I would pick up for a weekend of settling down at home, watching a movie with the family. That beer was Tankhouse Ale by Mill St.

The next time I go to the LCBO to pick up a six pack, I'm going to flip a coin: heads, it's Mad Tom.

Tails, it's Smashbomb.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Photo Friday: M.I.A.

I shot this photo in late winter, 1988.



I was planning to take another photo of the statue, to give you a then-and-now comparison.

I seem to have lost the statue.

This photo was shot at Confederation Park, but when I returned to the spot, another statue occupied the area where I shot this soldier, standing at ease, seemingly comfortable in his uniform.

Do you know where this statue has gone?

Leave a comment and I'll go out to take a shot of this soldier in his new spot. For now, he's M.I.A.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not The Same Old Mill


At long last, after months of anticipation, the Mill St. Brew Pub is finally open for business in Ottawa. And thanks to the Twittersphere, I had an early look at the new digs.

And because Mill St. is already my favourite Canadian brewery, I thought I'd squeeze in another review this week.


The official grand opening of the brew pub is this Friday, January 27, but the owners decided to open the doors early, in what they call a "soft open," in which the staff get a chance to serve a limited crowd and perform a test run of the training that they received. Word reached Mill St. fans through social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. As a follower of @MillStreetBrew on Twitter, I noticed the announcement about an hour before they opened their doors. I went straight from work.

The Mill St. Brew Pub is located at 555 Wellington Street, where the Ottawa River Parkway meets Wellington meets the Portage Bridge, where the old Mill Restaurant was located, which was, as the name suggests, an old mill. Mill St. has done a beautiful job transforming this building into a modern and cozy pub. Much of the original interior walls, which are stone, remain, and the main level is both open and intimate, with its large bar and private tables.

The moment you walk through the front doors you are met with two copper kettles behind glass, attesting to the fact that this pub is producing its own product. In fact, three beers are currently on offer that are available only at this pub. I sampled one of them—more about that shortly.


The staff was friendly, greeting me immediately at the front door and offering me my choice of table or bar. I chose the bar: I wanted to be able to speak with the servers easily and listen in on the conversations around me. I was taken care of by two servers at the bar: Karine and Kerri, both friendly and knowledgeable.

Kerri and Karine, busy at work
I decided to try only three of the beers on tap this evening. I know that over the months and years that I plan to visit this establishment, I'd have plenty of time to become intimately familiar with all that was on offer. I wanted to try one of the exclusive ales and then try my favourite styles: stouts and porters.

So without further ado, here's the skinny on my picks.

Beer #1: Portage Ale (5% alc/vol)

This classic cream ale is deep gold in colour with a clean, white head. I picked up a faint hint of straw on the nose and the palate delivered a clean taste with mild hops in the finish. I found Portage to be palate cleansing, especially when I enjoyed it with calamari.

According to the beer menu, this cream ale is brewed in a style that is traditional with several breweries that once occupied space on the neighbouring Lebreton Flats. It is brewed with Canadian pale malt and a blend of European and American hops, and is double-fermented.

While I enjoyed the Portage, I was eager to move on to my favourite, darker styles of beer, and so I moved on to my next choice.

Beer #2: Cobblestone Stout (4.2% alc/vol)

To be honest, I have actually tried Cobblestone once before: a couple of years ago, at Bluesfest. At the time, I was volunteering for the Ottawa Blues Society and was more interested in quenching my thirst than sitting back and giving the stout my full attention. All I remembered from that day was that I really liked this stout.

Reunited, I gave this glass my full, undivided attention. This stout has a deep ruby-brown colour with a latte head. The nose revealed a nutty aroma with tobacco and oak. In my mouth, I detected bold, roasted coffee and dark chocolate. This was a serious stout that left a bold finish and had me wanting more.

Cobblestone Stout is a traditional Irish stout that gives that famous cascading effect when poured. Being lighter in alcohol, it is one of those light beers that leaves you satisfied.

There's a reason I liked this stout so much at Bluesfest: it's one of the best stouts I've ever had. I lingered on this pint, savoured every drop. I was tempted to order a second, but I needed to concentrate. I needed to keep my head.

I was working.

Beer #3: Vanilla Porter (5% alc/vol)

Do you remember the review I wrote about the Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer? Remember how it reminded me of Vanilla Coke?

Yeah, well this beer is nothing like that.

It reminded me nothing of that syrupy soft drink. But there was plenty of vanilla in this porter. Brewed with pure, organic, Mexican vanilla extract that is undeniably present from first smell to finish, this porter is sweet without cloying. The colour is similar to root beer—a caramel red-brown with a light, creamy head. On the nose, in addition to vanilla, I noticed toffee. It left a distinct vanilla palate with a clean, light finish. The finish was a stark contrast to the boldness of the stout. It was delicious.

If you're going to try the stout and porter in one sitting, I strongly recommend that you drink the stout first. The sweetness, though mild in the porter, would spoil the full effect of the stout.

Of the three beers I tried, my clear favourites were the stout and porter, but I did enjoy the cream ale. And as I said, I have plenty of time to get to know these beers well.

The Mill St. Brew Pub is a highly welcome establishment to Ottawa. As I told Kerri, I plan to be a regular; with free WiFi, it might even be my second home, where I will possibly sit and write the sequel to my novel.

On this soft opening, the pub received the attention of the media. Sandra Abma of CBC News arrived and provided her own report. A cameraman panned around the bar area, and as I found out when I got home, I was caught in the background. You can see me here:

You can see the full CBC News story here.

Two can play at that, Sandra!
If you're in the neighbourhood on Friday, drop in and check out the Mill St. Brew Pub. I plan to make another appearance too, and plan to review the other Ottawa-only drafts for next Monday. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where The Good Stuff Is Kept

More and more, I find that my blog is becoming less about my writing and more about my photography.

I'm not really complaining. Are you?

As much as I love to write, my photography is my other not-so-secret passion. I love capturing images. Even when I don't have a camera on me or am moving in our van or on the bus, I look around at the passing landscapes and compose shots in my head or I make a mental image of where I saw a great shot, hoping someday to return and capture it on my camera.

Over the last few months, I've discovered a great photo Web site where you can upload photos and view the images of other photographers from around the world. It's very much like Flickr or Picasa, but with a big difference: the photos uploaded to this site are professional-grade.

No vacation snaps, no shots of your kids or dogs. Unless, of course, they are of a quality fit for a magazine or art gallery.

The site is called 500px. Perhaps you've heard of it.

The photos are fantastic. I find myself getting lost in the fabulous compositions and can look at the pictures forever. I look at the shots and say to myself: "That's what I want to do someday."

I've been bold enough to open an account and add a few of my photos to the site. You can see mine by clicking or tapping this link (in the age of tablets, "click" sounds archaic).

My collection will grow, but only when I feel the photo is genuinely worth it. For myself, I look at my own photos and think they don't measure up to the ones I see daily, but I try.

What do you think?

Do you think that any of my other photos that I've posted on this blog are worth adding? Let me know.

I still have my Picasa album, but I use it for events I've shot or family adventures. My Flickr album contains my more artsy shots.

For 500px, I'll be even more picky.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Slaying My Prejudice

If you've read my previous beer reviews, you may have noticed a trend: I tend to lean towards darker beers. And it's true, I love stouts, porters, and other darker ales.

I know what I like.

And unashamedly, I'm a beer snob. I turn my nose up at certain beers and make no apologies. Life is too short to drink mediocre beer, I think.

I think that larger, massed-produced breweries are very good at producing such mediocre beers. And so you'll never see me review them. And if I see a beer that looks like one of those beers styled in the footsteps of those breweries, I'm likely to take a pass.

I need to change that attitude. I need to learn to not be so prejudiced.

Case in point: this week's beer review.

Vankleek Hill, ON
LCBO: $15.85, 4 x 600 mL; 5.2% alc/vol

I picked this beer up because I enjoyed Beau's Bog Water so much and wanted to try more of their offerings. And because I've reviewed quite a few seasonal beers, I thought I should try something that, if I liked a lot, I would be able to enjoy year-round.

And, according to the brewery's Web site, this is their flagship beer. It is the beer for which the rest of their creations are measured. Or so was my thinking. I had no idea what to expect but I expected it to at least match the quality of their Bog Water.

This beer comes packaged in an environmentally-friendly four-pack--cardboard that breaks down easily and non-screwed caps, which means the bottles can be re-used more often. All wrapped up with a bow. The bottles themselves are large: 600 mL, which means that in my large pint glasses, I can't quite drain the bottles. I had to pour, sip, pour, sip, and pour some more. I know, I know... first-world problem.

Pouring the beer into my glass, I saw a honey-golden glow. The colour matched the beers I tend to avoid. The colour of the mass-produced ales and lagers that I swore I would never drink, even if offered to me for free.

Like I said: life is too short to drink mediocre beer.

And I'm sure that had Lug Tread come in clear bottles, I might have passed on it.

I really need to learn to not be so prejudiced.

On the nose, I thought I caught faint hints of honey, perhaps a bit of hay. I had an impression of warm, the kind you get when you step in from the cold and wrap yourself in a thick blanket. I was encouraged to take my first sip.

On the palate, this lagered ale was clean. I didn't detect any pronounced, bold flavours; something I would expect from this type of beer. I could taste mild hops, which gave me the impression of a barn full of straw. And on the finish, I tasted honey without the sweetness. That flavour lingered so much that I went to my cupboard, pulled out our liquid honey, put a drop on a spoon, and let it melt on my tongue. After swallowing it and giving the sweetness time to dissipate, I was left with a similar flavour in my mouth. Taking another sip of the beer, the flavour wasn't identical, but it was close.

It was an enjoyable comparison.

Beau's makes Lug Tread by mixing certified organic malts and hops with local spring water. They top-ferment this brew like an ale before cold-aging it, like a lager. The result is a satisfying beer that does not taste like those mediocre beers that I avoid.

While I did enjoy Lug Tread, I would have liked to have had a little more flavour. But that's just me. I imagine that this creation is made for the masses, to compete with those mass-produced beverages. It is easy to drink but has a little bit more, something to make it rise above.

If you enjoy easygoing ales or lagers, this beer will be a treat to your taste buds. For me, it renewed my faith it paler ales. It taught me not to judge a lager by its appearance.

Has it drawn me away from darker ales? No. Would I drink it again? I had a second bottle while I was reviewing it; I have two more to enjoy. So yes, I will drink it again. And if it is offered to me in the future, I will say yes again.

Because I'm no snob to this beer.

Attention, Kool Aid: I think you've been copied!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Photo Friday: Double Exposure

Back in the late 80s, I experimented with double-exposure photography. With my trusty Minolta X-700, I would shoot one photo and slowly crank the advance lever while holding the rewind release button. And I would cross my fingers that the film didn't move or tear.

It was an exercise in trial and error. Sometimes, the exposure wouldn't be right; other times, the composition would be off. And sometimes, the film would slip as I cranked the lever and would end up with overlapped images.

Here is one of my first successful double exposures. You can tell this photo was composed in the late 80s because the Daly Building is still standing next to the Chateau Laurier. That night, the moon was actually rising about 90° or more to the right of this shot. Also, I had zoomed up on the moon to make it appear bigger than it actually was. (But not too much, because I didn't want overlap.)


I haven't experimented with double-exposure photography in a while. I wonder how my D-SLR would handle doing this?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In The Throes of Winter

So here we are, approaching the height of winter, awaiting our next storm.

I thought I'd dig up an old photo from my scanned slide collection, something that might encapsulate winter in the Ottawa area. This is all I had:


I've got my camera on me. If the storm holds true, I hope to have some worthwhile photos of the storm for Wordless Wednesday.

Stay warm, my friends. Stay safe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Inspired, and Under the Gun

I was introduced to a wonderful stout last week. I wanted to share it with you, but then I decided not to.

I had a title for that beer review: Velvet Hammer. It was a term that came to mind while I was drinking it. It was an imperial stout with a high alcohol content—some 10.5 percent—but was creamy smooth, and so Velvet Hammer seemed appropriate.

It was delicious. It was wonderful. And I thank Jon from Thursday Pints West for sharing it with me.

Like I said, I wanted to write a review on this beer, but decided against doing it. The reason: it's not available in Ontario. Sure, folks who live in the United States or other countries may have access to it. Not Ontarians. Pity.

The beer was Ten Fidy by Colorado brewery Oskar Blues. If you can get it, do so. It's great stuff.



But I was in the mood to write a beer review, to try a new brew. Because I found Ten Fidy such a lovely imperial stout, I was inspired to have more, and so I went to the LCBO with that style in mind. Here's what I found.

Russian Gun Imperial Stout
Grand River Brewing Company
Cambridge, Ontario
LCBO: $4.60, 500 mL; 8% alc/vol

One of the first things I noticed when I picked up the bottle was that on the side of the label, a date stamp indicated when the beer had been bottled. On this particular bottle, the date was January 10, 2012.

This stuff was fresh.

Pouring the stout into my glass, I noticed a distinct red hue. Yet, holding the glass to the light, no colour escaped the darkness inside. The head was a creamy beige and held together for quite a few minutes after the pour. It looked great in the glass.

On the nose, I caught a creamy coffee tone with tobacco, and I anticipated a wonderful taste. However, the nose and the palate seemed to differ greatly.

In the mouth, I tasted strong, bitter hops, but nothing else. The bitterness seemed to lack any other flavours. On the finish, the bitterness transformed to strong notes of alcohol.

That was it.

I continued to consume this imperial stout over the course of about two hours, wondering if the change in temperature and exposure to air would open this beer up. If it did, I didn't notice it. What I did notice was that the aroma that I first caught after pouring the beer faded over time, until there were no flavours beyond the herbal scent of the hops.

If you've read my other reviews, you know I love bitter beer. I love hops. But I prefer the hops to be carried by other flavours: chocolate, coffee, spices, tobacco. Russian Gun seemed to fall short. And after the wonderful, intense flavours of Ten Fidy, I finished Russian Gun feeling somewhat disappointed.

If you enjoy powerful flavours of hops and a distinct alcohol finish, you might enjoy this imperial stout. If you're looking for more, look elsewhere.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Photo Friday: Confidence


I love rediscovering old photos, ones that I shot decades ago and haven't even seen in almost as long.

Thanks to my new scanner, I've begun digitizing some old slides. It's great to see what kind of photographer I was when I was using my old 35mm SLR, back when you took your time to get your shot because you couldn't immediately see what you got—you couldn't just delete the shot and take it again. Back in those days, I would take three similar shots, hoping that one of them would be good.

When I was feeling confident, I'd only take one shot.

I wasn't confident that often. But I had hopes.

Here's a photo that I captured in three shots. Taken in the spring of 1989, the first shot was without a filter and had a landscape orientation. It showed a tree in early bloom, standing on the edge of the Ottawa River near the Connaught Range (Shirley's Bay). The tree took the far-left side of the frame; the rest of the frame showed the river.



After that shot, I added an orange filter to focus more on the silhouette of the tree and the distant shore. The sunset was secondary.



I then changed to a red filter and decided that the tree was the subject. I changed the orientation to portrait, closed up on the tree (but kept it on the left-hand side of the frame), and waited for the sinking sun to hit the top of the treeline across the river.

And then I took one shot. I was feeling confident.


Which one do you prefer?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday Pints West


When I joined the Twitterverse, I didn't know what to expect. I thought I would follow Lori, a few friends and family members, and that was it. In the first few weeks, I followed a couple of more twits that I was interested in, such as CBC News, our local weatherman, and a few Ottawa services.

But what I learned is that Twitter can be addictive for someone who likes to chat, likes to blog.

I soon found myself following lots of Ottawa tweeps. And, to my surprise, some started following me back. And over the months, many of us had both interesting and entertaining conversations.

Through Twitter, I became involved in the Ottawa social media scene. I was the MC at last year's Blog Out Loud, where area bloggers met and heard the words of some very talented writers. I also attended Social Capital Ottawa, where I met more local social-media folks and learned more about how to get the most out of my blog and Twitter.

One of these days, I'll implement what I learned.

I also joined the Worldwide Photo Walk last fall, which I learned about through Twitter. Again, I met some great people who were excellent photographers, and it was the first time I really started relaxing in this new environment.

I am, after all, horribly shy.

But last summer, I also started attending a weekly social gathering of my fellow tweeps and bloggers. This gathering, organized by the lovely and talented social-media guru, Shawna Tregunna (@ShawnaActually), takes place every Thursday at Darcy McGee's in Bells Corners. There can be anywhere from a small handful of peeps to more than 20 social-media folk.

One of the great things about this venue has been the musical entertainment at Darcy's. Amanda Cottreau and Steve Perron of Stairwell Leo are an amazing act and well worth the trip alone. But to have them perform in the background of this tweetup is something special.

On December 31, Darcy's closed its doors and underwent renovations. When it reopens, it will have a new look and a new name: The Brew Table. And though the pub is closed for January, Thursday Pints West continues. Last week, regulars Tom and Sue opened their doors to the tweeps, including Stairwell Leo. It was a wonderful and intimate gathering.

I shot plenty of photos of that night, and have posted most of them on my Picasa Web album. But here are a few:


If you're on Twitter, in Ottawa, and want to meet some wonderful people and listen to some great music, follow the hashtag #ThursPintsW. And when The Brew Table opens, come on out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Odell


It figures: I drop off the grid for a few hours to enjoy some time with some good friends, and someone solves the Where In Ottawa contest. Actually, two people sent responses while I was offline, though I'm not sure the second person pinpointed the location because the comment was ambiguous and provided neither the name of the location nor the street.

Our winner, of course, not only provided the intersection but also a Google Maps aerial view. While he didn't know the name of the building, he certainly knew where it was. And so, congratulations, David Hicks!

The name of the building is Odell House, on 180 Waller Street, at Nicholas. Built in 1883 by brickyard owner Horace Odell, it is currently owned by the University of Ottawa and houses the Centre on Public Management and Policy.

Here's a breakdown of the clues:
  1. It's more homely around the front—while homely is more-commonly used to mean plain or ugly, I meant the other term: having a feeling of home. It was originally a home. And it's much better looking from it's front side.
  2. That's some wedding gift!—not only was this structure originally built as a home, it was built for Odell's son as a wedding present. Nice guy.
  3. Transitway landmark—the intersection of Waller and Nicholas streets is right along the OC Transpo transitway. Every day, thousands of commuters pass this spot. Also, if you are heading towards the Byward Market from the Queensway from Nicholas, you can't help but see Odell House.
  4. One time, doctor's office; another time, music school—I don't know if Odell House ever held a law firm, but according to the plaque on the front, it had become a doctor's office and was at one time the Department of Music at the U of O.
  5. An excellent example of 2nd-empire style architecture that was popular in Canada in the 1870s—also taken from the plaque (Odell House became a designated heritage property in 1982), the house is distinguished by its mansard roof, central tower, and semi-circular dormers. It's a gorgeous house.
Thanks to everyone who played. As always, Where In Ottawa will appear in The Brown Knowser on the first Monday of each month. So get ready for February's installment.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's a Mad, Mad World!


One of the great things about having time off over the holidays is that I had the opportunity to relax, put my feet up, and do as little as possible.

Oh yeah: and drink some fabulous ales!

After my review of Muskoka Brewery's Winter Beard Double-Chocolate Cranberry Stout, I couldn't wait to try more beer from this Ontario cottage-country brewer. And I didn't wait long.

This time, I sampled the Mad Tom IPA. Here's the skinny:
Mad Tom IPA
Bracebridge, ON
LCBO: $13.45, 6x355 ml; 6.4% alc/vol
This is one intense IPA. From its nose to its finish, this brew smacks of flavour. Though I have to admit that when I first poured it into my glass, I wasn't so sure of what to expect.

When I think of a true India Pale Ale, I visualize a beer that is pale in comparison to a porter or stout, which is what originally defined the IPAs. Alexander Keith got it wrong when he made his IPA: these brews were made in the U.K. and prepared for the long haul to India. They were primarily brewed with roasted pale malt, which gave it a dark hue, but less dark than the stouts.

For me, if an IPA is very pale—such as with Keith's—then it ain't done in the traditional way. In my opinion, that is.

But this review is my opinion, isn't it? And anyway, I'm getting off-topic.

For Muskoka Brewery, the golden-orange colour of the IPA is somewhere in between Keith's and my opinion of what an IPA should be. And hence, my trepidation prior to tasting it.

With Mad Tom, looks are deceiving.

Getting beyond the paleness of this pale ale, I went straight to the aroma. And man, is Mad Tom intense. The first thing to hit my nose was concentrated fruit and honey. I smelled lychee: lots of lychee. As the bouquet opened, I also detected citrus—grapefruit and orange.

The grapefruit carried through to the palate and was backed with beautifully bitter hops. The taste continued into a long, satisfying finish that made me want to take another sip. And another.

I love bitter beers. And I love Mad Tom. I enjoyed drinking it so much that it just might become my new regular beer.

If you enjoy full-bodied IPAs, you'd be mad to pass this one up.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Where In Ottawa: The January Edition


Happy New Year!

I hope that you enjoyed yourselves over the holidays and that you found time to rest, relax, and spend time with friends and loved ones. It's a new year, and I wish you all peace and prosperity in 2012. And let's hope that the Mayans got it wrong!

It's also the beginning of a new month, which means another round of Where In Ottawa? I had so much fun stumping you in December that I hope I can do it again. Are you ready? Here is this month's photo:


Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

The first person who correctly identifies this location will win a PDF copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary.

Already have a copy of my novel? You can still play: if you won this contest before November 2011, I will send you a new copy of the final version of the book, which will hit bookstores in the next couple of months. Still in PDF format, this version has a couple of early flashbacks, a different ending, and is one minor character shy from the original.

And you'll also have bragging rights. That's got to be worth something: street cred, perhaps?

Get going, and remember: to win, you must leave your answer in the comments section of this post. No tweets, no e-mail. Starting tomorrow, I will start listing clues in the top-right corner of my blog, right above the photo of me. I'll also post the clues on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Good luck!

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