Author Archives: Brad Warbiany

Brad’s Beer Review: Red Brick Brewing’s Matcha Super Green Yuzu IPA

First, my apologies for missing the review last week. With the site migration not completing until Sunday, I didn’t get a chance to put something together.
Matcha Super Green Yuzu IPA
This week I’ve tried to do something a little different. Here in Southern California, I could easily spend years doing a weekly review just of beer from San Diego County. Many of these, such as Alpine, are difficult to get even here in Orange County, much less for the rest of the world.

Luckily, I recently had a beer trade with a coworker who lives in Georgia. I sent him a box of Russian River beer, and he sent the best of the best of GA beer. I might as well review something that our readers back east have better access to than we do out here. In this case, it’s Red Brick Brewing’s Matcha Super Green Yuzu IPA. Because when I think Georgia–bearing in mind that I lived there for two years–my first thought is “green tea IPA”!

That said, it’s my first tea-infused beer, so it should be an interesting experience!

  • Stats: 7.8% ABV, 62 IBU. 4.5 SRM.
  • Aroma: Well, for an IPA, it certainly doesn’t lead with hops. Bit of a shame there. Maybe a bit of the tea, but not overwhelming. I definitely pick up a bit of graininess and a bit of phenol.
  • Appearance: Pale gold, very hazy. Not much head. I typically pour rather gently, but as it was going I tried to get much more aggressive and still didn’t get much. I think the tea definitely causes the haze, but not sure on the head.
  • Flavor: For an IPA, and a 62 IBU IPA at that, I don’t find it overwhelmingly bitter. There’s a maltiness in there. Granted, this is not all that uncommon for East Coast IPAs. The tea is not overdone. A concern with any spiced beer is that the spice will absolutely overwhelm everything else. In this case it melded very well. I would have liked some more hops, though.
  • Mouthfeel: Light to medium body, but with a bit of sweetness that makes it seem a little bigger than it is. I think here is where the tea is most detectable, though. It’s different on the tongue than a typical beer. I get this tiny back-of-the-tongue astringency that I don’t get often.
  • Overall Impression: This one was just “ok” for me. Everything seemed a bit “muddled”. I like nice crisp dry IPAs that are heavy on the hops. I didn’t get them. I do like tea, and I was expecting a bit more noticeable tea character. And the maltiness kind of overshadowed both of those. I wouldn’t really recommend this one.

There you have it. A great big “meh”. I’m sure it’s possible to get green tea to work harmoniously in an IPA, but this isn’t the one.

Book Review: Hearts of Darkness

I recently read* Hearts of Darkness: Why Kids Are Becoming Mass Murderers and How We Can Stop It

This is obviously setting up to be a slightly controversial book from the start. Trying to delve into the psychology of mass killings is fraught with peril.
Hearts of Darkness
This book, however, seems to deliver on its theme.

At its core, the book makes two arguments. Both have merit, but both also lead to questions. At its core, the arguments boil down to this:

  1. Mass killings have become an epidemic, and are a serious issue in their own right that need to be addressed by society.
  2. Mass killings are fundamentally an intersection between the forces of society and severe mental health issues.

I have my issues with both arguments.

First, essentially all statistics on violent crime show that it’s in the decline. So while I’m not going to argue whether or not mass shootings in the dramatic and newsworthy sense are increasing or decreasing [as I haven’t looked at the stats], I’m concerned that the authors didn’t even address the fact that violent crime is decreasing in the aggregate. If you want to make the case that this particular problem is worth addressing, you’d think that including overall crime stats and explaining why this trend increasing in the face of declining crime is worth of a societal response is really necessary.

Second, the argument of the book is quite clear. Essentially all of the killers profiled showed evidence of paranoid schizophrenia. We’re not talking about normal people who went over the edge. We’re talking about crazy people who decided to manifest their version of crazy in a way that causes extreme casualties. But if you assume that these events are increasing, that means we either are seeing an increase in the number of crazy people or we’re seeing something in society that is making crazy people more prone to these events. Unfortunately, the authors don’t seem to justify either argument.

That said, I like the book for its deep investigation into the history of several of these high-profile killers. What they show, with intense research, is that every one of the profiled killers were showing evidence of severe mental schisms. And we’re not talking about depression, or anxiety. We’re talking about hardcore paranoid schizophrenia. Depressed people take their own lives. People who hear voices, or have other similar breaks with reality, are the ones who try to take a bunch of people with them.

The Good:

First and foremost, the book extensively focuses on mental health issues. It essentially states that not all paranoid schizophrenics will become mass shooters. In fact, only a small number will. But it looks into the history of several of these killers and severe mental instability is a pretty darn clear thread woven through their history.

Second, I do like the fact that they don’t fall on the trope of “the kid was autistic, therefore he’s an unfeeling monster” garbage. Yes, autistic people tend to have difficulty relating to others in a “normal” way. No, they don’t lack empathy or concern for others. Autistic people tend to be much less violent than in general. But every time you get into one of these mass killings, the speculation is that the killer is autistic. And in the case of Adam Lanza, it pretty well seems to line up. But the key is that while autistic people tend not to be violent, people who are both autistic and paranoid schizophrenics or have borderline personality disorder just might be violent. Clearly this is an important distinction to me.

Third, this is most certainly NOT an anti-gun book. Despite the fact that the authors are pretty well in favor of gun control, they’re cognizant of the fact that this is not central to the thesis of the book. They do indulge for about 2 pages in the waning portions of the text to suggest that maybe if getting a gun is harder than it is now, that you might see a decrease in these killings. Given the restraint they show throughout the rest of the book, I’ll indulge them 2 pages towards the end.

The Bad:

The “epidemic” claim is not well supported. They throw out a statistic on multiple-death shootings having gone up over the years, but I think to call these “mass” killings in the same vein as a Sandy Hook or Columbine is a stretch. As mentioned before, overall violent crime is in decline over the last several decades, so it’s hard to square this with an epidemic of mass murder. I think if you’re trying to prove an epidemic, the best answer is that with modern communication, we not only know more about these events, and sooner, than we did before, and that in some of the cases the perpetrators were–if not “copycats”–inspired by previous killers. This is made clear in the book, but still I find “epidemic” to be a stretch.

They do a good job of profiling certain killers. But there are many mass killers that are NOT covered here. A skeptical reader is left wondering why not. Now, it could be simple. The authors may simply not have had access to enough medical records or personal history of these other killers to draw a conclusion. It may have been that family and friends or family of the killers were just non-cooperative with the authors. Or, of course, it could be that the authors cherry-picked the ones who supported their premise and left those who did not out. It wasn’t addressed either way, and I think it should have been.

But where the book really fails is to draw a significant conclusion. They clearly have identified a problem and a diagnosis, but when it comes to serious mental disorders, it’s very easy to overreach between acting in the interests of public safety, and trampling the rights of the disabled. After all, a very small proportion even of the mentally ill are likely to go on shooting sprees. How far are we really willing to go to stop this? At best, raising awareness of the issue to identify potential “cries for help” might be the best option, as in a number of these cases, the killers really did need, and express their want of, help to get better.

In their close, the authors point to a number of possible factors leading to this rise. He’re we’re exposed to a litany of the usual suspects. Easy access to guns (and high capacity magazines) is one. Violent video games is another. Leaning left, as they do, they throw out a few more, such as economic issues, globalization, and free speech on the internet. All of these seem to be a bit of a stretch. Hell, they might even want to throw “overpopulation” in there, because more people equals more targets, right? The problem with each of these is that under the right conditions, one can find a study suggesting that these are contributory factors, but it’s never clear just how much of this issue will go away by “solving” any given one of these issues. Nor can we typically agree on the solutions.

Conclusion:

I’m sure this is not an easy book to write. It’s a deeply troubling issue, and one where it’s almost bound to be politicized. Every time one of these events happens, the left and right tend to immediately look for any signs that the killer numbers among the other party. And every time we libertarians see something like Jared Loughner, we immediately worry that someone will assume that all libertarians are going to “go postal” on the Post Office.

This book does a great job to highlight that crazy doesn’t choose a party. And that for the most part, while violent people may kill people, it’s the crazies who are responsible for mass murder. It really is a useful book purely on that point alone. We do have a mental health issue in this country (and other countries do as well), and this is something that should be addressed so that we can help the people at risk of perpetrating these acts.

But the byline of the book includes “and How We Can Stop It.” I think the book fails to deliver on that claim. Now, that isn’t necessarily the authors’ fault. I’m not sure there is an easily-packaged solution that they could put together for us. And much like terrorism, you can win 99 battles out of 100, but that 100th is going to dominate the news cycle. In a country of 300M people, and a world of 7B, the law of large numbers states that perhaps this is simply a problem the world must endure.

At best, they say that these battles are won on the margins, and that with some small changes, like reduced capacity magazines or better control over the sale of violent video games, we might save “some” lives, and that’s better than none. However, I think their politics cause them to minimize the cost to liberty of infringing on our rights to make these improvements at the margins.

In short, the book was a worthwhile read, especially since I see it at Amazon in hardcover for $2.43 right now. At the original print price, though, probably not worth it.
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Brad’s Beer Review: Stone Coffee Milk Stout

This is a beer I’ve wanted to try ever since I heard it was to be released. Milk Stout (sometimes known as sweet stout or cream stout) is one of my favorite beer styles. I first found Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout when I lived in Georgia back in ‘05-07. When I moved back to California, I couldn’t get Left Hand beers (nor could I easily find any commercial milk stouts), so I used the info from their web site and my own palate and created a homebrewed milk stout that has been roundly adored by friends and family, and kicked major tail in competitions.
Stone Coffee Milk Stout

Thus, the news that Stone Brewing, a company whose beer I generally find faultless, was going to brew a milk stout got me excited. The fact that they were going to add coffee—another thing I love—to the mix made me even more so. I saw it at the grocery store this afternoon, and immediately knew it was coming home.

Milk Stout is so named because it is typically sweetened with lactose (milk sugar). Take note, lactose-intolerant folks, this style is not for you. Lactose is unfermentable by saccharomyces cerevisiae, so the sugar adds sweetness without adding additional alcohol. The Milk Stout style, in comparison to the Dry Stout, will have a sweeter finish. Even for a beer that may have a reasonable amount of roast flavor and aroma (and the bitterness that comes with roasted malts), the sweetness should cleanse the palate for the next sip.

Now, on to my thoughts for the Stone Coffee Milk Stout:

  • Stats: 4.2% ABV, 40 IBU. Color not listed.
  • Aroma: I definitely pick up roast here. To me, the roast is definitely more prominent than the coffee in the aroma. I don’t pick up any hops in the aroma, which is appropriate for the style.
  • Appearance: Black and completely opaque. Light brown / dark tan head with great lacing. Really, though, describing the appearance of a stout is rather boring. They do pretty much all look black!*
  • Flavor: Up front, there’s a hit of roast, but it quickly subsides into coffee. While you—or at least I—cannot smell much coffee in the nose, it’s definitely strong on the tongue. I will say that the beer doesn’t finish as sweet as other milk stouts I’ve tasted. One of my criticisms of many commercial milk stouts is that they take a dry stout with relatively weak roast character and just add lactose. My own recipes tend to be big on the roast and correspondingly big on the lactose. This beer seems a bit big on the roast and coffee, with JUST enough sweetness to cover the bitterness of the roasted malt, the coffee, and the hops, but not a dominant perception of sweetness.

    Of course, all of this is in character for Stone. They tend towards big flavor, and most of their beers don’t shy away from bitterness, and finish fairly dry. This seems to me to fit into their general palate profile. And this beer clocks in at 40 IBU [International Bitterness Unit], which is the top of the scale for a beer that falls into the bottom of the scale for ABV.

  • Mouthfeel: Again, I expect most milk stouts to be pretty full-bodied. This is much closer to medium body, with a slightly more dry finish than I would typically expect from the style.
  • Overall Impression: Honestly, this is a delicious beer. I’m really enjoying it. It’s not entirely what I was expecting, though. In fact, if you didn’t tell me there was lactose in this beer, I’d have a difficult time picking it out. The bias towards bitterness, the medium body and the dry finish, all just say “coffee stout” to me. But the simple fact is that I like bitterness, I like dry finishes, and I generally enjoy light to medium body beers. So while it is delicious, it’s not necessarily something I’d recommend as a pure example of the style.

All that said, I highly recommend you buy this beer. It truly is delicious.
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Jerry Seinfeld — Autistic?

Jerry Seinfeld, universally beloved comedian, has created a bit of an uproar in the autism community. He’s claimed that he believes he’s on the spectrum:

Williams notes that at 60, Seinfeld is still “figuring out who he is. For example: in recent years as he’s learned about autism spectrum disorders, he sees it in himself.”

Seinfeld confirms that, saying, “I think, on a very drawn-out scale, I think I’m on the spectrum.”

“Why? What are the markers?” asks Williams.

“You know, never paying attention to the right things,” says Seinfeld. “Basic social engagement is really a struggle.”

Seinfeld goes on to explain, “I’m very literal. When people talk to me and they use expressions, sometimes I don’t know what they’re saying. But I don’t see it as dysfunctional. I just think of it as an alternate mindset.”

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This is a bit of a pet issue for me, as for years–as soon as I figured out what it was–I’ve believed I have Asperger’s Syndrome*. I’ve never put in the effort to seek an official diagnosis (although I’m getting closer to doing so for several reasons), but knowing the heredity nature of ASD, and then having a son with autism, I’m pretty sure of my self-diagnosis.

Seinfeld sparked a nerve. Several people have suggested that a self-diagnosis isn’t really sufficient (although quite a few autism advocates point out that self-diagnosis is usually the method for diagnosis in adults–usually it is what spurs someone to seek an official diagnosis). Others suggest that a millionaire comedian can’t possibly be autistic. Others are concerned that fitting someone who is as successful as Jerry Seinfeld into the spectrum, with what assuredly must be a relatively mild form of autism, devalues the much more severe autism that many of their children face.

I know. I get it. It’s hard to see someone as funny as Jerry Seinfeld, and think that he has issues with social communication. After all, how can someone who connects with so many people through his art be considered autistic?

But really, it’s not all that far-fetched. I know this won’t sound like something that you’ve heard before, but comedy is possibly one of the most natural places for some folks with high-functioning autism. I say this for two reasons:

  • Comedy, for many people who are considered “misfits”, is a defense mechanism. It’s the “if I make them laugh they won’t beat me up” mentality. This is NOT a new statement about comedians.
  • Comedy is usually predicated on seeing things differently than most people. Most people don’t find regular life funny. They just find it to be regular life. But our human experience in society is riddled with absurdities. I firmly believe that people on the spectrum, who can be over-literal and don’t often understand the subtlety of social interaction, can take an “outsider’s” view of regular life.

For me, comedy is a highly intellectual affair. I love looking at jokes and trying to pick apart why they’re funny. I’ve worked hard to develop my sense of humor, largely through understanding other people, not through the normal method of picking things up naturally. As such, I absolutely hold that “outsider’s view” of comedy. The old Seinfeld trope, “What, is the deal, with that?” is the “outsider’s view” in a nutshell. He’s looking at everything we see every day, but through a completely different prism than we’re used to.

Nor is autism a sign that someone cannot be successful. There are autism success stories all through society. Recently someone had suggested that Bill Gates fits many of the symptoms of autism, and he’s certainly no slouch. In fact, I like to think I’m one of those success stories. I honestly have trouble with social interaction. Yet I have a job that absolutely requires social interaction and relationship-building. In fact, I’m a manager of other people in my career. Many autistics don’t have successful romantic relationships. I’m married to a beautiful woman who is WAY out of my league.

But it’s hard. Really hard, sometimes. I am where I am because I challenge the hell out of myself. I try to take those things where I know I’m not good at something and brute-force my way into making myself good at them. There are instances where it’s terrifying. At a recent conference, I knew I needed to approach a woman who was a marketing manager for a company we work with to discuss something that my company needed. I had to summon the courage to start a conversation with her, completely unprompted and without an introduction (EEK!!!). I forced myself to do it.

For most people, that isn’t an existential victory. The fact that it is, for me, is a sign of my Asperger’s.

As for that beautiful wife who is WAY out of my league? If she hadn’t approached me at a bar 13 years ago, I could very well still be single. In fact, one of the most important developments of our marriage has been my realization that I’m on the spectrum, and her acknowledgment of it. It’s extremely difficult for her to relate to me on several levels, but at least we both understand now where some of those blind spots are for me. It can still be difficult, but at least we’re now on the same page about the fact that we’re completely not on the same page!

My success, or Jerry Seinfeld’s much larger success, shouldn’t be taken as devaluing the much more severe autism that many people face. What we’ve faced is an uphill climb, not a roadblock. I understand the concern of parents who have children with more severe autism, because I’m one of them too. My son, at 5, would still likely be considered non-verbal, even though he’s making progress. I desperately want him to have a chance in his life for the success I’ve had, but the largest fear I have in my entire life is that his autism will be a roadblock, not an uphill climb. A parent who hasn’t had to face that fear is a parent that I envy.

I view Jerry Seinfeld as a welcome addition to the wide range of the autism spectrum. There’s a saying in our ranks that if you’ve known one person with autism, you’ve known one person with autism. We’re all different. Jerry may or may not be autistic. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if he thinks he’s one, he probably is. A millionaire comedian isn’t typical when it comes to autism. But the key is that when you’re talking about autism, typical goes out the window. That may be why we call it a spectrum
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Brad’s Beer Review Sucks This Week

Well, today really sucked. Not going into the how or the why (nor is it something to be concerned about), but it did. Luckily, however, I was out Thursday night and bought two 1L bottles of Lagunitas Sucks. After some Sucks, I care less about the sucky day.
Lagunitas Sucks
Now, many people would wonder why a brewer named Lagunitas would release a beer called “Lagunitas Sucks”. Several years ago, they realized that they couldn’t brew one of their popular seasonal beers, Brown Shugga. They needed a replacement. And they knew their fans would be highly disappointed, so they defused the fan ire by naming their beer Sucks.

That said, the name doesn’t fit. This beer is phenomenal. I don’t usually use terms like “best” when I talk about beer, especially in a category where I enjoy beers so phenomenally as IPA, but this is IMHO the best IPA on the market right now. I say that as someone who drinks West Coast IPAs like southerners drink sweet tea. This is my favorite at the moment. If you have access to it (and with Lagunitas’ increasing distribution footprint across the country, you should), I highly recommend picking it up.

Anyway, on to the stats:

Aroma: You get some citrus in there… Some dank. Some pine/grass. It’s complex and layered. No single hop dominates the aroma yet it doesn’t give one the thought that it’s muddled.

Appearance: Pale/gold, brilliant clarity, bright white head. As a brewer, I’m envious of this clarity. I realize I’ll probably have to start filtering to achieve it (especially with all those hops), but it’s just beautiful.

Flavor: This is a West Coast IPA. It’s hop-forward. It’s supposed to be hop-forward. If tastes #1, #2, and #3 weren’t hops, I’d be disappointed in Lagunitas. But #4 must be malt. Oh yes, it must be malt. This beer has just enough malt backbone and sweetness to stand up to the hops. But not too much. This is a delicate balance. There’s a *slight* alcohol warmth in this one.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Neither watery or heavy. Perfect for the balance with all the hops and the relatively high ABV of this beer. Again, and perhaps this fits into the theme of “best IPA on the market”, but the mouthfeel is just right for the beer.

Overall Impression: What else can I say? Maybe just this… If you see it, buy a LOT of it. It’s a seasonal beer, and when it leaves the shelves, you’re going to miss it. Of course, it is an IPA, and IPAs should be drunk fresh, so when you buy it, drink it quickly. IPAs fade quickly and that perfect balance I describe won’t be perfect in 6-8 weeks.

Prost!

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