Beer and Pavement

Reviewing 2014: Beer

Posted in Beer, Eats, Mikkeller, Review by SM on December 27, 2014

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Crap. Where did the year go?

All I have done is taken several hiatuses in between some fairly mediocre blog posts. I would like to tell you 2015 will be different, but why lie? It won’t. I’ll be a sporadic blogger as it seems to be my ultimate destiny. So, you’ll forgive my momentary lapse in judgement when I thought a PhD was a good idea. You won’t mind when I prioritize my job and career over my hobbies. And you’ll give me a pass for being a parent of two who rarely gets a full night’s sleep.

That said, I still found a way to consume and as you well know, consuming indie rock records and craft beer are what I do best when I’m not parenting or working. I didn’t listen to nearly as much music as year’s past, but I did drink a shit-ton of beer as my waist will attest. So, I have something to say about both topics.

The format will be a bit different than years past. Usually, I write a list of records and/or beers. Last year I opted not to rank my choices for the year. This year I will simply name some arbitrary categories to fill with some sort of commentary. Do with this list what you will. However, I hope you can find the time to comment and even throw some money at the good people I’m about to praise.

The 2014 Beer and Pavement Recognitions and Such – Craft Beer Division

“My New Favorite Series of Special Release Beers”

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A year and a quarter ago, I made my the voyage to Mikkeller’s home base(s) in Copenhagen. While there, I discovered that my favorite brewer can do lambics. And they don’t just do your ordinary lambic. Nope. The “Spontaneous Series” from Mikkeller features tart beers flavored with not your average additives like the evasive species such as buckthorn or the elderflower which comes from the potentially toxic elder plant. There are more typical fruits such as peach and raspberries, but you shouldn’t forget your root vegetables like beets(!). Mikkeller is known for pushing boundaries and styles, but with this series the boundaries are both stretched and strengthened like few brewers can do. I am not a completist, so I have yet to try all of these beers as they are pretty expensive and hard to find in this part of the country, but I buy one when I can and have enjoyed each immensely.

Close second: Stone’s Enjoy By Series is the freshest DIPA’s you’ll find as long as you enjoy them by the date on the bottle. 4/20 was particularly good this year. Rumor has it there’s an Enjoy After Series on the way which should be fun.

“Beer Style I Was Almost Over. Almost.”

Bourbon barrel imperial stouts are a bit played out. I mean, bourbon is great. Imperial stouts are great. So, you can’t possibly mix the two too often, can you? Guess again.

I grew so tired of anything bourbon-barrel aged and I like bourbon. A lot. However, aging every imperial stout in bourbon barrels gets old. The flavor is rich and often too sweet. It’s an easy way to make a beer everybody wants, but I’m moving on.

Well, sort of. Tonight with roast beef, I cracked open Avery’s Tweak. This is the bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts of bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts at 17% ABV and actual chunks of bourbon barrels in every bottle. Still, I don’t know how much more bourbon barrel imperial stouts I can take.

“The Beer I Like With Food”

I once discovered the wonders of a Dogfish Head India Brown Ale and a Booches burger. Oh, the wonders of hops and malts with a greasy burger… Well, I found my new favorite beer with comfort food: Broadway Brewery‘s Backyard BBQPA. Yes, a smoked pale ale is not everyone’s favorite, but Broadway brewed a beer that works with most of their menu, particularly anything smoked or meaty. I’ve had it with their burgers, pulled pork, and meatloaf sandwich. The mixture of malty sweetness and the bitterness of hops and smoke make for a nice beer to pair with fatty meats. I honestly don’t know that I’d like this beer on its own, but it is fantastic with Broadway’s excellent menu of locally-grown comfort foods.

“That Said, This Is My New Favorite Food-Beer Pairing”

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Imperial stouts should be the only beer you ever serve with pie, especially a pie filled with berries. And don’t even bother with the a la mode bullshit. An imp stout has your creamy sweetness covered. I recently rediscovered the wonders of this pairing when a friend baked us some pie with blackberries and I showed up with a 2013 Deschutes Abyss nine months past its best after date. Whoa. What a brilliant pairing if I do say so myself. The glorious things going on in my mouth that night were enhanced by some killer Spiegelau Stout glasses.

A close second: The curried chicken pot pie we had before this pie was paired with Against the Grain’s Citra Ass Down DIPA and/or Stone’s Best By 12/26/14 DIPA. It’s hard to beat a perfectly balanced DIPA and spicy food. This isn’t a case of I got really drunk recently and wanted to include the experience in my blog. No. It’s an instance when perfect foods get matched with perfect beers and you all should know about it.

“2014’s Mikkeller – I.E. My New Favorite Brewery”

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I nearly chose Texas’ Jester King Brewery, but I’ve followed them for a while and have always felt they were kindred spirits with the likes of Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Stillwater, The Bruery, etc. I was lucky enough to try quite a few of their beers at the SECraft Beer festival here in town where I sampled Snörkel, Detritivore, and Atrial Rubicite to name just a few of their excellent brews. They are now one of my top 3-4 breweries to gather while traveling to other beer markets.

That said, my new favorite brewery for this year goes to Prairie Artisan Ales, Sure, they are know for their various versions of Bomb!, yet another barrel-aged imperial stout, but I love their take on the saison as if it’s the new “ale.” Yes, I realize a saison is an ale by definition, but they like Stillwater treat the saison like it’s a centerpiece yeast strain and not just a side-project. There’s the Cherry Funk which is, well, funky. And there’s the Birra Farmhouse Ale, Prairie Standard, Prairie Hop, Prairie Ale, Puncheon, and a silly number of other saisons. All of these beers are grassy and pair well with any white meat or salad.

“Best Session Beer”

We got ourselves a brand-new spanking brewery this year by the name of Logboat. They do some nice beers and throw some good parties. However, they do provide the parenting/driving beer enthusiast some nice options such as their (GABF silver-medal winner) Mamoot Mild Ale and Bear Hair Belgian Blonde. These beers come in just under 5% ABV, but the beer that I love is just over that mark. It’s a wheat beer which are not always my favorite (except when they are hopped to hell). This beer features loads of ginger to help settle the stomach and awaken the tongue. Shiphead Ginger Wheat is the best session beer I’ve had this year. Sure, I enjoyed the IPA’s put out by Stone and others, but this beer’s gingery bite sets it apart from the rest.

“My Favorite Beer of 2014”

I could name so many new favorites from this past year like the ones above as well as Four Hands Alter Ego Black IPA, 3 Floyds War Mullet DIPA, Logboat/Four Hands Loghands Saison, Four Hands Cash Money, Founders Dissenter, Prairie’s Bomb!, Crooked Stave Vieille Artisanal Saison, Three Taverns’ White Hops, my own Aaawrange IPA and Smoke without Fire, Stone Go To IPA, Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout (2013), Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery Oil of Aphrodite, etc. I could also consider some old favorites that showed well again this year like Boulevard Saison Brett, Boulevard Love Child #4, Boulevard Rye on Rye, Bells Dark Note, Deschutes Hop Henge DIPA, Bells Hopslam, Mikkeller Citra, etc.

However, this year’s favorite beer has to be the one I predicted almost three years ago. I wrote the following:

Dogfish Head Guided By Voices Heavy Lager – I once heard Bob Pollard proclaim on stage that he drinks “Bud Heavy” and not Bud Light. So, I think Dogfish Head needs to produce a “heavy” lager, maybe an imperial pilsner or high ABV bock of some sort and dedicate it to the reunited classic GBV lineup. I chose Dogfish Head because they’ve done this sort of thing before and there’s a picture of Sam Calagione wearing a GBV t-shirt out there somewhere.

I was pretty close in my prediction and although I didn’t correctly predict the name of the beer, I did name a two-episode web series the same as my beer of the year. This beer wasn’t necessarily the best or even my favorite for taste, aroma, etc. This beer captured the connection between craft beer and indie rock I have been preaching about here when I actually find time to post.

That beer, of course, is Beer Thousand, the imperial lager Dogfish Head brewed in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand. Never has a beer more perfectly deserved recognition on this blog than now. And somehow with the help of my brother (who happens to live in Dayton), I was able to score a 4-pack. The beer is excellent. It hides the booze well and defies the style. While it may not rank high in tartness or hoppiness, it certainly tastes like Bee Thousand sounds: gloriously lo-fi and bound to get you drunk.

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2013: What happened?

Posted in Beer, Life, Live, Meta, Mikkeller, Records by SM on December 31, 2013

2013 Calendar from Never Sleeping

I have been absent from this blog and blogging in general. Honestly, I thought I was done with it. Life happened and time became scarce. It was time to move on…

…or so I thought.

Life happened in 2013 and sometimes there’s just no room for such frivolities like keeping a public journal or pretending to be a journalist. This is the year I started a PhD program – part-time, but a PhD nonetheless. It’s also the year we learned that we would be expecting another child around mid-February (2 months to go!). Throw on top of that a promotion to a supervisory role and a major expansion to our organization and you have a pretty busy year.

Normally, this hasn’t stopped me from writing. However, I needed to step back for a bit. This blogging thing gets in the way of living now and again. A break was in order. So, 2013 is pretty lame as far as blogging goes.

So, I’m thinking about doing this all again. Why? I don’t really know. It’s just an itch that needs to be scratched, I guess. I’m promising nothing. I won’t promise a certain quantity or quality of posts. I’m not promising anything in regards to topics. You know what I like. so, you can reasonably expect more of the same… for the most part.

I still listen to music. I have a favorites list for 2013, of course. It felt weird not tow write up a blog post on the subject, so I’ll include a bit about it. First of all, I won’t rank my favorites. I’ll just give you ten records you should check out.

The year was filled with old favorites as well as a running theme in my musical choices. Yo La Tengo released their best record in years with Fade. Especially amazing is the track “I’ll Be Around.” Another year and another Arcade Fire makes my year-end list. Unlike past releases, Reflektor is low on the thematic end, but it’s ueber-fresh. Kurt Vile’s Walkin on a Pretty Daze is my favorite KV record so far. Bill Callahan is Bill Callahan. Dream River is just another addition to what is becoming the best collection of songwriting in the modern indie era or something like that. I saw Thao Nguyen and her band The Get Down Stay Down earlier this year put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in Middle Missouri. Her record We the Common didn’t hurt either. The Chronicles of Marnia by Marnie Stern was a surprising discovery that fulfills my guitar noodling needs for another calendar year.

Then, there’s a list of records that continues a trend in my listening habits of recent years: grrl rock bands that sound like they’re straight out of 1995. Waxahatchee might be my most-listened to record of 2013. It sounds like my entire college years as seen through a small town lesbian. (I have no idea whether or not Katie Crutchfield is gay, nor do I care. I just imagine the main character in her songs to be this angst-ridden lesbian from 1994. It helps with the narrative, but it doesn’t have to be true.) Scout Niblett’s “Gun” was one of those songs I played over and over. The rest of the record isn’t filled with scrubs either. Radical Dads was a surprise find, but pretty aggressive in that 1994 kind of way. Marnie Stern is a one-womyn Van Halen. Lady and the Lamb was a last-second addition to the list, but Ripley Pine is certainly worth your time.

Of course, there are others that won’t make my list, but there always are. There are other lists I could add to this one, but I’ll just conclude with a list of memorable things and events from the year that saw me lose my blogging groove only to find it once more…

  • My beer fandom has faded a bit, but I’ve had some outstanding brews this year. Follow me at Untappd.
  • I went to Copenhagen and spent lots of time drinking my way through Mikkeller‘s lineup.
  • I watched a lot of TV. The League, Walking Dead, and Girls are highlights.
  • I don’t read enough books or watch enough films.
  • I saw Jeff Mangum perform twice, once with the rest of Neutral Milk Hotel and once solo.
  • I don’t remember whether or not I mentioned this, but we found out earlier this year that my partner is pregnant. Child 2 arrives in mid-to-late February.

Here’s to a fruitful 2014. I hope you all are well. Peace.

Why Liberals Never Win

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Mikkeller by SM on August 10, 2012

This went down.

One craft brewer beating up on a handful of niche craft brewers who in-turn beat back on the first craft brewer. Aren’t they all supposed to be on the same team?

It’s silly, really. Craft brewers own 5-10% of the beer market in the US. Why bash each other because one segment goes about their business differently than you? Wy not focus all your effort on the big boys?

For all their faults, this is something BrewDog does, but they are a minority. The Scottish craft brewers are in it just to take on the big boys. They feel no need to attack their own. Instead, they promote kindred spirits, even collaborating from time to time. When it comes to taking on a common enemy, craft brewers either turn on each other or turn a blind eye toward their macro adversaries.

In music, the same doesn’t typically happen. Although, sometimes, there are beefs, particularly if Wayne Coyne is involved. Still, indie rockers generally leave each other alone. It’s the fans and bloggers that like to tear down their own. Debates over how indie a band is or isn’t or whether or not a band is indie enough dominate conversation. Instead of celebrating indie rock, we make it a pissing contest where those who piss the shortest distance win.

This is why liberals never win.

The more thoughtful, critical side of the political spectrum constantly beats itself up over nuance, subtlety, and semantics. Liberals do more harm to one another than conservatives who tend to toe the party line. Liberals are constantly redefining what being liberal means while conservatives are set up to just do things as they’ve always been done.

Of course, there are exceptions. There always are. However, time and time again, I find the internal battles among liberals, the craft beer community, and indie rock to be frustrating. I mean, I love and identify with these communities because of their critical, reflective natures, but sometimes they do more harm than good.

Thoughts? Am I overreacting? Does this happen on the same levels among conservatives, macro brewers, or major labels? Discuss.

*Then, there’s this. Really? Who cares?

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Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine: The Review

Posted in Beer, Beer Thousand, Intersections, Mikkeller, Records, Review by SM on January 30, 2012

Royal Rye Wine

Maybe I’ve over-extended myself, but this special occasion was reason enough to take this blog where it’s never been before. The Mikkeller collab Royal Rye Wine arrived a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a brief moment in my schedule to review it properly. I don’t know that the video below does it justice, but we tried record the event and maybe we’ll get better with each episode.

My disclaimer is that this video beer review thing is not easy. The Hopry is the gold standard and now I understand why he doesn’t do it anymore. It’s a lot of work. Then there are those who consistently do professional-looking videos at New Brew Thursdays and 100 Beers in 30 Days… We’re just not at that standard just yet. I made the valiant effort of editing out a large portion of my “ums”, but you’ll notice I’m loaded with them. This is why I, um, blog.

Anyways, here’s the video. Below that, I’ll add some thoughts, what we did with the rest of the afternoon, and maybe even some additional media. Comment freely, but be constructive.

So, the beer was good and completely caught us off guard (in case you couldn’t tell). Normally, the three of us can talk forever on such things, but this beer left us speechless – something only Mikkeller can typically do. The rye was pronounced. The grape/wine flavors came and went as our palate was challenged by the rye and the beer warmed. There was a slight amount of carbonation, but as we drank, that dissipated quickly. However, the body of the beer did not suffer. This truly is a wine drinker’s beer. Typically, I think of sour beers as being the closest thing to wine a brewery can accomplish, but this beer actually attains a wine-like feel without wine barrels and the infections they carry. We weren’t just blowing steam up Mikkeller’s ass. This beer is both interesting and a lot of fun to drink.

Now, as far as the video, I’m hoping we’ll get better. You all should provide plenty of suggestions to make it better. I’m pretty happy with the opening and closing. Jeff and Jarrett were great. (Be sure to check out any out-takes I’ll post below. There’s good stuff there.) However, my stumbling, bumbling dialogue needs work. Maybe I’ll prepare a little better next time. Maybe we’ll do it live and you can see how it really goes down.

Anyway, there are some credits I forgot to include or didn’t make clear enough. Jeff took the pictures. You can find them here. Jarrett is a certified cicerone. So, he knows about which he’s talking. The opening credits song is “Hardcore UFO’s” from the Guided By Voices record Bee Thousand. If I missed something, let me know in the comments.

Oh look; beer.

We consumed the three beers above, plus one a homebrew Jeff contributed. The Allagash Interlude was a beer I found in Richmond, VA this past summer. It’s a 2009 vintage and contained tons of tartness with a touch of oak, another wine-worthy brew. Really, it was a delicious beer. I had had a 4 Calling Birds from The Bruery once before, but it was lost in a tasting. My palate was relatively fresh this time around and I found the nutmeg to be almost toxically good. Jeff’s homebrew was called Hop Heaven after Avery’s Hog Heaven Barley Wine. It was a hop-forward barley wine that could use some time to age, but that probably won’t happen. There’s noting wrong with that either.

Before I close, below you’ll find a video of out-takes, the two videos from Mikkeller dealing with the contest, and a Russian video about the Royal Rye Wine release. Enjoy!

Pics in this post are also courtesy of Jeff.

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Programming Note

Posted in Beer, Beer Thousand, Mikkeller, Uncategorized by SM on January 29, 2012

Red Rye WineYes, I have been a bad, absent father as of late. However, things are happening. I’ve just been too busy to complete any posts. Here’s a quick rundown of posts I have in the works..

  • Rubber (a short story)
  • a review of every Mikkeller beer I’ve ever had
  • Throwing Stones
  • On Death
  • On Holidays
  • By Definition
  • On Scarcity
  • Something to do with a blind tasting I recently participated in
  • A possible note about a road trip to Nebraska recently
You can decide what all these posts have in store for you. Expect one or two to be done over the weekend and we’ll see from there.

Also of note, I will be cracking open the Mikkeller collab sent to me overseas better known as the Royal Rye Wine around noon (CST) tomorrow yesterday. Two friends will be helping me. We’ll record for a new video series I’ve dreamed up called Beer Thousand. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, check out my friend’s radio program, Vile Jelly Radio, on Sunday from 6-8 p.m. CST on 88.1 KCOU in Columbia, MO, or streaming at kcou.fm.

Sorry. This was supposed to post on Friday. Still, the information rings true. Eventually, Vile Jelly will be available online in recorded form.

Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine is here!

Posted in Beer, Mikkeller by SM on January 17, 2012

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Placeholder: MLK Day

Posted in Mikkeller, Uncategorized by SM on January 16, 2012

No post or list today. The Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine arrived Saturday, but we were out. I can’t pick it up today since it’s MLK Day. So, the beer will sit in the USPS beer cellar for one more day.

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Session #59 – I Almost Always Drink Beer, But When I Don’t, I Drink Żubrówka

Posted in Beer, Life, Mikkeller, The Session by SM on January 6, 2012

This month’s session almost threw me for a loop. Here’s the premise from session curator Mario Rubio of Brewed for Thought:

With the New Year looming and a month of Christmas and Holiday parties to enjoy there are plenty of opportunities to get into a different beverage besides beer, alcoholic or otherwise. It was with this in mind that I was reminded of a conversation I had one day with Jay Brooks. Looking for advice on how to squeeze some blood from this stone of beer blogging, Jay told me a lot of writers have to look outside of beer to help make a complete income. Upon bringing this up as a Session topic he even offered up a much better title than I would have thought up.

So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let’s talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.

Beer cocktails, wines, ciders, meads, you name it as long as it’s not beer. Try to tie it in with craft beer in some way for extra credit. Be creative and I’ll see you guys in the new year.

Why would this throw me for a loop? Well, aside from my morning (and sometimes afternoon) coffee and water, I’ve cut out just about all other drinks. I feel that I can have a beer that will satisfy me better than any cocktail or glass of wine could ever do. So, why would I want to wast my liver and bladder on another drink?

Then, I considered the past holiday season. Every Christmas Eve, we have a Polish dinner. It’s tradition to toast each course with a shot of Polish vodka. We’ve always preferred Żubrówka or Bison Grass Vodka. However, the Eastern European market here in town was out. To add insult to injury, all the liquor stores in town don’t carry it. Our dinner guest supplied a nice Polish vodka, but it was absent the bison grass and just didn’t taste the same.

What exactly is Żubrówka and why is it so good?

Well, the Żubrówka one buys here in the States is different than what can be had in Poland. The original contains a blade of grass that grows from bison pastures. We’re all adults with a decent amount of education. So, I’ll let you figure out the connection from there. Anyway, said grass contains a carcinogen, making it extra “effective”. The US government looks down upon such ingredients. The American version shares the same green tint, herbal flavor, and even a blade of grass. However, there are no carcinogens. Still, my wife who’s had the Polish version, says it’s pretty close to the original. This means that a certain amount of herbal goodness, akin to an apple pie, exists in this green-tinted treat.

The spirit is an integral part of our family’s history. My wife’s family has a Polish background and she spent some time in Poland while her brother served in the Peace Corps there. Żubrówka was plentiful. Even the children were served their share, mixed with apple juice for a drink called a “szarlotka”. When we were married, we concluded the ceremony (and started the party) with a shot of Żubrówka for all. It’s tradition for our liquor cabinet to be stocked with the grassy booze, but our supply ran out and was left empty somehow.

After the Christmas Eve without our favorite accoutrement, we were determined to not let another holiday pass us by without some Bison Grass Vodka. Thankfully, Wine & Cheese Place in St. Louis (or in Clayton to be more specific) exists. I normally go there for beer, but this was a vodka emergency and a bottle of the green stuff was to be secured. W&C pulled through and we had vodka shots for New Year’s Eve!

Of course, I also consumed some Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Brut (an awesome “New Year beer…fermented with ale yeast, brettanomyces and enzymes…aged three months in Austrian white wine casks”), Life & Limb 2 (Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada-collaborated imperial stout with distinctive notes of chocolate and maple syrup), and Schalfly Reserve Barley Wine-style Ale (a 2008 vintage where the only thing I could taste was oak and no malt after 3+ years in the bottle). So, I didn’t drink just vodka harvested from the grass of buffalo dung, but the vodka certainly helped to ring in the new year the right way even if leaving me a bit hungover.

Cheers to Mario for forcing me out of my comfort zone and to reflect on and appreciate what is a rather enjoyable spirit, Żubrówka.

The Red Rye Wine Is Mine!

Posted in Beer, Mikkeller by SM on January 4, 2012

In case you weren’t following my Twitter feed or were watching my original post for updates, I actually won the Mikkeller Red Rye Wine giveaway! Check it.

So, now I have some work to do as I prepare for the arrival of this extremely rare beer from my favorite brewery. The promises I made for being rewarded the beer are as follows…

  1. I will dedicate a page on this blog with it’s own Mikkeller-inspired emblem for all things Mikkeller, including the running list of posts.
  2. I will review the Royal Rye Wine complete with a playlist that pairs perfectly with the awarded beer. I’ll make the playlist available to my readers via Spotify and even send a copy to Mikkel Borg Bjergsø.
  3. I will write a post reviewing every Mikkeller beer I’ve ever had, even the ones I’ve completely forgotten about.

#1 will take some work, at least as far as the emblem/logo is concerned. I’ve already gathered the rundown of posts. That part’s done.

#2 will have to wait for the actual beer to arrive. However, I’m already sorting out some ideas for a playlist and people to help me drink the beer. Unfortunately, one bottle will only go so far. If I want to have a decent enough of a sample in order to give the beer a reasonable review, I’ll have to limit the tasting team. 3-4 people total is probably the way to go. The hardest part is picking those people without upsetting anyone.

#3 will take some work. I’ll start with reviews I’ve actually written online, but I’ve had some Mikkeller beers I have noted elsewhere that will need to be considered.

Whatever. These are great problems to have. Things are looking up for the Coalition. It seems we now have a strong following in Denmark. So, to my new Danish readers, I say, “Hej, venner!”

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