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Thread: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

  1. #1
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    Default Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Hey volks!

    Saw this today. Thought I'd pass it on. If you goto the site, the other links show up.



    DD

    http://www.slate.com/id/2184361/?wpisrc=newsletter

    drink: Wine, beer, and other potent potables.
    A Taste of Honey
    Is mead poised for a comeback?
    By Nicholas Day
    Posted Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008, at 7:02 AM ET
    Judging by the prominence of honey these days, you'd think there's a run on sugar. Local, flavored honeys are now in restaurant kitchens. Foodies are mail-ordering artisanal raw varieties. At my local farmers market in Connecticut, the area beekeeper shows up with a table's worth of options and a glassed-in buzzing hive. This resurgence is in spite of the recent colony collapse disorder, which decimated many beehives. But even more unexpected is the rise of honey for an ancient use: alcohol, in a drink known as mead.

    You might know mead from Beowulf—it's what the characters got soused on. Mead is so old-school that its advocates claim it as the world's first alcoholic beverage. (Their line of thinking goes like this: Rain-diluted honey attracted wild yeasts. The fermented liquid then attracted a human, who drank it and felt less unhappy.) But the recent interest in fermented honey has morphed it from an esoteric item that only a few bearded Dungeons & Dragons players indulged in to a small yet legitimate commercial enterprise. There are now more than 100 meaderies in the United States, like Rabbit's Foot Meadery and Mountain Meadows Mead. For the ambitious, there are DIY mead-making books, complete with archaic spellings (see The Compleat Meadmaker). Is mead, last popular around King Arthur's table, poised for a comeback?

    The home-brewing community is largely responsible for putting mead on the map. Mead-making culture is a direct descendant of beer geekdom, in part because Charles Papazian, whose The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is the book that launched a thousand brewpub loans, is also a mead evangelist. In fact, the home-brewing community can be credited with many significant changes to the American drinking landscape. Without the nerdy obsessiveness of early hobbyists, we'd all still be crushing corn-fed lagers against our foreheads. Instead, we're drinking double IPAs and imperial stouts. The many new mead-makers in America are almost all lapsed home brewers who smelled the honey.

    In some ways, it's not surprising to see mead taking off like this: The last few decades have given rise to many small-scale, artisan food products. In the alcoholic arena alone, there are now craft spirits, craft sake, and craft bitters. Anyone at a farmers market has seen that antique varieties of melons or apples are in vogue; many small farmers now raise and sell almost-extinct animal breeds, like Tamworth pigs and Narragansett turkeys.

    For farmers market foodies, mead, as an alcoholic libation, has a conceptual advantage over beer: Mead possesses what winemakers call terroir, the French term for how something—wine, cheese, honey—conjures up the landscape around it. That's because an artisanal mead is still, at least in part, an agricultural product. With its floral and herbal aromas, a good mead vividly communicates a sense of place—think a field of orange blossoms or rosemary bushes—in a way that's impossible for beer. Wine writer Matt Kramer calls this feeling "somewhereness" and, in the new hyper-local-food America, it is an attractive selling point. Don't just "eat your view"; get blitzed off it.

    Mead-maker David Myers of Colorado's Redstone Meadery said, "Mead is something that comes around like clockwork every 2,000 to 3,000 years." But despite its seemingly sudden upswing, mead isn't likely to reattain its crazy medieval popularity. Unlike once-forgotten, now-prized goods like heirloom tomatoes, mead won't even make the foodie mainstream. That's partly because it has a horrible image problem—currency with the Society for Creative Anachronism is not exactly a signifier of great commercial promise. Got Mead's blogger goes by the nickname Meadwench, and the topics covered on the blog include questions from readers trying to figure out what the historically correct drinking cup is. Fans like these won't boost mead into the 21st century. Even mead-makers complain about Renaissance fairs, where the drink is treated, inevitably, as an anachronism.

    While it's theoretically possible for mead to escape its poor company, it has a more fundamental problem. Although there seems to be a mead flavor for every palate—orange blossom, buckwheat honey, blended with berry purees, infused with juniper berries, champagne-carbonated, still—they all suffer from the same structural problem: Honey has little natural acidity. That may sound appealing, but acidity—the spine of a good wine—is what keeps flavors bright and focused, and what marries wine with food. Mead-makers recognize this flaw, so to give it an acidic boost, they add citric acid. That helps, but it's not enough. Most meads still sit somewhat awkwardly alongside dinner. Unlike the best beer and wine pairings, they neither sharply highlight foods nor blend with them into something equally interesting. Ultimately, they make for reluctant partners at the table.

    Strange enough to be intriguing, but too strange to be at home on the dinner table, mead is a stubborn paradox. I like mead conceptually—the lore, the eccentricities. I even occasionally like a bottle. But no mead has ever earned its way into my alcoholic rotation. The other night, I had a glass of Redstone's Mountain Honey Mead, a widely distributed brand, and its initial burst of flavor went flat all too soon. It was an odd fit with what I'd planned for dinner (your basic roast chicken) and dessert (a black-and-white custard). Of course, the rapturous aroma was intoxicating, and I spent a few moments inhaling it. But the taste that followed was neither more nor less than limpid, liquid honey. If Winnie-the-Pooh ever took to the bottle, this is exactly what he'd want.


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Could we have just a few more requirements to being a "journalist," please? Something like LOOK IT UP IN THE DICTIONARY?!? I was confused about the spelling of 'Compleat' myself, Ken's book not being the first I've seen with that in the title. So, I looked it up.

    According to The Free Dictionary by Farlex:
    "1. Of or characterized by a highly developed or wide-ranging skill or proficiency. 2. Being an outstanding example of a kind; quintessential."

    As opposed to Merriam-Webster's "Complete:" 1 a: having all necessary parts, elements, or steps

    A little different, eh, but I didn't notice any reference to "archaic."
    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you!

  3. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Not exactly a great review a Redstone's mead there...

    Oh well...the last thing we all need is a bunch of yuppie geeks with no appreciation for the work involved to start upping the prices of honey and the associated equipment so they can try and outdoo the yuppie next door.

    Much like they did to cigars, only there they just ruined the pricing structure since the only oneupmanship they could pull off was to buy the next more expensive cigar then their neighbor.

    To those here that have a mead related business, sorry for the opinon, to those who actually buy honey to make and appreciate their own, I guess the news is good for us

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Here, here!!
    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    I made a few comments, not least of them about Mr. Day's failure to catch an homage that should be fairly obvious to anyone who is a serious journalist or student of the history of how-to literature, even literature as a whole. See http://fray.slate.com/discuss/forums/thread/929575.aspx

    Archaic? Perhaps, but in a respectful and deliberate way.

    A serious question to Nicholas: would you respect me for making generalizations about wine after buying one random bottle of wine at the grocery store and trying it with one meal of my own (uninformed) choice? Would that be fair? Would it be valuable as a contribution to the national discussion and mentality about wine?
    It's time for some woodshedding, Willie Mae. The blue light was my blues, and the red light was my mind.

  6. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    After looking at the actual article as it's posted on the site, I wonder, does the guy get paid to write or is he just doing it to earn some "stick" time?

    As I read the entire post, it seems as though they've run out of something to write about so they thought they'd post some prose about something they obviously don't know enough about to post more than a one time use opinion of.

    The entire piece almost comes off in a very polite way of saying, mead is the simpleton cousin to wine meant for those who spend their off time wearing armour, holding jousting tournaments and wishing they could have been a knight at king arthur's kitchen table.

    The history of the drink aside, the guy really should have spent some more time with those who are the most well versed in the endeavor who have spent a good portion of their personal time learning yeasts, fermentation kinetics and just overall collecting and putting into use the myriad of recipes and techniques they've shared through the years.

    Site's like this "slate" thing appears to be only cater to one type of person, and that's the guy or gal who knows nothing about the subjects found there, but wants to read all the latest buzzwords currently found in the respective discussions so they too can appear knowledgable about a subject they really know nothing about just to prop up their egos against those who quote the same babble they read on the same blog.

    It's not the sharing of knowlege and experience to better the subject in the long run, it's what can I rattle off to my friends tomorrow at work that they haven't already heard so I can feel better about myself. I feel better just being a part of a community of people that care about the subject and are interested in helping others become accomplished at that subject for the betterment of the subject. Nothing more.

    O... and getting a decent buzz now and then doesn't hurt.

  7. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    I concur!

    I used to be a "wine snob" when I was young and immature with the illusion that I was sophisticated. I eventually discovered beer and homebrewing and realized that beer is a better match with most foods than wine (esp cheese, desserts, spicy food, and of course pizza).

    then I made the next step into discovering mead and now am hopelessly obsessed with mead and with honey as well. I don't even use refined sugar any more, I have 4-5 different varieties for different types of tea, coffee, and eating with a spoon.

    I love this site and I am also thankful for Ken's book--they have both taught me a lot.

    I'm also kinda glad mead is not as popluar, it does make it hard to get in some places, but there is more for those of us who really appreciate it (and make it ourselves)!

    vahan

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    vahan is a man after my own heart!

    My husband and I have tried to be wine snobs for a while now (he even asked me to marry him in a Napa valley vineyard!), but it simply hasn't happened. I've come to realize I like the fun of wine tasting rather than the wine itself. Well, then my husband got me into the idea of making mead, and starting w/ Ken's book, I got 2 full batches under my belt before I'd ever even had any!
    No one around here sells mead except for one "big box store" which carries one well-known and much lamented (I found out later) mead and one mead-flavored white wine. eh.
    I've found out in the short time I've done this, that I seem to be a natural at it, because I haven't brewed a single thing yet that's been bad. I know it'll happen, probably when I start over-thinking things (in the Navy, we call that "nuking it").
    I absolutely love this site! I've learned so much here, and the people here are so incredibly nice!! And open, and giving! Thanks, Vicky & Oskaar, for giving us mortals such a great gift!
    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you!

  9. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    butterlily!

    We are similar! I proposed to my wife at the Golden Gate Bridge! She went to school in San Francisco and we spent much time in Napa. We took a wine tasting class together. We're both doctors, and drinking fine wine is something that doctors are "supposed" to do.

    Now, I rarely puchase wine! Anyone can afford the best beers in the world, but not so with wine.

    My wife is a patient supporter of my beer and mead making (I had 20 gallons of beer carbonating in our bedroom at one point) and she is also a willing consumer of both!

    I also don't like golfing or snooty country clubs (except to go sledding on in the winter), but that's another story

    I have read Ken's book so many times the pages are getting worn....

    vahan

  10. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    I for one can honestly say that it is possible to enjoy golf and mead without comingling the two! Actually I find spending a minimum of 4 hours on a nice piece of property mixed with a relaxed sport, a cart to carry you around and a beer cart if you can find one to be a great way to waste a day off!

    For me, mead or wine comes later in the day when I don't have the anger to go back out and play any more or just feel like winding down from where I started.

    Doctor golf is only for those that enjoy spending their chosen time off playing politics... just one angle... not gospel

  11. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Many years ago I found myself dropping out of pre-med, ended up with a dual major business and journalism. I never really took the financial hit and tried writing full time, but I have dabbled over the years and been happy to feed the addiction.

    I rarely ever make many negative comments about other peoples work, usually containing myself to a simple comment on whether I liked something or didn't.

    Journalistic writing however is the art of handing off information, with the singular intent of allowing the reader to make educated judgments. There are ethics and so forth and often these are missed out on entirely, but in essence when you ignore the ethics and pursue the story, you stop being a journalist.

    Critics are not journalists for the most part, far too often they are slinging their opinion as if it were stone tablet gospel carried down off a mountain. The original goal of a food critics addition was to *not* have a critics section, back in ancient times it was a review segment wherein you would see commentary about clear and obvious things (cleanliness, colour/lighting in the restaraunt, whether the food was served speedily and if it was in essence worth what you paid for it) Over time it moved from the realm of the informative, to the realm of the critic, where people were aiming more at finding reasons to complain as opposed to just relaying information.

    Which leads us forward to today, and my hatred of critics.

    There are a few notable exceptions, with that said let's examine what critics do. They criticize, and in lieu of an informed judgment, they simply complain. As this article has shown, often the complaints are misinformed or actually simply ignorant. Which in some circles is screamingly apparent. However there are at this point in time entire communities that are in essence espousing that ignorant opinion and calling it gospel. High in this list of communities are the realms of modern art and wines. I have actually heard someone having an apertif complain that it was ridiculously sickly sweet, and how it overwhelmed the salmon they were eating. I asked them what they preferred in a desert wine and they asked me what the question meant.

    I later on heard (this is in a "fine" restaraunt in LA) the waiter arguing with the wine steward that although it was white, it was not a dinner wine, the waiter then went on to point out that the SG on the wine had to easily be close to 1.05, The wine steward asked what SG was. I thought the entire back and forth was hilarious. I then ordered a red wine because evidently the morons in the wine community have managed to figure out dry reds. But anything outside of that realm often causes bafflement and confusion.

    I have heard someone here state that in wine competitions if it isn't an acidy dry red it won't win a show, I agree, because there is a large portion of the wine "community" which has decided that there are only certain good things. And if you don't happen to agree with them, you are an asshole.

    Personally, I bloody hate wine. I generally won't touch the stuff unless the social circumstances require it. I have happily ordered beer whenever feasible, and when all else fails, I drink water first. Why? because it is all so much spoiled grape juice in my opinion. Notice, I am excluding pretty much everything from the realm of wine that isn't made simply from grapes. I have become so irritated by the wine community (again, I am *not* referring to the folks who make it, and appreciate the process of discovery, I am instead referring to the people who stand around looking for a reason to complain) When everyone became a critic, I had to step aside or spend the rest of my life pointlessly arguing with the idiots who just want to sound good.

    Now, there are a number of people that point out my Irish heritage as the reason for my shortcomings in my palette. Yes, I am Irish. Yes, I was born on the bonney shores of Dingle Bay. Yep, I have an accent. So not only do I not like pretty much anything french, I also prefer beer over wine. Why? because the folks who drink beer tend to be a little less arrogant about their beverage of choice. I have also found that if you happen to example really like just lager, the folks who prefer stout do not endlessly disclaim that you are an uneducated savage, instead they happily discuss the differences, and often will point out that there are middle grounds between the two.

    Then there are the little pocket communities. I have enjoyed mead for a long while, I have sampled some truly scary versions (I have a bunch of friends who make beer, and WHAAAAHHHH they think a mead means that there was a bee in the room when you were making the beer) all the way out to a batch that I am pretty sure was pure spirit with a touch of honey, I have found them all enjoyable on some level (with the sole exception of my own creation involving pineapple juice that is just frightening).

    I have seen here a few folks that are obviously expert level in what they do standing side by virtual side with folks that literally watched a movie and became interested, all of them on some level staring at a primary fermenter and wondering how the latest experiment is going to turn out, and often times doing whatever they can to aid and assist each others projects no matter how odd or weird and pretty much not even worrying about whether they agree with the project. Why? because none of you are critics, instead you are enthusiasts.

    Sorry for being so windy, but it is a bit of a heady topic.

    --Launce

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Launce,

    That was delightfully refreshing!

    However, not everyone involved in the wine community is a critic by your definition. I regularly sip wine with friends and acquaintances who are merely interested in discovery of new things and comparing notes on tasting. We simply enjoy the myriad of flavors, and the mild buzz.

    But I do agree with you -- much of the so-called "expert" opinion on wines out there these days is simply crap written by uninformed fools who are looking to pump up their own fragile egos at the expense of hard working, honest, wine producers. The majority of the wine buying public are too clueless to differentiate between useful information and that sort of excrement. I certainly hope that the same fate never befalls mead fans. But I suspect that this little niche community of mead producers and enthusiasts is (at least at this point in time) too perceptive as a group to fall into that trap.

    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Launce,

    I understand your frustration with certain individuals who are wine afficionados that turn their noses up at anything that is not touted by Parker. However, there are plenty of folks both in the beer and mead community that are every bit as biased against beverages outside their particular preferred alcoholic beverage. The bottom line is that there are closed minded people in every aspect of the alcoholic beverage industry. So while I know that there are people who will slam mead and prefer wine, I see the same thing in reverse from mead afficionados; and I see beer snobs slamming mead at competitions; I see cider snobs slamming beer, I see mead snobs slamming wine in posts here all the time. Personally, I think it's far more constructive to learn to appreciate the aspects of each in order to form bridges and get everyone on the same page. Otherwise, mead will never grow to anything other than a curiosity.

    Cheers,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  14. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Sorry for the upset, but I intended to make a strong separation between critics and enthusiasts. There are a number of folks I have met that are ::smirks:: Wineys... Who are clear and open minded, there are unfortunately inumerable folks all over that just want to be critics.

    My personal preferences are clear, but they are just that, my preference. I don't expect anyone else to agree with it, just like I don't have to like what they pour down their gullets, I keep a fairly decent collection of wines on hand for my guests, and I have gone to length to learn a bit so when I am stocking the larder here I at least have something vaguely palatable.

    --L

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    No worries, Launce. I saw what you were intending. But to you, and the others out there, we *want* to educate people on what mead is, and how to tell a good one from a bad one. We *want* to help commercial meadmakers make a better mead. Creating more and better mead means more to drink, more to buy, and will help *expand* the honey market, by encouraging beekeepers to expand the bee population, a much-needed thing.

    Personally, I like wine, beer, mead, cordials, liquor and pretty much most other things with alcohol in them (though I have style preferences in all). I've made a bit of a learning experience out of it, which is how I got interested in making mead in the first place. Eventually, that lead me to making wine, beer and cordials, all of which I've dabbled in. Plus, I mix 'ready made' concoctions as well.

    In between the real job, running Gotmead and making meads, I'm currently studying food and wine writing, as well as teaching myself how to taste meads, wines and beers (Oskaar, I may finally get my BJCP in beer just to learn, LOL), to educate my palate for the judgings I get invited to, as well as to learn more about what is good or bad in a wine or mead (or beer). The more I learn, the better my meads will be.

    I've taken scotch tasting seminars, to learn about the differences. All this because I'm a curious sort. *Love* my Glenmorangie 10 yr Port Cask aged.....

    It hasn't made me an expert, a critic or a snob. It *has* expanded my horizons and helped point me in the directions to learn more. I don't hate wine or wine drinkers. I sort of feel sorry for the 'snobs' that they're missing out on the best thing about learning about wine, i.e. the *experience* of it. They're all so involved with the 'next best thing', they forget that the joy is in the journey.......

    ::shrug:: Life is a learning experience. Mine happens to be centered around learning more about the making and drinking of mead right now, but to do that, I'm discovering that the easiest path happens to be through learning about making and drinking wine, because there is so much info out there. As I learn, I'll be translating it over to my mead experiences and using it to help folks here.

    And the fringe benefits are great, I figure I'll be able to make better decisions on my wine choices while eating out, and will be better equipped to stock my (hopefully soon to be done) wine cellar room with wines I enjoy and that my friends will enjoy. To heck with collecting for the sake of collecting, I just want a cellar that will always produce something I want to drink, no matter *what* is is......

    Vicky - up late testing the new forum software....
    Wassail!

    Vicky Rowe
    Owner & Webmistress, Gotmead.com
    Executive Director, American Mead Makers Association
    http://www.mead-makers.org
    Making Mead since 1995

  16. #16

    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Quote Originally Posted by Vicky - GM Founder
    I've taken scotch tasting seminars, to learn about the differences. All this because I'm a curious sort. *Love* my Glenmorangie 10 yr Port Cask aged.....

    ::snip::

    And the fringe benefits are great, I figure I'll be able to make better decisions on my wine choices while eating out, and will be better equipped to stock my (hopefully soon to be done) wine cellar room with wines I enjoy and that my friends will enjoy. To heck with collecting for the sake of collecting, I just want a cellar that will always produce something I want to drink, no matter *what* is is......

    Vicky - up late testing the new forum software....
    But have you tried the 18 year old Glen Morangie? I would whore myself for that one, seriously. And the 25 year old is even better... Glen Morangie is my favorite scotch. My favorite whisky, period!

    And I love your point on your potential cellar. It should be things that YOU enjoy, not something to impress other people (even though I've got almost 300 different beers up to 15 years old and a dozen different meads in mine -- I've never bothered with wines). I wouldn't age them if I didn't enjoy them or think that they will improve.
    Wild In Idaho
    Mead, like life, is a journey and not a destination. So stop and savor the flavors along the way!


    "Gawd, I hate drinking mead and posting in the forums."

    Nothing currently fermenting!

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Quote Originally Posted by wildaho

    But have you tried the 18 year old Glen Morangie? I would whore myself for that one, seriously. And the 25 year old is even better... Glen Morangie is my favorite scotch. My favorite whisky, period!

    And I love your point on your potential cellar. It should be things that YOU enjoy, not something to impress other people (even though I've got almost 300 different beers up to 15 years old and a dozen different meads in mine -- I've never bothered with wines). I wouldn't age them if I didn't enjoy them or think that they will improve.
    Oh yeah. I can't usually afford to *buy* them, but I've had generous friends share their with me. Yeah, I'd sell my body for those....LOL
    Wassail!

    Vicky Rowe
    Owner & Webmistress, Gotmead.com
    Executive Director, American Mead Makers Association
    http://www.mead-makers.org
    Making Mead since 1995

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    Heh heh heh

    Oskaar <------- Has a bottle of 1971 Glen Morangie on his bar. It is just that awesome

    Launce,

    No worries dude, you didn't upset me, I'm just pressing out my experience with snobbery in all the fermented beverage branches.

    Cheers,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

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    Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    *You* are *so* gonna get smacked next time I see you

    Launce, don't listen to him, LOL. He is *such* a wine snob...ask him a wine question, but don't do it unless you've got some time, he'll give you chapter and verse......::grinning, ducking & running::

    ::sigh:: Now I'm gonna have to use the grocery budget to get me another bottle of Glen......
    Wassail!

    Vicky Rowe
    Owner & Webmistress, Gotmead.com
    Executive Director, American Mead Makers Association
    http://www.mead-makers.org
    Making Mead since 1995

  20. Default Re: Ken Schramms Book Hyped In "Slate"

    I have been accused of being an anti-wine snob, oh no, I have a *decent* selection, and as soon as the remodel is done, I will have a lovely conversion under my stairs that is intended for bulk aging and to hold a cellar.

    If anyone ever wants to have a lovely little experience with the varieties of rum however, I have the collection for it. I don't have a selection of aged beers, probably because beer doesn't last that long around my place. (not that I drink that much, but every weekend, all summer long it is Bbq and giving the ladies off from cooking me and my bud take over both nights and grill/Bbq like madmen.)

    Past all that I have no problem with it, I have some experience with wine, for a few years I worked as a waiter in a decent restaurant, I never developed a like for wine, but I did learn a bit about the process of tasting.

    All things said, currently I am working on building up a larder of mead, my first show mead is on oak until later today, and I have to say, while I prefer things that are not this dry, it has gotten rave reviews.

    For now however, I will wander back off to my man cave and keep myself quiet for the nonce.

    --L

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