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My interest in smoke beers came from my interest in Scotch. I've become quite fond of the smoky peaty whiskies of Isla, and I thought why don't they make beer the same way? Both start with malted barley, but in whisky they stop the malting process by burning peat. It is the peat that imparts a lot of the flavor and character found in the finished whiskies. Peats from different parts of Scotland impart different flavors and characters. Of course there are different ways of imparting a smoky flavor to beer. We have smoked meats, smoked cheeses, so why not smoked beers? A word of warning. Smoked beers are an acquired taste, just as very hoppy beers are too.

On our recent trip to Geneva, I wanted to try some of the Swiss beers. I did but I also discovered Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, a German beer. I didn't know what it was. I bought the bottle on a lark. I took it back to our room, chilled it, opened it, poured a glass. And was surprised by the flavor. I didn't know it was a smoke beer and was pleasantly surprised. When I got back I decided I wanted to see if I could find it here and do a taste test comparing it with other smoke beers. I tried 4 different smoke beers and here is what I think of them. This won't be a comprehensive review of each. More of a quick recommendation.

The beers: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock, Alaskan Smoked Porter, and Stone Smoked Porter

I started with the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock. It was nice but not as nice as the Märzen. Then I went on the Alaskan Smoked Porter. It would have been a good porter without the smoke but the smoke added that extra oomph. Nice and smokey. The Stone Smoked Porter was the least smokey of the bunch. It too was a nice porter with a hint of smoke. Finally I tried the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen again. It wasn't quite as nice as I remembered. It didn't quite have the mouth feel I remember. It seemed a bit more watery. It may have sat on the shelf too long or it may not have been cold enough. Still the best of the lot. It was a flavorful smooth smokey beer.

I'm not sure why American take on smoke beers involve Porters. Perhaps it's because they use dark roasted grains and thought why not ad a bit of smoke. I'd prefer the porter flavors not compete with the smoke flavors and that's why I liked the urbock and märzen better.

I'll leave you with this great piece by the late Michael Jackson (the other Michael Jackson) on smoke beers if you want to know more.

Smoke 'em of you got 'em
http://www.beerhunter.com/documents/19133-000105.html
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I went to Altanta for PyCon this weekend. It's a huge geek/hacker convention for fans of the Python programming language. I've attended it for the past 5 years and have always enjoyed it. I don't do enough programming in python but it always reminds me of why I should. And yes the language was named in honor of Monty Python.

This was my first trip to Atlanta and the state of Georgia. I learned a few things:

1. It is no longer Carter Country
2. They do not have Billy Beer
3. It's very cosmopolitan
4. Downtown Atlanta is very conference/convention friendly
5. The wait at the chicken & waffle place is two hours


Chicken & Waffles
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Across the street from the HR Giger Museum in Gruyères, Switzerland is the HR Giger Bar. In the summer of 2004 I had the good fortune to travel there. I'd scanned these pictures in once before and probably posted them somewhere on the Intertubes, but I don't remember where.

Why Giger's museum is in this village I have know idea. There's a neat castle and a cheese factory as well. The castle tour at the time wasn't one of the better castle tours I'd been on. The Castle of Chillon near Montreaux was much cooler. The cheese factory tour was amusing to say the least. Our English language narrator was Cherry the Cow.





Mel & I enjoying a beverage in the bar.

The museum itself was interesting. There was a room that had a warning sign and a curtain for a door. The warning sign said that this room had some of HR's more 'adult' pieces of artwork. After Mel & I saw it and went on to the next room I remarked, "How is this different than the rest of the museum?" She agreed.


A funky Giger table in the bar.

Note— They had no Alien specialty drinks like say a Ripley, Chestburster or a Facehugger.

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