a heady glass.

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I don’t chase whalez. But sometimes they find me anyway.

Hunting for whalez — the beer nerd term for difficult-to-find world-class craft beers — can almost be a full-time job. And to me, that runs counter to the notion that even for the most obsessed among us, beer should be fun.

And getting a random text offering a four-pack of Heady Topper definitely qualifies as fun.

Mrs. Crappy’s cousins live near Boston — not quite prime territory to find stuff from The Alchemist, the brewery that makes Heady Topper double IPA, but close enough that finding some isn’t out of the question.

And find some they did. A couple weeks ago, we both got a text with an offer for a four pack of one of the biggest whalez out there. And once we figured out who the text was from, our Heady Topper was being packed in pretty pink bubble wrap and mailed DEFINITELY NOT MAILED BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE ILLEGAL to us here in Pittsburgh.

(In Re: The difficulty in figuring out who was making this ridiculously generous offer: I know a lot — A LOT — of people named Chris.)

The silver-and-black cans are unassuming, unless, of course, you’re aware of what’s inside. The explanation on the back is pretty cool, though. The brewers urge that you drink this nectar straight from the can, as that is the best way to ensure that the “essential hop aromas that we have worked so hard to retain” are still in your face and on your nose the first time you crack one open. And while I wanted to follow those instructions, I also wanted to see this beer in all of its cloudy-orange-under-fluffy-white glory.

So that was the plan, once the box, filled with pink bubble wrap and four 16-ounce cans, arrived from New England. I wanted to chill them a bit, so we didn’t crack one open as soon as we opened the box, as tempting as that was. But when I did:

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There’s the set up. Clean glass, chilled can that has been out of the fridge to warm for a few minutes. Let’s do it.

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Those are what I was looking for: A bit hazy, a brilliant orange, a bright, white head that held on until I finished the pint.

How did it taste? Oh, man … Describing the hop profile alone is difficult, because there is so much going on. Bright, acidic citrus? Yep — in fact, multiple sightings of orange, grapefruit, lemon and flavors that seem even more tropical. A more resinous, oily pine? Yep. And then the crazy-complex hop bitterness tempered is tempered by a rich, slightly sweet malt background. Tropical aromas and a brilliant sunset orange pour, cool contrasts with the beer’s origin in Vermont.

And my head is spinning, because this beer is among the best I’ve ever tasted. This is the season for big, hop-forward beers — I’ve had fresh Nugget Nectar and Hopslam in just the last week — and that immediate context makes that judgement even easier to make. Those two are among the beers I look forward to the most each winter, and they’re both very good … but what was in this can of Heady Topper is deeper, danker and more complex. Better. Much better.

It’s always a cool to get an opportunity to taste something like this. It’s a chance to expand what you know is possible in the beer world. It’s a way to place your own favorites in context. And, mostly, it’s simply an opportunity to taste something that is undeniably one of the best in the world. Huge thanks go to Chris for makin sure we had the chance to give Heady a try.

Mrs. Crappy, who is the serious hop-head in Crappyhouse, and I have split a second can of the four-pack, so I have one half-pint left in the fridge. It won’t last the week. And if that’s my last taste of Heady Topper, that’s OK. I know more whalez will find me in the future.

birthday surprise. also, meat.

In the midst of what was an internet-light day — it was, after all, Mrs. Crappy’s birthday, and we spent the whole day kicking around town, doing fun birthday stuff — we came across something kind of cool.

We had already finished a yoga class this morning, her first at the beautiful BYS Yoga studio on Carson Street. We had also finished a kickass breakfast at Waffles Incaffeinated down the street (where we watched noted Stiller DeAngelo Williams have breakfast with his daughter [we think]).

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After changing clothes, we headed to Shadyside, where we found ourselves in need of a little coffee. And while checking our phones there, Mrs. Crappy noticed the tweet from Podcamp Pittsburgh:

blog o the week

That’s really cool, I thought. Also, I should probably write something, given that I’m the Podcamp Pittsburgh Blogger of the Week and I haven’t posted anything in eight days.

Like, say, this example: I was shooting for a beer show a few weeks back, at an event held at Wigle Whiskey for local bloggers. Seven or eight years ago, I would have known nearly everyone in the room, just because I was also a Pittsburgh blogger, and there weren’t that many of us; on this night, though, I didn’t recognize a single person who was there to blog about whiskey. And that’s a pretty cool thing when you think about how long we’ve been hearing about the death of blogging. It’s not going anywhere, boys and girls; in fact, it’s still growing.

But as I said before, today was Mrs. Crappy’s birthday, so I’m going to go ahead and do what I’ve always done — and, presumably, what has over the years earned me this honor: Here is the rest of our day.

There were presents:

She's wanted a chainsaw for years. And I am the greatest husband ever.
She’s wanted a chainsaw for years. And I am the greatest husband ever.
Tibetan turquoise setting and prayer box.
Tibetan turquoise setting and prayer box.

And there was food, in this case our first meal at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina.

Giant. Plates. Of meat.
Giant. Plates. Of meat.

We then returned home; I made a Manhattan and watched the Republican debate, while the birthday girl poured herself a beer and sat down with a book about cats and Taoism.

I may be blogger of the week. But Mrs. Crappy will always be smarter than me.

a weekend.

A perfectly relaxing Saturday morning. Handmade Arcade. Keller Williams. A road trip to Columbus for the MLS Cup final.

Whew.

I didn’t take pictures of the first part of Saturday, but I don’t want to give it short shrift: Yoga class at 8 a.m., followed by my first ever acupuncture treatment; that combination, boys and girls, is pretty much unbeatable. We took a productive spin through Handmade Arcade, got in a nap … and then …

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So we started with the photographic portion of the weekend as we each enjoyed a glass of Master of the Galaxy, the delicious imperial IPA by Grist House in Millvale. At least two of the last shows I’ve seen at Mr. Smalls — basically just around the corner from Grist House — have been on Sundays, so there haven’t been the same kind of pregaming opportunities we enjoyed on Saturday. And we did enjoy: a couple beers apiece, delicious dinner from the Burgh Bites truck, and a fun time talking with some folks who had driven to Pittsburgh from Cleveland to see Keller. If you haven’t been to Grist House, guys, you need to go — especially when you can then take the short walk to see your show at Mr. Smalls.

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Keller LOVES Mr. Smalls — when I interviewed him for BCT a few years ago, he said that’s why he picked it to film his concert DVD. On Saturday, he opened for himself, playing a short solo set — as solo as Keller and his infinite loops ever are, anyway — before he hit the stage with the KW Trio. As he always does, he starts playing before he actually comes up on stage ; that always catches people by surprise a bit, so Mrs. Crappy and scored floor space right up by the stage for the solo set.

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I mentioned trio, right? I hadn’t seen drummer Rodney Holmes before, but he has serious chops, playing jazz sessions with a host of different guys and winning Grammys playing with Carlos Santana. The bassist? That’s Rob Wasserman, Bob Weir partner in crime and original member of Ratdog. Seeing KW play with a band is always a cool, different experience, and that was definitely the case on Saturday.

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Because we weren’t tired enough on Saturday, we thought driving to Columbus for the MLS Cup final sounded like a great idea. Spoiler alert: In spite of the game’s outcome — and the atrocious officiating — it was.

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We met Fred and Ethel outside Mapfre Stadium, did a bit of tailgating — thanks to them, because they brought all the supplies on Sunday — and headed inside. Ethel told me what section they were sitting in when I asked about getting tickets from the match, so we scored tickets in the same section. And there might have been a little beer.

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Awesome atmosphere. Loved the Nordecke tifo. The place was nuts … for about the first minute of the match. The rest of the night was awesome too, but the match itself didn’t turn out the way we wanted.

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Still, I’d say it was a perfect weekend. Sure looks that way, huh?

30. rare.

 

I’m watching the Browns play the Ravens in a Monday Night Football matchup that actually sounded decent when you looked at the schedule back in the summer. And this question occurs to me: Which is more unusual: the Browns scoring a touchdown or Uncle Crappy successfully finishing a National Blog Posting Month?

And we’re not going to find out today … because both just happened.

I can’t speak for any progress being made by the “professional” football team in Cleveland — actually, I can, but we’re going to save the angry #factoryofsadness rant for another time — but I’ve had a blast coming up with 30 blog posts this month. I’m not going to go back and look, but I can say with certainty that it’s been at least several years since I completed a full NaBloPoMo.

This also felt familiar, once I got into it. I often did these in November — that used to be the regular NaBloPoMo month — so the rhythm of the month definitely came back, especially with Ohio State’s regular season reaching a peak and reaching Thanksgiving, one of my favorite posts of any year.

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And we had some new stuff too, especially with the adoption of Mr. Charlie, who has been passed out on the couch after an especially vicious mousie-hunting session.

This has been fun. As much fun as I’ve had here in quite a while. Blogging sometimes feels like a chore these days, and I definitely felt that way when I fell behind about halfway through the month. But I’ve also re-discovered the process that makes daily posting possible; even if I don’t keep this up every day going forward, it’s nice to know that I still have it in me.

It’s also nice to know that you guys are still paying attention. I’ve always known that consistent production of semi-coherent content is the best way to gain and maintain readers — do I do this enough that I’ve actually kept any of you guys around? — but it’s cool to have that reinforced. As I said yesterday, you’re the best part of this whole operation, and I’ll keep writing if you keep reading.

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The cat is awake, and that’s all I got for the month of November. Thanks, yinz guys, for your help. See you in December.

29. twelve.

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Twelve years. That’s how long this blog has been alive. True, the health of Uncle Crappy (the blog) has been shaky for the past few years — I don’t think I even noted its birthday in 2014 — but, much like Uncle Crappy (the person), it is going to be around for a while.

I write for me. I write about things that interest me, that are bugging me, that I want to share with, uh, you. And to my never-ending amazement — and my never-ending gratitude — there are plenty of yous who keep coming back and reading, even when you’re not seeing a post here for weeks — or months — on end.

For that, I thank you. And I promise this — I’ll keep going if you keep showing up.