a special six.

My former colleagues know me so well.

When it came time for my going-away party, I suspected there was a decent chance that I might take home a bottle of beer or two. And my friends at The Times didn’t let me down.

beerpresentI mean, who could not get excited about a thoughtful, carefully considered six pack like that?

Because I am the beer nerd that I am, I promised that I would give each of these classics the full Beer Guy treatment. A couple Fridays ago, I broke ‘em all out, taking notes on each one. Here you go, boys and girls, in order of appearance:

iclight

IC Light, Iron City Brewing Co. Light American lager. 4.1 percent alcohol by volume. My thought was to get this one out of the way first, because I wasn’t only battling a not-so-good brewery but also the whole perception of the official beer of Stillers fans thing. As it turned out, though, IC Light actually tasted a bit like beer, something that would prove to be a bit unusual as we went through the six. It was also thin and pushed too much corny sweetness in my face, but all told, not awful.

Coors Light, Molson Coors Brewing (MillerCoors). Light American lager, 4.1 percent alcohol by volume. First thing? Coors Light is fizzy. As in like ginger ale fizzy. The  other thing? This was the sweetest beer of the bunch. And that's not a good thing.

Coors Light, Molson Coors Brewing (MillerCoors). Light American lager, 4.1 percent alcohol by volume. First thing? Coors Light is fizzy. As in like ginger ale fizzy. The other thing? This was the sweetest beer of the bunch, like a can of sweet corn soaked in syrup. And that’s not a good thing. This is also the second-biggest selling beer in the United States. That’s an even worse thing.

Budweiser, Anheuser‑Busch InBev. American adjunct lager, 5 percent alcohol by volume. Ahh, the King. Compared with the beer it followed, this Bud was almost palatable. But wait, let's think about this for a minute. Sure, it lacks the candy bar sweetness of Coors Light; it's also missing pretty much any indication of ingredients that are typically used to make beer, especially the kind of hoppy bitterness you'd need to tone down the cloying corn. There's a thing to remember, boys and girls -- Keystone's "bitter beer face" commercials aside, a little bitterness in a beer is a good thing.

Budweiser, Anheuser‑Busch InBev. American adjunct lager, 5 percent alcohol by volume. Ahh, the King. Compared with the beer it followed, this Bud was almost palatable. But wait, let’s think about this for a minute. Sure, it lacks the candy bar sweetness of Coors Light; it’s also missing pretty much any indication of ingredients that are typically used to make beer, especially the kind of hoppy bitterness you’d need to tone down the cloying corn. There’s a thing to remember, boys and girls — Keystone’s “bitter beer face” commercials aside, a little bitterness in a beer is a good thing.

Rolling Rock Extra Pale, Anheuser‑Busch InBev. American adjunct lager, 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. I was a regular Rolling Rock drinker for a year or two way back in the day, well before the brand was purchased by A-B and production was moved to the glass-lined tanks of old New Jersey. And here's the interesting thing: Rolling Rock is actually better now than I remember. Rolling Rock didn't have the same sweetness as many of the other beers I regularly grabbed in those days; in fact, it the green bottles gave up enough to the sun that it wasn't unusual to some across some skunky flavors pretty consistently. Now? No skunky, but also no cloying sweet like its counterparts.

Rolling Rock Extra Pale, Anheuser‑Busch InBev. American adjunct lager, 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. I was a regular Rolling Rock drinker for a year or two way back in the day, well before the brand was purchased by A-B and production was moved to the glass-lined tanks of old New Jersey. And here’s the interesting thing: Rolling Rock is actually better now than I remember. Rolling Rock didn’t have the same sweetness as many of the other beers I regularly grabbed in those days; in fact, it the green bottles gave up enough to the sun that it wasn’t unusual to some across some skunky flavors pretty consistently. Now? Not skunky, but also not as much cloying sweetness as its counterparts.

Miller Genuine Draft, SABMiller (MillerCoors). American adjunct lager. 4.6 percent alcohol by volume. I spent some time with MGD in my youth as well, and this beer was pretty much as I remembered it -- thin, bland and inoffensive. Which is probably not what Miller was going for.

Miller Genuine Draft, SABMiller (MillerCoors). American adjunct lager. 4.6 percent alcohol by volume. I spent some time with MGD in my youth as well, and this beer was pretty much as I remembered it — thin, bland and inoffensive. In this group, I suppose boring is OK, but given that this was marketed as a bold alternative, MillerMolsonCoors isn’t hitting the mark. Surprised? Me neither.

Michelob Ultra, Anheuser‑Busch InBev. 4.2 percent alcohol by volume. Of all the beers in the sixer, this is the one that actually made me angry. It is beer for people who don't actually want to drink beer. It is a fiction created by marketers. It is an affront to everything I stand for. And it also poured the biggest head of any of the beers in the six. Go figure. But that was the only surprise. Mich Ultra is watery, corny and way too sweet.

Michelob Ultra, Anheuser‑Busch InBev. 4.2 percent alcohol by volume. Of all the beers in the sixer, this is the one that actually made me angry. It is beer for people who don’t actually want to drink beer. It is a fiction created by marketers. It is an affront to everything I stand for. And it also poured the biggest head of any of the beers in the six (WOOOOO, ACTUAL BEER-LIKE TENDENCIES). Go figure. But that was the only surprise. Mich Ultra is watery, corny and way too sweet.

Were there winners in this experiment? I’ll count myself among the winners, because it was legitimately fun getting back in touch with some of these beers. And if we’re talking about the beers, let’s go with Rolling Rock, because it may have actually improved when it was taken over by our A-B InBev overlords, and IC Light, because it sort of tastes like beer and not so much like bowl of corn flakes soaked in honey.

And I should point out one additional thing: my friends also came through with a very generous Bocktown gift card, so I was able to buy a few more six packs with beer that’ll prompt many fewer complaints.

Much better.

Much better.

Thanks again, guys. You couldn’t have done it any better if I had picked them out myself.

with gratitude.

Things are about to change.

After more than 14 years with my current employer — I don’t think I’ve ever named it here, but that’s the Beaver County Times — I’m about to start a new gig. On June 30, I’ll move to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as part of their digital team.

The new job? I can’t wait to get started. I long ago found an enthusiasm for the digital side of my business, and being able to take on similar challenges at a paper like the P-G is the kind of thing that makes me wake up happy every day. And if that kind of tinkering isn’t enough, I hope to be able to continue some beer-related video work there as well. It’s a great opportunity; it’ll give Mrs. Crappy and me the chance to make some positive changes and it will keep me challenged and happy professionally.

Having said that, I’m in no real hurry to leave The Times, even though my final day is approaching rapidly. To put it simply: I would be in a much less solid position professionally were it not for the chances I’ve had there. And I’ve had chances at The Times that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. I started tinkering with the web sites here when I worked on Sunday nights and no one else wanted to mess with those chores. I gingerly — at first, anyway — stepped into doing Newsbreak just because the regular hosts were on vacation. I wrote quirky centerpiece stories because they were occasionally funny. And over the years, this became a lot less like work and a lot more like fun.

And when you can have fun at work, you’ve pretty much got it made, right? I’m grateful I can say that’s been the case for me for nearly all of the last 14 years.

because i can’t say it any better.

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of “separate but equal.” In the 60 years since (Brown v. Board of Education) was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history. An appropriate Order shall issue.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, May 20, 2014.

johnny (part two).

All I really wanted to do on Sunday was cut the grass and haul the summer furniture out of the garage, clean it up and spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the front porch.

As we discussed yesterday, those plans were changed. I took a day off today to get all those things done; I was hoping to finish the toilet installation today and get some outside work finished in time to grill a pork loin and spend the evening outside.

Instead, the bathroom is in pretty much the same state it was when I started working on it this morning. I still have no idea about my toilet installation skills, because I’m still nowhere near being able to install the toilet, thanks to something in the subfloor that has left me unable to anchor a new flange.

And I am out patience and, because I have to work tomorrow, out of time as well.

I don’t have a problem with paying professionals to do these kinds of things. I just wish I hadn’t wasted two full days before figuring out that I’d need to do that now.

johnny (part one).

So how was your Mother’s Day?

Mine? Great, thanks. I spent it playing with sewage water, lead and 76-year-old toilet wax.

This began while Mrs. Crappy was getting ready for work this morning; as she summoned me to the upstairs bathroom, I knew immediately that my plans for the day — mostly stuff in the yard — were about to be altered.

stamp

She was right to be concerned about seeing water seeping from around the base of the toilet, especially when considering its age; a plumber we had in not long after we bought the house in 2008 noticed the stamp in its tank reading “1938” — the same year the house was built, meaning that was the one and only toilet that’s ever called that bathroom home.

box

After a little online research, I settled on a suitable replacement. After some further research, I felt confident that I could get through the process of removing the old toilet and replacing it with a new one. Off to Home Depot to grab the new one, a new supply line and a few other little things I’d need.

How’d it go? At first, great. Drained all the water. Dug through the corrosion and removed the nut from one side of the bowl. And then I started to do the same thing on the other side. I dug. And I dug. And I dug. And when I got through 76 years’ worth of toilet gunk, I was met with a nut that would not budge.

This required another trip to Home Depot, for a can of WD-40 to break the nut (a trip that will guarantee that I find the can of WD-40 we already owned before the day is over). I eventually got that one off too — by stripping off the top of the bolt — and was met with a bigger problem: a flange that was buried in a 76-year-old wax ring that didn’t want to budge.

hole

More digging, which revealed another problem: a flange that wasn’t bolted to the floor. Instead, it was held in place lead wings that are attached to … something. But by the time I got to this point, Mrs. Crappy had arrived home with a new flange that I may or may not use. Oh, and also a pizza. My patience had been tested enough, and with the exception of hauling the old toilet out to the curb after we ate, I had had enough for today.

What’s left? If there’s a wood surface under the current flange, I’ll remove it and use the new one. If there’s tile under there instead, I’m going to need further consultation with someone at Home Depot who knows more about this than I do. Once that gets done, dropping the new one in place will seem easy by comparison.

curb

In the meantime — anyone have a need for a 1938-vintage toilet? It’s free to a good home.

blue. grass. bock. town.

I’m not sure that John Calipari’s system at Kentucky — grabbing a bunch of talented one-and-done freshmen in hopes that he can cobble together a solid team in time for a March run — is good for college basketball. And I know for certain that it wasn’t good for nearly every single person who entered the Ninth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown).

But it has worked out well for Bill, my colleague who was the one NAUCNFFC contestant to pick the Wildcats to win the tournament. As it turns out, Bill doesn’t even need Calipari to win on Monday night; by virtue of the fact that he was THE ONLY PERSON IN THE CONTEST TO CORRECTLY PICK  A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PARTICIPANT, he’s already got more points than the rest of us. And there’s nothing any of the rest of us can do to catch him.

To be more specific: Bill picked up two points from Kentucky when the Wildcats made the Final Four. He grabbed another four when UK beat Wisconsin on Saturday and he could win another six if his father’s Cats win the title.

The rest of us? We shouldn’t be mad at Kentucky. We should be mad at Florida. Nineteen of us picked the Gators to at least make the championship game on Monday, and most of those guys picked Florida to win it all. So when the Gators gagged against UConn, the contest was over for just about everyone.

Honorable mentions? Sure. Even though the points don’t reflect it, our clear runner up was Barb, who would have been our winner had Wisconsin beaten UK in the Saturday’s semi-final game. With Florida out, NAUCNFFC (BTYBB) came down to that game, and Barb was a last-second missed shot away from her second AUCNFFC championship.

And shouldn’t forget Aunt Annoyed Angel, Sports Chump, HP and Jenny. That anyone — much less four of us — managed to find four points in the toughest AUCNFFC ever is remarkable. Nice work by you.

But as always, NAUCNFFC is a winner-take-all deal, and it is Bill who has earned this year’s $30 Bocktown gift card. Congratulations to him.

And to everyone who entered — thank you once again for playing along. Be sure to try again next year. We’re going to make sure the prizes for the Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown) are even more fabulous than usual.