one down. one to go.

IMG_8746
That’s me. At Piper’s. I’m not hard to find.

A thing I should have done last night: Take a photo of the wings-and-beer spread we brought over to AJ’s house. It was … impressive. And delicious.

I don’t think four dozen wings will be part of the second AUCNFFC payoff Thursday night, but it could be fun regardless. As a reminder: Two seasons ago, winner Kewyson opted to donate his winnings to a night out for Pittsburgh AUCNFFC players … and we’re going to make good on that Thursday.

As I said before, if you’ve ever been an AUCNFFC contestant, show up at Piper’s Pub Thursday night — I’ll be there around 7:45 or 8 — and I’ll buy you a beer. I can’t imagine we’ll get there, but I’ll buy one beer per person until I hit $50 … or until it’s time for me to go home.

And if you want to stay for another, and maybe watch some basketball … or not … please do. I hope I see you there.

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.

conflicted.

Back in January, I wrote about an unpleasant decision: picking between Notre Dame and Alabama on the day of the football national championship game.

Today? Another title game, and another unhappy choice.

Back then, the basic choice was between a team I can’t stand versus a conference I hate above all others. This time, the choice is more complicated, because I’m picking between what should be good for my conference versus … uh … that Team Up North.

Let me make one thing clear — this doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with Louisville. I’ve lived there, I love the city and I’ve even seen a Dead show in the old Freedom Hall. And I have nothing at all against Rick Pitino; I was living in Kentucky when he took over at UK, and those undermanned teams were a blast to watch, what with the incessant threes and unrelenting full-court press.

No, this choice has everything to do with Michigan. Which is a word that is even uncomfortable for me to type.

Here’s the thing. My gut reaction is to want Michigan to not only lose, but lose badly. Don’t even want it to be close. Twenty points-plus. Back in January, I wrote about the terrifying potential for overbearing smugness on the part of ND fans, should the Irish win the championship; as I recall from 1997, Michigan fans are even worse, even if this is only a basketball title.

Don’t want any part of it. No thank you.

But then there’s this logical part of my brain — you know, the part that usually should keep you out of trouble. This time, my logical side is poking at me about how the Big Ten would benefit from a national championship tonight. It would help in a tangible sense and it would help improve the perception of the conference with those vote in polls or pick the participants in next year’s tournament. It would be a big deal for the B1G on nearly every level.

But shit, we’re talking about Michigan. If it were Michigan State, Indiana or maybe even Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have a problem. But it’s Michigan.

Or maybe two.
Or maybe two.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to have a beer and hope there’s something good on the History Channel.

***

I will, however, pay attention to tonight’s game, in the sense that we’re about to wrap up the Eighth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown). I have done exactly zero work to figure out what has to happen for who to win whatever … but I’ll work all that out in the morning and let you know who’s won the Bocktown gift card so generously donated by Chris Dilla.

still sappy.

Whew.

That year, 2012, was rough in a lot of ways. As you may have gathered from my six-month sabbatical.

But when we were able to set aside the pain-in-the-ass stuff, 2012 was also a lot of fun — shows, football, family … and more friends than I could begin to count.

I’ve done some ridiculously detailed end-of-the-year posts in the past, and I’m not going to do that here. But I will say this: You guys continue to make me happy I chose to get involved with all of this social media stuff years ago.

I have professional reasons for being pleased about my online dabblings — I’m having a blast writing the column, and one day I might even make consistently decent videos — but the personal stuff is almost always a bigger payoff. In the past, I have rarely been disappointed when I’ve met an online friend in real life, and that continued in 2012.

I will start 2013 as I have the last four years — by meeting a bunch of people at the Mon Wharf and jumping in the freezing-cold river. I know everyone who’s committed to showing up in the morning, but, as always, the fun thing will be to see who else shows up. I’ve noticed a few people lurking on my links to the Plunge posts, and I hope we’ll see a new face or two in the morning.

Because outside of my wife and my family, you guys are the ones who make my life what it is. I am grateful to you for the past year, and I’m looking forward to more fun, starting here in just a few hours.

Happy new year, yinz guys. Hope I see you again soon.