Beers I Have Known: Fort George Brewery The Optimist

This series of posts is dedicated to the many, many six packs, pony kegs and pints that have sauntered into my life at one point or another.


I’m learning to be less precious about the beers I collect in my travels. These are for drinking, I remind myself, not mounting on a wall like prizes from a hideous safari hunt. Preservation is less valuable than consumption.

Still, I’m not not exactly racing through the sudsy souvenirs in the span of a weekend. Last week, I drank my last can of The Optimist, an IPA by Oregon’s Fort George Brewery, which I nabbed during an early summer trip to Portland. It is an ideal summer beer, favoring pleasant drinkability over the tongue-blast hoppiness the still defines the style for many beer drinkers.

For George Brewery wasn’t even on my list of coveted Pacific Northwest beer-makers when I went on that trip, but in making a final purchase at a local grocery story, a query to a hard-working gentleman stocking the shelves landed a six pack in my handcart. So this post is placed in my little corner of the digital world as a reminder as I prepare to do some scouting in the Souther state I once called home:  at the supermarket, trust guy with a dolly and a beer distribution company polo.


Laughing Matters — The Onion, ‘No Way to Prevent This’

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.


Today, The Onion posted a story headlined “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” accompanied by a photo of emergency response vehicles below the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Except for the details in the story’s lede, the photograph, and a couple other details, every word is the same. They have posted the repeating story on at least four prior heartbreaking occasions. It is an act of bleak comic genius and bruising social satire. It is the only exhibit needed to demonstrate the invaluable contribution The Onion makes to the discourse.

“At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless,'” the article concludes.

I hope The Onion never has cause to use this piece again. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.


Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Laughing Matters” tag.

College Countdown: CMJ Top 250 Songs, 1979 – 1989, 2

2 end

2. R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”

At the time R.E.M. released their fifth studio album, Document, in 1987, the little ol’ band from Athens, Georgia was still adamantly against a practice that was commonplace in popular music. In contrast to most of their musical brethren, R.E.M. abstained from include lyrics sheets with each new album. Because of that, I knew more than one person who made it into a mission to transcribe the stream of consciousness litany that comprised album standout “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” It’s the sort of devotion that R.E.M. inspired back when they ruled college radio like no other act. And this track immediately announced itself as something special in the band’s catalogue.

According to producer Scott Litt, not everyone had a positive first impression, though. Guitarist Peter Buck didn’t even like the song at first, feeling it was too much of a departure from what the band had delivered before. The song was polished into shape while Buck and the other bandmates were out on a dinner break, and they didn’t weigh in with enthusiasm when they returned.

“It was pretty much done by the time they got back, and Peter hated it,” recounted Stipe. “He capitulated finally and it made the record. Thank God we have always had each other to convince ourselves how wrong and right we can be.”

For the lyrics, Stipe said he drew upon his own dreams, noting that he was regularly beset by apocalyptic visions while sleeping. There were more specific dreams that fed into the words Stipe rattled off.

“I’m extremely aware of everything around me, whether I am in a sleeping state, awake, dream-state or just in day to day life,” explained Stipe. “There’s a part in ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’ that came from a dream where I was at Lester Bangs’ birthday party and I was the only person there whose initials weren’t L.B. So there was Lenny Bruce, Leonid Brezhnev, Leonard Bernstein. So that ended up in the song along with a lot of stuff I’d seen when I was flipping TV channels. It’s a collection of streams of consciousness.”

Although Stipe’s subconscious fed the lyrics, Buck noted at least one actual experience fed into the details in the song. In the liner notes to the R.E.M.’s hits collection Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, Buck recounted a 1980 birthday part he and Stipe wound up at, with the legendary music writer also in attendance.

“The guys from Joe King Carrasco and Lester Bangs were there,” wrote Buck. “And all they had was birthday cake and jelly beans, and we were starving and ate that. A random story that popped into a song eight years later. At the time, I was really proud of that song.”

If the resulting song was characterized by propulsive music, Stipe knew he had to deliver accordingly. At the time, the singer was notorious for his withdrawn enunciation. For “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” he pushed himself to a different level.

“I wanted it to be the most bombastic vocal I could possibly muster,” said Stipe. “Something that would completely overwhelm you and drip off your shoulders and stick in your hair like bubblegum.”

Released as the second single from Document, the track didn’t have the same chart success as it’s predecessor, the commercial breakthrough “The One I Love.” It peaked at #69 on the Billboard Hot 100. It did better on commercial rock radio. On college radio, of course, it was nearly peerless. In the span from 1979 to 1989, only one single did better.

But we’ll get to that next week.


As we go along, I’ll build a YouTube playlist of all the songs in the countdown.

The hyperlinks associated with each numeric entry lead directly to the individual song on the playlist. All images nicked from Discogs.

Beers I Have Known — 3 Sheeps Brewing Fresh Coast

fresh coast

This series of posts is dedicated to the many, many six packs, pony kegs and pints that have sauntered into my life at one point or another.

As summer slowly wobbles to its inevitable topple and stillness, I’ve been thinking of my happy discoveries from the past few months, especially those beers that seemed to taste especially good when offering myself a reward for working up a sweat in the out of doors. I have a few beautiful standbys that fulfill that particular hankering, but there’s always room for a few more.

That brings me to Fresh Coast, billed as a “juicy pale ale” by the fine people at 3 Sheeps Brewing, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It is what it claims to be, delivering one of those bursts of refreshment that can set the tongue and soul reeling with equal rapture. With cunning undercurrents of complexity, the beer adheres to the compelling tenet of drinkability.

I’m don’t mean to imply that this beer can only be enjoyed in the summer sun, but I know when the calendar circles around to this season again, my craving for it is going to fiercely reassert itself.



The Art of the Sell: “Major Points of Interest in Wisconsin”

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art. 


In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some quality time in the small Midwestern town where I attended college. Among the many old favorites I revisited was the Stevens Point Brewery, the local crafters of fine beverages (well, I think they’re fine, anyway). One of the oldest continuously operating breweries in the U.S., the business is one of the true stalwarts of the community, feeling embedded in the culture in a way that exceeds that of all the many upstart competitors that have cropped up in the recent craft beer revolution.

And Stevens Point Brewery operated with that sense of local camaraderies when I was a squeaky little student in that town, many, many years ago. That included advertisements in the university’s student-run newspaper, which I remember with deep fondness. It’s not so much that the ads were the pinnacle of cleverness — though I do find the gag of “Major Points of Interest in Wisconsin” to be charming — but they felt like a commitment to the student media of the university as much as a stab at getting the kids to throw back Point Specials instead of Miller Genuine Drafts.

And I like the beer. That doesn’t hurt, either.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Art of the Sell” tag.

One for Friday — Robyn Hitchcock, “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs”


I appreciate those songwriters who can look to nearly inspiration in plying their trade. The annals of pop music is overstuffed with songs that offer up generic views of romance and heartbreak, but it takes a special craftsman to pen a warm, lovely, rueful song about the villain’s comeuppance in Magnum Force.

The second feature to cast Clint Eastwood as snarling San Francisco cop Harry Callahan, Magnum Force wasn’t a beloved favorite of Robyn Hitchcock. It was simply a movie that played with numbing regularity on cable television, the refuge of distraction for touring musicians in bland hotel rooms. And, as a creator who obviously loves a good turn of phrase, Hitchcock locked in on Callahan’s rugged understatement in assessing the end of the line for Lieutenant Briggs (although, Hitchcock admits, his misremembered it slightly).

The magic that Hitchcock does, routinely, is to take the odd and absurd and somehow make it seem universal and truthful. The lyrics of “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs” comment explicitly on the explosive plot turn at the end of Magnum Force, but “You were riding in your car in San Francisco/ You were riding through the weather and the rain/ You were riding in your car in San Francisco/ But you’re never gonna ride that way again” winds up feeling like so much more, like it’s encompassing any number of experiences of loss into a single lilting sentiment.

When songs like this are the result, Hitchcock should channel surf all he wants.

Listen or download –> Robyn Hitchcock, “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs”

(Disclaimer: It’s possible this song crops up elsewhere, but the version posted in this space is from the album Obliteration Pie, which I believe to be out of print, at least as an item that can purchased from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that properly compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. I’m fairly certain Hitchcock’s latest, a self-titled effort, is available at that store, and should be sought out eagerly and urgently. It’s great. Though I mean no harm in sharing this here, I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

Beers I Have Known — Cellarmaker Brewing Co. Turok: Mosaic Hunter


This series of posts is dedicated to the many, many six packs, pony kegs and pints that have sauntered into my life at one point or another.

It has gotten extremely difficult to be a beer connoisseur — or beer snob, if you prefer — in this era of constantly proliferating craft breweries. In a metropolitan area of any significance, there are likely to be a dozen craft brewers vying for attention, and a mere visitor is mightily challenged to discern the local heroes from the disasters keeping their business afloat solely on the untainted palates of the hapless souls who have been shielded from all warnings. For this reason, I am always grateful for a guide.

Left to my own wobbly devices, I may or may not have found my way to Cellarmaker Brewing Co. on my current visit to San Francisco. Regardless, the urging of a trusted drinking buddy sat me on one of their stools tonight, and I am grateful for the intervention. The lack of personal accomplishment in finding my way there doesn’t bother me. I managed to order a Turok: Mosaic Hunter, a delicious IPA, without eagerly announcing to all within range that I knew all about the comic book to which the oddball name referred. That restraint was achievement enough for one evening.