Beers I Have Known — Highland Brewing Cold Mountain

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.

cold mountain

I’m now two years removed from residency in the picturesque mountain burg of Asheville, North Carolina. The span of time gives me enough data points to state with confidence that I never feel quite so homesick for Beer City U.S.A. as during Cold Mountain season.

Cold Mountain is a spiced winter ale offered by Highland Brewing, the pioneering craft brewer in a city that has now exploded with modest, innovative competitors. The beer typically made its yearly bow in mid-November, lasting in various venues across the area for a good couple of months. It is so coveted that impromptu online tools emerge just to track its availability. Once, at a time of particular scarcity during the season, one of those feeds alerted us to the opening of a Cold Mountain tap line at a dive bar we usually didn’t frequent (mostly because of their tenuous grasp of what items should be burned to generate heat). We wound up enjoying the the most perfectly chilled glass of the ale we ever had.

These days, I don’t crave Cold Mountain. If I were to make a list of North Carolina beers I wish I could make magically appear in my fridge, Cold Mountain likely wouldn’t even crack the top ten. Even so, the beer represents a certain time and place for me, stirring up the warmest of memories. It’s one of the beers that feels like home, or at least one of my homes.

Beers I Have Known: Ale Asylum Babadook IPA

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.


There is no shortage of IPAs in the big, sudsy world of beers, and Ale Asylum — located in the Wisconsin capital city where I tap this out — has already contributed plenty of them, including at least one that’s absolutely stellar. I’ll say this, though: if another IPA is must be added to beer store shelves, at least it’s borrowing the name and namesake of one of the very best movies of 2014.

And, yeah, the beer is delicious, too.

Beers I Have Known — Southern Tier Brewing Company Warlock Imperial Stout

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.

southern tier

In past years, our household has engaged in an exercise every autumn, performing an extended taste test to determine the best pumpkin beer from the bevy of contenders that enter the marketplace around the time Halloween decorations start going up. It’s been a pleasant — if somewhat liver-pummeling — diversion for us, but it seemed time to open up the process. We invited a group of skilled imbibers over and gave them blind samples of twenty different pumpkin beers. It was like a beer fest condensed to one woozy night.

We’ve had a clear favorite over the years, but our beloved Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale, from the Stevens Point Brewery, had to settle for a runner-up position in the 2017 beer battle. The clear winner was the Warlock Imperial Stout from Souther Tier Brewing Company. The New York brewer also has a pumpkin ale in their lineup, but the darker beer prevailed. For now, Warlock is our worthy champion.

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.