Tag Archives: alcohol

And Another Review of Cider

I treat my ciders like others treat beers, getting into microbreweries and flavors and styles of beer. It’s partly because I cannot drink beer, being allergic to the hops, that I got into cider. Cider is my summer alternative to wine and having a cold cider is just more refreshing at times.

But ciders don’t have as many varieties nor are cideries as multitudinous as microbreweries. So it’s often hard to find a new cider to try. As well, some coolers and other alcoholic beverages masquerade as a cider because apples are the base. In some ways, these are still ciders but in my opinion there is very little that really makes them a cider. True ciders are made with cider apples. Cysers are made with honey and there are a host of factors that make them flat or effervescent, clear or thick, sweet or dry.

Crispin Hard Apple Cider, cider, hard cider, alcohol, alcoholic bevarages, drinks

Crispin Hard Apple Cider

So, it was with interest I saw three bottles of Crispin Hard Apple Cider, which I had never seen. (In Canada when we say “cider” people presume it’s alcoholic; in the US we have to say “hard cider” or people think it’s nonalcoholic.) One was labelled as being made with honey, really a cyser called Honey Crisp, and since I don’t really like honey or mead, I decided against that one. The second was called The Saint and was made with Trappist yeast (as in Belgian Trappist monks famous for their beers) and maple syrup. I thought that might be too sweet as well so I decided on the one that looked all dark, dour and gothic, called Lansdowne, made with Irish stout yeast and molasses.

What is nice about the Crispin brand is that they use organic apples and other ingredients, make their ciders gluten and preservative free and I don’t think there are any sulfites as well. These three ciders are part of the Crispin artisanal reserve and they make a “blue” regular cider line as well. There is a fourth artisanal cider called Cho-Tokkyu made with sake yeast but I didn’t see it in the store. Crispin uses a blend of apples, with their blue line being made with the West Coast type apples, but the artisanal ciders are unfiltered with no grape or malt flavoring added, which is used in a lot of the overly sweet supposed ciders (BC has Growers and Okanagan brands).

Crispin should be given kudos just for trying the unusual, with these cider mash-ups. They also have limited releases and if I could I would definitely be buying those to try. Their operations are in California and Minneapolis. From the write-up on their site these guys are truly a cidery and very much into experimenting with apples.

The Lansdowne experiment was…interesting. Now the caveat is that I don’t drink beer and have never had a Guinness or a stout. The hops allergy and overall pungency of beer has kept me away. I actually didn’t think the stout yeast would be so…stouty. After all, beer battered fish or other foods cooked in beer rarely taste that beery to me. But this drink was heavy. I now know what Guinness drinkers mean about chewy drinks. Lansdowne is unfiltered and cloudy, dark like a watered down stout, and not effervescent at all. I immediately didn’t like it; it shocked my taste buds. However, I did some more sipping and shared it with someone who is a beer drinker. After a few sips he said it was growing on him and quite liked it. The drink was strong in all senses, tasting both of the yeast and the molasses, a lot.

However, while I didn’t like it, I did drink it all and it was okay to my taste buds. It was not sweet at all. The 500 ml (22 fluid ounces) of Lansdowne has 6.9% alcohol. I would think you wouldn’t want it with a particularly heavy meal and for me one was enough. The Crispin cidery has intrigued me and I just might try those other artisanal ciders to see how they come out. I’m more curious about their limited releases if I can find any in Canada.

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A Short Review of Cider

cider, apple cider, alcohol, drinks, Rekorderlig, Strongbow, Bulmers

Rekorderlig Wild Berry Cider

My first taste of alcoholic cider was in England, lo these many years ago. It might have been Strongbow but I actually don’t remember anymore. I’ve become quite the cider connoisseur over the years, taking every opportunity to try as many as possible. Strongbow, once it was available here, became my standby and you can find it in most Vancouver restaurants with it or Rock Creek on tap in many.

Most of the US ciders I’ve had tend to be flatter in taste and effervescence, and slightly sweeter. Next time I try one I’ll do a review.

I’m always on the lookout for a good dry cider. When I first tasted cider in England I could barely get it down and it almost tasted like beer to me. (I don’t drink beer because I”m allergic to the hops.) I think that was just the dry aspect of it. But as it turns out, it would be my first love and I would search the world over for another cider as dry and crisp.

Common in Vancouver, cider is served with a slice of lime, just like the British do it. (Addendum: When in Britain last year they told me they never put lime in their cider, but I’m sure I drank it there first. So either they no longer do it, or I drank too much cider.) When I was in Ireland, enthused to be able to try all the types of Irish ciders, I asked for lime with my drink. I was given a subtle look and then my cider would arrive with no lime. After the third time I realized, oh, the British do that, not the Irish. Bulmer’s cider was the brand and it’s one company in England I believe that makes and distributes it with different names depending on the country (Magner’s and Bulmer’s is the same). It was pretty much the only cider in Ireland, except for Stag’s Head, which was by the same company, as well as an extremely sweet Danish cider that I tried in Dublin.

Once in a while our liquor store gets in other ciders. The BC ciders made by such companies as Okanagan and Growers are fruity alcohol drinks that have as much in common with traditional cider as ketchup has with mustard. I can’t drink them anymore because they are just too sweet. They’re made to cater to the younger college crowd and women but some of us have refined our tastes.

The other day I picked up a can (500 ml) of Rekorderlig wild berry cider ($2.99). As you can see from the picture it’s a pleasant pinky color. Like most Canadian ciders it comes in at 7% alcohol/volume. This is as much as or more than some beers. Rekorderlig is a Swedish pear cider.

I don’t tend to like pear ciders in general. They’re too sweet and indeed this was sweet but not as bad as I thought it would be, and not as sweet as most BC ciders. There is a distinct taste of berries and a good level of effervescence. Over all, it went down nicely on a hot day, served over ice with a slice of lime. Why the lime? I’m not sure why the British first started doing it but I find it can add a slight tang and if the cider is too sweet the lime cuts that a bit.

I don’t know if this cider is made as a true cider, which requires cider apples, but for someone who likes fruity or ciders not too dry, it’s a good choice.

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Red-Faced About Rosacea

rosacea, acne rosacea, skin problems, red skin

This is a moderate to severe case, where rosacea can permanently disfigure the skin. From clinicaladvisor.com

Just after I returned from my trip to Ireland in the fall of 2007 my eyes started turning pink. Not red, not high grade irritable but a little drier than before and evenly pink. I went to the doctor who gave me drops for allergies. Still pink. I went to the optometrist who saw nothing wrong. I went to the naturopathic clinic where they gave me different drops. Still pink. I repeated appointments with each of these people, ending up at the doctor’s again. So she sent me to an ophthalmologist.

The ophthalmologist took one look through her high-powered magnifying thingy and said, Have you heard of rosacea (pronounced rozaysha)? I had but knew little about it. What she told me was that the oil in my skin had changed consistency, becoming waxier and therefore collecting in the ducts of my eyes and irritating the eyeball.

This also meant that the oils on my skin, especially my face, neck and upper torso, was doing the same thing. In the right light I can see the waxy build-up. I have to shampoo my eyelids every morning to keep the ducts clear. Washing my face and using lotion will help with the rosacea since washing dries out the skin.

Rosacea can cause red bumps, flushing, broken capillaries and in the severe cases, disfigurement. It also causes a rosacea acne, which is the red bumps. These aren’t really pimples in the traditional sense, but more like cysts. They can be itchy as well and asymmetrical in where they appear.

In reading up, I found out that if you have European ancestry, northern European or British/Irish, you are more susceptible to getting rosacea. The classic rosy cheeks is the first sign, or if a person easily flushes/blushes. I’ll get a heat flush that I can feel on my cheeks.

What causes it? Good question. Hormones can and once a woman goes through menopause it can go away. Another contributing factor seems to be foods with histamines. This is interesting because of the eczema I’ve been getting since my amoxycillin allergy and prednisone cure is also caused by histamines. It’s a progression into more severe forms of histamine reaction.

There are many things one is supposed to avoid with rosacea: wind, sun, cold, spices, alcohol, etc. Foods that have histamines can be a biggy: cheese, sour cream, yogurt, citrus fruit, liver, chocolate, vanilla, soy sauce, yeast extract (though bread is OK), vinegar, eggplant, avocados, spinach, broad-leafed beans and pods, and foods high in histamine or niacin. W.C. Fields’ classic red nose is the sign of a chronic drinker and of rosacea. And let’s see what I like: spicy foods and wine.

You’re not supposed to exercise either where strenuous workouts will increase your temperature. Talk about being a delicate flower. It’s completely annoying and who knows if it was ever only eczema or a progression through subtle stages of rosacea. So yes, I’ve cut down on the aggravating foods though I have a fridge door full of hot sauces. But I haven’t cut down on exercise, though I try to have a fan on me. I can’t say how frustrating this is, eating bland foods, cutting out chocolate, etc. etc. Makes me pout.

There is a rosacea organization and the disease (if that’s the right word for it) is more common than I thought. http://www.rosacea.org/patients/materials/coping/tripwires.php I have lost the good skin I used to have though I can get it back if I’m completely vigilant. It’s better in summer too, when the weather is warmer (but not hot) and the waxiness shows less. Rosacea is common enough that there are lotions and even makeups made for the condition. I’ve tried some and found they don’t do much difference than cleansing with a gentle cleanser and using a good lotion. Sunblocks become necessary as well.

I often have red splotches on my cheeks or neck, or the acne red bumps. It’s getting better and I’m trying a lot of diet related stuff at the moment. If this works, even if it doesn’t, I’ll write about it. Because, besides the rosacea, all the trigger foods are now becoming full blown allergens for me and I do blame prednisone for that. I want to have more flavors to taste, not less.

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Alcoholism and Life

I grew up with an alcoholic father. Some might debate this but he drank a fair amount, did terrible things to us and grew violent. It was not pretty and it marred us with scars we bear to this day. My mother went back to school at one point and worked as an alcohol and drug abuse counsellor so she knew the signs well. It’s interesting, before she moved into that line of work, the men she dated were all alcoholics.

I also had a friend who became my best friend and lived across the alley from me. We got into various types of trouble together, went to parties, and drank underage, as most of our friends did. I cannot tell her tale as to what pushed her too far. It could be an easy statement of physiology though easy is not the way it was. By sixteen she was an alcoholic with a host of embarrassing events under her belt, making difficult for her friends to be around her. I asked my mother what to do (and I have to say my mother was very good about not berating us for drinking underage) so she gave me some pamphlets to pass on to my friend. One was a checklist of behaviors that could indicate you’re an alcoholic. Some of the statements were: do you not remember what you’ve done while drinking, do you pass out after drinking, do you feel the need to drink every day–things like that.

Of course, giving a teenager such pamphlets didn’t go over that well and as high school grew towards its end and my friend also became pregnant (facilitating a quick marriage), we also started to grow apart. I couldn’t help her and she was going to need to help herself. I don’t know if she was embarrassed by her alcoholism or felt that I judged her (and I confess that I did at that time) but we eventually lost contact. It was only many many years later that she made the effort to contact me, having been dry for a long time, with grown and growing children. I then had to get past the wall that I had left behind from that time.

In high school I had also started dating a guy who I went with for a year and a half. He was two years older than me so he was finished while I was in grade 11. And he worked at a pub. I looked old for my age and could get into the bars without being ID’d. (Oddly enough, after I turned legal age, I was ID’d often.) He too became an alcoholic, drinking too much and too often. I don’t remember if that’s what broke up the relationship but it was a contributing factor.

I’d seen enough alcoholism by my mid-twenties, including an Irish couple in Vancouver who were on a self-destructive path through their drinking.  We also stopped being friends. And there are others, those with the red splotchy faces, the abusive tongues, the rude behavior that had driven friend and family away. I would often talk to these people, if they were friends, expressing concern but when they continued along their way I felt I didn’t need to be in the path of their abuse either.

I was arrogant enough to think I’d never be an alcoholic because I didn’t like alcohol that much and I was aware of it. That may have been the case but I wasn’t aware of the abyss in my soul and where it was sucking me to. I was unhappy and single, while all my friends were in couples. I hated myself, my eating disorder was out of control. On top of it, I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t love me and inadvertently probably rubbed the fact in my face with his patronizing way.

Before I knew it I was drinking to drown the pain and perceived loneliness. I stood in the back of a poetry performance night one evening, crying (from my broken heart), then going out to my car to drink a cider, then coming in and crying, and repeating in progressively drunken way. I went to a camping event and proceeded to get so drunk that I didn’t know what I did. In essence, I had a blackout. Then on New Year’s eve I went to Blaine to some friends’ party. Bored and feeling the loneliness around all the couples there, I decided to drive back to Vancouver to another party.

Lucky for me, some friends braved my wrath and took my keys away. I later passed out and left the next day. Shortly after that night I was thinking of my life and realized I teetered on the edge of becoming a full fledged alcoholic. The brink was close and I was sliding over it. Also lucky for me, with that realization, I started to reassert control over my life.

And two friends at that time, drew straws to see who would approach me and say I had a drinking problem. The loser got to come up to me, probably expecting me to tear into her. But when she said, we think you have a drinking problem, I said, Thank you for being such good friends to tell me. You have the right, if you see me out of control at any time, please tell me.

And after that, I did try to control it, and not drink to cover my problems. Alcoholism, though, can strike for a number of reasons. Some people are physiologically more susceptible. Others make it part of their lifestyle. Others use to flood the hollow spots. It is the duty of anyone who is friend or family to say to the drinker, You have a problem and you need help. But as always, it is up to the person to change and hopefully have the support of friends when they take that path. I learned some valuable lessons about drinking and about me. I wouldn’t want to go that road again.

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Should Drugs be Legalized?

This should be justified as, should recreational drugs be legalized? With Vancouver’s recent spate of gangland shootings (13 in less than three weeks) this topic has come up that they’re fighting over drug money. A very good supposition and though there are those that say it has to do with pot, I’m guessing there’s a full gamut and the relatively cheaper marijuana is at the bottom of the list, which is topped by crack cocaine, crystal meth and heroin.

So, should drugs be legalized? Remember prohibition, when alcohol suddenly became illegal (having been drunk for years) and the religious right screaming temperance? Of course there were some legitimately good reasons for limiting alcohol intake. The Wild West gained its moniker for a good reason and the TV series Deadwood is not far off the mark, when only men came to new areas to mine gold or trap or work in lumber mills. Vancouver’s own early history is so colored, with the first women in the townships being the bar girls and First Nations women, sometimes married to a lonely man.

But prohibition only meant that what people wanted now had to be procured through illegal means. The underground became more established and organized crime ran booze in from various areas. Rum runners became a common aspect of the prohibition years in the early 20th century. Prohibition did linger in that there are now certain laws around the consumption of alcohol. 

Once alcohol was legalized the only way organized crime could make money off of it was to bring in far larger quantities at cheaper rates. Or say, smuggle tobacco and the far more lucrative and illegal drugs.

So yes, if we legalize all those illicit drugs, we take the cash crop away from the gangs and put it in the hands of the government. Marijuana, which is far less nasty than alcohol in its affects on humans should be legalized to save the cops time for the important issues. Like the drug addled crimes of addicts breaking into homes and cars for their next fix. They don’t tend to do that on marijuana.

So let’s say we legalize all drugs. The cost goes down for the drug, which takes down the cost of law enforcement and break-ins. The price of health care might be the same or might go down. It may not be as fun to take if the drug is no longer illegal. Will there still be addicted people? Yes, but maybe fewer. And they won’t be as stigmatized. Well, maybe. After all, we do have alcoholics in all walks of society and there is still a stigma, but many of them hold down jobs to pay for their habits. They’re less likely to be breaking into someone’shome or car with readily available and cheap liquor. Ask the lawyers and business people who are alcoholics. (Note: this is just an example of a few professions but like I said, it’s in all walks of life.)

There is another aspect. Yes, it’s sad to see people addicted and this often speaks to underlying problems, many of which can be tracked back to one form of abuse or another. So the money saved in crime prevention can be put towards mental health, and the cost and distribution of drugs lessens. It would take time to implement but it can work. This last aspect is that we stop controlling another person’s decisions and let them be responsible to themselves. It’s not perfect and we need laws with which society must function. But changing some of the laws on drugs could lessen the gang crime and the substance abuse.

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A Case of Indulgence

This was the last of the Fearsmag articles that I wrote. I thought of putting it out tomorrow but I could be nursing a hangover, or more likely sleeping in. That’s one of my indulgences.

In whatever stage of abstinence or feeding our appetites that we managed to survive through the holiday season, we now suffer the aftermath. A new year has begun and in many cultures it becomes a time of reckoning, of cleaning our mental houses, of taking stock and changing or honing up on our past year’s progress.

Often January is a time of making too many promises and setting stakes too high. You might say it’s the time of atonement, whether you’re religious or not, for our past sins, be it laziness, overindulgence, taking on too much, doing too little, not changing, lacking stability, clinging to the past or not planning the future. We try to set past abuses or mistakes right with New Year’s resolutions. If we can whitewash the slate, perhaps we can start fresh and ignore all that’s gone before.

Or not.

Not too many years ago, I decided to stop making resolutions. After all, why set yourself up for a fall? We resolve to make these changes in our lives, often drastic ones, and wonder why we then fail to change. In January, because there’s no planning for holidays, we’re broke from spending too much and have already saturated our flesh with sugar, alcohol, salt and fat; we heroically battle our faults. Start a new year, start a new plan, start right.

And time, which is really just a big wound-up clock that we imagine, unwinds the wheel of the year as well as our plans, which fizzle by March if not earlier.

I guess I learned the lesson. Don’t overindulge through the holidays, then you won’t have to diet yourself down to the right size again. Of course, many people control themselves throughout the year and feel that this is the one time to let loose, to balance the scales even if those scales can be tipped to one side rather quickly and it takes the whole year to get back there again. To indulge or not—the fear to let go, to take the plunge.

We have set ourselves a tricky quest in this new century, as in the old. We want to have it all but we don’t want to wallow in it. Gourmet chocolate shops, delectable world-select coffee bars, elite watering holes holding alcohol from every exotic locale, and the finest clothes made of wondrous fabrics not seen since the Egyptians wove cotton, abound in many countries. We surround ourselves with splendor, covet what we don’t have and continue to search for the most expensive, exquisite or unique of today’s fads.

Well, what’s wrong with having the best, of rewarding ourselves for what we’ve accomplished? Nothing, but those that have too much, who can acquire whatever they desire, who have sailed to the highest pinnacle and hover there, are watched by the heaving millions with envy, jealousy and ridicule.

Like Icarus and his fateful flight toward the sun, we view movie stars, singers, politicians, the famous, the rich and the powerful as those who try for godhood and will fall back to the earth. And like scavenging vultures, we wait to pull them down or help them on their descent. Each and every person wants what is rightfully theirs, perhaps more than a fair share and will seek it out. All of us would like to indulge. Those that do are loved at first. We hold them like beacons in the darkness of our obscurity. They shine as examples of what can be done, of what-ifs made real and that some people can have it all. Yet, if they stay too long in the flame, we burn them with our scorn. We hold their lives up to that oh-so-bright light and examine every pore, every crack, every flaw.

Michael Jackson is no longer a rising star. His comet is falling and he receives as much ridicule as adoration, not for his music but for his life that, like any one of ours, cannot stand the polished gleam of godhood for long. Let’s face it, people are hypocrites. It’s all right if I have it, if my loved ones and friends have it, but if others have it and I have to watch for too long, well that’s just not right. Just like the dog that’s done his business in the wrong spot, eventually he gets his nose rubbed in it. Those who have and indulge end up rubbing our noses in it. Not the same as the dog. It’s not necessarily intentional, but many people see this material flaunting as the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. And perhaps there are the unspoken messages that we really don’t like to hear: Could I have done more? Am I doing anything with my life? Will I amount to anything? Does anything I do matter? Will I be remembered after I die? Why have I failed when others have succeeded?

So it is that to indulge, in more than one culture or religion, is seen as a sin, a luring to the dark side, a vice. Indulgence in itself is not necessarily bad. You can indulge someone, let him or her cry, or rant or be a little crazy once in a while. It makes you look magnanimous, open-minded, loving. Having a little chocolate or getting looped or dancing the dawn into being is okay, once in a while. But do it all the time and you become a pig, a dilettante, a bohemian, a hedonist, a self-centered creature. The names abound.

In the end, our indulgences are our own but it’s our society that really let’s us know what’s not right and what is considered overindulgence. So, don’t make a resolution, until you’re ready to, whether it’s January 1st, March 19th or November 23rd. In the end, it matters only to you, and society, your friends or other forces like your body will tell you when to change. Indulge a little but don’t parade it in front of others. And before you indulge, ask yourself, with just a little fear lacing your veins, am I ready for what it will do to me and how others will see me?

Happy New Year. May your indulgences keep you healthy.

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Politicians, Pot and Prohibition

In the last week two NDP candidates have had to step down because there were pictures/videos of them smoking pot. And another candidate once upon a time skinny dipped in front of teenagers. There were never any charges laid, none of the teenagers or parents ever complained, and RCMP cleared him of wrongdoing. Yet he’s had to resign from running. Something that people need to understand about the West Coast and the island communities is that it’s not abnormal for people to be free an easy. To get your knickers in a twist over someone skinny-dipping is a little over the top. The politicians are really desperate if that’s all they can find. I certainly would rather have someone dipping into the drink nude than have them scam the country of a few million or outright lying.

But that’s the lesser issue. There is the oh so horrible aspects of marijuana. Granted it was pretty stupid letting yourself ever be filmed if you have aspirations in politics but smoking pot is pretty much so minor that it doesn’t amount to even a crime. Being filmed driving under the influence of anything is a little more serious.

But let’s look at this. Pothead politicians. Hmm. When a person is high on pot, they tend to sit around, maybe eat, maybe sleep. People on pot are never seen as being zippy and really, how much crime is contributed to just potheads? I’m not talking grow ops or dealing but just plain ole smoking. Compare it to drinking. Drinking alcohol and buying/distributing it is legal. A person drunk can cause way more damage, possibly get in fights, and then drive cars. Our premier Gordon Campbell was caught and fined for drunken driving in Hawaii and he certainly thumbed his nose at everyone and didn’t step down. So why should someone who smokes pot, or swims naked do so when they’re not even in the government yet?

This comes down to the decriminalization of marijuana. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is… Why? I wish I really knew. There are illegal grow ops everywhere, the Hell’s Angels and other criminal organizations are involved in it and make millions every year. If it was decriminalized and regulated like alcohol was, then the government would actually make money on it, like it does on alcohol. When prohibition was in effect, more in the US than Canada, criminals raked in the money and not only that, became better established. We all have images of Bonnie and Clyde times (though they were bank robbers) and moonshine.

In Vancouver, with all the crime we have (home & car break-ins) you never hear that some crazy pothead was doing it or that potheads are living on the street. No, it’s crack and crystal meth and heroin that puts people on the street, and leads them to prostitution and burglary. Legalizing marijuana would actually make it far more controllable. I’m not even sure who is against it, some conservatives obviously that feel that it’s what, the devil’s tool, undermining our youth? I just don’t know but the harms of pot are far less than alcohol and people aren’t killed in car accidents by multitudes of pot smokers. Sure there may be some accidents but the majority are alcohol induced. Better the devil you know.

As far as I can see it, some guy running in politics who confesses to having smoked pot seems such a minor misdemeanour compared to a drunk driving premier. (But then Campbell was in good company with the equally drunken Klein–actually Klein was much more an expert at drinking and only cursed beggars and threw money at them.) It would be better for our resources if police could concentrate on serious crimes and just think, the proceeds of selling marijuana could go to fighting other drug crimes.

I think we have a very skewed society where true perpetrators of crimes and politicians who break promises and rip up emplyment contracts (Campbell) can stay in power (including the mayor of PoCo charged with violence and yet won’t step down) and some skinny dipper has to give up running. It makes me even more dubious that anything can ever change in this country because the old crusty suits still run the show in outmoded ways. Do I find a broken campaign promise worse than a guy smoking pot? Yes. I certainly wouldn’t care if he did smoke pot. And like past US president Clinton, these guys should have said that they didn’t inhale.

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