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Spoooky Beer Review: Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Smashed Pumpkin


 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Pre-Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Smashed Pumpkin

Remember yesterday when I was talking about beers that call themselves pumpkin ales, but don’t really deliver in that department? This is one of them.

Oh, it has that same gorgeous orange color as the others and it smells great, but it smells like cinnamon. It smells so strongly of cinnamon that it doesn’t even really smell like beer. That’s a little alarming.

The first sip basically verifies what your nose already told you; this beer tastes a lot like cinnamon. And not much like anything else. It’s by no means terrible. I think there are only a few people in this world who hate the taste of cinnamon and those people are heartless fiends who also dislike marshmallows in their coco and videos of panda babies stumbling down slides.

But this is a flavor that’s more evocative of pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving than Jack o’ Lanterns and Halloween. Or Christmas! Cinnamon is a Christmas spice too!  If you removed that bad-ass label with the Jack o’ Lantern, the orange and gold and the pumpkin themed name, you could totally market this as a Christmas beer (“Kringle Ale”) with a drunk elf in snazzy green elf shoes on the front.

It’s a good beer with a strong kick (9% Alc./Vol.), but in spite of all the Halloween marketing, it’s hardly a Halloween beer with nary a pumpkin flavor in sight.

I give it a goddamn Ho-Ho-Ho! and a Merry Christmas! for this Halloween brew.


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Filed under Halloween: Rock and Shock, 31 Days of Spooktacular, Spoooky Beer Reviews and More

Spoooky Beer Review: Southern Tier Brewing Company’s “Imperial “Pumking”

 I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can during the Pre-Halloween Season. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Next up: Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Imperial Pumking


The first thing you’re going to notice with any pumpkin ale is that they tend to have an orange cast to them, and Pumking is no different. Look at that orange luster. If you forget, even for a second, that you’re drinking a pumpkin beer, that color will always remind you.

Around this time of year (you know, end of August, Halloween time), you can’t swing a dead black cat without sweeping half a dozen pumpkin ales off the shelf. There are some decent ones out there, but for the most part, the first thing you taste when you drink one is cinnamon. And the last thing you taste will be cinnamon. And in the middle there too.

There is one out there that’s a huge offender in the cinnamon department, but I won’t be reviewing that tonight. But it’s coming. It’s coming.

It’s like they’re not really shooting for the flavor of pumpkins and more going for the flavor of pumpkin pie. And then decided that would be too hard, so they just went with cinnamon instead.

Pumking does have a cinnamonny flavor to it, but it’s more of a flourish at the end. The dominant flavor here, is the rounded, orange and nutty flavor of pumpkin. Imagine that; pumpkin flavor in a pumpkin ale. It’s robust and strong, a bulldozer of fall flavors and it just makes me think of the whole damn season. And we’re still in summer!

To top it off, the label goes a long way to making it a strong Halloween beer. It claims it’s named after a creature of Celtic folklore and that it would waylay travelers. It has a scary story! On the bottle!

Two beers in and I’ve already found two beers I would make people drink on October 31st.

I give Pumking five Bluebeard’s wives and a Druidic blood sacrifice.



Filed under Halloween: Rock and Shock, 31 Days of Spooktacular, Spoooky Beer Reviews and More

Spoooky Beer Review: Wychwood Brewery “Hobgoblin”

Now, I know it’s too soon to celebrate Halloween, no matter what the candy section at your local grocery store is telling you. But I am, truly, unable to contain myself. I struggled with the best way to let off some of my Halloween steam early and then the thought struck me: While most people are probably not in the mood for horror movies and gruesome make-up tips, they’re always in the mood for my beer reviews.

And, luckily, those same grocery stores are also shoving every fall and Halloween based beer to the forefront. So I’m taking it upon myself to review as many Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ales as I possibly can. All while listening to “Thriller”.

Up first, we have Wychwood Brewery’s Hobgoblin


With a name like Wychwood Brewery, I’m going to assume that Halloween is a yearlong thing for these folks. Their two beers I picked up at the store had scary themes. I’ve already forgotten what the other was and I’m not getting up to check, seeing as how the kitchen is now more of a trek from my chair for me.

This is a dark English ale (think Newcastle) , though not as dark as I’ve seen, it has a beautiful deep red color, which the photograph does not do justice. It’s very smooth tasting, surprisingly so and a bit sweet, though only a little bit. In all honesty, the first thing I thought of was apples. It’s a round, full flavor that just goes down so smoothly and without any lingering bitterness.

I’m surprised. I’m generally wary of breweries that go to such lengths for what appears to be a gimmicky label (it has witches riding broomsticks on embossed on the bottle itself, for God’s sake), but this is a solid brew and at five dollars for a pint bottle it runs cheaper than some other specialty beers that go for 7, 8, 9 dollars for a pint.

If you want a beer that gets you in a spooky, autumn mood, I can definitely recommend Hobgoblin.

I give it fifteen severed heads. And a Jason Voorhees.



Filed under Halloween: Rock and Shock, 31 Days of Spooktacular, Spoooky Beer Reviews and More

App Review: Angry Birds Space

I used to play a lot of Angry Birds, just like every other human being on the planet. After a while, though, it got tiring. There’s only so many times you can hurl a bird into a pig and remain satisfied. They tried to mix things up with themed levels (birthday parties and Halloween, frinstance) and the (very) occasional new bird (orange bird), but nothing that really added much to the core fundamentals of the game.

But Rovio is back with a brand spanking new sequel called Angry Birds Space that manages to bring some new things to the table and breathes some more life into the franchise. By adding gravity that varies wildly across the map (or completely taking the gravity away), they’ve added a new dimension to the strategy. It’s no longer a straight shot from point A to Point B. Now it’s: Fire the red bird just past the small planetoid so it curves his trajectory enough the he enters into a decaying orbit around planetoid B, eventually slamming into the pig.

There is one new bird and a modified version of the Yellow Bird, called the Lazer Bird. The new bird is best used in conjunction with the Blue Birds. He can ice up a part of the pig’s base and allow the Blue Birds to tear through previously difficult to destroy materials. The Lazer Bird is kind of a combination of the Boomerang Bird and the Yellow Bird, in that you use the Lazer Bird in both capacities. After launching the Lazer Bird,  you tap the screen to send it in any direction, giving you a much more versatile bird.

They’ve also added actual bosses. Now the King Pig is an actual menace that can’t be killed by a direct hit from a bird, rather than just another pig on the map. Now the last levels play a little differently from the rest of the game, though I don’t know if everyone is going to be a huge fan of that.

The game also feels less smooth than the previous incarnations. There have been a number of times where my aim has jittered after I’ve released the bird, sending him higher or lower than I aimed. There were also a fair number of game crashing bugs during the two hours I played. And there are only two hours of gameplay. I beat the first set of levels with mostly three stars in less than an hour and then rushed through the second set. The difficulty curve seems lower than in the previous games, perhaps to ease people into the new mechanics.

There is another set of levels available at time of launch, but you’ll need to plunk down another 99 cents for those. They’re supposed to be more difficult, but I haven’t tackled them yet.

Angry Birds Space is worth the 99 cents and with the new physics rules, it’s definitely fun, but there was also less content than I expected there to be. I’m assuming they’ll be releasing more content over the next few months, but even for an iPod app, it was a short affair.

I give this game Two Beers and a Pot Roast.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Zombies, Run!: First Mission Review

I used to run occasionally, but that was a year ago and the most I’ve done since then is to stare at my running shoes before quickly throwing a towel over them to hide my secret shame.

So keep that in mind as I review the first mission of Zombies, Run!.

As I mentioned before, the beginning of the mission has a three minute introduction in which there is no running. If you’re anything like me and you want to stay grounded in the game’s universe, I recommend using this as a warm-up period. Do some stretching.

This is especially important if you’re like me and you can’t run more than ten minutes without fainting. I wasn’t able to run long enough to make it to he second checkpoint, which meant I had to sit through the introduction again the next day.

I also recommend holding onto any items you find until after you complete the first mission. The game gives you information for all the buildings in Abel at that point giving you a better idea of where you should put everything. At this point, I don’t see how the base plays a part in the game. It just seems like a neat graphic for your runner to come home to.

My initial problems with the accelerometer are not as bad as I thought. It does settle down after a while and stops counting off paces when I stood stock still. The main problem with the accelerometer is the that the zombie chases are disabled. This seemed like the funnest portion of the game when I first heard about it, but it’s only available if you have an iPhone.

There’s also no way to input how long one step is. So while you know if you’ve gone 1000 steps, you won’t know how long that really is in miles or kilometers unless you’re willing to crunch the numbers yourself.

Aside from the nitpicks, Zombies, Run is a great app. It got me out of my chair for the first time in over a year and I actually look forward to running the next day, if only to find out what happens with Sam and Runner Seven and the doctor lady whose name I can’t remember. The voice acting is serviceable at its worst and considering this is an independently funded and designed game, the voice acting is, for the most part, pretty good.

They’re going to implement for free content over the next few monhs, including repeatable supply missions. I want to see how the storyline develops over the next couple of missions and I want to see how the supply missions will be handled.

The story drew me in and gave me a reason to keep running, even when I was flagging. For whatever its flaws, it does what it’s supposed to do: make running fun.

Dylan Charles


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The Process

In order to get myself hyped about writing reviews again, I’m going to let ya’ll in on a behind-the-scenes look at the process I use when writing reviews. It’s also a good way to get two blog entries out of one movie.

1. First, I pick the movie. This involves going through the collection of horror movies available on Netflix. I flip through the list until I read a plot synopsis that makes me wince. This week’s selection is Hanger, a movie about an abortion gone wrong. Quality!

2. Next, I watch the movie. This can take anywhere from the running time of the movie to a full week, depending on how good the movie is. As I watch, I make notes to help me when I actually start to write the review. Usually the notes are far from helpful since they’re usually things like: “Dialog bad. What write movie?” “Jesus Crickets, this sucks.”

3. After a substantial recovery period, I start to write the review. Since I need a screencap for the review and since I always forget to take the screencap while I’m watching the movie, this means starting up Hanger again. A second substantial recovery period is needed.

4. I then write the review a full month after picking the movie. Generally, I’ve forgotten a great number of details, so I end up rewatching most of the movie to make sure I get my facts right.

5. By this point, I’m now the foremost expert on this movie and it’s time to pick the next movie.

Elapsed time: 2 months

This is assuming that everything goes well. Sometimes I’ll watch an entire movie and there’s nothing interesting to say about it, so I’ll move on to something else. Hanger looks promising though.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Writing: Novels, Stories, Blogs and Comics

Restaurant Review: Smoken’ Joes

I occasionally get the tiniest bit nostalgic for the South. Actually, correction, during this past winter I really missed the South. Boston’s winter was absurdly snowy. North Carolina knows that snow is a rarity and something that should only happen once or twice a year (if that). Boston apparently thinks that the ground should be white from December to March.

Anyway, there are two things I miss about living below the Mason-Dixon line: Sweet iced tea available everywhere (including McDonalds) and barbecue. And by barbecue, I mean “pulled pork” though I still can’t get used to saying that. It’s not exactly common up here, whereas in Durham you couldn’t swing a dead pig without hitting a BBQ joint. So I’ve spent the last few months pining.

But then something wonderful happened; I found a place that has barbecue and it’s within spitting distance of our apartment. It’s called Smoken’ Joes, and they’ve got multiple different styles of barbecue and blues music every night and beer too and oh, just everything. I had their Alabama style, which has a kind of white sauce. Since my knowledge of barbecues is limited to Western and Eastern North Carolina types, I was surprised at the variety of choices.

I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re in Brighton. Great food and music; it’s the South without that banjo kid and Confederate flags on pick-up trucks.

Dylan Charles


Filed under Food: Cooking It, Eating It and Drinking It