Wells Banana Bread Beer

wells21When I was growing up, one of the best baked treats we could have in our house was some of my Nana’s banana bread. The bread, the result of some alchemy I couldn’t understand that involved bananas that looked way past their prime, was a perennial favorite. Though Nana isn’t with us any longer, my mom still makes a mean loaf of banana-y, nutty, rich and tasty bread. I imagine that someday the recipe will be passed on to me.

I’m not trying to say that I’m some sort of Zen master of baking, or that my family’s name should be on the side of bread trucks across the country. All I’m saying is that I know from banana bread. So, of course, I was incredibly intrigued when I came across a bottle of Wells Banana Bread Beer this weekend.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the Wells name here in the US, you’re probably familiar with more than a few of their brands. Wells and Young’s Brewery, based in Bedford, brews the popular Young’s Bitter, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, and the Courage line of beers. The brewers also contract brew and import Red Stripe, Corona Extra, Negra Modelo and Kirin Ichiban. Despite the brewers’ global reach, this weekend was the first time I came across the attention-grabbing Banana Bread Beer. Continue reading

Headed to NEIBA!

ciulla_eOn the road again…

For the next few days, I’ll be in Providence for the 37th annual fall conference of the New England Independent Bookseller’s Association. It’s a great chance every year for indie booksellers to recharge their batteries, network, talk shop, and work to make New England’s independent bookstores the best in the world. I’m doubly excited this year, as I’ll be attending the conference as the recipient of the Rusty Drugan scholarship, an honor given every year to an “emerging leader” in the world of bookselling.

Unfortunately (here comes the bad news), I won’t be able to update Brews and Books while I’m on the road. Rest assured, I’ll have plenty to talk about when I get back, but there won’t be any posts for the rest of the week. Until I’m back to rave about my new books – and the beer I picked up in the land of wider distribution – feel free to check out some of the site’s most popular posts.

15 Awesome Literary T-Shirts
Literary Libations; Beers Named After Books and Authors
Literature’s Most Famous Opening Lines, Google Voice Style
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
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If you absolutely can’t stand going Josh-free for the rest of the week (or if you’re curious about what goes on at a book conference) remember to follow me on Twitter.

Bray’s, Sunday River Brewing and The Bag

This week, my column on Ratebeer.com focuses on three of Maine’s ski country brewpubs.

So far, my look at Maine beer has been devoted largely to the state’s coastline. Despite dalliances with Sheepscot and Hallowell, the interior of Maine has been a bit ignored. That stops today. Though a good majority of Maine’s travel destinations (and beer tour hot spots) are a short hop from the ocean, there are riches in the forests and mountains. With temperatures starting to plummet, no is as good a time as any to head for ski country. Sunday River Brewing, Bray’s Brewpub and The Bag and Kettle all offer handcrafted après ski brews when you’re far from Maine’s brew-happy coast.

Check out my full brewery profiles on Ratebeer’s Hop Press.

The Dungeon Master by Sam Lipsyte

I’m not much of a short story reader – and even less of a New Yorker fan – but I can’t recommend Sam Lipsyte’s The Dungeon Master highly enough. Blame it on the D&D / fantasy kick I’ve been on lately, but the story really spoke to me.

Dang, that sounds hokey.

The Dungeon Master has detention. We wait at his house by the county road. The Dungeon Master’s little brother Marco puts out corn chips and orange soda.

Marco is a paladin. He fights for the glory of Christ. Marco has been many paladins since winter break. They are all named Valentine, and the Dungeon Master makes certain they die with the least possible amount of dignity.

It’s painful enough when he rolls the dice, announces that a drunken orc has unspooled some Valentine’s guts for sport. Worse are the silly accidents. One Valentine tripped on a floor plank and cracked his head on a mead bucket. He died of trauma in the stable.

Read the full story at NewYorker.com.

Vacation from Hell – Five Worlds in Literature I Don’t Want To Visit

… and a few I wouldn’t mind.

Between the whole Franzenfreude debacle and recent Bookrageous and Fuzzy Typewriter podcasts, I’ve been thinking a lot about “genre” fiction, literary fiction, and what draws me to certain stories. I think that one of the reasons I tend toward the fantastic in a lot of my reading is that I love world-building.

Sure, all fiction involves building environs for the reader. My favorite books involve a bit more than that, though. I love when an author creates a whole new world with new rules. Sometimes it’s subtle – “urban fantasy” comes to mind – and sometimes, like in sci-fi or high fantasy, it’s wholly created by the author. There’s something about the feel of inhabiting a brand new world that I can’t get from any medium but books.

Strange that I enjoy it so much, since a lot of books are set in worlds that are depressing as hell.

Despite my love of reading stories set in these alternate realities, here’s five literary landscapes I’d suggest avoiding at all costs.

1. The Rocky Mountains in The Passage

Ground Zero for Subject Zero, the Girl from Nowhere, the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only. We don’t really get a feel for what’s happening in other parts of the world after a vampire plague breaks out in the first part of The Passage, but we know that stuff is bad in the Rockies. Best-case scenario is that I end up somewhere relatively safe, like the colony that dominates the middle third of the book, and things are still pretty bleak. Maybe if I had a bit of vamp blood in me I’d be OK, but what kinda life is that?

Possible upsides; If society ever recovers, the virals ensure that no one will write something like Twilight for a long, long time. Continue reading

Bookrageous Episode 4; MOCKINGJAY!

Episode four of the Bookrageous Podcast is live! Jenn (of JennIRL fame) Rebecca (from The Book Lady’s Blog) and I got the Bookrageous gang back together to talk about Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay. Along with the standard look at what we’ve been reading, we spend a good long time talking about out likes, dislikes and reaction to Mockingjay – with voicemails from Bookrageous listeners mixed in for good measure. Enjoy, subscribe, and let us know what you’d like to see in future episodes!

Show notes and an embedded player are below.

Continue reading

Book and a Beer with Phoebe Potts

Earlier this month, I raved about Pheobe Potts’ upcoming memoir, Good Eggs.

I LOVED this book. In Good Eggs, Phoebe Potts writes (and draws) candidly about her life – and specifically about her struggles to conceive and start a family with the husband Jeff. It’s now among my favorite graphic memoirs, right up there with the work of Jeffrey Brown and Alison Bechdel. Potts manages to be personal, honest and touching, yet possesses a great sense of humor that a lot of memoirs lack. Where other books are droll or drab, Good Eggs is lively. A story about fertility and trying to conceive isn’t something I’d necessarily think of for a 25-year-old guy like me, but this one proved me wrong.

I’m not the only one that loved the book, and I’m thrilled that it’s finally going to be available to the public on Tuesday.

With Good Eggs’ release only a day away (pick up the book at your local independent bookstore on September 21), Phoebe was kind enough to make a book and beer related comic for Brews and Books. In a single page, the comic does a great job showing the author’s cartooning style, along with Potts’ great vivacity and humor. Be sure to click on the image below for the full-size, easily-readable version.


Many thanks to Phoebe for drawing this comic! Be sure to check out Phoebe’s website and the Cape Ann Brewing page.