Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday's Musings on Sports - the NCAA Edition

Every year, the NCAA tournament brings out people's love for the underdog. It manifests itself in the way that people fill out their brackets, as people will irrationally pick against the "chalk", even though the double digit seed usually does not get far beyond the first weekend. It also can be heard in the voice of the play by play broadcaster as he anticipates the brewing upset when calling the first and second round games.

But even more than the public brackets and the media attention paid to the "little guy" you can see and hear America's love for the small school when watching the crowd at the arena. 

During the first two rounds of the tourney, the games are played in pairs with two games played during the day and two at night. The fans who attend the games buy a package of tickets so that they wind up getting two games for each entrance fee. Most of the fans at the games are split into two categories. There are the monied fans of the large collegiate programs who "travel well" - meaning that the team's alumni generally pack up and go on road trips to follow their team (one of my bosses, included). The other major group of fans are the local basketball junkies who live to attend the regional games which are played in their city. These fans don't care who is playing, they just want to see good basketball.

It is the latter group of fans who are usually most vocal and numerous and who can help a small school team achieve the improbable victory over a major college program.

Much like every other year's NCAA Tournament, this year's tourney had its share of drama and small schools which gave people the chance to dream. The first day of action saw two games in which a number 13 defeated a 4 seed, as well as a number 11 which beat a 6 seed. (The victory by the number 11 does not truly fall within my storyline as it was UCLA, one of the most storied NCAA programs ever, but they were an underdog).

A story which caught my (and the world's) attention involved Georgia State beating Baylor. I was driving back to my office from Court on Thursday afternoon and listening to ESPN Radio when I heard an interview with Ron Hunter, who is the coach of Georgia State. The radio jock asked him what it was like to see his son (who plays for the team) hit the game winning three pointer "from the parking lot." The coach responded that it was great, but his son is only the second best basketball player in the house. There were some other great lines, but that stuck with me. Then I went on line later and saw how Coach Hunter fell off his chair when he saw the shot. Its worth seeing his reaction if you are one of the five people who has not seen it yet.

Another great story was a second round upset in which number seven seed Wichita State beat major power (and favorite) Kansas, a number two seed. For many years, Wichita State had been trying to get a regular season game against Kansas, but they refused to schedule a game because there was no upside for them. I guess with that kind of motivation, it should not be "Shocking" that Wichita State won, but I can tell you that I did not predict that in any of my brackets.

The need and desire to root for the underdog is endemic to Judaism and Jewish thought. Many of our holidays are premised on the concept of the little guy or underdog being helped by Hashem to defeat the larger enemy. From Chanukah to Purim to Pesach, we see that the greater, larger, more powerful nation was unable to withstand Hashem's might in helping the Jews survive and thrive. I would not say that it is bashert that the NCAA Tournament falls every year between Purim and Pesach, but you can't miss the fact that these great underdog stories which dominate the media, all seem to happen around this time of year. 

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Night Suds - Uinta King's Peak Porter


This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Uinta's King's Peak Porter.

As its been a while I since last reviewed a porter, I thought it would be appropriate to begin with BA's definition of the American Porter style. As discussed on their site:

Inspired from the now wavering English Porter, the American Porter is the ingenuous creation from that. Thankfully with lots of innovation and originality American brewers have taken this style to a new level. Whether it is highly hopping the brew, using smoked malts, or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the burnt flavor associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced. Many are just easy drinking session porters as well.

Starting with the end of the definition it is easy to say that the King's Peak Porter fits the style of American Porters as its 4% abv and could be a session beer. But in truth, that definition could apply to any beer with low alcohol content and this beer is so much more than that. The King's Peak has a nice amount of chocolate hops (without artificial or even "natural" additives). There is a slight burnt flavor to the brew, but it is not as heavy as a stout and would serve as a nice accompaniment to true smoked bbq meat such as brisket.

As you can see in the picture above - this beer pours a deep brown, almost black color. But don't be afraid of the dark as this beer is long on flavor without being too overly heavy.

Uinta King's Peak Porter is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union and bears an OU on the label. For the experts' take on the Uinta King's Peak Porter please click here www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/1416/5621

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver. If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable). 

Finally, if you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vayikra

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Vayikra (4:13) the Torah writes "V'Shachat Oso Al Yerech HaMizbayach Tzafonah Lifnei Hashem" - that the Chatas and other sacrifices  are slaughtered on the north end of the altar before Hashem. This pasuk is stated daily in davening at the end of the recitation of the Tamid sacrifice even though it is not found in Parshas Pinchas where the Tamid is described.

The Mishan Berurah writes that according to the Medrash this should be recited daily after the Tamid. The Medrash actually testifies that if a person says this pasuk (even a non-Jew) they are rewarded for remembering Akeidas Yitzchak.

This is a strange statement, given that the pasuk is not connected to Akeidas Yitzchak.

The Maharal Diskin explains the connection by saying that in biblical times the animal being sacrificed was slaughtered on the mizbayach. When Avraham intended to bring Yitzchak as a karban, he tied Yitzchak to the altar (at Yitzchak's request) so that he could be slaughtered there. When Hashem intervened and sent the goat, Avraham did not untie Yitzchak. Why? Because Avraham was concerned that the goat might have been damaged by being caught in the thorns. So Avraham slaughtered the goat on the north end of the mizbayach and made certain that the goat was OK. We remember the Akeidah and are rewarded for causing the rememberance by reciting that the Tamid was sacrificed on the north side of the mizbayach.

R' Frand also quoted a pasuk in Vayikra (1:11) which states that if the nation "V'asu Achas Mikol Mitzvos Hashem Asher Lo Sayasena." The simple meaning is that a negative commandment was transgressed. However, R' Naftali Tzvi Horowitz explains that it means that a person did one of the mitzvos aseh, but did not do it properly.

R' Frand remarked that we are two weeks before Pesach with all of its extra mitzvos. We should be aware that when doing the mitzvos there is more than just fulfilling them, one should make sure they are done correctly and with excitement as it is a once a year event.

R' Frand told a story about two students of the Ba'al Shem Tov were discussing their fear of judgment at the end of days. One student said that he was worried about being judged for his sins. The other student said that he was more afraid about being judged for not properly completing positive mitzvos. He explained that a person can have a momentary lapse of judgment or give in to desire and sin. But a person who does a mitzva should do it right and if he does not have the proper intent it is much more of a problem.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Night Suds - Leinenkugel Cranberry Ginger Shandy


This week's Sunday Night Suds revisits one of my least favorite beer styles and looks at Leinenkugel's Cranberry Ginger Shandy.

Regular readers of this blog are aware of my extreme distaste for the Shandy style of beer which is essentially the American version of the German Radler - a combination of lemonade and lager. In my opinion the only time that lemonade and lager should be remotely close to each other is if when you sort your bottles by the alphabet. Still, for some reason there are people who continue to expirement with Radlers by merging lemonade, lager and other fruit extracts to try to create something with a passing resemblance to beer.

This brings me to the Leinenkugel Cranberry Ginger Shandy. When I opened the bottle I said to Mrs KB - if I am going to have to drink this, you are going to have to share this with me too. Although Jews don't have a "for better or for worse" in their vows, there was no way that I was going to have to experience this brew along.

Before I got a chance to bring the bottle to Mrs KB to force her to have her share, I had an odd realization. This does not actually taste like ersatz beer, it is more like one of those funky versions of Canada Dry Ginger Ale. The "brew" tastes mostly like an over-sweet soda and there is no discernible alcohol or hop taste to the beer. The lack of alcohol taste is probably attributable to the low alcohol content (4.2% abv according to the bottle, but even that seemed exaggerated). The lack of beer taste is due to all the cloyingly sweet fruit extracts added to the brew process. 

The upshot is that the product does not have that awful clash/curdle of lemonade and lager, it just tastes like soda.

Leinenkugel Cranberry Ginger Shandy is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, and has an OU on the label. To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about this brew, please follow this link beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/710/129259

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver. If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshios Vayakhel-Pikudei

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Shemos (35:35) it is written that Hashem says that "He filled them up with a wise heart" (in order to perform the tasks of building the Mishkan. The Medrash states that we learn from here that Hashem gives wisdom to people who already have wisdom. 

The Medrash then tells the story of a Roman matron who said to R' Yose Ben Chalafta - what is the meaning of the pasuk that Hashem gives wisdom to the wise - the wisdom is needed by the fools!

R Yose responded by asking her a question - if two people come to you and ask to borrow money and you only have one purse, do you give to the poor or the wealthy man? She responded that she would give to the wealthy man. He asked her why - doesn't the poor man need it more? She responded that if the poor man's business venture failed, he would not be able to pay the money back, whereas  the wealthy man would have other sources if he needed funds to repay her.

R Yose said to the woman - its the same by wisdom. Hashem says - why would I give wisdom to people who won't use it properly? So that they can sit in the stadiums and casinos and contemplate the events transpiring there? I will give it to the chamim instead as they will know what to do with it.

R' Frand asked - the mashal and nimshal don't align! The mashal is lending money where there is a concern that it won't be paid back. But here, its a gift, not a loan.

R' Frand answered by quoting the Nachlas Eliezer who explains that the chacham realizes that the wisdom is not his - its on loan from Hashem. Its the same with money or any other item that Hashem gives us. When we loan something, we want to make sure that it is taken care of and not taken for granted. So too, the chachma is appreciated by the wise man who knows that its all from Hashem.

R' Frand also said a vort on Parshas Pikudei where the Medrash states on the first pasuk (Aleh Pikudei) that Hashem said to the Jews - you angered me when you built the Golden Calf and said "Aleh Elohecha Yisrael" (Shemos 32:4), but by building the Miskhan you have atoned for the Egel.

R' Frand asked two questions on this Medrash: (1) Was the sin of the Golden Calf that they said this is the god, and not the creation of the Calf itself? (2) How does this Aleh correct or atone for the other Aleh?

R' Frand answered by quoting the Maharzu who teaches that the use of the word Aleh teaches that there is a sense of pride - look at this, how proud I am of it. We see this in Bereishis where Aleh is used in (2:4) in connection with the creation of the heavens and the earth.

This explains why Hashem was so upset - because the Jews in saying Aleh Elohecha are saying that they are proud of the Egel. This is juxtaposed with a Tzaddik who is seen sinning at night, one can be sure that by morning he already regrets what he did wrong.

Of course the Egel was wrong, but the dancing around and pointing at it with pride turned the act of creating the Egel out of desperation into an act that they were proud of which incensed Hashem. By then taking their money and using it to build Mishkan and proudly proclaiming that they built it, they atoned for their lauding the creation of the Egel.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Night Suds - Shiner Birthday Beer - Chocolate Stout


This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Shiner Birthday Beer - a new Chocolate Stout produced by the good folks at the Spoetzel Brewing Company.

Every year Shiner produces a unique beer which it tags with the number for the year of the brewery. Some of the time the beer becomes a full time fixture such as the White Wing (reviewed here http://kosherbeers.blogspot.com/2014/05/sunday-night-suds-shiner-white-wing.html) and Wild Hare Pale Ale (reviewed here http://kosherbeers.blogspot.com/2013/08/sunday-night-suds-shiner-wild-hare-ipa.html) while others do not make the grade and fade into the history of this great brewery.

This year the new limited offering is #106 - Shiner Birthday Beer - Chocolate Stout. The beer pours a rich dark brown, even darker than a Guinness. When bringing the glass to my lips I could smell the chocolate, although I suspect that based on the intensity of scent and flavor that the chocolate is not derived solely from the malt and that there may be some chocolate nibs or other form of cocoa extract added to the beer.

The Chocolate Stout is definitely in the category of a dessert beer and it went exceptionally well with Mrs KB's scratch batch chocolate birthday cake. I would not recommend this with any form of main course, but if you have a rich chocolate dessert and want to have something with a little kick to sip with it, see if you can find a Birthday Beer - Chocolate Stout.

The Shiner Birthday Beer - Chocolate Stout is under the Kosher Supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit although there is no symbol on the the bottle. To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about this brew, please follow this link beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/143/144286.

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver. If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

Before closing the post, I wanted to write briefly about a piece that is making the rounds on the possibility of stouts being dairy or made with lactose. I have personally spoken with mashgichim from the OU and the Va'ad of Detroit and have confirmed that the Coors and Brooklyn beers which are listed in the article are not made with lactose and are not dairy. I did not attempt to contact the Star-K mashgiach as they tend to keep their mashgichim insulated from the general public and thoroughly inaccessible, but I did look into the Samuel Adams Cream Stout a number of years ago and was assured that it is not dairy.

While I am certain that the article on the Yeshiva World News site was well intentioned and I cannot possibly argue halacha with a Rav, I can report that the mitziyus as it relates to these specific beers is incorrect.

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