Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Samuel Adams Light

Tonight's Sunday Night beer review looks at Samuel Adams Light, a lighter version of their traditional Boston Lager.

People who judge their beers based solely on the TV advertisements for light beers might be surprised when they taste a Samuel Adams Light. It seems like the most competitive market on TV (in terms of alcohol) is the "lite" beer market with an over saturation of ads from Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light (a.k.a. the "Silver Bullet"), Michelob Light ("anything else is just a light") and more recently Michelob Ultra, Amstel Light and Heineken Light. These beers "promise" great taste and low calories or carbohydrates, but tend to deliver little taste and an extremely low alcohol content.

What are the characteristics of light lagers? The sages at Beer Advocate explain:

The Light Lager is generally a lighter version of a breweries premium lager, some are lower in alcohol but all are lower in calories and carbohydrates compared to other beers. Typically a high amount of cereal adjuncts like rice or corn are used to help lighten the beer as much as possible. Very low in malt flavor with a light and dry body. The hop character is low and should only balance with no signs of flavor or aroma. European versions are about half the alcohol (2.5-3.5% abv) as their regular beer yet show more flavor (some use 100% malt) then the American counterparts. For the most part this style has the least amount of flavor than any other style of beer.

With this background in mind, I decided to review the Samuel Adams Light for this week's Sunday Night Suds. Why? Well, my aishes chayil Sarah suggested that people might be a little full from the holiday weekend eating, so why not review a light beer. I decided to follow her advice (yes, I know I am bound to follow Sarah's advice as noted in Vayera - kol asher tomar eilecha sarah, shma b'kola).

As far as light beers go, Samuel Adams is one of those which are closer to the original then a watered down version. The beer itself has a decent semblance of the regular lager and also retains most of the alcohol. A traditional regular beer will have about a 5% abv (the SA Boston Lager has a 4.9% abv), while the SA Light has 4% abv.

I enjoyed my Sam Adams Light by itself this evening, but this smooth drinking light beer will not conflict with most dishes. All in all, a good light beer, just keep in mind that unlike most light beers, the SA Light's alcohol content is close to regular beer.

Samuel Adams Light is under the kashruth supervision of the Star-K.For the experts take on Samuel Adams Light, please click here

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Kiddushin 48

Kiddushin 48 continues an analysis of whether or not the forgiveness of a debt alone is sufficient in order to be mikadesh. As part of this discussion, the gemara explains the laws of payment for work performed by a craftsman at one's request.

The gemara begins (48a) with the assumption that all agree that when one gives work to a craftsman for him to perform over a period of time, the craftsman earns his wages with each step in the creative process (yeshna l'schirus mi'techila v'ad sof) and thus when he is paid at completion it as if a retroactive loan is being paid back. This later becomes the subject of debate.

On 48b, the gemara states that there is a dispute as to whether a craftsman acquires an interest in the product he is fashioning. As a way of explanation, the gemara is dealing with a situation where the craftsman has been given precious metal and was told to fashion jewelry out of the metal. The gemara then states that according to R' Meir (as explained by Rashi), the craftsman is not being paid on a daily basis and is paid for the project, thus when he completes the project he has acquired ownership of the improvement in the metal and when he gives the finished product in exchange for payment, he is actually selling his interest in the object. The chachamim do not agree with the principal and treat him like a employee who is paid in exchange for his labor.

Later on 48b, the gemara deals with a person who attempts to be mikdesh a woman by handing her a cup of liquid. The gemara says that: T'1 says that when he offers the cup he is offering the cup and its contents; T'2 says that he is only offering the cup and T'3 says that she is only receiving the contents of the cup and not the cup itself. The gemara then states (without connecting the lines) that one of the T's is talking about a cup of water, one is talking about a cup of wine and one is talking about a fish brine which was used over a number days as a dip for bread.

Rashi explains that T'1 (cup+contents) is dealing with the fish brine; T'2 (cup alone) is dealing with a cup of water and T'3 (contents only) is dealing with a cup of wine. Tosafos is bothered by this as the explanation of the contents of the cup which Rashi uses is out of order since the first liquid discussed in the gemara is water. Tosafos (d'h "ha bimaya") attempts to track the parallel language in the gemara before stating that the order is not important.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XXXII - Priority is a matter of perspective

In my opinion, today's Max Kellerman show had a subliminal message for NY sports fans. Although the casual listener might have thought that the show was even handed in its treatment of the Jets and Giants, a not too subtle hint dropped at the beginning of the show may lead one to an opposite conclusion.

[Before getting into today's show, I would just like to respond in relation to last week's non-posting of the "musings" on Monday, November 17. I apologize for not making a post, however this was partially due to the fact that Max did not host the show on 11/17 and partially because the day itself was a little too hectic for me to do a "my musings" supplemental post. To those who were disappointed, I apologize.]

Max started the show with a line about the Jets win over the Titans on Sunday. He said that Brett Favre and the Jets' offensive line proved what he had been saying all year - that the Giants are the best team in football. As to whether this was praise for the Jets, a knock on the Titans or a little Giants home cooking, its all a matter of the approach you take to the story.

Other interesting perspective tidbits were - "Brett Favre played like he was Eli Manning." I would have loved to have heard Louie Gold's response to that one. Speaking of Louie, last week (I think that it was Friday) the guys were talking about the Dr. Theodore Atlas Foundation dinner. Louie talked about how he had met Coach Mangini and that he thought that Mangini was a great guy. Having said that, Louie still wants him fired (or at least when Max gets him stoked up, that's what comes out of Louie's mouth).

Another interesting discussion revolved around whether the Jets are the best team in the AFC. I actually heard this question asked on numerous shows including on the Michael Kay show to Chris Berman (he said that they are the best right now). Max had a similar answer, but he framed it in such a way as to also knock the BCS system. Max said that Jets are presently the best team in the AFC and that while they may not have been for the entire season, that only matters for the BCS rankings. He then followed it up with a good point - your season record determines your playoff position, but the way you are playing at the end of the season determines how far you will go in the playoffs.

Max also had an interesting perspective on the Knicks' lightning rod - Stephon Marbury. He said that Marbury is a non-issue but that he made the Knick relevant with his audacious (my word) behavior while the Knicks were playing horribly.

As part of a product endorsement (I can't remember which one) Max said that you do errands for your wife on other days so that you can watch football on Sundays. To me, this leaves my Sunday Jets game as a question of perspective. Do I perform all my tasks during the week so that I can watch the game on Sunday (making the game the priority which I am building up to)? The flip side would be -- is the game on Sunday a break which I use to recharge my batteries for the week?

The answer of course is linked to Torah. I can recall a Rebbi in school posing the same question in relation to basketball. Do the boys go out to play at recess as the highlight of the day, or as a way to release some energy so that they can then return and concentrate on their learning. Like most of Max's discussions today, it really is a matter of priority and perspective.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Post Road Pumpkin Ale

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds review completes the survey of pumpkin brews currently (known by me to be) under kosher supervision by looking at Post Road Pumpkin Ale.

To frequent visitors to this site, the name Post Road may not seem familiar, but rest assured that it is produced by a well known kosher brewer. For reasons known only by its marketing division, the Brooklyn Brewery brews and bottles this ale, but chooses to brand it with a unique trade name. (The beer is actually brewed in the Utica brewery which Brooklyn shares with Pete's Wicked and Saranac).

As you may be aware, many of the larger breweries will market some of their products under other less familiar trade names (think Blue Moon for Coors, Icehouse for Miller and Landshark for Budweiser). What makes this arrangement odd is that Brooklyn is already a craft brewery, so there would be no impetus to pass off this tasty ale as anything other than a Brooklyn Brewery product. It should be noted that unlike the macrobrewers who set up separate website for their "craft beers" with no links to their parent corporations, Brooklyn Brewery makes no attempt to hide its connection with Post Road as the Pumpkin Ale is listed as one of their beers on the Brooklyn Brewery website ( ).

But on the brew itself. The Post Road Pumpkin Ale is spiced like all pumpkin brews. However, the addition of cinnamon which while not heavy is certainly present, makes this a special beer. They indicate on their website that they blend "hundreds of pounds" of pumpkin into the mash for every batch of the brew.

Unlike the other two pumpkin ales which I reviewed in prior Sunday Night Suds (for Blue Moon, click here , for Saranac click here ) this brew could blend well with Thanksgiving feast without overpowering the main course it accompanied.

Post Road Pumpkin Ale is under the kashruth supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit.For the experts take on Post Road Pumpkin Ale, please click here

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Chayei Sarah

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Bereishis 24:1, the Torah recites "V'Avrahahm zakein ba bayamim..." which is translated as "Now Avraham was old, well on in years..." The Midrash states in the name of R' Yehudah, that Avraham is the first person who was called old in the Torah. He explains that Avraham requested from Hashem that he be allowed to bear the physical characteristics of his age because people could not tell the difference between him and Yitzchak as they both appeared to be the same age. Avraham reasoned that in order to allow people to show the older individual the proper respect, the human being should be permitted to show characteristics of age in order to make it obvious who was senior. The Midrash concludes that Hashem agreed with Avraham and permitted this change in the teva.

R' Frand commented that in the current era, people spend billions of dollars (collectively) in an effort to avoid showing their age - from buying hair coloring agents to botox. He also mentioned in the name of R' Shimshon Pincus that even in the frum community one can see that age is protected as the elders from Europe were called the Alter M'Slobodka or the Alter M'Kelem, but in Israel they were not called the Zaken M'Kelem. Rather, the titles given were the Sabba M'Kelem to avoid the branding of age. [Ed. Note - Our connection to the host site failed at this point and I missed a few moments]

R' Frand then explained that to Avraham, age was not something to be ashamed of as he wore his senior status as a badge of honor. He explained that one who is proud of what he has achieved in life does not seek to hide his age. Only someone who feels that he has not yet accomplished what he needs to do, seeks to prevent a showing of his true age in order to give the impression that he has more time left to make something of his life. Avraham did not have this problem.

The second vort of the evening involved Avraham's instructions to Eliezer about choosing a wife for Yitzchak. In Bereishis 24:3, Avraham tells Eliezer that he wants him to swear by Hashem the G-d of the heavens and the earth that Eliezer will not take a wife for Yitzchak from the daughters of Canaan. Later in 24:7, Avraham again talks to Eliezer about Hashem, however he merely says Hashem of the heavens who took me from my homeland.

Rashi on 24:7 explains that Avraham is telling Eliezer in the latter pasuk that he has made Hashem the G-d of the earth because the people of the world did not know who Hashem was, but Avraham introduced the concept of monotheism and brought people to recognize Hashem.

R' Dov Weinberger in his sefer Shemen Hatov asks - why did Avraham need to invoke that Hashem was the G-d of the earth when giving instructions to Eliezer? He answers, that Avraham was trying to impress on Eliezer that when going to find a mate, it is vital to have the assistance of Hashem of the heavens and the earth. It is well documented in shas (and apparent in our daily lives) that it is difficult to make shidduchim. To underscore this point, Avraham says to Eliezer, you need to make sure that you have the assistance of Hashem of the earth in your quest to find a bride for my son.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XXXII

Tonight's weird (but true) legal case analysis looks at a recent decision from the Appellate Division, First Department in Marte v. Graber. As any lawyer will tell you, sometime the trial court makes mistakes - that's why there are appellate courts. The decision in Marte v. Graber is a horse of an entirely different color.

In this matter, the plaintiff (a non-lawyer) drafted his own complaint to sue his former attorney for malpractice. Unfortunately, the attorney died before the lawsuit was filed, thus preventing the plaintiff from filing suit. Or so one would think. As noted by the Appellate Division,

In or around July 2005, Amin Marte, incarcerated and acting pro se, filed an unsigned, undated summons and complaint alleging legal malpractice by attorney Herman Graber. Thereafter, Marte discovered that Graber had died on April 2, 2005, approximately three months before the filing of the summons and complaint. Thus the action from its inception was a nullity since it is well established that the dead cannot be sued.
Rather than recommence an action against the personal representative of Graber's estate, the Plaintiff moved for and obtained two extensions of time to serve the estate. This was the first of the trial court's errors, since it "adjudicated a nullity apparently unaware that time was not the problem in a case where the only named defendant could never be served with the summons and complaint, however long the plaintiff was given to do so."

After finding out the identity of the representative, the plaintiff (now represented by counsel) moved to substitute the representative of the estate as a defendant. As explained by the Appellate Division:

The motion court, compounding its errors, continued to adjudicate the nullity by granting the motion, and thus ignoring the requirement of CPLR 1015(a) that an action be pending for the correct application of that provision. CPLR 1015(a) provides that “[i]f a party dies and the claim for or against him is not thereby extinguished the court shall order substitution of the proper parties” (emphasis added). Moreover, CPLR 1021 provides that “[a] motion for substitution may be made by the successors or representatives of a party or by any party” (emphasis added). The term “party” plainly indicates that an action has already been properly commenced and is pending and thus the court may effect substitution.

In this case, since the summons and complaint were filed after the death of Herman Graber, Marte had not properly commenced an action against Graber, and so Graber was never a party in the proceeding captioned Amin Marte v. Herman I. Graber, Index No. 402200/05. Thus, there was no party for whom substitution could be effected pursuant to CPLR 1015(a).

Likewise, Marte's attempt to amend the summons pursuant to CPLR 305(c) was made in error. That provision is generally used to correct an irregularity, for example where a plaintiff is made aware of a mistake in the defendant's name or the wrong name or wrong form is used. But it is axiomatic that a motion for leave to amend follows service of process. In this case, of course, process was never served on Herman Graber (nor are we aware of any method for serving with process those who have moved beyond the vale). Thus, effectively there was no summons for amendment.
To her credit, the representative of the estate attempted to educate the trial court and moved to reargue the motion. Although the trial court allowed reargument it "ignored Sandra Graber's contention that the proceeding was a nullity from its inception. Incomprehensibly so, since the court's decision of August 14, 2007, bearing the caption of Amin Marte against Sandra Graber, clearly reflected the fact that Herman Graber had died on April 2, 2005, and that the only summons and complaint filed in this case had been filed on July 6, 2005."

To see the full text of the decision, click here .

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Kiddushin 41

Kiddushin 41 contains the end of the first perek and the commencement of the second perek of Meseches Kiddushin. Rabbi Avi P (the member of our group who gave Kiddushin 40) observed that the first perek of Kiddushin is the longest perek in shas. I was not aware of this, but its another source of Torah trivia to store in the back of my mind.

The new perek begins with a discussion about the use of a shaliach for being mikadesh a bride or for accepting a kiddushin on behalf of the wife. The gemara asks why does the mishnah needs to teach that one can accomplish these tasks by one's self if they can be done be by a shaliach - it is obvious. The gemara provides two answers, but the one offered by R' Yosef struck a chord. He stated that one can use a shaliach, but it is better to do it himself. R' Yosef then cited to how R' Safra and Rava were personally involved in the preparation of the shabbos food. This reminded me of stories of modern day gedolim who are makpid to take some personal involvement in the preparation of shabbos such as setting the table or buying the groceries.

The perek itself is also timely in the sense that the gemara discusses the use of a shaliach to effectuate the kiddushin on behalf of the groom. R' Yehuda says in the name of Rav that one cannot use a shaliach as he should see the bride before the actual marriage. I wondered how Avraham sent Eliezer in this week's parsha to take a bride for Yitzchak if the gemara says to the contrary. As no meforesh on the face of the daf asks the question, I took a look at the Rambam in Hilchos Ishus 3:19 (cited in the ein mishpat) and he does not adopt R' Yehuda's strict approach.

Speaking of parshas hashavuah tie ins, the end of the prior perek also ties into the parsha. The gemara on 40b states that if a tzaddik commits an act of mardus at the end of his life he loses all his zechuyos. The gemara asks - shouldn't he be treated like a person with half zechuyos and half avonos? Reish Lakish answers that the baraisa is discussing someone who regrets his mitzvos.

The discussion reminded me of a vort which I heard from R' Frand last year. We learn that the death of Sarah is a test to Avraham. How? The satan came before Sarah and showed her Yitzchak at the akeidah which caused Sarah's death. R' Frand explained that the satan cause Sarah's death in order to try to provoke Avraham to regret his involvement with the akeidah. R' Frand tied this into the line in the hashkiveinu prayer at maariv - "v' haser satan milfaneinu u mei achareinu." I can understand how one wants the satan to be removed from before him but what does it mean that he should be removed from behind the supplicant? R' Frand explained that the satan seeks to cause us to regret out good deeds and we pray that he should lose his ability to do this task.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Pumpkin Ale

This week's Sunday Night Suds beer review continues the seasonal theme and takes a look at another pumpkin brew - Saranac Pumpkin Ale. [Last week's review of Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale can be found by clicking here ].

The Saranac Pumpkin Ale poured a dark red nearly brown color. Although I tend to appreciate some of the sweeter ales, the sweetness in this brew was over the top. The nutmeg and clove flavors are quite strong, which I guess is a positive if you like those flavors in your beverage. For me, the most redeeming quality was the balance of carbonation which like most Saranac brews was perfect.

What would I recommend pairing this brew with? Maybe a sweet chicken dish or sweet ribs. Its definitely not a good compliment for savory meat dishes. If you are one who likes beer after dinner, I would recommend it with cake or pumpkin pie.

Public service announcement - the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC) is having an all day seminar on the kashruth of alcohol tomorrow. If you would like to see the program please click here . From what I can see of the program, it looks interesting and informative. (I myself was planning on attending and had even booked a flight, but my sister had a boy and the bris is in NY the same day. I hope to get a tape of the program and possibly post about it in the future).

Saranac Pumpkin Ale is under the kashruth supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit, as are all other beer produced by Saranac. For the experts take on Saranac Pumpkin Ale, please click here

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vayeira

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Bereishis 18:9, the Torah mentions that the angels who came to see Avraham asked him - where is Sarah your wife. Avraham responded to the angels that Sarah was in the tent. Rashi (quoting the gemara in Bava Metzia 87a) indicates that the angels knew where Sarah was. They only asked Avraham where Sarah was in order to make it known that she was modest and thereby make her more dear to Avraham.

R' Volbe in his Kuntris Chasanim writes that the purpose of the singing during the sheva brachos of kalla na'ah v'chasuda is to make the bride more dear to the husband. By praising the bride to the groom at this early stage, we can add cement to the foundation of the marriage.

This may be understandable at the beginning of the marriage, buy why did the angels need to endear Sarah to Avraham at this juncture? Avraham and Sarah had been married for many decades before this encounter. Also, did Avraham Avinu really need someone else to remind him how great his wife was?

R' Frand answered that we learn from the story that there is a constant need to build and refresh in a marriage as stagnation kills relationships. This is also the reason for the niddah rules, as the wife is more chaviv to her husband following the separation period.

R' Frand then told a story in the name of a Rabbi Friedman who had said the story over in the name of Rabbi Shalom Wallach [I may be a bit off with these names]. The story involves a R' David Hershwitz who had learned in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Europe before WWII and then eventually moved to America. Forty years later, R' Hershwitz travelled to Israel to visit the Mirrer Yeshiva which had now migrated to Israel via Shanghai. When he arrived, he met with R' Chaim Shmulevitz who greeted him warmly. R' Chaim asked him whether he wanted to join them for lunch and (after asking permission from his wife) invited R' Hershwitz to come to his home for lunch.

When they arrived at the house, R' Chaim asked his wife what was for lunch. She answered that she had made chicken and rice. He ate the chicken with gusto and then commented on the quality of the food before asking as to the spices his wife had used in making the meal. She answered him and then he asked for (and received) a second helping. He ate this as well and commended her on her cooking.

When the meal was done, R' Hershwitz asked R' Chaim what had happened? The boy that R' Hershwitz remembered from yeshiva used to have to be reminded to eat because he was so absorbed in his learning that he forgot about meals. Indeed, at times he even needed to be reminded to bentch, because he got back into learning and forgot that he had eaten. How could this same person now be discussing the finer points of his wife's cooking and taking seconds?

R' Chaim answered - I am the best maggid shiur in Israel. I am not being haughty in saying this - my shiurim were developed over forty years and I have fine tuned them to the point that they are at right now. However, when a 17 year old student comes over to me after a shiur and tells me that it was a "nice shiur" it makes my day. The student does not know the hard work that went into the shiur and the time it took for me to develop the thought, but it still thrills me nonetheless that he enjoyed it.

R Chaim then explained - my wife's cooking is her shiur. She has worked hard at making this meal and my asking about it and commending her on her cooking makes her day. By praising her for her cooking, I show my appreciation for her dedication.

I can recall seeing a similar incident at the home of my Rebbi, R' Goldvicht when I was twenty years old. I had a meal in their apartment on 186th Street on Shavuos. After the meal, R' Goldvicht praised his wife for her cooking and said "If I knew Torah as well as my wife cooks, I would be the Gadol Hador."

The statement seemed cute to me at the time, but now with the benefit of eleven+ years of marriage I can tie it together. Spouses need to know they are appreciated and anything that an outsider can do to raise the level of respect that one spouse has for the value of the other can only help to further cement the marriage.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XXXI

Tonight's Weird (but true) case analysis was inspired by a commercial which is currently airing on the NY airwaves. The commercial has a judge rendering a verdict in which the defendant is ordered to pay $100,000. The plaintiff's counsel then turns to the plaintiff and says that the defendant's insurance may only cover some of the verdict, but that he thinks the defendant's family has money saved for their son's college fund which they can go after to cover the balance. The defendant's mother than says to her attorney - can they do that? To which the attorney responds in the affirmative. The commercial closes with the announcer saying that it is important to make sure that you have enough insurance.

After watching the commercial, we got into a discussion as to whether this could occur under NY law. I answered that it could happen, but that not having adequate insurance coverage is not the only way that a plaintiff could reach into a defendant's savings. Sometimes, a defendant may have enough insurance coverage to satisfy a plaintiff's demand, but his carrier may refuse to pay the claim and force the matter to go trial where the plaintiff may get a verdict which exceeds the coverage. I was then asked - what can the defendant do about it? My response - sue his insurance carrier for "bad faith" for failing to settle the claim within the policy limits.

Following the conversation, I decided that it might be beneficial to discuss bad faith as a Wednesday Weird But True case, so I selected Reifenstein v. Allstate Insurance Co., 92 A.D.2d 715, 461 N.Y.S.2d (4th Dept. 1983) which is a good example of how such a claim can arise.

In Reifenstein, the insured was the driver of a car which left the road and struck a utility pole, killing the passenger. After the accident, the decedent's family contacted the driver's carrier (Allstate) and asked for $10,000 to settle the case. As noted by the court,

[A]n Allstate agent refused a demand for a $10,000 settlement made by the decedent's father and offered instead $9,500, explaining to the father that Allstate does “not pay the full policy limits of $10,000” and that “if [he] got a lawyer, a lawyer would charge a fee and ... [he] would eventually end up with even less than the amount Allstate was offering”; that shortly thereafter the agent offered to settle for $10,000 on the condition that the decedent's parents “furnish [Allstate] an affidavit setting forth the assistance rendered by the decedent in or about [the] home and the payments the decedent furnished for the parents' support”, and told decedent's mother “that such affidavit was required by State Law.”
After Allstate refused to meet the demand, the decedent's family filed suit against the driver and obtained a judgment in the amount of $48,611.60, clearly a sum greater than the $10,000 policy. Faced with this judgment, the driver filed suit against Allstate, seeking compensatory and punitive damages based on Allstate's bad faith failure to settle the underlying suit.

In stating the standard of law to be applied, the Appellate Division explained:

Where it is alleged that an insured lost an actual opportunity to settle the negligence claim against him within the coverage limits of his policy by reason of the insurer's purported “bad faith,” he states a cause of action against the insurer to recover the excess judgment. Bad faith “is generally proven by evidence largely circumstantial in nature.”
Although the trial court had dismissed the lawsuit against Allstate, the Appellate Division reinstated the claim for compensatory damages, explaining:

In this case the element of bad faith may be inferred from, inter alia, the certainty of liability arising out of the one-car accident and the obviousness that the damages would exceed $10,000; the initial refusal to settle for $10,000, an amount only $500 more than Allstate was willing to pay; the explanation given by Allstate to decedent's family for its refusal to settle; and, the delay in making the unconditional offer of $10,000. The fact that Allstate ultimately offered to settle for $10,000 without condition does not automatically relieve it of liability. This is but a factor for the jury to consider on the question of bad faith.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Kiddushin 34

Kiddushin 34 contains the classic discussion of whether women are obligated in time-bound mitzvos (aka Mitzovos Aseh SheHazman Grama). I would like to focus on two interesting Tosafos from the daf.

On 34a, the gemara asks hypothetically -- why we can't make a hekesh between mezuzah and talmud torah. The implication would be that since women are not obligated in talmud torah on a biblical level, they would also not be obligated to affix a mezuzah on their doors. The gemara rejects this argument because the mitzvah of mezuzah carries with it a promise of longer life ("l'maan yirbu yemeichem") and women would obviously also have a need for this reward just like men.

Tosafos (d'h Gavra) asks - but by talmud torah there is also a promise of a reward of extended life, since it states (in Devarim 30:20) "Ki He Chayecha..." If women are in need of the extended life by mezuzah, shouldn't they have the same need for the reward of talmud torah (and thus be obligated in this mitzvah as well)? Tosafos answers that the pasuk in Devarim refers to the reward for doing mitzvos in general and not specifically talmud torah - thus women can obtain the benefit of the reward without shouldering the burden of additional mitzvos.

The second point which I would like to touch on occurs on 34b. The gemara discussed the mitzvah of simchas yom tov, which although it is a time bound mitzvah, is applicable to both men and women. Abaye asserts that women do not actually have a mitzvah of simchas yom tov as it falls on the man to do things which will make his family happy for yom tov. The gemara in Pesachim (109a) learns from this that a man must buy his wife new clothes or jewelry for yom tov to make her happy (hence my semiannual trips to Fortunoff).

Tosafos (d'h Isha) wonders how this could be the meaning of the pasuk as the obligation to provide fine food and new clothes is a modern day obligation. Tosafos answers (in the name of Rabbeinu Tam) that prior to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, the man fulfilled this obligation to his family by bringing home the shalmei chagigah offerings.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings - Vol XXXI - On Football and Life

Today's Max Kellerman show had a healthy dose of football, but also provided an interesting look at the various personalities who make up the program.

First Down Jets: Max observed that the Jets are a "good and dangerous team." He reminded the listeners that he had "told you all year" that the Jets will improve and eventually succeed because they have a solid offensive line which just needed time to learn to play together.

Second Down Jets: Max called the game against St. Louis a "statement game" which gave them an opportunity to exorcise demons. He explained that Jets had previously made a statement when Shaun Ellis sacked Tom Brady a few years ago (almost two years to the day - November 12, 2006) in the game famously remembered for Richard Seymour saying that New England had been "outcoached."

Third Down Jets: Max commented that after that season the Jets took a step back when Mangini went head to head with Pete Kendall in an effort to show the players that Mangini was in charge of the team. Max opined that Mangini was willing to sacrifice the season (2007) to win a Superbowl - which can only be accomplished when everyone is on the same page.

First Down Giants: Max observed that the Eagles held the Giants' defensive line in check (no sacks) and the Giants still won in Philly because "they are a special team."

Second Down Giants: Max enlightened us that only the Giants and the Titans have figured out how to win - score more points than the other side.

Third Down Giants: Max commented about the Giants offensive line that while none of the individual players are the best in the league at their position, they are successful because all of them are talented, have been together for a while and play well as a unit.

Personal Foul Giants: Max stated that he had pledged the soul of his daughter (more on her below) in exchange for a Giants win over the Eagles. Its just Max being Max, but it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

And now to other interesting personal observations:

Max observed that Louie Gold represents the typical Jets fan because he was still purportedly upset with the team and would like to see Mangini out of a job. Max later indicated that he will attempt to have Louie seated at the same table with Mangini at an upcoming benefit to be hosted by Teddy Atlas.

Bob Gallerstein (the update guy) commented that the most important victory of the weekend was the Red Bulls playoff win. While I appreciate that Gallerstein injects a much needed dose of hockey into the show, the reference to soccer takes the show too far afield of the mainstream in the NY sports market.

Lundberg gave the "Mr. obvious" statement of the day "the Giants offensive linemen are big." He then supported it by saying that he saw them in person and they are impressively large. Nuff said.

Since Max is now a new Dad (they announced the birth of Esther Kellerman on the show on Wednesday) there were many interesting insights into fatherhood.

[BTW Max, great choice on the name. I guess that I am biased since its Sarah's middle name.]

Of course, Louie started the ball rolling when after losing an argument with Max he said that his daughter (Payton) is better looking than Esther. Max responded with "can't they both be equally cute." Louie (speaking with the experience of having been a father for nearly a year) answered back in the negative. Max then finished with "if only my daughter wasn't hideous."

This gave Max the window to begin talking about his experience of fatherhood. Many of Max's statements brought back memories of when we had our first (Penina) , such as "I can't stop looking at her" and that Max looks down and "sees a little [him]" and also that Max sees "a little bit of Max and Erin in [Esther]."

Max then started talking about his 21st century proud father antics such as taking pictures of Esther daily and showing everyone Esther's pictures on his Iphone.

It really was nice to hear him talking that way about his daughter. After months of listening to him talk about he and Erin were having problems conceiving, I felt a little uncomfortable when he asked us questions in the airport about our kids and their names. I know that he made it seem like a joke when he used to talk about it on the air, but underneath it always felt like it was a little painful to them and I was so glad to hear that they had a healthy baby girl.

Max's obvious joy in experiencing fatherhood reminded me of the gemara in Kiddushin (30b) which we learned a few days ago in Daf Yomi. The gemara states that there are three partners in the creation of a child - the father, the mother and Hashem. This is derived from a statement in gemara Niddah (31a) that the father contributes the "white" parts of the baby, the mother contributes the "red" and Hashem contributes the soul, speech, sight, hearing, intellect, motion and facial complexion.

The gemara in Kiddushin then notes that when a child honors the parents, Hashem says that it is as if He lived among them and they honored Him. The Maharsha explains that the hebrew spelling of man and woman differs based on the addition of the letters "yud" and "hei" which together make up a name of Hashem. When a man and woman join in a proper marriage, Hashem is present. If they raise a child (with His help) who grows to be a moral person who honors his parents, Hashem indicates that it is as if He had been present in their home and that the child's actions are indicative that father, mother and child have joined together to honor Him.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds review takes a seasonal tone (as well as a cue from last week's Simpsons) and looks at Blue Moon's fall offering - Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale.

Before you ask me - what ever possessed anyone to experiment with pumpkin added to the brew process, I simply don't know. I can hypothesize that some creative brewmaster may have thought -- people like pumpkin pie and people like beer, let's try to spice a beer to taste like pumpkin pie.

Beer Advocate explains the genre of pumpkin beer as follows:

Often released as a fall seasonal, Pumpkin Ales are quite varied. Some brewers opt to add hand-cut pumpkins and drop them in the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavoring. These beers also tend to be spiced with pumpkin pie spices, like: ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and all spice. Pumpkin Ales are typically mild, with little to no bitterness, a malty backbone, with some spice often taking the lead. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. In our opinion, best versions use real pumpkin, while roasting the pumpkin can also add tremendous depth of character for even better results, though both methods are time-consuming and tend to drive brewmasters insane.

The Harvest Moon pumkin ale which I tried this evening poured a rich orange color with quite a bit of lacing and a smell of cloves and nutmeg which hit me before the glass had reached my lips. If you are looking for a beer that is "parve" (basic lager) this is definitly not for you. However, if you want to try a beer which carries the seasoning of the fall, this would be worth a shot. The beer goes well with strong meat dishes (steaks, chops) or as a companion to a warm piece of pumpkin pie after dinner.

Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale is under the kashruth supervision of the Orthodox Union, as are all other beer produced by parent Coors Brewing Co. of Golden, Colorado. For the experts take on Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, please click here .

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Lech Lecha

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

The Medrash notes that the words "Lech Lecha" appear twice in the Torah. The first occurrence is in this week's parsha where Hashem instructs Avraham Avinu to go to Eretz Kina'an. The second time that the words are used is in conjunction with the akeidah where Avraham is told in Bereishis 22:2 to take Yitzchak "V'Lech Lecha el Eretz HaMoriah." R' Levi then says that he does not know which of the two directives which Avraham obeyed are more dear to Hashem.

Rashi answers the question posed by R' Levi, stating that Avraham's act of going up to bring Yitzchak as a sacrifice was the act which was more dear to Hashem.

Many times it seems to the casual observer that Rashi is stating the obvious, but on further review there is a deeper level which demonstrates Rashi's genius. In the matter at hand, Rashi's answer seems obvious - of course the act of potentially sacrificing one's child is a greater act then merely leaving the land of one's birthplace.

In answering this question, R' Frand made reference to a series of halachos mentioned by the Rambam in Hilchos Avodas Kochavim (1: 1-3). In describing how man sunk to the depths of worshiping idols, the Rambam explains that people originally wanted to show honor to the sun, moon or stars because they recognized that they were performing tasks designated by Hashem. However, people lost sight of the fact that these objects were merely carrying out jobs assigned by Hashem and instead the people began to worship the objects. Avraham realized that the world had to have been created by a being which created the order of the universe. At the time, Avraham did not have a Rabbi/teacher to explain things to him as he was stuck living in Ur Kasdim among the idol worshipers. Nevertheless, Avraham developed his understanding of Hashem and began to influence others. This earned the ire of the king who had Avraham thrown in a fiery furnace. Of course, Avraham survived and subsequently left Ur Kasdim and began to travel the area explaining the concept of Hashem and bringing people to understand Hashem's role in the world.

Given this preface, ask yourself about the following scenario. A Rabbi goes to a small city where there are few observant Jews and he begins to bring those who have drifted away back to Judaism. He becomes very successful at his task and suddenly people are coming to synagogue and he begins to influence non-observant Jews in surrounding communities to also return to the fold. After some time, the Rabbi receives a call from a large Jewish community which has learned of the Rabbi's talents and would like him to come and become the Rabbi in their metropolis. What should he do?

This was the quandary facing Avraham. He had managed to bring many people back from idolatry and was teaching them the meaning of Hashem. Suddenly, Hashem tells him to leave this geographic area and all that he accomplished there and move to Eretz Kina'an. Avraham looks at all this and asks - should I leave this behind? This is the meaning of the question in the medrash and why we need Rashi to answer the question.

A proof can be found in the first pasuk of Vayera. The Torah recites that Avraham was at Elonei Mamreh. Why is the area named after Mamreh? Because when Hashem told Avraham to give himself a bris millah, Avraham wondered whether he should follow the order and he asked Mamreh for guidance. Mamreh told him to follow the command of Hashem. As a result, Mamreh is rewarded.

The questioning by Avraham seems bizarre - did he really not know whether he should listen? When viewed in the light of the above Medrash, we can have a better understanding of the question. Avraham was commanded to perform a bris which would forever mark him as different from all others. If he performed the bris in a public way, he thought, maybe the people I am trying to influence will view me as different and they will be less likely to listen when I tell them about Hashem. Faced with this question, he went to Mamreh for advice.

One final example of Avraham's work before he left for Eretz Kina'an can be seen from the gemara in Avodah Zarah. The gemara explain that the world will last up to 6,000 years. The first two thousand will be tohu, the second two thousand will be Torah and the third will be the time of Moshiach. When does the era of Torah start? When Avraham begins to be mikarev people. [It is known that Avraham was born in 1948 and that he recognized Hashem at 40].

R' Weiss asks on this gemara - but there was Torah before Avraham. Indeed, Noach observed laws and there even were the Yeshivos of Shem and Aver. He answers by mentioning the Kesef Mishneh who says that there was Torah, but Avraham was the first to bring the masses in to learn it. The yeshivos of Shem and Aver existed for those who traveled there to learn. Avraham went out to teach, thus he is credited with commencing the era of Torah.

With this understanding, we can see the dilemma facing Avraham when he was told "Lech Lecha" and why the Medrash's question does not have such an obvious answer.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol. XXX

Tonight's weird (but true) case examines a legal challenge to the voter residency rule. This post was inspired by news stories about people who attempted to register to vote in Ohio based on its thirty day residency rule, as well as other stories involving people who attempted (or possibly succeeded) to vote multiple times by registering as students where they went to school as well as in their hometown.

In Wit v. Berman, 306 F.3d 1256 (2d Cir. 2002) individuals who owned homes in New York City and the Hamptons, challenged New York's residency rule, arguing that they should be entitled to vote in local elections in both communities. The plaintiffs maintained homes in NY City for more than forty years, paid income and property taxes to NY City and met the voter registration requirement for NY City. However, the plaintiffs also had homes in the Hamptons and had registered to vote in Suffolk County. Based on these registrations, the plaintiffs were barred from voting in NY City.

In June 2000, the Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the pertinent provisions of the Election Law and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief permitting them to register to vote in local elections in New York City while maintaining the right to vote in the Hamptons. As noted by the Second Circuit:

The complaint claims that the Election Law, as written and enforced, violates the Equal Protection Clause because it denies appellants the right to register to vote in elections in New York City even though, save for New York defining residency for voting purposes as the location of one's single permanent home-“that place”-they possess the same indicia of residency as those residents of New York City who are deemed qualified to register to vote. The complaint also asserts that the Election Law infringes on appellants' federal constitutional rights to due process of law and intrastate travel as well as their rights under various provisions of the New York Constitution.

Like many (if not all) states, New York has a residency rule for elections. The court explained:

Under New York law, one must be a resident of an electoral district to register as a voter in that district. “Residence” is defined in the Election Law as “that place where a person maintains a fixed, permanent and principal home and to which he, wherever temporarily located, always intends to return.” N.Y. Elec. Law § 1-104(22) (emphasis added). Section 17-104 of the Election Law provides that any person who “[r]egisters or attempts to register as an elector in more than one election district for the same election” is guilty of a felony. N.Y. Elec. Law § 17-104(2), (5). Other sections of the Election Law also impose felony penalties on those who knowingly attempt to register “when not qualified” and on those who attempt to vote in an election “more than once.” N.Y. Elec. Law § 17-132(1), (3), (9).

In framing the issue raised by the Plaintiffs, the Second Circuit stated:

An Equal Protection claim must be based on impermissible differential treatment. Harlen Assocs. v. Inc. Vill. of Mineola, 273 F.3d 494, 499 (2d Cir.2001). The differential treatment alleged here is that, because appellants are otherwise qualified under New York law to register in both New York City and the Hamptons, the provision of the Election Law prohibiting them from registering in two places treats them differently than the qualified voters in the election district in which they are not registered. To put it another way, appellants are not allowed to vote in New York City solely because they are registered in the Hamptons. Were they to give up their registration in the Hamptons, they could register in New York City. Therefore, they argue, they are being treated differently than others qualified to vote in the City.

In affirming the dismissal of the complaint, the Second Circuit explained:

Domicile as a rule may have its philosophical defects, therefore, but it has enormous practical advantages over the alternatives. It almost always insures that a voter has some stake in the electoral outcome in the domiciliary district and almost always does not involve large numbers of disputes over where one may vote. The domicile rule informs would-be voters where they may vote, a vital function that encourages registration and voting. Moreover, it gives voters the notice required for the enforcement of criminal laws against individuals voting in places where they are not eligible. SeeN.Y. Elec. Law § 17-132.

The New York domicile rule also provides substantially workable standards for registrars of voters as to whether would-be voters are or are not entitled to register. The vast majority of voters have a principal residence in which they have lived for thirty days. Were registrars of voters required to apply a more philosophically satisfying rule with multiple individual voting districts based on concepts such as a voter's stake in the outcome or simply the frequent presence of a voter in the district, each election would have the potential for massive disputes over registration and the legitimacy of election results. Legal bright lines will always be under- or over-inclusive, but chaos is hardly preferable.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Kiddushin 27

Kiddushin 27 continues an ongoing discussion of kinyan agav karka (transactions where a movable object is transferred as part of the sale of real property).

In discussing two general rules related to shtaros, Rabba Bar Yitzchak mentions the following scenario - a person tells two people to accept property on behalf of another and draw up and give the buyer a document which will serve as documentary proof that the property was sold to him. The two people who had been instructed by the seller are then koneh the karka by way of chazakah and then draw up the shtar, but have not yet given the shtar to the buyer. Rabba Bar Yitzchak teaches that the seller may tell the two people not to give the buyer the shtar, but he cannot revoke the sale of the property once they have acquired it through chazakah.

Tosafos (d'h Chozer) asks the obvious questions - what advantage is it to the seller that he can cause the shtar not to be given to the buyer if the property is still transfered regardless? Tosafos answers that the shtar has a "kol" (voice) and that people will more readily learn that the property has been sold if a shtar is prepared. Why is this significant? Because if people learn that he is selling his assets, they may assume that he has become impoverished and will be less likely to lend him money if he needs it. Shades of the modern credit reports/scores?

In teaching the concept of gilgul shevuah on Kiddushin 27b, the gemara makes reference to the gilgul shevuah by a Sotah in which she states (in response to an instruction by the Kohen) "Amen, Amen." The gemara learns out that she is saying amen to numerous things including that: she accepts the punishment which would come had she been unfaithful; she swears that she was not unfaithful; she accepts that this applies to the man who was the subject of the kinui; she accepts that it is applicable to other men; she affirms that she was not a sotah while engaged (arusah), married (nesuah), awaiting yibum or already had undergone yibum.

Tosafos (d'h Amen) asks - since she only says amen twice, how can it apply to all these matters? Tosafos answers that that one amen covers all the eventualities which are the subject of the biblical verses - she accepts the punishment, affirms she was not unfaithful, whether with the man who was the subject of the kinui or any other man. The second amen then teaches that she accepts that the shevuah will also include the time that she was an arusah or awaiting yibum (which was not the subject of the verses).

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings - Vol XXX - Is Max Becoming a JETS Fan?

Today's Max Kellerman show was football focused, which is not surprising as Max does not care for hockey and the New York Knicks may finish with a worse record than the year before. [I can't even speculate as to Max's feelings about the Nets, because other then the proposed move to Brooklyn, the team does not exist to Max]. However, while Max is a diehard Giants fan, a casual listener to today's show might have believed that Max was becoming a Jets fan.

Some quick thoughts from Max which could be construed as indicia of his changing of allegiances including:

This season has taught us that any given Sunday any professional team could beat another NFL team (examples being the Bengals winning this Sunday and the Jets beating the Bills). Max followed this up with a statement that you can't circle games on the schedule in advance anymore. [If true, this would doom Michael Kay's famous "win,loss,win,loss,win" game].

Max also observed that Jets fans are "furious" that they won the game (a not too subtle shot at Louie the Call Screener). He said later that Jets fans are "polarizing" him into liking Brett Favre.

Max analyzed the Jets chances of making it to and advancing in the playoffs, stating that 8-8 teams are on the bubble and with a little luck an 8-8 team could be 10-6 and make a playoff run or with a little bad luck the team could go 6-10. This rant got the attention of the ad people at 1050 as I already heard a replay of the spiel as a Max Kellerman show promo later in the day.

Max also had specific praise for certain members of the Jets including D. Revis as "the best corner in the NFL", Kerry Rhodes "may be the best safety" and Kris Jenkins is "the best nose tackle in football." In fairness, Max did say later that Justin Tuck may be the best defensive player in football, but this was in response to a caller and not a spontaneous Max statement.

Of course, Max may also be trying to give the Jets an ayin hara, since every team that he has boasted about during the season has tanked (see 2008 Yankees, 2007-2008 Knicks and possibly the 2008-2009 Knicks). Indeed, the one constant of last year's Giants run was Max's playing down of the team and its chances to succeed. There was never a proclamation that the Giants defensive line or running back core was the "greatest of all time." Contrast that with recent statements about the Yankees bullpen or Eddy Curry, Zack Randolph, Randolph Morris or any other Knick.

Max's statement about playoff bubble teams and the ability to get on a run and succeed or run into bad luck and fail finds its roots in Torah thought. The Talmud is replete with references to a person's mazal (luck) and its ability to influence results. The Talmud even warns against antagonizing or confronting a rosha when it is obvious that his mazal is causing him to succeed. So yes Max is correct, sometimes the difference between 8-8 and 10-6 or 6-10 is that little bit of mazal.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Shiner Hefeweizen

This week's Sunday Night Suds beer review takes one last sentimental look at summer beer by reviewing Shiner Hefeweizen.

Shortly before Rosh Hashana, I was contacted by a Rabbi with a question about a certain style of beer. In order to properly answer his question, I needed to verify a certain beer with the Va'ad of Detroit. Since I was corresponding with them anyway, I decided to ask whether any new brands were now under their supervision. To my surprise, I learned that Shiner beers, brewed at the Spoetzel Brewery in Shiner, Texas, were now under the supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit.

Armed with this knowledge, I set out to find Shiner beer. The Shiner website indicated that it was not sold in NY (although I did a little digging and found that at least one BBQ joint in the Village carried it). However, the website did indicate that it was being sold in Illinois. Well, I checked the Sam's website and they indicated that they did carry a number of varieties, so I reserved a six pack of the Hefeweizen and another sixer of the Blonde in advance of our Sukkos trip.

The nice thing about Sam's is that they have a world class selection of beer, wine and spirits in an easily accessible location. Their prices are more than fair and the staff is helpful enough, but also knows when to leave you alone. They even ship by mail (warning, the ship charge is pretty steep, I priced three six packs and the ship charge was $29).

We brought the Shiner brews back to my inlaws and tried them in the sukkah. The Hefeweizen was a solid double, light tasting with some sweetness. Having said that, it did not taste like a classic hefeweizen as the banana-type flavors were not there and there were no floaters. It also did not taste like an American wheat beer either. Still, if I had a case of these I could definitely knock back a couple on a hot summer day.

Shiner Hefeweizen is under the Kosher Supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit, although the brew does not bear the Va'ad symbol on its label. If you would like me to e-mail you the Va'ad LOC for Shiner, send me an e-mail and I will gladly oblige.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about Shiner Hefeweizen, please follow this link

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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