Sometimes, you need a poison plant for your lapel.

As with a lot of poisonous flowers, most people don’t know how to recognize it out and about. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present helleborous niger, black hellebore, hellebore, Christmas rose, winter rose or nisewort. Known as one of the four classical poisons (hellebore, nightshade, hemlock, and aconite) this winter flowering shade perennial is a prime example of beauty disguising danger. Low growing, this plant produces dark green foliage with 5-petaled blossoms in shades of pale green, white, pink, red and maroon (other cultivated species include flowers of black, brown, spotted and combinations of white with red tips and the like). Blooming in winter or early spring, all parts of the plant are poisonous. With irritation of the skin from contact with the sap to symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, nervous system depression, and convulsions from ingestion, the history of this plant is varied.

In Greek mythology, the seer Melampus used hellebore to cure King Proetus’s daughters of madness. Pliny the Elder gave specific instructions on harvesting the black roots of this flower for medicine or malintent. It’s theorized that Alexander the Great died after being given a medicinal dose of hellebore, while the First Sacred War (595-585BCE) was believed to have been won after the Greek military alliance poisoned the water supply of Kirrha with hellebore.

A key ingredient in classic flying ointments, it’s associated with Mars and Saturn with correspondences to water. Used in spells of banishment, exorcisms, protection and invisibility, it was also used to change the nature or other plants. Grafted onto other plants, or used as a fertilizer for fruit trees to make them unpleasant or unhealthy.

Look for helleborous niger, or helleborous officiales if you’re buying seeds. White hellebore or false hellebore looks the same, but is not the classic witch’s flower.

Happy planting everyone

After visiting Upright Brewing yesterday, I took my friend to Apex because he had never had a Pliny. I gave him a couple of my homebrewed clones I made, so now I had to show him the real deal.

My clone wasn’t bad at all, but compared to the real thing, it’s quite humbling. Mine is too bitter.

I had an Evil twin - Imperial doughnut break stout, which was great, but after smelling the Pliny, I wished I had one too.


BrewgieHowser shipped these beers Tuesday and they arrived today…TODAY! That’s from Cali to NY in 2 days. Damn, gotta give a shout out and love to USPS.

While I’ve had a handful of Pliny in my time, this 2.5 week old bottle is the freshest I have ever drunk. I try not to be a stickler about age, but timing is everything if you want a wonderfully fresh and pungent hoppy experience. This, my friends, is as good as it gets.

Fantastic nose on this beer. Citrusy/piney goodness mixed with faint herbaceous notes that are melded together with a faint but present malt back bone. Wisps of garlic are evidence of a highly hopped beer. There is a reason this is one of the best DIPAs on the planet…Heady > Pliny > Abrasive

Flavor is on point, as well. Sweet orange is mixed with a potent vegetal hops bitterness that leaves your taste buds intact and not destroyed from the high IBUs. Alcohol is not a factor and the malt sweetness gives balance to, possibly, THE most balanced DIPA out there. It’s not sessionable, but I could easily kick back 3-4 of these in a sitting and still be able to function.

Russian River, keep doing what you’re doing. This is always a treat to drink.



Untappd is often a source of much hilarity and eye-rolling when my wife sees my face illuminated with the glow of my smart phone, “logging” whatever beer I’ve just ordered. However in Sacramento she resigned to the fact that this little app was our essential orienteering tool for navigating our new unchartered city. Within a 1 mile radius of our hotel it had found a beer from my wish list. Scratch that, the number 1 from my wish list… And so we set forth to get schooled, at the University of Beer.

Laid out like a college bar I half expected to be given a wedgie and surrender my dinner money upon entering the sleek and shiny venue. It was of course filled with people like myself, interested in furthering their education in brews. On the digital board before me shone the words I’d longed to see since my inauguration into the loyal order of the craft; Russian River‘s Pliny the Elder (8%). It didn’t disappoint…

Fresh, aromatic, aggressively hoppy, but never to it’s detriment, Pliny was a faultless Imperial IPA experience. Tingling carbonation and crystal clear clarity – it reminded me of Thornbridge’s Jaipur; only on steroids!! Yet there is a softness that caresses the palate, complementing that long bitter finish. I felt like I’d just graduated. With honours!

In an attempt to order a scoop of Ballast Point’s legendary Sculpin IPA (7%) I was presented with a glass of metallic-inflected fish guts. Not literally of course but whatever had been poured into my glass was not the anticipated explosion of tropical, sticky wonder I’d hoped for. Much to my frustration exchanging the beer proved somewhat trickier than a simple swap, with bar staff and management tying themselves in knots as to their policy on returning drinks. Madness – I know…

After 10 frankly daft minutes of Benny Hill-esque incompetency the matter was finally resolved and by means of apology I was offered any beer from the expansive list. I chose Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA (9%). Now, if I’d have had 90 Mins 30 mins earlier, I would have crowned this the world’s greatest DIPA; however it falls just shy of that Pliny bar – but dear lord that bar is high… Again, a wealth of tropical hops and gargantuan waves of citrus slaps me about like the Tango man. The 9% is pretty well hidden too and doesn’t reveal itself until we decide it’s time to get some food and my legs go a bit wobbly.

[ My wife having the wurst time at Lowbrau ]

Our trusty Untappd locates the perfect spot with a fantastic array of beer and food – which is probably more vital than the suds right now, since I need to soak up those DIPAs slushing around my empty stomach. We arrive at Lowbrau; an incredibly trendy and lively Bierhall specialising in the finest, gourmet and exotic sausages from the region. We secure a bench and lead with our stomachs. I order the Polish sausage; beef, pork, Pilsner and spices, topped with Bier Cheese and pickled jalapeños. If you think that sounds like heaven, well it was. At first first the acidic and peppery spices dominate; all is then softened with the creamy and garlic cheese in the finish. I matched it with The Bruery’s Hottenroth (3.1%); a sharp and acerbic traditional Berliner Weisse that pierced the Polish spice notes like a sour stake through a vampyre’s sausage heart! Earthy notes and bread soften the initial tart slap and the finish was dry and unforgiving.

By the time we finish scoffing our food the hall was pulsating with bodies and the music dialled up a notch or 4 - we decide it’s time for something less hedonistic… Which brings us to the Tank House BBQ and Bar into which we duck for a “swift” night cap. After chatting with the barman who once lived in Coventry (about 100 miles from Manchester, which in US terms is just down the road) he gifts us drinks on the house – top lad. My selection of 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon (4.9%) acts as the perfect cleansing beer for what I think is the end of the night. It’s soft, dry and the semi-sweet watermelon is definitely present, complementing the wheat and bread notes. I could drink this all night long… And to a certain extent, so do the party adjacent to our table. Within seconds of finishing Hell or High… a can of Hamms Lager (4.7%) is thrust into my hand to accompany the colossal piece of meaty bone I’ve just retrieved from a bucket of sticky ribs. I gotta say, I could get used to this Sacramento hospitality – though my head the following morning would be less inclined to make this a habit.

And so to this city and it’s people (despite the minor hiccup at UoB) thank you, but it is Untappd to whom I salute; our Christopher Columbus. Steering our ship through waters unknown to pleasures by the bucketful.


Dry hopped today. Had to figure out how I was going to keep from loosing a lot of beer come bottling time since I’m dry hopping with 5 ounces. I used 2 paint strainer bags and divided the pellets into 8 groups. Inside of the first little bulb, I put 2 little weights so that the hops don’t just float at the top of the beer. The bulbs were pretty big and I kind of freaked out when I went to put them into the fermentor, but I managed to shove them in. My girlfriend said that it looked like I was shoving anal beads into my fermenter. I might as well have been. 

Pliny the Elder! Finally! I’ve heard about this beer for many years, but never had a chance to try out here in Minnesota. I recently went to Los Angeles, and my awesome wife did some research for me to find this. Now I’m back and now here it is in front of me. 

This is an 8% ABV IPA by Russian River Brewing Company. A great pour, clean and clear with a nice head. A nice hop aroma, but not too intense. The taste is great, well balanced from start to finish. It’s a very clean, clear base. Not a lot of malt flavor but I expected that from the color. This was definitely designed to showcase the hops.

The hops are very piney, not citrusy like a lot of American IPAs. Nice hop punch without being overwhelming. A good bitter aftertaste as the hops fade away. The hops fade a bit faster than citrusy hops, leaving a drier bitter taste in your mouth. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you.

So overall it’s a great beer, I’m really glad I was able to try it. I’m not sure that it’s worthy of the hype I’ve heard, but don’t let that stop you from trying it if you get the chance.

There are so many great beers on this planet.  Now there’s one less that I haven’t tried! Cheers!


Who knew...

So I just found out that hag stones aren’t a universal phenomenon and are like a mainly British and German thing, In his Natural History Pliny was just like “Those crazy Druids have some stone things that literally no one in Greece has heard of… it’ll mess you up with its magic, run the fuck away if you see a Briton or a Gaul wearing one.”  


Busy day.

After pressure washing in the rain for most of the working day, I came home and made a starter for a Russian Imperial Stout for the weekend and then bottled the Pliny the elder clone.

12 - 22oz
12 - 16oz
6 - 12oz

Total - 528oz.

So a bit of hop beer loss, but it could’ve been worse. My bottling bucket kept getting clogged with hop matter, but I was able to make it through. The last couple of 12oz bottles suffered some air intake, so I marked those and will hope for the best.

It smelled great!

Plus, I caught a rainbow in my beer.