The Thirsty Beagle: Beer, sports and life's minor annoyances -- the blog is back

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Beer, sports and life's minor annoyances -- the blog is back

Blogger's note: Hey there. So, it's been a minute since I've posted anything on the blog -- about nine months to be exact. When I've been out and about at a brewery or beer event, people have asked what the deal was. I appreciated people asking. The reason for the hiatus was really just life kinda getting in the way -- moving to a new house, getting a new job, just having a lot going on in general. I like to think that if someone's going to take the time to read something, the author should take the time and energy to make it worth reading -- and I just wasn't able to commit to doing that. For the past few weeks, as my day-to-day has been normalizing, I've been contemplating getting back on the blogging train, and now here I am. What a great time to be taking part in the beer conversation in Oklahoma, right?! So, what will that conversation look like for me? For starters, I've opted for a different approach on the blog this time around. Each blog will be broken into three categories: Beer, sports and stuff that pisses me off. If there's anything I like as much as a well-crafted beer, it's sports and griping about life's minor annoyances, so that's what I'm going to write about. Secondly, I'm going to focus on making each post worth reading, instead of pumping out a high volume of maybe-only-somewhat-interesting content. So that will mean only two to three posts per month -- posts where I can actually deep-dive on the writing, instead of focusing on re-hashing the latest pint night calendar listings and stuff like that. All of the local bars and breweries are doing a great job promoting themselves. They can continue to do that, and I'll focus on writing about beer like I were talking about it over a couple beers. I hope you enjoy!

BEER

So I understand Oct. 1 was some kind of notable day for beer and alcohol in Oklahoma? Seriously though, we've been saddled with Prohibition-style laws since, you know, Prohibition. It's kinda refreshing and kinda crazy to think we're in a whole new era now. And there's a lot to like.

While I've picked up many Spare Ribs over the years at my local Uptown and Crest, it will definitely be nice to have regular-strength beer in my neighborhood grocery stores. I was picking up groceries at Crest recently, and was actually fairly impressed with the beer selection there. They had several local options in stock (COOP and Anthem most prominently), plus some mainline offerings like Dogfish 60 Minute and Lagunitas IPA. You could do worse if you couldn't make it to the liquor store.

The wine at Crest was decent, too. Mrs. Beagle and I have settled into a pretty good routine of always having a Bota Box on tap in the fridge, and seeing them marked down to about $17 per box was pretty exciting -- usually they run anywhere from $20 to $24 at the liquor store.

And of course it's not all about the grocery stores. Things are changing at the breweries, as we know. The No. 1 change in my opinion is that kids are now allowed. This is a great change. Anymore, going to a brewery for a drink isn't really that much different from going to grab a beer at the Buffalo Wild Wings. The biggest difference is that the breweries had been demonized by our outdated laws (there are other differences, like breweries being local companies making a great product by hand, but I digress). This means people now can patronize local establishments with the whole family, and not have to pass up on patronizing certain local establishments because you can't get a babysitter that day.

A second big win for breweries -- and consumers -- is that the brewers can keep regular bar hours now, and not have to close down or cut off sales of regular-strength beer at 9 p.m. This one's not as big as the kid-friendly deal, but on the rare occasion I can actually stay out (and stay awake) past 9 p.m., it's pretty cool to know I can incorporate the breweries into my plans.

There are other perks to our new laws as well, like bars being able to hold real happy hours, full-strength beer at street festivals, and the almost-assured addition of several new gastro breweries in the near future, among other things.

But...

Things are really gonna suck for a lot of liquor stores out there. And I say that not because I want liquor stores to fail. In fact, I've been on the record many times saying that I believe the liquor store will still be the go-to spot for good beer selection. After seeing Crest's fully-stocked selection, this is proven out. I like to try as many local breweries as I can, and with having to commit so much shelf space to BMC, Sam Adams and the like, the grocery stores will definitely fall short on the type of selection I'll ultimately be looking for. Plus, with popular beermakers like Roughtail and Angry Scotsman electing to self-distribute, there's no guarantee you'll see those brands at the grocery store.

But on the flip side of that coin, now I can get F5 and Anthem IPA at Crest, plus Bota Box, plus I can splurge on a $30 or $40 bottle of wine if I want. If I'm being purely objective, that may be the type of stuff I pick up at the liquor store on any given visit anyway. If I can get all that while I'm picking up groceries, that's a pretty appealing option.

And that's the rub for the liquor stores. We love our convenience. We hate having to make two stops when one will do. I may really want to get a diverse selection of beer, but if the selection at the grocery store will suffice, maybe I'll skip the liquor store now and again strictly on convenience grounds. And that's me -- someone who really values a varied selection. What about the person who only wants their Cupcake or Barefoot wine? That person I'd bet is not going back to the liquor store.

From there, it's a matter of simple economics. The number of liquor stores-per-capita that we have aligns with the rules that were in effect pre-SQ 792. That math is not gong to work going forward -- once a huge volume of wine sales are siphoned off the books.

It's a sad deal, but not an unexpected deal. It's why the liquor store lobby fought so hard to beat back the state question. Unfortunately, when you blow up the system, there's bound to be some collateral damage.

Moving forward, liquor stores will have to compete like all business -- on price, service and selection. I've been in stores that didn't hit on any of those criteria, and those are the stores that likely won't make it.

SPORTS

While October brought good news for beer fans, it brought relatively bad news for the Thunder. Not only are there questions about Russell Westbrook's availability due to an off-season knee scope, but it was just announced that Andre Roberson will be out another two months because of a setback in his rehab from last year's knee injury.

The Thunder really seemed to be hitting their stride right before Roberson went down, so this news is not really that great -- but it doesn't mean all is lost. I know Roberson is a menace on defense, but let's remember, I can shoot a basketball better than he can. For everything Roberson brings on the defensive end of the court, he always leaves the Thunder playing 4-on-5 on offense to some extent. And if nothing else, this allows the Thunder the chance to experiment with Dennis Schroeder in the starting lineup as a two-guard, or for someone like Terrence Ferguson to see if he can carve out a role in the starting five.

Regardless of who starts, we should expect the Thunder to be better this year, with Paul George having a full season under his belt to mesh with Westbrook and Steven Adams. For success to materialize, however, I've come up with four actions items for the Thunder for the 2018-19 season:

1. Don't give Carmelo the ball as much. Well, he's in Houston now, so problem solved! Seriously though, I'm fully in the addition-by-subtraction camp when it comes to Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. He's an all-time talent, but he was not a fit as the third wheel behind Westbrook and George. Anytime he got the ball it was 100 percent obvious he was going to shoot -- his catch-and-wait-and-then-shoot approach ground the offense to a halt every time. When he made shots, it was OK. But Anthony has always been a volume/rhythm shooter -- it was acceptable on the Knicks when taking 30 shots a night was that team's best option. On the Thunder, not so much. Mainly he took shots away from George. Re-distributing Anthony's touches to Westbrook and George will be a plus this year.

2. Remember that Steven Adams still plays in the second half. The Thunder frequently dominated first halves last year, then almost just as frequently coughed up big leads in the second half. The common denominator in most of those games was riding Adams in the opening frames, then seemingly forgetting he was on the team after the intermission. The Thunder were 20-11 (a winning percentage of 64.5 percent) in games where Adams scored 15 or more points. They were 37-23 (61.6 percent) in games where Adams scored in double-digits. They were 48-34 on the season (58.5 percent) overall. A 15-points-per-game Adams puts the Thunder theoretically at 53-29 last season, which would have bumped them up to third in the standings instead of fourth. The key is sticking with what worked in the first half -- giving Adams a high volume of touches -- in the second half.

3. Pick up the pace after helping on the high pick-and-roll. Did it seem like the Thunder gave up a disproportionate amount of wide-open threes last season? It did to my eyes, and more often than not is was because of late rotation to the open shooter. But this was not the wing defenders' fault. As much as I gave Adams credit in the previous point, he owns the blame here. He frequently was late to retreat back to the paint after hedging to help on the high screen-and-roll. This often led to a wing defender having to dive down from the three point line to help close off the lane. The predictable drive-and-kick to the wide-open shooter followed. Adams simply needs to fall back to the paint more quickly after helping to avoid having the Thunder defense caught chasing the ball on D.

4. Find a reasonable baseline three threat. The most dominant runs in Thunder history have coincided with having either Kevin Martin or Thabo Sefalosha nailing threes from regularity from the corner. This is not rocket science. Either you have someone hitting threes, which is great, or you have someone that the defense is worried about hitting threes standing in the corner and pulling a defender out of the lane, which is also great, as it creates space for Westbrook/George to drive to the rim or for Adams to operate in the post. The key is someone has to hit some shots and establish the reputation of being a threat from that spot. My money is on Patrick Patterson to fill that role. He shot 38.6 percent from three last year, second only to George in success rate on the team, while struggling to find his role off the bench. I'd advocate starting Patterson as a floor-spacing four who spots up in the corner on offense. With rhythm and regularity, he likely can bump that percentage up a bit, which would open up the floor for the rest of the offense.

STPMO (Stuff that pisses me off)

When I was a young teenager, I would spend my summers pretty much glued to the seat of my seven-speed mountain bike. Me and a bunch of friends rode every day. We'd venture out from our suburban Toronto neighborhoods, meet up at a gas station to air up our tires and hit the road. Eight miles to the nearest park with mountain bike trails. Eighteen miles to the beach near downtown Toronto. Twenty-two miles to go go-karting in a suburb east of the city. We'd ride all day, and it was great.

I say all that to say, I have no problem whatsoever with cyclists. I don't even really mind that much if a huge pack of them is clicking along at 10 mph on the roads in northwest Oklahoma County while I have to slowly drive behind and wait for a chance to pass. But God help me I will immediately turn into the Incredible Hulk when that pack of cyclists comes up to an intersection and rolls through without stopping at the stop sign. NO!!!! You want to ride on the road at 10 mph and make me plod along behind you in my car? I am fine with that!

You are allowed to do that and I salute you for getting out to get some exercise in the fresh air. But when you come to a stop sign, now you want special treatment where you can completely disregard the rules of the road? NOOOO!!!!!! You can't have it both ways! When I'm driving in my car, I'd love to be able to glance side to side to see if cars are coming and then just roll through an intersection without stopping at the sign. It would save wear and tear on my brakes, it would save gas, it would cut down on my drive time. It would be awesome! But it also would be against the rules.

Cyclists, if you want to be on the road like all the cars, then follow the rules like all the cars. STOP AT THE STOP SIGN!

OK, deep breath. I'm done. Talk to you next time!

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