Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kotas Reviews Chedder Cheese Larvets

Well, I guess today marks a new milestone for this blog: I actually try something I've never ever had, nor had anything remotely like it. That's cool eh? So, in a lot of those lovely post apocalyptic stories that have been so popular as of late, instead of normal protein sources like cows, beans, chicken, and so on, people have resorted to such delicacies as rodent, human, and the lowly insect to satisfy their needs. In fact, in many parts of the world, insects of various types are considered a delicacy. So I guess I'm stepping into that world as today we try: Chedder Cheese flavored Larvets!

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me. Think I'll go...oh Hey!
So it's come to this. Actually, a friend of mine brought these to me because [REDACTED] thought it would make for an entertaining review (Thanks [REDACTED]!). My initial response? "I'm sure it's fine." I mean, come on. It's just a few mealworms and I've probably eaten some unknown number of those simply from consuming processed food. Whatever. I will say the packaging is exactly what I would expect, though why cheddar cheese was paired with this I'll never understand. Let's open it up!

Maybe they are just sleeping...
Well, they smell like...I don't even know. Earthy is how I would describe it, and there is exactly zero hint that cheddar cheese was involved in any way with these things. Otherwise, they look like dead mealworms, legs and all. They are a bit greasy to the touch, but I assume that is because they were fried or something. Maybe they are just naturally oily? I don't eat many insects to be sure, so I have no idea. For the record, that is the entire contents of the box. The box itself cost $2.50 and contained a total of 10 calories. These are clearly only for the novelty factor rather than being an actual snack. Snapping one of these folks open reveals a mostly hollow shell anyway. Why am I eating these again?

Suuuuuper dead. Could be useful for your Klingon Cosplay Dinner Party I guess.
While examining these critters, my 3 year old wandered in and asked what I was doing. She then stated "I wanna eat worms!" and began shoving them in her mouth. There's no accounting for taste, but if she can do it, surely I can! Down the hatch! 

Honestly, the flavor here is "vague". They taste exactly nothing like cheddar cheese in any way, shape, or form. They have a vague nuttiness to them, but otherwise? It's like chewing on a popcorn hull. There's very little flavor of ANY kind, good or bad or indifferent, and what is there is more an expression of their texture than anything else. Imagine eating a stale Cheeto with no flavor dust and you sorta get in the ballpark. Once the novelty wore off, both I and my daughter just lost interest in eating them. They leave a nasty aftertaste though once you stop chomping though, like stale popcorn mixed with paper. Yuck!

On the FACE Rating System, these little guys get 2 frowny faces. I didn't bother finishing the few that I had because they just taste like nothing, the texture isn't great, and the aftertaste is nasty. Maybe it was this particular flavor, but these suck-diddly-uck. They weren't spit out horrible, but they bring nothing to the table except the fact that you can go "Hey! I ate bugs!" Maybe they might be fun as edible decoration on some sort of Halloween or gross out themed party, but otherwise? Skip it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Kotas Reviews Ole Smoky Pumpkin Pie Moonshine

There comes a time in every person's life when the world seems dimmer than usual. When the cold seeps farther into the bones than you once thought it did. When the howling of uncounted centuries seems to ring in your ears, as the last fading rays of sunlight vanish and you are left in the empty, quiet darkness of your own making. Also, you wanna get shitfaced like a boss, so you turn to the only solace available from a mason jar: Moonshine! Ladies and Gentlemen, let's drink some 'shine! Pumpkin Pie Moonshine!

Existential Despair Not Included
Honestly, I don't see what all the fuss is about. This stuff is 40 proof, which is, in the words of Albert Einstein, "pretty fuckin' weak". Most liquor starts at 80 proof and then moves on up the scale from there, though some flavored rums and vodkas come in at 70 or even 60 proof. Still, you can do a couple of shots of this and NOT fall on your ass immediately, so that's a plus! I must admit that pumpkin pie is an odd choice of flavoring for any drink, let alone MOONSHINE, but hey, who am I to judge? 

Ole Smoky was the first licensed distillery in East Tennessee, once Tennessee state law was altered to allow distillation of moonshine. It comes in a mason jar, and while the original White Lightning is a rockin' 100 proof, the various flavors range from 100 all the way down to 40 proof, like today's example. I admit I don't have a lot of experience with moonshine, and this is my first taste of it. Good times, eh? Let's see it!

Because a shot is the only real way to go here.
It smells like a Yankee Candle Truck hit a liquor store, very fake pumpkin and wax overtones. I almost feel like I should be putting this in a potpourri bowl instead of getting ready to drink it. The color is exactly what I would expect though. This stuff tastes exactly like it smells, plasticy and cloying, like I imagine the liquid you would add to a scented candle to give it the pumpkin scent would taste like. It is not undrinkable, but it certainly isn't good. 

On the Face Rating System, this gets 2 frowny faces. Not only does it taste terrible, it won't even get you drunk fast so you'd have to taste a LOT of it before you stopped caring. If you took all the hatred of pumpkins some people had, concentrated it into liquid form, and then added booze, you might get something that resembles this. Definitely not recommended, but if you are feeling very brave and don't have to pay for it, you might have a sip. Or you might get some actual real booze to drink instead of this garbage.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Kotas Reviews the HiRez Expo 2017

You know, I've never been into sports, not like many other people are. I appreciate the levels of athleticism and skill that are required to be good at many sports, but in a detached sort of way. I will often root for an arbitrary team, but I can still be impressed by a good play by other teams (to the endless frustration of my sports-loving companions) enough to cheer for them. What I do enjoy though, are e-sports. E-sports are video games that can be played competitively and share a lot of similarities to physical sports: They require skill and physical ability (especially hand/eye coordination and reflexes) to excel in, and generally have teams competing against each other for glory. The best e-sports are those that can be viewed and enjoyed by people unfamiliar with them, much like many real world sports. I don't have to know much about baseball to appreciate a sweet catch.

Anyway, Mobas are some of the biggest e-sports in the world right now. Five players come together against five other players, each using individual characters with unique abilities, to ultimately destroy the other team's fortress or titan or whatever. The third biggest Moba in the world is SMITE: Battleground of the Gods. It was developed and published by HiRez Studios, out of Atlanta, GA. I've played the game a little, but never seriously. When a buddy of mine suggested I attend the HiRez Expo to watch the Championships...well, color me intrigued.

The view from the 3rd Floor
The Expo was held at the Cobb Galleria in Marietta, GA. This was a convenient venue with lots of parking nearby...for a fee. Still, it was pretty convenient to park there, given the terribly cold weather. The Expo exists to show off the company's major titles (SMITE, Console SMITE, and the newest one Paladins), and the official esports leagues associated with them. SMITE and Console SMITE were full on tournaments that have the backing of the company and run a full league throughout the year. The Paladins competition was an invitational, since the game isn't out of Beta yet. There were also some displays that showed off their newest games: Smite Tactics, which uses Smite characters for a grid-based, card-using tactical combat game, and Smite Rivals, which is a more different version of Clash Royale and meant for mobile gaming. Both titles were playable, though I unfortunately did not get any time with them. I did however get a Smite Tactics Beta Key as a part of the swag. 
Look at all that majesty!
Picture from: @philippawarr on Twitter. She writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
The main arena is where all the action was for SMITE, and it was pretty awesome. There were three levels of seats: The Main Area, which filled up very quickly with fans, the First Balcony, reserved for media, friends and family, and other VIPs, and the Second Balcony, which is for everyone else. Needless to say, I and my companions sat there for the entire tournament. Luckily, the view was really good from the majority of seats. It was a little hard to tell some of the statistics if you weren't familiar with the graphics of the game, but all the action was very clear and easy to follow. Unfortunately, the seats themselves left a lot to be desired. It wasn't awful, but at the end of the day I was glad to not have to sit in them anymore.

I'll be honest, I know only the bare minimum about SMITE. I know the basics, and the abilities of maybe 3 characters (or Gods in SMITE parlance), and that's it. Even so, I was able to follow the action of the games well enough to have a favorite player and favorite god by the end of the whole thing (Ra is my BAE!), and to understand WHY the crowd would cheer and holler during particular plays. SMITE is really good for watching, though it isn't quite as polished a viewing experience as, say, Hearthstone. Still, way more action than Hearthstone which made it super fun.

The venue was busy, but it never felt too crowded, even when the arena was packed. The Expo room had free Red Bull, but that was the only provided consumables. The refreshment stand had your basic arena fare: Pretzels, soda, coffee, candy, etc. I was a little disappointed at the lack of popcorn, but pleasantly surprised at the booze selection. Not just crappy domestics, it had a decent store of hard liquor too! The prices were venue prices, and thus high. Still, man does not live on pretzels alone. For more substantial fare, several food trucks were parked outside for most of the day, serving a variety of foods. I sampled a couple of hot dogs on one day, that were fancy and tasty, at fancy food truck prices. Eating offsite was the better option, if you didn't mind missing some stuff. Since I was mostly interested in SMITE, only the Semi-Final day (which was all matches all the time) kept me in the arena the entire day. 

It was nice to be able to meet with some of the casters and players up close, though I didn't really want to bother them. We had one guy commenting from behind us during the first of the semi-final sets, and the second one had a player from the first set and his posse sitting in front of us. It added a touch of the personal to the proceedings, as we all groaned about a terrible Izanami pick in the last game of the Semis. If you don't know what that means, don't worry about it too much. The cosplayers were out on a few days, though the contest got culled from the schedule due to bad weather. That was a shame because some of those costumes were incredible. Sadly, no Ra Cosplay was to be found. #NeverRa.

While we got a few nice things for attending the event, I wish there had been more rewards for people who actually went and watched the events, instead of just streaming it. It is really nice of the SMITE folks to stream every match via Twitch, and they even let you link your Twitch and HiRez accounts so you can get free in-game items randomly as you watch the stream. That's awesome, but some of my companions simply left the stream up at home while we all went to the event. I didn't do this, because I didn't even know that was a thing, and thus I didn't really get anything for SMITE for going to the event. Since I left early though, I caught the finals on stream and got a bunch of little things. Again, that's very generous of them (and gets them the Twitch views they crave), but I paid a lot of money to actually attend the event and didn't get anything for SMITE out of it. This is a nitpick though, because I really enjoyed the experience. 

On the FACE Rating System, I give the HiRez Expo 2 Smiley Faces. It is the sporting event I didn't know I wanted to go to, but boy am I glad I did. For a 4-Day event, the price was pretty reasonable at $100, the swag was okay, and the action was fast and furious. There is something magical about watching a competition with a crowd (but not too much of a crowd) in a mostly comfortable space. Even if you don't attend, do try to catch a match or two on a stream and see what all the excitement is about. SMITE is a pretty fun game, and the HiRez folk are good people. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kotas Reviews Shiner Holiday Cheer

Ah, it's a brand new year here at Kotas Reviews, and we're just finishing up the last of the eggnog and putting away the decorations. Last year was a good one as far as reviews go, and I hope that this year is just as full of unique reviewing opportunities as the last one! That said, I think some beer is needed. Today we take a look at Shiner's holiday brew, the appropriately named Holiday Cheer.
Why is holiday in such small letters?
As with their Oktoberfest brew the people at Spoetzl Brewery really know how to properly theme a label to the occasion. Clearly a Shiner product, but the red and green accents are completely different from their usual yellow and black, and it has just enough seasonal art touches (holly, snowflakes) to seem right at home in a gift basket. I'm loving the holiday labels this year on my various beers. Let's see how it looks in the glass!

Brownest of the Holiday Beers.
It looks like a nice brown ale, though the label says it was brewed with peaches and pecans. That's very Southern for a Christmas beer. I grew up in the South and I don't really remember peaches being a big thing during the holidays, though pecans have always been popular. Eh, I'm sure it's fine. I mean, how could I go wrong twice in one year?

Well, shows what I know about anything. Yeah, I'm not super pleased with this beer. The initial flavor is decent despite its peachy overtones, but it's got a lingering bitterness that hints at poorly roasted pecans. The underlying "beerness" is fine, but all the little accents are wrong. It's like when you walk into a restaurant and they have holiday stuff up, but on closer inspection its for a different holiday that you would think. It's not awful, certainly, and in fact may be just the beer for someone else. But it certainly ain't for me.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 frowny face solely on disappointment. If it hadn't been pitched as a holiday beer, it would probably get 0 faces, but I was expecting a least SOMETHING I thought would be Christmasy, or at least New Year's-y. What I got instead was a beer that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, and so tries a bunch of different things to see if something works. Or maybe it was just made with whatever they had leftover in the "odd mixin's" bag. Great label though.