Beer and Cheese for Special Occasions and Holidays

Some people just do not get the subtleties of wine. The reason might be that they have never tried good wine served at the right temperature. For whatever reason, many people eschew wine in favor of beer for holidays and other special occasions. Beer makes an excellent choice because it usually has less alcohol, helping guests to avoid inebriation. When hosts pair good beer with superior cheeses, they create an elegant party spread. Quality microbrews and other classic beers provide a gourmet touch for New Year’s Eve or any other occasion.

Great pairings will impress even the most demanding guests. Choosing the right pairing is a matter of personal choice, but some suggestions may help generate ideas for entertaining. Choose the best quality cheeses that fit the budget and include several varieties. Thoughtful hosts provide a mild cheese for timid palates, and add other nibbles such as vegetables and dips, gourmet crackers, flatbread, or bruschetta. Bruschetta is toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic and topped with diced tomatoes, olive oil, basil and a little balsamic vinegar. Mild cheeses include Swiss, mozzarella, provolone, Munster, and American. These cheeses pair well with white beers or pale ales

The choices are plentiful for successful pairings. Roquefort or bleu cheese is a great choice and, and hosts might choose a yeasty Trappist ale such as Chimay Bleue. Sharp cheddar is always a good decision, and any full-bodied beer will complement this cheese. Gruyère goes very well with wheat beers because both have a nutty flavor. Brie or goat cheese matches the flavor of a pilsner beer. Emmental tastes divine when served with bock beer.

Camembert is made from unprocessed milk, which adds a yeasty taste, that pairs with dark, yeasty beers. Some cheese makers today have switched to pasteurized milk, but try to find the unpasteurized variety for the best match. Brie is the best-known French cheese, but tastes very differently when sampled in France. Genuine French Brie is unstabilized, and it has more complex flavors when the cheese has matured. Brie that is pure white is not mature. Once a wheel of brie is cut, it will never mature. Hosts should try to find as many cheeses as possible made with unpasteurized milk because these cheeses have a yeasty tang that enhances the flavor of good beer.

Any beer that people enjoy can be included, and hosts should include several choices of beer and varieties of cheese. Great special occasion beers include Rochefort 10, Duvel, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Blue Moon, Liefmans Fruitesse, Maredsous Brown, and Vedett Extra White. Rochefort 10 is expensive at $11 a bottle, but the flavor is perfect for very special occasions—it will simply blow guests away with the flavor complexity. Duvel, Blue Moon, Liefmans Fruitesse, Maredsous Brown, and Vedett Extra White are Belgian beers with rich flavors and complex characteristics that complement cheese.

Cream Havarti is Denmark’s most famous cheese, and is a mild, creamy, semi-soft cheese that comes in a log, and often in enhanced with jalapenos, dill, garlic and other herbs. Chevre is a white cheese from the Burgundy region of France that has a creamy texture and mild tangy flavor that pairs well with lighter beers and pale ales. A good spread for a special occasion should include some antipasti selections such as cured meats, olives, peperoncini, anchovies, marinated mushrooms, and artichoke hearts.

Fondue is a warm, cheese dish that originated in Switzerland and is great for entertaining. The dish is traditionally made from wine and a mixture of two or more cheeses. Flour or cornstarch is added to help hold the emulsion. A hint of garlic is usually included and the cheese is stirred constantly until melted in a communal fondue pot called a caquelon. Kirsch is often added to give a tangy zing to the melted dish, and guests dip toasted bread cubes into the melted cheese. Traditionally Emmental and Gruyére are mixed with white wine, but there is no reason that a quality beer and cheese of choice cannot be substituted. Just try the combination first to ensure the flavor is suitable.

A Beginners Guide to Bowling Balls

If you are looking for something fun to do with your kids, then there is nothing more fun for the whole family than bowling. Bowling is one of the few sports that everyone can play, but it is still extremely difficult to master. If you want to get the most out of your bowling experience, then you need to get your own bowling ball.

There are several different types of bowling balls that all do different things while on the lane. The easiest way to classify the different bowling balls is to separate them based on performance. The four different bowling ball classifications are plastic, entry level, mid level and high performance. This distinction is based only on how much the ball will hook on the lane. A high performance bowling ball is not going to get more strikes than a lower level bowling ball. If you know the differences between the four types of bowling balls, then you will be able to know exactly what type of ball you need to succeed at the sport.


Plastic bowling balls are the most basic and cheapest bowling balls on the market, and will cost around $100 to purchase. Plastic bowling balls are designed to go straight. You will not be able to get a proper hooking motion out of plastic bowling ball. Plastic bowling balls are generally used to teach younger kids how to properly throw a bowling ball. Advanced bowlers will also use plastic balls to help them pick their spares. Since a hooking bowling ball will get you more strikes, it is not ideal to use a plastic ball as your primary bowling ball.

Entry Level Performance

Entry level performance bowling balls are designed to give a small hooking motion before the bowling ball hits the pins. This small hooking motion will help scatter the pins and increase your chances of getting a strike. Since entry level bowling balls have the smallest hooking motion, they can be easily controlled by new bowlers. Entry level performance bowling balls are slightly more expensive than plastic. It will cost about $140 to buy an entry level bowling ball and get it drilled to properly fit your hand. More advanced bowlers will also use entry level bowling balls when all of their other balls are hooking too much.

Mid Level Performance

Mid level performance bowling balls will provide the ideal amount of hook for most bowling alleys. While a mid level bowling ball will match up on more bowling lanes, they may be rather difficult to control for beginning bowlers. It will cost about $180 for a mid level performance bowling ball once you pay to get it drilled to fit your hand. If you have regularly bowled for a few years, then a mid level performance bowling ball may be the ideal choice.

High Performance

High performance bowling balls are designed to give the bowler the most hook, and will cost around $230. High performance bowling balls are made to provide advance bowlers a ball to use on the most difficult lane conditions. If there is a lot of oil on the lane, then mid level and entry level bowling balls will struggle to hook. High performance bowling balls for perfect for this occasion. If you are not bowling in difficult tournaments, then you will probably never see enough oil to have to use a high performance bowling ball. These bowling balls should not be used by beginning bowlers because they will provide an uncontrollable amount of hook. While the big hook will look cool on the lane, you scores will suffer.

Fantasy Baseball Auction Draft Tips

Auction drafts have become increasingly popular in the fantasy baseball world. Many leagues have moved away from the assigned order draft format and opted for auctions instead to fill team rosters.

The auction style of drafting is done by allotting each league member a certain amount of imaginary money. That fictional budget is then used to bid on Major League Baseball players. A team owner making the highest bid wins a player and that pattern continues until all rosters are full.

For some fantasy owners, the idea of participating in an auction draft might be a bit intimidating. Auctions require much more direct involvement than a standard format does. However, most owners that take time to prepare should not have trouble making the adjustment.

Below are four important steps to follow when participating in a fantasy baseball auction draft.

1. Be Aware of League Setup
Knowledge of all league settings is very important when participating in auction drafts. Owners should be aware of such things as roster size, positions needed, scoring methods and categories used. Every owner should have this in mind when making bids.

Players that can help most, based on league settings, should be pursued and bid highest on by team owners. Generally players that produce well in multiple categories will go for the highest prices. Aside from this, those in keeper leagues should draft with the future in mind as well.

2. Know Position Depth
In every draft, there will be more talent available at certain positions than others. For example, there might be an abundance of good hitters at third base, but very few at second. Understanding the talent depth at each position helps owners determine how and where money should be spent.

A position with several good hitters might yield some bargain prices. This is because some good players might be left over as owners move on to filling other roster positions. On the flip side, owners bidding for a position scarce in talent will probably have to pay extra for one of the few quality players available there.

3. Avoid Bidding Wars
During the draft there will be a few players that certain owners really want. In the auction format, bidding for such players can get very high between some league members. Before submitting a bid, it is important to keep the actual value of that player in mind.

Sometimes the excitement of a bidding war might make an owner temporarily forget what a player is truly worth. Instead he might overspend and ultimately hurt his budget. Generally it is advised for owners to quit bidding when the price exceeds the player’s value.

4. Understand Opponent Tendencies
Every member of a fantasy baseball league will have his own particular style of drafting. Some might be aggressive and like to spend a lot of money early to get players they want. Anticipating opponent moves like this can help team owners plan and execute a strategy around it.

When dealing with aggressive spenders, a good idea is to find out the exact players and/or positions they are interested in. Once this is known, bidding against them in those particular areas should be avoided if possible. Also it should be noted that someone spending a lot of money early in the draft would probably be easy to outbid later on.

Fantasy Football: Preparing for the Playoffs

Fantasy football league champions are usually determined through a playoff system. Typically this involves an elimination tournament played by teams with the best regular season records. Although formats and rules may vary between each league, the basic concept still remains in place.

As the regular season progresses, you will notice that certain teams are already playoff bound. As the end of a season nears, most other available spots will be accounted for as well. Hopefully one of these coveted positions will belong to you this fantasy football season.

If that does happen, there are certain ways to start getting ready for the playoffs. Even if regular season games are left to play, there are some aspects to consider which can give you an edge. Below you will find some of the most common playoff preparation techniques used in fantasy football.

Know Playoff Start Date
Chances are your league playoffs start a few weeks before the NFL regular season ends. Some fantasy football rookies may not realize this and are left unprepared as the playoffs begin. If you are unsure, this information can usually be found in the settings portion of the online team page.

The purpose of holding playoffs this early is to increase odds that every player on each fantasy roster will see regular action. Once an NFL team clinches a postseason spot, coaches might give players extra rest. At fantasy playoff time you will certainly want full contributions from everyone.

Recognize Transaction Deadlines
Aside from knowing the playoff start date, you should also be aware that most leagues have transaction deadline dates. This mostly applies to team trading, but some leagues also implement a deadline for waiver wire moves. It is very important to know if these regulations are in place in your league and if so what the cutoff dates are.

Trades and waiver moves are very important preparation tools for fantasy football playoffs. Because of this, a team owner missing the deadline can be left frustrated and embarrassed over the situation. Failure to act promptly could even devastate the season for a team owner that needed to replace inactive players.

Prepare Bench Spots Wisely
It is best to closely evaluate your entire roster as playoff time approaches. There may be certain spots that could turn problematic if unattended to. For example, maybe you are currently using roster space on seriously hurt or suspended players.

Having a healthy and dependable set of reserves is very important since you can lose starters at any time. It is especially crucial to back up the positions that you know are vulnerable. A lack of bench help could leave no production from certain roster spots and ultimately cost you a shot at the league championship.

Follow League Owner Activity
Paying close attention to everyone else in the league can also help bring you playoff success. One reason for doing this is analyzing potential opponents and understanding their tendencies. This can give you a strategic advantage over another owner in the playoffs.

Another important aspect of this is evaluating teams with poor records that will likely miss the league playoffs. The owner of such a team might become apathetic and start making careless roster moves. You can capitalize on this by finding such an owner and waiting to see if they drop any players with value.

Fantasy Baseball: Mixed League or Mono-League?

Fantasy baseball leagues have two options for establishing player availability. Either a mixed league or mono-league format can be used to determine the talent pool.

The mixed league style allows team owners to pick players from all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. Each team owner can essentially assemble an all-star roster when playing in a mixed league. The majority of fantasy baseball leagues in existence operate as mixed.

Mono-leagues restrict player availability to either National League (NL) or American League (AL) rosters. There are 16 NL teams and 14 AL teams to choose from, depending upon which a league decides to use. Other names associated with this format are AL-only, NL-only and league specific.

A league trying to decide between a mixed or mono-league format should do it well before the draft. Doing so gives ample time for team owners to research and be prepared. However, before choosing a mixed or mono-league style, league members should strongly consider each of the following factors.

Level of League Experience
The amount of team owner experience is the first aspect a league should keep in mind. Mixed leagues are usually recommended for less experienced participants, due to the larger player pool. Owners here can focus on the more popular players and do not need any extensive knowledge of MLB rosters.

The more seasoned veterans of fantasy baseball usually join mono-leagues. Player availability is cut in half when compared to a mixed league’s talent pool. This means prominent players will disappear much quicker and an owner has to rely on his knowledge of lesser-known players when filling a roster.

League Size
Aside from experience, the quantity of teams in a league is also important. Leagues with 12 or more teams are almost always advised to go with the mixed format. Larger leagues require more roster spots to be filled, leaving a bigger player pool to be more advantageous in that situation.

The mono-league style is typically best when ten or fewer teams exist in a league. A restriction of AL-only or NL-only already makes player pools very thin. Having to fill over ten rosters with this format can sometimes deplete things too far.

Team Roster Size
Leagues should also be sure not to overlook the size of team rosters. Even though a small number of teams might exist, big rosters can still cut in to the amount of players available. Leagues that fill extra positions and/or allow additional reserve spots should generally use the mixed format.

Certain leagues may only fill minimum amounts of starting or bench spots. In that case, a mono-league style might work well for those team owners. To be sure, leagues should add up the total amount of roster spots that will be used.

Weekly or Daily Transaction League
One last detail used toward making this decision is the allowed frequency of league transactions. Daily transaction leagues are typically better suited for a mixed format. Since daily transaction rosters can always be adjusted, it is beneficial to have more players available to pick from.

Weekly league owners are powerless toward making constant roster changes. Because of this, a bigger player pool is not as helpful. However, weekly leagues could actually opt for either format without it making much of an impact.