Kingbeast's Lair

Growling about the RPG industry and my gaming life. RPG and anime reviews from a passionate fan. (Formerly John's Hero HQ.)

Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’

B.O.T.Y. Call!

March 14, 2021 By: John Taber Category: Product Reviews

During the Pandemic I have been ordering craft beers from various establishments. In fact I ordered from 8 different craft breweries. I not only want to support local small businesses but I want to find some awesome beer as well. This blog post is the summary of my beer adventure over the last year. I am calling it…


I will pick some arbitrary categories. In each category I will pick one beer that blew me away and one runner-up. Finally I will pick a BEER OF THE YEAR and BREWERY OF THE YEAR.

Ales And Pilsners

I added 3 beers to my favorites list in this category this year. The winner is a surprise. I pick Side Of Rice from Moonlight Brewery. Side Of Rice is a wonderfully light and crisp beer from the folks who make Death & Taxes. (Death & Taxes is a well known stout beer of theirs.) Sermin really liked this one as well. (FYI. Sermin likes, “Beers that taste like beer.” )


Side Of Rice from Moonlight Brewing


Pool Haus from Bare Bottle Brewing


Unlike ales and pilsners I added a lot of IPA to my favorites list this year (eg 8). The competition is fierce in this category. The winner here was amazing. You can read more about it later. Hint hint. Final Fantasea from Humble Sea Brewing. The runner up was tough but edging out Pliny The Elder from Russian River is Giants Grove from Bare Bottle Brewing. Bare Bottle took home a lot of runner-up trophies. Hint hint.


Final Fantasea From Humble Sea Brewing


Giants Grove from Bare Bottle Brewing


The stout category was another hot contested category. I added 9 beers to my favorites list this year! The winner is CBS (aka Canadian Barrel Stout) from Founders. CBS is dark, rich, and smooth. This one knocked me out of my chair. Not a tiny brewery, Founders has a lot of great stuff. This one might be the easiest to find on the list. The runner up was Maple Coco Gnar Gnar from Humble Sea Brewing.


CBS from Founders


Maple Coco Gnar Gnar from Humble Sea


I added 3 to the list but all were pretty great. The winner is Chronicale from Pizza Port Brewing. This is one that Steve recommended to me and it did not disappoint. Nice texture, rich flavor, and tastes like an amber. This was Sermin’s favorite beer of the year. She wants me to buy more of it. The runner-up was also a recommendation from Steve!


Chronicale from Pizza Port Brewing


Colossus Of Clout from Strike Brewing

Belgium Beers

I tried 5 or 6 during the year but only one made the favorites. Again a recommendation from Steve. Steve knows his beer. Brother Thelonius from North Coast Brewing. This one has a wonderful finish, a nutty flavor, and is a joy to drink. I also got one of their cool t-shirts. Of the 5 or 6 I tried most were Belgium beers from Belgium. North Coast blew them all away. No runner-up here at all.


Brother Thelonius from North Coast


My BOTY is Final Fantasea from Humble Sea. I was able to get 4 packs during the release. I poured it into my glass and smelled it. Tart and fruity. I took a sit then stood there…stunned. I took another sip. The flavor, the complexity, the hops. This is one of the best beers I have ever tasted. It is off the charts amazing.


Final Fantasea from Humble Seas


The BOTY runner-up is actually another IPA. Giants Grove from Bare Bottle was another winner IPA that I tried this year. Giants Grove has a spruce sort of flavor and just the right amount of hops. This one is wonderful.


The BREWERY OF THE YEAR was super easy to pick…Humble Sea. I tried 4 different beers from them and I everything was very good. Also they produce new beers WEEKLY and ship for FREE to Santa Clara. Win. Win. Win.

Humble Sea


The runner-up here was tough but I am going with Bare Bottle. Two of the runner-up entries are from them. I ended up ordering from them twice as they are a Santa Clara brewery and I wanted to support local guys. 🙂

Aeropress vs Pure Over

March 03, 2021 By: John Taber Category: Product Reviews

A friend on Facebook asked me to compare the Pure Over and Aeropress. For those not up coffee brewers this is comparing the old standby (aka the Aeropress) to the upcoming challenger (aka the Pure Over).

What are these?

The Aeropress is comprised of 2 plastic pipes and a plastic filter cover that when combined act as sort of a “coffee plunger”. You put in a circular paper filter, coffee, and hot water then plunge directly into a cup. In some ways this is closer to an old school coffee press just much better designed. I own two Aeropress. I have one of the older models and a new model. I love them both but I like the newer model a bit better. You can get them in a complete kit for $35 at Amazon.


  • Brews a cup in 20 seconds following the instructions. Maybe 60 seconds including the cleanup time! Fast.
  • The coffee is hot.
  • Super easy cleanup. Pop the coffee puck into the trash then under the faucet.
  • No grounds in the cup at all. The filter works great.
  • Indestructible. Can be safely put in a backpack, suitcase, etc.


  • Uses paper filters. They are cheap but it still uses them.
  • If you want to wash all of the plastic components I have always done so by hand.
  • The resulting coffee is a bit on the mellow side when compared to the Pure Over.

The Pure Over is a glass decanter with an associated glass filter diffuser top. You put the coffee in the decanter, put on the glass diffuser top then pour in the hot water. The Pure over is really a straight pour over device just with no paper filter at all. It is glass, coffee, and hot water.


  • No filters. Glass + coffee + hot water.
  • Easy cleanup. Wipe out the coffee grounds into the roses then run under the faucet. Potentially clean out the ceramic base a bit too.
  • Rich and bright cup of coffee.
  • Dishwasher safe.


  • Coffee takes at least 2 minutes to brew and at the end I need to stir it softly as the instructions suggest.
  • Coffee takes time to brew and it not as hot when you are done.
  • You need to use a bit more coffee than the Aeropress to get good results.
  • Grounds do make it into the cup. I use a conical burr grinder set on course and still get a wash of coffee grounds in the bottom of the cup.
  • I am not coordinated. I feels like I am walking around eggshells when the Pure Over is on my coffee cup. It seems really fragile.
  • Costs more than the Aeropress.

My Take

Before I jump into my choice and why I want to point out that both of these devices are freakin’ amazing. They both work great and get you a super cup of coffee.

If you want to impress your friends with an amazing cup of coffee pull out the Pure Over. If you want a great day-to-day brewer get the Aeropress.

And the winner is…the Aeropress. I adore the speed, cleanup, and durability.

Dungeons & Dragons Does Good

January 27, 2019 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Product Reviews


I started running Dungeons & Dragons 5e (5e) campaign for my kids and one of their friends.  As part of the preparation I read the main three books cover-to-cover.  After reading the books I came away with a realization, “They done good.”  Many of my perceived minor foibles that were present in 3e and earlier additions are smoothed over or rewritten.  I know this is 5 years or so late but…here is a simple review of the changes in 5e that caught my attention.

Rolling Thunder

The dice mechanic has changed subtly for the better.  First off all rolls are now high.  Instead of rolling low for skills, high for attacks, etc players now always want to roll high.  Skills are rolled using a d20 plus a characteristic bonus plus a proficiency bonus based on level if you have the skill.  This means skills automatically improve as the player levels.  Neat.

They have also introduced rolling with Advantage or Disadvantage.  If the PC is at an advantage they get to roll two d20 and take the best.  If the PC is at a disadvantage they roll two d20 and take the worst result.  Simple yet really effective.

Occasionally a PC might be in a situation where a roll is not done as they are not actively performing a task.  For example, someone is trying to sneak up on them as they walk down a trail.  In this case there is passive checks.  Passive checks are a calculated number (10 plus modifiers) that is compared to a target.  So in my example, if the walker has a passive perception of 14 the person sneaking up has to hit that with their roll to stay hidden.  Again…simple…effective.

We All Go To Town Together

Everything is condensed to one experience point chart.  Gosh this make so much sense and should have been done ages ago.  This also makes it easier to treat advancement as characters will often level at nearly the same time.

The GM is also give advice on how to balance encounters based on level and a simple formula.  This makes it easier to plan encounters and adjust them on the fly if say one of your players cannot make it.


One really fantastic change is stolen right from systems with bennies like Savage Worlds.  There is a new mechanic called Inspiration.  This mechanic gives the player an Inspiration point when their character follows one of their flaws, traits, or bonds.  This point can be spent to give them Advantage on a roll.  I really appreciate mechanics like this that give the players a bit more control of outcomes if it is really important to the character.

More Hit Points (HP) at level 1 is also a very nice touch.  This makes starting PC able to take at least a couple of good hits before dying.  This is great at giving PC a bit more staying paying up front.  Also healing is simpler.  In fact it makes it so that every party does not need a cleric.  Another wonderful change.

Magic Mana

Magic is changed as well.  Characters using magic have prepared spells but these do not restrict how many times they can use each spell.  The amount of times a caster can do a spell is driven by spell slots.  So a wizard might memorize Magic Missile, Unseen Servant, and Identify.  During an adventure they can use their spell slots to cast any of those spells until the slots are gone.  Again…simple but less restricting.  Nice change.

The amount of magic items each PC can use is controlled.  Characters have to bond with magic items.  This takes a brief amount of time.  The key here is that they can bond to 3 items only!  This means characters are less dependent on magical crutches and forced to use the talents of their class.  Excellent.


I really looking forward to see how things turn out as the campaign advances with these tweaks.  I guess this goes without saying…this might be my favorite Dungeons & Dragons Edition to date.  Critical hit WOTC!