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In Search of the best ugly gems

Defining the Dive Bar

Dive bars face a tug-of-war: they’re either worshiped or ostracized. This must stop. Dive bars are just like any other bar — plus or minus a few roaches and/or bathroom stall sex stories — in that “good” or “bad” depends on who’s asking. Whatever your cup of tea, we contest simply that “dive” not be used to describe a place that sucks: it should be a place that sucks with vigor, or with style, or with crassness. Here are the sordid watering holes that our staff believes, in their slightly perverse estimations, capture the true spirit of the dive bar.

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The Weirdos Come Out to Play

Mass-Market Beer Tournament: The Special Division

The top selling malt liquors, ciders and flavored beers in America meet in an NCAA tournament of blind taste tests to find the best in the business. We’re talking about both Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita and Lime-A-Rita; we’re talking about Bud Light Lime; we’re talking about Colt 45, Steel Reserve, Angry Orchard and Woodchuck. We’re talking about a fiasco.

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Libations the world over

Drinking With The Locals

We explore drinking culture from around the world to bring you the best five customs and oddities we could find — from beer-chugging Prime Ministers, to drinking and driving (don’t do it), to the biggest party in Iceland and more.

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1 Japanese, 1 Dutch, 1 Belgian, 1 Irish, 1 English, 1 Canadian and 2 Mexican Beers Walk Into A Bar...

Mass-Market Beer Tournament: Imported Division

In the Imported Division of the Mass Market Beer Tournament, our blind tasters pick the their favorites and grant a Final Four berth to the best in the division. This round, it’s between Corona Extra, Guinness, Heineken, Modelo Especial, Labatt Blue, Newcastle Brown Ale, Stella Artois and Sapporo.

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Round One of Malted Madness 2014

Mass-Market Beer Tournament: Domestic Division

We kick off the Mass Market Beer Tournament with the Domestic Division. It’s a blind tasting fight to the finish (and a Final Four berth) between Budweiser, Sam Adams, Yuengling, PBR, Miller High Life, Blue Moon, Coors Banquet and PBR.

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Wait...Yuengling's not an Import?

A Case for the Large Craft Brewery

Put a Heady Topper next to a Busch. One of the beers is craft, and the other is not. Why? When does a beer stop being craft? Who wrote the current definition, and why did they define craft like they did? Part of the answer, it turns out, involves two breweries you know.

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34 Beers. 5 Rounds. 1 Winner.

Introducing the Mass-Market Beer Tournament

We got down from our high horse, if only for a second, to judge the best of the generic, watery and cheap mass market beers. How exactly? It has to do with seeding a total of 34 beers into four divisions and holding an NCAA-style tournament of blind tastings in order to declare a winner. Read on for all the details and a preview of next week’s madness.

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Keep Austin Geared

Kit: SXSW

You’ve done it: flight, rental car and hotel booked, $1,700 Gold Badge purchased. You are about to attend the most diversified festival in the country — SXSW. Now it’s time to pack. What does one take to this event featuring A-list celebs, billion dollar corporations and the CEOs of the next big thing? Here’s what we brought to stay connected, light on our feet and ready to make a strong first impression for all those meet-and-greet networking sessions (not to mention the VIP parties).

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From hash to hashtags

The GP Guide to SXSW

SXSW is a culture unto itself today, defined as much by its concentration of Google glass, hashtags and corporate bar tabs as it is by concerts, movie premiers and software launches. Spend enough time here and you might start believing the internet is a real live place. Looking at it all through the lens of the present, it’s hard to believe the festival was started 27 years ago by a few staffers at the Austin Chronicle who wanted to attract bands and artists from around the world to the eclectic music scene of Austin in hopes of exposing the city as a hotbed of talent. Here’s how to make your visit a great one.

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We Test 10 Huge Imperial IPAs

Doubling Down on IPAs

Over the past 20 years, the way to make a double IPA (otherwise known as DIPA or “imperial IPA”) hasn’t really changed: roughly double the ingredients that would go into a normal IPA and you get a double IPA. As the weather changes, more and more stores begin cellaring their heavy winter stouts and replacing them with these hop- and malt-forward beasts. For those looking to expand their palates, doubles offer the citrus hop and bready malt flavors of regular IPAs, but amplified, and with plenty more complexity to spare. We tasted ten of our favorites.

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Professional grade

Tested: F-Stop Camera Backpacks

F-Stop is a relative newcomer to the camera bag scene, and its St. Louis headquarters is incongruous with its focus on packs for mountain sports photography. But don’t let that fool you. Their packs show a design maturity that could only stem from experience and a smart use of user feedback. We tested both the light-and-fast Kenti ($249) and the sturdier, larger Satori EXP ($379) in conditions as varied as multi-day hikes in New Zealand and peak bagging in New Hampshire.

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Taking the Alpha Out of Beta

Testing the Tumi Alpha 2, Concourse-Style

Can a piece of luggage have a successor? Tumi, the venerable brand practically synonymous with domestic airports, believes it can with the release of the Alpha 2. The carry-on/check-in sequel incorporates a slew of improvements — ranging from overdue to practically invisible — in the gangbusters popular flagship line. Across its 30 improvements, the Alpha 2 boasts an impressive 14 patents. To test its mettle, we made our way to the Alpha 2’s arena: airports.

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Two Very Talented Spin Doctors

Want This, Get This: Linn Majik LP12 or Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

Today music lovers are finding more and more of their friends have returned to a beloved 1960s listening form: spinning vinyl. Unfortunately, buying a turntable is daunting. The segment tends to idolize incredibly expensive hi-fi gear, which is all well and good, except that few newcomers or even seasoned vinyl listeners can afford the tippity top of the quality pyramid. Truth is, for the price of an iPod you can be the proud owner of a turntable with great sound and the chops to convey every form of jammery until you yourself are a vinyl aficionado.

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Hot Tropik

Time On Our Hands: Halios Tropik SS

Shimmering a shade of blue clearly inspired by Caribbean waters, the Halios Tropik SS ($650) on my left wrist appears candy coated, looking infinitely more confident than I feel. A quick test of my regulator complete, I twist the Tropik’s unidirectional ceramic bezel to mark the beginning of this, my first real dive. I’m in the tropics to test this purpose-built diver on its home court.

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A Beefy Refresher

A Cut Above: 3 Artisanal Beef Jerkies

Last year, during our Month of Beef, we surveyed 10 of the best beef jerkies. But as is the case in any group testing, we missed a few solid options. Now, we want to rectify that mistake with this beefy refresher of three more great artisanal jerkies.

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Excerpts from an Intro to Spanish Butchering

Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain

Any book that introduces “a sharp implement, a capacity to witness death, and a good amount of blood” as self-evident truths in the business of slaughtering pigs has our attention. Jeffrey Weiss’s new book, Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, is much more than spectacle: it’s an authoritative resource on Spanish butchering and meat-curing techniques, complete with recipes for traditional Spanish dishes, handsome photography and anecdotes from the author’s personal experience. In this excerpt, provided to GP by Agate Publishing, Weiss describes taking part in a matanza (“pig slaughter”) in Extremadura, a rugged region in western Spain.

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Bringing wild shores to your mundane coffee table

Photo Essay: Distant Shores

Surf photographer Chris Burkard’s latest project is a 180-page hardcover with photos from diverse locations including Alaska, Chile, Iceland, India and Japan. These photos, which Burkard shared with GP, document his adventures traveling across the world as he captured photos of surfers and the natural world they inhabit.

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A Thorough Guide to Listening the Right Way

Guide to Life: Upgrade Your Music Library

Our obsession with hardware is here to stay — don’t expect an apology for it anytime soon. We’ll be the first to admit, though, that even the right headphones, speakers and amps are only as good as the source material you play through them. Garbage in, garbage out. The solution? Get more out of the tunes you love by upgrading your music library.

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13 Mile Chill

Photo Essay: New England’s Winter Surfers

The sky is a slate gray on the cruise up I-95 to Hampton Beach, NH. I left Boston to catch a glimpse of a handful of New England’s athlete-contrarians, people who spend the summer dreaming of frigid waters, storms and angry seas. They’re winter surfers — and this is their season.

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Know Your Terroir, Love Your Terroir

Uncorked, Part Two: A Guide to Important Wine Regions

The current food-obsessed climate may prize terroir in everything, from beef to coffee to olive oil, but winemakers aren’t new to the game — they’ve been sniffing the soil and praying to the grape gods for centuries. Wine at its best is spiritually, ritually, and tribally connected to a place, and knowing the major wine regions provides some basic insight with which we can approach the wine aisle or pick a bottle at a restaurant. Here’s our guide to the 10 essential wine regions of the world.

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Cream of the Cropless

Tasting Notes: Gluten-Free Beer Shootout

A fair amount of people in this country drink gluten-free by necessity, and that’s not even counting those who do it by choice. But when you tinker with malt, one of the four main ingredients in beer and the one that activates the autoimmune response in those with celiac disease, does the resulting product still taste like beer? And if so, how does it hold up against more traditional counterparts? To find out, we put ten gluten-free beers to a blind taste test.

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A boutique hotel in SoHo, NYC

Stay: The Broome NYC

Like other cosmopolitan cities with a rich history, New York has as many layers as the Yemeni dessert Bint Al Sahn, as many nuances as Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulations, the subtleties of a Montrachet. In other words: it’s difficult to navigate. The difference between a quiet morning of coffee and pastry or getting steamrolled by a group of shopping teens could be one block. And that’s why you’ll want to know about The Broome, a boutique hotel in a SoHo brownstone.

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Welcome to the Jungle

Stay: Ka’ana Resort Belize

Ka’ana is a boutique resort, but rather than catering to those who like to sit by a pool all day with umbrella drinks, it encourages its guests to leave every day. Don’t get us wrong, there is a pool, and if you want an umbrella drink, it can be arranged. But Belize is a country ripe for adventure, and Ka’ana wants to be your (very luxurious) base camp.

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A caving expedition in Belize

Descending into the Mayan Underworld

We’d been underground for five hours, as deep as 600 feet below the surface of the jungle in a cave the Belizeans call the Mountain Cow Cave. The cavern has been rebranded for tourists as the more picturesque-sounding Crystal Cave, though few tourists make it here. Unlike the more famous and accessible Actun Tunichil Muchnal cave, which sees thousands of visitors per year, Crystal Cave only sees a few hundred, most only peeking into its impressive foyer. I could see why. It was not for the faint of heart.

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Think Globally, Drink Locally

On the Joys of Tropical Beer

One of the sublime joys of a tropical vacation is the beer. I’m not talking about anything you can find at your corner liquor store in Manhattan (Kansas or New York), or even those Mexican imports with the clever TV ads. I’m talking about the ones that come in brown bottles with peeling labels and caps that you knock off on the edge of a table, beers with names like Belikin, Polar, Banks, Sands, Sol, Belashi, Kalik or Three Coins.

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An Offshore Account

Photo Essay: Diving and Decompressing in Belize

After a long and fairly uneventful dive on an unnamed reef out in South Water Caye, I clambered aboard Splash Belize’s dive boat, shed tanks and weights and stripped off my wetsuit. The big diesels rumbled to life and Captain Malcolm steered toward a small island in the distance. As we drew closer, I could make out a few small panga boats and some activity on the beach. Then came a distinctive smell: barbecue.

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Five-Star Five-Doors

Our Favorite Wagons from the Silver Screen

America, as a whole, hates station wagons. But instead of despising the wood paneling, the center-of-gravity elevating roof loads and the smell of cheap vinyl seats, we should be clinging to every bit of wagon-dom that we can — who knows how much longer they’ll be around? Fortunately for history’s sake, they’ve made their mark in a handful of great movies and TV shows, not just as family haulers but as quick and capable chase vehicles and hero (and antihero) steeds of choice.

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The Road is Life

Kit: Road Trip

From the Archives: With age comes the ability to do a long highway cruise better than we ever could as a youngster. Summer’s right around the corner, so we’ve compiled above all the gear you’ll need to make new memories on the road. Get what you need and hit the road, Jack. Grab the wheel and point it west, take a buddy and leave the rest.

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Climbing Mountains Beyond Mountains

Kit: Volunteering in Haiti

Despite Haiti’s reputation for danger, it’s a beautiful and inspiring country for the intrepid traveler. Although tourism in the country has been slow to rebound since the devastating 2010 earthquake, Haiti offers an opportunity for those with the right set of skills to get involved with humanitarian work while seeing an infrequently visited part of the world. During our recent visit, we got by on Pepto and grit, and a few other things besides: we found all of the above useful, if not downright necessary.

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Big Races, Fat Bikes

Big Wheels Keep on Rollin’: Fat Bike Destination Races

Fat bike races are a great tool for carrying fitness into the winter, building your base for the coming year, or letting out your inner nutso cyclist. During some of the longer hauls, riders should expect to carry everything from sleeping bags and tents to locator beacons and cooking infrastructure. Just a few years ago your race options were limited, but the rapid growth in the category has created a number of race options and formats to choose from. Here are some of our favorites.