Beer:30 on a Friday Morning

Friday, September 29, 2006

What libation awaits us for today's version of Friday Beer Blogging?

None other than Dogfish Head Brewery's 120 Minute IPA.

The beer pours out a coppery amber color with red hues. There is a thin pure white head, maybe 1/4", but it is heavy and lingers. Excellent lacing down the glass as I quaffed.

Surprisingly for a Double-IPA (DIPA), it has an amazingly fruity aroma: grapefruit, orange, grapes. I would have expected much more hops up front. But there it is, right after and under the fruit: pine, leafy-green, citrus/spice.

The taste is spectacular. So many DIPAs are so over-blown. Hops upon hops with no balance, ends up tasting like grass clippings out of a tin can. But not this beer. It is so well-balanced, it's like a Tripel with more hops. Unbelievable. It tastes sweet up front: caramel and cane sugar, followed by a dominant fruitiness from both the yeast products and the choice of hops: citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges, with a great floral undertone. Then...wham! A big, huge alcohlic warmth all the way down the hatch. 21% ABV, baby. More booze in this 12 ounce beer than in most bottles of wine. Ahhhhh... Great spicy finish.

The mouthfeel yields light carbonation, gentle, not at all biting. Huge, full-bodied and rich and creamy.

Usually, a beer even close to 21% ABV is hard to drink, being harsh like doing a shot. But this beer is extraordinarily-well balanced with sweet, caramelly and sugary malts and such great, gentle fruit that it goes down so easily. I put this ahead of any other DIPA on the market right now. Maybe ever.


Iraq and Terrorism: UNRELATED

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I was reading this post over at Mr. Furious and having a...discourse with a blogger and detractor. The subject came to comparisons between Iraq and the mood of the public during World War II, as well as the merits of Republican stick-to-it-iveness and Democratic let's-change-it-iveness. Go check out the link.

Anyway, listening to the news last night, there is an interesting distinction that the public is making that the Bush Administration and its throngs of devotees are either unwilling or incapable of seeing.

A recent Gallup Poll shows that among citizens for whom "Iraq" is the most important issue, 60% to 23% believe that Democrats are better able to deal with the situation over there.

On the other hand, for citizens among whom "terrorism" is the top issue, 68% to 17% believe the Republicans are better equipped to handle the issue.

I think this is really why the Bush Administration is working so hard at keeping Iraq intrinsically combined with terrorism: it is clearly a Republican victory, in terms of dealing with terrorism. Even portions of the recently-declassified NIE report were the portions that agree with Administration counter-terrorist policies. Counter-terrorist policies. Indeed, according to the NIE report, counterterrorist operations have severly damaged the functionality of Al Queda and other jihadist movements.

BUT....there is the distinction among a plurality of voters whereby Iraq is different than terrorism. In fact, to support such a distinction, the NIE report essentially upholds Iraq as a motivator for jihadists and Al Queda where it also upholds the efforts of counterterrorist measures.

The distinction is clear, both from a public point of view as well as even within the Intelligence community: Iraq and terrorism are exclusive concepts. They are unrelated and one, Irq, is not helping the other, counterterrorism.

Congressional Republicans see this important distinction, for the most part, and are running in the last month before the elections as the counterterrorism party. But what hurts is if and when the Dems can make them the "Iraq War party."

I can't say enough that the dichotomy above in extremely telling. The public, by and large, see Iraq as unrelated to terrorism and a source growth among jihadists and future terrorists. The NIE supports this contention.

Separately, the public sees terrorism as being handled effectively through anitterrorism measures, which do not include the Iraq War. The NIE supports this as well.

Thus, as Mr. Furious's blog points out, the President and many of his most ardent supporters are clearly out-of-touch when it comes to handling the Iraq War, and Kerry and others are right to bring out the big guns and fight back on being branded chickens and triators. They are simply reflecting their thoughts as supported by the true majority. Iraq is a fucking mess and it's time for a new policy.


What Would Dennis Leary Call It?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Back at it again: this weekend, I brewed more beer. The Chief Assistant Brewmaster in this case was my Father in Law, Steve. My son Isaac was designated pants-pooper and near-death magnet.

My choice for this time around was an Irish Red. I struggled for a name for the brew until I asked myself a question: what would Dennis Leary call an Irish Red.

Thus I introduce to you Kiss My White Irish Ass Red.

The ingredients:
1/2 pound British Crystal 60ºL
1/4 pound Roasted Barley
6 pounds John Bull Liquid Light Extract
1 pound Dry Light Extract
1 oz. Fuggle (pellet); 60 minutes
1/2 oz. East Kent Golding (pellet); 5 minutes
Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast
We steeped the specialty grains for 30 minutes at 159º, and boiled everything for an hour thereafter.

I estimated the Original Gravity to be 1.055. Our actual reading was 1.050, so we weren't far off at all. Our Terminal Gravity is estimated at 1.019, so we'll see what we get. The ABV ought to be a normal and respectable 5% or so.

As you can see here, we pitched the yeast on day 1 and had no visible activity as the yeast wakes up and starts relicating, looking for an finding food.

Now as you can see here, at the end of day 2, the yeast is going mad, and fermentation is healthy and active. Yippee!

As always, more to come. This was a truly fun experience, as always, and it was cool introduce the joys of homebrewing with my Father in Law , who indeed appreciates a good beer.


Beer, Beer, Beer

Friday, September 22, 2006

This is the title of a classic old Irish Drinking Song. Simple song, simpler times. A oade to beer.

I chose an Irish drinking song today because tomorrow, my Michigan State Spartans take on the Fightin' and hopefully Losin') Irish of Notre dame.

But my beer is far from Irish. My beer of choice for today is Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner 2005 Harvest.

This is a fantastic...simply amazing...American Double Pilsner style of brew. This brew has 110 IBUs...enough bitterness to serve as an adequate metaphor for a particularly nasty divorce. But the extreme, nearly-reckless amounts of hops here are well-balanced by an underlying thick, sugary sweetness akin to the Golden Monkey I reviewed a few weeks ago (Belgian Strong Dark Ale).

It pours a cloudy, hazy burnt orange color like a wheat ale, but instead of the haze coming from wheat protein, it is in this cae literally particles of hops because they used so many.

I smelled citrus up front, fading to a pleasant floral with an undelying spice throughout. Tantilizing indeed.

Big huge creamy mouthfeel, thick and chewy like a stout. Lively carbonation for as thick as the beer is.

Sublime is the taste indeed. A big spiciness..almost peppery...comes up front with a huge alcoholic warmth. Next up are the sweet, bready malts, followed by juicy ripe citrus fruits. Throughout all of this is a massive profile of aggressive hops. Every word I can think of to describe hops are there: leafy, oily, resiny, coarse, piney, floral, herbal, citrus...all of it. At the end, this earthy, musky flavor creeps in but doesn't linger, as all the hops keep the tongue clean and ready for the next quaff.

All in all, this is an amazing beer from the guys I would expect if from. What is truly remarkable is that this is a know, like Miller, Bud, etc. A Pilsner. Huge.

Drag up a chair and spin me a tale of beer.


Forgive Us Our Debts

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was reading American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, and that the book has three secitons about what is leading to our demise: oil, increased secularism and debt. In the previous post, I mainly focused on the former two: oil and religion.

I want to take some time to focus on another problem that is quickly and evidently coming home to roost: an economic system reliant on debt.

In fact, consumer debt is being used to prop-up our national economy...which is comprised largely of debt and a heavy reliance on the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector (which is a sector built on debt and movement of dollars that are not real). Keep in mind: this consumer debt is taking the place of manufacturing, at least on the local and state level, in terms of what supports our dollar.

The FIRE sector relies, of course, on the transfer of money from entity to entity, using money that exists (in my own simplified explanation) only in concept; the "value" of something that actually cannot be immediately traded of real dollars, and is thus only conceptually valuable. Assets are traded rather than actual goods.

As I said above, what bolsters this economy is consumer debt - spending what I don't have and gaining possesion of something for which I cannot actually or possibly cover.

Our national economy, then, is not based on anything tangible. Imagine the chaos if the countries to whom we are indebted decide to foreclose on our loans because we aren't actually paying anything and in fact are continuing to spend. Worse: not only are we not paying and still spending, our collateral is less and less valuable.

Britain, Spain and the Netherlands have each seen this play out in different points in history. Britain could no longer sustain a massive empire because of its reliance on debt and credit (among other things). This reliance no longer allowed it to physically pay, in real dollars, for its own expense. The Spanish relied on indebtedness and "financialization" as it became the European bank of banks. All the the gold and silver bullion came to Spain, Spain made money, but it never produced anything. The end result: the total collapse of its unsupported economy of money transfers. Nothing actually held value but the money itself. The Dutch, similarly, overextended themselves through financialization as they lost the real value behind their dollar which was no longer supported by trade, but instead by transfer of liquid values.

The Detroit News ran an article today that I think clearly outlines the real danger of an economy of debt. Take a look at the link. The way I see it, the economic bubble bursts when one of the pieces of the circle, in this case the consumer, can no longer cover its part of the liquid assets. This burst becomes an outright collapse as more and more people in increasingly-higher income brackets also fail to support their end of the overwhelming debt.

To highlight this, according to the article Macomb County (Michigan's fastest-growing county in terms of population, housing and housing prices) in Southeact Michigan is experiencing a 234% increase in foreclosures. 234%. The byline of the article is that 35,000 southeast Michigan (Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties) residents are losing their homes this year. The families are losing their house and their ability to borrow again at an affordable interest rate. The bank will lose money on the property. Interest rates for the family in question will rise above their price range. Money is lost in these cases and is simply not recovered.

The article continues to cite other reasons as to why this is a problem, but each of these reasons all have a common thread: it's all about investments that are tied to a market and not an actual value. When the basis for your economy fails - in our case, manufacturing - everything else slides with it, including your housing market.

Imagine that this is just the beginning. In fact, the same article shows a 141% increase in foreclosures statewide. This is more than the beginning. This is happening.

A solution? Banks don't need a federal bailout. Our manufacturing sector and tech sector need the bailout. We need to shift back towards exporting more than we import, but the problem is how absolutely lucrative it is to import goods using foreign labor (a big thanks to NAFTA and Clinton). Moreover, we need to stop spending beyond our means in D.C. Running a surplus is not a bad thing; it allows us to make payments on debts and regain our positive borrowing rating status worldwide. Tax cuts to the top 1% exacerbate the problem, and quite honestly, so will a cut in taxes to the middle! A recent NBC piece (can't make the damn link work) shows that there is a trend to actually accumulate debt, in that the question is: how big of a payment can I afford? If you free-up much more money, you contribute to accumulation of debt, which is used as a means to bolster our dollar. A dollar based no longer on goods but on money owed.

Further, as can be seen with a 141% increase in foreclosures, even the top 1% might be having trouble supporting an economy of debt. However, it is the middle class which an economy of debt deemphasizes and punishes. It pushes-out the jobs that bolster a middle class in favor of a narrower, smaller class of people who actually understand economics.

Cut-and-spend conservatives represent a huge driving force behind our increasing indebtedness and reliance on foreign investments in something that is losing value. We can increase the value so long as we value our dollar away from banks and back on our products. Remember "Buy American?" Debt isn't patriotic. Being a consumer isn't necessarily patriotic. But I fail to see how forcing a larger debt load on me is.


Friday = Beer

Friday, September 08, 2006

The NFL Season has officially started, and it's a Friday. Smells like Beer Time to me.

Today's incredible selection, if I do say so myself, is Rogue Ale Shakespeare Stout.

The beer is pitch-black and opaque with a lovely inch-thick off-white head that leaves gobs of lacing down the sides as it goes. So thick, it even leaves "legs" like wine. So deep and thick, it has a gravitational pull.

Now the aroma: perfect balance. Big roast balanced by chocolate sweetness from chocolate malts and a brilliant Cascade citrusy-hop, all at the same time. Romeo, Juliet and a bottle of poison, baby. Perfect symmetry.

The taste is divine. All of those flavors come at you one after another; first the huge roasts, like dark toast and espresso. The best part is the interplay between the citrus Cascade hops and the chocolate. Ever had that orange-flavored chocolate candy? Here you go. Truly an American Stout, with ingenuity and hop-craziness replacing the more subtle British verison of a stout.

This beer has a creamy mouthfeel, well-balanced with a medium-carbonated pop. A little light-bodied to remain true to the style, but that's no real barrier. Nice alcoholic warmth.

This is no session beer; it's not that the ABV is too high for a good session beer; it's the complexity. Your tongue will get tired, like I imagine Romeo's would have on that sly minx Juliet.

Enjoy this amazing offering from Rogue brewery wherever you can find it. A true classic from a consistently-good brewery.



Thursday, September 07, 2006

Well, it's opening night for the NFL. NBC runs the show now, and we got a hyped and confused mash of entertainment, including a "countdown to kickoff" clock that started at 29 minutes. The excitement nearly killed me. We were treated by a live performance from Diddy aka Puffy aka Puff Daddy aka P Diddy etc. etc. from Florida at the site of the 06-07 Superbowl. God but I hope people didn't cram around that stage on the beach all day just for the Diddy song.

Oh yeah, some band named Rascal Flatts played too. Whoever they are.

Who is Cassie? Am I old?

Look folks, I just wanted football, okay? Not a family event. Not some party where I slouch on my couch cramming potato chips into my mouth, staring mindlessly at the raging party on my screen.

With that out of the way, of course the Fantasy Season kicks off tonight as well. And boy did I get a hum-dinger of a team this year. My lineup is as follows:

QB D. Brees (NO - QB)
WR E. Kennison (KC - WR)
WR T. Glenn (Dal - WR)
WR Ma. Jones (Jac - WR)
RB T. Barber (NYG - RB)
RB T. Duckett (Was - RB)
TE J. Shockey (NYG - TE)
K A. Vinatieri (Ind - K)
DEF Chicago
BN M. Leinart (Ari - QB)
BN J. Lewis (Bal - RB)
BN M. Lewis (Jac - TE)
BN M. Jenkins (Atl - WR)
BN B. Griese (Chi - QB)
BN M. Stover (Bal - K)

I ditched Chris Brown for TJ Duckett on the premise that TJ gets put in for goal line poundings and gets play time until Portis is back (and even then still gets the goal line bid). I ditched Brett Favre for Drew Brees. Brett should have retired. Finally, I got rid of my second defense, which was the Lions defense (gag)(especially since their Defensive Line Coach is experiencing some...ah...difficulties), and picked up Griese. I think he's a sleeper who will surprise us. Normally, Chicago will simply have a shitty offense. But I am holding out on a what-if here.

Thoughts on my trades? Suggestions for improvement? What do your teams look like? And how was your opening night?


Friday Beer Mania

Friday, September 01, 2006

What a long week. Rumsfeld calling us traitors again, reminders of the days Katrina hit New Orleans, fresh reminders of our failure to revive a great Southern city, a record week of explosions and death in Iraq...

With all that joy, it's definitely time for the Friday beer.

This week's selection: Arbor Brewing Company's Reserve Select 2004.

This beer was simply amazing. It poured a deep ruby red with brown highlights and held a nice, thick white head. The retention was great. This beer didn't leave "lacing" like most beers do; this one left "legs" like a wine does, whereby the beer itself clung to the glass instead of the foam. Interesting and full of foreshadowing for what was to come.

The aroma was huge: full of Chardonnay, oak, tannin, as well as the typical Old Ale-style aromas of toastiness, slight hop bitterness and a thick sweetness with tons of deep fruits like plums and prunes.

The taste was remarkable. It started with a hige oak/chardonnay up front, followed immediately by the thickness of heavy, dried fruit. From there it flowed into almost a sweettart aftertaste, which was truly interesting. The only bummer was that there was a hint of a medicinal astringency, but all in all it was a truly remarkable beer.

It was definitely a full-bodied beer with little carbonation sting to it and a nice, lingering alcoholic warmth. All in all, this was a real winner and left me with a massive buzz after half a bottle. Truly an enjoyable beer, highly recommended and rare.

What did your beer look like this week?



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