For Good or Bad, My Childhood is Being Recycled.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

This has nothing to do with beer or politics, but since at least one other writer here dug the Transformers remake, I figured this was also worth a post.

If one harkens back to the days of "It's Ten O'clock, do you know where your children are?" you will remember that those P.S.A.’s came on during Friday night prime time on NBC during the airing of “Knight Rider”.

Knight Rider may have been slightly lame, but it was cool to an eight-year-old.

Now it’s coming back. Firebird fans beware, this time K.I.T.T. will be in a Shelby Mustang. That's OK, but let’s just hope it’s better than the Bionic Woman remake.


Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

From all of us here at Around the Keg to you, our loyal readers (half of whom are contributors to the blog anyway),

Merry Christmas! Enjoy time with family this lovely holiday season. Try beers you've never had before. And we'll see you back here when it's all over!

And if you still have some last-minute shopping, let Bob and Doug MacKenzie give you some helpful Christmas gift suggestions.

Merry Christmas!


The Gift of Beer

Friday, December 21, 2007

Besides for today, where 40 degrees is unseasonably warm, it's usually already well below freezing here in Michigan. Our hardy ancestors, in the days before central heating and houses built to keep your ideal temperature in rather than letting the outdoors in, needed additional ways to stay warm that didn't involve setting fire to Christmas decorations. One of those ways is the Winter Warmer.

Sure it's beer, so sure you serve it cold, but the malty sweetness, heavier body and alcohol presence all lend this type of beer to give you a warm sensation and take the bite off of a cold winter day here in the frozen North.

Of course, this is most likely because the beers taste so good that you have a load of them and don't care as much about the cold any more.

This is not an "official" style of beer according to the guidelines; it is accepted usually as an Old Ale or as a Christmas/Specialty Spiced Beer. But as a mindset, if you will, the winter warmer suits its purpoise as the type of beer you drink by a fire in your fireplace.

Instead of a normal review today, I'd like to offer-up a list of winter warmers I've had and/or can find easily from a local Beer Mecca. It's up to you to try them, comment on them or give your impressions if it's something you've had.

Sam Smith's Winter Welcome Ale
Bright amber color, massive two-finger pure-white head; creamy with incredible lacing. Toasty malts, herbal hops, touch of caramel. Spicy hops compliment the malt with a citrus bite. Great all-around old ale; not too hoppy, tons of sweetness. Sam Smiths finally started putting this in brown bottles instead of clear ones, so it gets less light-struck in a cooler.

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig
Towering, rocky tan head with glowing reddish brown color like a fire in a fireplace. All of the spices Sam Adams brewery uses in this beer are present right up front: cinnamon, ginger and orange peel with a nice, mild chocolate malt tone in the end. Smooth and creamy with a slick full body. Malt sweetness coats the palate and the spices jump right back in. The spicing is not overdone and the big maltiness holds the beer together.

Harpoon Winter Warmer
Amber, fading to orange. Big burst of cinnamon and nutmeg hits right away, fading to a sharp, spicy aroma. Think gingerbread cookie in a bottle. I couldn't do this one all night, but 1 or 2 at a time it's a really nice beer.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Red-tan color, tan head, great lacing down the glass. Lots of clove, ginger, cinnamon, big toasty malts, some nicely floral hops and even a hint of...wood. tongue gets the ginger & clove flavors right away, leading to that toasty/woody malt that accentuates the cinnamon. It finishes just a bit hoppy. Nicely carbonated, not too much, with a great oily/resiny feel on the tongue. Good Christmas beer.

So there you have it. Christmas in a bottle, a wintery beer to enjoy by a fire. With or without chestnuts.

To our Christian friends, Merry Christmas! To our Jewish friends, I hope Hannukka found you and your family healthy and happy.


Year-End Housecleaning: Dickheads of the Year

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

As 2007 comes to a close, thank God, we need to do a little housecleaning. Just some minor tasks to get some stuff off our collective chests and get ready for 2008.

Usually, this is handled by a VH-1 special about Best Year Ever and other such "Best Of" shows, or Comedy Central's year-end roast of some sort. But compliments of Mrs. Smitty, I have stumbled across Dickheads of the Year by Bill Maher. They are listed in no particular order (though one could make the argument that it is ordered from "plain old dickhead" to "massive universe-collapsing dickhead"), as it starts with Michael Vick, who, while a total loser dickhead, does not reach the mighty dickheadity of the other dickheads on this list.

Take a gander. Add your own ideas and submissions to the comments section.


In Rod we Trust

Monday, December 17, 2007

If you listen, you can actually hear Wolverine nation exhale. After weeks of painful, embarassing, and ham-handed searching, Bill Martin finally did it. He found someone who was willing to coach the men's varsity football team at the University of Michigan.

Rich Rodriguez, welcome to the fold.

Rodriguez was 60-26 in his 7 years at West Virginia. He is known as one of the earliest authors of the spread option, and is apparently viewed in coaching circles as one of the best X's and O's minds in football. He can recruit. He can even *gasp* speak to the media. Sure it cost a few extra million dollars to pry him away from West Virginia. It was worth it.

However, it's easy to see growing pains ahead. Rodriguez may be a great coach, but I wonder how he will fit in at Michigan.

  • His defenses were less than stellar. That won't fly in Ann Arbor, and it doesn't bode well for the Big Ten.
  • He is going to implement an offense based on the ability of a mobile quarterback to read a defense. Have you seen Ryan Mallett?
  • He has a history of allowing some players of... um... 'questionable moral stature' onto the field. That REALLY won't fly with Lloyd, Bill Martin, or most of the alums.

But the biggest change will be the cultural shift. Michigan Football has basically had one administration since 1968. Hell, several pages of the playbook haven't changed in decades. What happens the first time an option pitch hits the turf? Will the alumni flip out and cry for the old days of Student Body Left? Or when the latest prized QB recruit gets hurt trying to turn the corner? New and scary things may happen in the Big House (though HOPEFULLY not as scary as App State)

But, all things considered, this is a really good hire for Michigan. They get a big name coach with BCS-conference success. Michigan probably won't lose any recruits over this change(PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE still come to Ann Arbor, Sam McGuffie. Please. Pretty please...). In fact, right after the announcement was made, uber-recruit Terrelle Pryor announced that Michigan was now on his short list. That's a good sign.


Gunga galunga. Gunga, gunga galunga.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This just in; the Dalai Lama is coming to Michigan. He'll be in Ann Arbor on April 19th and 20th to discuss, of all things, environmental sustainability. He was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and was recently awarded the Congressional Gold Medal (joining the likes of Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, John Wayne, and the guy who drew Snoopy). The best part is that the lecture will be free and open to the public. You can find more information about the event at this link. Oh, and he'll be giving free golf lessons too...


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hump Day is reason enough for a couple of brews and a relaxin' night at home with the Lady doing nothing important. Today absolutely sucked ass as far as work went, so all the more reason. So I'm sticking to something easy and sessionable, Michigan Brewing Company's Nut Brown Ale.

MBC recently started dating their bottles with a best by date (good think it's not "Best Buy" date!), which I think is great! If theres one thing I hate, it's comin' home with a sixer of something tasty only to find that it's stale and lifeless, and it does nothing for the improvement of beer. This beer happens to be marked good until 3/8/08, so I know it's fresh! On top of this, Michigan Brewing Company has been brewing it's beer on a Biodiesel powered Steam Generator since early October. With a drink by date of 3/8/08, this beer was very likely brewed in late October or so, so it's very likely that this was brewed with Biodiesel!

It pours with the color of root beer, and develops a tan cascading head making you think this is thicker than it really is. A thick ring and thin lace sticks around for the whole beer, and leaves splotchy lacing on the side of the glass. The beer is clear, I think MBC has started filtering some of their beer recently, and light shows through a rich dark mahogany colored brew. Really impressive looking brew, it makes my mouth water.

The first thing I smell is sweet crystal malts, with roasted nuts and a hint of... pepper? It's not really like pepper, but I have a hard time locking it down. Honestly I have to say that I assume it's the hops that I'm smelling, but as the hop aroma is appropriately subdued, I can't really tell!

At first I actually taste a hint of herbal hops, very light and it quickly gives way to a spectacular malt profile. I like my beers on the dry side normally, and this is my kind of brown ale. It starts with a lightly sweet crystal malt, like caramel, that leads into dry toasty malt laden with roasted nut and a flavor like Grape Nuts. Absolutely one of the best tasting Brown Ales I've had.

This is definitely a session ale, just begging to be drank. It's got a light body with delicate stinging carbonation making it go down smooth. 5% ABV means that having a few isn't going to put you down for the night.

Michigan Brewing Company makes some great beer. I wouldn't say that anything they make is the best of it's class, but what they do make is consistently good and right to style. Especially their darker ales such as the Bavarian Dark that is apparently mighty popular among those who paid cover.

With a good mug of MBC Nut Brown by my keyboard, the night is better already! Time for another...


Collaborative Brew

Friday, December 07, 2007

First off, I am proud to say that the inaugural meeting of the Michigan Brewers Caucus was this past Wednesday, December 5. It was a bipartisan mix of legislative staff, lobbyists and even a few legislators. The inaugural batch of beer was a doppelbock (fermenting happily away in my converted fridge now); I had considered naming it The Sweaty Monk until I remembered that doppelbocks have to end in "-ator." Our host for the evening came up with Pontificator. For the inaugural batch of beer for a group of politicos, I couldn't think of a better name. Pontificator it is.

Part of my challenge for the evening was for all attendees to bring at least one beer of a type they have never tried before. For the most part, everyone complied.

For my part, and the reason for today's beer review, I got to try a collaborative brew between Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor and Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall. Both breweries used the same malts and hops (not necessarily the same amounts) and their own "house yeast" for an Imperial** Brown Ale to see how different interpretations of the same essential beer played out. At the caucus, I had the black-capped Dark Horse version. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the red-capped Arbor Brewing version to taste the differences. It is called Dark Corner.

The beer poured a kind of mucky caramel brown, with a thick, 1 and a half finger foamy beige head which stuck around until I started drinking it. From there it slowly settled into a thin lacing and it left some nice little rings alond the glass as I went, like rings on a's how deep each quaff was!

I got a ton of malty smells like caramel, toffee, caramelized sugar and bread. These gave way to beautiful fruity hops like orange rind or tangerines. The citrus on top of all that sweetness was a really lovely contrast.

I found Dark Corner to have a smooth medium body with moderate carbonation. I picked up on the tastes of caramelized malts and brown bread, and maybe even a hint of cocoa. Then again, after the malt attack, those really nice, almost spicy tangerine hops entered the fray. As Imperials go, the alcohol is not that noticeable. It was a subtle spicy, fruity warmth in the back of the palate. Dry finish with malt overtones.

I found this to be very drinkable; not quite sesionable as the dry finish and tangerine hops could screw with your tongue after too many (plus the booze content is a little high), but very very drinkable nonetheless.

If you can find some of this, I suggest it highly. It's not the most amazing beer I've ever had, but it was worth the search. Maybe our second beer reviewer sopor (Colin) has some of the red-capped stuff?

**this is not an official style. The trend is, though, to take an "official" style, jack up the hops and alcohol content...and thus make it "Imperial." Thus, imperial pilseners, imperial brown ale, etc. The only official Imperial is a stout. That's actually a recognized style.


More legislation requiring the wrong people to police the Digi-Intertubes-highway

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ok, so like I was saying yesterday, I'm in IT. My boss runs a small web-based insurance service business, Periculum Services Group, and also runs an independant bookstore. So I end up doing dual duty with the office and the bookstore.

Recently we decided that we would get the bookstore it's own DSL connection (it's been sharing the office's connection) and open up a wireless hotspot. Cool! Except today, I read this:

House vote on illegal images sweeps in Wi-Fi, Web sites

"This is what the SAFE Act requires: Anyone providing an "electronic communication service" or "remote computing service" to the public who learns about the transmission or storage of information about certain illegal activities or an illegal image must (a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's "CyberTipline" and (b) "make a report" to the CyberTipline that (c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity and (d) the illegal images themselves. (By the way, "electronic communications service" and "remote computing service" providers already have some reporting requirements under existing law too.)


Failure to comply with the SAFE Act would result in an initial fine of up to $150,000, and fines of up to $300,000 for subsequent offenses. That's the stick. There's a carrot as well: anyone who does comply is immune from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions."

Now, I'm not saying that my plan on setting up this connection was to create a hub of child-porn trading (and I've probably just been added to "a list" just for that comment), but as a budding young Libertarian I am getting sick and tired of my government telling me that I have to do their job (policing) for them and that we face $150,000 in fine if I don't.

Frankly, I'm thinking a HotSpot access point is becoming more of a hassle than it's worth!


Hump Day, need more coffee!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I work in IT. IT is hell. So when I've been working 10 days straight on one problem and have yet to even see the light at the end of the tunnel (yea you politics guys probably think that's nothin') ... there's one thing on my mind for the majority of the day: Coffee.

It starts at 6am when I wake up and make the coffee, and it ends sometime after 11pm when I finish my last Espresso Love.

Espresso Love from the Arbor Brewing Company is a "Breakfast Stout", which is by no means a strict style guideline from the BJCP. What it is is a casual grouping of stouts that include coffee and oatmeal in the recipe. Some even take it a step further and add chocolate, like Founders Breakfast Stout. A quick search of shows 22 beers using the word Breakfast, 48 using Espresso, 85 using Coffee, so this isn't a new fad but definitely hasn't caught full steam yet. Personally I think a good Porter or Stout can only benefit from a bit of coffee!

Espresso Love is their standard Oatmeal Stout plus locally roasted and ground Espresso. And what a WONDERFUL combination it is! The Love pours dark, like black espresso with cola colored edges. Large rocky head is formed, most likely due to a vigorous pour, and is the color of a strong mocha. The head recedes slowly leaving no lace and no film to speak of (I gotta stop putting my beer glasses through the dishwasher! But I'm lazy...)

The aroma on this brew is absolutely amazing. Only other stout I've had that could come close was Bell's Rye Stout. This is an awesome combination of strong espresso and hints of caramel and chocolate. Like walking into a Starbucks, this could totally wake me up out of a dead stupor in a whiff.

And the taste does not disappoint. It's truly great. It's a very full flavored stout starting with some dark fruit like plums then molasses and chocolate, all quickly swept aside by strong coffee and roasty malt. Dark Chocolate and coffee are prevalent flavors, really a winner on these cold 'Winter' days.

Oatmeal Stouts are known for their thick, creamy body. Oatmeal lends the majority of this to the style due to their increased amount of unfermentable proteins over barley. This beer is a GREAT example of that; it has a creamy mouthfeel to make all other stouts jealous. Actually, the only other one that I've tried that got close was Bell's Rye Stout. Really got to try this one to know though!

At 6.5% ABV, it's a bit heavier than your average beer, but not so strong that it totally knocks your socks off. Almost dangerously easy to drink, I think that this one will have a special spot on my fridge all Winter! Cheers!


Les is More?

Monday, December 03, 2007

I just read a post from that basically makes Les Miles out to be a saint. It says that he wanted to come to UM but that Michigan never gave him a serious offer and left him hanging to the point where he had to stay at LSU. It implies that Bill Martin and the boys tried to hang him out to dry, and that he didn't care about the money at all.

I also saw Mitch Albom on “the sports reporters” and read his column over the weekend. He seemed to think the exact opposite – that Les Miles used all the attention to parlay himself into a large contract extension.

Here is what I think (based on no sources whatsoever):

I think that Lloyd Carr never really wanted Miles here. I think that Bill Martin is fiercely loyal to Lloyd, but still had to make overtures to Miles otherwise Michigan nation would have crucified him and would have been overly critical of the next coach (“if we had Les, we wouldn’t have punted there…”). It would be like Ron Zook at Florida – did great but expectations are tremendous.

So, Billy Martin makes the overture to Miles at exactly the worst time. Three days before LSU is about to play for an SEC championship. As expected, it made all the hype and media. And Les had to respond. He recruited the LSU guys and can’t let them down (like he did to Okie State), so he is forced to either step down at LSU or say no to Michigan. Well, he wants to finish the job at LSU, so he is forced to say no to Michigan. He was set up by Martin to HAVE to say no to the job.

At the same time, Les is not the innocent party that this “fly on the wall” email makes him. When the media frenzy began, he did nothing to quell the rumors. Not until LSU made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. So, he parlayed the rumors into a BIG payday…thus making this about the money.

Oh, and LSU was brilliant. As soon as UM requested an interview with Miles, LSU publicized it and made a salary bump offer before Michigan could even talk to Miles. They took the interceding days to up Miles’ salary and leave him in a situation where he stays or goes.

All very sad. Could’ve happened differently.

Now we are left with two questions:

1. Who is the next coach? Brian Kelly (no big-time experience)? Bob Stoops (yeah, right)? Ron English (Mr. No Defense)? The Lloyd haters may want him back…

2. What will happen to our offense? Will Manningham and Arrington leave (Mario – yes, Adrian – no)? Will McGuffie decommit?

I really hope this gets worked out soon. And I am really nervous about a blowout by Florida as well…


A Bockumentary Film Review

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Let me set the stage for you: Five friends leave New York City by minivan and set out to visit 38 breweries in 40 days.

Did you see the last part of that sentence? 38 breweries in 40 days. I am jealous beyond belief. I wish I had the luxury to take a month and a half off of life and go on that type of road trip.

But instead, those 5 guys did it for me and made an entertaining and very well-="edited and well-conceived documentary called American Beer: A Bockumentary.

What really set this documentary apart from other "road trip" style efforts is that the focus was not on the 5 friends and their relationship over the course of the trip. It was on the brewers and breweries. That is exactly as it should have been and I loved it.

It felt like a really fast hour and 45 minutes. The 38 breweries they stopped by are some of my favorites, including Anchor Steam, Brooklyn Brewery, Dogfish Head, Ommegang, New Belgium and Rogue. It was fun to put faces and voices to the "brewmasters" I have been reading about and drinking from. Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head is a physically fit dude just about my age. Larry Bell from Bell's is sort of an unkempt nerdy-looking fellow. Anchor Steam's brewer is older than my parents and bought the brewery in 1965. On and on, it was fun to see the brewers and the guts of the breweries.

The brewers, for their part, were extremely forthcoming about being a craft brewer. Each one, in part, discussed how and why they started, the challenges in owning and brewing in a craft brewery, humble beginnings, and their favorite beers. Larry Bell's story of his rocky start ("My second year, I made $25,000 and lost $25,000") and the mysterious sale-from-heaven that allowed his brewery to take-off was a really cool story. One and all had a great tale of starting with a single kettle brewing 3 times a day to the operation they have now. Some still brew amazing beers in cobbld-together shops and the Yuengling brewery (American's oldest) still makes use of the 52-degree tunnels hand-dug into the mountains (and apparently brew with ghosts).

The guys, of course, get smashed with some of the brewers, but again, little attention is paid to their party episodes in lieu of footage capturing each brewer's personality and story.

This is not a movie that will teach you how to brew. This is simply a movie about the greatest beer run in American History. I highly recommend this bockumentary and further, declare it Required Watching for the contributors to Around the Keg. It's a great contribution to the history of the AMerican Craft Beer movement. As the movie says when it starts

By the end of the 1970's," reads the white-on-black text that opens the film, "corporate consolidation" left the United States with less than 50 breweries.

There are nearly 1,400 in the U.S. today.


Friday Beer Review

Friday, November 30, 2007

Winter gives us two things: dark beers and the ability to more easily lager beers. The best of both worlds, a dark lager, is up for today's offering.

Many of the contributors here meet up on Thursday nights at a friend's house who has a kegerator. You chip in some cash, and by the tiome we drain it, he's got enough to buy a new keg. Normally, he takes his trips to Michigan Brewing Company. I've done a slew of out-of-state and foreign beers, I figured it was about time to highlight a Michigan beer from what I think is a consistently good brewery.

Every Thursday for the past month or so (we are clearly not drinking fast enough), Greg has offered our group of nerds Michigan Brewing Company's Bavarian Dark. It is an absolutely lovely Munich Dunkel.

Out of the keg, this deep, smokey offering pours a dark mahogany color with beautiful ruby highlights. It has a 1- to 2- finger head with retention that lasts almost the whole glass, and leaves a sticky, lovely tan lacing all the way to the end.

The aroma suggests a very drinkable beer; it is balanced towards malt, for sure. Bready, more like toasted bread crust. A scant hint of chocolate and a surprising (as it is not common for the style) smoke smell; not "camp fire" like a rauchbier, but just smokey. A tinge of hops makes an appearance towards the end of the nose, but definitely the malt dominates.

On tasting, I got some big-time toasted malt, not of the sweet variety but more of the bready/toasty variety with some sweetness. I get some chocolate, some nuttiness, but I also get this really beautiful smokey taste under the malt. It's like a smoke/coffee flavor that I found to be tasty and perfectly complimentary to the overall beer without overpowering the malt. It's there, but it's not the most prominent. I don't really expect that taste for this style of beer, but again, I think it enhanced it. Very subtle (but not weak) hops.

This beer has a nice medium body to, thickened a bit by the dextrins from the malts. It is a great, clean lager taste, accentuating the breadiness of the malt. This is definitely a "session beer" as I find myself downing one after another every single Thursday.


Legislative Bratwurst

Thursday, November 29, 2007

For those of you who have never experienced representative democracy first-hand, I have a suggestion for you;

Don't. Ever.

Smitty and I had the distinct pleasure this morning of sitting through a 2-hour committee debate/discussion of municipal bonding for retiree health care costs. It's hard to describe in words, but picture a combination of:


Think of committee like a one-room schoolhouse. Everyone, kindergarten through 12th grade, is in the same class. Some committee members are well versed in the topic of the day, and some are just struggling to not wet themselves before nap time. Therefore, the experts who testify must explain every tiny detail, from the complex (rate structure vs. debt servicing) to the bare-ass obvious ("Health care is when someone gives mommy money if she gets sick...").

There's an old saying that dictates that there two things you never want to see made; laws and sausages. I used to think that was because both turn out pretty well, but the process used to make them is messy and unappetizing. More and more I'm beginning to think that, as with the sausage grinder, you just don't want to know what low-grade refuse is used as filler to create the final product. Sure, most of the flavoring is done by the people who know what they're doing, but you don't get to the final mass without a little bit of hoof and snout.

Bon Apetit.


Santa's Little Helpers

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You know, I've always suspected that Santa's elves were beer drinkers. Trouble-makers and rabble rousers they are, like any good beer drinker. They thumb their noses at authority. And this picture I think is proof:

Well this year, my wife and I are putting together the "home-made" style Chritsmas presents. You kid...twins...don't know what the Hell to buy we opted for the home-made gift. It's effort, it's love, and it covers for the fact that we have no idea what to buy anyone.

So while Santa has to deal with the helpers pictured above, this "Santa's" helpers look like this:

This year, we're giving the gift of beer. And Santa's little helpers are a fine English Ale Yeast compliments of White Labs.

The problem I faced is that we are just under 2 weeks before the first Christmas party with family (yeah, we start early). Thus, I needed to brew a beer that ferments and matures quickly and that has enough mild flavors to cover for any "young" or immature flavors. I was thinking a British Brown Ale.

The recipe:
6.6 pounds muntons dark plain malt extract
1/2 pound crystal malt (I used Crystal 60L)
1/4 pound black patent

Now here's where that hops shortage post we put up is affecting brewing recipes. I wanted to use 2 oz. of Fuggles for the bittering and 1/2 oz. Fuggles for the aromatics...but Fuggles are unavailable until at least January. And this is from a homebrew shop that' part of a brewery that has a hop contract with suppliers. Yikes. But, they did have UK East Kent Goldings. The difference between the two is .2% alpha acid, so the difference is not that huge. The biggest difference is some mild floral scent from the Kent versus a hint of spiciness from the Fuggle. No biggie.

I added 4 tsp of gypsum for yeast health and WLP005 White Labs British Ale Yeast (Perfect for malty beers). Less than 12 hours later, I've got a healthy fermentation cooking, a thick 3-inch yeast cake on top and things are moving along just fine.

I did this without Chief Assistant Brew Master Joel. This is not something I will do again. Not only is the extra set of hands a huge benefit, but Joel knows what's up. His sage wisdom like "dude, you realize that boiling water can melt plastic, right?" and "hey, this works a lot better when you put the funnel actually over the bucket, dude" are actually the reason that my beers turn out as good as they do. But Joel was somewhere else in the country this past weekend, so I was forced to go it alone. I barely made it. A spill, a slosh, some melted equipment and a missing rubber bung later, the beer is in the fermenter. Joel, I can't do it without you. You....complete me.

So Santa's little helpers are fermenting away. Hopefully, this year's Christmas beer turns out how I hope it will and is a pleasant drinking experience.

If not, I blame Joel.


Thanksgiving Itinerary

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know that there is sheer gluttony at the Smitty In-Laws house today; turkey, 2 kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries of various man-made and/or natural variations, white-trash church banquet green bean casserole (that kind with the cream of mushroon soup and the crunchy onion topping), assorted pies, etc. etc. etc.

As I reflect on the day I am about to embark upon, I was reminded of this post from a "regular" over at Kissing Suzy Kolber, which is a decent blog, by the way. It's his itinerary for Thanksgiving. And you may find it surprisingly accurate...

At any rate, have a great thanksgiving. Allow me to leave you with this commercial. It's funny because that size of turkey is roughly how much it takes to feed my brother and I on thanksgiving. Thanks for all the turkey, mom!


Lions for Lambs

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mrs. Smitty and I pawned Smitty Jr. off on the grandparents this weekend and had a day-long kid-free shop-a-thon.

And what did we buy, mostly? If you guessed "stuff for Smitty Jr." you'd be correct.

At any rate, one of the many things that we crammed-in yesterday was a viewing of Lions For Lambs. I must say, Mrs. Smitty and I were impressed. The movie really got us thinking, and it awakened a lot of thoughts that I had repressed and allowed to go dormant.

Quickly, so I don't give much away, it's about an hour and 20 minutes, give or take, in the life of 3 sets of people: a reporter (Meryl Streep) and her hour-long interview with an up-and-coming Republican Senator (Tom Cruise); a college student in a come-to-Jesus (and not the religious kind) meeting with his professor (played by an Andrew Garfield and Robert Redford, respectively); and 2 Army Rangers in a pretty shitty spot (played by Michael Pena and Derek Luke, two folks I've never ehard of but I'll give credit where it's due). Their three separate story lines converge, in a way.

It's more of a vignette. You come in to the story with events happening, and leave it without everything having been wrapped-up. I really like that as a device. But that's not all the movie does for you. For me, it left me asking what one of the characters would do. And in essence, it was like asking myself what I'd do.

Before I get into any philosphical discussions I guess I'll touch on the movie itself. Critics have been slamming this film and there's some folks out there who think it's emotionless and dull. Well, true, the only action scenes take place with the Rangers in Afghanistan. But you go to this movie to listen to what it says through its characters. And even from what they say, I imagine 2 different people with 2 different biases would come away with 2 different messages from this movie. That's pretty cool. Don't go to this movie looking for a Private Ryan-esque shooter or even a The Kingdom gripping thriller. It's not. It's 2 debates and 1 set of consequences. I found the movie to move very quickly despite the lack of action because the interplay of the 3 different stories, as well as the philosophy behind the dialogue, really moved it quickly forward.

This movie also doesn't wrap stuff up in a neat little bow for you. It makes you ask yourself what happens, and as I said above, it makes you ask yourself what you'd do. So if you need things wrapped up like a little present, don't go see this movie.

Speaking in broad terms, here's what it did for me. I am dissatisfied with our progress in the War On Terror. I don't think that stopping completely is the right answer. I see a different answer that involves engagement at many different levels; military, social and educational. But what can I do? I've served, honorably, in the military already for 8 years. I have a wife, a Smitty Jr. and a Thing 1 and Thing 2 on the I reenlist? My wife certainly doesn't want me to. But like the movie points out, talk is cheap if you can figure out a way to make a change, even if it ultimately brings you to the same place as doing nothing. But where I am stuck right now is what, exactly, can I do right now to institute change? Can I run for office and get my ass kicked by Congressman Mike Rogers (R - Brighton)? Not to mention I'm a political Nobody; just another lobbyist.... Should I try to attend the National Defense Institute? Maybe. But right now, I am dissatisfied with the current direction and dissatisfied with my level of involvement.

At any rate, go check the movie out. It's not a thriller folks, but it at least makes you ask yourself important questions: is the passion of those willing to continue or repackage the war misplaced? Is it bullshit? Is our media complicit? What would you do to change things?


A Michigan Man

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lloyd Carr might be one of the easiest punching bags in the college football world. After all, there are always 3 "L's" in Lloyd. His Michigan teams are like opossums (after all, they play dead at home and get killed on the road). And he pretty much perfected the Wolverine Cookie recipe; put them in a big bowl and beat for three hours. It's easy to make fun of Lloyd. But you'd be hard-pressed to find many coaches with a better track record.

His football credentials are solid. He coached for 13 seasons, and had 13 winning seasons. I can think of a lot of schools who would love to be able to say that (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, and the University of Miami come to mind). With a 121-40 record, he took the highest all-time winning percentage in college football and IMPROVED it. A National Championship, multiple Big Ten titles, multiple Rose Bowls. And he ended his tenure with 11 straight wins over Penn State and 6 straight over Michigan State.

The knock on Lloyd was always that he was too "old school". He didn't adapt well to the evolution of the spread offense on either side of the ball. His defenses couldn't stop it, and his offenses couldn't run it (and never tried to adopt elements of it). He ran more draw plays on 2nd-and-10 than the rest of the Big Ten combined. And he was always content to try to win a game 13-10 in an era when 33-30 was more likely. Vince Young, Appalachian State, and the Man in the Sweatervest made that more and more obvious as the years went on.

But there is another side to the "old school" moniker. He came from an era where a successful program was not a springboard for the Next Big Thing (Nick Saban, I'm looking in your direction). It was never about Lloyd; it was always about the program. He hated interviews and the media. He was loyal to his assistants and his players (almost to a fault), and never threw them under the bus. That's probably why he was such an easy target; he never ducked.

In 13 years, Michigan's program was beyond clean. It was virtually spotless. There have been no Maurice Clarett incidents. No Reggie Bush scandals. No Florida State University (i.e. Free Shoes University) happenings. Not to pick on my Sparty brethren, but two MSU players are still starting while under indictment for armed robbery. Oklahoma seems to have a weekly appointment with the NCAA infractions committee. Even Penn State and Notre Dame, with their reputation as "above the fray" programs, have had their incidents. But Michigan remains nearly unblemished.

That was the legacy of Bo. And I have a feeling that it will be the legacy of Lloyd. Consistency, excellence, and above all, integrity.

So now the search for a replacement begins (although it has actually been underway for several weeks). Les Miles, LSU's coach, is the logical replacement. He played for Bo, and served as an Assistant at Michigan many years ago. Those of you who don't follow Michigan may not be aware of the obsession with finding a Michigan Man. It doesn't necessarily mean someone who went to Michigan (though that helps). A Michigan Man is one who puts the program first. He honors the building that Fritz Crisler and Fielding Yost built, and the program that Bo revived. The list is short. Jim Harbaugh was on that list until earlier this year. But he violated that trust by putting himself by badmouthing the program to score cheap points. That's something that a Michigan Man doesn't do.

So thank you, Lloyd. And the first time Les Miles runs a 5-wide receiver set onto the field, I'll remember the times when "Mike Hart behind Jake Long" played like a broken record, and I'll be thankful again.


As American As Mom, the Flag, and...Beer

Friday, November 16, 2007

There are brown ales, and then there are brown ales. The Brits brew brown ales in the form of Mild, Southern (or London), and Northern. Most people are familar with Newcastle, which falls into the Northern category.

But then there's American Brown Ales. This is a really interesting style in that its origin is actually with American homebrewers. It's a style where homebrewers, back when homebrewing was made legal under the Carter Administration (in what some would say was his best act as President), tried to emulate the British style brown ales which were malty, sweet, mild and very pleasant beers. However, many of the most appropriate malts and hop varieties weren't yet available in the states, so they had to use the closest American approximations, which end up lending a different character to the beer altogether. Thus, a new style of Brown ale grew to be its own very distinct category of beer. Its roots are most assuredly present in the British varieties but it has grown to have that distinct American flavor that sets it apart from its cousins across the pond.

Today's selection is Sierra Nevada Brown Ale. And as most Sierra Nevada beers, this one is the quintessential American Brown Ale style of beer.

It poured a thick, creamy one-finger head, which left beautiful lacing all the way down the glass to the finish. It is a very clear beer, and showed-off some really eye-catching brassy hues.

Like its British cousins, you get a lovely nutty toasted malt nose with some roasted grain and brown sugar. But there it is, that thing that sets it apart, that lovely citrus scent only available in the best of American hop varieties.

This beer is smooth in every sense. There's a load of toasty malt sweetness up front. Caramel and brown sugar make an appaerance with just a hint of nuttiness. But then that citrusy hop leaps out from nowhere and adds an ample bitterness that you just don't get in the English styles. It's not overpowering at all, it's just very American. It finishes on a nice rounded toasted grain note.

Smooth and crisp, with a moderate body, makes this with an ideal session beer; enjoy one after another...after another...after another...

The difference in stykes between American and British isn't just in the more pronounced hops. You also don't always get some of the fruity esters you get in some of the English styles, nor some of that deep fruit like plums or prunes. There is way more interplay between hops and malts in the American style, but it is still very balanced. I still would not classify this style of beer as "hoppy" by any means, but compared to its British counterparts, it is.

Next time you crack this stunning beer, hoist one to the ingenuity of American homebrewers for being enterprising enough to come away having created a unique style of beer. Cheers!


All Those Keggers Paid Off

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


cash advance

Thanks to a link over at george's place, there is a nifty little widget that indicates the reading level it takes to read your blog.

Proudly, we achieved "postgrad" status!

I attribute our vaguely-advanced reading level to the amount of times the words "beer," "drunk," and "sorority girls" appear in this blog.

Actually, I can't think of one single time any of the contributors here ever included "sorority girls" in a post. However, one intrepid contributor did indeed include the phrase "fresh cod, gay weddings, and Ted Kennedy's urine" in a post. All in the same sentence. That's how we roll here.

And let's not forget the "Brewing Extravaganza" episode.


It's Corny that Beer Prices Ale Me

Monday, November 12, 2007

My father in law, who lives in Myrtle Beach, sent me this alarming article about beer consistency, quality and prices.

Looks like bad weather has damaged the hops output in America and Germany. I blame global warming. If ever there was one issue that would finally get me off the stick to do something about globa, warming, it's that is threatens my ability to use what hops I want to use, and will increase the price of my favorite beers, and homebrewing. Damn you, global warming. From the article:

Australia endured its worst drought on record. Hail storms across Europe damaged crops. Extreme heat in the western United States hurt both yields and quality.
And then, to make matters worse, I find out that the fucking solution to global warming is increaing the prices of wheat and barley because farmers are switching to growing corn to meet ethanol demands!
Barley and wheat prices have skyrocketed as more farmers plant corn to meet increasing demand for ethanol, while others plant feed crops to replace acres lost to corn.
How, now, am I supposed to b environmentally-conscious when the much-celebrated ethanol-burning vehicles of the future are actually responsible for driving-up the price of my favorite beers?

The answer, fellow beer lovers, is Cellulosic Ethanol:
While chemically identical to ethanol produced from corn or soybeans, cellulose ethanol exhibits a net energy content three times higher than corn ethanol and emits a low net level of greenhouse gases.
Get off of corn ethanol, folks. It's going to drive up food - and beer - prices. Get on the cellulosic bandwagon.

This is a classic example of being careful of what you wish for. Global warming, all jokes aside, is a huge issue; climate change in general is going to be a key factor in how and where we farm. But sometimes the easiest solution, which in this case is making fuel of something using a process we and our ancestors have used for millenium - distilling, is economically the wrong solution. We're in a huge hurry to invest in corn ethanol when we should be investing in ethanol period, derived from plant matter. It's more flexible and adds value to all crops across the board.

And it won't increase the price of my beer!


Parenting Advice from a Single Guy

Thursday, November 08, 2007

In the spirit of Smitty's newest additions-to-be, I figured I would pass along my best piece of parenting advice. I have no children, and I am not planning to in the near future. I have one very cute nephew, however, and I have learned a few things from watching him.

  • Rule #1: Do not give your child GHB. You would think that one would be self-explanatory. But apparently not.
  • Rule #2: Finding the right gift for your child's birthday can be difficult. Don't be afraid to think... um... outside the box?
  • Rule #3: Do NOT give birth to twins on the day Daylight Savings Time begins. It just causes problems.

That's all I know. But I feel like it's a good start.


Just Shy of 8 Is Enough

Monday, November 05, 2007

So I'll keep it short.

Here's a picture of the new Smitty Family purchase.

Yes, it's a Chevy Uplander. A minivan. Oh ye Gods, a minivan. But we love it.

Why, you ask, through gnashed teeth, whilst shaking your fists at the sky. Why on earth would such an awesome family like the Smitty family enjoy the purchase of a minivan?

Because Mrs. Smitty and I are thrilled to announce that this coming May, we will be expecting TWINS!

As for now, we are calling them Thing 1 and Thing 2. We won't know the gender until January-ish, and while the doctor sees signs of their being identical twins, we won't know for sure without a blood test after they're born.

Smitty Jr. is looking forward to 2 new hockey enthusiasts joining household. Mrs. Smitty and I are thrilled for more indentured servitude 12 more years down the road.


We're #1!!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It is finished! Around the Keg is #1 on Google for the phrase Brewing Extravaganza!

I would like to thank all of our contributors and guests for your hard work and dilligence in getting Around the Keg as the #1 spot on Google for Brewing Extravaganza.

This is a very proud moment for us. We'll pop the cork on a nice bottle of Unibroue's Maudite to celebrate.

First: Brewing Extravaganza. Next: The World!


Now Here's a Real Ice Beer

Friday, November 02, 2007

Forget Icehouse, Molson Ice, Miller Ice and whatever other kind of ice beer exists in the mass market segment. Leave it to the Germans to have created, over 100 years ago, a real ice beer.

It's called an eisbock.

Imagine this: an enterprising bar owner stored his kegs outdoors in the winter. Makes sense. Natural refrigeration. One day, after an especially vicious-cold night, he went to tap a keg of doppelbock. There was a problem: it was frozen. He decided to tap it closer to the bottom and found that there was a lovely, highly-concentrated bock left on the bottom, apart from all the other stuff that froze. He called it eisbock, and it sold like mad.

Today's selection is considered the original: Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock.

Aventinus pours a hazy brown with amber highlights. It is completely opaque, due to the hazy wheat and suspended yeast, much like a hefe weizen. It gave a nice, fluffy off-white head, but the 12% ABV of this beer killed it pretty qui8ck. What was left was a lovely off-white ring down the glass.

Right up font I got some clovey-phenolic smells (again, much like a hefe weizen...appropriate given that this is a weizen itself and has lots of...weizen in it), with a bit of banana. I also got some deep fruits like prune, nice and sweet and dark. No hops here, just wheaty malts.

Pow. Right away is a sweet malt attack. Not cloying in the least, just big, concentrated malt. Doppelbock on crack. Or ice. Whatever. Full, thick, syrupy with honey, coffee,chocolate and dark dried fruits. Brown sugar and caramel too. Clove flavors surface towards the end, and you can taste a bit of the wheat and its grain-husk tannins. For such a massive ABV, this beer hides the alcohol very well under all that malt, but there is a definitive alcohol warmth. Again, this is a doppelbock extreme-style; all those flavors turned way up. It's the differenec between listening to, say, old Metallica (the good stuff, you know, before they decided to become sober...and bitch-like), and old Metallica REALLY LOUD. I could see drinking this when it's wicked-cold outside and being juuuust fine.

This beer is so smooth on the palate, almost creamy. The harsh alcohol bite for such a high ABV is deceivingly absent, but there is a distinct warming effect. You can enjoy this beer as a sipper; definitely not a "session" beer but perfect in and of itself for a bottle or two. It goes down so smooth and creamy.

Enjoy a bottle on a cold night, maybe with some dark chocolate dessert that can hang with the sweetness of the beer. Or, just make this your dessert.

Maybe I'll try to make one during my next Brewing Extravaganza.


Another Damn Meme

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fom over at george's place there appears to be another silly little meme running around.

The goal appears to be to find 5 phrases in various posts in your blog that when you google them actually make your blog the first search result.

So here's what sets Around the Keg apart and above all the rest. It's a proud, proud list:

1. large-ass megalopolis
2. October-Long Oktoberfest
3. The head is a behemoth perfection
4. a sordid tale of sex and betrayal at a beer festival
5. massive-beer-geeks

And those, my fellow keggers, are what set us apart from all the other blogs. Sex and betrayal at a beer festival, month-long celebrations, head, huge cities and beer geekery. I am bummed, though, that the phrase "brewing extravaganza" did not include this site. We must try harder, people.


Beer Tasting

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So this past Saturday evening offered my a test-run into a little possible side project for me. I put together and ran a beer tasting session, and really enjoyed it.

As nerdy as it sounds, my folks held a show at their house for a local potter. My mom is also a potter (with a degree in fine arts/ceramics from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit) and has a shed in the yard where she throws pots (all joking aside). They invited a very talented local potter, Jon Whitney, who put a beautiful representation of his work on display for purchase. He also borrowed my mom's studio and did a few demos on throwing pots (all jokes aside). Go check out his web site; his art is gorgeous and functional.

To break things up a bit, they offered both a wine and beer tasting. Of course, since I am putting together different programs for beer tastings, they asked me to try it out.

Given the October timeline and theme (lots of German-style food at the party), I figured I'd do a German beer tasting. I chose four very different beers that were different from what everyone thinks of in terms of German beer (Warsteiner, St. Pauli Girl, Heineken): Atwater Brewery's Maibock, Atwater Brewery's Oktoberfest (Bloktoberfest), Paulaner's Hefe Weizen and Ayinger's Celebrator.

This tasting was a come-and-go-as-you-please setup, so I repeated myself a lot. In the future, I'd sort of like to try it all at once. But for a reception-style party, it made a ton of sense to be flexible. As people approached, I did a brief explanation (with a write-up) about the 4 ingredients of beer and their interplay. I also supplied a write-up of each of the 4 beers I brought that was essentially a simplified version of the BJCP guidelines for each of those beers (including appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and overall impression as well as history and commercial examples). Next to each sensory category, I left blanks so people could write their own impressions and the challenge was to see if they could see, taste and smell each of what is prescribed as well as simply be aware of what they are tasting (That's what I tasted...I just couldn't put my finger on it)..

As for order, I began the evening walking people from the Maibock to the Hefe to the Oktoberfest and then the Doppelbock. But part way through it occured to me to swtich it up just a bit. I started people with the Hefe (as the delicate clove and banana esters could go missing if one started with a stronger beer), then the Oktoberfest. Then I gave them the Maibock followed by the Doppelbock on the understanding that a Maibock and a Doppelbock are in the same "family" category in the BJCP Guidelines (a bock is a bock, be it Mai, Doppel, Traditional or Eis) so people could get a sense of the evolution of the bock. People were surprised at some of the similarities between a very light and a very dark beer.

Apparently, my spot was a pretty popular hangout. People left knowing and appreciating just a bit more about various types of beer and at the very least commented that they expanded their horizons of German beer beyond the pilsner.

With one solid tasting under my belt, along with the requisite self-critique of what I could do better, I'd really like to find more opportunities to branch out and do this more often.


"Make sure your seatbacks and tray tables are in their upright... oh, forget it, we're all going to die anyway"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Travelling is usually an enlightening experience. This was certainly true of my recent three-day trip to visit my sister in New York City. Some of the gems I can share with you:

  • If your flight is delayed due to poor weather at your destination airport, but later the airline cancels the delay and declares that they are going to "give it a shot", beware.
  • If you are on such a flight, and the pilot orders the flight attendants to take their seats and suggests that passengers tighten their seatbelts, and the flight attendants reminds you that the "barf bags are in the seat pocket in front of you," you're in for a ride.
  • People lose ALL sense of humor when their plane hits turbulence.
  • New York is an absolutely fascinating town. And by town, I mean large-ass megalopolis. So much to see and do, and not just in Manhattan. I highly recommend it.
  • New York cabbies must be some of the most skilled drivers in the world. I imagine it's what the Blue Angels would look like if they were talking on a cell phone in a foreign language while flying.
  • If you are a visitor in New York City, you will stand out. There is no way to avoid it.
  • The East River has a specific smell. It's like Justice Stewart's definition of pornography... I can't define it, but I know it when I smell it.
  • The people of New York have a reputation for being assholes, but I didn't find that to be the case. Except for Jets fans on Sundays. They are, as one might guess, unbridled dickheads.
  • Make sure that your flight isn't scheduled for the one day where it might be difficult to get to the airport.
  • Arrive early for any flights out of LaGuardia. The security lines can snake back and forth around the entire Departures section. It's like the lines at Cedar Point, only without the fun ride at the end. Unless, of course, you end up on one of the flights I mentioned earlier.
  • On a 7:30 a.m. flight, worry more about the 60-year-old guy next to you than the 6-month-old in the seat in front of you. Both of them will sleep through the flight. But only the 60-year-old will snore like a lumberjack the whole way.
  • The three days you leave Michigan will always, ALWAYS be the nicest few days of the month weather-wise.

Anyone else have recent travel advice?


Video of the Week (but not every week) #7

Monday, October 22, 2007

A funny little one never seen before. Say what you want about the beer, but Bud Light commercials are pretty darn funny.


Beer Prices to Rise!

I can handle $3.00 a gallon gas and another 6% to get my palm read, but for God's sake when will it end?

Now beer is going up?


The Most Important Issue to Voters is...

Bullshit. The Onion is usually pretty funny, but this is so true. Scary, but true.


How NOT to judge beer...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Unlike Smitty, I have no official beer-tasting training. I don't know the subtle differences between a bock and a dopplebock. And I don't know the right gravity for an American Pale Ale.

However, I do know a few things:

  • If you hold a beer-judging event, and Old Style, Old Milwaukee Light, PBR, and Coors Lght are involved, you need to reconsider some things.
  • If you hold a beer-judging event, and those beers WIN... you need to leave. right now.

And yet, I offer you solid proof that people like Smitty (and soon Colin) need to smack the rest of these amatuers off the stage...



Monday, October 15, 2007

You ever seen someone berate someone else with such exacting language that you can't help but feel rotten....and you're not even the one being yelled at?

Enter Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez (U.S. Army - Retired). Last Friday, at the Military Reporters and Editors luncheon briefing, General Sanchez took the press corps to task first, then Congress and the President. He doled-out shame like candy at Halloween.

For a transcript, look here.

And he is right, in my estimation. He is right to berate the press folks for dishonesty and self-aggrandizement. And he is equally right to dismantle Congress and the Preznit for...well...exactly the same thing.

Some gems:







Okay. So far, so good. Call them out for their personal attacks. But it gets cooler.
Heh. Take that....everyone.
That says it all.

Here's some gems of his assessment of Iraq:
The rest is an elaboration on exactly that point. But be assured, his angst is directed at who was in charge when we invaded...and the Congress that is in charge now. And the Preznit.

There are some keys in his discussion, including disdain for the "coalition" that's been put together. It was hasty, as he put it, and is under-resourced, especially as the coalition members withdraw. And they withdraw, in his estimation, because we have no plan other than individual political gain.

Go read it in its entireity.

Then let's discuss.


October-Long Oktoberfest

Friday, October 12, 2007

In recognition of the best holiday save for St. Patrick's Day (I am more Irish than German, after all), I am embarking on an all-Oktoberfest October for beer reviews.

Last week's was the ever-charming Sam Adams Oktoberfest. But for this week, we head to one of Germany's proudest breweries: Hacker-Pschorr, which dates all the way back to 1417.

This lovely German pours a gorgeous light amber color, bordering towards copper. It yielded a thick, off-white, 2-finger head. The lovely, fragrant foamleft a beautiful, small, tight lacing down the glass as it poured down my throat. Under that thick head is a sharp, crystal-clear beer. FOrget seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. I want to see it through Oktoberfest-colored glasses!

The scent of this beer, especially right after the pour, brings tidings of great joy. Great, sweet caramel and toffee right up front and dominant throughout. I caught some mildly sharp fruit like a tart apple, all balanced by a hint of roastiness. I'm sure there was a hop presence in there, but really, my nose was in the mood for the malt.

Man, these Germans can brew. Before I really got into brewing and tasting different beers, my impression of German beers was Heineken and St. Pauli Girl. Boy did I miss a whole universe of big, tasty beers. This offering from Hacker-Pschorr is one of my favorites. It is chock-full of big caramel and sweet malt, which gives the beer the impression of being sugary-sweet. I get some bread crust taste as well; a neutral sweetness to balance what could otherwise be a pretty cloying sweetness. Ah, balance; the true art of German beers. There's the slightest hint of noble hops, earthy and grassy, to lend more counter-point to the malt. But in the true form of this style of beer, it has a beautiful, simple malt flavor. Oktoberfest is all about the malt.

I'd call this beer, despite the maltiness, a medium-light bodied beer, smooth and refreshing. It is a little watery, but I'm not gonna knock it.

While Sammy A certainly offers a well-balanced beer, you just can't beat the source. We sure like the ability of an American brewery to emulate their German forbearers, but if you want to taste what the Germans are quaffing as we speak, go get this beer.


How to Beat Your Wife

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Continuing with the Mid-East theme, here is a video on the rules for beating your wife. Don't hit her in the face, don't leave bruises or draw blood, don't do it front of your kids. In other words, don't leave any evidence. While we certainly had this happen in our country's history, I find it appalling that this is still acceptable in some places.


Non-binding Idiocy

Not wanting to be upstaged by the Senate's "outrage" at's NYT ad, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a measure 27-21 on Wednesday evening calling the killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in WWI, a genocide. Turkish foreign policy advisor Egeman Bagis has responded by saying that, "yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball. I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball." There is a good chance that this response would include closing off that country to US planes and supplies. In addition, it would hurt our relations with Turkey, who is also a member of NATO and an ally.

I am not condoning the conduct of Turkey, but I have a hard time understanding what this is supposed to accomplish and seriously doubt the wisdom of doing this when we already have enough strained relationships in that part of the world. I see it as a huge waste of time, and an insult to the people that elected them to work. How much lower can their approval rating go? The Democratic leadership said they would bring it to the House floor if it made it out of committee. Bush is trying to to convince them otherwise. If I were paranoid, I'd say they were doing this just to make him look bad (as if he needs any help in that area), but I'd like to think they weren't that petty.

...One can dream.


Breaking News: Leon Sucks

As expected, Leon Drolet announced his list of recall candidates this morning, as reported in MIRS:

Today, Michigan Taxpayers Alliance (MTA) leader Leon DROLET said that there will be 10 initial recall efforts launched against lawmakers over the next few days in response to the recent 2008 budget deal - which included a tax hike and tax expansion.

The list includes five Republicans and five Democrats who voted for the tax increase/expansion measures - three GOP Senators and some surprises - particularly the fact that the list includes House Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Education Committee Chair Wayne KUIPERS (R-Holland).

In addition to Dillon and Kuipers the initial recall attempts will be launched against: Rep. Steve BIEDA (D-Warren), Rep. Marc CORRIVEAU (D-Northville), Rep. Robert DEAN (D-Grand Rapids), Rep. Ed GAFFNEY (R-Grosse Pointe Farms), Rep. Mary VALENTINE (D-Muskegon), Rep. Chris WARD (R-Brighton), Sen. Valde GARCIA (R-Howell) and Sen. Gerald VAN WOERKOM (R-Muskegon).

And while I am happy that my boss is not on the black-list, I am still disgusted by the whole thing. I'll post more about this in the near future when I'm less busy.

*** UPDATE ***

Okay, I'm back to bitch some more. My problem with this whole thing is very simple:
  • Voters selected Representatives to make decisions for them.
  • Representatives made decisions for them.
  • Voters got pissed.


Everyone knows the rules to this particular game; every two years, the voters in a district pick a person as their representative. Any person. It's entirely up to them. Think the guy in office right now is doing a good job? Vote for him again. Think your drunk-ass neighbor with the mullet could do a better job? Tell your friends to support him. Want to vote for a trained chimpanzee? Knock yourself out. But once that person is picked, that's your guy for two years.

Of course, voters don't always make a wise decision. The person they pick might turn out to be a complete liar. Or an idiot. Or a dick. Or they might just not see eye-to-eye with their constituents often enough. That's why the system has a built-in return policy. Don't like it? Bring it back after 730 days for a full refund.

Simple rules. Clear-cut. Did these people not get the memo? Am I out here in left field, or do people agree with me?


Iran, and Why Michelle Malkin is Going to Destroy The Right

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So today, I am a total whore for ripping-off stuff from Balloon Juice, but Mr. Cole has some excellent stuff up there today.

I was torn. I wanted badly to type something up about the SCHIP fiasco, why I think Bush is evil for his veto and some House Republicans (some, not all) are totally spineless for trying...really trying to defend his shitty position. Not wanting a piecemeal care not being run by bureaucrats...bullshit. SCHIP needs expansion. And Malkin, that shrill mouthpiece of the totally misguided Right (versus the more responsible, if not compassionate, Right), totally screwed up the Frost family incident that could have turned into a positive for the Republicans on the SCHIp front. Read it here. Then read this from Ezra Klein's site about what has happened to the Right. Anything I could add would be paltry. These guys do it right.

But then I ran across this gem on Cole's site. It's about Iran. I have long wanted to post something coherent and cogent about Iran, how it plays in the Middle East and how it may come out of the Iraq War debacle.

Suffice it to say, Ahmadinejad is a dickhead. I can't say it any better than Columbia University's President Lee Bollinger. The link goes to a transcript of Bollinger's "introduction" of Ahmadinejad (which apparently I may be one of few poeple who thought it was a great thing what Lee did), as well as to Ahadinejad's incoherent remarks after that.

That's not what this post is about. We all know he's a jerk.

What it is about, and what the Balloon Juice article from John Cole is about, is Iran's role in the Middle East. This is really important stuff. Go read it. Then come back.

Seriously. Go read it.

Back? Good. Let's talk.

Listen to Trita Parsi's interview on the Diane Rehm Show, here (yes, I know some of you hate her voice, but Jesus she does a good interview). Very interesting insites.

Here's what I get out of his interview and thoughts on Iran: they are acting, as any country would, in their own self-interest. It is not in Iran's self-interest to allow Shiite-on-Shiite violence to continue. Equally it is not in their self-interest to allow the Americans to set up another Sunni government in Iraq. And Iranian intervention is helping to create a Sunni minority. As America leaves, it is in Iran's interest to manage the situation rather than break it down further. They don't want or need chaos. They need an ally.

So as John Cole puts it, "So if Iran isn’t a crazy suicidal state committed to destroying Americans at every turn, what exactly is it?" Conside the following points drawn from Parsi:

  • Iran’s and Israel’s interests more or less overlapped for most of recent history. Both countries feared Arab hegemony and supported the Kurds as a counterbalance to Iraq. For example, Israel intervened on Iran’s behalf while the revolutionaries still had American hostages.
  • Invading Iraq presented a serious problem for Israel and it offered a golden opportunity for Iran. Iran would certainly ally with Iraq’s now dominant Shiites, leaving Israel with few counterbalancing options that don’t involve violence. Stuck with an impoverished chess position, Israel’s best option now involved convincing the US to attack first and hope for a more friendly Iran when the dust settles. Overhyping the threat from IEDs, nuclear programs, military aid etc. all fit this strategy.

I have to say that I agree with Cole's conclusion as well; that the balance of power previously held in the Middle East with Iraq acting as a more moderate counterpoint between Israeli-Iranian power struggles was completely upset, more or less at our doing and Israel's request. The solution now is violence.

And as Cole, this is not to call Israel or the U.S. into question as good or evil, just nations looking out for their best interests. That's just diplomacy, folks. (There is a great book called On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace by Donald Kagan I read some time ago. It discusses diplomacy moving to and eventually becoming war as arising from one of three principle factors: Fear, Interest and Honor. We're seeing that theory at play here. How Clausewitzian: war is but diplomacy by another means).

Does that then mean Iran purely and simply wants to destroy the U.S.? I am not so sure any more. I think they're just trying to best-position themselves as the seat of power in the new Middle East. Does that excuse Alleged Iranian-backed killings of U.S. troops? No. But it also doesn't mean it's us they're after per se. It's their own best interest. But with Bush's continual insistence, backed by General Petreaus's comments, that Iran's agenda is purely and simply anti-U.S., it puts us in a position where we have to use violence against Iran rather than figure out how we leverage each other's position for this "New Middle East."


Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Why My Cat Must Die

Monday, October 08, 2007

I used to like my cat. So did Mrs. Smitty.

But now, our cat must die.

His trick, you see, is to lull us to sleep. Then, promptly at 3:00 a.m. every single morning for the last 5 months he meows and howls at the top of his kitty lungs. Right at the bottom of the stairs.

We have tried everything. In fact, this little shit, if we close our bedroom door, he stands outside our bedroom door and does it.

If we leave our bedroom door open so he will just come the Hell in, he will howl until one of us gets out of bed and yells at him. Then he'll plod up the stairs, jump on the bed and go to sleep.

Every morning.

3:00 a.m.

5 months straight.

I know what I want to do.

Any advice?


Beer Reviews Are Back!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Nights are cold, days are getting cooler. I learned back when I was in the Marines that Northern Michigan, aroung Grayling and Gaylord, has roughly the same geography, landscape and weather as Germany and some of the Baltic states (we learned this as we geared-up for deployment to Bosnia). Why do I bring this up in a beer review?

Quite simply, because the Fall weather here is the the Fall weather the Germany has, which was the weather back on October 12, 1810...the first Oktoberfest!

From Wikipedia:

The festival is held on an area named the Theresienwiese (Field [or meadow] of Therese), often called "d’ Wiesn" for short. Beer plays a central role in the fair, with every festival beginning with a keg of beer tapped by the Mayor of Munich who declares "O'zapft is!" (Bavarian: "It’s tapped!"). A special Oktoberfest beer is brewed for the occasion, which is slightly darker and stronger, in both taste and alcohol. It is served in a one-liter-tankard called Maß. The first mass is served to the Bavarian Prime Minister. Only local Munich breweries are allowed to serve this beer in a Bierzelt, a beer tent which is large enough for thousands.

In the year 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th birthday. 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Bräurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time, with room for about 12,000 guests (today, the biggest tent is the Hofbräu-Festhalle, which holds 10,000).
  • 12,000 people are employed at the Oktoberfest. Of these, 1600 are waitresses[Barmaids].
  • There is seating available for 100,000 people.
  • The six Oktoberfest breweries, (Spaten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu) sold 6.1 million mugs of beer in 2006 (2005: 6.0 - 2004: 5.5 million).
    Roasted oxen: 102
  • Sausages: 219,442 pairs
  • Roast chickens: 459,279

Now that, my friends, is a big fucking party.

And what do they drink there? Oktoberfest!

And thus, we have today's selection: Sam Adams Oktoberfest.

Next week, I plan to review Hacker-Pschorr's Oktoberfest, but this week wanted to go with a pretty commonly-found beer for anyone wishing to try thsi style that hasn't. And you kinda can't go wrong with Sammy A....pretty consistently good brewery.

This lovely malty concoction poured a lovely deep amber color, hedging somewhere close to coppery. Crystal-clear, with a lovely cascade (upwards) of thousands of little bubbles. Nice creamy off-white head, a little thin, but with amazing retention and lacing like drapes as I quaffed it down.

The beer has a sweet nose, including some absolutely lovely caramelized malts and a nice bready quality. There are some hops, though very faint. They seemed to add a hint of peppery spice and citrus.'s a beer for a cool autumn day. Creamy, smooth, rich sweetness as that incredible caramel flavor takes center stage and dominates the performance. There is just a hint of bitterness as the hops completely fail to balance the crushing amounts of malt in this beer (but that's what an Oktoberfest is!).

Man this beer goes down nice. The craemy mouthfeel, medium-body and sweetness of the beer just beg for me to keep going, one after another. There is also a sense of sugar to this beer. I can't imagine Sam Adams added actual sugar, but that sensation is there. It finishes a bit on the bitter side, but still so lushly sweet throughout. Drinking this beer, I totally "get" why the Germans love this holiday.


Leons and Taxes and Business, Oh My!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Well, in the aftermath of the votes that finally went down over the weekend, we're seeing a lot of blowback from the media, voters and the business community. And in this author's completely egotistical opinion, it's horseshit.

Let's start with recall threats levied by former State Rep. and current Still-Sucking-the-Taxpayer-Teat Leon Drolet and other political fringe mouth-breathers. Here's how well-thought-out some of these folks' agenda is:

"There is going to be a price to pay," said St. Clair Shores fast-food manager Diane Lubomski, 48, treasurer of a group targeting Sen. Dennis Olshove, D-Warren. Lubomski's group registered in Macomb County on Aug. 27.

Olshove, however, opposed both tax increases in the state Senate.


Drolet, meanwhile has threatened recalls in many districts before a vote was cast and in any district that voted for a tax increase. Well, Leon and his merry band of misguided college freshman hangers-on don't have the money and especially don't have the candidates to pull it off. He is a paper tiger trying to influence votes...but when your best opposition candidate is the mother of one of your former staffers, you're not a serious threat. Parking that damn 12-foot papier mache pig out front of the capitol was more about Leon than it was about not voting for taxes. Write him off, and if there's a recall effort in your district, tell them to fuck themselves. Message to Leon and the anti-tax nazis: police protection is not pork. Higher Education is not pork. Health insurance for poor kids is not pork. Cut what, Leon? Your pension? Maybe we should.

FYI, a recall of a State Rep would require about 10,000 signatures. Recalling a Senator? Try for 27,000. Want to recall Jenny? Try 950,000 valid signatures. You can't just get anyone to sign, mind you. Registered voters only, just like a ballot initiative. So while Clem the Toothless (who probably doesn't pay the income tax) is pissed the gub'ment is taking his money, if he doesn't vote, he doesn't get to play this game.

I loved how, the day after the vote, many papers insinuated how terrible a small increasein the income tax is. The same papers that urged legislators to get off the stick and "do something" about the revenue problem. Disingenuous pricks...but why would I expect anything else from Michigan's crack media sources?

Speaking of disingenuous, the Small Business Association of Michigan proclaimed their support earlier this year for a Fair Tax. This is an 8- or 9% tax across the board for all services at the time of pruchase. Now faced with a 6% sales tax on a few more services (making Michigan about 22nd in the country in terms of the amount of services taxed), they scream murder. But all they're doing is politicising the issue. From their own support of a Fair Tax, it is obvious they don't care. They're just coming out early for Republicans next election. They asked for a tax on all services, and we gave them a lower tax than what they're asking for on some services. Bullshit.

Don't support recall efforts. Instead, support your local schools, teachers, cops, firefighters, DNR conservation officers and so on. Your new tax is $1 a week. $52 per year. Devastating, isn't it?


Stick A Fork In It

Monday, October 01, 2007

Well, it's done. Our legislators passed a series of cuts, reforms and tax increases and ended a complete shutdown of the state only 4 hours into it.

Very briefly, the Senate and House gareed to about $400 million in cuts to some state services. This is more than the House wanted but about half of what the Senate wanted. Other than that, our income tax in Michigan increases to 4.35% (from 3.9%) and the 6% sales tax has been extended to other goods and services that are currently sales tax-fee.

Also, the legislature passed continuation budget bills which allow 30 more days to negotiate on the FY 08 budget. Most of the FY 08 budget bills are in their respective conference committees (ask me in the comments for an explanation of conference committees if you want to know) and were simply awaiting the final figures for what this fiscal year's revenues will look like. With the passage of all of the pieces of the deal last night/early this morning, they can now set their targets.

The 6% sales tax bill will raise about $411 million for the general fund and $200 million for the school aid fund. The new services that will be taxed include:
Business service centers

Carpet and upholstery cleaning

Consulting services

Courier and messengers

Document preparation

Investigation, guard and armored cars

Investment advice (but not accounting)


Landscaping (but not lawn mowing)

Office administration

Packaging and labeling

Personal care (but not hair care)

Scenic transportation

Security systems

Service contracts

Skiing (but not golf)

Specialized Design

Tour operators

Transit and ground passenger transport

Travel and reservations

Warehousing and storage

Mini-warehouse and self-storage units

Personal services, which include:

Astrology, fortune-telling, numerology, palm reading, psychic and phrenology

Baby shoe bronzing

Bail bonding

Balloon-o-grams and singing telegrams


Check rooms

Coin operated blood pressure machines, personal machines, rental locker, and photographic machines

Pay telephones

Comfort station operations

Concierge services

Consumer buyers

Credit card notification

Dating, social introduction and social escorts

Discount buyers

Genealogical investigation

Housing sitting

Personal fitness trainers

Personal shoppers


Rest room operation services


Wedding chapel (but not churches, and wedding planning services

There's some funny shit in there.

The income tax increase will raise about $765 million. This increase will begin to roll back in 2011 and be back to it's pre-passage level of $3.9% by 2015.

On a personal side, I have now been at work 20 of 21 days, incluing weekends. Many of these days, most in fact, were more than 16 hours. I don't grouse; legislators and their families were in the same boat. I guess it boggles my mind that for as long as we have known about the problems we faced, it took 3 weeks of late-night and all-night sessions, and 4 hours' worth of shutting down government, to make it work. This was political brinksmanship at its worst. This weekend, I worked Friday until midnight. They reconvened Saturday afternoon and went through the night without stopping into Sunday, and still through early this morning until a little after 4:00 a.m. That's 40 straight hours. That's bullshit.

But...they did it. It's over.

My boss was kind enough to give me the day off today for all of the work that our firm put into this.

And my wife got to go to work today and earn money.


Allow Me To Vent

Friday, September 28, 2007

I have been away from this blog for about 3 weeks. This is because I have worked 16, 18 and 24-hour days for the last 3 weeks, including Saturday and Sunday. Michigan faces a total government shutdown starting Monday if legislators cannot 1) pass a series of tax increases and department cuts and figure out what Michigan's revenue will be; and 2) pass the budgets, either as continuation budgets or as new budgets.

For some perspective, we have known for more than a year that this was coming; that the final $2 billion break-the-bank deficit was looming and needed to be solved. It's no longer simply that tax revenues are down. It's that Michigan has a structural deficit. This means that in some cases, regardless of how much money we pull in, the money we spend will be more.

There are some economic models for why this is so, including that it would actually be cheaper for Michigan to spend additional money on federal programs with matching funds than the way we do business now. But that's for another post once I have slept for more than 4 hours and can collect my thoughts. But I digress...

We have continued to know about this problem and have done nothing about it since January. And now, here at the 11th hour, now it finally seems to be a big fucking emergency. Well no shit.

For now, I am just bitter. A shutdown seem inevitable (though I remain optimistic they will take it right to Sunday night then figure it out before a shutdown), and legislative leadership on both sides seem completely incapable of striking a deal. This is not a display of the very definitions of the differences between Dems and Republicans when it comes to taxation. No. This is very obviously inexperienced people more willing to hold on to political philosophy as their bargaining method than reality. Term limits, people. Here they are. This is what they give you. I am fucking disgusted.

People speak of how "tough" this vote is. Bullshit. Vote to raise the income tax, and vote in a responsible series of departmental cuts to implement real change at the deaprtment level on how they do business. We need money...and we need to spend money to make money (again...a post for another time). Doing what's right takes balls. I have seen none. Legislators are more worried about protecting vulnerable seats or fragile political ideologies, so what you get is stalemate. DO what's right. Make your party vote the way you need them to in order to move a bill, and then protect them when the time comes. Both sides are bargaining from the position of "I get all the chips and they get none."

And in the midst of it all, I see my son for an hour here, an hour there. My wife even less. He looked at me yesterday and said "daddy, you not go to capitol today." I wanted to cry. But more out of rage for the chickenshits who can't figure it out.

Leon Drolet, a former state rep, is parking a 15-foot-tall pig at the capitol every day, saying to cut the prok and not raise taxes. He, and almost he alone, is holding a democratic majority in the house hostage out of fear. He has formed recall committees in the most vulnerable (meaning it voted a dem into office but its base actually polls republican) districts and that has them afraid to vote. I swear to God if I have to look at the pig one more day I'll flip out. But equally, I swear that if these folks don't man the fuck up, I will equally flip out.

Here's my call to all 12 of my loyal readers: threaten your own recalls. Here's the deal: legislators in Michigan actually only have duty, and that is to pass a budget. They have until September 30 every year. If they can't get it together over this weekend, recall them. They have failed. They are playing chess and the pawns and pieces are foster kids, Medicaid recipients, transprotation for the elderly, higher education, and the paychecks of my wife and our neighbors. Screw Leon and his silly band opf Kool-Aid drinking clowns with their empty threats of recalls over a tax increase. He hasn't the money, the manpower, nor the right candidates. Ignore him. But let them kknow that if they fail in their one job...they're done.

Thanks for allowing me to vent. Word is, I will be here all night tonight, and all weekend again as well. And then on Monday, we'll see if they shut down government and send people like my wife home without a paycheck. I take that shit personally.



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