The Parting Glass

Friday, August 31, 2007

Well, my tastebuds having finally recovered from the barrage of beer at the State Fair competition, I will attempt to provide for you another lovely concoction of malt, yeast, hops and water.

But before the revelries begin, there are two sad brewing notes to pass on.

First, as pointed out by loyal Keg reader roger, Michael "The Beer Hunter" (NO...not that Michael Jackson) Jackson passed away from a heart attack. A brief article can be found here compliments of Time. I must say that it was Mr. Jackson's books that first turned me on to Guinness and better beer. His documentaries are worth watching and his writing and insight into beer is legendary. He loved his beer. Besides for beer, Mr. Jackson had Parkinson's and was planning a book on that subject as well. If it were to be anything like his beer reviews, it would have been witty, cogent and relevent. He was a true beer advocate; maybe the first.

Next, Steve Harrison, VP of sales for the lovely and consistent Sierra Nevada brewing company, was found dead in the Sacremento River. The San Francisco Chronicle has more. A private citizen on a jet ski, driven to join the search for Mr. Harrison who had been missing for more than a week, found the body and called the police. Yet another tragedy for the brewing world. Mr. Harrison was Sierra Nevada's first employee. He was there as it went from a garage-based obsession to a major national craft brewery.

I can think of no beter way to mourn the passage of beer enthusiasts, and celebrate their contributions, than to hoise a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine I have been cellaring for a long while.

The head is a behemoth perfection, with thick, sticky lace and a heavy webbing down the glass. It poured a deep and dark amber color with ruby red hues.

Right away I got a perfumy hoparoma with a loely floral background. What followed was light grapefruit and a hint of pine. Big fruity esters throw a blast of alcohol. Inside of a massive malty sweetness I also got some caramel, but all of the malts can't seem to cover the hops. Not that I'm complaining.

Wow. If someone could bottle the Green Monster in Fenway, this beer wouldbe it. Huge. Intimidating. The hops control this show all night with a hard-as-nails bitterness that stops shy of astringency. Oily hops make for a slick mouthfeel. As the hops wear on, the flavor takes on a bit of earthy leafy hops. Following this is some beautiful citrus and pine. While malt may not be dominant, it still gives a solid backbone of sweetness. The caramel and a toasted malt sweetness interplay quit well with the hop assault and provide a pleasant counter-balance to keep this from being an over-hopped Double IPA. Of course, the alcohol is certainly not to be outdone and adds a slow and steady warmth, mild esters and a fruity character of ripe figs and prunes. Lot of big, big tastes.

I had a bottle of this about a year ago and it was very green; no malt character, tin-can hops. But after this extra cellaring, the beer has become magnificent. It's got enough alcohol to survuve cellaring without going stale and the complex flavors blend better over time to yield the pleasure before me today.

They brew this stuff every year. Buy some....and keep it in your basement for a year first. Break it out for a celebration. You'll thank yourself, and Sierra Nevada.

And God rest Michael's and Steve's souls.


Video of the Week #6

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not sure if this is gross or funny, but it's no way to treat beer.


One Of These Beers Is Not Like The Other

Around the Keg contributor Joel and I attended the Michigan State Fair Homebrew Competition yesterday. I judged, and Joel was a Steward.

There were well over 700 entries this year. About 130 of them were actually judged last Monday evening; they were the beer-not-beer beers like melomel, mead and cider. The remainder were done yesterday.

We judged at the wonderful world-award-winning Dragonmead in Warren, Michigan. Their Final Absolution Tripel is considered a world-class example of the style, winning first place in the World Beer Cup last year. Bill Wrobel, the head brewer and owner, was on-site and, of course, judged Belgian-style beers in the afternoon with me. It was an honor.

As for what I judged, I did Light Hybrid Ales, which include Cream Ales, Blonde Ales, Kölsch and American Wheat/Rye beers, in the morning session. I did Belgian Strong Ales, which include Blond, Dubel, Tripel, Golden Strong and Dark Strong, in the afternoon. All in all I did 25 beers combined; 15 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon.

Specifically, in the Light Hybrids, I did Kölsch and American Wheat/Rye. By and large, with the exception of one, the Kölsch were very good and it was hard to choose one to advance. Finally, one that had just a touch of lemon and perfectly balanced malt, grain and subtle hops won out.

The American Wheats were, mostly, perfect examples of...a German weizen of hefeweizen. Wonderful banana and clove aroma with a great malty-sweet background. Unfortunately, that's inappropriate for an American style, which is hoppier and grainy with no clove and banana. A few did it right, though and moved on.

In the afternoon, I did Belgian Dark Strong ales. I really like this kind of beer, but it is also very easy to screw it up and get a bacterial infection (smells and tastes like the contents of your medicine cabinet) given the huge amounts of sugar in these beers. And indeed, about 6 of the 10 samples I had were indeed that: medicinal and solventy (turpentine). What you are looking for is peppery spice (good phenols), huge sweet malty background, floral hops and a warming (but not hot) alcohol bite. Happily, one of the beers had that and was a wonderful example of the style. In fact, it came in second. It lost to a Belgian Blond Ale, judged by Bill Wrobel. Not gonna argue with that calibre of judge with a nose for Belgians (don't take that the wrong way...).

It makes for a long day. Joel and I got there about 9:45 and helped set up. We didn't leave until about 6:30. But what a great day. Days like this, and being a judge, have really helped me be a better homebrewer, what with understanding the brewing process a little better, especially with regard to "off" flavors, what makes them, and how to avoid them as a brewer. We have to give that advice as a judge; I can't just say "it tasted like boiled, canned veggies." I have to say "it tasted like boiled, canned vaggies. This can be caused by a slow, cooler boil or too slow of a cooling period. Either increase your boil time and temp, or invest in a wort chiller to cool the beer faster." The judging process is meant as much for selecting a winner as it is for providing feedback to make someone a better brewer.

I'll leave it to Joel to document his Stewarding experience. But for me, it was another great learning experience and, of course, a real pleasure. Free beer for a whole day? Cool. Even when it's not that great. ANd especially when there's a winner.


Iraq is not Vietnam. Iraq is not Vietnam. Iraq is not... oh, wait, never mind.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

For years now, President Bush has refused to acknowledge the parallels between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam war. This week, he modified that stance ever so slightly, by telling us that it is exactly like Vietnam.

Now personally, I have never agreed that Iraq is "another Vietnam." After all, Vietnam was primarily a military struggle. The United States fought the armed forces of a foreign nation for the better part of a decade. In Iraq, the United States fought the Iraqi army for the better part of two weeks (hence the "Mission Accomplished").

If I had to compare Iraq to anything (and Smitty I'm hoping you can either back me up or tell me to shut my trap), it reminds me of Somalia. First, because of the scenic desert vistas and mild climate. And second, because the United States is not a part of the primary struggle, but rather we are in the middle of an internal conflict. If we were to leave, the Iraqis wouldn't care about kiling Americans; they'll preoccupied with the Sunni/Shia/Kurdish power struggle. In Vietnam, there was at least a realistic potential that Communism could end up spreading to our shores; I don't see Iraqiism taking root in central America any time soon.

And like Somalia, when we leave, it won't be America that suffer the most. It will be the Iraqis. Somalis celebrated when they "chased" the Americans away, but it plunged their country further into chaos. And I feel like many Iraqis will celebrate their 'liberty' from the Americans when we leave, but it may indeed prove Pyrric. Unless, of course, they think that democracy is overrated (which is a concept that, as a government employee, I often ponder myself...). I'm curious what everyone thinks.

But hey, who could have predicted this? Oh, wait, never mind...


Love Song Stupidity

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So I was listening to the radio, and heard some song where a guy was singing to his girlfriend Delilah and I realized - love songs are always about the guy getting the girl. The songs are never about after the guy gets the girl. They are about a small part of life where you chase, and ignore the rest of life. They are false advertising.

It was something like:

Hey there Delilah
I love you so much
you are so great
we are so great together
blah, blah, blah

But you never hear the song:

Hey there Delilah
You left the damn dishes in the sink
go change junior's gross diaper
no, I won't go to the store because the game is on

Love songs only give 1/2 the story!

Just a random thought...


Video of the Week/Month #5.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A video with a hot chick and beer... What could go wrong?


Gen Con '07

A friend (Greg) and I attended Gen Con '07 this past weekend in Indianapolis. For those of you that have never heard of this, it is a gaming convention that started off being held at Gary Gygax's house in 1968 and eveolved into the largest event of it's type in the world. I played D & D, starrting in 6th grade, and had wanted to go this since the early 1980's. It is kind of a Mecca for Dorks. Like most conventions, there are companies promoting their goods, but the biggest component is the games. From the early morning, to late into the night, people are playing any kind of game. RPG's, boardgames, miniature games, card games, and LARP's.

If I had to guess, I'd say that at any given time during the day, there were at least 3000 to 4000 games going on. There were tournaments for cash prizes sponsored by the major companies and there were also small pick-up games. I got to try out several games I had never played. Since most are fairly expensive, it was nice to be able to play something without having to buy it first. I found myself liking some games that looked really lame and not liking games that were hugely popular. I noticed that there are dozens of rail themed games where the players develop rail lines that span every time frame and geographic location. It tried one and discovered that rail games seem as boring as I thought they would.

As many would expect, there were a large number of really odd people at this event. Most gamers tend to be male and we saw every kind of stereotypical gamer you could imagine. One thing that I hadn't expected was the stench. The people I have gamed with over the years had decent hygiene, so I didn't expect to run into so many people that had never heard of bathing or deodorant. Someone said that if you placed a $100 bill in the middle of the convention center with a bar of soap on top, it would still be there after 4 days. The male to female ratio was probably 30 or 40 to 1, with most of them being a scary looking as the males. I did find one decent looking woman, but I suspected she may have been hired by the company to sell their stuff.

The weekend wasn't a complete Dorkfest. Greg and I managed to find several brewpubs within a couple blocks of the convention center. I wish I could include a Smitty-like review, but I am afraid that I don't remember the names of the beers we tried. All-in-all, it was a good trip and I would do it again.


Greetings and What-not

Monday, August 20, 2007

Likely noting the absence of crazy hippie liberals in the blog over the last few months, Smitty has seen fit to name me a contributor. This should be interesting.

But I will save my pinko commie discussions (re: my belief that The Man is keeping me down, the social value of weed, Marx vs. Lenin- who would you rather?, etc.) for another day. For now, I'll just say that I'm glad to be here, especially I look at where some people are going to be spending the next few months...


Daaaaa Bearssss

I have to wonder what led to this.

Here's the kicker for me:

The man was found naked, with his clothes lying intact inside the cage.
So many unanswered questions. Was it sex? Boredom? A dare? How much beer did he have? By the sounds of it, the bears certainly had their fair share of beer:
Local media reported that police found several mobile phones inside the cage, as well as bricks, stones and beer cans.
This certainly tells a sordid tale of sex and betrayal at a beer festival. Some beers. The mood is set. A man undresses. The bears are already naked. Then...a few angry phone calls. Next thing you know, dinner.

Thank God there are no bears at any of the beer fests I go to.


These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Friday, August 17, 2007

Coffee and beer.

Much of my life is based around coffee and beer.

How do I get the water my body needs? Well, it appears that coffee needs water in order to be brewed. And as an avid brewer, I can tell you for certain that beer indeed requires water.

Coffee and beer.

So imagine my delight, when Mrs. Smitty and I traveled to Tornonto recently, when I stumbled acorss a brewpub that combined the two.

Today I give to you: Mill Street Brewery Coffee Porter.

This beer is everything I like in a beer...and includes coffee.

The beer poured into the pint glass a deep black with russet-brown highlights when held to light. It yielded a latte-like head with incredible retention. This is a quality brew.

Fresh-ground coffee dominates the nose on this beer, followed by a malty sweetness and some dark roasted grains. and beer. My two favorite things.

The taste, again, is absolutely everything I like in a beer. Big huge coffee right up front, like a nice dark roast. I get chocolate, toasted malt and in the background a malty sweetness and a hint of dark fruit that belies an ale.

Like a good porter, I also got a great oily slickness on the tongue ad the flavors really blended well and coated my whole mouth. The beer felt more full-bodied than it really is because of how the flavors blend and the coffee and malt shine through in this beer.

All in all, I have really used much less hyperbole than I do with many of my reviews. I am just so vastly impressed with this effort from the Mill St. Brew Pub in Toronto that understatement I think serves this beer better. Make the 4-hour trip to Toronto. Buy this beer. It is everything I like in a beer and is something I want to try to emulate in my own homebrew.


Dialogue of the Day

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Brewing beer has become a time honored tradition with Noah and I, having replaced what used to be the fine art of attempting to procure our fix of sudsy goodness for free. Now that we actually have money to not only make our own beer but otherwise buy good beer, we are no longer perpetually in search of the proverbial "cheap crap" that dominated our college days. It is along these lines that I am reminded of the immortal McKenzies and their ongoing quest... a quest for "free beer." Nothing mixes quite like beer and law:

Doug: Elsinores.
Bob: Twelve!
Doug: Twenty-four, yeah, twenty-four Elsinore beers.
Attendant: Twenty-four Elsinore! That will be $14.70.
Doug: I believe there will be no charge on this two-four of beer, thank you.
Attendant: Excuse me?
Doug: Ok, uh, we found this mouse in a bottle of Elsinore beer that we bought at your beer store, eh? And we heard that when that happens you get your beer free.
Bob: It's in the Canadian Criminal Code, eh. Like there's legal precedence set in cases in law, eh?
Doug: So, like give us our free beer.
Attendant: You want free beer? Go to the brewery. Now get out of here before I put the two of you in a bottle.
Doug: You sure you don't want to think this over?


99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ah yes. Bottling Day.

Not nearly as fun as this day looks, but it has the potential to be as messy.

The essence of bottling day is that you clean and sanitize around 48 bottles, transfer your beer into a container with a spigot, clean and sanitize a cool little bottling gizmo, and you're off!

The pic you see here is of Chief Assistant Brewmaster Joel, me and the totally-insane Smitty Jr. He watched in fascinated awe for 15 seconds and was then distracted by what must have been a very important meeting with the living room, given the speed at which he dashed off.

At any rate, we are bottling Joel's fantastic brown ale (thus far unnamed). This should be ready to go after about a 2-week bottle conditioning period.

Mrs. Smitty and I bottled my Belgian Cherry Dubbel this evening, but with only 2 of us, there was nobody to take any pix. Mine is also unnamed, but will probably have something to do with virgins, since it has cherries in it. Heh. It should also be ready after a 2-week bottle conditioning. Also, about 2 months ago, we bottled my Russian Imperial Stout (named Anastasia's Assassination), but that has at least another 4 to 6 weeks left in the bottle.

And finally, it is down to crunch time. If I don't get an Oktoberfest brewed and in a fermenter by this weekend, it won't be ready for our Oktoberfest at the Smitty household the last week of September.

That's all for now...though I am shotly to post about the Michigan State Fair Homebrew Competition...the largest in the State. I want to post a little piece about it before-hand and will surely post some pix from the actual event itself. I'll be judging and if we can swing it, Joel will be a steward. Stay tuned.


An honor, really...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Smitty has added me to his blog as a writer. It is an honor to join such prestigious authors.

I had a blog for a while, but realized I don't have enough to say to post every day. Smitty got it right, though. Bring in people to write on your blog as if you were at a water cooler or standing "around the keg" and fun conversations will happen. So, thanks for letting me babble here a while.

I will have lots to spew off about - sports, politics, government, gaming, whatever else comes to mind.

I look forward to the chatter...


Wait For It...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I give you this pic, just because. It's true.



Tuesday, August 07, 2007 not ever so sure how I feel about stuff like this.

I mean, I love Van Halen and all. The David Lee Roth years were so spectacular. While poppier, the Sammy Hagar years were fun and their audience soared. But then they had that one guy from that one band I forget and several failed attempts at reuniting.

And then there's that pic of Eddie Van Halen at the music awards:

So are they really in shape for an American Tour?



Potential Drunks

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