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.



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