The Fruit of the...Stalk?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Barleywines are a favorite of mine. Big, huge malty sweetness and heavy hops combine to make a syrupy, high-gravity beer fit for kings. But in the latest issue of Beer Advocate Magazine (subscribe to this magazine right now, by the way), one of their astute authors penned (do we pen things any more?) an interesting article about wheat wines. Essentially, they are a little more mellow than their barleywine bretheren, have that great wheat characteristic present in so many luscious wheat ales, and hit just as hard with the big abv.

Fortunately, I didn't have to search far for a shining example. Oades Big 10 on Clippert had several bottles of New Holland Brewing Company's Pilgrim's Dole. Funny enough, this beer has been around for a while. But until your eyes are opened to something new, you pass it right by. I bought it in a 22-oz. bomber and shared it with a good friend who claims to enjoy the big barleywines.

The wheatwine poured a beautiful, cloudy copper, almost like a burnished copper that you'd find on a countertop or plate. From there, the foam cascaded like Guinness along with some of the particle-sized sediment. That cascading action just beakons you to drink; it's like it pulls your mouth to the bottom of the glass.

A sniff yielded a dizzying display of ripe fruits; I got pineapple, ripe strawberry...think ripe, tart fruits. Underneath that is this really mellow vanilla or toffee aroma to smooth it all out. You know...that kind of mellow sweetness that's not cloying but sweet enough to balance the tartness of the fruity/wheaty armas. The backbone is certainly the malted wheat aroma you'd find in any great American Wheat Ale. A scant hop bitterness and alcohol spiciness peeks through the other aromas at the end.

Now the taste is something fantastic. Tangy malted wheat mixes with those mellow vanilla flavors to combine on your palate like a cognac or smooth bourbon. The wheat produces a nice graininess, and the tang is not overpowering. I can't detect any of the vague astringency you can get from malted's all just so mellow. New Holland's choice of hops for this beer, along with the alcohol content, form a beautiful spiciness that finishes the beer through to the end on your palate. It's smooth and slightly syrupy like a high-end cognac, coating your whole mouth with the flavors that slowly burn off your tongue as you rest between quaffs; nicely medium-heavy body and just carbonated enough to help cleanse the palate between each drink.

This beer is truly a winner. It's so much less cloying or heavy than a barleywine can be and is a pleasant addition, in terms if its drinkability, to the extreme-beer craze that has striken craft brewers.


Having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Air guitar.

Many a boyhood, and manhood, afternoon have been spent shredding an invisible axe. From Tom Cruise in his underwear shredding to Bob Seger to any number of screaming solos I have performed in the relative privacy of my own livingroom (don't take that the wrong way...), we all aspire to to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young and other guitar gods.

But until last week, it was only something I did so that my own normal duldrum suburban life had a glimpse of excitement. Then last week I discovered a documentary that could change my life: Air Guitar Nation.

It turns out there is a world championship for air guitar. In fact, one of the qualifying rounds for the U.S. Chapmion was held in our very own Traverse City, Michigan. People make a persona like Bjorn Turoque, C-Diddy, or Krye Tuff. You pick a repertoire of songs...and you commence to shred the air before a live audience. You are scored on a scale of 1 - 6, and showmanship counts every bit as much as relative realism.

Some participans took it really seriously. Bjorn Turoque, who became a tragic figure, took it way too seriously. It has apparently consumed his life that he can't win. He made this documentary. He wrote a song about air guitar. He has a whole personal philosophy built around it.

The winner, C-Diddy, doesn't take it seriously at all and called it the "weirdest 2 moths of his life."

Here's the deal. My satire chops are not nearly as good as Rickey Henderson's, so I will defer to Rickey for a comment if he's ever seen it or is willing.
But for the rest of you, see this dcumentary. It's on VH-1 or you get get it on Netflix. It is the most bizarre 2 hours of your life. And I may have found a new goal in life: to win the World Air Guitar Championship.

And while we're on this subject...if you played in the World Air Guitar Championship, what would be your song? ANswers in the comments section.


Fire In The Hole!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sometimes a video comes along that you can't ignore. Such poignant genius cannot be cast aside, relegated to some featureless archive drive on a server in the middle of nowhere, destined to be ignored for all of eternity.

No, sometimes a video deserves distribution. It deserves attention, applause, recognition and accolades.

Fellow keg bashers, I give you The Squirrel Relocator.

American ingenuity at its finest.


Book Meme

Sunday, February 17, 2008

So Mr. Furious just tagged me with another meme. This one is interesting in that it reveals what you're reding right now.


1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.

So here's mine:

Its wide central dorway could be opened to reveal a tableau, such as bloody Clytemnestra standing over the savaged bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra. For such a display, the actors were wheeled through the double doors on a platform called an ekkyklema (roller). Another machine, called a mechane, was a sort of crane that swung an actor playing a god over the parapet of the skene and out above the stage (thus the Latin phrase deus ex machina for a solution from nowhere, an unforeseen answer to prayers).
It's from the book "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea; Why the Greeks Matter" by Thomas Cahill. He's the guy who wrote "How the Irish Saved Civilization." It's volume 4 of his Hinges of History series, and it is a really interesting look at the contributions the Greeks made to western civilization beyond what we know from high school (sure they contributed democracy, but what does that mean...).

Okay Steves, Bob "Chief Beer Advocate/Poindexter," Sopor, Joel and B_Mac. You're up.


Now What?

Friday, February 15, 2008

It has been a while since I commented on anything related to guns.  Yesterday's mass murder at NIU deserves discussion.  I am sure there will be an analysis into a multitude of aspects of the murderer's life, campus security and laws dealing with the mentally ill and firearms.  The fact that he took his own life won't stop pundits and experts from dissecting every detail of the 27 years he was alive.

Like most people, I would like to see some changes so that these kinds of things can be prevented or stopped.  I am not so naive to think we can make them disappear, but I do think we can lessen them.  The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is asking that we sign a petition to demand that "our weak gun laws be strengthened," so that this can be prevented.  I am not sure what kind of laws they think should be passed.  Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States.  Additionally, NIU, like most campuses, forbids students and staff from carrying any kind of weapons on campus.

One thing that I think could help is allowing lawful carry on campuses and eliminating most other no-carry zones.  To many, this is a very scary concept and conjures up images of dozens of people whipping out their guns and bullets 'flying everywhere'.  While possible, I doubt this is a likely scenario.  While the majority of states allow for lawful carry, the percentage of people that carry on a regular basis is very small.  Most states also only allow carry for people 21 and older, so this would exclude most college students.  I am not willing to speculate as to what would have happened if NIU allowed lawful carry, but I would like to look at two other recent incidents to make somewhat of an educated guess.

This past December, a man who stated that he "wanted to go out in style," killed 8 people before killing himself in a crowded Omaha shopping mall.  One of the witnesses gave an interview to a Nebraska blogger and said:

"Honestly, and as God as my witness, when I saw him shooting and as watched for a few seconds trying to figure out what he was going to do and what I should do, the thought that when through my mind was, “If I had a gun, I have a perfect shot.”

Yes, a perfect shot. I had a full side profile, I was close, and no one was visible behind him execept a wall. I had a clear shot during the second round of fire. I told this to every cop I came in contact with. The interviewer agreed.

When I realized that I had no gun, fear instantly struck me, along with anger, and severe panic.

I ran hard."

Why didn't he have a gun?

I do not have a Concealed Handgun Permit. I have completed the training class, but I keep putting off applying for the permit because I think it is useless. In the places I would need a gun most, I am not allowed to have it. I will not be a person living in fear and not go to Van Maur because they don’t allow guns."

In another early December incident, a man who had already killed two people at a missionary training center, walked into a Colorado Springs Church with a rifle, two pistols, and 1000 rounds of ammunition.  He had already shot three people in the parking lot, killing two girls and wounding their father.  While in the foyer of the church he was shot 5 times by a volunteer security guard.  I think it is fair to say that if she hadn't reacted the way she did, then it could have been far worse.  There were around 7000 people that were attending that service.

I can't say if the NIU incident would have ended differently if they had allowed lawful carry and I won't say that is the best solution, but it is a solution.  On a personal level, I certainly don't have some kind of Walter Mitty fantasy of shooting at the 'bad guys.'  I would just the to have the ability to defend myself and my family.


Video of the Week (But Not Every Week) #9

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hillary's Inner Tracy Flick
I have been meaning to post this one for quite some time. This video is not new, but worth watching. It very well illustrates how Hillary Clinton must feel about that pesky Barack Obama.


Damnit people, we need action!!!

Apparently this has been a crazy week for everyone, so there has been a significant lull in posts.

I'm pretty busy myself, so I'll just put this article out there for comment:

This seems a little suspect to me. Almost... fishy?


No Posts Yet

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 posting lately. As of last Thursday, we lost internet access at work. This has meant no email and no web. Sure, I could post from home, but it's been a crappy week.

AT & T blames local ISP Arialink, who blames AT& T, and both say that since it's the others' fault, they won't help us.

Corporate America, people.

More later, including a post on the best documentary I've seen since American Beer.


Super Tuesday Postmortem

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yesterday was the confluence of two of the greatest days in American life: Fat Tuesday and Super Tuesday. Whether that made yesterday "Super Fat Tuesday" or "Obese Tuesday" is beyond me. However, there was an awful lot of nerd brain-candy on the television screen to accompany the stomach-candy that is paczki. But because everyone already knows about the healing power of paczki, I'll keep my comments to the politics.

Somewhat of a mixed bag on the Republican side. Sure, John McCain seems to have basically wrapped up the nomination as everyone was predicting, though it will have to play out for a few more weeks. But the rest of the results were batshit crazy. For example, Mike Huckabee had a hell of a night. Pretty much swept the south, and gave McCain a run in a couple of other states (especially Mizzou). If this keeps up, he's got a really good shot of working his way to a VP nomination.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is having a bitch of a year. He has been saved the embarrasing title of "worst campaign ever" by the tortured existence of Rudy Giuliani, but nevertheless... Ouch. As the annointed 'alternative to McCain', he was an afterthought. Basically, he's won his own state (Massachusetts), his adopted home state (Michigan), his religious home state (Utah), and a bunch of states that don't matter, either in elections or in reality (North Dakota, I'm looking at you here...). How he continues from here is a mystery.

The Democratic results reminded me of a hampster on a wheel; a whole lot of energy exerted, but at the end of the day, everyone was roughly where you would expect. Both sides held serve, and there were few surprises (with the possible exceptions of Obama's wins in Missouri and Connectecut). Both sides declared victory, which is predictable. And they are both somewhat right; Clinton has more delegates, Obama has won more states.

Going forward, you have to like Obama's chances. The next seven states on the calendar look solid for him, and the longer things go, the more Clinton's aura of inevitability fades. I sense a nasty floor fight. Veeeeeeeery interesting.

One final thought. As a politico, I've become pretty jaded about the whole process. I work with a lot of jokers, and I've come to distrust most political speech, and to take everything said with a grain of salt. I've heard a thousand speeches, and I'd assumed that I could no longer be inspired. But then I watched Barack Obama's 'victory' speech last night.


I'm sold. I'm too young to have seen JFK, but Obama just seems Kennedy-esque to me. Maybe it's the call to higher ideals. Maybe it's the style of speech. Maybe it's the nice suits. I have no idea. But for the first time in a while, I found myself listening to a politician as a citizen, rather than as an analyst. I wasn't making mental comments about which demographic he was targeting, or how the speech would play with the public. I just listen to the guy speak. And I was inspired.

Maybe it'll turn out like the Detroit Lions; every year they get my hopes up somehow, only to crush them. Perhaps Senator Obama will turn out to be completely full of shit. It's possible. But for the first time in a while, I'll actually be surprised when a politician lets me down.


Congratulations, Joel

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We take a break now from our home- and brewery improvement projects to announce that Around the Keg contributor Joel and his wife, Mrs. Joel, are now proud parents on another Joel-ette.

7 pounds 11 ounces, 20-inches long, beautiful bouncing baby girl.

Congrats Joel!


Amateur Hour 2

Monday, February 04, 2008

Here is my little remodel job. I basically divided my basement into 4 areas. On each side of the central stairs will be a playroom and an office area. Behind the stairs is my workshop area.

Behind the new drywall in the background is our laundry/storage room.

Also, next to the laundry room, will be my brewery...

...OK, I made that last part up.

I need to start subcontracting some of this stuff to some suckers friends since I usually only get about 4 hours per week to work on it. I haven't decided what to do with the ceiling yet. Maybe Smitty has a plan on that.


My New Mash Tun, AKA the Little Construction Project

Well my little construction job is quite a bit smaller than Smitty's. Here's all it is:

Just the stuff in the foreground. The stuff back in the corner is an extra spigot and new seals for my kegs.

This is about as simple of of a Mash Tun as you can make. It takes a short piece of 3/8" OD copper tube, A drilled rubber stopper, A hose clamp (or two to your desire), a length of 3/8" ID hosing, and the steel braid off of a toilet water supply hose, and of course the cooler, which happens to be one of those el-cheapo Igoo Ice Cube 48qt coolers, which I scored on sale for about $15. I'm not even going to go into all the steps to build one, because you can read all about it at "Paul's Brewing Page". There is one "limitation" to this super-simple mash tun design, and that's that I can only really do a Batch Sparge. I won't even get into the nitty gritty of that either because you can read all about it on Denny's Cheap and Easy Batch Sparge Brewing. I'm not actually even officially done yet... The first time I drilled out the spigot hole on the cooler I was doing it by hand, and I have an un-circle hole. It's not going to hold water. So I'm headin' over to a friends house this week to use his drill press to make damn well sure that my hole is true! I'll report back with a full pictumentary (I just made that up, but I like it) of my first all-grain beer along with pictures of the completed Mash Tun.

So to sum up, I ripped off a bunch of other peoples ideas, spent about 10 minutes and $30, and I'm not even done yet. Time for another beer!


Amateur Hour

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Construction officially began on the Smitty household basement today.
Months of cheap talk, foot-dragging and general cluelessness on interior design culminated in the start of construction.

It started exactly as it should have for a total unnecessarily cutting a board, hacking pieces of drywall off of the existing walls unnecessarily, and then realizing that the piece I cut unnecessarily...was too short. Good start.

The problem, I surmised, was that I had not had any beer yet. I retreived 2 Michigan Brewing Company Majestic Nut Brown Ales and 1 Sam Adams Brown Ale. You'll notice in the linke reviews that MBC's Brown beats Sammy A's. Awesome.

Beers in hand, the project suddenly became crystal clear. Despite the fact that the builder pre-piped and pre-drained for a bathroom, they put it in the worst spot they could think of. It necessitated building several little walls to the put up and around all the exposed HVAC, water and gas line piping. Monumental pain in the ass...but alomost fiished.

This evening, I was assisted by my Friendly Neighbor (very handy, very adept, I am very indebted), Mr. Smitty (my dad) and Brother Smitty. Brother Smitty went to school for furniture design, so this project was less than child's play. Mr. Smitty built his entire basement alone, so this was old hat. Friendly Neighbor used to do house framing for a living. And me? Clearly the least skilled of the four of us (but that isn't saying much...I am Bob Fucking Villa compared to some of our friends).

At any rate, the bathroom and small utility room have been studded-in.
Remaining is a closet and doorway for the what will be a playroom for the kids, behind the bar and family room we will have down there.

Next, we have a real electrician and a real plummer come in to move a few lights and add a few lights and plugs, and add all the plumming we need. Two things I absolutely won't mess with because of the chance I will kill myself or drown my family in a deluge is electrical and plumming.

From there, it's ceiling, drywall, paint and floor. Sounds simple...



Potential Drunks

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