Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Times might be tough, but I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I hope you do too.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Kegging Part 2

Friday, November 20, 2009

The caulk dried fine. So it was time to sanitize and fill the keg! Oh boy...

Filling the keg with my lovely Belgian Cherry Dubbel (a Belgian Dubbel brewed with real Traverse City cherry juice):
Yummy. Smelled like tart cherries as I filled the keg. These kegs fill and cap so easily:
And look! The keg fits!And here it is, all hooked up:
With the gas hooked up, I am carbonating the beer right now. Sopor taught me the brewers way to cheat a bit to be able to drink faster. What I am after is a beer with a certain level of carbonation; in this case, 2-3 "volumes" of CO2 for this Belgian-style ale seems to be appropriate (2-3 volumes = not very fizzy, but some fizz for sure), which, in a fridge set with my digital temperature gauge at 45 degrees, is about 15 pounds per square inch.

Drinking comes soon....


Kegging, Part 1

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I have decided to make the jump from bottling my beers, which is a massive pain in the ass, to kegging my beer. Every book I have read about brewing and kegging has its author crying why, oh why, they didn't keg sooner. I had the same reaction. Where the Hell was I on that one?? For example:

Bottling requires cleaning and sanitizing the following: 45-50 bottles, 45-50 caps, a bucket, a racking cane and related equipment, a small tap system for the bucket, a line for the beer, and a bottle filler. Then, you fill and cap every single bottle, and wait at least 2 weeks, usually more, for the beer to condition in the bottle.

Kegging requires cleaning and sanitizing: a keg, 9 small, easily-removable keg parts, and racking equipment (3 tubes, essentially). Get the beer into the keg. Chill the keg. Force some carbonation into it. Drink.

So I have the keg and keg parts now, and they are cleaned. But what I lacked was a suitable kegerator. And so we arrive at the subject for today's post: Smitty's 30-minute Field Expedient Kegerator, or, How Smitty converted an ancient (and free) dorm fridge into a kegerator.

First, the fridge:
I understand it is inadvisable to keep the CO2 tank in the fridge with the keg. This means I have to run a line from my CO2 tank outside the fridge to the keg in the fridge. Enter an 11/16" borer bit and 2 rubber electrical grommets.
I first measured exact center for both the top of the fridge and the inside top of the fridge, then marked a space 2" toward the back of the fridge from each of those spots. Then I drilled with the borer up through the plastic interior, then down through the sheet metal top. Voila'! A hole! (The dark half-moon you see is my fingertip, showing the hole goes all the way through)
I slid the 2 grommets over the end of the CO2 line that connects to the gas tank (NOT the keg...that's a huge piece that stays INSIDE the fridge!!); 1 for the hole on the inside of the fridge, one on the outside. Wiggle wiggle, shove shove, and the grommets and tube are in place! Here's the outside:
And the inside:
And that's it. I wait for the caulk to cure this evening, and tomorrow, I will keg and chill the beer, force-carbonate, and I figure by Friday, I am drinking my Belgian Cherry Dubbel!

More on the kegging process and forced-carbonation process tomorrow.


Shit My Dad Says...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Well, not exactly. My dad can be pretty funny, but Justin has been getting a lot of buzz and possibly a TV deal, though it would have to be cleaned up quite a bit. Here are some of the funnier posts:

"I don't need more friends. You got friends and all they do is ask you to help them move. Fuck that. I'm old. I'm through moving shit."

"You worry too much. Eat some bacon... What? No, I got no idea if it'll make you feel better, I just made too much bacon."

I think the baby shit....Well, I'm smelling shit right now, so if it ain't the baby, one of you has a big fucking problem."

"I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It's like God took a shit on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."


Happy Veterans' Day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I post this just becuase it is cool.

Camaro via CH-47:

Source: Youtube via autoblog.


Juvenile Justice

Monday, November 09, 2009

Smitty gave me a heads up that The Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in Graham v. Florida (08-7412) and Sullivan v. Florida (08-7621). These cases dealt with the Constitutionality of imposing a life sentence without the possibility of parole on a juvenile. I told Smitty that it was interesting that issue has never come up, but he suggested that those kind of sentences were probably not used on juveniles until relatively recently.

Scotus Blog has an excellent analysis or the arguments and discussions. If you are interested in the briefs and petitions filed up until now, I would suggest checking out scotuswiki. Last, but not least, NPR has a good article on the background of the two petitioners, Terrance Graham and Joe Sullivan.

The NPR article is a good place to start. Not surprising, Florida has 70% of the juvenile offenders locked up for life for crimes other than murder. Graham was convicted of armed robbery and Sullivan for raping an elderly woman. Neither person, in my mind, garners a whole lot of sympathy, but the question then becomes is it reasonable to lock them up and throw away the key?

Scotus Blog details some of the arguments made. For the State of Florida:

The state of Florida’s lawyer, Solicitor General Scott D. Makar from Tallahassee opened his argument by contending that a categorical bar on life-without-parole for minors would run counter to trends in treating juveniles over past couple of decades, frustrating states in their attempts to deal with rising juvenile crime while still remaining sensitive to the needs of youthful offenders.

Interesting, as most studies show that juvenile crime is the lowest it has been in years. Additionally, I don't believe that life sentences are a deterrent to a juvenile that is considering a criminal act. The justices seemed to vary in opinion from some supporting developing a bright line rule that would prohibit these sentences below a certain age. The Chief Justice seemed to prefer:

...to recruit a majority of the Supreme Court in favor of giving juveniles more chance to use their age to challenge life-without-parole prison terms, as an alternative to a flat constitutional bar against ever imposing that sentence.

There was this exchange with Sotomayor:

After Makar had said that Florida acknowledged that youthful age “does matter,” Justice Sotomayor asked for help in drawing the line where life-without-parole would be permissible. Would it be unconstituional if the youth were only 10? she asked. If that is too early, she said, why would 14 or 15 not be too early? Makar would only concede that “I think it [age] does matter.” Sotomayor was not satisfied, next asking about a no-release sentence for a five-year-old.

A five year old? I am sure that Sotomayor well knows that a 5 year old lacks the ability to form an intent to commit a crime. This seems like she wanted to be melodramatic. Lighten up Sonia.

I think the Founding Fathers did a good job in phrasing the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. They allowed for changes in society, as opposed to defining what was specifically cruel and unusual. In the late 18th century, all felonies were punished by death and children could receive pretty harsh punishments. Even as late at the early 20th century, punishments for juveniles were severe and due process was almost non-existent. Gradually, procedural safeguards were set up and, most recently, the Supreme Court said the death penalty could not be applied to juveniles.

I am leaning towards a ban on life sentences without parole for juveniles. Courts already have discretion in charging people under the age of 18 as adults. Most of the time, going through the juvenile system offers more flexibility in terms of treatments and punishments. While there are some youths that are likely incorrigible, this is hard to predict and there are certainly crimes that call for a life sentence. The problem is that I see too much potential for abuse, especially in a high profile case. What do the ATK readers think?


Put Down the Pitchfork, Joe

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday Morning, Senator Joe Lieberman (Idiot-CT) stated that so-called Islamic extremists should be tossed out of the military. Obviously, an Al Qaeda sympathizer should be kicked to the curb, but do we really want someone like Joe Lieberman deciding what brand of Islam qualifies as “extreme”?

Really, in the U.S. Army, this is not a matter of constitutional freedom of speech. If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance. He should have been gone.
I don’t hear Lieberman calling for the ouster of Christian and Jewish extremists from the military, even though it surely contains some of those. The 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta was perpetrated by a Christian extremist, but I don’t hear a call to expel that religious sect entirely.

I am betting this guy was crazy first and a Muslim second. Let’s put down the pitchfork Joe and wait for the adults to finish their investigation.

Source: Firedoglake


God Bless Texas

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A wise man once screamed something at the top of his lungs that Texas primarily produces two completely unrelated products that rhyme.

One of those two products that the gentleman alluded to was not beer, though strangely, that also rhymes with the other two primary Texan products. And after trying this week's beer that ATK-occasional Joel sent me, I think "beers" should definitely be added to the wise gentleman's list of Texan products/exports.

This week, we taste Real Ale Brewing Company's (Blanco, TX) Coffee Porter, a robust porter brewed with coffee.

Coffee Porter pours a medium brown, tending even a little towards red like some coffees I am familiar with and enjoy. The pour gave a thin parchment-colored head with tons of tight, effervescent bubbles. The head dissipated rather quickly (I am betting from the coffee's acidity), leaving a slight pool of bubbles that swam on top.

Even 6 inches away from my nose, there is no mistaking the coffee in this beer. I guess nobody ever accused anyone in Texas of being subtle or small...so I would go as far as saying (and it pains a Yankee to say it) that the coffee aroma isn't just big, it's (sigh) Texas big. Roasted malts are trying really hard to compete with the earthy, smoky, slightly vegetal aroma of the organic coffee that powers this pint. Chocolate and a scant whisper of vanilla are begging for rescue under the coffee avalanche.

Like my favorite A.M. pick-me-ups, Coffee Porter is bitter. Coffee bitter. The coffee itself is from Katz coffee in Houston, TX. Of that coffee, the Katz Coffee Company says:

This dark roasted Mexico Organic Fair Trade coffee is exactly what Real Ale uses in their seasonal Coffee Porter beer. This coffee tantalizes the taste buds with a slight smokiness. The full body and good acidity allow you to enjoy the lingering soft caramelized sugar aftertaste. The least robust of our Dark Profiles, this is a cup of coffee you can drink all day.
I imagine to get the soft caramelized sugar, you need to drink it coffee-hot. But the other flavors of this roast are there in droves: acidic, a hint of smoke, and a full-bodied coffee bitterness that I crave for my personal morning cuppa Joe.

There is also a lingering bitterness to this porter from roasted barley, which also gives the beer a sight grainy aspect. Though the bitter flavors are slightly out of balance with the sweet and roasted malty flavors normally found in a "robust porter," there is still a friendly ghost of chocolate throughout and a maltiness that begs for attention (were the not subject to a severe beat-down by the coffee!) The aftertaste calms down a bit and reminds you that indeed, this is a beer.

The body is slightly watery-thin with a lot of carbonation. It's not so much a palate-cleanser as it is a reassurance that I grabbed a beer and not an iced frappacappumochacino.

Instead of a porter with some coffee, this is like a gourmet iced coffee with some fizz and alcohol, and I would understand that some people would consider this beer markedly out of balance towards the coffee and bitter. Now, as a coffee drinker addict, I really dig the big acidity and bitterness of this beer, and the bitterness isn't the over-hopped Tripple IPA bitterness either; it's that dark-roasted-everything bitter you get in coffee and big stouts that don't rely on tons of hops. That kind of bitter isn't as invasive as some brewer's Extreme Beers. If you're adventuresome, or a coffee drinker, here's your beer. It's an homage to the beverage that makes mornings possible. But if you're not a coffee connoisseur, maybe try Atwater Block Brewing Company's (Detroit, MI) Vanilla Java Porter, an homage to porter with just a hint of coffee to make it interesting.


Don't Let the Door Hit You...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

As a follow up to this post on the Judge who wouldn't marry interracial couples, there is good news. With overwhelming bipartisan support, Justice of the Peace, Keith Bardwell, has resigned. This saves the state having to kick his ass out. He still faces a civil rights suit from the couple he refused to marry. Here's hoping they win.


What Last Night Means

There are some good discussions in the last post on the election results and different theories as to what it means and why it happened. Despite my contrariness, I thought everyone made decent arguments and I can buy the idea that certain people probably did vote those ways. Over at Volokh, Orin Kerr summarizes it like this:

I think there are four obvious lessons to draw from tonight’s election returns:

1. For Conservative Republicans: The America people reject Barack Obama and obviously want true conservative leadership. The Governorships of two states have switched to the “R” category, showing a grassroots conservative movement that is alive and well.

2. For Moderate Republicans: The American people obviously want old-fashioned economic conservatives who are moderate on social issues. McDonnell in Virginia and Christie in New Jersey won by downplaying social issues; Hoffman in New York-23 lost because he was too extreme.

3. For Moderate Democrats: The party out of power usually does well in off-year elections like this, and this year was no exception. But obviously there is no sign of any substantial shift in public opinion from the election of 2008.

4. For Liberal Democrats: NY-23 was the race to watch this year, given that right-wing extremists like Palin and Beck threw all their support behind Hoffman. But the district voters rejected the right-wing candidate, sending a Democrat to Congress for the first time in one hundred years. Obviously this shows that the American people reject right-wing extremism.


I think a reasonable person could argue any one of those positions and I also think that a reasonable person could dispute them.


Last Night's Recap

I won't write a recap of last night's elections results, because Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com always does a better job.

He agrees with the assessment of Mr. Furious that "all politics are local."

Of course the MSM will enter into horserace mode and have to interpret the results for all us simpletons, while the right wing intelligentsia will continue full force in their 48 hour circle-jerk.

Special thanks to Sarah Palin and Fred Thompson for blowing it for the Republicans in NY-23.


Public Service Announcement

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

For the Michigan segment of Around the Keg reader- and contributorship, don't forget to vote today. Detroit wants a new mayor, Lansing might want a new mayor, and school boards across the state are holding election. We also have a key State Senate race that could decide not only the future majority party for the state senate, but also the future of the Congressional seat in that area.

Our New York readership has a key election in the 23rd as well.

As for the rest of you...I dunno. Sorry.




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