Stick to My Guns

Monday, June 28, 2010

McDonald v Chicago was decided 5 to 4, with justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy finding in the affirmative. Alito led the affirmative opinion, with Thomas concurring.

From SCOTUSblog:

In sum, McDonald v. City of Chicago is important because: 1) it incorporates the Second Amendment right of individual gun ownership into the Fourteenth Amendment so that right will apply against the states; 2) it will lead to a slew of legal challenges to other state and municipal firearms regulations; 3) it confines judicially enforceable constitutional rights to only those rights that are deeply rooted in history and tradition; and 4) it rejects for now efforts to reinvigorate the Privileges or Immunities Clause but Justice Thomas’ concurrence holds open the possibility that that might yet happen in some future case.
I get 1 and 2; we have talked about these a lot on this blog and I embrace them (to varying degrees). 3, however, freaks me out.


Reason for the Saison

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I have yet to have a bad beer from New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, Michigan. Heck, I haven't even had a mediocre beer from them. They are somehow able to take any style of beer and not simply brew it according to specification. They make it come alive. Their beers just have that extra...something that make them stand out over so many other beers. Maybe it's the addition of a malt or a hop that nobody has thought of, or some new take on an old style. But I think more than that, it's quite simply that their brewers love their beers. As cliche' as it may sound, the love and pride these guys at New Holland have for the process of brewing comes out in beers that exceed my expectations every time.

We've established that I really really like New Holland.

Let's move on to summer. It's 80 degrees. It's sunny. Slight breeze. I'm on a patio. I used to love nothing more than a tart Belgian Wit or sweet and tangy German Weiss. But then, a few years ago, I was introduced to the Saison.

A French Farmhouse Ale (saison if French for season...this is a true 'seasonal' beer), French farmers would brew and ferment these beers very hot (80 degrees or so). At the end of a long day working the fields, they would quaff a bottle of the fine beer. Sweet, tart, citrusy, this is the ultimate summer refresher.

And now for the confluence of both things I love - summer and New Holland - I give you New Holland Brewing Company's Golden Cap Saison, available in your favorite beer mecca fridges right now!

Golden Cap pours a nearly-clear, slightly hazy crystal yellow in favorite pint glass (reserved only for the best beers). Loads of effervescence race to the surface and form a thick, fluffy pure-white head of foam, carrying with it all the best aromas this beer has to offer.

Delicious aromas of pepper, lemongrass and wheat dominate the nose. The interplay of sweet citrusy spice sits on top of a bed of floral hops making the whole beer a cornucopia of summertime scents. A slightly funky, yeasty character, just scant hints, gives the beer personality (and reminds you that this is a pure, unfiltered, true-to-style beer) so it's not all flowers and lemons. It's not a furniture cleaner, folks. It's a damn good beer.

Where lemons and spice dominate the aroma, a beautiful bready doughiness dominates the flavor. Biscuity malt gives way to tangy wheat tannins. The wheat then prepares your tongue for a stunning mix of soft fruits: pears, apples, peaches. Is that a tad of honey I taste as well? Honey-covered pears and apples? The alcohol bite yields a peppery spice, and the beer's flavor ends where the aroma started - tangy-sweet lemongrass. What an amazing journey through flavors.

Soft on the palate with a bubbly tickle from the aggressive carbonation, Golden Cap comes across as creamy and smooth. It's slightly dry in the back light body. What's not to love about a beer in the summer on a deck that tastes like this? Citrus, sweetness, bubbly, clear, and served cold, New Holland Golden Cap is the ultimate summertime refresher.


Title changed, for Bob.


Obama Did Right by Firing McChrystal

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You might think I am going to say that Gen. Stanley McChrystal deserved to be fired for badmouthing the President to a Rolling Stone reporter, because he undermined the chain of command, and because he was pushing his own policy and not that of the President of the United States. It all would be true.

That said, he deserved to be fired for one single act above all others:

"A general, his aides, and one reporter, stuck on a bus from Paris to Berlin, and drinking case after case of Bud Light Lime ..."
Yes, the dude drinks Bud Light Lime.

Would you follow a Bud Light Lime drinker into battle?
Should Afghan’s believe anything a Bud Light Lime drinker says?
Can you really trust the decision-making of a Bud Light Lime drinker?

The man was clearly unfit for duty. A Section 8 may be in order.


Opus Dei

Thursday, June 17, 2010

About 5 years ago, I was given a gift of two bottles of very special beer: Sam Adams Triple Bock 1995 Reserve, brewed with maple syrup. 10 year old bottles of beer. At the time I didn't fully appreciate what I had been given, but I didn't squander it either. They were buried and forgotten from time to time, peeking through piles in our storage room to remind me that I had these incredible-yet-mysterious bottles of whatever, waiting for god-knows-what before I finally drank them. The Pope? The end of the universe? Who knew.

Five years of seeing and forgetting these beers passed by. But finally, unearthed yet again under piles of useless junk I'll never use, I decided this was the time. Why wait any longer? What magic could possibly happen that hasn't already?

Fighting reluctance and embracing anticipation, tonight became the night. It was time. A 15 year old beer was to meet its fate, brewed to be consumed, not cherished like a collectors' item or ignored.

First, a glimpse of the bottle. The container alone created an atmosphere; dark blue bottle made black by beer, gold script and a cork are the details that Jim Koch uses to let people know that while he cares about his beers, this is one he really cares about.

As I peeled the wrapper from around he cork, I could smell Samuel Adams Triple Bock before I even removed the stopper. Already, hints of chocolate, plums and molasses peeked from around the cork and reminded me more of a cognac than a beer. The anticipation was almost too much.

I finally uncorked the bottle (notice the cork, dark with molasses-y beer), pouring it with a certain amount of reverence into my pint glass. Triple Bock poured like syrup (funny, it's brewed with maple syrup), leaving wine-like legs down the sides of the glass. There was no head; too much malt. Opaque dark brown, no foam, no effervescence, this beer was more liqueur than brew.

The aroma nearly knocked me off my feet. Brown sugar met molasses and chocolate, lingering long and beautifully. Plums and dried cherries worked around a cloyingly sweet malt backbone, telling me to forget hops. There were better things afoot here.

With the same emotion reserved for Christmas morning, I hoisted the glass to my lips, hesitated, and drank. The taste was almost overwhelming; had I not figured in my own mind the power of this beer, I might have been overpowered by it. The flavors weren't delicate hints at tastes. They were full-on robust flavors. A huge aged-beef steak dinner to other beers' fish dish. Maple syrup coated brown sugar. Fine cocoa melted over dried sweet cherries. Smokey grains bathed in thick, sticky-sweet caramel malt. No bitterness tried to shine; any attempt at it would have been a farce to this massive malt monster. Even long after each drink, plummy malts and chocolate clung to my tongue like a sweet memory.

Like a full-bodied cognac without the alcohol burn, each flavor simply got deeper and more complex as Triple Bock warmed. The beer was everything I anticipated and more. Massive flavors didn't compete, they complimented. They were each a part of a whole picture and honestly not one flavor dominated over the others. The whole beer was dominant as a whole.

Part of the magic of this beer was the wait; time only added complexity to a master work. Would it have been the same beer 5 years ago? 10? Ultimately, it doesn't matter. Triple Bock is so well-brewed that accidentally choosing now to open the bottle only added to the whole experience. It's an experience I'm glad I had.


Shoot Me

The Wall Street Journal linked to this Kos story: Oil and Gas Investor's Executive of the Year.

I am going to quote the whole article because it's short:

legal responsibility for the Gulf oil disaster falls on four corporations: BP, Transocean, MOEX Offshore and Anadarko Corporation. They were asked to testify before the Senate today. The CEOs of two of them said they have scheduling conflicts.

Anadarko CEO James T. Hackett, however, does have time this week to be in Houston to accept Oil and Gas Investor's Executive of the Year award, handed out Tuesday.

"Last year this leading Houston-based company generated a 68 percent return to shareholders, while cutting costs and spending during the downturn," reads the announcement of Hackett's award. Cost cutting may have led to significant shareholder returns, but it also is believed to have contributed to the fatal explosion and blowout of the well.

And that pretty well sums up the industry. The man who runs one of the companies that helped cause the worst environmental disaster in American history is being rewarded by his industry. As its Executive of the Year. For the very same cost-cutting that likely caused the disaster. They are what they are.
The last paragraph says it all. I quit.


Joe Barton (R - TX) is a giant douchebag.


World Cup Boycott

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just when I thought I was starting to enjoy soccer...

Just when I was starting to learn a little something about the sport...

Just when the World Cup was really starting to hold my attention...

FIFA goes and pulls this stunt.

I have 3 problems with this. One is that indeed, anyone can wear any color they damn well please.

But that's not my biggest problems.

My biggest problems are:

1 - They kicked 30 stunningly-hot blondes wearing short skirts out of the stadium.


Unforgivable. I am boycotting the World Cup.


The Pro

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Delivered to my door a few days ago, and now cleaned, assembled, and retrofitted with the correct parts for homebrew kegs (instead of commercial kegs) is one Edgestar 2-Tap Kegerator!It holds 2 5-gallon "Cornelius" homebrew kegs and includes a digital temperature control.

And for Fathers Day, I am brewing up a Scottish 80-Shilling Ale and a British Pale Ale as the keg's inaugural a mere 4 weeks from Brew Day, Mrs. Smitty and I (and some assorted friends and neighbors) will be using my new, lovely piece of beer-loving heaven.


Nobody's Fool

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First, a discussion of Real Ale can be found here. For the lazy, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) defines a Real Ale as

"beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide". The term "traditional ingredients" is designed, like the Reinheitsgebot, to prevent artificial preservatives or cheap adjuncts or chemicals from being used in the making or storing of the beer. The heart of the definition is the maturation requirements. If the beer is unfiltered, unpasteurised and still active on the yeast, it is a real beer; it is irrelevant whether the container is a cask or a bottle. If the yeast is still alive and still conditioning the beer, it is "real".
Just because, you should now go back again and check out CAMRA. It is the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK. Color me jealous.

I bring this up because today's beer is a Real Ale from Indigo Imp Brewery in Cleveland called Jester.

A real ale, as you saw above, is not so much a kind of beer as it is a comment on how a beer is fermented and matured. Thus, a brown ale can be a real ale, a stout can be a real ale, etc. Indigo Imp's Jester claims to be a Belgian Pale Ale (a classic example of this style is Trappist Westvleteren Blonde or the even better Orval Trappist Ale). While I have a hard time comparing any Belgian Pale to the likes of Orval, there is at least a solid set of criteria with which to judge Jester.

Like a good Belgian Pale, I got a glass full of a pale copper, slightly cloudy brew capped with a thin eggshell-white head, not dense but indeed thick with bubbles. Light effervescence floated up the middle of the glass, dissipating the head quickly but leaving a fine lace across the top of the beer. As beer goes, you do taste with your eyes first and this had all the right looks.

Biscuity malt and tart citrus aromas were what I was hoping for, and what I got to a certain degree. I had a "bonus" moderate banana-and-clove phenolic aroma, slightly inappropriate for the style but certainly never unwelcome in a beer with these aromas and flavors. Unfortunately, these really pleasant aromas were overpowered by a heavy sourness. More sour-smelling than some of my favorite Jolly Pumpkin ales - which are sour on purpose because of the oak barrels they are aged in - the correct aromas of citrus rinds and pepper and spice lost out.

The taste suffered the same. I got hints of what I craved: toasty malt, biscuit malt, pears, with a delicate peppery finish. But these were afterthoughts to the strength of the sourness. More than a Belgian-characteristic Brettanomyces sourness (present not so much in their Pales as in their Strong ales), this sourness almost hinted at something...wrong.

But then is occurred to me: this is an attempt at a Real Ale, and Real Ales are about the maturation process..."matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed." Was there something to this? Is this a beer aged in oak kegs - like Jolly Pumpkin is aged in oak barrels - and then pulled into this bottle? Could that be the source of my sour angst? A decent Belgian Pale aged in tannin-inducing oak? Could this be, then, the marriage of two concepts into one beer?

If it is the last question, then maybe it could be. Just not particularly artfully done. But looking to the bottle for a clue, I spotted that it is bottle conditioned. Still a Real Ale by definition, it is indeed fermented and matured in its dispensing container. But that wouldn't explain the puckery sourness.

Ultimately, I had to put the beer down. I was left wanting for a pure, clean Belgian Pale Ale. What I like about other attempts at adding a flair to a beer is that - like Jolly Pumpkin - it is done in a balanced fashion. The parent beer is there to reassure you while the new addition is there to challenge. In this case, I was either overwhelmed or confused. And confusion is not why I drink beer. I get enough of that at work.

Confusion, I mean.

I could always use more beer.


Sorry, ATK Has Of Late Been A Little...


Very Important Update

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

My kegerator was delivered this morning. It "officially" holds 2 homebrew kegs, but I have it on good authority that this can actually handle 3.

2 to 3 taps in my basement bar at all times.

Ideas for inaugural brews in the comments section.



Potential Drunks

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