Ben Franklin: Poon-Hound

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One of the two visitors to this blog today (a good day, traffic wise!) came from google; apparently a curious Gainesville, Florida resident wanted to know: "was benjamin franklin a poon hound?" As it turns out, my screenplay on General Washington's Tavern Porter (which featured Franklin as a character) comes up third on the list of google results for such a query. Score!

Of course, there isn't much substance to my claim of poon-houndery in that post, so I figured it might be worth expanding on Franklin's love of women. For instance, he had at least one illegitimate child, William, who Franklin blames on his tendency to consort with "low women." I have a biography of Franklin on my shelf, and a quick look at the index shows no less than 12 references throughout the book that concern Franklin's "flirtatious relationships" with women. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that anything illicit was going on, but where there's smoke, there's fire... Perhaps the several sections on his "sexual appetites" are more indicative of his love of poon.

But I don't want to give the wrong impression. Franklin's attitude towards women was somewhat enlightened for his time (somewhat... for his time). He seemed to truly enjoy the company of women, and while it is true that he spent a lot of time flirting with them, he also took them seriously, often discussing important issues of the day with them. Speaking of which, Franklin was obviously also an instrumental Founding Father of the nation, and, of course, he brewed beer too! (Gee, I wonder what this post will do to the search terms that lead here?)

Update: It seems I'm not the only one having fun with our Founding Fathers and the beers they make/drink. This post is brilliant and funny, and features Franklin, Adams, Kennedy and Lincoln. Certainly more substantive and accurate than my original screenplay...

Febrewary Beer Club

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I'm a little behind on posting stuff here, so bear with me as I play catchup this week. At the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This particular meeting was a long time coming, as weather and a hectic holiday schedule conspired to delay this session multiple times. We went to a different BYOB this month... it's a legitimate restaurant, and thus the mood lighting wasn't quite conducive to picture taking, but here's what we brought (you can click for a larger version):

Febrewary Beer Club

The theme this month was beers with a picture of an animal on the label, though there were a couple of non-qualifying beers. Conditions weren't ideal, so no grades here, but I've included some thoughts on each beer:

  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière - My contribution to the theme went over pretty well, though it would probably make a better summer beer than a winter one. Still, it was quite refreshing, light colored ale with a little citrus. Again, would make a great summer beer.
  • Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend - Technically, it's "beer and wine" club, but I don't really have a clue when it comes to wine. Still, this one was pretty good. Sweeter and less dry than I'm used to from a red wine, but whatever... Also, hard to see in the image, but the Ravenswood logo is awesome.
  • Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout - I'd call this one an above average stout, a little more on the oatmeal side of things, and a good counterpoint to the other stouts people brought. I didn't have enough to make a good judgement though, so it's something I want to revisit at some point...
  • Terrapin Hop Karma IPA - The first in a hoppy trio of beers from Terrapin, this one was interesting, but ultimately didn't blow me away. Again, didn't have a lot of this, so I should probably reserve judgement. Cool label though.
  • Terrapin Rye Pale Ale - Seemed like a pretty standard, but well executed, Americal Pale Ale. Another cool label.
  • Terrapin Hopsecutioner: Pretty standared IPA territory here, though I love the label on this one. Little guy looks like a TMNT.
  • Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot - I'm going to review this one in detail at some point in the near future, so I'll leave it at that. I'll just say that it seems like a pretty good European style barleywine.
  • Founders Breakfast Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - I've already written about these before. Coffee drinkers seemed to like the Founders one better than me, though I don't think anyone thought it was as good as BA says...
  • River Horse Tripel Horse - I was looking forward to this, as River Horse is one of the few semi-local breweries I'm not that familiar with, and the Tripel is one of my favorite styles. However, I found it quite disappointing. I didn't have a lot of it, but it didn't seem much like a Tripel at all, and it had this strange kick to it that I'm having trouble remembering.
  • Wintertraum Christkindles Gluhwein - Another wine. Sorta. Not sure how this is classified, but it was super-sweet tasting reddish wine. Not bad for what it is, I guess, but not really my thing either.
Another successful beer club! Like I said, not exactly ideal conditions for formal reviews, but a great time. The restaurant we went to was pretty good too. Not the best sushi in the area, but a welcome addition that didn't break that bank. As usual, I'm looking forward to next month!
I learned a lot during the course of my first homebrew attempt a few months ago, and after the hectic holiday season and beginning of the year, I resolved to put my learnings into practice this weekend. My first homebrew was a straightforward English Brown Ale. I don't think there was anything wrong with the beer, and it's certainly drinkable, but it's also a bit too simple and the taste ends up a bit thin. Again, not bad, but not very complex or interesting either. But then, that was kinda the plan. It was my first beer, so I wasn't expecting much out of it.

But I wanted to try something a little more ambitious for my second attempt and after browsing the recipes at High Gravity, I settled on a Belgian Style Tripel - one modeled after the Trappist Westmalle Tripel (one of my favorite beers).

Brew #2 - Belgian Style Tripel
February 13, 2011

10.5 lb. Montons Light LME
2 lb. Weyermann Pilsner Malt (grains)
4 oz. Melanoidin (grains)
1 lb. Belgian Light Candi Sugar
1.5 oz. Styrian Goldings pellet hops (bittering)
0.25 oz. Hallertau Herbrucker hops (flavor)
0.25 oz. Tettnanger German hops (flavor)
0.5 oz. Czech Saaz pellet hops (Finishing)
1 tsp. Irish Moss
White Labs Trappist Ale Yeast WLP500

Steeped Weyermann Pilsner Malt and Melanoidin in about 2.5 gallons filtered tap water at around 150°F for 20 minutes. Unlike last time, I started this batch with warm water, which saved a bunch of time in getting to 150°F (also, I wasn't afraid to crank the stovetop to it's highest setting). Removed grain bag slowly, letting letting whatever water was left in there drain out. Per instructions, I added a little more water, removed from heat, and added about half of the Light LME and all of the candi sugar. I stirred vigorously, as I was afraid the candi sugar would stick to the bottom. After a few minutes, all appeared well, at which point I threw it back on high heat, eventually bringing to a boil (in the future, I need to figure out a better way to do this - my stovetop is clearly not up to the challenge - it took around 45 minutes to bring the mixture to a boil). The ingredient kit I bought came with another muslin bag (i.e. a thin netting) for hops, so I put the hops in the bag, then put the bag in the boiling wort. Kept at a small rolling boil for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the hops didn't just float to one side of the pot. Added flavoring hops. Directions say to add to existing hop bag, but I just threw them in directly, along with the Irish Moss. 10 minutes of that, and I added the remaining LME. I also threw in the finishing hops, and removed from heat. A few minutes later, I removed the hop bag and placed pot in my sink (which was filled with some cold water and some ice) to quickly cool. I was a little more prepared with ice this time, but cooling the wort continues to be a bit of an issue. Got the wort down to manageable temperature and poured it into my fermentation bucket (attempting to remove sediment with a controlled pour through a sanitized strainer). Added some extra water to the bucket to bring up the 5 gallon mark, pouring from high up to aerate the wort. Stirred things around some more, again attempting to aerate the wort, and took an original gravity reading. For such a high OG, I probably should have done a yeast starter, but I didn't have any extra DME laying around, so I figured I could just use the yeast as packaged. The packaging says the yeast is best before April 15, 2011, so I'm definitely ok there, though I'm not sure when the yeast was packaged in the first place. Pitched yeast, stirred a bit, threw the cap on, and installed the airlock. Done!

Original Gravity: 1.085 (approximate). This is a little less than what the recipe says (1.088), but I also have a hard time reading the hydrometer, so I'm guessing it's good enough for the start.

Well, it looks like I cut off about 30-60 minutes from the process - it only took about 2.5-3 hours this time. Plus, I was a little more comfortable walking away from the stove and doing other stuff while (for example) the boil started, so it wasn't quite as draining of an experience. The only thing I'm worried about now is keeping the temperature of the fermenting wort at around 70°F (this is apparently the temperature at which the yeast works best). My house tends to be in the mid 60°s F during the winter though, so maybe I'll need to break out the space heater and make sure my closet is at a better temperature or something.

I'm already planning out my next batch, which If I start a couple weeks after I bottle this batch, should put me in a good timeframe to consider a summer brew. Perhaps a Saison or a wheat beer....

Update 3/6/11: Bottled!

(Cross Posted at Kaedrin Weblog)

Adventures in Brewing - Part 3: The Tasting

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This is actually quite long overdue. I've already drank (or given away) more than a full case of my first attempt at homebrewing: an English Brown Ale. The general consensus is that it's pretty good! Or it's at least good enough that my friends don't feel the need to insult me. As for my own feelings, I think it was a fine first attempt, but I almost wish I had started with something a little more ambitious. Still, there's something really satisfying about enjoying the fruits of your own labor. I mean, I turned water into beer! How awesome is that? Here it is:

Homebrew #1

It's hard to tell from the picture, but it pours a nice dark brown color, with some shades of amber, especially when you hold it up to the light. Solid sized head, but only minor lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic. It's got a really sweet and bready smell. Taste starts off well enough. A little sweetness up front and the finish is actually rather dry. Unfortunately, it tastes a little thin to me. This is fine at the start of the glass (I think it makes a good first impression), but it's not as satisfying as you near the end. There's definitely no complexity at all in the taste... but then, there don't appear to be any off flavors either. Also, I was brewing from a rather ordinary kit recipe that wasn't really attempting any complexity, so there's that. All in all, I think it's probably a step up from the typical macro light lager, but it's not going to light the world on fire either. I'll give it a C+, which I think is probably fair.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

I'm pretty happy with my first attempt here, but it's clear that there's a lot of room for improvement. I learned a lot in my first attempt though, and I'm confident that my next beer will at least be more interesting, if not exactly perfect...

Brooklyn Local 1

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I'm still making my way through 2010 movie releases, hoping to find a final gem in the rough so that I can complete a top 10, and the process is, of course, made much more fun by the imbibing of good beer! I recently caught up with The Last Exorcism and was quite pleasantly surprised. It's not really a top 10 kinda movie, but it's a lot better than the marketing for the film would have you believe. I don't really want to ruin anything, but it takes the form of a mock documentary with an effective setup and conflict, though I think the resolution isn't as satisfying as it wants to be. Still, well worth checking out for fans of horror (it's certainly better than most recent exorcism-themed film). Perhaps it helped that I was drinking some great beer whilst watching:

Brooklyn Local 1

Brooklyn Local 1 - Pours a light, cloudy yellow/orange color with a big head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic - bready belgian yeast, some candi-sweetness, and lots of citrus in the nose. Sweet and spicy with a bit of a kick in the middle and a nice dry finish. A little bitterness lingers... Mouthfeel is strongly carbonated and a bit harsh, but in a good way. A lot of this reminds me of a good Belgian tripel style beer, though BA classifies it as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. I suppose there's a good reason for the classification that has to do with ingredients and brewing methods, but in terms of tasting this is certainly more like a tripel than the last two tripels I've had (Incubus and Weyerbacher Merry Monks (not reviewed yet)). All of which is to say, this is a great beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a tulip glass.

I guess this means I should try Local 2 (apparently a strong dark ale), eh?

Double Feature: Stouts

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This weekend's double feature was a pair of Australian crime flicks: Animal Kingdom and Red Hill. Both are good and well worth a watch, though for different reasons. Animal Kingdom is a better made film, perhaps more realistic, though also a bit too deliberate in its pacing. Excellent performance by Jacki Weaver as the Matriarch of a family of bank robbers (who happen to be in a feud with overzealous coppers). Also notable for featuring a teenager that actually acts like a teenager (i.e. he's generally an idiot) and not a precocious mastermind who outsmarts everyone. Again, good movie, maybe moving a bit too slow. Also covers some unpleasant subject matter. Red Hill, by comparison, moves quicker and features quite the badass villain (would have certainly given the other nominees a run for their money in my movie awards). The only recognizable star in the movie is Ryan Kwanten, who you might recognize from True Blood. He's not as moronic in this role as a cop who moves out to a small town, only to find it under siege from an escaped prisoner. Things proceed in a somewhat cliched manner, but again, well worth a watch.

On the beer side of things, I threw back a few stouts, starting with one I've been meaning to drink for a while:

Samuel Smith Oatmal Stout

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout - Pours an opaque black color with a medium beige head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. It doesn't appear to be as thick as some of the other stouts I've been having recently. Smells bready and roasty. That roastiness comes out in the taste as well. It's got a smooth, medium body with just the right amount of carbonation. It's perhaps not as complex as some of the other stuff I've been having lately, but it's very well balanced and something you could drink all night. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (550 ml). Drank out of a pint glass.

From there, I kicked things up a notch with one of Weyerbacher's "big" beers:

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout - It's perhaps a bit unfair to compare a standard style with an imperial style beer, but this is what I had in my fridge. It also pours an opaque black color with a bit of a darker head than the Sam Smith. Lacing too, but not as much. The nose is full of roastiness, as is the taste. There's more of a chocolateyness to the taste, both in terms of sweetness and bitterness. As expected, it's a bit more intense than the Sam Smith, and it's got a fuller body and heavier feel (even the appearance of the pour makes this beer look thicker). More intense and more complex, but perhaps not quite as well balanced. A well crafted beer nonetheless and well worth a try, even for stout amateurs like me. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of the stout style. I've never really been a big fan, but I'm starting to see why everyone seems to like them so much, even if it's still not my favorite style. I've got several more sitting on my shelf or in my fridge, so expect some more reviews soon.

As mentioned in my previous post on Washington's Tavern Porter, Alexander Hamilton's contribution to Yards' series of Ales of the Revolution beers (variously referred to as Federalist Ale or Treasury Ale) is curiously missing from the brewery's website. During a recent trip to a local beer shop, I noticed another oddity. The plot thickens:

Yards Ales of the Revolution Box

Gee, I wonder what used to be in that third slot there? I'm virtually certain the last time I saw that variety pack box, it had Hamilton there. Anyway, curiosity got the better of me, so I fired off an email to Yards and got a quick response:

The Alexander Hamilton is currently being done only for City Tavern. It's currently Philly Pale. It's on the shelf as an R&D beer. It's status as a new addition is still up in the air.
Well that certainly clears things up a bit, though I'm not sure what the "It's currently Philly Pale." means. Is he referring to Yards' standard Philadelphia Pale Ale? Is Federalist Ale the same beer? Or is it a slightly modified version (BA has the ABV as being slightly different between the two beers, if that matters). I guess the fact that it's a R&D beer explains a lot of this, including the different names and classifications.

I suppose some specifics in the screenplay I wrote are technically wrong, though I'm sure you'll understand that realism wasn't exactly one of my goals in writing it. Heh.

Sly Fox Incubus

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If you happen to mention Royersford, PA to me, two things immediately come to mind. First is their distinctive fire horn (seriously, that's a badass horn). Second is Sly Fox, a brew pub and micro brewery that's been steadily expanding. They're one of the few craft breweries with a canning line, something they started doing long before it became trendy, though they also have a bottling line for big beers like the one I had recently:

Sly Fox Incubus

Sly Fox Incubus - Pours a hazy yellow gold color with a white, fluffy head. Smells of spicy Belgian yeast (cloves, etc...). Maybe a little fruitiness in the nose as well. Taste is pretty straightforward. Sweet and spicy like the nose, and some booziness as well. In fact, that sticky alcohol flavor lingers a bit in the aftertaste. Coming in at 10.3% ABV, it's a bit too strong, even for a tripel. Highly carbonated with a bit of a bite, it's nevertheless pretty easy to drink. All in all, it's a pretty straightforward Belgian tripel style beer. It's one of my favorite styles, so I do really enjoy this, but on the other hand, there's nothing particularly complex about it. A solid effort. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.3% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a Goblet.

I've got a couple other Sly Fox beers in my fridge, and perhaps someday a trip out to the brew pub for some dinner and beer someday.

Tröegs Nugget Nectar

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So the seasonal beers have shifted from holiday brews and now we end up on one of my most anticipated beers of the year, from semi-local Tröegs.

Troegs Nugget Nectar

Tröegs Nugget Nectar - Technically, this is classified as an "imperial amber", but you can tell from the label (a hand squeezing a giant hop "nugget" which rather resembles a grenade) that you're in for more of a hoppy experience. Pours a clear amber/orange color with about a finger of head and some patchy lacing. Smell is of floral, earthy hops. Taste starts off malty and sweet, but then you get hit with the hoppy bitterness. It's actually quite well balanced for a 93ish IBU beer. The hops are clearly the dominant flavor, but they're not overpowering either. Good carbonation, goes down very easy (especially considering the ABV). It's currently #28 on BA's Top 100, and it's certainly an extremely well crafted beer, but I don't think I'd rank it quite so high. Very strong effort, I want to try some more of this, but perhaps the strong BA reviews led me to elevate expectations too high. I'll give it a provisional B+, though perhaps an A- lies in its future.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

Elitism and Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René

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There's been some discussions in the beer blogosphere lately about Elitism and Approachability. The question posed by Zak Avery (in the first link) is what constitutes elitism in beer? Now, I'm relatively new to the whole beer blogging word, but I get the impression that Zak takes some gruff for seeking out, drinking, and writing about obscure or hard-to-find beers.

I see this sort of thing a lot. Many beer bloggers seem to write about things that are only available in limited quantities or in a certain region of the country or whatnot. This can be frustrating in that the beers sound great and yet are not easily available to me. However, I certainly don't find that sort of thing "elitist". Drink what you like. Even if it's something I don't care for, I won't hold it against you. And I think that's the rub. Elitism isn't about what you drink or write about, it's about how you perceive others. If ever get my hands on a bottle of, say, Westy 12, that might make me a big beer nerd, but it doesn't make me "better" than anyone, nor does it qualify me to make judgements on others based on their not having had such a rare beer.

Approachability is a different beast altogether. In his post, Tandleman shares his anecdotal experience at a pub that serves a low ABV pale ale and a higher ABV hop-bomb. Most "ordinary" drinkers aren't looking to have their mouth set on fire by a hop bomb, they just want something that tastes good. In my own anecdotal experience, I've found hoppy beers to be a hard sell most of the time. My brother, for instance, doesn't even like the standard Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Even among my beer loving friends, some aren't big fans of hoppy beers.

I can see how this could lead to some confusion about elitism though. If a beer geek like myself tells someone that they might not like HopDevil (or whatever) because it's quite bitter, they might think me a bit of an elitist, depending on how I worded it. I suppose the sensitive among us would feel a bit awkward about drinking what they like when I'm trying to find the most interesting beer on the menu. Does that make me a snob? Maybe, but so long as I'm not belittling you for drinking a Lager, I'm probably not elitist either.

I'd wager that the same confusion exists in other fields. Take, for instance, movies. Elitism certainly exists there, but only because there are a lot of high-falutin movie-nerds that think that anyone who likes Hollywood movies are sheep. And the more you dig into the world, the more obscure and weird things get. After a while, liking Kurosawa isn't good enough for some people, you have to be a full fledged Ozu addict if you want to be considered a movie lover. This isn't to say that Ozu is bad or anything - indeed most film lovers probably should check out some of his work - but the notion that you can't be a film lover if you haven't seen Tokyo Story or Floating Weeds is kinda silly.

Stan Hieronymus has an interesting post on the subject, where he references categories in the wine world. Stan notes that it's probably not a direct translation to beer, but there are some things to be learned about. The first four categories are pretty straightforward:

Overwhelmed, 23%, buy wine but don't know anything about it
Satisfied sippers, 14%, buy the same brand
Savvy shoppers, 15%, look for discounts
Traditionalists, 16%, like old wineries and are brand-loyal

That leaves two categories: Image seekers (20%), and Enthusiasts (12%). The former spend the most money on wine; the latter expend the most verbiage on it. These are the only two who care enough about wine to read articles or blog posts about it.

Image Seekers are obsessed with quality and will pay through the nose to get even a minor increase in quality. Enthusiasts are all about "interesting" and experimental offerings. And apparently those two groups are at each others throats in the wine world. As Stan notes, things are a bit more relaxed in the beer world, which is a good thing (and perhaps the worries about elitism aren't as big a deal as everyone's saying).

I suppose, technically, I fall under the Enthusiast category, though I certainly have leanings towards the Image/Quality seeker as well. I suspect that is mostly because I'm relatively new to this whole thing and thus am a little comfortable spending a lot on beer. I still hesitate to spend more than $20 on a single bottle, but for now, I'm ok dropping some money on something as interesting as The Bruery's Coton, for instance. I suspect I will settle into a more strict Enthusiast in a couple of years. My guess is that if you graph quality versus cost, you'll get an asymptote. Assuming that my idea of quality could be quantified (which it probably can't), there'd be a limit to what is practically achievable from a cost standpoint. At a certain point, moving up the curve becomes so costly that the minute gains wouldn't be worth it.

Until then, I'm going to seek out and try new and novel beers. Of course, what is new and novel to me might be old hat to someone else, but that's ok. We're not elitists here, right? Anyway, last weekend I tried my first sour since starting the blog. I suppose I've had some others before (does Fantome count?), but I've never had a Gueuze before:

Lindemans Gueuze Cuvee Rene

Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René - Pours a golden orange color with a good sized, light colored head. Smell is kinda like a musty white wine. There's some typical belgian yeastiness in the nose, but it's overpowered by the white wine character. The taste starts off sweet, but that quickly yields to an intense sourness. The finish is dry and tart. As I drink, it strikes me as a more intense version of champagne. The carbonated mouthfeel is probably a big part of that. It's not something I'm particularly a huge fan of, but I would like to explore various sour styles as well. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

Sometimes I worry about my beer tastes becoming too reliant on novelty. It's certainly fun trying something new all the time, but at some point, this has to run out right? That, or I'll end up playing with Lemerchand's Box and disappearing or something (hopefully not).

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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