To ring in the season, I’m rebrewing what is probably the best all-around homebrew I’ve ever made: my homebrewed Christmas Ale. I call it: Rantlers! A portmanteau of “reindeer antlers” coined by the one and only Rocky Balboa in Rocky V. Not a great movie, but it is a great name for homebrew.
I used to do this thing where I’d cross-post the brew-day recap here and on my Beer Blog, but I won’t bore you all with all the gory details here. Instead, I’ll just leverage the magic of hyperlinks to send you over to the Beer Blog, where you can inspect the recipe to your heart’s content. Thanks Vannevar Bush!
Update 12.3.23 – Bottling day has come, everything appears to be on track, including some fancy fortified versions that I’ve been playing with. Excruciating details at the Beer Blog thanks again to the magic power of hyperlinks.
Vintage Science Fiction Month is the brainchild of the Little Red Reviewer. The objective: Read and discuss “older than I am” Science Fiction in the month of January.
When you think of Christmas stories, the first genre that comes to mind is probably not Science Fiction. But decades of initially flippant but increasingly earnest proclamations that “Die Hard is a Christmas movie!” indicate that perhaps the notion of what constitutes a “Christmas Story” is somewhat malleable. Naturally, none of this is new. Witness To Follow a Star, a collection of nine science fiction Christmas stories published in 1977, featuring stories from Golden Age stars dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. One of the great things about reading vintage SF is the continual discovery that everything old becomes new again at some point (in this case, debates about what makes something a “Christmas Story”).
On its surface, the notions of Science Fiction and Christmas represent something of a contrast, but such conflicts can be useful in storytelling. As is typical of collections like these, the stories are a bit uneven, but it’s always nice to read something along these lines during the holiday season. Quick thoughts on each story:
Christmas on Ganymede by Isaac Asimov – Cute little short story written in Asimov’s traditional non-style, with a button of an ending that you might see coming, but which brought a smile to my face.
Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus by Frederik Pohl – Naturally Pohl takes on the commercialization of Christmas and imagines a far flung satirical future in which “department stores begin celebrating the Christmas sales rush in September”, imagine that absurdity! (I don’t talk much about my day job here, but I work for a digital retailer that starts their Christmas sales rush in July, so I had a nice chuckle at this part of the story.) Amusing predictions aside, this is perhaps not your typical romantic Christmas story, but that’s ultimately where its heart lies.
Santa Claus Planet by Frank M. Robinson – A man crash lands on an alien planet, and finds that the natives have rather odd and perhaps gift-giving traditions. An interesting, if exaggerated and fatalistic, exploration of the power dynamics inherent in gift giving. Not terribly Christmassy, to be sure, but interesting.
Christmas Tree by John Christopher – Short tale of a space traveler who plays with fire and ends up getting grounded (i.e. stranded) on the moon because his body can no longer the trip back to earth. Spoilers, I guess, but while the character will miss Christmases back home, this is not especially Christmassy either.
The Star by Arthur C. Clarke – One of Clarke’s most famous short stories, this won’t exactly put you in the Christmas mood, but pitting the cold hard science against the faith of believers (in this case Christians) will certainly make you think. This is not the first time I’ve read this story, and even knowing where it’s going – an excellent rug-pull at the end of the story where everything clicks in a devastating way – does not diminish its power.
The Christmas Present by Gordon R. Dickson – I guess they wanted to put all the bummer stories in the middle of the collection, which makes sense. This is another story about how aliens learn about Christmas, this time with tragic results. It stands in stark contrast to Asimov’s earlier story in this collection (which also deals with aliens trying to figure out Christmas), which is a nice touch.
Christmas Treason by James White – Much is made of the “lies” we tell kids about Santa and Christmas, and as you might expect, science fiction authors (and fans, for that matter) are the type who will not accept traditional explanations of the logistics of Santa’s delivery service. In the case of this story, kids with teleportation and psychokinesis powers assume that Santa must have a series of underground bunkers secreted throughout the world to support his Christmas Eve shenanigans. The only thing is: these bunkers are actually nuclear missile silos. While certainly a recipe for disaster, James White takes a decidedly more fun view of the situation and does a reasonable job balancing the tone of the story (which does need to walk a rather tight line).
The New Father Christmas by Brian W. Aldiss – In an increasingly automated world, will the machines and AIs adopt Christmas traditions in strange ways with unforeseen consequences? I suspect the writers of Futurama might have been inspired by this story in their conception of Robot Santa…
La Befana by Gene Wolfe – Christmas is about the birth of Earth’s savior, but what about other planets? Neat idea, and Wolfe uses one of my favorite Santa precursor legends in this short story.
As already mentioned, it might seem odd to see mixtures of Science Fiction and Christmas, but as it turns out, I’ve read several collections of Christmas Science Fiction stories, and there are probably a bunch of others. There are other collections from various authors, like Isaac Asimov’s Christmas (which is a collection of stories from Asimov’s magazine, rather than the author himself), but also some specific authors who seemingly specialize in the holiday, like Connie Willis’ A Lot Like Christmas and John Scalzi’s A Very Scalzi Christmas. All of these collections have their charms, in part because I like the contrast inherent in this micro-genre, and To Follow a Star is no exception (though I think I would probably recommend Willis and Scalzi books ahead of this one, for whatever that’s worth).
Next up for Vintage Science Fiction Month: Space Beagles!
In his forward to the short story collection Night Shift, Stephen King opined on the dominance of story:
All my life as a writer I have been committed to the idea that in fiction the story value holds dominance over every other facet of the writer’s craft; characterization, theme, mood, none of those things is anything if the story is dull. And if the story does hold you, all else can be forgiven.
Night Shift, Page xxx
It’s a good notion and I think it captures what a lot of people look for out of stories (whether they be books or movies or whatever), as evidenced by King’s outsized success. Of course, nothing is absolute and attempts to boil storytelling down to a simple rule are probably doomed to failure. This reminded me of the opening lines from Clive Barker’s Imajica (I quoted this before, in reference to genres, something similarly difficult to boil down to their essence):
It was the pivotal teaching of Pluthero Quexos, the most celebrated dramatist of the Second Dominion, that in any fiction, no matter how ambitious its scope or profound its theme, there was only ever room for three players. Between warring kings, a peacemaker; between adoring spouses, a seducer or a child. Between twins, the spirit of the womb. Between lovers, Death. Greater numbers might drift through the drama, of course-thousands in fact-but they could only ever be phantoms, agents, or, on rare occasions, reflections of the three real and self-willed beings who stood at the center. And even this essential trio would not remain intact; or so he taught. It would steadily diminish as the story unfolded, three becoming two, two becoming one, until the stage was left deserted.
Needless to say, this dogma did not go unchallenged. The writers of fables and comedies were particularly vociferous in their scorn, reminding the worthy Quexos that they invariably ended their own tales with a marriage and a feast. He was unrepentant. He dubbed them cheats and told them they were swindling their audiences out of what he called the last great procession, when, after the wedding songs had been sung and the dances danced, the characters took their melancholy way off into darkness, following each other into oblivion.
Imajica, Page 1
Likewise, there are lots of books and movies that challenge King’s assertion that story value dominates other aspects of fiction. There are some that even succeed. Indeed, King wrote that line in 1977, and in the intervening decades, even he has written stories that are perhaps less story focused than that line might imply. Like a lot of things, it’s good to have a guideline, but you can break it if you know what you’re doing. Alas, it turns out that breaking these sorts of guidelines is quite difficult.
“Once-and-for-allism” occurs when people decide that they wish to stop worrying about an issue at the margin. They might either dismiss the issue, or they might blow up its importance but regard the issue as hopeless and undeserving of further consideration. Either way, they seek to avoid the hovering sense of “I’ve still got to devote time and energy to figuring this out.” They prefer “I am now done with this issue, once and for all!” Thus the name of the syndrome.
I see once-and-for-allism with so many issues, but one recent example would be the forthcoming path of Covid and Long Covid. Most people just don’t want to think about it any more, and so they settle on something (“it’s just a cold!” or “it will bankrupt the nation!”) rather than having to do lots of intellectual revisions based on the stream of new data.
He gives lots of other examples in his post (like crypto, UFOs, abortion *ahem*, etc…), and perhaps one we could add storytelling and/or genre definitions to that list.
Two years ago, I watched all of the films in the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise. This post was started at that time, but for reasons beyond remembrance, I never posted about this absolutely insane series of movies. I probably missed the Christmas window and who wants to read about killer Santas in February? I mean, sure, I do and I’m betting a significant portion of the people reading this do, but there’s only about five of you, so that’s not saying much. Anyway, when I upgraded the blog earlier this year, the draft of this post is surfaced every time I bring up the WordPress dashboard, and this is the perfect time to cover the lunacy of the Silent Night, Deadly Night series. Buckle up, it’s gonna get weird.
Silent Night, Deadly Night – I covered the original during the Six Weeks of Halloween a little over a decade ago. I wasn’t particularly impressed back then, but I liked the Christmas setting and loved the grizzled old man that tells young Billy that “Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year!” After a decade of exploring other Santa slashers and some repeat viewings, I have to say that this movie has grown on me. I still can’t really claim it’s good, but as these movies go, it actually has some things on its mind. It’s not just controversy and sex and gore; it genuinely tries to explore things like repression and guilt. Lilyan Chauvin’s performance as Mother Superior drives the point home with a straight-faced intensity that contrasts the silly material in a way that can be offputting at first, but which I have come around to.
Indeed, the whole film is a study in contrasts. The joyous nature of Christmas versus the nudity and violence of a slasher? It’s mean spirited but somehow also feels good-natured? Again, I can’t claim it’s great at that and the filmmakers were certainly well aware that they were working within an exploitation framework, but they were at least trying something. Also of note: an infamous Linnea Quigley performance. Small, but memorable. Look, if you’re still reading this, you’ve already seen this and know that the really weird stuff happens later in the series.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 – I first watched this around the same time as the original, and was severely disappointed. It turns out that approximately 50% of this movie is just clips from the first film. Low-budget 80s sequels did stuff like this all the time, but this is excessive even by those standards. As the story goes, the producers actually wanted to stitch the entire sequel together with old footage. Director Lee Harry claims he was able to convince them to pony up some cash for new scenes. And that stuff is bonkers.
Eric Freeman gives an outlandish, truly unhinged performance, and the “Garbage Day!” sequence has rightly become a cult classic in its own right. As such, it has risen in my estimation over the years… but I’m still annoyed by the first half of the movie. Maybe it would work better if you hadn’t just watched the first movie? This is objectively bad in most respects, but it’s a sorta fascinating and wildly entertaining failure.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! – This movie should be so much better than it actually is. I’m going to describe a bunch of stuff about this movie, and it’s going to sound awesome… but it is emphatically not so. Unlike the first two movies, whose inadequacies are somehow endearing, this one just plods limply to the finish line without anything of real interest. So here goes: The infamous “killer Santa Claus” Ricky Caldwell has miraculously been kept alive in a coma for six years by a mad scientist/doctor experimenting with ESP. Inevitably, he awakes from his coma and sets off to kill a young woman who has some psychic connection to him, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake.
It’s directed by Monte Hellman! It stars Bill Moseley as Ricky! Both of those guys are great! Robert Culp shows up as a cop chasing Ricky! The character design of Ricky replaces the entire top of his head with a glass dome, revealing his brain! Hell, just writing this makes me want to revisit this. It can’t possibly be as bad as I remember, can it? And yet, I’m virtually certain it’s even worse than my memory of it. That I’ve, like, repressed how bad it is. The best thing I can say about it is that you might be able to watch this closely and analyze enough of it to figure out what NOT to do in a slasher movie.
Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 – At this point, the series basically abandons any pretense of being a sequel. This is one of those I can’t get this script made unless I pretend its a sequel to an existing franchise sorta jams. As such, there’s no connection whatsoever to the previous three movies. It’s about a reporter who stumbles upon a coven of witches that worship some sort of satanic bug larvae or somesuch. It does take place during Christmas, but it’s barely got any of that sort of atmosphere.
It’s actually all just an excuse to Screaming Mad George’s bizarre FX and concepts. As such, this movie gets really grody. Along the way, we’re treated to a quintessential Clint Howard performance as Ricky, the gross errand boy of the witches. So this isn’t really a sequel in anything but name, but it does bring the whole “interesting failure” component back to the franchise. It’s hard to recommend because it’s just so… grody (which I already said but it’s really the one word review of this movie), but if you’re into that sort of thing…
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker – This is it, folks. The series culminates in one of the most bizarre takes on Christmas horror ever put to film. Like Initiation, this has no connection to the first three films and is basically a sequel in name only, but it has more Christmas atmosphere and yes, even some form of ambition. It’s a sorta mashup of Santa Slasher and… Pinocchio?
Mysterious killer toys are being delivered throughout the land, and a young boy who witnesses the death of his father becomes too traumatized to speak. His mother must try to get him past his trauma. Perhaps with the help of local toymaker, Joe Petto and his nefarious son, Pino. Oh, and Joe Petto is played by Mickey Rooney. Clint Howard kinda/sorta reprises his role as Ricky, though he’s not a grody servant of witches anymore (or yet? Is this a prequel to part 4? I mean, it doesn’t really matter, but still.)
And that’s just the beginning. This thing gets more and more bananapants as it goes, leading to a truly insane finale. I might be building this up a bit too much in my head right now, but this movie was the thing that convinced me that writing a post like this would be a worthwhile affair. Like, really, this is a terrible movie, but I love it. That’s kinda the story of the entire series, and this one is a prime example.
So there you have it, five truly awful movies… with lots to love if you’re a fan of bad movies, which I apparently am. If you want to put yourself through this, all of the sequels are available for free (with commercials) on Tubi (at least, as of this writing). As for me, I’m making preparations to watch the remake/reboot/whatever this year. I’m sure it will be terrible. I’ll probably enjoy it. I don’t know if I have the stomach for the fan-made Silent Night, Deadly Night 6: Santa’s Watching, but you never know. Merry Christmas!
Watchmen – I was skeptical; who was really hankering for a sequel to the Watchmen graphic novel? I may be biased because of my general distaste for sequels, but I gave the series a shot, and it’s steadily been chipping away at all my reservations about the show. It hits a lot of “prestige TV” notes and starts off by just dropping you into a world that isn’t quite familiar (even if you’ve read the comic book). A lot of it still feels unnecessary, but it’s actually quite good and getting better as it goes. Will it continue to pick up steam and end strong? I still have doubts, but this show has earned a place on my increasingly crowded watching schedule.
The Mandalorian – I’ve already posted my initial thoughts on the first two episodes and am genuinely curious to see where it’s headed. It’s quite good, but it hasn’t achieved greatness yet. Still, tons of potential and it’s hitting the non-prequel, low-ish stakes, and new character notes that most recent Star Wars has been missing. Baby Yoda is indeed great and cute, and so far, the whole “never taking off the mask” thing hasn’t bothered me as much as the show’s critics.
The Good Place – If you haven’t seen this, I highly recommend watching through the conclusion of the first season. Spoilers for what follows! One of the things about the show that you kinda have to buy into is that its vision of the afterlife is, well, kinda dumb. One of the great things about the conclusion of the first season was that there was a really good reason why the afterlife was that dumb – it was all a ruse. They manage to keep up the quality in the second season pretty well, but by the third season, it was definitely running out of steam. Now in its fourth and final season, it’s almost completely out of juice. Of course, I still love the show, it’s got a high joke density that lands most of time, and the characters are so likable and endearing that I still want to keep watching, but I’m glad this is the final season. It’s kinda on hiatus now until it finishes up early next year, but I’m kinda interested in the overarching story again because it’s kinda become canon that the system at the heart of the series is flawed and, well, kinda dumb. I have no idea how they’re going to resolve that though…
The Irishman – Martin Scorsese’s latest epic gangster flick is an unwieldy 3.5 hours long, which is probably at least a half hour too long. Look, I get it, De Niro’s character slowly but surely sacrifices everything good in his life for the sake of his mafia friends, who clearly don’t care, and it happens bit by bit over the course of decades, such that he doesn’t even realize it’s happening until it’s far too late. The last hour of the film, once he realizes what he’s done, is devastating and heartbreaking… I dunno, maybe it needs to be that long in order to get to that place, but pacing matters, and while I was never bored or anything, this didn’t quite have the energy that sustains Scorsese’s best efforts. As a result, I don’t see myself revisiting this the way I do with Goodfellas, Casino, Wolf of Wall Street, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, etc… (geeze, this guy’s made a lot of great movies, I could easily list five more that I’d rewatch tonight…) The best mafia movies are able to balance the romantic, attractive side of the life with the darkness and despair that inevitably follows. Goodfellas, in particular, is fantastic at this. The Irishman is more subtle and more calibrated around the darkness and despair, which doesn’t exactly make for a pleasant viewing. Anyway, De Niro and Pacino are great, definitely working at a level far above where they’ve been lately, but the real star is Pesci, who is really fantastic here. Side characters without much time even manage a big impact, like Anna Paquin and Stephen Graham, who are both standouts despite not a ton of time onscreen. Definitely worth a watch and maybe even one of the best of the year; it’s actually grown on me in the last few days, so maybe it will continue to expand its influence in my mind as time goes on…
Prospect – Neat little SF thriller set on an alien moon, where a teenaged girl and her father are trying to prospect for naturally occurring gems. Naturally, there are competitors and unfriendlies that complicate matters and turn the whole venture into one of survival. There’s some heavy reliance on tropes in the worldbuilding, but it gets better as it goes. Interestingly, since the environment on the moon isn’t particularly friendly to human life, they spend most of the movie with their space suits and helmets on, something a lot of movies wouldn’t bother with, but which adds a bit of verisimilitude that serves the movie well (and the filmmakers seem to view the limitations of this approach as a benefit, rather than just a challenge to be disposed of). Apparently this will be eligible for the Hugo awards, even though it premiered last year – it will be on my ballot.
Dolemite Is My Name – When I was younger, my brother and his friends came home one day with a tape from a video rental place. The movie was The Monkey Hustle, starring one Rudy Ray Moore. For some reason, we became obsessed with this dude and watched a bunch of his other movies, including Dolemite. They aren’t strictly good in any objective sense, but they’ve certainly got an energy about them. So this new film, Dolemite Is My Name, is a love letter to Moore and his particular brand of raunchy comedy. It’s kind of a biopic, but it focuses pretty narrowly on one portion of Moore’s career, so it doesn’t fall prey to all the cliches usually associated with the sub-genre, and it’s a whole boatload of fun. Eddie Murphy is fantastic, certainly the best thing he’s done in, um, decades? Jeeze. Great supporting cast as well, particularly Wesley Snipes. It’s a pretty fantastic example of the “I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen this way, but who cares because this is really fun!” style movie. Well worth checking out.
Delta-V by Daniel Suarez – A billionaire hires a bunch of adventurer/explorer types to man his deep space mission to mine an asteroid; hijinks ensue. Pretty solid SF told in Suarez’s breezy style. It scratches the hard SF itch while being pretty entertaining, but it doesn’t really approach the true sense of wonder that marks the best of the genre either. Still, I really enjoyed this, quite a bit more than a lot of recent SF that I’ve read.
Zero to One Notes on Start-Ups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters – Peter Thiel is a famous tech entrepreneur who was one of the founders of Paypal. Blake Masters was a Standford grad student who took a class taught by Thiel and eventually came to work with Thiel to publish a book on Thiel’s ideas. This post can’t really do justice to Thiel’s ideas, but he has some interesting thoughts on monopolies, competition, and what he terms “indefinite optimism”. It’s at its best when he’s waxing philosophical on topics like this, though the bits on the nuts and bolts of operating a startup work too (they’re just necessarily more mundane). It’s actually very short, and could probably use a bit more fleshing out, but lots of food for thought here. As a fan of Science Ficiton, I thought Thiel’s framing of the indefinite/definite and pessimism/optimism would make interesting axis for SF – the definite optimism of the golden age yielding to indefinite pessimism of the new wave (maybe not the best description, but the general idea of SF becoming more pessimistic over time is pretty clear), etc… It could be interesting, but it’d be a topic for another post.
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell – By this point, you should already know what you think of Gladwell, and this book most likely won’t change your mind. I tend to enjoy his style and think he’s good at articulating certain things. For its part, this book seems to me to be a warning of the dangers of being hyper-vigilant. Sure, you might catch a Bernie Madoff earlier on and maybe the police can clean up a crime-ridden neighborhood, but applying that same hyper-vigilantism to other, more trustworthy areas can be disastrous. The book meanders a bit and Gladwell’s focus isn’t necessarily on hyper-vigilantism, but that was the most relevant piece for me, and you can see it all over the place (i.e. obvious places like politics, but also social media and smaller scale communities, etc…). Again, if you’re not a Gladwell fan, this won’t change your mind, but if you are, it’s solid stuff.
Watchmen: Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Music from the HBO Series) – As I was watching the series, I was thinking that the music was great and a little familiar and look at that, it’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Great stuff, and good background for working…
The Finer Things
The Kaedrin Beer Blog is still going, though posting has dropped off quite a bit. Still, we’ve entered barrel-aged stout season and I’m working my way through BCBS variants (best so far is the Reserve Rye) and the more local, independent Free Will Ralphius variants (so far, the Vanilla and Double Barrel-Aged are the best variants, better than most of last year’s for sure).
The Annual Egg Nog Tasting this year was of moderate size. Not much to cover that we haven’t covered before, but a couple of newish entries this year, including the semi-local Kreider Farms Eggnog (which was my favorite) and Promised Land (which the majority voted as best).
Wawa always places well too, but I think people are so used to it that they just vote for something new and good whenever it’s available. In terms of worst-in-show, someone brought eggnog flavored creamer, which was… not good.
The many-sided ethnic character of the force now and then gives rise to, or affords opportunity for, queer happenings. Occasionally it enables one to meet emergencies in the best possible fashion. While I was Police Commissioner an anti-Semitic preacher from Berlin, Rector Ahlwardt, came over to New York to preach a crusade against the Jews. Many of the New York Jews were much excited and asked me to prevent him from speaking and not to give him police protection. This, I told them, was impossible; and if possible would have been undesirable because it would have made him a martyr. The proper thing to do was to make him ridiculous. Accordingly I detailed for his protection a Jew sergeant and a score or two of Jew policemen. He made his harangue against the Jews under the active protection of some forty policemen, every one of them a Jew! It was the most effective possible answer; and incidentally it was an object-lesson to our people, whose greatest need it is to learn that there must be no division by class hatred, whether this hatred be that of creed against creed, nationality against nationality, section against section, or men of one social or industrial condition against men of another social and industrial condition. We must ever judge each individual on his own conduct and merits, and not on his membership in any class, whether that class be based on theological, social, or industrial considerations.
Certainly a better solution than, say, lighting fires in the streets and threatening violence against those who promulgate ideas we find heinous.
I’ve been woefully neglectful of my homebrewing hobby of late, and recently decided that I must rebrew my recent failed IPA. As you probably do not recall, I made an IPA using copious amounts of my favorite hops and fermented with the infamous Conan yeast (aka Vermont Ale yeast), then dry hopped with more of my favorite hops. It turned out fantastic, but when I kegged it, I was a little careless and allowed too much dry hop sediment into the keg, which clogged the whole thing up. I tried to salvage the beer by transferring to another keg, but that only served to oxidize the whole thing and basically ruin the batch. Which is a terrible shame, because the limited amout of the stuff I got to try when fresh was fantastic and exactly what I was going for. I mean, perhaps not Heady Topper good, but in the same league as the Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Tired Hands IPAs that I love so much. Drinking the oxidized remnants was a major disappointment, so I thought I should do something I almost never do and rebrew the original recipe. For posterity, here it is, in all it’s glory:
Beer #16: Crom Approved Double IPA
Full-Batch (5 gallons)
November 28, 2015
12 oz. CaraPils (specialty grain)
8 oz. Crystal 20 (specialty grain)
6 lb. Muntons Extra Light DME
1 lb. Muntons Wheat DME
8 oz. Turbinado Sugar
1 oz. Simcoe (bittering @11.1 AA)
1 oz. Amarillo (flavor)
1 oz. Amarillo (aroma)
1 oz. Citra (aroma)
1 oz. Citra (first addition dry hop)
1 oz. Galaxy (first addition dry hop)
1 oz. Amarillo (second addition dry hop)
1 oz. Citra (second addition dry hop)
GigaYeast GY054 Vermont IPA Yeast
(Click to embiggen)
This is basically identical to the previous batch. Minor differences include the fact that the Simcoe hops I procured for the bittering addition were slightly lower in alpha acids, but that only resulted in a dip of about 2 IBUs, which I judge to be fine. Indeed, the original goal with this brew was to produce something light and aromatic, not something punishingly bitter. Also, my turbinado sugar addition was slightly different this time due to the fact that I did not have as much in the pantry as I thought, so I had to compensate with a bottle of liquid sugar that I had laying around. I’m pretty sure I got that amount right, but my guess is that there’s slightly less simple sugar added in this batch. Otherwise, the recipe is the same, and the key component is really the Conan yeast.
As with the last batch, the target is an aromatic 8% ABV Double IPA with attenuation in the 75-80% range (maybe slightly less). The specialty grains and wheat addition will provide a nice malt backbone and platform for the hops, while not being too bitter. IBUs are targeted for slightly less than 50, which is a little low for the BJCP guidelines, but I’m shooting for that newfangled juicy, bright, and citrusy IPA rather than the old school dank and bitter IPA.
Original Gravity: 17.1 Bx, or 1.071, which is slightly lower than the target 1.074. This is not at all troubling since the last batch attenuated higher than expected and got us to something higher than 8%. This batch might hit closer to that target, assuming the yeast does its work.
Once again, I have high hopes for this batch, though I am cautiously optimistic. The last batch turned out great, but I will admit the fermentation of this batch started slow. I brewed this on Saturday, and the airlock was essentially inactive until Monday. It’s bubbling away now, which is heartening, but now that I think about it, I did have the yeast in the fridge for a while, and perhaps it was not as viable as the last batch. Fingers crossed! Dry hopping will commence after this weekend, and this sucker will be kegged by 12/13. It will be a nice Christmas present, I think.
Next up? I’m not sure. I was thinking about making a small batch of wild ale (not sure what exactly I’ll patter that after, but I’m looking at a full Brett/bacteria fermentation, rather than my previous mixed fermentation approach), but I’ve also been planning a Scotch Ale (which will, of course, be partially aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes). Only time will tell. Since both of those are time intensive, I might even get to brewing them sooner rather than later, even though they won’t be ready for a few months (at which time, I’m sure the keg will be clear of Crom Approved!) At this point, I’m leaning towards Scotch Ale, because we’re heading into winter, and that boozy, malty style is probably better suited for the season… We shall see. In the meantime, may Crom bless my current batch of beer. I’m sure the god of steel would appreciate such a brew!
Family Holiday traditions are very weird, like how my family does an Egg Nog tasting every Thanksgiving… after dinner. You know, because we’re still hungry and it’s not like Egg Nog is filling at all. In fairness, it was a tradition born by accident. One year, literally everyone thought they were in charge of bringing egg nog, so they brought a couple and we ended up with, like, 15 of them. Since then, we’ve intentionally started doing this. Sometimes, this gets super complicated and involves blind tastings and whatnot, but the last couple years have been pretty informal. Check out some previous recaps: [2013 | 2012 | 2010 | 2008].
The past few years have represented an attempt to find different egg nogs instead of crowning the same two every year (usually local mainstays Wawa or Swiss Farms). This has been fine, but I don’t think any of those actually beats our normal champions. This year, we returned to previous champions, and went for some new things too. Not a crazy number of entries this year though:
For posterity, the Egg Nogs pictured here are (from left to right):
Swiss Farms Premium Egg Nog
Southern Comfort Traditional Egg Nog
Wawa Egg Nog
Turkey Hill Egg Nog
Organic Valley Eggnog
International Delight Classic Nog
Upstate Farms Premium Egg Nog
So we’ve got three former winners (Swiss Farms, Wawa, Upstate Farms), two standard, middle of the pack entrants (Southern Comfort and Turkey Hill), one I don’t remember having before (but which I apparently have), and one that isn’t even Egg Nog. It’s always amusing how these weirdos try to trick people into drinking this stuff. The giveaway is the use of the word “Nog” without the corresponding “Egg”. That International Delight nog is described as a “Festive Dairy Beverage” whatever that means. You might think this would be a shoe-in for “Worst in Show”, but in reality, it was kinda just like milk with some cinnamon and nutmeg or something. Not bad at all, but not really anything like an egg nog either.
In an odd turn of events, Upstate Farms got under some people’s skin and ended up taking the award for worst egg nog. I didn’t think it was that bad, but it was clearly inferior to the top two, Wawa and Swiss Farms. Someone mentioned that Upstate had a sorta artificial, chemically character to it. I didn’t really get it, but whatever! Swiss Farms took first place, and at this point, remains undefeated. Personally, I still go for Wawa, but that’s just me.
It was fun, as usual, but it was a pretty low key year. Perhaps next year will be the year we finally break down and make our own egg nog. If we can get over our fear of making everyone sick, which seems likely? I feel like it should be simple enough, but we’ll see. Otherwise, I want to find something I can bring to rival Swiss Farms. It’s good, but I don’t know that it’s quite as dominant as its performance the past few years indicates. Until next year!
I don’t listen to podcasts as often as I used to because all these audiobooks aren’t gooing to listen to themselves, but after a few of my old standbys went dark lately, I decided to look for some new ones, and what do you know, a few of them fell into my lap. I’m sure there are plenty of others I should be listening to, but these are the ones that struck a chord recently:
The Style Guide – Two guys talking about a given (usually movie focused) topic for about an hour, and it’s pretty solid stuff, especially if you like to parse out what defines a genre, and what the outliers are. I just discovered this one and it’s a pretty young podcast, but they seem to be off to a great start and am looking forward to devouring their (small) backlog and keeping up with new eps…
The Canon – The premise is a pretty standard one. Every week, they choose a new movie and evaluate whether or not it belongs in the Canon of great movies or somesuch. The “or somesuch” piece is because the actual definition of the Canon is pretty loose and they engage in arbitrary limiting exercises like versus episodes where they, for example, say that Alien or Aliens can make the Canon, but not both. The hosts have a weird chemistry too. They have strong opinions, bicker a lot, and often talk over each other. It’s probably not for everyone, and if I were to make a podcast, it would not be like this at all, but that’s kinda what I like about it, I guess. They do make a lot of good points though, and the annoyance factor isn’t quite as bad as the initial episodes these days. Worth checking out. Bonus points for their Cannon-like logo.
I Was There Too – What a fabulous idea for a podcast. A guy interviews people who played bit parts in big movies, like the guy who played Nicholson’s secretary in A Few Good Men (two lines, but memorable) or the guy who played the Apple store employee in Captain America 2 (also a tiny yet memorable part). Some are more substantial, like Jenette Goldstein, who is probably most famous for playing Vasquez in Aliens, but also had bit parts in a bunch of other James Cameron movies. Like most “interview” based shows, this one depends greatly on the guest, but so far, they’ve been pretty great. Not frequently updated, but that’s quite alright by me!
Birthcast, Moviecast, Deathcast, Padcast Podcast – I think I may have mentioned this before, back when they were the Badass Digest Padcast Podcast, but that one was always very inconsistently updated. A while later and their site has rebranded, and the host situation solidified and they started updating more frequently. It’s still a bit on the rambly side and it comes from a goofy perspective that might not appeal to everyone, but I enjoy it. They’ve been watching a bunch of “Future Cop” movies recently, which has been fun.
And that’s all for now. Go forth and listen to yonder podcasts.
Remember when blogs were the cool new thing? It was an exciting time, but things have changed dramatically in the intervening decade or so. The rise of social media basically quashed the fabled “generalist” blog, one of which you are currently reading. Such things have become, at best, quaint anachronisms. Specialized blogs, though, are perhaps holding on by a thread because of their laser focus on a given subject. That’s why I started Kaedrin Beer Blog almost 5 years ago. It has achieved a modest amount of success and I sometimes write things over there that might be of interest to the few of you still clinging to this generalist blog, so let’s take a look at a few recent highlights:
We’re pretty clearly in boom times for beer. The brewery count is fast approaching 4000. This is up from, um, 89 breweries in 1978, the year of my birth. What happened? In my lifetime, we’ve gone from a massively consolidated industry to an explosion of tiny, niche brewers. Prohibition certainly had an impact, but post-prohibition our world became enamored with what Thomas Pynchon calls the “American vice of modular repetition”. Revolutions in manufacturing and transportation lead to dramatic consolidation across all industries. This sort of thing is great for winning wars (digression incoming: The German Tiger tank was dramatically superior to the US Sherman, but the Germans only made approximately 1,300 of their tank. The US made over 30,000 Shermans.) but bad for consumer choice. The mid-century ideal of beer seemed to be mass-produced light lager (the fizzy yellow stuff we’re all familiar with). Who needs variety when you can produce something bland that sells in massive quantities?
The problem is that, to paraphrase Howard Moskowitz, there is no such thing as the perfect beer, only perfect beers (plural).
The idea is that you start with the same base beer but age it in different expressions of bourbon and rye. Since the aging period is the same (about 6 months), the only real variable here is the different expressions of whiskey (and the myriad variables that apply to each barrel). In my experience, this has produced some modest but definitely noticeable differences in the resulting beers.
Then we taste 6 different variants and compare the results. You’ll never believe what happened next!
Three Floyds BackMasking – Sometimes beer reviews inspire some other writing, like this discussion of backmasking (i.e. hidden messages discovered when you play a record backwards). I posted this several months ago, and no one found the hidden messages embedded in the post (or, at least, they didn’t tell me they found it, and why wouldn’t you if you went through the trouble of searching it out?) Granted, they’re not in any way “backmasked” in the post, just hidden in the traditional HTML way.
Choose Your Own Adventure Beer Reviews – An oldie but a goodie, this Zork-inspired series of reviews reads like an old Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Be careful, you might be eaten by a Grue.