Culture

Tasting Notes

Just some quick hits on my media diet of late…

Television

  • 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…

Movies

  • 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.

Books

  • 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.

Music

  • 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).
    The 2019 Egg Nog Tasting

    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.

And that’s all for now folks…

Teddy Roosevelt versus anti-Semitism

In Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography, he recalls a story from his time as Police Commissioner of NYC:

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.

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #17: Crom Approved Rebrew

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

Crom Approved DIPA Ingredients

(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!

(Cross Posted to Kaedrin Beer Blog)

The 2013 Egg Nog Tasting

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:

2015 Egg Nogs

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!

Recent Podcastery

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.

Cross Posting: Booms, Busts, and Beer

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:

  • An Interview with Mark Ciocco of Kaedrin Beer Blog – Jay over at Beer Samizdat thought it would be fun to interview me, and I naturally blabbered on and on and on about beer and blogging for a while, certainly appropriate for a general audience.
  • The Session #102: The Landscape of Beer – Wherein I ponder Booms and Busts and their relation to all sorts of things (including, yes, beer):

    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).

    Lots more where that came from…

  • FiftyFifty Eclipse Horizontal Tasting – Probably the most wonky thing I’ll link you to here, but the concept is interesting:

    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!

  • Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder and Operation Chowder – Beer centric travelogues from a trip earlier this summer. Some wonky beer stuff, but perhaps interesting and worth consulting if you’re on your way to Vermont and/or Boston…
  • 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.

That’s all for now.

Adventures in Brewing – DIPA Updates

My Crom-approved, Conan yeast DIPA (tentatively titled The Enigma of Steel) has been happily fermenting away for about two weeks now, and it’s been dry hopped for the past week or so. In previous batches, I only dry hopped with 1 or 2 ounces, but this time, I went with two additions of 2 ounces, because why not? Can’t have enough aroma, I say. So here’s what I used:

1 oz. Citra (first addition, about 8 days)

1 oz. Galaxy (first addition, about 8 days)

1 oz. Citra (second addition, about 3 days)

1 oz. Amarillo (second addition, about 3 days)

That Galaxy smelled absolutely fantastic, and makes me want to do a down under IPA of some sort (incorporating stuff like Motueka and Riwaka, maybe Nelson Sauvin). Anywho, kegging will commence in the next couple days, and I’m really looking forward to this sucker. The fermenter itself smells rather awesome. Cannot wait.

Update 3/26/15: And it’s in the keg! It smells absolutely amazing. All sorts of juicy tropical fruits, just a little floral character, pretty much exactly what I was going for. Now I just need to force carbonate it. This is going to be so great. The little sample in the picture below is a bit on the turbid side because all the sediment is coming out of the keg right now, but it has a nice light color and will look great once the yeast settles and gets expelled…

Crom Approved

Final Gravity: 9 Bx, which translates to 1.012 and about 8.1% ABV. This is definitely a higher attenuation than I was expecting (somewhere around 83%), but it seems to be working out well enough. The bitterness in what I sampled seemed pretty light (exactly what I wanted), so the high attenuation actually matches my strategy well.

Trying to decide what my next batch will be. I was originally thinking about some sort of summer saison, but I might be able to squeeze something in before it gets warmer out…

Update 3/29/15: It appears that my zeal in dry hopping and lack of vigilance in transferring the beef from the fermenter to the keg means that too much hop sediment made its way into the keg and have now clogged up the dip tube (i.e. the tube thingy that the beer goes through on its way to the tap). This is most distressing! I tried letting it sit a couple of days, I tried agitating the keg a bit, and I even tried throwing the CO2 line in through the out connector (i.e. shooting CO2 down the dip tube), but it’s still clogged. I was really hoping to get this resolved without having to crack open the keg, but that seems unlikely at this point. I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose some aroma when I release the pressure, and I want to avoid doing that as much as possible. I actually grabbed another keg, and will be racking the beer from the clogged keg to the new one, being extra careful while transferring to ensure no sediment makes its way through (will probably use one of those mesh strainer bags over the end of the racking cane to minimize debris). Lesson learned!

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #16: DIPA

Around this time of the year, I’m normally brewing up a batch of Fat Weekend IPA, a beer brewed for a specific gathering of portly individuals from across the country. Well, it looks like Fat Weekend will be scaled down a bit this year due to an inability to align schedules. A quorum of chubby friends will be traveling to New York, but we’ll be spending most of our time at bars or restaurants, so no brew needed.

But just because it’s not strictly needed doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make anything, right? I’ve actually been woefully inactive on the homebrewing front. My last brew, a barleywine that I ended up calling Trystero, turned out ok, though it never carbonated in the bottle and I had to dump it into a keg, where I was able to force that carbonation, at which point it was rather great. Well, it’s kicked and I need something else to put in there, so here goes nothing.

I started from the base Fat Weekend IPA recipe and amped it up a bit, now hitting DIPA territory (though still on the lower end of that scale):

Beer #16: Double IPA

Full-Batch (5 gallons)

March 7, 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 @12.3 AA)

1 oz. Amarillo (flavor)

1 oz. Amarillo (aroma)

1 oz. Citra (aroma)

1 oz. Amarillo (dry hop)

1 oz. Citra (dry hop)

GigaYeast GY054 Vermont IPA Yeast

Ingredients for my homebrewed DIPA

(Click to embiggen)

Several tweaks to the Fat Weekend IPA recipe are worth mentioning. First, the inclusion of wheat in the grain bill. Nothing fancy, just a pound of basic wheat DME (which is actually only 55% wheat). So this isn’t going to be a white IPA or anything, but it will hopefully soften things up a little and provide a nice platform for the hops. Second, the hop schedule is tweaked a bit as well. Last year’s brew turned out a bit too bitter, so I’m just sticking with 1 ounce of Simcoe this year. As with last year, Amarillo pulls flavoring duty and a blend of Amarillo and Citra will serve as the aroma and dry hop additions. I may actually grab some more hops for that dry hop addition, depending on what’s available and when I can get to the shop…

Finally, the biggest change of all, the use of GigaYeast GY054 Vermont IPA Yeast. This is the infamous “Conan” strain of yeast that is used in Heady Topper (and seems similar to the yeast used by other Vermont heroes as well), and is finally available to homebrewers (albeit in limited, hard to find quantities). The general description sounds perfect. It’s a mostly clean fermenting yeast that yields some slightly fruity, citrusy esters that are “amazing with aromatic hops” (like, hopefully, Amarillo and Citra). There are a few reasons I think Heady Topper enjoys the popularity it has, and one of the major ones is the yeast. The yeast costs a little more than your typical Wyeast smack pack, but it seems worth the stretch.

So the target here is an aromatic 8% ABV Double IPA. With attenuation in the 75-80% range, it won’t be too thin, and with the adjustment to bittering hops, it shouldn’t be too bitter. One of the things I’ve noticed from drinking so many Tired Hands IPAs is that they tend to be on the lower range of bitterness. Anecdotal observations indicate that their IPAs rarely exceed 60 IBUs (for reference, last year’s IPA was somewhere on the order of 90-100 IBUs). This year’s should be around 50 IBUs, which is actually a little lower than the style guidelines (which has a minimum of 60 for a DIPA). I’m hoping this will come out to be bright and citrusy rather than bitter and dank.

Original Gravity: 17.8 Bx, or 1.074 (exactly on target).

I have high hopes for this batch. It should be ready to drink right around the time my little break from beer ends, which is good timing. Up next, I’m thinking an easy drinking summer saison. Perhaps something of the more funky variety (I have some ideas about that, having learned from my previous attempt). All in good time. For now, I’m just trying to figure out what to call this batch. Going with the Conan theme, I was thinking Crom, but that might be too simplistic. “The Enigma of Steel” sounds like something Tired Hands would brew, a not entirely unwarranted comparison. Or perhaps I could combine the two and call it Crom: The Engima of Steel. But that sounds too ornate. This will bear some deep thought.

(Cross posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)

The Public Domain

I got curious about the Public Domain recently and was surprised by what I found. On the first day of each year, Public Domain Day celebrates the moment when copyrights expire, enter the Public Domain, and join their brethren, such as the plays of Shakespeare, the music of Mozart, and the books of Dickens. Once in the Public Domain, a work can be freely copied, remixed, translated into other languages, and adapted into stage plays, movies, or other media, free from restrictions. Because they are free to use, they can live on in perpetuity.

Of course, rights are based on jurisdiction, so not all countries will benefit equally every year. In 2015, our neighbors up north in Canada celebrated the entrance of the writings of Rachel Carlson, Ian Fleming, and Flannery O’Connor to the Public Domain (along with hundreds of others). I’d be curious how a James Bond movie made in Canada would fare here in the U.S., as they now have the right to make such a movie. Speaking of the U.S., how many works do you think entered our Public Domain this year?

Not a single published work will enter the Public Domain this year. Next year? Nope! In fact, no published work will enter the Public Domain until 2019. This is assuming that Congress does not, once again, extend the Copyright term even longer than it is now (which is currently the Author’s lifetime plus 70 years) – which is how we ended up in this situation in the first place.

I’ve harped on this sort of thing before, so I won’t belabor the point. I was just surprised that the Public Domain was so dead in the United States. Even works that gained notoriety for being accidentally let into the public domain, like It’s a Wonderful Life, are being clamped down on. Ironically, It’s a Wonderful Life only became famous once it was in the Public Domain and thus free to televise (frequent airings led to popularity). In the 1990s, the original copyright holder seized on some obscure court precedents and reasserted their rights based on the original musical score and the short story on which the film was based. The details of this are unclear, but the result is clear as crystal: it’s not aired on TV very often anymore because NBC says they have exclusive rights (and they only air it a couple times a year) and derivative works, like a planned sequel, are continually blocked.

I don’t know of a solution, but I did want to reflect on what the year could have brought us. There goes my plans for a Vertigo remake!

Adventures in Brewing: Barleywine Bottling

After six long weeks of fermentation (three primary and three secondary), it was finally time to bottle the barleywine and hot damn, it seems to be in rather fantastic shape right now. Add in a little carbonation and this stuff should be prime. Amazing caramel and dark fruit notes, and the bourbon oaked version seems to have taken on more of that character here than my RIS did… Speaking of which, I went with the same approach as the RIS. Primary fermentation was all together, but when I transferred to secondary I split the batch, leaving one alone and adding bourbon soaked oak cubes to the other. At bottling time, I bottled some of the plain barleywine, did a 1:1 blend and bottled some of that, and then the remainder of straight bourbon oaked beer. Also of note, the beer looked really pretty, especially when I held it up to light, a gorgeous dark amber color that isn’t quite as prominent in the picture below, but it’s still a nice looking beer.

Homebrewed Barleywine

Final gravity was somewhere in the 12.6 Bx to 12.7 Bx range for all three variants, which translates to about 1.023. Astute readers may remember that I had reported the gravity as 1.017 when I was racking to secondary, but I must have been reading the Refractometer wrong or something, because there’s no way the FG should go up. Regardless, this still represents somewhere around 74% attenuation (and around 9.3% ABV), which is pretty good, and 1.023 should provide a nice rich and chewy mouthfeel without being too overwhelming. The RIS finished at 1.029, which seems awfully high, but which tastes really good, so we should be in good shape.

Like I said, this batch smelled and tasted rather awesome even this early in the process, so I can’t wait for these to condition in the bottle. I figure I’m in for another 3 weeks or so before it’ll be ready, though I’m sure I’ll check one of the “transition” bottles (I separated the first couple bottles after each transition from straight barleywine to the bourbon oaked version because of the liquid in the tubing made for an inconsistent blend, though I’m sure the beer will be fine).

At this point, I’m unsure if I’ll do another batch before the heat of summer really kicks in. If I do, it may just be a small 4% saison for the keg. Next fall, I’m planning on doing a Scotch Ale (perhaps with a similar bourbon oak treatment) and maybe something like a black IPA (or whatever the heck you call that stuff). I also want to give the Imperial Red ale another chance someday. But for now, I’ve got a few cases of barleywine and stout to work through, which should last me a while (and quite honestly, I’d much rather free up those bottles than scrape the labels off these other ones because damn, that’s an annoying process).

(Cross Posted at Kaedrin Beer Blog)