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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Epic Stupidity

Beer commercials, I swear they must recruit a special kind of imbecile to write them. I sometimes feel a little sorry for the copywriter who has to come up with a pitch for why you should, say, prefer Phillips 66 gas stations over not-Phillips-66 gas stations, especially when that name seems to be attached to a motley crew of franchisees ranging from almost-as-good-as-QuikTrip operations to third world shit holes.

So maybe I can cut the folks at Coors' ad agency a little slack for not having a product that's particularly inspiring. I mean, those mass market lagers are the commodity peanut butter of beer. They are insipid, perhaps none so much as Coors Light. The best thing I can say for the Silver Bullet is it's consistent. But the ad copy that says it's 'frost brewed?' That's just offensive.

Kids, if you don't dabble in zymurgy yourself, lemme clue you in on something: 'brewing' involves converting starch to sugar, which happens when a couple of enzymes in malt are at around 149ºF. Alpha amylase is active between 145ºF and 158ºF, beta amylase does its thing between 131ºF and frosty as 149ºF. After this step, the wort is drained from the grain and boiled for at least an hour with the hops preserve beer and make it bitter (though Coors Light is hopped below the threshold of perception for most people, it is still boiled with hops). Fermentation happens a little cooler, and in the case of a beer like Coors Light, it is lagered after that, and this last step can get borderline on frosty, but the beer has already been brewed before it hits the lagering tank.

So drink what you like, but Coors Light is not fucking 'brewed really cold.'

But Sam Adams' marketing crew seems bent on making Coors' agency look like geniuses.

From the blazing yellow of the afternoon sun to the fiery orange of an evening sunset to the electric blue tint of a summer night, the colors of Summer Ale and its crisp, citrusy flavor, are your perfect companion anywhere, anytime.

Okay, I can buy yellow and orange being colors you'll encounter in something Sam Adams brews. But blue?

When I got into brewing in 1995, not every liquor or grocery store had a bunch of craft beer styles on offer. I drank a ton of Sam Adams' Boston Lager back then, in part to harvest the bottles for my homebrew, in part because it was such a better beer than most of what was on the shelf. Why buy Sam Adams? Because it's an all malt beer with enough flavor and aroma hops that you can actually tell there are hops in it. It's just like how you subscribe to Playboy because then you get to see still photographs of nude women. Well, the way things have worked out Hef had to sell the Playboy Mansion, but Sam Adams has just become another version of Coors Light, selling beer that has, as its principle ingredient, advertising.

Advertising written by yahoos who think some blue on the six-pack carrier is a feature of the beer in the bottles.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tour de Bier Weekend

One thing and another, I got really out of shape. Last summer when election work got busy I drove way too often trying to make up time, then after the election, the weather was blah and I was out of the habit, bike commuting no longer felt like the default setting it once did. I suffered a bit on Bike MS last fall, but then lately I've realized I continued to slide into sloth through spring. Now, I'm less than three months from RAGBRAI, and basically a tub of goo.

RAGBRAI two years ago was by far the best vacation I've ever taken, but I have to get back in shape or this year's will be miserable.

So this weekend was my bachelor weekend, and after riding more through the week (my target is generally 100 miles per week, last few months I haven't even threatened that, but this week I had over 70 coming into the weekend), me and Corinna did almost 30 on Saturday. Which is a PR for her for this year, near it for me. She's struggled with stamina since her brain injury but lately has been bouncing back in big ways.

So after that Saturday ride my ass was kicked way out of proportion to the ride, even if I have gone soft. I took an anti-inflammatory and went to bed ridiculously early. So early Corinna came in and asked me if I was sick or something. But I had a great sleep of 9-1/2 hours and got up early and got out of the house on the bike a little after 8:00 on Sunday morning.

I hadn't signed up for Tour de Bier, RAGBRAI is eating all my disposable income and then some, but I wanted to swing by and say hi to my friends who were working it. Which I did. Then I rode out, started following the route but then decided to go out agains the wind on Southwest/Merriam Lane, then back downtown, then up through Westport, then back downtown and into the East Bottoms and back by Knuckleheads. Then up through Northtown, before heading home.

Ended up with a little over 46 miles in the saddle, got home in time to grill a mess of chicken, do some laundry, listen to the Royals and Pirates both win.

Now I think I'm ready for an anti-inflammatory and an early bed time. Again. But if I crash out early tonight, maybe it'll be easier to get up and bike to work tomorrow. That early alarm has taken some getting used to as I try to get back into the swing of things.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Scribe at Work

So riding home from work, looking to meet up with Corinna, she texts me that Scribe is working at Foxx down on the Boulevard.

Scribe is one of my favorite artists, a national treasure really. I've done my best to photograph all his work, but he's too diligent for that to be a real possibility. But I do have a poster sized print of a photo I took of his Resound Fields II billy goat on the All Packaging building on my living room wall. You might notice it on this blog as the wallpaper, too.

When you have the chance to witness greatness, you do it.

Thursday, May 04, 2017


Kegged up the meads I made last fall, and there are issues. I didn't put pectic enzyme in the primary, and the pear melomel is showing it, even after DualFine, it's hazy as a hot day in Shanghai. It tastes pretty good, but I think I might rack it back out of the keg and into a carboy with a new dose of pectic enzyme and let the summer work on it a bit.

The other batch, the autumn olive, crab apple, pear and apple melomel, it's clear as a bell but has a flavor I associate with yeast under stress: plastic/bandaid phenolics, more in the flavor than the aroma. That's the whole point of the degassing wand and staggered nutrient additions, but I can't tell if it's actually yeast produced phenols or if maybe this is the character of autumn olive. Which, if that's the case, I may have screwed up the other day when I started another batch that included a fair bit of autumn olive juice. The juice, pre-ferment, has a pleasant, tart, dry flavor, lots of acid and tanin. But grape juice and wine ain't the same flavor, so if it turns out this is just the flavor of fermented autumn olive, I might avoid that fruit from now on.

Arguing in favor of it being the fruit and not the yeast is I'm not getting that off flavor in the hazy pear melomel and they were pitched with the same yeast on the same day, got the same treatment as far as degassing and nutrient additions, side-by-side. And it's not undrinkable or anything, but with the amount of work I put in on these things, I kind of expect something near perfection.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Went to my brother's to celebrate his birthday.

Guitars were played, food was grilled, beers were consumed. Corinna doesn't do beer because she seems to get migraines from yeast (doesn't eat a lot of bread for the same reason). Luckily, I'd just been to Trader Joe's and had a liter of their very decent blended scotch in the car. They've got solid single malts at about half the price of name brand, too, but their blended is a nice, big smoky mess at $9.99 a liter, and side by side I prefer it to some of the more famous single malts. It's bolder than Glenlivet or Glenfiddich, but it's not all the way to Laphroig with its burning-car-tire-extinguished-in-brackish-water character.

And I had fun taking pictures of my nephew on the swing set. My own kids outgrew going so high on the swing set you'd swear they're going to do a 360.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Critical Mass April '17

I love Critical Mass. It's a highlight of my month—I made all twelve of them in 2016, missed a couple so far this year but working on it.

I learned at this mass that one of my favorite massholes is moving away to Florida, and that's a damn shame.

Worse, I learned that a cop told one of my fellow travelers that charges against Anthony Saluto's killer are incredibly unlikely. It's been thirteen months since Joseph B. Lasala crossed the center line of Independence Avenue, two lanes into the wrong direction, struck Anthony Saluto on a bicycle, shattered two light poles and drove another block before his car quit on him. He still hasn't been charged with anything.

Anything. I've made multiple calls to the Jackson County Prosecutor's office, where so-called 'victim advocates' have told me it takes months to get toxicology reports back, that the police still haven't turned over files to the prosecutors, etc. This is criminal malfeasance on the part of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and Jean Peters Bakers' office. Don't take my word for it, here is the (heavily redacted because they claim they're doing something about this) police report.

I'm no lawyer, but toxicology? I don't care if Joe Lasala was intoxicated, he crossed to the far wrong side of the road and killed a person, even if he was sober that's at least manslaughter. Charge the piece of shit: it's unacceptable that he's still walking around free and probably driving. He's a killer and he needs to be locked up. If you get toxicology back and want to hit him for DUI to boot, great. Drove a block after shattering light poles and killing a person? How about a charge for leaving the scene? Felony hit and run, hello?

Apparently cyclists' lives don't matter as far as Jean Peters Baker and her minions, and the Kansas City Police Department are concerned. It's been thirteen months and they're allowing a known killer to continue to menace society. I'm not asking for much, all I'm asking is Do Your Fucking Job. When a cop gets shot, they have capital murder charges filed in less than 24 hours (as they should).

If you wonder why some people don't get super helpful with law enforcement, this is where it starts: when a friend or family member is murdered and the law takes it less seriously than someone betting on an NCAA bracket, you know that you're not among those being protected or served.

Anyway, back to positive territory. It was a beautiful evening to ride bikes with friends, have a couple of beers.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Local Treasures

I popped for a membership to the Nelson-Atkins last year, but the visit I bought it on was one of those kinda burnout situations. The friend we took with us that day had never been, and she got a scooter because one of the reasons she'd never gone is she isn't physically able to do that much walking.

So after that marathon, where we came about as close to seeing the whole thing in one day as I'm ever going to get, that membership didn't get used so much for a while. The membership gets you in to the various ticketed exhibits and covers parking in their garage, which is eight bucks otherwise (and on-street parking around the place is very limited).

But the last few months I've been trying to make more frequent but short trips with Mo. It's much more enjoyable when you spend a half hour to an hour, just kind of pick a wing and do that.

It's a remarkable thing for a city of half a million people (or more like two million if you figure metro area), to have a museum of this caliber. It's not the Art Institute in Chicago or the Met in New York, but the Bloch addition by itself is about the same square footage as Museo del Prado in Madrid, and the collections are high quality. And where I shelled out $18 when I hit the Modern Wing in Chicago a few years back (and it was worth it, not complaining), anyone can walk into the Nelson, it's strictly suggested donation.

It was pretty busy, a touch crowded in places, but shouldn't it be? Actually, given what's on offer for basically free, there should probably be twice as many people wandering these galleries.

Friday, April 21, 2017

April Mead

So my wife likes to forage. She filled one of our deep freezers with pears, autumn olive, persimmons, and so on last fall. I kept meaning to do some meads with them, she kept saying that produce was set aside specifically for that. I don't care much for persimmon so I passed on that part. There was also store bought cranberries, three pounds of them.

It would have been good if I'd gotten on this sooner, the advice I've gotten is don't leave the fruit in the freezer more than a month or two. But I think I dodged the freezer burn bullet, and freezing does help make the juice more available.

A lot of meadmakers will just make a standard mead as a starting point, mixing honey and water, then put the fruit in a mesh bag in the fermenter. I haven't tried that method yet, I've been using the fruit juice to mix with the honey, which works too. But last fall, working with fresh fruit, I learned the limits of the wine press.

To defrost the fruit, I mixed a weak sulfite solution (one Campden tablet per five gallons of water) and let the fruit thaw overnight in the water.

The autumn olive and cranberry in the press still didn't yield much juice, after a ton of work, a little under a gallon. I was pretty discouraged. Corinna claimed the pressed fruit for jelly and I moved on to the pears.

You can see here how the autumn olive would rather squirt out between the staves of the press than give up juice. The pears, though, strong language was enough to get them flowing. Once I filled the press with the pears, I ran a knife down through them to help break the skins and then pressed away. With less effort than the three quarts or so of cranberry-autumn olive juice I quickly had almost four gallons of pear juice and relatively drive fruit left behind. Not like what you'd get with a hammer mill followed by a hydraulic press, but as good as I was going to get.

I was going to also make a standard mead, also going to keg up one of last October's batches, rack the other. But I was coming off the last wave (I hope) of illness from this winter. This time it was all bronchitis type stuff, I don't know if it was residual from the flue I had last month or just another round of crud.

And one thing after another, the honey had crystalized harder than anything I've ever seen. It doesn't affect how it works, but it affects how much work it is to dissolve it. I felt like I might as well be trying to dissolve rocks from my yard. The rest of the bucket, I thought of a clever way to heat it to re-liquify it: I'm going to take it to work in my car before I try to work with it again. Solar gain should get it up to 140ºF or so, that should do it.

I think that standard mead is what I'm going to make at Big Brew out at Bacchus & Barleycorn on May 6. I did demonstration brews out at B&B a few times way back when. Like I think it's been upwards of 15 years. It's a fun project, but my all grain brewing setup is pretty bulky and my process is very slow. I'd get out there first thing, a couple hours before anyone else, and still be the last one cleaning up. Plus, I think the last time I did it I was driving an F-150, so I had a lot of hauling capacity. My gear pretty well filled the Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon I drove before that, too.

These days I drive a 2006 Scion xB, which is a roomy car for an econo-box, but I'm not sure I can haul everything at once in it. But for mead? A couple-three buckets, my brewing tool box, drill, degassing wand, a few measuring cups and spoons, a scale, I could haul my mead setup in a Smart Car. Plus, if I go standard mead (as opposed to spending six hours wrestling with pressing fruit juice, I can be done and cleaned up faster than an all extract beer brewer.

After that standard mead, it'll be about time to get more honey, from there I think I'll try the aforementioned technique of making a sack style mead and dropping a mesh bag of fruit in it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Taste of Shawnee

Our favorite sushi restaurant (not my favorite, necessarily, I'm a sucker for Bob Wasabe, but the restaurant Corinna loves to go to that I do too) is in Shawnee. But Sushi Mido doesn't participate in Taste of Shawnee for whatever reasons. I personally believe they should, some of the crowd that comes out for this is probably in the demographic of people who think sushi sounds scary, but if they could sample a roll only risking one ticket, I bet a good percentage of them would find out they love the stuff. And if you can't enjoy the rolls from Sushi Mido there's something dead inside you.

But plenty of fine eateries do participate. Some are chains, some are local restaurants that have a few locations, some are mom & pop type joints. I'm guessing they're all owned or run by Rotarians since it's a Shawnee Rotary is who puts it on. Which is how I end up going, Dad's a Rotarian and I end up with quite a few free tickets, which makes it a heck of a cheap date. I bought a few out there, but when four people can basically pig out for seven dollars, that's a deal.

And being that I'm the new recipient of a Judgement with a Stay for some medical bills, I'm all about the cheap dates. Everybody knows that if you send $100 a month to someone you owe a big medical debt to, they'll keep it out of collections. Everybody knows they won't (or maybe even can't) sue you if you're making that good faith effort to pay. Ask Leonard Cohen about what everybody knows, it turns out everybody is misinformed.

And I have good insurance by today's standards. So now if I pay some lawyers $200 a month (and presumably keep paying KU Med $100 a month as well), they won't garnish my paycheck. This is what winning looks like in America today.

Anyway, back to the happy stuff. Taste of Shawnee. It was a lot of fun. I recognized from RAGBRAI the signature sound of an antique John Deere one cylinder engine cranking ice cream. Corinna was super excited when I showed up with a dip of it, I was like, I didn't see it, I heard it. About two thirds of the way through the route every day on RAGBRAI there's an ice cream vendor that sets up with those putting, halting motors and I like ice cream (whereas my wife loves it), but after fifty miles on the bike in Iowa in July, ice cream is like a miracle.

Mo found pizza, cotton candy and turkey sandwiches, which means she was pretty much in hog heaven. She drank a smoothie, too, which see seemed skeptical of at first, but then once she'd tasted she realized it was pretty awesome stuff.