Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Solution to Declining Private University Enrollment

There's one solution I could think of to stop the declining enrollment at private universities: school-sponsored beer bash fridays! Who are they kidding? The main reasons kids go to these schools are the beer parties. What better way to attract the best and brightest than for the school to sponsor safe drinking parties?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

That's one song in the bank. Next Song. Next!

Preparations are underway for my next brew. Yet another I.P.A. variation. This time with Simcoe®, and Cascade hops. I'm shooting from the hip on this one aiming for the extremities of conscious pleasure. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Krakowska & Beer

I have been blessed with a love of beer and sausage, a finer pair there may not be.

Have you ever tried Krakowska? I'm sure you've tried Kielbasa, but Krakowska?

Krakowska is pronounced (roughly) krah-KAHV-ska and is a type of Polish sausage famously from Krakow, Poland. My grandfather was from Krakow so it has special meaning for me. It has traditionally been served on Easter morning but it seems it is growing in favor for Christmas feasts, as well as more generally for cold-cut trays.

It is made of very lean pork and has a ham-like constitution. The difference is that it's always smoked and stuffed in a large casing (three inch) and it has the greatest, tastiest spices you can imagine. You can warm it or more usually you enjoy it cold as it's already cooked. I recently picked up three pieces for Christmas, at Greenview Meats in West Hazleton.

It goes perfectly well with an I.P.A. where the garlic and peppery flavors mesh well with the punchy hop expression.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tavern Politics

I'm in the midst of reading and watching John Adams. In short, this is a biography by David McCullough documenting the life of our 1st vice president and 2nd president, with emphasis on the tumultuous times surrounding our fight for independence from England. John Adams was much more and played a much larger role than just his executive branch duties and it's all on magnificent display here. Many of you may have already seen the miniseries, but I'm something of a Luddite and have no cable or satellite television, so for me it's a revelation. I highly recommend this if you're at all interested in being the proverbial fly on the wall (watch and listen and you'll know what I mean), as the founding of our great nation is brought to life and shows what really went on during those times.

What strikes me about the story is the ability of men of politics to have civil discourse over pints of beer in a tavern. Story in fact, is by no means fictional (and that's the beauty of this documentary), but historical fact gleaned from letters written and diary entries made, by the participants. Politics, in thinking just now, is also perhaps not the correct word, as political parties had not yet even been created until after the Declaration of Independence had been signed! As I was saying, the tavern served as a place where men, often of differing opinions, could discuss their views in a less formal setting than Constitution Hall. The places were frequented in the evening after federal work for the day was over, much the same as we go to our neighborhood tavern today after work. The tempering effect of beer was absolutely essential, in my opinion, to the openness in which ideas and views were put forth. Keen listening, that lost sense, was practiced widely. Speaking in civil tone, not elevated screeching, in complete and grammatically correct sentences, was the order of the evening. Perhaps, courageousness too, was a beneficial side-effect of the beer: not every man feeling able to put forth a hard view without it. Trial balloons or ideas were floated here first, too, before presentation to the assembly in Constitution Hall. All in all, a very worth-while endeavor, drinking beer and forming a new government of and for men! Wouldn't you say?

Today, some sharing of ideas and views still takes place in taverns around this great country of ours. I wonder though, how persuasive any of it is among its participants. I have heard it said (I don't know who said it but they may be right), that we've (we being US citizens), by and large, all made up our minds about everything and there's very little persuasion or mind-changing, taking place anymore. Is it because we're all too educated and know we're right about everything? Perhaps we've lost the ability to actively listen and thoughtfully analyze an oral argument, enough to discount and expose logical flaws and/or the various duplicitous ploys of argument like red herrings, straw men, slippery slope fallacies, and the such. Maybe the world has just gotten two darned complicated with very little right and wrong, yes or no, absolute conclusions; we live in a world unlike that of 231 years ago, a world that is made up of an infinite number of shades of gray, making judging the merits of an idea unmanageable. Too much data! Or maybe the real fault lies with the division created by having to choose a side (political party), that in itself creating an atmosphere of unreasonableness and confrontation. Us versus Them, an almost instinctual nature to pick sides and fight to the death regardless of merit.

I don't know who said it, but paraphrased: this democracy will only survive if the people electing their leaders are educated, read, and involved in the process. Each and every one of us. There are no exceptions to my knowledge.

So the next time, you're in a tavern and someone starts preaching tavern politics from his chair, don't immediately discount him. Engage him in some discourse to understand and explore his point of view. He probably has something meaningful to say.

If you're interested in learning more about this subject, try to find a copy of Rum Punch and Revolution: Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia by Peter Thompson (Univ. Of Pa. Press, 1998).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Holiday Beer Meister Watch

Anxious minds have been asking: Tazio, (burp) what's in the beer meister for the holidays?

Well, I was feeling it on Saturday so I took a visit down to my friendly, local beer distributor professional to see what was in the cold storage locker. Well, just seeing what's there is half the fun as you well know, but the other half is picking this year's choicest of the choice.

I immediately spotted the Victory Hop Devil plotting someones demise, and literally wrestled the little satanic bastard to the floor. Tazio the Vanquisher reigns supreme, victorious over the Hop Devil!

I kept looking and passed over a sequence of silver Weyerbacher missiles: Blithering Idiot (too strong), Hop Infusion (great, but I already have Hop Devil), Quad. Hmmmm....

I settled on the Quad which is a Quadruple Abbey-Style Dark Ale, not realizing the strength that builds beyond those cloistered abbey walls.

Both beers are excellent. The Hop Devil is a very, and I say very with the utmost sincerity, drinkable I.P.A. that has it all: beautiful head, a sprightly nose, and just enough oomph on the palate to let you know what awaits you if you've been a bad boy. The Quad is a delight but I have no idea how I'm going to drink five gallons of this over the next six months! Wait. .8 gallons a month which is two pints a week. Ok, I can do it. But really, this one has almost no alcohol flavor to speak of but boy does it pack a punch. There is a distinct banana and clove-flavor present which always portends to greatness. There was very little head from this baby--the less the better in this case. The Quad is a sipping beer that should age well. Of course, me and friends and relatives won't really be letting this one age for very long. Come on over and enjoy it while it's here!

I had one empty to return so the damage was mitigated somewhat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Interesting Beer Concept--Beer Table

Here's an enterprising duo's neat pub concept: serving a small selection of special and rare beers paired with homemade foods and snacks. And they'll also do the same for you in your home for a informal party or more formal tasting. I don't know if they'll come all the way from Brooklyn to NEPA but it's worth a try. Or, if you're ever in Park Slope Brooklyn, stop in and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where does outdated beer end up?

I was wondering if there's a place where old beers are taken when they become outdated. Is there a remand tank somewhere that gets filled and periodically the distributor (or used oil recycler) comes by and unceremoniously empties it and takes it back to the brewery to be recycled? Does the brewer have to pay back the distributor for unsold and outdated beer--sort of like funeral expenses? Or do these beers die an ignominious death poured down a sewer drain somewhere in the dead of night? Or do they all eventually find homes where they live out their last days in peace?

Many beers don't even have a date on them. Who watches over and cares for these guys to make sure that they're taken care of when they reach senility? I imagine some care, but others? I don't know about you but I've seen the dusty, neglected, case or ten lurking in the dark corners...

Now, not all beer would be subject to this sort of forced retirement. For example, a really great beer like a Chimay or a Blithering Idiot may stay on the shelf for years, much like a tenured university professor can stay as long as he can make it to a faculty meeting. But other ales, lagers and such, the more plebeian varieties if you will, what happens to them? You know, the ones that like human beings, start the long, slow, and sometimes painful process of death the day they're born.

I can't ever remember seeing a display of marked-down beer that was approaching the end of it's useful life. Or perhaps I have but the disty hasn't drawn attention to it.

I suspect that, to some, beer is always useful no matter how old it is--like a father who can always be counted out to dole out sage advice to his children who drink it all in. And some times spit it back out.

And imagine if people were marked-down upon reaching that certain age... Actually, in a way, this happens already: in the software development game, after about 45, except in rare cases, the voluminous pay raises give way to not-quite-the-rate-of-inflation humiliating kicks in the crotch...

What am I trying to say here? Well in one oft-quoted phrase: Respect Beer! Buy and try new beers, adopt them if you have to, but don't let'em go unappreciated and end up in the Chesapeake!


It has occured to me that jukeboxes are of two varieties these days: the new ones that pretty much have everything via the Internet, and the old-fashioned ones that have local music (usually CDs), with the selections chosen by the bar owner. It's probably split 60-40 or 70-30 these days.

I don't know about you, but sometimes when faced with an overwhelming number of choices, too many becomes a bad thing and the former may be guilty of that. The personality of the pub owner can shine through in the later and sometimes this is a good thing as it helps to create a certain vibe. I'm thinking the Grassroots Tavern in the East Village (old-fashioned) and how the choices were local, iconic, legendary bands and that music fit the scene. No one ever calls this censorship, but it is a little bit, isn't it? But on the other hand, if you consider the jukebox as aural artwork and the bar owner gets to select how his place is decorated, shouldn't he be allowed to pick and choose what he wants?

So what do you think? Do you want to have 500,000 songs to choose from in every possible genre or would you like something more insightfully chosen by the bar owner?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nobody Rules these Taps But Me, The Atomic Punk!

I am a victim of the science age, the Simcoe® hops, whoa, yeah...

Thank heavens for genetic engineering.

Sped down to One Guy Brewing this afternoon to have a taster of the experiential Dunkel Weizen and the Atomic Punk I.P.A. just released. One Guy is a great brewer of German beers, as evidenced by the Seasons Wheatings, the Peach Wheat, Oktoberfest, et al, but with the Atomic Punk I.P.A. he shows he can kick-hop with the best of Victory, Weyerbacher, Troegs, Dogfish and the like.

This would be considered an American I.P.A. I could discern two of the hops varieties: Simcoe and Cascade. Is the bitterness due to the Amarillo hops? Anyway, it comes in at a nice 6.8% ABV which is just right in my book for a regular I.P.A. Very quaffable, indeed.

The Dunkel Weizen reminds me of root beer soda and in the fine German tradition, is a malty taste treat that goes down easy.

Ended up coming home with a few growlers of each. I'm hoping this becomes a regular.

Simcoe is a registered trademark of Select Botanicals Group LLC.

Lyrics to the discredit of Van Halen

Another Bar Signage Shot

Here's another one of the bar signage I received in barter for beer.

Dog Chews on Man for 120 Minutes -- Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

If you've never tried this beer you should, just to see what's possible with hops, grain, yeast and water...It is thick and sweet like honey and has a pointed smell and taste of alcohol, but still has a dog bite of hop. No ABV is mentioned on the label but based on reports of me barking like a dog, it's strong. This is a sipping beer not a quaffing beer. Overall I like it, but for drinking multiples thereof, I prefer the 90 minute IPA which is one of my favorite beers.

This bottle was a trade from J--I think I traded four bottles of home brew. I've been cellaring this one for going on six months.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pszenica Piwo ciężarówka

As you may remember, we've been living in the 19th century for a while, virtually if not in reality, making do with the Pszenica Piwo wagon banner. If you look up there, ^, you can see we've taken the great leap into the 20th century. I guess you could say that we're really cook'n with piwo now! Thanks JohnP for the great banner!

Will Barter for Beer

I just bartered beer for a fantastic copper sign for my bar. The bar isn't finished (are they ever?) and it's not hung and only a piece of it's showing here, but I think you'll get an idea. It's about 24 inches wide, protrudes perhaps six inches, and is about eight inches high. It's lighted from the back (does not require 120v) and glows around the edges. I'll try to get some better pictures , but what do you think, was it a great deal or what? And, I have a few bottles of Christmas cheer available to barter....any offers?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Feats of German Beer Engineering

Leave it up to the German beer engineers to come up with an ingenious party keg valve system. Check out the air vent on top to facilitate optimum flowrates and the spigot that has a ribbed stem for party-strength, the rubber o-ring for air-tight sealing, and the fixture for locking the tap in the closed position with your MasterLock®. I can personally vouch that even after repeated use, it doesn't drip and waste even a single drop!

Japanese Space Beer Out of This World

It took rocket science to come up with this, but I have to ask: can this be considered a low-gravity beer?