Monday, November 30, 2009

Must Be!

Ok, so I'm sorry I didn't post for Fermentation Friday, I was busy moving all week.  However, I do have a shiny nugget of alcohol-induced insanity for Monday Hangover:

I'm not sure Dylan captures the whole "Christmas spirit" thing, what with the Hasidic musicians and drunken brawls, but it sure looks like a party I'd love to be at!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Brew Crew

When B. James and McPaddy started brewing beer about 3-4 years ago I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. When they let me join in on their brewing actvities, they took me under their wing and guided and nurtured me like the special child I am. I was like the small boy the officer lets sit in the front of the squad car and play with the siren, or the kid the airline pilot lets sit in his lap and steer the plane.

I was on top of the world. But in my world, they were the Beirmeisters and I was only the lowely apprentice.

When I think about the guys I've brewed with, I think we all have something different to offer to the beer making process. Each of us has a different idea of what perfection is. McPaddy definitely likes the hops more than the rest of us, I love a nice rich malty Scotch Ale, while B. James' preferences lie with dismantling the emersion cooler and making a still.

The point is, we all have different individual preferences, but that is exactly what a good beer needs. Balance. My contribution is they let me play with the Auto-siphon. One of the few things I can't screw up.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fermentation Friday for November, Roundup 1

Hey, we're still waiting on some more contributors for FF and will be posting a full roundup on Monday. So far Adam keep up his natural Pennsylvanian independence by figuring stuff out himself, with help from the Internet and his local clubs and shops, and some hindrance from his friends. Independent though he may be, he still is a central node for a lot of beer bloggers, which he has the humility not to mention, so I will.

Bob tells us about his search for a club, the weird brewing patterns of Texans and his ability to tap into an ephemeral cloud of knowledge to feed his habit. Is sounds like he's doing it the old-school way some of the pioneers have done it, which is nice to see. Check out the rest of his site, and send him some sympathy for missing the hunt this year, no one up here has so much as seen anything with antlers!

Monday, November 23, 2009

This Day in Booze: Willis-Campbell Act

OK, I postponed this till a little later in the day so as not to step on the feet of King Cool. ...Who am I kidding. I was too busy yesterday getting drunk and too busy this morning nursing my headache to write anything even semi-coherent.

Ahh, Prohibition. When you’re having a rough day, you can always count on it to brighten things up knowing that people had it a lot tougher 80-90 years ago. At least in this day and age, you can go down to any corner bar and drink your troubles away.

Alcohol during the early years of prohibition was treated very similarly to how California handles marijuana today. Alcohol was illegal, but there was a work around. It was called the doctor’s office. Booze was only legal if you had a doctor's prescription, and it didn't take long before doctors were writing scripts for everything from back pain to a paper cut. Just like pot today, alcohol was the cure for everything.

Of course we all know the truth. Everybody knows that for every 100 prescriptions that some California wack job writes for pot only maybe one is for something legitimate, like glaucoma. Personally I think the Government should just legalize it already and then tax the shit out of it. But that's a another subject for another realm of the blogosphere.

But it does relate back to prohibition and this day. With all the prescriptions for liquor, and the booze industry actually making more money than they did prior to prohibition, it didn't take long for President Harding to realize that his mother-in-law's weekly drunken nude stumble through the Rose Garden had little to do with easing the pain of her bunions.

So on November 23rd, 1921, President Harding signed the Willis-Campbell Act (also known as the anti-beer bill), which forbade doctors from prescribing beer and liquor for medicinal purposes. So no more booze for Grandma and here sore hip. No more booze for Aunt May and her chronic depression. No more booze for Uncle Jack and his addiction to ...booze. No more fun for anybody.

According to Wikipedia, the most reliable source for anything on the interwebs, "The Act kept in force all anti-liquor tax laws that had been in place prior to the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, giving authorities to right to choose whether or not to prosecute offenders under prohibition laws or revenue laws, but at the same time guaranteeing bootleggers that they would not be prosecuted in both ways." I guess I could take some time to explain what that all means, but really that's too much work for my brain on a Monday. You should be lucky I'm writing this at all, given my current condition.

Donnie Iris Don't Work at Pants N'at!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Metro, NHC Winter Brew Off

Its been a good couple of days for beer up here in Chicago's "Little Sweden". On Wednesday the fine folks over at Metropolitan Brewing sold me an empty keg, helped me make it into a boil kettle, tried some of my homebrew and even let me sample the new Dopplebock. It is great, smooth and malty with little hint of the 8+% abv under the hood. The whole crew were also all that is gracious in showing me around and making me feel at home. As I live a scant 1.5 blocks from the brewery, I hope to see them around.

Last night Metro had a release party for the Dopplebock at In Fine Spirits, where I hadn't been before. It was a great time, and I'm a few pins and a lot of knowledge richer (also some tasty samples). The Dopplebock casoulet sounded good, but I had to run to another local bar for the Northside Homebrewer's Connection winter brew-off. Winner got a cash prize and to make their beer at the bar. Spoiler, it wasn't our porter, but the winning beer was very good, a nice muddy stout (their words, not mine) with loads of chocolate, some vanilla and a a medium-thin base of what I gather was an American LME. The effect was entrancing, in that sometimes it was clearly chocolate (especially in the aroma) whereas the flavor moved from chocolate to peanut butter to a good clean finish. The bittering levels were on point to show off the pyrotechnics of the brew.

I kept getting asked what my favorite was, but I can't say I know. I certainly enjoyed our own beer, an aggressive American Robust Porter and my first foray into Ahtanum hops, which are flowery to the point of pollen and are my new obsession. These are one of the secret ingredients to the 21st Amendment's Back in Black IPA, one of my five favorite beers. Our porter was just a porter, a few people kindly remarked it was the one beer they could see having more than one pint of, as opposed to the other more extreme (maybe radical) beers on tap that night, not as a slight to those beers, but to note the delineation between radical and not-radical, if I had to pick a nomenclature.

The second place beer was a great brown ale. I didn't notice the extremeness right away, but I'm told it was a heavy dose of palm sugar. It just tasted like a good, rather sweet, moderately bitter, low hopped brown ale. I'm hoping they put the recipe out there some time. The other brown ale (But Wait There's More... Billy Mays Brown Ale) was bourbon barreled, which was pretty obvious right away. The backing beer was nicely done and showed off the whiskey immensly. Ted (the fearless leader) and his team ran up a fun and funny Coal Porter, which was, oxymoronically, smoky. For those who don't follow malt production, the use of coke to make malt is when beers stopped being smoky. It is a quadruple pun as a result (can you get all 4?). The smoke was a surprise, but pleasant, well balanced into the beer and not overwhelming. The beer stood up well to the added pizzaz, though that is not a surprise given Ted's talents. I can't say much about the host beers at Hamburger Mary's as my pallete and thirst were overwhelmed by the homebrew on display and I didn't have many. I will fix that soon enough (turns out, they get a lot of steelers lovers up there).

As a loyal Southsider in comfortable exile way on the northside, I sometimes feel weird being in both clubs. No one else seems to care, at all, but I notice some crazy difference between them. I think one is the attitude to beer. The southside club is very style and technique oriented, but having a quorum of BJCP judges and both award winning and pro brewers as current or former members will do that to you. The North Side club is very experimental, with people always pushing the envelope to make beers they can't buy elsewhere and no one else ever came up with. Mind you, they also have a cadre of award winners and pros. Maybe it is the proximity of the meetings to the most radical brewer of them all that brings out the weird. The major difference for me is in what people want when you have their beer. I think this comes with age, the NHC is a much younger club and I don't know any of them well, I'm not sure they know each other that well either. Their is more formal politeness and the beer evaluation focuses on what is good. The food, also, was amazing at the meeting I made. The southside group are old friends, brewing together for ten plus years. Punches are not pulled and criticism is the mandate of the day. I like both, though I'm naturally suited to the latter. Learning the former is a good lesson for me, but being asked, "what do you think of this beer" remains a hard question to answer.

Remember, we are hosting this month's Fermentation Friday, where we ask about your homebrew community. We'll take submissions all next week and will post our wrap-up on Monday, November 30th. Also, remember that our top referee between November 1st and the end of the year gets a JABB care package.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fermentation Friday for November

Adam has been kind enough to let us host Fermentation Friday this month and we couldn't be more excited while still sober. While we are all about the hangover, the topic this month is your homebrew community. For us, this blog serves as that, though people sometimes think we're but one split personality writing in triplicate. Sadly, that is what happens when you come through cub scouts together. Aside from the blog, we each have our own communities as well. I love the Chicago Homebrew Scene, twitter, judging and my love hate relationship with CAMRA (where I went fake-gay for membership). bJames loves him some homebrewing at Paddy's, and Richard Dicks takes it on the road, across the ocean, with his family, and in his home.

The task we set out is as follows: Please tell us about your homebrew communities. Are you into the BN, BA, weblogs and other 1337 f0rm5 of 21st century brewing? Do you while away the evenings in crowded halls with you area's finest, sampling and talking homebrew into the wee hours? Does your brew crew keep you sane? Or do you get your fix sitting at the bar plotting the next move? How do you keep them all going and what does each bring to your life?

Since FF is the day after Thanksgiving this month, we'll take comments, linked to this posting, any time that week. Our roundup will help you ease back into the work week on Monday the 30th of November. As an added bonus to the homebrew blogging community- we will send a JABB care package to our highest referee between now and the New Year.

BJCP = Passed

I got my BJCP exam notification this evening. I passed and am excited!! Surprisingly, I did better on tasting than written-- tongue over brain, I tells ya. I'll fill you all in more when I get the actual paperwork in hand later this week or early next. At least one Both of my HOPS! brothers who took it with me also got their results, nailing pretty stellar scores at that! Cabeza y lengua!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chicago Notables

So, I haven't blogged in a minute, sorry about that. What has gone on... I went out to the CBS Spooky Brew and got to judge with the ever-fascinating Jeff Sparrow, which was an amazing learning experience as always, especially since we were doing Strong Belgians. I also got to judge the worst (smashed pumpkin) and scariest (spooky brew) with Randy Mosher, the legend himself, pictures to follow. A double surprise was that he judged my category-- I can't wait to get the score sheets back (I took my bronze home with me). I guess I should bold those names to make this seem even more like a gossip blog. I took home another shameful bronze, though I lost to a guy I know who took both the silver and gold. Next time I'm gunning for him!

Its wild to get to meet these guys and get to judge with them. I've even had the good sense to read a few of their books since first meeting them, though not enough sense to read all of them. Mosher's new book on tasting beers is amazing.

Enough name dropping and I don't have much more to add right now. I've had some awesome beers, but got tired to twittering them of late. Instead, I'm obsessed by this cat journal comic, written by a fellow Chicagoan.