Monday, June 26, 2006


No flowers yet, but the bines are progressing along quite nicely, knocking out everything in their path (that means you, oregano - and double for you, fuchsia!).

And remember kids, it's pronounced wil-am-it. Next person who says wil-a-met-ee is getting the old 86.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wine pairing of the day - human liver

From today's SFGate:
"Skye LaTorre, a sommelier at San Francisco's A16 restaurant, which specializes in food and wine from the Italian region of Campania, says of human liver with fava beans: "We wouldn't serve it with Chianti, but it would go well with one. The older-style Chiantis have a gaminess to them that would go with the funk of a liver."
Asked what she might recommend as a pairing if human liver were on A16's menu, LaTorre says, "I'd probably do an Aglianico. They've also got the berry fruit and dark notes, and they're kind of angular in style. You need to bring out the redness of liver. Liver can be kind of dense, but lean. You want something with acidity to brighten it up."


Do it for the children!

Any event that's hyped as both "Drinking for the Kids" and featuring IRON COMPOSER as a highlight is certain to get my attention - add the phrase "Celebrity Judge David Cross" and I'm bound to get inappropriately excited. Sadly, it's in Seattle, where I am not. Alas. Perhaps Fairfax needs something similar, like IRON BLUEGRASS FLATPICKER. Maybe not.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Full Mashy

It's (almost) officially summer. With the winds dying down and the cicadas in full buzz, lawnmowers are kicking into gear every afternoon, sending clouds of gnats into sillouette against the ever-blue sky. Diving swallows and bickering sparrows, the occasional hoot of the northwest tree octopus, the creek's all dried up and the deer are napping in its rocky bed...

Behold! The tower of ten-gallon terror!

While for most people the commencement of "beer weather" means throwing a six-pack on ice and whiling away the eve in the backyard hammock, but for us it means something wholly other. As inspired by the local brewing guru (Griz, that is), these near-dog days are the perfect opportunity for some outdoor, return-to-nature-even-if-it-falls-in-the-lauter-tun all-grain homebrewing.

Yup. She is a-spargin'.

We're still devoted partial mash brewers, don't get me wrong. A grey winter's evening wouldn't be the same without keeping the place warm and fogging up the windows by putting a brewpot through a two-hour boil while baking a pizza in the oven, the smells of the sweet malt and yeasty dough mingling in microbiotic bliss. But when we can't bear the thought of adding even more heat into the furnace of a summer's day, we know it's time for some all-grain action.

Every outdoor brewery
needs a badass guard dog.

Doing it outside provides a number of benefits over indoor brewing (not the least of which is the excuse to do something outside): 1) space isn't as much of an issue - when you're doing a gravity-based vertical lautering system, the sky's the limit, 2) it gives you an excuse to pull out the 100,000 btu propane burner, 3) you don't end up using a ton of chiller water since you can use it to feed the plants, and 4) it's not as big of a deal if you happen to mistakenly knock over a kettle filled with 12 gallons of sticky-sweet wort.
To the extract or partial mash brewer, with your one or two pots and a bag for your supplemental grains, this configuration must seem somewhat Rube Goldberg-ian in its process of converting malted grains to a viable wort, but trust me - this is a simple set-up compared to some you can find out there. Simply put, there's an insulated hot liquor tank at the top level which holds the sparge water, a bit of hose leading to the rotating sparge arm, a mash/lauter tun made from a Gott water cooler, and a false-bottom outlet to the kettle. Hot water in top, grains in the middle, wort on the bottom - yes, it is that simple! For the little extra money you spend in gear, you quite quickly make it back up with your savings on grain versus malt extract.

Just chillin', yo.

And, everyone who's done it will be quick to tell you that the trade-off between time and energy spent and the quality control you have over your final product is well worth it. If you're looking for an excuse to spend a few hours kicking around in the backyard next weekend, consider grabbing a couple grillables, stacking your lawn furniture (preferably away from trees with vivdly scented leaves - I still haven't found much use for a bay-flavored beer), and firing up the burner for a little brewing au naturale. It's especially effective if imitating your favorite Belgian farmhouse brewer...


Thursday, June 08, 2006

At least it was a tight race

According to a (I'm sure intensely scrutinous) study from Student Monitor, beer drinking has been dethroned by Steve Jobs' pocket jockey as college undergrads' waste of time of choice. Apparently it's only the second time in recent memory that America's pastime has been beaten out by something as pedestrian as the sonic arts - last time it was that icky old Internet, of all things!

Obviously we'll have to rally to get college beer apprec(inibr)iation back at the top of the list. Here's to beer, kids - here's to beer.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Same as it ever was

As we're getting ready to help host a German-themed fest this coming weekend (complete with kölsch keg Nr. zwei), it's fun to read this recent synopsis of the history of brewing by the ancient tribes of the Teutonic forests. Quotes taken from Roman literature of the Iron Age speak to disposition that's certainly traveled the 2,000 year trip down the DNA ladder to the genetic code I call my own, such as one from Tacitus that observes:
"No other people ... were inclined to enjoy so much the art of banqueting and entertaining as the Germans, and it was customary for them to invite strangers into their homes to share a meal and a brew."
What's also enjoyable to learn about is the slow but steady acceptance of the beer (if not the people) of the Germani by their next-door neighbors, the Romani. What started for them as an indication of their barbarianism (what, no wine?) and a source of derision became not only an accepted part of northern Roman living but a symbol of strength and the power of nature. From Julian the Apostate (author of other late-pagan Roman comedies like Misopogon, or "The Beard-Hater") comes this little ditty (sung to the tune of "Baby Got Back"):
"This drink is not from Dionysus! What makes beer reek of goat [goat!], while wine has the scent of nectar [nectar!]. The Celts' invented it from ears of barley, because they have neither grapes nor a nose [no nose!]. Beer is not a child of the ethereal gods, but just plain grain [word, yo]."
Whereas at the exact same time, the Roman's word for beer, still in use in Spanish as cerveza, was "cerevisia", derived from Ceres (goddess of growing; gives us the word "cereal") and vis (Latin for "strength"). And so it is - beats Wheaties any day, I'd say. It's the Teutonic way!