he forgot the most important one…

Beer is delicious.

But he can be forgiven I think. Click through for Twenty Things Worth Knowing about Beer from The Oatmeal.


too much fun

Not, I should note, Too Much Fun, which could be problematic.

I had tickets to Autumn Brew Review last year.  It sounded like fun and I had looked forward to it, but then there was a LAN party (in a frikking hangar!) and nerding out with friends won out over drinking with strangers, that year.

This year, things got planned a little better.  I invited more friends, and got my nerding quotient for the weekend filled on Friday night. So, early on Saturday afternoon (after realizing that I am apparently the only person living north of the 610 who possesses a working alarm clock, I headed out to the show).

Autumn Brew Review is a craft beer festival/tasting event that for the past couple or three years has been held on the grounds of the Historic Grain Belt Brewery in NE Minneapolis. Unlike Winterfest, which is an all-local event, ABR features brewers from across the US – chillin’ under a tent on a warm late summer afternoon, serving up their best to the appreciative throngs.

Now, I didn’t make it to anywhere near all 60 breweries — and likely would have died if I had tried for 200+ different samples, here are some of the standouts:

  • Barley John’s – Rosie’s Old Ale – Old Ales/Barleywines are one of my go-to styles of beer. Malty, high-gravity, over-the-top beers that should almost be something else.  I intend to drink many of them, so as to weather the MN winter.  If Rosie’s wasn’t $75/growler, I probably would add it to my rotation.  It’s a really good balance between the sweet (that can by overpowering in more naive beers of this style), and a nice hop bitterness (with a touch of citrus aroma).
  • Founder’s Brewing Company – Breakfast Stout – I like coffee, I like beer, I generally dislike it when they are put together (which a lot of brewers do, as the flavour profiles should be complimentary, but in fact when combined they make fail). But this beer managed to make it work — the coffee tasted like coffee (and not the sweepings from a Dunn Bros floor), and the chocolate malt really sang through.
  • Furthermore Beer – Thermo Refur – Brewed from beets of all things. With a description that includes words like “grammy’s purse”, and “horse barn”. I expected to hate it, but it was actually pretty good.  Complex, not something I’d drink everyday, and I’d want to be careful about what I paired it with… but good.
  • Horny Goat Brewing Company – Hopped Up ‘N Horny – because this list needs a session beer (I’m realizing that everything else on here is upwards of 8% ABV… oops).  Your standard American Pale Ale. Hops rule on this one, but not so much as a Furious, or Summit Extra Pale. Something to drink on a summer afternoon.
  • Southern Tier Brewing Company – Creme Brulee Stout – My (increasingly incoherent over the course of the afternoon) tasting notes include the phase “Amber likey”. I’m usually not a fan of “gimmick” beers like this (and the coffee beers, discussed above), but this works.  Really well.  The provided notes don’t explain how exactly they managed to capture everything that is good about creme brulee in a beer without it being too sweet/too burnt/fake syrupy tasting, but there it is.  This isn’t a beer to serve with dessert.  This is a beer to serve instead of dessert.
  • I could go on… there were lots of others that I liked (and lots that were just boring, and some that were just awful) — I think, now, I’ll devote some energy to finding out where I can even buy all these beers, locally… Alvey?

Notes for next year:

  • The Early Access Tickets were worth every penny.  It may be only an extra hour, but actually being able to hit Surly and Lift Bridge and the other really popular tables before the proles arrived.  To be honest, as much as I like Surly’s beers, no brewery is worth waiting 20+ minutes in line for a 2oz sample of (though, I did like the 2009 Darkness much more than the 2008 version last year).
  • Preztel Necklaces – I’m surprised none of the food vendors were selling these.  While I ate a decent breakfast, and knew that we would likely be doing an early supper someone in NE, I was definitely coveting something salty about 20 samples in.  While the food available (burgers, pizza, etc) looked good, I didn’t want anything so heavy, really.
  • Pedal Pub – I’m happy that the pedal pub seminars worked based on a sign-up list, as opposed to having to wait in line all afternoon to take a ride.  We were able to sign up relatively early for the seminar that we wanted (Tyranena Brewery + Legacy Chocolates discussed pairing the best things in the universe), and then do the tasting thing and take a break in the shade for a while when before we loaded up.
  • Take Notes – however illegible, the notes that I took in the program are the only thing that I have to help me remember all of the different beers I had.  Even when they are simple like a plus sign, or a DO NOT WANT, I can use them, combined with the notes from the brewers as a reference on my next shopping trip.
  • Plan Ahead – Some of the breweries posted their line-ups on MN Beer ahead of time.  I wish I had read them (or new someone who could get me an advance PDF of the program).  I would have loved to have a more detailed plan of attack for what I wanted to try during that first, precious hour, or to have a checklist of things that I wanted to get to (despite the crowds) before I called it a day.

All in all, it was a great time.  Thanks Amber, Jen, and Picasso for coming with.  See you at Winterfest?

one thing leads to another: part two

Right around this time last year, there was much internet wailing and nashing of teeth because some author who I’d never heard about killed himself.

Normally, I wouldn’t have cared much, but some of the wailing and nashing was being performed by friends of mine whose opinions of on things literary I’ve come to respect, so I allowed myself to believe that maybe there was something to this David Foster Wallace guy, but since I’m not the type to read books that are considered “literature”, I’d probably never really know what the big deal was.  I mean, his most famous work is a ridiculous 1000+ page (plus endnotes!) opus, that mocks the reader with it’s title and has defeated more attempts to read it than Pynchon and his god-damned rainbow1.

Fast forward to this spring — the letters DFW are showing up on my RSS feeds again.  The plan is to read the opus over the course of astronomical summer. There is a schedule. There are forums. There’s even a Ravelry group. The book, which is an unreasonable 9×6x2 inches in paperback2 is available for a reasonable price (under $10) on Kindle.  I like to read things in the summer, there’s peer pressure. So I dip my toes into the Infinite Summer waters.

And I like it. A lot. I can’t speak to it’s literary worth, but I can say that at 89% through it’s been both challenging and fulfilling. Funny and profane and sad and profound. And lots of other good words too.

So anyways, my favourite character (Michael Pemulis, for anyone who is reading, but doesn’t know me well enough to see why this would obviously be true) in a recent footnote dons a t-shirt that supposedly says (in russian): “Vodka is the Enemy of Production”. With a menacing looking glyph of a bottle.

I feel a deep need to own such a shirt.

Which leads me to Google. Which leads me to this gallery of soviet anti-alcohol propaganda posters. Which leads to me to determine that the decor of my basement bar (when it ever comes to fruition) needs to feature these posters heavily-to-exclusively.  Because they are amazing — even when you don’t know what they mean.


Still no luck on the shirt, though.

1No… I’m not bitter about my inability to finish Gravity’s Rainbow… not at all.

2Seriously, there’s no way I would have read this book if I had to carry it everywhere.

status update

The thing about having a week off, is sometimes it takes you about 6 and a half days to realize that you need another week off.

Stupid “milestones” and “project delivery dates”, you’re getting in the way of the perfect summer, dontcha know?

I could look backwards and tell you all about the royal mountain, and OHMYGODTHECROISSANTS, and the team boobylicious silent auction, and OHMYGODTHEWINDCHIMES, and game night, and jokur’s belated birthday, and just enough yardwork and green garlic & cheese quesidillas, etc. but where’s the fun in that?

Let’s look ahead, shall we?

Tomorrow’s knitting, followed by dessert & adult beverages at Zeno.  Can’t complain about that at all.

Apparently, I should be expecting a 60lb-ish mystery package sometime soon.  Supposedly, it’s not a kegerator, yet it belongs in the basement.  Nerd 2 wants to give me more hints, but I really just want to be surprised.

At some point in the next week or so, I need to dig my teeth into BESM, Third Edition.  Yes. It’s a table top RPG. Which is pan-genre anime-based. And Delobius is GMing. I feel like a scared 17 year-0ld school girl, all over again.

I started on my 2009 State Fair project.  I’m going to keep it relatively under wraps until I’m sure that I actually finish on time (the going is slow with this one).  Even if I don’t win another ribbon this year, I’m super excited about this project, and can’t wait to show off the finished object this winter.

I found the first modification that I’d like to make to Beauty. Cosmetic, yes, but also a safety feature when you consider how hard my current turn signals are to see.

And finally, I’ve decided that more of my monday evening’s in future need to involve New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk. Oak and Vanilla, chocolate and smoke. An ABV that would make it illegal in several states. I found it at Tournament Liquor, but I’m willing to betcha that Alvey has it too.

monday, monday, monday

Weekends are supposed to be restful, right?

Recipe Report
I tried out the Smitten Kitchen’s Icebox Cupcake recipe (though, I made it an Icebox Cake in an 8×8 pan). This is one of those recipes that should be stupid easy — storebought chocolate wafers, layered with whipped cream. Except that it’s impossible to find the wafers that you need in any normal store, so you have to make them from scratch. Which takes this recipe from being a quick assemble/chill overnight type deal, to being a 48 hour mix, chill, slice, bake, cool, whip, assemble, chill, eat ordeal. And the results were somewhat disappointing for all that effort (though, the leftovers seem to get better every day).

In conclusion, I probably won’t make this cake again, but, the wafer cookies _are_ really yummy, and I can see all kinds of applications for them, so I’ll keep this one around.

Beer Bulletin
I brewed up a batch of Scottish 80 a few weeks back, which I really should have bottled yesterday, but my own stupidity meant that I needed to drive to St. Paul and pick up my cell phone, which meant that a.) I felt I had an excuse to not undertake a messy and annoying procedure, and b.) I was near Northern Brewer, so I might as well pick up ingredients for my next batch.

I purchased the XX Ale “kit” (they were out of kits, but one of the NB boys was nice enough to run around the store and put together the ingredients for me). It’s an Old Ale, which according to the BJCP style guidelines should be “An ale of significant alcoholic strength, bigger than strong bitters and brown porters, though usually not as strong or rich as barleywine. Usually tilted toward a sweeter, maltier balance.” Sounds yummy. And the ingredient bill includes a pound of honest to goodness treacle, which is very exciting! And yes, I do realize that I’m brewing a winter beer to be ready in July.

Continuing in my tradition of buying one beer gadget with every batch I brew, I also picked up a bottle tree…which should make the bottling that I do have to do this week that much less annoying (though probably still messy).

wheeee weekend!

This weekend was all about screwed up sleep schedules and startling efficiency.

For starters, I crashed at about 10:30pm on Friday night, which is not like me at all. I usually turn into a small child on weekend evenings — crankily refusing to admit that I’m tired, desperately pushing to stay up as last as possible because I don’t have a bedtime dammit! — and it usually works, I’ll hit a second wind around 11 or so, and I can say up until 2 or 3am without feeling too out of it. But this Friday my body wasn’t having any of it, and when I was too sleepy to play videogames before 11, I decided to call it quits early.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and after about 10 hours of sleep, I got up to check on work stuff, and kick off my download of the Battlestar Galactica finale. (2 Second Review: I’m glad it’s over). TV watched (and mind totally frakked) I procrastinated about actually going into work by extracting Beauty (my SV650) from her winter home at the back of the garage and taking some time to remember how to start her.

I went on a super quick ride around the block, just to get the feel of things, but I knew that I’d feel guilty doing too much riding when I still needed to go to work/get a workout in. So the bike got parked, and I drove into work (wherein heroics were performed), drove to the gym (wherein I was confused by the layout of the Roseville LA Fitness), and then rewarded myself with a roast beef sammich from Maverick’s (which I was maybe a little too shaky to actually enjoy). Note to self: maybe lifting weights on an empty stomach is not the best of ideas.

After the necessities were taken care of — BSG, work, fitness, food — I headed to Northern Brewer in search of ingredients for a new batch of beer (since I bottled my last batch in December, and I’m running dangerously low). I went with the Scottish – 80 kit, since I’m currently on the hunt for a base recipe for the Chez TPH “house beer”. Ideally, a session beer with a little bit of flavour interest, and just enough kick to remind you that you’re drinking with a pro. The last batch I did was a recipe adapted from Palmer’s How to Brew (Lord Crouchback’s Special Bitter) which was definitely a contender for the title, but I’d like to try something different. Which ever recipe I do end up perfecting for the house beer will probably end up being what I start kegging, whereas the “specialty” beer experiments (like the Sleepytime Porter) will stay in bottles (the better for cellaring and giving as gifts).

After NB, I still had daylight on my side so I decided that instead of brewing right away, I’d take the bike out for a real ride. I’m still afraid of the freeway (Morpheus always told me to stay off the freeway. Said it was suicide), but there is a road near me with a 55mph speed limit and some serious corners, that just happens to lead to Nerd 2’s parent’s place so I decided I should visit. I made it there and back in one piece (and without any of the palm sized kittens in residence there ending up in one of my saddlebags…it was tempting). And celebrated by falling asleep. At 8:30.

12 hours later, lunch and Watchmen watching were the primary orders of business for Sunday. After which there was laundry and Netflix and knitting, and I managed to say awake until 11. So I might be back to normal again. At the very least, I’m back to work.

honestly…who throws a shoe?

And who thinks it’s a good idea to run around downtown minneapolis in a skirt and high heels in December?

Well, the answer to the second question is me and my friends who decided back in October (when it was still reasonable to go outside with exposed skin) that it would be fun to dress up and act like adults for an evening. We hit Barrio for dinner (verdict: the food is good, but not worth the hassle, at least not on a Friday night), and hung out at the twin lounges at the W hotel for drinks afterwards. Nerd 2 ordered a very expensive, very large drink which involved dry ice and and much liquor, and because he was driving, I had to drink most of it…oops…thankfully I had help.

Saturday was Chele and Marshall’s xmas xperience, which was mucho fun (even if Nerd 3 and I did end up doing a tad too much grandstanding in front of GHIII).

Tonight, I need to bake for a potluck — surfer squares based on Jenni’s recipe, since most of my good recipes involve more effort/planning than my co-workers deserve — and possibly bottle a batch of beer.

BTW, I haven’t forgotten my bread related promise — I’m pretty sure I have the ingredients right and now it’s all about fiddling with the timing…maybe next weekend.

and another jaffa cake

Here is an insidious little calculator that will tell you how many calories you drank last night. It’s not a new concept obviously, but this one is cute about how it dramatizes everything and then relates your total to, among other things, the number of jaffa cakes you could have eaten instead. I love jaffa cakes mainly because they are a foreign concept even to my Canadian (and therefore more attuned to the ways of the world that Americans) mind.

So, on a whim a few months ago, I decided to take Ticketmaster up on their offer to rape me for a pair of tickets to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I figured the show would probably be fun simply for the fact that it’s hair metal about Christmas, and if Nerd 2 wasn’t interested, I could always sell the tickets on Craigslist or Stubhub. Well, Nerd 2 was interested and the show was last night, and I didn’t regret it a bit.

The first half of the show was sort of what I expected from them, a cheesy xmas story interspersed with Christmas carols made awesome. I have to admit, the story was a little cheesier than I had hoped, and the band members seemed to be phoning it in a little, but by the time the story wrapped up and the little lost girl found her way home and the old hobo dude swore that it was all really true (something to do with angels not leaving tracks in the snow), I felt I had got what I paid for (after all, it had snowed inside the Xcel Center. And there were lasers).

But then, the music stopped for a while so that the band and the singers could be introduced. And then the real show started — the lasers were augmented with fireworks and flame blasts hot enough to heat you up from across the arena. The two main guitarists dueled it out on a flying stage in the center of the room. The huge robotic light rig moved and aimed its lasers like something out of Macross Plus. There was heavy metal O Fortuna with real flames in the background, and I want to believe that they added a rendition of the Peanuts theme just to play to the hometown crowd. Plus, it turned out that the lead violinist is one of Nerd 2’s heroes.

So yeah, there is something about cheesy hair metal and explosions that totally gets me into the Christmas spirit. Maybe I’ll put a tree — if I can figure out how to add flamethrowers to it.

thanks borders!

By not shipping the James Bond Ultimate DVD Collection that I ordered on September 14th, you forced me to wait until Amazon had the same set on sale for $90, which is just over half of what I was going to pay you (even after the 40% off coupon). Plus, since I ordered from Amazon, I got to use some gift certificates that I had, so I’m really getting 42 discs of hot british spy action for free.

So, you deprived me of my shaken-not-stirred loving for the past two months, but now I’ve got an extra $160 to spend on gin, vodka, and a half measure of Lillet Blanc.

take a second to do the math

My boyfriend Omar and his friends at Surly Brewing are having a party, seemingly to celebrate the fact that Darkness seems to be the unofficial “status” beer of the twin cities microbrew appreciation crowd. Here are some deets from MNBrew:

Lets talk about D-Day. That’s the day we will be selling 750 ML bottles of Darkness at the brewery on October 25th. Here is the latest info…

  • We will open the brewery gates at noon on the 25th.
  • The first 700 people can purchase up to 6 bottles of Darkness.
  • Cost is gonna be $100 for 6 bottles. Tax included and cash only.
  • We’ll have some bands.
  • Food and beer for sale at the brewery.

$100? Really? I mean, I guess when you figure that we are talking about six 750’s, and it works out to <$17 a bottle then it's not so bad. But when you realize that they seem to think that it's likely that more than 700 people are going to be willing to shell out a Benjamin for this magic nectar...wow. just wow.

I'll admit to never having tried Darkness before. Maybe I can score 6 bottles, drink one, and sell the rest on eBay?

In unrelated news of awesome: