Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Belgium Hoptober

This recently introduced brew is now on tap at the Flying Saucer. The name implies an Octoberfest style, but it's actually a Golden Ale. Since I was expecting an Octoberfest, I was disappointed when I saw the light color.

When served, the 16 oz. tall draw sports a healthy 3 finger head, a slight haze and a dominant citrus hop aroma. This has lots of carbonation, in fact it is almost fizzy. The head dissipated quickly after the first strong swig. At 6% ABV, there was some warming effect, but no alcohol burn. The hop flavor is up front, but the impact was not as strong as I expected, which was somewhat disappointing. There was some bitterness in the middle palate, with a dry biscuit finish.

I was ready to write off this New Belgium offering as a bland misnomer, but as it warmed up a subtle malt/wheat/rye aroma appeared and began to subdue the bitterness. I enjoyed this development along with the silky mouth feel and the ample carbonation. Before any malt sweetness could take hold it was swept away by the dry finish and an immediate desire to take another sip.

While this style of beer is not likely to evoke a desire to write sonnets in praise of it, I'm glad I was able to put aside my initial disappointment and enjoy this very refreshing beer.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Military Muscle

...Nice Presidency you've got there, sir. Be a shame if somethin' were to happen to it...


...oops, did one of my medals poke you in the eye? I'm sorry about that Mr. President.

In his post, Happy Junta Grounds:Militarist Machiavellis Maneuver for More War, Chris Floyd doubts that Obama is having buyer's remorse over the war in Afghanistan, but that is really the only difference of opinion he has with Tom Englehardt's How to Trap a President into a Losing War.

Floyd includes this excerpt,
If McChrystal and his allies get their way, we’ll have deployed over 135,000 troops to Afghanistan — on top of the roughly 130,000 troops still in Iraq — for the purpose of rounding up fewer than a dozen bad guys. Daffy Duck and Wiley Coyote could come up with a better strategy than that. Our military leadership and its supporters are a thundering herd of buffoons whose only real objective is to keep the cash caissons rolling and the gravy ships afloat and the wild blue budget sky high.

Floyd follows with his own observation,
And to keep the power, privilege and dominance they have come to exercise over our society -- a position of rulership to which they now feel entitled, and which whole generations of Americans are now growing up to believe is the natural order of things.

Then Floyd points to Gary Wills' recent piece in The New York Review, Entangled Giant and excerpts this indictment,
The monopoly on use of nuclear weaponry, the cult of the commander in chief, the worldwide network of military bases to maintain nuclear alert and supremacy, the secret intelligence agencies, the entire national security state, the classification and clearance systems, the expansion of state secrets, the withholding of evidence and information, the permanent emergency that has melded World War II with the cold war and the cold war with the "war on terror"—all these make a vast and intricate structure that may not yield to effort at dismantling it. Sixty-eight straight years of war emergency powers (1941–2009) have made the abnormal normal, and constitutional diminishment the settled order....

Can we really go on pretending that the United States is a Constitutional Democracy?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Seven in Seven: Pale Ale

I had such ambitious plans for my next homebrew project. But after some reflection and consideration of my brewing skills, decided spending more than $1 per serving on the ingredients could not be justified.

So, I've been on the hunt for a good amber ale recipe, something with a nice color and a balanced flavor. I plan to give some away to friends and family and with any luck, start the process of weaning them from their slavery to American conglomerate beers.

I picked up a few Amber ales at Bubbles and Gomers, but the offerings are all over the map. Many American craft brewers tend to throw hops at their Amber ales at a rate similar to an IPA style. Others treat Amber ale as an opportunity ring up high unit margins by skimping on the malt and hop bill.

I eventually abandoned a taste search and just built a recipe using the calculator at and various examples I found online until I arrived at a balanced formula at an acceptable cost:

Looking ahead, I envision said friends and relatives knocking down my door for more of my fermented manna, after being blown away by my Allegory Amber. Therefore it would be prudent to have something on hand to fulfill this demand. I feel a good choice might be an English style IPA, which I would expect to not be overly hoppy, have a nice malt backbone and a fairly dry finish. I think a dry finish helps make an ale acceptable to the delicate palates of my BudMillerCoors Light drinking brethren. Over a seven day period, this quest led me to try 7 different pale ales.

I began my endeavor at Gomers. I would pick up a Samuel Smith India Ale since there was no doubt about the style. After that, my approach was reduced to surmising the style from the packaging. I should have considered the sage advice about books and their covers, because it mostly applies to beer also.

When I saw the Schalfly Export IPA I was pretty sure this would be an English style. Just look at that label! The sun never sets on the British empire, mateys!

That label and well, the blurb on the package:
This full-bodied traditional English-style ale is brewed with a high gravity and extra hops, which originally helped to preserve the beer on long voyages from England to India.

I left Gomers with a 22oz Samuel Smith India Ale and a sixer of the Schlafly Export IPA.

Day One: Samuel Smith India Ale

DanielDanza at BeerAdvocate has a nice review of the Samuel Smith:
Pours a nice amber with a good fluffy head, with typical light carbonation. It improves in flavor as it warms; I'd love to try this on cask. The hop profile is tame by American standards although it is not an overpoweringly malty beer. The flavor is somewhat fruity with a definite cereal note which is not at all unpleasant.

I agree with all of the above, including the presence of "a definite cereal note." Unfortunately, I found this to not be pleasant at all. I'll not be trying to clone this beer.

Day Two: Schlafly Special Reserve Export IPA

This is much darker than the Samuel Smith and has a nice malty aroma, cookies and caramel. Really well balanced, the cookie sweetness is backed up with a nice hop spice finish. Good stuff. It seemed likely it might fit the bill for my next brew.

The next day I volunteered do some grocery shopping at HyVee, knowing I could peruse their single 12oz bottle offerings and perhaps build a choice six pack. This day the selection was fantastic. I picked up one each of Southhampton IPA, Grand Teton Lost Continent Double IPA, O'Dells St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale, Avery IPA and Bell's Two-Hearted Ale.

Day Three: Southampton Publik House IPA

The Southampton description really raised my expectations:
Balance. That’s what separates India Pale Ales. And that’s the difference between the Southampton IPA and most others.
Southampton IPA is balanced between the hopped-up West Coast-style IPAs and the Old World characteristics of a traditional European IPA. You could say that Southampton IPA is located somewhere between Europe and California, figuratively and literally.
It features more balance than any other IPA brewed in America. The result is an American-style IPA with the Old World characteristics of a traditional European IPA.

With two English style IPA's already tested and the one in my hand touting its balanced profile, I really felt like I was on a roll. It poured golden and bright with nice carbonation, but immediately the aroma was troubling. There was no malt aroma or hop aroma either, just alcohol. The first sip confirmed this. The taste was positively medicinal. Did they arrive at a balance by taking out the malts from the English style, the hops from the American style and just leaving the ethanol? BeerAdvocate gave it fairly good ratings, so I'll just chalk it up to a bad bottle. That is a risk when buying single bottles, they are rarely the freshest beer. Oh well.

Day Four: Grand Teton Lost Continent

I'm not familiar with Grand Teton and after the disappointment with the Southhampton, I approached this beer with some trepidation. I was drawn to the bottle by what looked like a world map, which I felt might be an English style indicator. Of course the "Double IPA" style is American inspired and the map is of an imaginary continent, not India, but I knew that to arrive at the high ABV of the Double IPA style, they could not skimp on the malt bill. Hopefully this would result in a balanced profile.

A drawback to purchasing single bottles of unfamiliar beer: Without the cardboard carrier, you're likely to miss out on some of the brew's published characteristics: This is on the Grand Teton Brewing website:
In recent years, American brewers have created a new style: “Imperial,” or “Double” IPA. Our version is brewed with twice as much malt and hops as our everyday Sweetgrass IPA, dry hopped with American Cascade and Amarillo hops, and fermented to 7.5 percent alcohol by volume. The hops provide citrusy, resinous spiciness, making this beer a great match for any bold, flavorful food.

Uh, that sure didn't sound like an English style. Gueuzedude from BeerAdvocate describes the flavor well:
The taste is not quite as sweet as the aroma would have suggested and actually starts out with a clean hop character. Towards the finish the cloying crystal malt provides muddy caramel notes and ample toasty malt flavor before a light for an IPA bitterness is able to kick in. The malt never leaves the finish though and comes to make the palate forget the bitterness existed at all. Sticky caramelized orange zest flavors, stewed grapefruit and some sweetened pine needle flavors struggle through the murky malt character here. The hop character provides a green, somewhat astringent, herbal, pine biting bitterness throughout the flavor profile; this makes a valiant attempt at cutting through the malt focus, but in the end isn't quite up to the task.

Pine and stewed grapefruit! It's not an English style by any means. I was not bothered so much by the malt focus, but I knew I wouldn't be trying to clone this beer. So far Schlafly is still the front runner.

Day Five: Avery IPA

Nice "Old World" map and they don't even use the IPA acronym. There is the whole word "India" spelled out in a nice, Kiplingesque, India Tea style font. The opening page of Avery's website touts their eccentric ethos:
...we brew what we like to drink--with utter disregard for what the market demands-- and search out fans with equally eccentric palates.

One sniff and I knew this was going to be a highly hopped American style-pale ale. It is fine to push the limits of style, but why put it in a package that screams traditional English style IPA? Can't you give a fellow a clue? Perhaps an "Old World" style map of Colorado. Or maybe a glowing green hop bud replacing all instances of the lowercase letter "a" in "India Pale Ale".

Here's garthicus from RateBeer,
Appearance: Golden yellow with a nice amount of carbonation and a nice white head. Aroma: Ahh cat piss! Lots of hops, bitterness is mouthwatering, malt, peaches - very nice. Flavour: Cat piss again, delicious, lots of dry bitterness and a pine resin in the finish.

Gotta love a beer that tastes like cat piss! Actually it is a good pale ale, a good American Pale Ale.

Day Six: Bell's Two Hearted Ale

I've tried this before and I knew this was not the style I was after. Even though they call it an IPA, they put a trout on the bottle and claim Hemmingway might have toted this brew around. No chance anything reminding you of Rikki Tikki Tavi is going to come out of this bottle. Since I thought I was carting home a bunch of English style beer, it seemed reasonable to have something familiar for comparison.

This is a very good good beer, beautiful color and the citrus aroma is wonderful. Hops are up front, but it is tempered by the malt without being sweet. It finishes dry but not bitter. Very good, but I don't think it deserves the 100 rating on RateBeer.

Day Seven: Odell's St. Lupulin

The label was somewhat ambiguous and the "Extra Pale Ale" moniker somehow did not register with me. The wordcraft on the label was intriquing though,
A mystical legend echoes in our brewhouse - that of St. Lupulin(loop-you-lin) the archetypal hophead. He devoted endless summers to endless rows of hops, tending to the flowers and the beloved resin within - lupulin Extraordinary oils in this yellow resin provide this dry-hopped extra pale ale with an undeniably pleasing floral aroma and clean, crisp finish. One sip of this seasonal summer ale and you too, will believe.

HarseBrau of Kansas City tried it on September 9th and wrote this on RateBeer:
Sliced thin aroma of floral and hop normalcy. Oak wood color minus any grain plus a touch of caramel. Flavor is hoppy bitter with gnashed up flower stem aftertaste. It is crisp and fruity at the start though and the combo isn’t bad.

Isn't bad? Good god, HarseBrau, that "gnashed up flower stem aftertaste" is pure heaven. The complexity of the hops aroma and flavors in this beer are the closest thing to an LSD trip this side of the latest Prius commercial.

I did not want to stop smelling this beer and the only thing that could compel me to drag my nose out of the glass was my brain screaming at me, "Take another drink, damn it! Take another drink!" So I would start drinking and the explosion of citrus hop flavors of orange and a hint of lemon would hit my mouth and I reflexively braced for the pain of the hop bitterness except just enough malt sweetness would well up to compensate, then a flowery aroma would fill my nostrils and throat with a nice dry finish. Then I would start sniffing again...

The beer pours a beautiful pale gold color (HarseBrau said Oak?) with a fizzy head that laces and never completely dissipates. As the beer warms up the hop resins become more assertive and a slight bitterness creeps in and lingers at the back of the throat. Lingers and beckons, lingers and beckons. More sips and an alcohol warmth combined with the spicy hop resins begin to rise up in the cheeks, brow and ears.

Ok, screw the English style IPA, I need a case of this stuff!

This beer was a revelation. The symphony of flavors and smells swirling, rising and falling finds me grasping for descriptions. Like a fine musical composition, each serving a performance with nuances waiting to be discovered at every turn.

I will still brew my modest amber this go around, and I'll probably try my hand at an English style like the Schlafly Export IPA after that, but this beer will be calling my name the entire time and I will be that much more diligent in my efforts so that someday, perhaps, I might concoct a brew even half as enchanting as St. Lupulin.

41 Beers Left on the List

This may be old and weary for some people, but The Brew Site's 50 Beers to Drink Before You Die made me stop and read to find out my status. I like the idea; I have some issues with the particulars of the list.

Finding Sam Adams Utopia alongside Sapporo is a head scratcher.

Would 50 places to visit before you die have the Taj Mahal followed by Harrah's? SA Utopia runs around $400 a bottle available only on E-Bay. Why can't "the greatest beer in the world" at only $35.00 a bottle find a place at the table?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Where My Lazy Ass Finally Posts About Brew Day 3.0

I attended BrewDay 3.0, organized by Wort Hog & KC Hophead and graciously hosted by Kegerator Merlin and his lovely better half. But, you would never know it from reading this blog.

Yes, this blog is called Muddy Mo, but not due to the blogger's proximity to a famous Missouri tributary, but due to the atrocious manner in which the proprietor drags his brogans, as if he was using them to dredge up a river bed.

The Brew Day 3.0 experience was fantastic and all those I met, to a person, were the most congenial, interesting, smart and passionate people I could ever hope to find in one location. And that location was loaded with great beer!

One of the BD3.0 sponsors, KC Hophead, is Google friend of this blog. What does he get for his effort? Posts few and far between, often political screeds that make no sense to anyone but the procrastinating author. Yet his demeanor is hale and hearty and he greets me with a rich Oatmeal Raisin Stout and later unfurls the much prized Pliny the Elder. A tip of the racking cane to you, kind sir.

And what of the incomparable Wort Hog, brilliant beer and homebrew blogger/auteur/multi-tasker? With one hand she offers a delicious Dark Belgian from BD1.0 while brewing a Braggot and Mead with the other. After all that, you would think I could find a way to get one little post out in a timely manner. I have a Boulevard Smokestack bomber with you and Mr. Wort Hog's name on it. Think Spin! Pizza in the OP.

I learned alot and had a great time with people like Cornelius Blogger, who is a Curious Case. This "anonymous" journalist's knowledge of brew tech was only surpassed by his amazing --uncarbed!-- double IPA. Cornelius, I think that stuff started making me grow younger.

And who could forget the game of washers against KC Hophead and Rye & Ale, which lasted almost as long as the movie 2001-A Space Odyssey. I should have listened to my partner, U.J.N. when he said that AE35 unit was going bad.

I really enjoyed hearing about English ale from a fellow attendee CAMRA, who has been blessed with the experience of quaffing that sweet nectar from the source. We talked about the company that bought Guinness and I couldn't remember the name, even though I have blogged about it.

When the Lost Abbey 10 Commandments got passed around, I knew I was in a special place. I heard someone say "rosemary" after they tasted it. I got no rosemary, but I swear that stuff finished with a hint of blood, which kinda freaked me out.

The gracious host, Kegerator Merlin, who brewed an Amber Ale, took me on a tour of his nice brew gear. I bet that Amber turns out great. Thank you KM, I'm curious to find out if fermenting at lower temps gets good results. And thank your wife, Saint Gwendoloena, who handled the invasion of your manor with great aplomb. Let's start planning Brew Day 4.0!

P.S. to Drunk-Monkey: I finally added Show-Me Beer to my blog list. You've got a nice blog. Don't neglect it like yours truly does. I see from your Blip, that you got the Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen prize.

Talk to Your People

I usually like to have a picture with my posts, so I searched Google images using the phrase, "Hammer in Cranium" (don't ask) and found this interesting photobucket juxtaposition:

The Problem With U.S. Public Education System

The hipster again has another nice post: "A Liberal Education vs. Conservative Education"

This gives me the opportunity to roll out one of my favorite old saws that will likely lead to my untimely death, when Ms. Angel-Mo plants a hammer in my head after having heard it for the 1,843rd time:

"The problem with the U.S. public education system is that it is run by education majors."

I am a staunch believer in the concept and goals of the classic liberal education, I just don't know if there are enough education majors capable of delivering such an education to our children.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Endangered Species Alert! Republicans with Backbone

From the Republican Party of Florida, I give you Jim Greer:

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."
- 9/1/2009

From, I give you Joan Walsh:
The hysteria Obama inspires in his far-right foes is primeval, primordial. From the Birthers' obsession with the facts of his birth -- which lets them obsess about his origins in miscegenation -- to the paranoia that he's coming for the children, there's a deep strand of irrational paranoia that can't be anything other than racial. These people don't merely disagree with him, they distrust and dislike him viscerally. He's not merely wrong, he's scary; even terrifying.
- 9/4/2009

The purveyors and cheerleaders and sycophants of this movement were ready with Gephardt's complaint about a 1991 George W. Bush speech. If you click on that link you will find that the Democrats claimed Bush41 was attempting to force school children to be indoctrinated with a vile, anti-American extremist political ideology and they organized a campaign to keep children home from school to protect them from hearing a speech by the President of the United States. Go ahead, click on it to discover the horror that was the Democratic complaint in 1991.

Granted, the Democrats did not distinguish itself with that bit of political theater. But Jim Greer is not complaining about misuse of government funds, now is he? Obama's speech will not cover his policy on health care, banks, automobile companies or taxes. Most people knew that. But I don't think Mr. Jim Greer is trying to reach most people. I think most people know what kind of people Florida Republican Party Chairman Mr. Jim Greer is trying to reach. He's trying to reach the ones who are waiting for that sweet moment.

When a leader in the Republican party of Florida tells people it is dangerous for children to hear Obama speak, it is beyond mere political gamesmanship. This is a vicious attack on the very foundation of our pluralistic society. Are there ANY Republicans left with the backbone to call out these anarchists who gleefully stoke irrational paranoia? Anyone?

"What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing."
- Michelle Bachmann 8/31/2009

"[Obama has] a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."
- Glenn Beck 7/28/2009

"Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate"
- Rush Limbaugh 8/5/2009

Any Republican with a backbone should heed Dan Savage:

I really do think the Michelle Bachmanns of the world and the Glenn Becks of the world are actively and, consciously or subconsciously, trying to get, I’m just gonna say it, trying to get the President killed.
9/1/2009, on MSNBC Countdown.