Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bread, Circuses, and My Hometown

I am very concerned for Yreka...

Yreka, California, is a small town. Not much happens there. It's socially conservative - tremendously so. With the fall of the resource (logging) based economy, it is increasingly becoming a retirement community. There aren't many good jobs... If you aren't working for the government in some capacity, as a Yrekan you're likely making minimum wage or very close to that. Culturally, the place is rather dead. Very little happens in terms of social events that doesn't involve the few dive bars in town. The place can be excruciatingly boring for a teenager, and as a result, the teenagers often get up to no good...

But Yreka is tremendously beautiful. It has the perks of a small town - it's safe, it's clean, it moves at a managable pace, and there's a strong social (if inactive) network to support you. And the physical beauty of the surrounding Siskiyou County is amazing. And as a native Sisqan, I am convinced that I must eventually move back to this place. I am also convinced that many of my friends - fellow Sisqans - will end up there too. But if I am to spend a significant portion of my remaining life in Siskiyou County, I think I'm going to need it to change. I want there to be more economic opportinity. I want there to be viable working-class jobs. I want there to be enough higher-end jobs to encourage more native Sisqans to return after attaining their college degrees. I want Siskiyou County to adapt to the post-resource era - I want the local economy to find a way to work things out such that there are good jobs across the spectrum - this means more than just lots of money for developers and minimum wage for the waitresses and bus-boys serving the retirees from the Bay Area. I want there to be cultural events... I want bands playing gigs. I want poetry readings. I want art exhibitions. I want Yreka and Siskioyou County to be alive and balanced, and I want for youth to have a role in these places.

I want all of that, but this is what we are
getting instead:

Yes, instead of wholesome, intellectually-tinged cultural events, Yreka is now getting the savagery of "cage fighting." Or "ultimate fighting." Or "mixed martial arts." Or whatever you want to call it. Whatever the case, it's for troglodytes. And I'm not going to back down from that statement.

This is rock bottom. I realize that small-scale "cage fighting" is gaining popularity across the country, but it disturbs me that this is what Yreka has chosen to latch on to. This is cancerous. This path will not lead to new, beneficial businesses moving into town. This will not lead to economic opportunity and prosperity. This path will lead to hopital bills and welfare moms. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes city slickers snidely snicker at us, the low-life country bumpkins. Why don't we just spend all our paychecks on Natural Ice and beat up our wives while we're at it? Christ almighty...

The scary thing is I actually remember one of the fellows in the posters from high school.

The capacity of the rural American to work against his/her own best interest will never cease to amaze me. It all makes me shiver...

The Best Albums You Never Knew About, Vol. 1

Carl Craig's More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art is a freakin' masterpiece. I don't know that I'll elucidate on the matter much more to support that statement, but after spending a chunk of my afternoon listening to that album while working on my first canvases in nearly a decade, I am compelled to come forth and advocate for that album. For those of you who went so far as to click the link above, you would've noticed that Amazon is only offering up three used copies of the album - I'd assume that means it's out of print. And that 'tis a damn shame. Never before, and possibly never since, has someone taken such a heady approach to Detroit techno. Oh, sure, Derrick May did crank out some lofty, spiritual, and perhaps intellectual singles, but he never put forth an actual album - the most he could muster was a half-assed and painfully incomplete compilation that would be laughable were it not the only notable record of his work on compact disc, let alone the only work of his in print... But for an album, an actual album, Craig's More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art has to be the pinnacle of Detroit techo. Sprawling, spiritual, ambitious... It draws from jazz, it draws from R&B... It does not in anyway attempt to mask its blackness... Spare as only Detroit techno can be, it draws on no more than the typical sound palate of Detroit techno with the occasional addition of a sultry, female, jazz-tinged voice. The rest is all the basic drum machines and synths, the same as the Belleville Three used when making their groundbreaking works. And it reaches such lofty heights. Spare and spiritual, cool and intellectual, but we're talking jazz cool, not cold cool. Sure, subsequent Detroit techno has been more rockin' - Richie Hawtin and Matthew Dear could pummel Carl Craig into the ground wiht their relentless beats. But Craig managed to present what is perhaps the headiest, purest, blackest, and bestest manifestation of the Detroit ethos and sound.

Go but this album. Pour yourself a drink. Listen to it. And contribute...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fighting Inertia

Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

I am all too often an object at rest.

Sunday night I arrived back from the spelunking leg of the week's travels, and it is only now, on Tuesday evening, that I have begun to blog again, or do much of anything, really. The human capacity to do jack shit is really quite astounding when you think about it.

But some things were accomplished. Yesterday's time was eaten up by a trip into work to do a bit of paperwork that needed doing and could be done by none other than me. Today began with some hardcore loafing, and then continued on to an outing in which I purchased, yet again, painting gear. And let me tell you, art supplies are waaay more expensive when they aren't subsidized by either one's parents or one's high school art teacher. Nevertheless, I've allowed cramped dorm and apartment living keep me from my art for far too long - the entire seven years since I graduated high school, in fact. Which is downright weird when you consider how big a part of my life art was for me prior to graduating high school. I'm convinced that had I not had art classes and the community thereabouts through high school, I would have ended up way more messed up than I did.

Whatever the case, I have a stack of canvasses, some fresh paints, and some brushes and knives that are sufficiently servicable to crank out some of the abstract-ish stuff that I evolved into doing towards the end of my high school career. What I'm going to paint, I don't really know. As an angsty teenager, unfocused anger and frustration was a driving force in my life, and it really was at the forefront of my psyche. Because of this, I always had something very obvious to tap into when I painted. Now, I'm not really sure what to do. I'm happier in general, but I'm still very suceptible to existential dread, and while there's still anger, it's highly specific anger focused on a plethora of environmental elements. There just doesn't seem to be one driving emotion that can leap forward and lead my focus. When I think about art, and my practicing of art, I end up thinking about how I've drifted away from that ideal path that I set out, how I feel burdened by "real life," and how I yearn to get back to that ideal. I feel like Odysseus, with a touch of Jonah. How to channel that into some visual art, I don't really know, but we'll just have to see what happens. 'Cause it's a damned shame I drifted away from art, and it's gonna change. (This is all a part of last Thursday night's epiphany...)

In other news, I'm trying out making some gravad lax, this time using some farmed, color-added Atlantic salmon. Should it turn out well, I've got some wild sockeye salmon sitting in the freezer (to kill off any parasites it may be carrying), awaiting the same, salty fate.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

How did I go nine days without blogging?

Seriously... June 13th through June 22nd? What have I been doing? With how cathartic and focusing an activity blogging has prooven to be for me, what the hell have I been doing not doing it? I know I did a bunch of crap reading, and I spent hours in the gym dedicated to both weights and time on the bikes sufficient to render my legs near useless by Sunday - though I'm glad to see that my leg lifts are still in the superhuman range, though still several hundred pounds below my '03 peak - but I don't know why I didn't find any time to blog during the past week and a half. Surely I have had experiences and/or thoughts worth blogging in that frame of time?

And now for the randomness...

  • Why is there a road crew using a jackhammer outside my hotel room right now, at 2:00 AM? Isn't that a bit inconsiderate? At least those fellows are getting some hefty hazard pay for their disruption of my sleep (should I attempt to attain it)
  • Is there anything Timbaland touches that doesn't turn to gold? I certainly didn't want to like this Nelly Furtado single, but, aside from the chorus, I find it to be infectuous. Is there an album of Timbaland instrumentals out there?
  • Why aren't more folk talking about the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Dani California" lifts significant musical elements directly from Tom Petty's "Last Dance With Mary Jane?" Am I just showing my age here? That wasn't that long ago, and Tom was already a fogey then...

*Gasp* - Music Videos on Music Channels?

Holy shit. Pardon my French. Is VH1 always this good in the middle of the night? They’re actually playing music videos right now. Right now they’re playing a freakin’ Radiohead video, albeit one from The Bends [the most (contextually) overrated album of all time]. And last night they were playing the White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid” as well as the latest (and surprisingly rockin’) Pearl Jam. And just recently they were playing some Keane. Not that I like Keane - the jury's still out on them. I’m just glad to see a major music network giving some airtime to a band based on their music, not on aesthetics (how could anyone be attracted to Keane’s freakish-looking vocalist?) And now they’re playing the freakin’ Raconteurs? And now the Gorillaz' "Dare?" I'm not dancing around the hotel room, but another bottle of 99 cent sake and I might... And I thought the music video was a dead medium. It’s certainly not as if they were showing videos from the recent Audion and Orb singles (do such videos even exist? – highly unlikely), but still, I can’t really complain about this. Heck, I might have to alter my sleep schedule over the next few months.

Travelblogue: Napa Conference - Mid-way...

Work, or more specifically, my district's 18 hour per year professional development requirement, brings me to Napa, California this week. The conference, for the larger network to which my school belongs, has been somewhat reinvigorating thus far. In the assorted sessions I've attended I've accomplished some valuable things, but more than anything I've become supremely frustrated through my interactions with the teachers from those schools within the network that are located in affluent (white) regions - these folk seem to be utterly ignorant and/or unconcerned of/for the differing needs of those of us dealing with drastically different demographics. Whereas they deal with affluent, white and south-Asian students with extreme performance expectations and demanding parents (all of which certainly do present some unique and valid challenges), I deal with predominantly poor, minority and/or immigrant students. On any given day, I deal with students having at least seven different native languages. The ability of the teachers from the more affluent schools to hijack any session they attend and curb any potential progress with their stubborn ingorance/indifference is frustrating. But I have been able to to channel my frustration into a positive dialog with one of the network mentors regarding some strategies to alleviate this situation and thus improve network service for all schools in the network and to more effectively advocate for what exactly it is we do in these schools. Two weeks ago, an experiance similar to what I have experienced over the past two days would have left me frothing at the mouth; that I have reacted as I have is a sign of significant healing on my part, and I am glad to recognize that - this vacation has been good for something, at least... Sorry for all the ambiguousness for all those who don't know me well enough to figure all this out, but I do want to protect what anonymity I do have. To some degree...

Anyway, the true value of the conference has been, to me, the development of of an improved relationship with my co-workers. Between evening dinners, late night talking/drinking sessions in the courtyard, and the like, I've gotten to know my co-workers even better than I did before, and repair a bit of the damage that Meatgrinder May did to our relationships. This has also been an opportunity to meet our new hires, one of whom I learned attended my alma mater, UCSC, and even resided at Porter College, as I did, though he in its glory days of the early 90s. The other new hire is, like me, a homebrewer, and we have already had lengthy talks on the subject. And last night, we all caravaned down to San Francisco to watch a Giants game, which I enjoyed despite my strong antipathy towards professional sports... In person, the spectacle is something to behold, and I find the entire event to be interesting as an anthropoloigical/ethnographic subject if nothing else... Regardless, it was a pretty damn cool thing to do with my staff, and on the principal's dime at that.

Now, when I was leaving the game - slightly before the end of the game but after it was certain the Giants were going to win - I saw this:

If you can't make it out - apologies for the crap camera-phone pics, I'll buy a real digicam sometime soon, I swear - that's a man in a Batman suit in a kayak. He was in the waters just behind the back fence of the ball park, behind right field, where some home-run balls occasionally go. There were about four other kayakers out there with him, hoping to recover any balls that should make their way over the fence and into the Bay during that particular game. They, however, didn't have attire that was nearly as interesting as the Batman suit. Calculated weirdness, surely, but it brightened my day nonetheless...

As of now, I have two days left in this conference. I hope to go through them being a little more aggressive, advocating for my school and the demographic with which it deals, as well as for the model in general. The time should be productive... And following the close of the conference, I depart to pick up James, then head up to the Homeland for a trip to the Lava Beds National Monument to camp, drink, cook food over an open fire, stay up late talking and philosophizing, and spend hours upon hours hiking/crawling/climbing through things like this:It should be good...

But when that is all over, when I return to the Sacramento Sprawl, I really need to re-focus my energies and try to get back to what I thought I was going to back to be back when I was young & idealistic (to think, then I thought I was old and grizzled...) I need to pull out a stack of canvasses and and do some freakin' painting. I need to go back to that zen-like state I achive when performing meticulous and/or exuberant creative tasks, and reside in it. I need to get back to that point, so close yet so distant, where I would read Kafka and seek jubilant inebriation with equal vigor. What has lead me to this resounding conclusion may, perhaps, be the subject of a future post. Nevertheless, know now that the strange and seemingly minor events of tonight have severely altered my perspective on a multitude of things, and should - assuming I don't get distracted and derailed in the intervening time - provide a focus and frame for my energies so that I may "correct" my life to some degree. "Revelation" might be an appropriate term. So may "epiphany." But I don't think either of those quite nail it. Whatever the case, I find I am chilled. And motivated. And confident. And yearning. And hopeful, and perhaps even comfortably certain. I think the Summer is finally sinking in, and this is, to be terribly cliche, "Me" coming back. Now let's just make sure I'm here to stay...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pairings: shocking the masses, forcing beer into wine territory

This evening I was reading though the summer issue of the Raley's/Bel Air/Nob Hill ad-magazine, Something Extra. Yeah, it's really just one giant ad for products stocked at those stores, but it usually has some damn good (and season-appropriate) recipes, and some fairly decent food writing. This edition of the magazine features a fluff piece on wine and pairings, briefly profiling six wine varieties and offering suggested pairings with summer foods (think grilled items & salads). There's nothing wrong with what information it does offer - from what I can tell, it is all accurate, and certainly useful. It does, however, remind me of the dominance of wine when it comes to pairing beverage with food. The wine industry aggressively plays up wine's potential to compliment food, and the food industry, at all levels, ranging from producers to restaurants to grocers, plays along in a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship. This shouldn't be a problem... But I ask, "what about beer?"

If you've ever developed the courage to try some craft beer, you know that beer offers a wider range of flavors than SAB-Miller, Molson-Coors, and Anheuser-Busch would have you believe. If you've been a little more adveturous, you may have realized that beer offers an exceedingly wide range of flavors, from the sweet to the bitter, from the tannic to the sour, from the floral to the spicy, from the smoky to funky, from the metallic to the minty, and let's not forget roastiness... This huge range of flavor offers innumerable options that can, IMO, more appropriately and thoroughly pair with numerous foods than can the more limitedly ranged wine.

You see, wine, no matter what lengths food-writers might go to in order to describe "hints of vanilla," "bing cherry," or the all too ambiguous "spice," usually offers two, and only two, prominent flavors, with one possible alternate. Most wines offer sweetness and sourness (acidity). Reds can also offer a tannic (mildly bitter) character. These are the only major flavors that will carry through and interact with food.

Beer, meanwhile can offer sweetness, sourness, tannicness, as well as intense hop bitterness, smokiness, and huge range of additional flavors. Beer also offers a wider range of mouthfeel than that offered by wine, ranging from viscous and flat to bone-dry and effervescent. And while beer, like wine, can play the "contrast" game - this is what you will see happening in most pairings - beer can often also compliment food, echoing the flavors of the food. C'mon, do you really want a Syrah with your smoked brisket when you could have a Smoked Porter in its place, building on the smokiness yet cutting away the fat, and thus intensifying the whole experience?

So, to stop my bitching and start being proactive, I think I will now, and perhaps occasionally hereafter, offer some potential beer-food pairings. For the first installment, I'll go with two pairings that are exceedingly simple, but also very, very good. First, the beer style in question: India Pale Ale, aka IPA.

IPAs are simplistic beers. Are they unsophisticated? No. But the statement they make, and their method, they are both simplistic, though strong. These beers are simply a forum for that glorious bit of flora, the hop. IPAs are where hops step out of their supporting role in the production that is beer, and step into the spotlight. Nothing more than slightly beefed-up and over-hopped pale ales, IPAs present an intense bitterness, with a chorus of hop flavor and aroma that change, based on the hop variety. They can be citrusy, spicy, minty, piney, floral, or earthy. Depending on the interpretation, they can also be bone-dry, or have some residual sweetness to balance out the hops. Recommended commercial example? Go with Anderson Valley's Hop Ottin' IPA - it's a quintessential, over-the-top California IPA. If your on the East Coast, go west, I say - they just don't know how to make IPAs back there...

Now, being a relatively simplistic and aggressive beer style, IPA would seem to present some significant difficulties when it comes to food pairings. However, two of my absolute beverage-food pairings do involve IPAs. The first of these is the painfully obvious pizza and beer.

Yes, pizza and beer. Or more specifically, pizza and IPA. You see, most any pizza you try, whether it be from that nose-upturned wood-fired place in the hot shopping district, the Domino's in the ghetto, or that weird mom & pop place around the corner, will A. be greasy (at least mildly), and B. have a sweet red sauce involved somewhere. Both the grease (fat) and the sweetness provide excellent elements for the IPA to play off of. IPAs offer the raw bitterness of the alpha acids, plus a small amount of tannins due to the sheer amount of vegetable matter to which the beer is exposed. The bitterness from these two elements cuts through both the fat and the sweetness of the pizza. In contrast, the pizza seems sweeter and greasier, and the bitterness of the beer comes across more pleasantly as it seems to have a purpose. The two play off of each other and enhance each other. It's a simple beer, and a simple pairing, but this clash of titans is a wonder to behold as it plays out on your palate.

The second IPA pairing I would recommend is a bit more unexpected - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I'm serious here - it's one of the best pairings I've ever had. You see, peanut butter and jelly has two major components - the sweetness of the jelly and the mouth-coating fat of the peanut butter. The sandwich itself is a pairing, with the jelly added to make the peanut butter's mouthfeel a bit more tolerable. The addition of an IPA takes it a step further. You see, the basic bitterness of an IPA interacts with the sweetness of the jelly - they contrast and augment each other. But then the other element of the hops, the tannins, come into play not as bitterness, but as mouthfeel. You see, tannins feel "sharp" in the mouth, and they can "clean away" things that seem to coat the mouth, such as mashed potatoes or - drumroll - peanut butter. And that's what makes this pairing so interesting to me - there's a two-front battle being waged. We have sweet vs. bitter and viscous vs. sharp. And that's not something you're likely to find in wine pairings, as wines tend only to play up one of their three major components, and thus are capable of waging only one battle at a time.

So for now, I'll step off my soapbox. But I will continue to, intermittently, advocate for beer, especially for its use as a compliment to food.

Pet Peeve: Sports pre-empting "our regularly scheduled programming"

If there is one thing that pisses me off, besides loud, pot-smoking, college-student neighbors and people who commute in SUVs (especially Hummers), it's when regular television programing is pre-empted for sports events. Now, this doesn't normally happen with most of the television that I watch regularly - shows like Lost are such cash-cows that they are scheduled around sporting events so as to not ruffle any feathers... But minor programing, often syndicated, all to often gets shoved aside for sports. And I don't care about professional sports (and no, that doesn't make me any less of a man). And I don't understand why anybody does. I just don't get team sports. I don't understand how anybody finds them interesting. I, myself, find them nearly incomprehensible when playing them - I guess I'm just missing that gene. Nevertheless... Sports events often pre-empt minor and/or syndicated programing in general, and Jeopardy in particular. Just now, I changed the channel, thinking I'd get to watch a half-hour of a semi-challenging quiz show, all the while thinking to myself, "Dude, I totally kick ass at this. I should totally go on Jeopardy!" But NO. There's some basketball game going on. I didn't even know the basketball season was still going. I assume this is the finals or something? But why is this on local television? Does anyone in the greater Sacramento area (the range of the chanel) really care? The Kings are out... Even the Lakers are out, so those locals crazy (and brave) enough to express allegiance to the Lakers shouldn't really have any reason to watch, nor should the Kings fans of the masochistic variety. Argh. At least Monday Night football has moved from ABC to ESPN. Though now, I suppose, Monday Night could pre-empt coverage of my beloved cycling and strongman competitions...

Brewlog: Saison #3

The second of the two batches brewed during my recent travels...

Batch #24, 6/8/06: Saison #3

Any beer geek worth their salt knows that Saison is in vogue right now. Though the original Saisons of Wallonia, long since lost, were presumably more a "family" of beers defined only by their archaic and odd production methods - a relic of pre-modern brewing - the modern interpretations of these "farmhouse ales" are evolving into a more cohesive style. Still managing a wide range between the various interpretations, most commercial Saisons do have some common elements: the use of non-barley adjunct grains, stronger than normal (for a Belgian) hopping, liberal spicing, warm fermentation (70-90 degrees), and utterly crazy yeast strains that produce some of the funkiest flavors you'll taste this side of a lambic.

Shortly after moving to the Sacrament Sprawl two years ago, I was able to try some previously unavailable (to me) commercial examples of Saison, formost amongst them the classic and definative Saison Dupont, and the overlooked local gem, Jack Russel Farmhouse Ale. I quickly latched onto these beers and declared Saison my favorite style. Between the oddball grains, spicing, & crazy yeast, Saisons seemed to provide a new frontier in flavor, going places I didn't think beer could go. Indeed, bringing me flavors I didn't think I would be able to taste, let alone appreciate. It was the ultimate treat for a tired, old epicurean. Additionally, the style tends to be damed drinkable and refreshing.

Last summer, I brewed several beers using the Saison Dupont yeast strain, commercially available as WLP 565. The first of these, which I based very closely off a Hennepin clone recipe taken from an issue of Zymurgy, I count as my most successful beer ever. The second, well, we don't talk about that one very much. Let's just say, be careful with your spices. Especially with the lemon peel... The third didn't really end up being a traditional saison at all. Through successive and obsessive tweaking, that one has morphed into this strange, big quadrupel/braggot thing, with cranberries and cherries incorporated, and which is now sitting in the fermenters still, with some oak chips and some Brettanomyces Claussenii. So that makes the beer I just brewed the third Saison I've attempted.

Scared by what happened with Saison #2, I decided to back off on the spicing, returning to what I'd done with the first recipe, and even scaling back the lemon peel. Otherwise, the recipe is closely inspired by that used for Saison #1, with some tweaking of the adjunct grains based on what I had on hand. Anyway, here goes...

  • 7 gallons Yreka tap water, untreated (like I said, the stuff is good)
  • 4oz Belgian pale malt
  • 4oz Belgian aromatic
  • 4oz honey malt
  • 6oz rolled oats

  • 4 lbs 60/40 wheat dried malt extract
  • 2 lbs extra light pale dried malt extract
  • 2 lbs regular ol' table sugar - it's cheap, and every bit as good as the rip-off "candi" sugar


  • 1oz 7.0% Styrian Goldings at 60 minutes
  • 1oz 3.8% Saaz 5 minutes

Spicing: all spices added at 15 minutes

  • 1 tsp coriander (cracked)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (cracked)
  • 6 cardmom pods (the contents thereof - discard the pods themselves)
  • 2 tsp dried lemon peel
  • A one inch piece of ginger, diced



"Mini-mash" the grains, steeping just below 150 for at least 30 minutes - again, I advocate the mini-mash proceedure here because I think it's really important to get some flavor and fermentables out of those adjunct grains, and also, the oats will only contribute ugly starch without some conversion action.

Add the dried malt extracts and bring to boil. Commence 90 minute boil (you could reduce your original volume and do a 60 minute boil for lower caramelization, but at this point I'm superstitious about the 90 minute boil). Hop according to schedule. At 15 minutes, add two tsp Irish moss. At 10 minutes, add the sugar (add late to avoid caramelization and get greater hop utilization earlier in the boil). Knock out and cool according to your preferred method. Final wort volume should be just at five gallons if your boil was sufficiently vigorous. Next, aerate, transfer, and pitch yeast. The O.G. on mine was 1.069...


What came out of this batch was unexpected and, I think, promising. The honey malt is aptly named - it really does seem to convey a honey flavor. Also, the oats came through strongly. I'd included them in the recipe primarily to support the lattice-like head that is characteristic of the style, but with the mini-mash, they seem to have contributed substantially to the flavor, too... What results tasted like an uber-sweet oatmeal. Not bad at all, just strange. And perhaps, just the kind of strangeness that works in a Saison. I'm really eager to see what those yeasties will do with those oats... The spicing is more mild this time, largely due to a weak crack on the pepper and coriander, but I think I'm okay with that. The lower lemon-peel level seems to have turned out well, and should shine nicely in the finished beer. But, foremost, I'm really interested in what's going to happen between the grains and the yeast... The hopping was a bit harder to discern. Strong hopping for a Belgian is weak hopping for most any other beer, and this wort was so sweet that it was hard to get a solid reading on the hop character behind all the sweetness. It's definately there, mind you, and at an appropriate level. It's just hard to detect the nuances. Whatever the case, I'm confident it will turn out well.

Updates will follow as the (unfortunately) slow-working WLP 565 works its way through this one.

Brewlog: Bachelor Party Porter

During my recent trip to Yreka, in addition to bottling the "Belgian small ale," I also brewed two additional batches. The first of those is recounted below...

Batch #23, 6/8/06: Bachelor Party Porter

My own journey into craft beer appreciation, begun long ago with the purchase of a four-pack of Old Rasputin on my 21st birthday, soon led me to the safe, approachable, and damn-tasty territory of Porter. I quickly became enamored of the ubiquitous Black Butte Porter, and the the obscure (outside of Siskiyou, Shasta, and Humboldt counties) but equally respectable Etna Porter. A lot of my early efforts in homebrewing - begun meer months after my 21st birthday - were attempts to brew a Porter like the commercial examples I so loved. I was moderately successful once with a prominent Black Butte Porter clone recipe. Subsequent deviations from that recipe proved, however, somewhat disasterous - some serious rookie mistakes were made. Eventually, as my interests drifted towards Belgian styles and hop-monsters, my homebrewing followed suit, and for the past two years or so, I've rarely bought a porter, and not once brewed one. Until now...

You see, a friend of mine is getting married this summer. For the bachelor party - which us men-folk are way more excited about than the actual wedding - we will be fishing, spelunking, and enjoying the craft-beer scene around Bend, Oregon. As a practical move, a gesture, and an excuse to brew, I decided to brew a batch specifically for the trip. I asked the soon-to-be groom for a preference, and he said "Porter," so a Porter I brewed.

When formulating the recipe, I went back to the Black Butte Porter clone, and made some more educated tweaks, based on what I wanted to change, and what was available in my brewshop. Foremost, the color on all my previous Porters has been, IMO, too light, so I opted for amber malt extract instead of pale. Also for color, and in the interest of increased roastiness in the flavor, I beefed up the dark adjunct grains for the mini-mash. Hopping decisions were made on a whim - let's hope they turn out well. Anyway, on with the recipe...

  • 7 gallons Yreka tap water, untreated (it has never done me wrong)
  • 9oz chocolate malt
  • 4oz black patent malt
  • 6oz roasted barley
  • 8oz caramel wheat (this was fairly dark stuff - equivalent to 80-100L crystal or so...)
  • 4oz caramunich
  • 8oz 10L crystal
  • 8oz honey malt
  • 7 lbs amber malt extract


  • 1.5oz 12% Erocia (or Eroica - both spellings seem to occur equally) at 60 minutes
  • 1oz 8.8% Amarillo at 30 minutes
  • 1oz 5.5% East Kent Goldings at 5 minutes



"Mini-mash" the grains, steeping just below 150 for at least 30 minutes - this being adjunct-extract brewing, it isn't an exact science, but I think with this one, it's important to be on top of things with the mini-mash, otherwise you just won't get the color and flavor that are so important to a Porter out of those grains...

Add amber malt extract and bring to boil. Commence 90 minute boil (for both caramelization and wort-reduction). Hop according to schedule. At 15 minutes, add two tsp Irish moss. Knock out and cool according to your preferred method. Final wort volume should be just at five gallons if your boil was sufficiently vigorous. Next, aerate, transfer, and pitch yeast. The O.G. on mine was 1.060...


The resulting wort from this session seems to have all the makings of a good porter. The color came through very well - the final beer should even have a tan head. From the honey malt, and perhaps the long boil, there were some interesting sweet flavors going on - I hope the yeast leaves some of that behind - it'd work well in the finished beer. I was worried about the hopping, especially when the Eroica/Erocia - with which I was perviously unfamiliar, and whose smell out of the pouch indicated that it was just another neurtal bittering hop, along the lines of the recommended Galena - started smelling very strongly of mint in the boil. This was also my first time working with Amarillo, but I figured one citrus hop could substitute for another. And what was I thinking finishing with EKG? Minty, to citrus, to floral? Nevertheless, the hopping didn't come across as weird at all in the final wort, especially behind the roastiness, and the bitterness level seemed appropriate for a nice moderate American Porter, along the lines of Black Butte... The London Ale yeast should leave a nice bit of the sugars uneaten, making for a good body and a slight residual sweetness. I'm also hoping for some of that mild fruitiness that works so well in British beers of all types, but is shunned by the Chico/Ballatine strain-loving American brewers.

Whatever the case, there's nothing to do now but wait, and hope to God that this stuff actually turns out alright, considering that I've already promised to share it with 10 people.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Brewlog: Belgian Small Ale - Update

Last week, after a few "recovery" days - that is, letting myself sleep in past 5:30 AM - I finally headed up to Yreka to get the Belgian Small Ale that I'd brewed back in mid-April into some bottles. Now, I hadn't been around to monitor this one, but contitions were, apparently, good, and the beer fermented out to a final gravity of 1.000, which means there was perfect or near-perfect attenuation (the fact that alcohol is lighter than water means there'd have to be a slightly negative hydrometer reading to indicate full attenuation). That's the first time I'd ever recieved as such from a yeast. I think I'm a fan of WLP 570.

Anyway, the beer fermented out beautifully, and it dropped crystal-clear. The final product, before bottling (and carbonation) was very pleasing. Though the breadiness I'd noted in the unfermented wort hadn't really carried through, the final beer was successful, to say the least. My somewhat questionable decisions to use the decidedly non-Belgian elements of not insignificant amounts of dark adjunct grains and prominent hopping both played out well. The floral/spicy medley of the Styrian Goldings and the Saaz hops along with the slight bit of roasty, tannic bite from the grains give substaintial character to this otherwise small beer. They also marry exceedingly well with the yeast characteristics from the WLP 570 - I suppose this shouldn't be surprising considering that it is the
Duvel strain. There's a sort of clean, phenolic bite left by the yeast that compliments the roastiness and hoppiness. Behind it, there's just a twinge of mild fruit esters. All in all, it came out tasting kinda like a roasty saison.

I'm not really one to toot my own horn, and I've certainly had a lot of dismal failures when it comes to homebrewing, but I must say I think this beer is a resounding success, and I'm very pleased about that. Lots of flavor in a very drinkable, low-alcohol package. And a rather cheap recipe too. I'll take this over a big quadrupel or double-IPA any day.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Election Results: the Mark of the Beast

Sweet Jesus I hope what I'm about to recount is just the work of a mischievious web-monkey in the Secretary of State's office, 'cause if not, it's damn creepy...

So, I went to check out the results so far. And with regards to the gubenatorial slots, this is what I saw on
this page around 9:13 PM:

Check out the results for the Peace & Freedom Party:I repeat:The Peace & Freedom candidate just happened to have 666 votes when I checked. In an election occurring on 6/6/06.

I just refreshed the results page, and the Peace & Freedom candidate now has 805 votes. So I guess it wasn't a prank. But what kind of luck do I have to view that page exactly when 666 votes were reported? Creepy...

Election Day

I did my part: I'm still disgruntled, however, by the lackluster options for the Democratic gubenatorial slot. A gazillionaire developer's pet monkey, and a corporate gazillionaire who resorted to some decidedly ugly campaigning. Slim pickings... I'm also disappointed that, because I just barely live in the wrong district, I was unable to vote in the heated county supervisor's race, a battle between a developer's lackey (son of the developer linked to Angelides) and an incumbent (funded in large part by the United Auburn Indians), with the core issue being the development of a new private university (which would equal beacoup bucks for the developer in question, though he'll tell you - in his television ads - that he's just concerned about "educational opportunities"). Local politics are quite fun this time around...

And concerning the vote for the Democratic candidate for the CA-04 House slot, I didn't vote for the frothing lunatic and personal enemy, Hamersley (honestly, this tool put "Tax Scam Investigator" on the ballot as his occupation). Nor did I vote for Lisa Rea, who, in addition to a being shameless panderer to the already over-represented and empowered senior citizens, is a flaming idiot, as is indicated by her allowance of the following mailing:I challenge any of you out there to explain to me why anyone would think that mailing would be a good idea, especially considering that it only went to registerd Dems. It plays to the most archaic and sexist frames for viewing femeninity. It's right up there with "get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich." It plays directly against the frames that tend to be held by left-leaning voters. I can't imagine a young, female, Democrat voter who wouldn't be turned off by that mailing. Rea is just another clueless Dem I that I want to hit over the head with a copy of Don't Think of an Elephant!

Anyway, nothing to do now but wait & check for results...