Archive for November, 2010

Sunday’s Dubbel

November 28, 2010

Second brew of the new Mount Vernon Brewery. Enjoyed the garage with doors open as Iowa warmed up to the mid-40s and sunny–a great Sunday afternoon of brewing.

Today’s session was an Abbey-style Dubbel:

1/2 lb. Dingeman’s Caramunich
1/4 lb. Dingeman’s Special B
Steeped grains in 2 gallons water, 170 degrees, 15 minutes.
Sparged grains with 1 gallon cold water then brought to boil.
6.6 lb. Northern Brewer gold extract, 60 minutes
1 lb Briess pale malt extract, 60 minutes
1 oz. Tradition hops, 6.9%, 60 minutes
1/2 oz. Tettnang, 4.5% 45 minutes
1/2 oz. Tettnang, 4.5%, 30 minutes
1/2 lb. light Belgian candy sugar, 15 minutes
1 lb. dark Belgian candy sugar, 15 minutes
1 oz Hallterau, 2.9%, 10 minutes
1 tsp Irish moss, 10 minutes
1 tsp Gypsum, 10 minutes
Cooled wort to 85 degrees then added distilled water to make 5 gallons.
Aerated and added 2 tsp calcium carbonate
Pitched a 1-quart starter of Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast

O.G.: 1.062

I will let this one ferment in our furnace room which stays in the mid-70s since this strain of yeast can tolerate warmer temperatures which will hopefully bring out more of the dark fruit flavors. Brewing went really well and I’m pretty excited about this. The wort tasted great–lots of malt and carmel sugars with a touch of hop spiciness. I’ll let you know how it goes in a month or so. In the meantime, these brewing sessions have helped me figure out how to get the all-grain system up-and-running. There are some technical issues at the new house to be worked through, but I think I’m figuring it all out.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksiving filled with plenty of good beer. Prost!

Sarah Palin and the Reality TV Politics of ’12

November 27, 2010

“I just love being out here and being free.” I haven’t watched Sarah Palin’s Alaska show (nor do I imagine I ever will) but I have seen this line in her promo.  Yes, I love being out in the mountains and “being free,” too. But the phrase has this completely Palinesque quality to it when she says it; it’s not just about a love of nature, it’s an American statement. And in her world, she can define who is free and who is American–the real freedom and the real American. It’s the way that word freedom gets tossed around these days. Say it enough and it will do the work for us, rather than really getting at what we mean by freedom. Sarah Palin: politics by catch-phrase. It’s like the whole “let’s take back America.” Take it back from whom? Oh, that’s right, all of those people who live in cities (how “un-free” can you be in her world) or on the coasts or who believe that intellectual skills are actually a reasonable expectation of our leaders aren’t really Americans, are they? It’s a disturbing rhetoric that would suggest that a  majority of Americans are not actually “real” Americans.  Who gets to define American? And who gets to define being free?

But this isn’t really what I called you here today to talk about. What I find really amazing is that the producers of the Sarah Palin show can actually say it’s not political. This is the woman who is vying to be the very voice not only of conservative values but of America, the leading figure in an ongoing culture war. This is also the woman who could well be positioning herself to be the Republican candidate in 2012. (In many ways, I’d like to see her actually run; I think that it would force her to say something other than the hollow cliches she’s been spitting out for two years, and I really think that if she were forced to actually say something then even conservatives would see she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. But I also think she’s well aware of this and won’t run–it’s much more comfortable in the world she lives in now where she can make more money than she would as president, can shape the tone of the cultural debates, yet never have to really say anything of substance). But even if she doesn’t run, the show has incredible political weight–it’s not only a free commercial for her, it actually pays her to keep her in the spotlight. I mean, if she had actually declared as a candidate, I think there would be a question of political contributions and who is paying for the show. Now, I know that’s not the case since she hasn’t declared, but that’s not my real point. I mean, I don’t begrudge the producers or the station for doing this–yes, I know it’s the essence of free speech. But can we please call it what it is? To keep Palin in the spotlight, in a place where she can banter about “freedom” without having to actually discuss the issues isn’t political in this ever-divisive political climate? If you believe that, then I’ve got a bridge to nowhere I’d love to sell you.

Happy B-Day Dr. John!

November 24, 2010

Dr. John in Vienne France, 2006

Yes, the Street Parade is a few days behind schedule on one of its important dates. Dr. John, Mac Rebenack, celebrated his 70th birthday on Nov. 21 and the Street Parade wishes him a happy one.

I remember when I was a teenager, all I knew of Dr. John for many years was his wonderful rendition of “Such a Night,” on the Band’s Last Waltz. I had no idea really of how important he is as a musician for probably a decade until, in my mid-20s I was fortunately turned on to his real body of work. New Orleans second line music, rhythm & blues, a touch of psychedelia and you get amazing albums like “Gris-Gris,” “Gumbo” and “In the Right Place” (recorded with the Meters and Allen Toussaint).  As a session musician, he has recorded with the Rolling Stones, the Band, the Meters, Van Morrison, Carly Simon, and the Neville Brothers among others. He has become the voice of New Orleans, and to celebrate his birthday, here’s a little sample of his bad muppet voodoo self from the early 70s:

The New Brewery

November 13, 2010

It took a few months from moving in to get the Freeman home brewery up and running, but just brewed the first batch today. The biggest issue was getting a usable sink in the basement. We just added a double sink to replace the old 1950s shallow sink, but this meant redoing the drain system because the old version was set too high to accommodate a deeper.  sink. More of a job than I hoped when we moved in, but really nice now to have a two bins to work with.

For the moment I’m brewing in the garage, but I have a shed out back that I’ll turn into a brewery.

This was actually my first brewing session since my back surgery, now almost two years ago. I eased back into it with a kit brew, but my goal for this winter–the real goals of my sabbatical which starts in January–is to get a brewery set up so that I can get back into all-grain brewing.

For easing back in, I started with a classic, highly hopped IPA:

Steep 1/2 pound Briess Caramalt 40L and 1/2 pound Simpson’s light Crystal Malt, 15 minutes, 170 degrees.
Strain grains.
Bring to boil with 9 1/2 lb Northern Brewer Gold extract. 60 minute boil.
Boil 1 oz. Yakima Magnum hops, 14.2 alpha, 60 minutes
Boil 1 oz Cascade, 5.7 alpha, 40 minutes
Boil 1/2 oz Warrior, 17.2 alpha, 30 minutes
Boil 1 oz Centennial, 9.6 alpha, 20 minutes
Boil 1/2 oz Warrior,  17.2 alpha 5 minutes
Add 1 oz Warrior, 17.2 alpha at very end of boil
1 tsp Irish Moss and 1 tsp gypsum for final 15 minutes of boil.
Cool to 80 degrees, stir in two tsp calcium carbonate and Wyeast American Ale yeast starter.
Stir vigorously to aerate.
Original Gravity: 1.070

When I tasted this before it began fermenting, the hop profile was pretty intense. My plan had been to add an ounce of Amarillo hops to the secondary fermenter, but I think I’ll see how it’s tasting at that point and decide. I’m always for more hop, but I don’t want it to be unbalanced.


I think next on my brewing list is to go higher gravity and make a double IPA. Stay tuned.

The other nice thing about my brewing set-up in the new house is we have a canning room that is easy to turn into beer and wine storage. At the moment I’ve got lots of other beers and wines stashed there, but it will be great for aging beers. It might even make me interested in using lager yeasts again since the winter temperatures will be pretty cool. I’m not a big lager fan in general, but I’ve always had that dream of creating a recipe that’s close to Paulaner Salvator–one of my all-time favorite beers. We’ll see.