Sunday, May 15, 2016

Letting Beer Grow Old

Tonight we embark on an epic journey. A journey that may end in two, five, or even ten years. There's also a reasonable chance the journey ends early next week. This journey will require my gang of friends to seek out mythical pirate treasure buried somewhere deep under the homes of our seaside town while we simultaneously fend off a second-rate mafia crime family. No, wait, that's the plot line for The Goonies.

The topic tonight is aging beer. There is no journey; unless you count years of aimlessly roaming the earth until you reach the target age of your beer.

A quick Google search will help you find good information on putting your beer away long term. Your first stop should be a 2012 post by the professionals at Dogfish Head. There is also some good information to be found at Beer Advocate on cellaring beer. Guys Drinking Beer sum it up best when they say the key to cellaring is forgetfulness. Finally, the Washington Post has a good read on why not to cellar;  most beers are best served fresh.

The four bottles we are laying down are date stamped April 12, 2016. Today, May 15, 2016, they are in the back of the beer fridge where they will remain for years to come. The goal is to age the beers two to five years though I've read about some enthusiasts looking at 10 years; and read one post that claimed the staff at Dogfish Head said 120 Minute IPA can age 50 years. True or not, I'm not interested in a beer that will outlive me. So, a couple five years will be right by me.

 Stop by in 2018 for a review of this aged beer...or in 2019...or 2020...or next week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Show Women the Money!

Today is Equal Pay Day; a reminder to men everywhere that women are superior. Women are smarter, better at multi-tasking, and tolerate pain better (ahem, childbirth). Oh, and women can grow babies in their bodies while being smarter, better at multi-tasking, and generally ruling the world. Let's not forget taking care of men who barely survive the common cold or, heaven forbid, the flu. All this for 79 cents on the dollar. Not a bad deal...for a man.

If you're looking for evidence let me point you to the efforts at Huffington Post. A great piece by Catherine Pearson provides both data and anecdotal stories providing evidence that women are underpaid. The most glaring example comes from the world of soccer/futbol where members of the US National Women's Team filed suit with the EEOC alleging wage discrimination against the US Soccer Federation. The women generated $20 million more in revenue than the men and won the World Cup. Co-Captain Carli Lloyd wrote that, while she received a $75,000 bonus for winning the World Cup, the men would have received a bonus approaching $400,000. Let's take moment to ponder the lunacy of the US men winning the World Cup. A sizable bonus does seem acceptable given the miracle it would take to accomplish such a feat. According to ESPNW, the "women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year. But the men would likely earn $263,320 each for the same feat, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games." This is a sport where, in the US, the women are more talented, win regularly, and generate more revenue than the men. If that is not the business case for equal pay....actually, the women should make significantly more than the men in soccer/futbol.

It is no better for women who shatter the glass ceiling. According to Fortune, more than 80 percent of female CEOs in the Fortune 1000 have families and are CEOs of fortune 1000 companies. However, when the Associated Press published the 2015 list of the 10 highest paid CEOs only one was a woman. The top two male CEOs made more than the top 10 female CEOs combined. Part of this may be because in top companies male CEOs far outnumber women; which simply proves the glass ceiling is still in place.

You're probably amazed and enlightened by all this but thinking "Fortune 1000 CEOs and global sports is a little different than the real world". Actually, it's not. Right here in our backyard it happens all the time. The Buffalo Bills are facing a lawsuit by former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders who claim they were paid below minimum wage and required to attend events without pay. The team, recently purchased by a multi-billionaire, said it will continue to fight the allegations. According to American FactFinder*, the median income for men in the 14052 zip code is $53,654. By comparison, the median income for women in the same zip code is $32,070. That's a difference of more than $20,000 and the local numbers are not much different than the national numbers.

It is time to pay women the $0.22 they are rightfully owed.  Our wives, daughters, colleagues and friends deserve better. Women have earned it for years. Women will get up tomorrow, and everyday, to earn it again. This is not just a women's issue. This is a family issue. This is an equality issue. Equal pay for women is just one step in the fight for equality but it is an important one. It's 2016, let's start acting like it.

*S2401 Occupation by Sex and Median Earnings in the Past 12 Months (in 2014 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars) for the Civilian Employed Population 16 Years and Over. ZCTA5 14052.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy 2016!

New Year's Eve has never been a particularly important day in our household. Even in the pre-restless natives days we never really celebrated. This year, our trusty assistant declared a new New Year's Eve tradition at the farmhouse: we shall brew to close out the calendar year; which allows us to celebrate the new year with a new beer. Also, it's our hope that you hate the word "new" by the time you get to the bottom of this post. 

Name: Out with the Old
Original Gravity: 1.062
Final Gravity: 1.022
Primary Fermentation: 4 days
Secondary Fermentation: 74 days

Age 14 days

3.3 lbs CBW Pale Ale Malt Extract

3.0 lbs Munich Malt
1.0 lbs Crystal Malt
1.0 lbs Wheat Malt
1.0 lbs LD Carlson Maltodextrin
0.5 lbs Chocolate Malt
1 1/8 cup Muntons Plain Light Malt Extract
Abbey Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs)
1.0 oz UK Fuggle Hops (4.2% alpha)
1.0 oz Cascade Hops (5.5% alpha)

Pour the grains into 4 gallons of cold water. Mash at 148 degrees F for 15 minutes. Raise the temperature to 160 degrees F and hold for 45 minutes.* Sparge grains to produce 6.5 gallons of wort. Bring wort to boil and add 0.5 ounces of UK Fuggle and 0.5 ounces of Cascade hops. Boil for 15 minutes and add malt extracts. Boil an additional 10 minutes and add remaining Fuggle hops. Allow boil for an additional 5 minutes and add remaining Cascade hops. Remove from heat. Cool, transfer to primary fermenter, and pitch yeast at room temperature (for us 70 degrees).

Results: This beer turned out quite well, in part due to greater attention to detail than some of our more recent brews. Despite the spike in temperature*, the brew is a solid abbey ale. Flavor is sweet and malty with just the slightest bitterness on the back end. Color is very dark caramel; medium carbonation. If there is a negative it's that we expected a richer, more complex product. This may come with more aging. Regardless, we are very pleased with the results.

*At approximately 28 minutes remaining the temperature spiked to 170 degrees F. Heat reduced to lowest setting. At 22 minutes remaining heat turned off. Ended this phase with approximately seven minutes remaining (45 minutes reduced to 38 minutes). Obviously, this was not part of the original recipe.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I Want to be in A Secret Society Too

As our nation mourns the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia we continue to learn about the circumstances surrounding his death. Late yesterday, the Washington Post broke news that Justice Scalia spent his last moments of life with the International Order of St. Hubertus where he was a high-ranking official. A secretive fraternity for hunters dating back to the 17th century, the “knightly order” places an emphasis on hunting and, almost certainly, world domination.

Of course, IOHS is not the only secret society. There is the well-known Bohemian Grove. Yale University has Skull and Bones. The New World Order, which may or may not exist. The Secret Society of Happy People, which I can only imagine is a front for marijuana smokers. The Illuminati, which may or may not share membership with NWO. The Freemasons. The Klu Klux Klan. The Boy Scouts. The list goes on and on. Actually, a quick Google search identifies an untold number of these societies leading one to believe the definition of the word “secret” is loosely applied.

Today, we add to the list.

Introducing the top secret, members only, St. Gambrinus Society. The SGS is a secret fra-sorority of homebrewers and craft beer drinking individuals with questionable moral character.  Individuals will only be considered if they are male or female or both, gay or straight or LBGTQ, must be considered part of at least one race or ethnicity, maintain income that is considered within the 99 percent or the 1 percent, be cool, be nice, and be fun. Members must be be of legal drinking age.

The St. Gambrinus Society is hereby established to: 1) create, consume and support high quality homebrew and craft beer, 2) find a cure for hangovers, and 3) achieve world domination.

The supreme leader of the St. Gambrinus Society (me) shall be known only as the Grand Brewbah. Next steps include creating other leader and membership titles, designing a crest, develop a secret handshake, and other corporation-type stuff I'm sure. And an official ring, we definitely need that, too.

If you're interested in becoming a charter member of the Society you may request an application by sending an e-mail to It wouldn't hurt to throw in a couple of Bitcoin.

Who is St. Gambrinus? We’re not entirely sure but if he existed he probably liked beer. From the Catholic Exchange:

St. Gambrinus is not really a saint. In fact, it’s unclear whether he was a real person or simply a myth based on real personages. Nevertheless, St. Gambrinus embodies the joyful enjoyment of alcohol, and has even been credited by some with being the inventor of beer. Other say he learned the art of brewing from the gods, and still others say he simply was a man who could down epic amounts of beer. Regardless, he is famous in European folklore for typifying the merriment brought by the blessed brew.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rental Review: Ford Focus

Some crack string theory scientists subscribe to the theory of infinite universes or "multiverse". Somewhere on that infinite, flat timeline I'm actually an auto journalist for Jalopnik. But I live in this universe where I toil away as a middle-management public servant. In keeping the dream alive it's time to introduce our newest segment: Rental Car Review.

In this series we take advantage of the numerous times my job takes me across the empire state. Generally speaking this travel requires the use of a rental car from a company that shall remain unnamed. This series is less about the rental company and more about the ride. Also, I'm making an assumption that these are the types of cars most drivers rely on daily - a small or midsize vehicle, typically sedan-ish and modestly equipped. So, maybe this will be fun or maybe it will simply feed my car obsession.

This past week I took a road trip to Oswego, NY. If I were a travel writer in a parallel universe I'd wax poetic about the romantic welcome offered by the big nuclear power plant right on Main. Instead, we're going to discuss the 2015 Ford Focus that got me there and back.

Nicely equipped with heat, a/c, power windows, and a radio, the Focus got the job done. Overall, more good than bad.

Don't buy this car: First, the EcoBoost engine shudders, shimmies, and shakes at 0-20 mph. It's fine after that but it's disconcerting off the line. Second, it's small. I'm no giant but I felt like I barely fit (confession: I happily leased an early Focus 15 years and 15 lbs ago so it might not be the car). Third, this model didn't have the one-touch window up feature. That's critical when dealing with toll roads. Finally, sound system isn't great and the car rides a little loud; both of which impact music quality.

Buy this car: First, it's a lot of fun to drive. After you pass 20 mph it's easy to see why younger drivers are attracted to the Focus. It's small, lightweight, and you can zip around. Could easily upgrade to the ST and really spin some wheels. Second, Sync gets a lot of heat for poor functionality but I hooked up my iPhone to play music in about 10 seconds. Kids today need more than music so maybe it's a problem but it did right by me. Third, can't argue MPG. A full tank of gas took me round trip from Buffalo to Oswego. That's never a bad thing. Finally, made in America. The 2015s are but Ford is negotiating with the United Auto Workers and it's expected that smaller cars like the Focus will soon be made in Mexico. So, if earth friendly made in America is your thing - get 'em while you can.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Kill All the Lawyers

You live in western New York and need a lawyer. There is no shortage of ambulance chasers but who can you call? How can you reach them and, more importantly, when can you call? Because you need help now. For your convenience, we offer the Dumbarton's Brew Guide to WNY's Premier Ambulance Chasers Attorneys at Law. The firms below met our rigorous review standards. They were not chosen simply because their phone number consists of one even number. Actually, the phone number is the only reason.

Dial: 716.222.2222
Summary: The Turbo Team specialty is DWI and apparently nothing else. As they say, pick one thing you're good at and stick with it. However, you can call 24/7 and they are happy to come visit you at your home or office; because the boss loves when his employees meet with lawyers at work.

Dial: 716.444.4444
Summary: Personal injury focusing primarily on, you guessed it, auto accidents. Really, helping people is what they do. Also, they have a "No Fee Guarantee" - you don't pay unless Mattar wins your case (little known fact, this is how it always works).

Dial: 716.666.6666
Summary: Some say it's the most powerful law firm in the country. They only hire lawyers that have never lost a case. The only thing it will your soul.

Dial: 800.888.8888
Summary: Previously Cellino, Dwyer and Barnes. Rumor has it the shameless chasing was too much for Dwyer so he took off to do some honest lawyerin'. Personal injury attorneys that advertise primarily for auto and construction accidents but they can do it all. Medical malpractice - check. Truck accidents (yes, it's different than auto) - check. Defective products - check. Even dog bites! Cellino & Barnes offers a No Fee Promise (see No Fee Guarantee above). Also, you can text them.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Time for a New Christmas Tradition

Another Christmas holiday has come and gone. The best part of this particular holiday is the television. Christmas specials ranging from Charlie Brown and the Grinch to National Lampoon and A Christmas Story. With DVR and streaming access you can literally watch these specials every waking moment of the season. Ho ho ho yourself into a Christmas coma.

In 2015, let's add to the repertoire. I humbly suggest 1985's Better Off Dead.

Better Off Dead stars a young John Cusack as Lane Myer; a high school student in Greendale recently dumped by his girlfriend. Hijinks ensue when Lane focuses his energy on winning back Beth and finding various ways to deal with his depression. Lane eventually meets Monique, a foreign exchange student living with his neighbor Ricky, while trying to make a run at the K12. In the meantime, Lane lands a job at Char Burger (everybody wants some) and openly street races with two locals who learned English by watching Howard Cosell.

What is often overlooked in Better Off Dead is the Christmas subtext of the movie. Al Myer and his neighbor get matching winter coats. Monique gets an explanation of Christmas from Ricky's Mom; who is not sure if the holiday is celebrated in France. Jenny Myer gets a boatload of tv dinners. 

Everybody remembers Johnny's tenacious demands for his two dollars (plus tip) but this is really a Christmas story with a miracle happy ending. Lane gets the girl and the car, bests the K12, and blows up Ricky's mom. Miracle on 34th Street has nothing on this. If you haven't seen this movie multiple times, you're an idiot - go watch it now. If you have, maybe next year take a break from 24 hours of A Christmas Story to watch something different. Let's all make Better Off Dead a new Christmas classic.