If you liked anything I said here, please consider buying me a beer!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas: A Year In Review

Getting older is usually something that happens overnight.  One day you wake up fresh-faced and ready to take on the world, and the next day you are shitting down a tube wondering who that old man in the mirror is and if he's here to touch you or not.  Sometimes though, you get little glimpses of your mental state and it's shifting around on you, and for me that was Christmas this year.

In years past, Christmas wasn't a big deal for me, beyond getting presents and stuff.  My family was never really close so I don't have traditions as such during the holidays, except maybe for going to friends houses and eating their food while their families all smile at each other.  It hard for me even now to make time with my family.  I look at them as strangers sometimes, and I need to get over that.

This year was a small turning point - one of those that makes you realize that yes you are 35 and yes you are getting older.  It's the realization that Christmas really is about the people you are with and not just what you get.  I know that sounds like the most obvious thing in the world ever to everyone, but it's really easy to say, harder to actually feel.  This year I had more fun giving gifts and watching what everyone else got than I did opening my gifts.  Not that I used to be selfish, but yesterday I thought that if I hadn't gotten a single gift, it would still have been a great Christmas because I got to watch people I care about having fun and being happy.  As it happens I got some rad gifts so thats all good, but ...

Anyway, just sitting here in my empty house, reflecting on yesterday and this whole last month in general, and it's been good.  Scary, because I am growing up (I have always thought of myself as a 25 year old for some reason), and that's not as dreadful as I once had thought.  It's a good feeling to have the friends I do and to share time with them.  It's always been easier to be with friends than family, and changing that will be my focus for the coming year.


This post brought to you by some nasty funk!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dear Craft Beer, I Stopped Giving A Shit. Love, Me.

Dear Sweet Craft Beer:

This posting will be hard for you to read, I can tell already.  But I have some things I have to get off of my chest (mainly your calf-high brewing boots), and it's only after I recently read an article about how big breweries are making a push into craft beer that I had the proper amount of frustration with you to adress this.  Please bear with me.

The topic is nothing new.  Like the latest Hollywood release or prime time TV show, its a re-hash of things that have been talked about for years in the proper circles.  Meaning, by dorks on forums and people who sell craft beer.  Yes, we all know how large breweries like ABInBev, MillerCoors, etc., are trying to draft (no pun intended) on your success by pushing brands not affiliated with their larger chain of ownership.  Example, Tenth and Blake, the "craft" arm of MillerCoors and their library of non-MillerCoors brands, like Blue Moon.  Is it clear that the larger companies are hiding the fact that they control these brands?  Yes. Is that ok?  Of course it is.

What got me thinking about our relationships though, were some quotes in that article about these new brands from the Evil Big Breweries.

"There are two types of consumers," says Anat Baron, the director of the documentary Beer Wars, which explores the battle between micro- and macro-breweries. "Consumers who shop by price and just don't care who makes the stuff that they buy, and other consumers, which are a minority, but I think a growing minority, that actually care about who makes what they buy."

I never realized it before, but it's this exact line of thinking that made me stop being so in love with you.  The idea that there are only two types of consumer - one that cares and one that doesn't - is the exact source behind the Beer Snob label that has been cast down on myself and others like me.  I call the loudest "bullshit" at this quote.  You know me, Craft Beer.  I love you!  I run in your fields and climb your trees.  I celebrate you at any chance I can find and I bring others to lay at your feet in some bizarre and possibly pseudo-sexual ritual, but I am also broke as a joke.  As a result, I cannot afford your higher-priced gifts.  So I shop according to price because I have to, but also because I WANT to.  What I have noticed is a trend of breweries selling your wares at insane prices simply because the product was aged in a barrel for 6 months.  And sure, the brewery has to account for some of that, but there is a point where someone has to say enough is enough.  No, I won't buy your high prices any more!  I love you, but there is a point where you can be too full of yourself and you need to be brought back down to Earth, to your humble beginnings of IPAs, Pale Ales, and Stouts, sans bourbon aging.  I shop for craft beer by price, and I don't care who brewed it.  If they make good beer, well ... that's the bottom line.  I also drink Coors and PBR.  Does that make me someone who simply doesn't care about you, or who made you?  No.  It makes me a thirsty man who, at the moment, is drinking a Coors.  And if other lovers of craft beer could just try a little harder not to snob it up, maybe they could enjoy it, too. 

There is a misnomer about you, craft beer, arguably started by craft brewers, and that is beer made by large brewers is a bad thing.  It's bad!  Regardless that it's over 50% of the market and has been for a number of years.  Regardless that those beers are the hardest to brew.  Don't even look over there, focus  on craft and how artisanal we are - look, we have beards!  And these things - they are hands!  That we use to pick up malt with!  That white stuff, actual grain dust!  See?  We ARE different!  What craft brewers fail to see is this is the same marketing their "evil" large breweries have engaged in for years.  In fact, it's the same type of marketing that businesses  engage in.  This attitude that all craft brewers are buddies and there is no competition like there is in Big Beer is bullshit. Everyone is selling you, Craft Beer.  This is a business and they are out for my money just as much as Coors is.  Some brewers even say they don't advertise, because that's what big beer does ... again I say Bullshit!  If you print flyers for pint nights, you are advertising.  If you sponsor homebrew functions, you are advertising.  Print coasters?  Advertising.   Sell shirts?  Still advertising!  The idea that one is better than the other is a poison in the craft industry.  

Well, Craft Beer, that's all I had to say.  I felt I had to tell you why I stopped really caring so much about you and decided to just drink what I want to, regardless of who makes it.  In the end, it doesn't really matter much.  We are all going to die with failed livers, pissing into a bag in a hospital bed, so why not do what you enjoy now.  And for me it's not buying into your marketing that you are better because you care, or because you don't use corn in your beer.  If you really wanted to be better than Big Beer, Craft, you'd stop worrying about what Big Beer is doing and worry about what you aren't.  


Friday, September 21, 2012

Some Days It Pays Not to Leave The Couch

Today was the day, folks.  The day that I re-open my little shitty beer brewery and start brewing again. I usually stop in the Summer months because I hate sitting in the heat, and I cannot get my conical fermenter down much past 25 degrees below ambient.  And since I typically ferment in the low 60's, I figure it's just time to give my house a rest from the homebrew, you know?  Sure you do ...

Brewing a beer for Can You Brew It is always a treat, as it means free ingredients from the best homebrew shop around, Northern Brewer.  Since they sponsor the show and have practically every ingredient known to man, they are kind enough to ship us CYBI brewers whatever we need.  For poor folks like myself, this is the only way I can really afford to even have beer on tap as of late.  Todays beer is Turbodog, from Abita Brewing.  A malty brown ale, it's one of my favorites and perhaps THE best brown ale I have ever had!

I start at about 11am, get the PBW recirculation going, heating the mash water, etc.  Shoot down the block to swap propane tanks at 7-11, then back an ready to dough in.  Perfect, all is well - the smell is amazing already, smells just like the beer does!  BeepBeep - my alarm tells me it's time to recirc my mash.  Which on normal days is easy, right?

Snap!  I hook up my hosing, everything is going well so far.  I pop open the ball valve to the mash tun and see the tube fill with sweet wort - oh it smells so good!  Grab the plug to the pump, jam it home and  ... whirrrrrrr-grrrrr!  Stoppage!  It's ok, this pump has sucked for years anyway and just needs a restart.  Nothing.  Nothing again and again.  I open the bleeder valve at the bottom of the pump and watch as blobs of grain come oozing out.  Thinking back over my steps, I wonder what ... the FALSE BOTTOM!  Yes, this fat, bald asshole - who rags on homebrewers all the time, forgot to put the false bottom into the mash tun prior to graining in.  Perfect, I know.

So I grab a pot and start scooping out grain-laden wort and dumping it into the empty boil kettle so I can insert the false bottom and transfer the grain back.  "I can salvage this day!", I told myself - and I almost did.  Everything went smoothly and within 10 min and about .75 gallons lost, I was back at the pump controls, jamming away.  The nothing laughed at me.  The pump struggled, but there was no output.  I took apart the ball valve leading to the sparge arm, cleaned out the grain clog, and tried again. Still nothing.  So I investigated further and found a two-inch long clog inside my sparge hose to the ring.  Ok, fine.  Flushed that out and ...

Hot wort shot out of the only unclogged hole in my sparge ring, spraying my garage door like some alien porn star.  Shutting the pump down and controlling my urge to knock everything over and cry, I once more grabbed the sparge ring and flushed it out good.  All ports were open and water flowed freely.  Again, back to the mash tun, again to the pump and with a burst - wort flowed freely!

After the first of two spray downs ... 

For about 4 seconds.  Then another massive shot of hot steamy wort to the garage door - the fucking thing clogged on me again!  Pump off, I surveyed the day:  About 3 gallons of wort on the floor/garage/me, grain in every loop in the system, wort in the burners, wort in the sparge water ... it just wasn't happening.  So I tossed a hose out into the driveway and opened the mash tun ball valve, bleeding it out like some freshly shot pig or something.  There was just no saving this brew day.  I worked on it for about 45 min, aerating the wort, clogging and unclogging ports.  I called it quits, friends.  I just didn't have it in me, and even if I had saved some, I'd be adding water and DME and the beer would have been not what it should have been.

The first 3/4 gallon.  


Tell me I'm not the only one this has happened to.  Please?  It would make my two-hour clean up go by so much faster.

This post written under the influence of Steel Panther and anger. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Shakoolie: A Review

There are very few moments over the age of say, 12, when you are asked to not only re-examine your showering habits but to adjust them and add steps to them.  Pretty much if you have showered 5 times ever, you have it locked down, right?

Enter ... The Shakoolie.  Drinking beer in the shower is a new idea for me.  I'm not one to crave beer so much that I can't wait the 3 minutes it takes me to shower (having a bald head has its advantages).  Some of you out there weren't blessed with the ability to say "No", so I can see where a product like The Shakoolie can add to your X-Games-like showering production.

The Shakoolie is a beer koozy with velcro on the back.  That's it.  You stick the fuzzy side of the velcro on your shower wall, and pop a beer into the koozy, then smash that koozy onto your tile and BLAMO - instant beer holder.  Again, I'm not some raging beer head.  I can wait for a beer.  Plus, I don't like being naked for any length of time so I want to get in and get out, no time for enjoying a cold beverage.

Reservations aside, I "installed" The Shakoolie in my shower and asked my roommates to each have a go with it.  The overall opinion in the house is that The Shakoolie works as advertised, and quite well.  The velcro was able to hold the beer while I was busy with my undercarriage, and was easy enough to pull off the wall and steal a sip while rinsing.  I can't say it revolutionized the way I shower or anything, but the roommates with hair, and who as a result do shower longer, seemed to enjoy the option of taking their beer into the shower with them and having instant access to it.

The Shakoolie.  It holds your beer so you don't have to!

Shakoolie - Installed, loaded, and ready for  action!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another Death on the Farm

Georgia: March - August, 2012

We found Georgia dead this evening, laying in a heap in the corner of the coop.  There were no apparent marks on her that indicated an animal had gotten to her like Lucretia did, rather, Georgia just looked like she was asleep in the dirt.  The birds did that some times, just sat in the dirt, trying to keep cool or whatever.  I banged the coop wall with my fist a few times, hoping she would wake up and go scurrying out into the run to peck at the ground with her friends.  Instead, she just lay there.

Pulling her out with the shovel, she was stiff already.  Her eyelids closed, and all the color from her waddle had drained back into her body, leaving it a faded rose color.  I looked her over as best I could, what with her being stiff already, and found nothing wrong.  No peck marks, no bites.  She wasn't eggbound (eggs can actually get stuck in the bird's vent sometimes, causing a backup and death).  She just looked to have simply ... died.  Which was odd because I had seen her about 3-4 hours ago that day running around and being a chicken.  Not standing still out of illness or having trouble breathing.  I think she either got scared by one of the other birds and smacked her head on the top of the coop, breaking her neck, or she had a heart attack.  And that kicks up so much anxiety for me, because that is how I always imagined someone finding me - curled up in a heap, eyes closed, color drained from my face.  

After Lucretia, I told myself that I shouldn't get too attached to the birds, because their lifespans are shorter than most pets, and with the raccoon and possum population the way it is around here, it would only be a matter of time before one works its way into the coop again.  Recently, the girls had been doing very well in the mornings as far as squawking went, and we had just bought them some scratch treats to feed them, too.  Our little farm family was finally coming together - we were getting about 14 or so eggs a week, the birds were calming down, and I was sleeping in longer.  With all that, it's hard not to be attached.  

Butter and Daisy leaving a spot for Georgia on the perch tonight ... 

Anyway, that's the update around here.  I wish I could find out what really happened to her, but a necropsy test is over $100 plus shipping, and I just can't swing that.  So I'm going to stick with some random act of fate (whatever it was), and move on.  Georgia's resting place is in the yard, near the maple tree, right next to Lucretia.  The clay fox that was her marker has now been shifted, pulling double duty.  

You were a good bird, Georgia.  The best we had.

You will be missed. 

The Avengers

I just got a chance to viddy The Avengers movie, and this post might have some spoilers, so if you haven't yet had the opportunity to spend money on this thing, I suggest you find another post to disagree with.

Going into this film, I knew it was going to be more about effects than storyline.  The comic book movies to come out in the last 10 years have been more flash than substance, and The Avengers didn't disappoint.  In fact, I hesitate to call it The Avengers movie, singular, as it felt more like some mash-up of Thor 2 and the ending of The Dark Knight Rises.  Which kind of makes my point that superhero films are all about violence.  They stumble and try to build a story, but as in The Dark Knight Rises, they fail miserably.  A love story I can understand - a film needs people to root for beyond the basic Hero model, but the job the writers did in The Avengers, putting Scarlett Johanson and that dude from the equally abismal Hurt Locker in some stubbly, irritating banter just made me care less about them both, and had me rooting for their jet to go down in flames.

I never liked Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, either.  He's too cocky, where Fury is traditionally cold but not sarcastic.  So that bugged me going into this whole thing.  I know I'm being picky, and I know some of you are going "oh it's just a fun movie" and all that, but movies can still be fun AND made well.  Look at Citizen Kane.  And yes, the effects were good, it was believable and the CGI looked great.  But since when do we judge a house on the window dressing?

I did like The Hulk though.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chickens Are Odd Ducks

When a chicken first begins to lay, you are supposed to move the egg and put it in the nesting box (which is just a section of the coop with a hinged door to it), in order to train the bird to lay where you can have easy access to the eggs.  I never did that with Butterworth, because, since Lucretia died, Butter was the only bird we had.  No point in making her learn new tricks, right?  Well, now that we have three birds laying, they all want to be in Butter's spot - right behind the perch, and I think this is a reason Daisy freaks out at times, because she wants to lay, but if one of the other birds is laying in the spot - her spot - she flips.

So today, after cleaning the coop out and filling it back up with nice, clean bedding, all three idiots layed their eggs within an hour.  All in one spot, right behind the perch.  For whatever reason, I decided to make today the day I start making them use the nesting boxes.  I carefully shifted Butter's egg and Georgia's egg to both sections of the box, leaving Daisy's egg behind the perch.

Look carefully and you can see all three eggs ... 

45 min later I go out and check on the birds, which is really just an excuse to get up and walk around for a bit.  Working from home is nice, but sometimes you just sit all day long.  Daisy has a habit of moving eggs around the coop, so I lift the nesting box lid and find that someone had moved all three eggs back to their original spot, right behind the perch. 

All three back together again.

Chickens are such weird animals - they have strange habits and funny ways of moving around that they keep me entertained all the time.  This is just one part of it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Figuring Out Who You Are

I had originally gotten into this blog deal because I wanted some sort of platform to express my own personal thoughts on myself, which sounds very self-serving ( and I suppose it is).  Not in a "look at me" way - I have radio shows for that - but more of a "why do I think this way" thing.  I want to figure out who I am and why I react the way that I do towards certain things so I can become a better friend, or so that I can say "I'm real funny", which is usually not the case.

This is an uncomfortably open book of a post, but one that I'm kind of ok with writing.  It's odd how sometimes being honest over the internet is easier than opening up to a friend or loved one.  Maybe it's because we aren't used to censoring ourselves when we write.  Forums have erased that filter we have always been taught to have when writing, and that has given way to the impulse post.  The demand for instant information just encourages us to rush through out thoughts, clarity be damned.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot of how I come across to people, and how they view me as a person.  I think I'm pretty easy going, but I do have a certain set of standards when it comes to things like entertainment.  I'm not so easy going when it comes to going to the movies, let's say, because I know that, for the most part, after the movie I'll just be more disappointed and $20 poorer than when I went into the theater.  Does that make me a negative person or a realist?  The majority of the time I'm totally comfortable with this decision to be cautious, but occasionally the look of disappointment on my girlfriends face because she wants to see a film that I won't go to sort of makes me feel like a jerk-off.  Why can't I suck it up and just deal with watching a shitty movie?  I don't know.

Same thing goes for beer.  My thoughts are that if I'm going to pay $6 ($7 with tip) for a pint, I want it to be a good beer, or at least what I think passes for good beer. And if I don't see any beer that's worth that to me, I say that.  Aloud.  In public.  Doses that make me a whiner?  An asshole?  Or just someone who knows the value of a dollar?  I used to think nobody gave a shit about what I said, but a few times recently I have been told I'm negative, and that I hate everything and blah blah blah blah ( I don't know, I stopped listening).  Which just isn't true.   I like lots of shit, I'm just picky about the quality of the shit I like.

What's the divider there?  What is it about my personality that I seemingly cannot express my views without just being labeled as a negative person?  How can I become more positive without sacrificing my ideals and excellent tastes?  I'm working on finding out.

                                                   Blah Blah Blah Dinosaur Jr.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Chicken Update

Wow, it's been a long time, eh?  Many of you have been asking for an update on my chickens, so I felt that was as good an excuse as any to get back into this blog thing.

Daisy and Georgia

All the birds are doing well and getting along, which is great.  During the hotter days, which have been many here in the East Bay, the two newer girls (Daisy and Georgia) have been mimicking Butterworth and her desire to let everyone know that she has risen and is ready to great the day.  Which is not so bad I guess, but at 5:30 each and every morning it gets old.  At least the younger birds don't yet have that cynical tone to their squawks yet, as they remain cheerful and almost cute.  Recently, this has died down a bit and all three girls are being somewhat quiet.

Daisy and Georgia looking like idiots, with Butterworth in the back

The best update, though, is that all three birds are now laying eggs.  Georgia started first, which for some reason upset Daisy a great deal.  Daisy would just run around squawking while Georgia was up in the coop nesting.  She'd come in and just push Georgia up to come play with her outside, clearly unaware that she had more important things to do.  Even when Daisy started to lay, she'd raise a stink when her buddy was inside.  This, too, has seemed to quiet down somewhat, but it was a tough 3 weeks there for a bit.  Daisy clearly needs some therapy.

Now that everyone is laying, we get at least two eggs a day, sometimes three.  Daisy likes to move every bit of bedding away from her to lay, and as a result, many of her eggs crack when they hit the ground.  But it's not that big of an issue, as they don't really breach the shell, just spider it a bit.   Daisy is the one laying the green eggs, by the way.  So it's more of a shame when we have to toss hers out due to cracking.

Our egg bin as it stands now, with no new eggs today ...

That's it really.  So far, owning chickens has been a real adventure.  After about a year or so, I'd say it's not for everyone - the amount of time that I have had to go outside to quiet them down took a toll on my sleep for awhile.  BUT ... I'd still recommend looking into it.  Chickens are rad, and make really great pets.  If you are thinking about it, talk to your neighbors, tell them you'll be handing out eggs to them and see what they say.  It helps to have a shitty dog in the neighborhood, too, that you can blame noise on.  Works for us.

This post written under the influence of Superchunk

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Brewing Network: A Club You Can Count On!

This is an open letter to all of those homebrewers out there that not only didn't applaud The Brewing Network Club  for winning Club of the Year, but actually booed us as we took the stage.  You know who you are ...

Dear Homebrewer:

I have been a homebrewer for about 15 years, and have been attending the National Homebrewers Conferences for about 10 years now - my first was in LA in 2001, and I've only missed two so far.  Each year, when all of you win awards for your beers, the room claps and cheers in support and solidarity.  You are so proud of your fellow brewers as they take the stage - throwing up high-fives as they pass your table.  It's a heartwarming thing to be a part of.  The club taking home the Club of the Year trophy is usually driven to the stage by a thundering round of applause and sometimes a standing ovation.  And why not?  They've earned it.  Whenever I talk to non-beer people about what it's like to attend one of these award banquets I tell them about the love in the room, about the cheers, about the brotherhood of the homebrewing community.

Enter: The Brewing Network.  Last year when we won COTY, we got no love from you.  No cheers, no high-fives.  Just silence with some boos.  Ok, fine.  It was the first time an internet club had won, and maybe something like that just needed some adjustment time.  When we won this year, we got the same treatment - quiet, boos, frowny-faces.  This is not the way I had been describing our community for the past 15 years.  This is someone elses hobby.  Someone elses gassy family.  Not mine. 

Standing on stage, holding our club award and listening to the silence of 1800 "friends", I realized that our community is not the big ball of love and support we all claim it is.  You people out there that were sitting in the dark, glaring at us with hate-filled and blood-shot eyes are ruining homebrewing.  So here is my request: Get Out.  Just leave.  Take your resentment and ship it back home with you so your wife and kids can hate you some more, and leave this to the rest of us that actually love to see our friends win.  I was embarrassed for the whole lot of you, to be honest.  You are all adults and well, well over 18 years old and yet you still fail to show humility when you lose.  Shameful. 

The BN Club stands as the only homebrewing resource for a great deal of brewers out there.  Just because there is a club near them - if at all - doesn't mean they have to be a part of it.  And standing there on stage with my friends, looking out into the crowd, I can't say I blame them for not wanting to share this hobby with you.   Just be happy that other people are happy and move on. 

After all ... its just beer.  Ain't it?

Stay Classy, Homebrewers.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cars Land: A Special Preview

Disney's California Adventure park has always been a puzzle to me.  If there has ever been a half-baked idea in Disney, it would be DCA all the way.  It was a theme park without a proper theme.  An entire land celebrating the state that it's in just seems too ... incestuous to really work.  Sure, there are bits fo the park that are actual rides having nothing to do with a California theme, but those are very few to make the park a viable option when spending time in DCA.

Recently, they opened a new ride, Ariel's Undersea Adventure or something like that (if you want to see the thing, watch this shitty video of it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIarm5FEQXI), which is actually a pretty sweet ride, fan of The Little Mermaid or not.  Anyway, they were working on this ride when they started on a new Cars Land, based on the popular animated film.  Having never seen it, I could give two shits about it.  In fact, the only thing I was excited about was that a new section of the park also meant more connectivity throughout DCA.  No longer would I have to walk in a huge fucking circle to get where I wanted to go.  Cars Land was also coming with a newly designed park entrance (which I talke about here) and a new little downtown called Buena Vista Street, set in the 1940's.  Right on!

My girlfriend won passes to an advanced showing of Cars Land, and so we headed down to check it out. Our passes gave us access to BVS as well, and it was a real treat to be able to walk around a section of the park ahead of everyone else, but also while they were still working on it.  Shops were open, food was being sold, and some shop windows were being propped and set - it was pretty rad.  Sorry, no pics of this, as - to be honest - it was rather dull.  The buildings are beautiful, but the colors were boring. Lots and lots of creme and dark browns that just washed the buildings out and blended everything together.  I walked around with my camera, trying to get an interesting shot but soon gave up.  It's cool to see, but it left me wanting more from Disney.

Walking on, it was time for Cars Land.  I was forced to watch the film the night before, so I sort of had an idea of what to expect, but nothing prepared me accurately enough.

Entrance to Cars Land

Downtown, with bonus fatties

The land is set in a canyon, so 3/4ths of it has these high walls, simulating rock.  The bits of rock that are supposed to be off in the distance have a more pastel color tone to them, so they really do seem far away, when in reality they are at the same level as everything else.  The rock work is amazing, and the painting really makes you feel like part of the film.

Leaning Tower of Tires!


Rounding the corner, you hit the main drag of Cars Land, where all the shops from the film have been reproduced.  Flo's V8, Sarg's place - it's all there and it looks super legit - complete with cracks in the sidewalk and aged pavement to further replicate an old little town, save for the part of the road Lighting McQueen had to repave in the film (if you haven't seen it, you really should, if for no other reason than to get all these small things). 

Shitty pic of Stanley
The level of detail to make the rock look old is amazing
The rides are just ok.  We started with Maters Junkyard Jamboree which was total shit.  Basically, it's a ride that whips you in a figure-8 for 30 seconds, while Mater sings really awful songs at full volume.  Lame.   The second one, Luigi's Flying Tires, had a 75 min wait because the main attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, was down (again).  So we decided to watch it rather than blindly queue up.  The premise is that you are on a hovercraft-type thing shaped like a tire, and you ... bump into each other.  It had no point, and I didn't really get it but I will admit that everyone on that ride was having a great time.  Mind-blowing.

The food at Flo's is pretty good, actually. And they have beer!

Racer 5 and Red Rocket!

Eventually we got on to Radiator Springs Racers, which is like a slot-car race that wings you around a track while you race another car next to you.  It's a fun ride, but the lines will be long so I suggest you take advantage of the Single Rider line they have.
Night comes to Cars Land and the neon flickers to life, and THIS is the best time to come here.  Neon makes everything look better.  

I've bored myself already, so yeah ... Cars Land.  Choke on it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The End of Craft Beer

Craft beer has been riding a rocket of growth over the past few years, and unless you are unplugged from the beer world, you already knew that.  Everyone is a champion of craft beer these days.  From the guy crushing pints of IPA at your local, to the fourth guy in your homebrew club to start a beer blog, it seems you can't get away from the juggernaut that is American Craft Beer.

But can this be a bad thing?

Here are the numbers: in 2010, there were approximately 1,800 breweries operating in the US.  This includes brewpubs, large breweries and non-craft breweries.  In 2011, this number increases to about 2040 breweries, not including closures (of which there were 35).  Over 2,000 breweries in the country in 2011, all pumping out beer, all needing one thing: ingredients.

An industry that relies on a purely agricultural product to survive cannot be sustainable forever.  At least, not while experiencing record growth.  There is only so much land on which to grow food to eat, much less to boil it down, ferment, and consume the dregs.  Our land is shrinking to strip malls and condos, and the products we rely on to make beer shrink with them.  Take the US Hop Crop, for example:  The acreage of hop farms in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon (the three states we rely on the most for hops) shrank last year by a combined 16%.  Imagine that - the farms that we rely on for our hops are now smaller than they were last year, by a good chunk.  Now, yields have risen by 80 pounds or so, but when the total crop is down almost a million pounds over last year, 80 seems like a very small number.   We all remember the "hop crisis", when the average size of the hop farms decreased by about 9,000 acres (and the price per pound rose but never really seemed to fall?).  With this giant growth of craft beer, are we going to be able to get the hops we need for our own beer making?

Then you move on to Barley.  Most of the barley that we get here in the US comes from our buddy, The Great White North (most of our crop is 6-row, which we don't really use in craft beer).  In 2008, the production was around 11,700 kMT.  Shift to 2010, when production fell to just around 8,200 kMT.

So here's my question to the craft beer world: When will the bottom drop out?  There has to be a limit, and for years we all speculated that the ultimate factor would be the consumer, where they would simply stop trying new beers and stick with the few brands they enjoy today.  But more and more it seems likely that the new growth will be governed by the availability of resources - namely malt and hops.

And here's a question to the homebrewers out there: we are already limited on our selection of barley an hops (though you don't know that) due to contracts signed by craft brewers extending for years and totaling into the millions of dollars.  So what happens when the almost 250 breweries that are waiting in the wings in California alone come online, demanding their share of two crops that have been in steady decline for the last 3-5 years?  Will homebrewers see a rise in prices - again?  Look at the trends - large breweries opening second brew houses - not just expanding, building new facilities.  Sierra Nevada alone is doing a pint night at a bar where 55 taps will be SN beers. Think about that.  Really think about how much malt, how much hops it takes to make 55 batches of individual beer styles, on a scale like that.  And you think you are worried now about not finding Amarillo ...

Just some thoughts I had while on the phone with my buddy Sean Paxton, talking about new emerging styles of beer and the future of craft beer.  I give it 5 years and then, if you don't have your contracts etched in stone, or your brewery isn't in more than 4 markets ... you're out.

I've had a few sources of info for this stuff, but the two I found most useful were the following:
This is just my interpretation of the numbers.  I could be wrong. 

This post written under the influence of Hank III

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Truly Putting It Out There

Ok, I'm going to violate several of my own personal beliefs here and actually question why brands are not getting into politics.

Normally I hate it when I hear a company or celebrity drop their viewpoints on a politician or bill or law, but this particular one I am having issue with.  The issue of gay marriage/civil unions.

Recently, the great state of Colorado voted down a civil union bill without so much as a debate on the subject.  And in North Carolina, they have passed an actual Amendment to their state constitution outright banning Gay Marriage - which didn't matter much as the state has already outlawed it.

Colorado is already known for great craft beer, but North Carolina hasn't gotten as much heat for it, mainly because, well, most of us don't pay the South too much attention.  With the expansion of three large breweries into the state, there is more weight to be thrown around than ever.

And this is a perfect opportunity for craft beer to assert it's power in these states.  To become true industry leaders - no, not only industry, but community leaders as well.  Show the country that craft beer is more than simply something to drink when you are tired of Bud Light.  We have a voice now.  And we are looking to you,  large craft brewers, to step forward and lobby for more than zoning laws or waste water disposal.  The country is ready for equal rights for all, and those that aren't are simply too stupid to see the horizon and all the changes that come with it.

Tell me I'm wrong.  Please, please tell me brewers in these states are doing what they can, and it's not just about growing their market share.  I mean, isn't that what the big, nasty brewers are about?  Push the envelope.  Break the mold.  Become something.  Changing the way we drink is fine, but show that you care more about peoples lives than you do about barrels.

This is a hot issue.  Claim it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Marketing is Marketing

Yes, I hate to break it to you, but it's true: marketing is marketing, regardless of who puts it out.  As fans and devotees to a movement that is still very much underground, the breweries we follow and the beer bloggers we read have asked us to segment this information and treat marketing differently.  As if overnight it has changed into something more lofty than sales, and that those breweries that are still doing things "the old way" have some how grown horns and reverted to human sacrifice to hit their Q3 goals.  "Your" beer is not better than "their" beer.  Because your beer has the IBU's listed on the side of the corked bottle does not tower over the other beers simply because they choose a nicer label or a high-priced marketing firm.

I'm drinking this right now, and I am proud of it. 

The age of the craft beer getting by simply on the "poor me" method of marketing is over.  Consumers have taken craft beer to the next level and it's letting us down.  There is no more room for bullying - especially since we have accused the "Big Beer" guys of the same thing.  Telling it's customers that craft beer isn't good, that it's not as consistant.  By brewers saying their beer is superior to another simply because they make less of it is ... kind if insane.  To question someones courage or manhood because they drink yellow beer is, to be honest, scary.  Nevermind the fact there are many styles of beer that are "yellow", that attitude is becoming too aggressive for my tastes.  I don't want to be a part of a movement that says "Drink this not that".  Do you?  Do you really, REALLY care that much about what I drink?

If we are to ever get the mainstream attention we deserve, we are going to have to accept the fact that Budweiser is the best-selling beer in the world.  Does that make it less drinkable, or less valid as a consumer good?  No!  It's a fine beer and one that is extremely hard to make.  Any asshole can whip out a pale ale (and many craft pales taste like it, too), but I can count on both hands the number of breweries that can be as consistant as a Bud or Coors.

We should admire the big beers and learn from them.  The more we alienate them, the more we do the same to those who are loyal brand suporters and will not cross over to craft beer.  Ask your local brewer if he can afford to drive folks away.   But I bet I know the answer.

This post written under the influence of Crass.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How To Be a Bum

Being a bum is a lot harder than I have ever thought.  I mean, you actually have to put some effort into it, like, what day are you going to brush your teeth on?  Or, how far past 4pm are you going to STILL be wearing your robot jammie bottoms?  Despite the mental workout, I think I keep it all straight.

I have been telling myself (and my sugar-momma) that I am using this time to work on my creativity and to really hone my writing skills.   So far, I have built a coop expansion, cut the angle of my slice by 2 degrees, and eaten all the snacks when Thursday rolls around.  Well, that's not entirely true, but sometimes that's how I feel.  It's been interesting, spending so much time in my head and trying to focus on what I really enjoy.  Trying to figure yourself out is no easy task.  Especially when you have a horrible personality like I do.   I can shoot too straight at times, and sensitive people can't handle that too well.  Not that I come out firing insults and yelling, but I know what I want and I know what will work and what won't  It's amazing how just that assertion will turn people off.  Which is why I love the few friends I have, because they understand that deep down, I'm really not an asshole at all, and that I come from a good place when I work.  What's been really cool though, is using my self-reflection to better understand people.  I've gotten a lot better at recognizing that shit happens, people fuck up, and it's ok to let them off the hook.  Well, some people.  I've worked with a few in my past who fuck up more than they produce and I'm glad I'm long gone from those days.

And I am working, by the way.  In fact, I'm working on my second script, which is about a guy going through changes.  It's pretty good so far, all 1.5 pages of it.  But my buddy Jason and I have a solid story, it's just up to me to push it along. Oh, and it involves the blues, too, so I'm leaning heavily on R.L. Burnside for inspiration.  If you don't think you like the Blues, give R.L. a shot - he's one of the best.  

Also, if you are doing any Amazon shopping, please hit the banner up top first, so I can get a little taste of that.  Not much, just to get my beak wet, you dig?  Or, if that creeps you out, you can hit the donate button so maybe one day I can afford cable.  Thank you. 

R.L. rocking out like his cock was out. Which it's not. So stop looking.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Coop Expansion

With the new chicks almost ready to go outside, I felt the pressure to expand the coop by a few more feet.  Ms. Butterworth was already getting a bit cramped in her little house, and with two more birds in there it would have been way too small.  So more room is needed.  Using the left-over wood from the first build, I planned out an expansion that more than doubles the current space.  It doesn't look like much, which bothers me a lot, but I have to remind myself that it's just a chicken coop.

I hope to have the thing fenced off and done in the next few days, but this is what it looks like so far.  Not bad really, considering I'm a total idiot when it comes to construction.  I probably bent and pulled more nails than I drove in ...

The plan is to just cut that side of wire out, butt the expansion up against the wall there, and let the birds run free in the grass.

Before Construction
Currently, with bonus Butterworth action!
Ok so it's a TAD bit wonked up, but ...

Once everyone is in, I'll post some pics of that.


This post written under the influence of Little Walter

Friday, March 23, 2012

Exclusive: New Brewery ... Online?

I heard rumors about a new trend in the brewing world over on Twitter - a totally online brewery.  Working my extensive network of industry connections, I was able to have a short e-mail interview with the owner/brewer of the new project, Mr. Arthur Devlin.  It's not the best piece of Q & A I have ever done, but I wanted to post the conversation and be the first to break the details, so forgive me.  Since Mr. Devlin was replying to me on his phone, I have taken the liberty of correcting his spelling.

Here now, is Art Devlin.

JP: Art, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for my readers.

AD: Sure thing.

JP: I know you don't have much time, so let's get into it.  Tell me about this new brewery.

AD: Well it's something that will, for sure, revolutionize the brewing world.  And I can't tell you too much about it for just that reason.  But essentially, I'll be running the entire process from home.  From my couch.

JP: How do you mean?

AD: Pretty much just that - I'll be able to mash, run off, boil, and pitch yeast right from my couch via the internet.

JP: Now, why bring this approach to beer, when so many craft beer drinkers are focusing on beers made "By Hand" or at the very least "locally" or with local ingredients?

AD: Because it makes sense to me.  It's the perfect blend of tech and innovation, is it not?  While most brewers are trying to figure out enzyme reactions, or how to turn the mash around and get another batch going, I'm focused on eliminating the hard work altogether.

JP: Are you concerned at all about any possible backlash in the brewing community?

AD: The brewing community will accept the way I am doing this for a few reasons, but mainly because they will hate it.  People talk the loudest about things they hate.  Most beer drinkers these days ARE indeed looking for a "hands-on" approach to brewing as if it matters at all.  If I dump my grains in by hand or if my silo opens up and the grain is metered by a valve makes no difference to the final product.  So I think people will drink my beers more often simply to see if they can find a flavor implication that nullifies my process.

JP: I've heard rumors about your packaging design.  Can you get into that at all?

AD: Sure, I think I can let the cat out on this one.  Our product will be released in unique 9oz. plastic packages that are shaped like a mustache.  The back label is removable and has a small application of Spirit Gum that enables the drinker to actually wear the package on their upper lip.  They will come in a 6-pack we are calling "A Pack of 'Stache".  We think the mustache is a greatly under used and modernly effective form of marketing that we are aggressively pursuing.

JP: Can that kind of focused marketing work in the long run?

AD: With the low over-head I have by working from home, we expect to have recovered our equipment costs in 7 batches.

JP: And the package costs?

AD: Well, our beer will sell for $49.95 each, so we will have paid for the entire 50,000 run of these things in about 5 months.  Everything after that is pure profit.

JP: Not to be rude - because you have been kind enough to grant me this interview, but ... that seems a bit high to me.

AD: And it is.  But our studies show that if you have a solid gimmick and a high price-point, the sky is the limit.  Today's beer drinker will accept a low-quality product if the gimmick it's surrounded by is a unique one.   Think "Blue Mountains".  Think "Dead Squirrel".  Think "Quad IPA".  Think "Limited Special Release".

JP: It's not all that common to hear someone in marketing speak so candidly about their process. Are you afraid that the consumer won't even give you a chance based on what you've just told me?

AD: LOL - no.  This won't even be remembered when the product comes out.  With the 24-hour news cycle these days, there will be something else coming down the pipe that will effectively shake the keys in front of the face of the public, distracting them.  I have to run now, it's my turn to see the doctor.


So that's it, that's my interview.  Personally I think the thing is a huge sham and almost insulting to beer drinkers. But the guy seems to have a grasp on marketing, I'll give him that.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Chicks ... Finally!

Last you heard, we had a chicken get its back torn out by some ... THING in the middle of the night, leaving us with one bird - Mrs. Butterworth.  As a person who advocates having more than one of the same type of pet, it was time to get new birds.

So, on March 3rd, we went out and grabbed two new chicks: an Ameraucana and  a Gold/Sliver-Laced Wynadotte.  Again,  you gotta have at least two of the same pet, or your OCD kicks in and you attach human emotions to your pets.  Ya dig?

Nice Poop, dude. 
Cat toys?

There is some debate on which bird is which type, and we will settle on names as soon as they begin to ripen. The interesting part (if there is one), is how fast these things grow.  We got them when they were about two weeks old or so, and their wing feathers are already coming in.  After two weeks, most of their fuzz has changed into solid feathers!  It's kind of amazing, really.  They are already in their awkward stage, and makes me happy that my backyard is like the isle of Lesbos, or else I'd have to give everyone "The Talk".  

The Ameracauna? Or Wynadotte?

At any rate, we have about 9 weeks to go until they go outside. That's all from BirdTown. Now's the time to remind you that if you are buying anything from Amazon, please click the banner up top and shop that way.  Or hit that Donate button if anything I said here is worth while to you.  Not that it ever would be.  But I don't know if you have a history of head trauma or anything, and might be sensitive to that sort of recommendation. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Taking Photos At Disneyland

I love Disneyland.  I also love taking interesting pictures, though I really hate carrying my DSLR around the park all day.  Sometimes I forget that I have a fairly good quality camera on my phone (as most of us do), and in good lighting I can take a very nice quality photo with it.

On a recent trip to Disneyland I rediscovered the HDR app I installed several months ago called, of all things, HDR Camera.  I have the Android version, so if you are Apple-inclined, I'm not sure if this applies.  HDR ( or High Dynamic Range) photography is rad, combining different exposures from multiple images of the same subject to produce an image entirely new and impossible to get from just one single image.  For an example, check out my buddy Charlie's HDR of a snow day downtown.  My app can't do images of this quality, but it is good enough to offer a different photo experience while at Disneyland.

The app takes 4 photos, each at different exposures, and meshes them all into one picture.  Then it gives you some ways to adjust things like color saturation and contrast to sort of dial in your new HDR image.  Most of the time I end up tuning the saturation and contrast sliders up all the way, but that's just me and that's how I like the images that come from this particular app.  The hard part is holding the camera still while it cycles through the four pictures.  Just breathe out slowly and you'll be fine. 

Ok, so the details are done, let's look at some pics!  Here are two photos I took of the Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland, something I've been wanting to see for a long time now.  See it: it's cool, and something not many people know about.  It is a bit too cheesy at times, but hey - who cares?  

The Daper Dans are singing, and sounding great.  The first image is just my little Droid X on Automatic.  The second is another pic I took using the HDR app.  As you can see, everything pops a bit more, while not looking too cartoonish, as can happen with HDR photos.  Nothing fancy, but it does enable you to take a more vivid photo with minimal work. 

I've been really into the Haunted Mansion lately, and on this trip it just screamed HDR to me.  

This is a good example of not having enough light in the other shots to compose a decent image, but it's still a bit more interesting than it would have been normally.  The siding on the walls of the porch stand out more, while keeping the rest of the house covered in shadows, with just enough moonlight to define some edges.  I don't have a normal shot to compare, but it's still an ok example of this app.

These were taken inside the mansion, in the elevator that takes you down to the ride itself.  The top one is normal camera function, the second is the HDR app.  The differences here are clear - not only are the colors brigher, but you can see some detail on the gargoyle to the left of the frame. Some of the right gargoyle and the candle flames are blurred out, however, and this is a good example of the downside of mixing 4 pictures in  a free HDR app.  I'm not sure why this happens, though I imagine it's probably a factor of matching all four pics into one and accounting for camera movement.  Oh well, I'm not looking to print these, just to have a little fun. 

Nothing fancy here, I was just testing it on the plaque that sits above the fountain in line for Pirates.  Ever notice it?  It's in HDR, so the color of the tile and grout is a bit more saturated, and I think the detail of the engraving is more pronounced.  Not to mention the rad color scheme near the bottom, closest to the water.  

HDR is better when you have some cool lighting to play with, and night time at Disney California Adventure offers a playground of lighting effects.  This shot is of the zephyr ride (which always seems to be broken when I want to ride it ... ) and the entrance to Paradise Pier.  

THIS is what HDR can do for your images.  Never mind the ugly blue cropping at the bottom, just look at the almost neon blue sky with the lights playing off the wires.  Good shot for a free app.  Try taking this with your camera phone and the sky will be dark and the lights blown out.  

Leaving DCA, I had to snap this pic of the new sign at the entrance, again reaching for the softness of the HDR app.  This was my favorite photo from the trip.

They don't look all that different, but I think the bottom image in HDR is more interesting when you look down at the gates and bars.  

I hope this makes you want to futz around with some free HDR apps in the future.  They can be great fun, but they eat your battery alive and don't always produce great results, but I think it makes you look at Disneyland in a new way, while looking for cool photos to take.  It's not a fix-all for bad photography, but more of an extra tool in your bag to have some more fun. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Next Great American Brewer

I first heard of this show last year when they were calling for homebrewers to audition, and until recently I had hoped the project had died out. After watching this all too long promo video for the show, I still wish it had died on the table.

In case you don't know, I had a show that was oddly similar to this one called B.Y.O.B. TV last year.  From what I hear we did fairly well in the ratings - at one point beating out SNL in the Bay Area.  Not saying I believe that (though when was the last time SNL was funny?), but it's a good piece of info and makes me feel good so I'm sticking with it.

At any rate, if you haven't seen this new show promo, hide the sharp objects and go watch it.

Back?  Wipe the bile off your chin there, and let's talk about it.

The obvious complaint I have is that it's fairly close to our show.  Homebrewers competing to be the best brewer by doing brewery tasks, cooking with beer, brewing beer, etc.  It does differ from ours as there are no men wearing lipstick or playing Liars Meat, but the structure and many of the competitions are direct ripoffs.

Ok, so that's out of the way, let's deal with location.  Chicago, they say, is one of the centers of craft beer in the country.  Um ... seriously?  Goose Island is there, and they make good beer, but that's about the sum of it.  Why not do it in San Diego, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, anywhere but Chicago?  I assume it's just to be close to The Sieble Institute, but to say that town is the center of anything but blues and knife wounds is just a joke.

During the planning phases of our show, we talked about having one of the challenges that homebrewers have to do is some sort of marketing thing.  After seeing that part of the new show plugged in the promo video, I'm extremely glad we didn't put it in our show.  Who really wants to sit there watching homebrewers pitch their bottle labels to people?  It just seemed like the most boring thing to watch, and I'm very pleased that we didn't make our audience slog through it.  Not to mention that most commercial brewers don't have a say in their brand marketing, so I'm not really sure what this has to do with the best brewer in the country.  I can make a mean beer, but my art has never progressed much farther than putting shorts on stick figures.  Does that mean I wouldn't make a good brewer?

Back out of the actual show for a second and look at the marketing ...

Douche bag new host
Greg from Stone Brewing

Anything about this seem familiar?  Did this show have a single original idea, or did they just take bits from various areas and re-package them with an easy-to-use applicator?

Aside from the content, production value is just as - if not more important than the activities on the screen.  One thing you learn when shooting video is to always check your White Balance (the setting that makes the color white seem like white).  Even in the promo the whites where very yellow in the indoor shots, and when they weren't yellow the shots were dark and poorly lit.  Come on, kids!  You are supposed to be professionals, how do you shoot footage and not have the white balance set right?

To be honest, I stopped watching their video halfway through.  Which makes me feel a bit bad for them, because if they can't even hold my attention in a sizzle reel, how can they hold it for an hour?

No, it's not sour grapes. I don't care that they stole bits from my show.  I'm just sad they took them, squatted over them, and laid cable.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Death on the Farm

R.I.P. Lucretia 
The Madame, trying to lay an egg ...

It was bound to happen, really.  With all the stray cats running around my neighborhood because shitty fucking pet owners can't fix their fucking animals, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. Yes, one of my birds got taken this AM.  Drug into the bushes by a faggotcat.  

I heard them squawking around 6:30 this morning, which is a bit early but I just figured it was due to the mornings getting lighter.  It wasn't the type of sounds you'd expect an animal to make if it was in danger, more like just general "Ok I'm up now" noises.  Though they did sound closer to my room than before ...

Finally I look out the window and see Butterworth just walking around on the grass, with a shitty fucking stray cat right next to it!  I run outside in my bare feets and my boxers - the cat rips out of there and Butterworth is just chilling out, looking at me as if this happend every day for her.  I pick her up and take her to the coop, and then I saw the Trail of Feathers ...

Somehow the coop door had been opened - unlatched and opened - and starting from the front door there was a good 3 foot trail of large feathers, probably wing or tail, then a little break, then another trail of smaller feathers leading to the bushes.  Oh shit ...

A quick examination shows me two chicken feet lying in the dead leaves, obscured by branches and matted feathers.  Fuck.  

Anyway, I buried her by our Japanese Maple tree, and put a clay Fox statue our friends left as a sort of grave marker for her.  Even though she was just a chicken, I had her for about a year, and she was my pet.  I paused to say a few words, but the only thing I could do was tell her I was sorry over and over.  

I don't handle death well.  After my Mom died suddenly, not a day goes by that I don't think of my own mortality and when my ride will end.  When things around me die it's even worse.  I know it's only a chicken, and that things die and blah blah blah, but she was our chicken.  I held that bird every day it was a chick.  When I'd go buy her worms I was exited to get home and feed them to her.  It's sad to have to bury a pet that you brought up like that.  Especially one that got it's back ripped out by a fucking faggotcat.  

Even though Lucretia was the loudest of the two birds, and the one that laid the smallest eggs, she was part of the team, and I feel bad for Butterworth now, as she's the only one left. I'm the first to say that we, as humans, anthropomorphizes animals too much, but I have always been a believer in having two of the same animal so they have a companion.  And I can't help but feel that even a chicken can realize when they are the only one left.  

I'm fucking sad.  And I hate that.  I hate being sad about a bird - it's a bird, a chicken!  Fuck, man, get a hold of yourself!  But in reality, she had more personality than that.  She was a pet of the house, and I will miss her shitty squawks and small eggs.  Her stupid darting head and her knocking over their water feeder because she liked to eat wet dirt.  She was an idiot, but she was my idiot.  

I'm sorry, Lucretia.  I'm really very sorry.