Monday, July 31, 2006

MSF Homebrew Contest-Updated

Yesterday I assisted some forty-six others-homebrewers, professional brewers, beer lovers and BJCP certified beer judges-in judging the 570 homebrewed beers entered in the 2006 Michigan State Fair Homebrew Competition. This was the largest homebrew competition ever held in Michigan (by about thirty entries). It also qualifies as one of the largest competitions in the country. We had beers entered in every category sanctioned by the Beer Judge Certification Program, as well as entries in every mead and cider/peary category (28 categories).

My job included judging two categories, India Pale Ales (IPAs) and Ciders/Pearies, along with another experienced judge. In the cider category, there were four of us judging twenty entrants,, two BJCP judges, each paired with a novice/experienced, non-BJCP certified judge (that's me!). We chose the best three entrants in that category, finding three nice examples of ciders/pearies (pearies are ciders made with pears instead of apples). The top three included one from each of three sub-categories: Common cider, French Cider and Peary.

In the IPA competition, there were forty-one entrants, judged by four pairs of judges. Sadly, the eleven entrants I assisted in judging were less than spectacular, having only one entrant reach the score of 39 (top score is 50, though rarely reached). One of the IPAs we judged did make it to the final three, though: a nice English IPA. It came in third, behind the first-place American IPA and a splendid Imperial IPA.

It was fun and educational. And, while I was finishing up the tally on the ciders, I heard a discussion at the next table about a Tamarind/Lemongrass Wheat beer they were judging. Hhhmm, I did enter such a beer into the competition. Wonder how it did?

As soon as the results are in, I will let you all know how the five beers I entered (and the one I assisted in brewing, with my friend, Jeff) scored.

Best of Show awards will be judged at the State Fair on August 26 at 4 P.M. I am going to be there this year, if just to observe the process. Best of luck to all participants!

NEWSFLASH!-I received a call yesterday notifying me that "at least one" of my beers has "placed" in the contest! I have no further information than that and won't until the 26th and the Awards Ceremony.
Man! I hate waiting!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Michigan State Fair 2006

I am submitting several beers to the 2006 Michigan State Fair Homebrewing Competition this year. Many of you will remember that I took Second Place in last year's competition in the American Wheat Beer category. I hope to top that this year with more awards. I submitted an American Wheat again this year-this one with lemongrass in it for a tangy, citrusy kick, an Irish Red Ale with rye in it, an American Amber Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale, and a Wheat beer in the Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer category-it has tamarind and lemongrass in it. I assisted my fellow brewer, Jeff, in making an Old Ale, a strong, garnet-colored ale that originated in England but has become somewhat popular in the US, lately (Third Coast Old Ale, by Bell's is an example. Try it!). He will submit this beer to the competition and I will be listed as the assistant brewer. I hope he wins a medal!

I will also be judging this competition on July 30th at King's Brewery in Pontiac. Of course I will not be involved in judging any of the categories in which I've entered beers.

If you make it out to the Michigan State Fair this year, try coming on August 26. The Best of Show judging will take place that day at 4 PM. You just might see the Beerme team collect at the winner's circle!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Soft on Crime?

Talk Show host, Rush Limbaugh, shown here displaying the vigor of the Golden EIB microphone, has been cleared of all charges against him for possessing a bottle of Viagra with his doctor's name on the prescription label. Paul Miller, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, said in June that the alleged violation could be a second-degree misdemeanor.

Florida Assistant Attorney Paul H. Zacks said in a filing that a case against Limbaugh couldn't be "proven beyond a reasonable doubt." Zacks said that even though one of the Viagra bottles was prescribed to someone else, that person was Limbaugh's doctor, who apparently agreed to have his name on the label "to avoid potentially embarrassing publicity" for Limbaugh.

Of course the truth is that the "alleged violation" is not a crime at all, as it is legal for a doctor in Florida to prescribe a medication in a third party's name as long as everyone involved knows who the prescription is really for. This hasn't kept the Limbaugh critics from pumping up the volume on their calls for his prosecution, though.

After eighteen years on the air, Limbaugh's cadre of listeners continues to swell, despite some stiff competition from other conservative talk shows and the fledgling Air America offerings, which are working hard to recover from limp ratings. He has always been a lightning rod for leftwing critics but has continued to weather the storm with an upright message that keeps his fanbase solid.

While Rush could not be reached for comment, it is expected that he is keeping a stiff upper lip about the situation and will carry on as usual behind the mic at the EIB studios. He was seen lighting a seven inch, fifty ring Honduran cigar after the filing. Perhaps this incident displays some of the impotence of his detractors, dedicated though they may be...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Long, Strange Trip

Summer Vacation, an American institution if ever there was one, has changed considerably over the years with the introduction of the automobile and the US Interstate system. The Interstate Highway System is fifty years old this week, having been begun by Dwight Eisenhower's administration in July, 1956. It served the country well for most of those fifty years, in directing traffic from suburbs to city, from city to city, and around the country. The system was simple in it's spoke-like, hub design, directing traffic around and to the inner cities, which were the hubs of the traffic patterns. Traffic has changed considerably, though, in modern America. The system has lagged behind.

Originally, this system worked well because traffic patterns were focused on commutes from outside the cities to the inner cities, as people generally worked there and lived in the suburbs. Now, however the suburbs are where much of the work is and traffic patterns have changed. The funding for our transportation system is still largely the same as it was in the fifties, also, and it doesn't reflect these changed traffic patterns and has no method of responding to them, either. Many people think a user-paid system would be preferrable to our current funding, and would reflect the usage patterns more accurately, thereby allowing the system to more accurately respond to changes in patterns. Toll roads would be paid for by those using them, and not foisted upon those who will probably never even see them, ala the Bridge to Nowhere. This would shift the payment of roads to the users and eliminate much of the congressional pork we're all so tired of seeing.

My family and I recently went on vacation. We travelled from Michigan through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio, before returning to Michigan again. It was a great trip and we enjoyed ourselves despite the hours of driving and stays in questionable motels along the way. We visited Mammoth Caves and the Heaven Hill Distillery (18 year old Elijah Craig, mmmm-mmm!)in Kentucky; Asheville, the Biltmore House, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina; Bristol Tennessee; Clintwood, the Ralph Stanley Museum and in Ohio, having driven through West Virginia on the Robert Byrd Highway at the fastest possible speed allowed by law.

During most of this nearly two thousand mile trip, the driving was unhindered and enjoyable. I highly recommend the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina as one of the most beautiful and enjoyable drives I've ever encountered. In most of the states we visited, the roads were well-maintained and the signage was accurate and sensible. All of that ended, of course, when we entered Ohio. I've always marvelled at Ohio's road system. It seems intended to cause travellers woe at every turn. Detours and construction are everywhere and the signage announcing turns on detours is all but non-existent. travelling on State Highway 2, towards Toledo, we literally never saw a sign announcing directions to I-75, until we were ON I-75! This is the most travelled Interstate in the eastern half of the country, and yet, Ohio's Transportation Department feels that no one traveling towards it, really needs to know how to get on it. Incredible! But, I digress...

One click on the link to the Robert Byrd Highway should give everyone an idea of why I would favor a user-funded (toll roads, private or state-run)method of highway maintenance over our present system. I know during this summer vacation season many others have driven our national roads for hours, as I have, so I'll put it to you: What say ye?