Sunday, November 11, 2007

Christmas Ale

I brewed a Christmas Ale on October 27th which is a clone of Affligem Noel. I hadn't actually tried that particular Belgian brew before but it sounded good and I had a hankerin' to brew! Last night at the Holiday party for the Pontiac Brewing Tribe (one of the brew clubs I belong to), I actually tried that beer, along with some N'ice Chouffe and some Delirium Noel! They were all pretty special. Add to that some fantastic homebrewed meads, wines and beers and it was a pretty tasty night!

This beer taxed my keggle system as it filled the mash tun pretty much to its capacity, as seen by the picture on the page. I did oversparge, though (based on my Beertools pro recommendation) and ended up with a beer a little less strong than expected (but a lot more of it!). Anyway, here is the recipe for a ten gallon batch (or thirteen):

34 lbs. Pilsner malt
1 lb. Belgian Caramunich
1 lb. Belgian Aromatic
.5 lb. Belgian Biscuit
.5 lb. Chocolate Malt
.25 lb. Honey Malt
1 lb. Light Brown Sugar
2 lbs. White Table Sugar (Beet based)
.4 teaspoon cinnamon (15 min.)
2 teaspoons Irish Moss (15 min.)
1.5 oz. Styrian Goldings (60 min.)
1 oz. Styrian Goldings (15 minutes)
.5 oz Styrian Goldings (5 minutes)
1 teaspoon crushed coriander (5 minutes)
White Labs 530 Abbey Ale Yeast (two half gallon starters)

Mashed at 152 for one hour batch sparged and primary fermented in glass for one week, transferred to secondary (glass) for three weeks and pitched an additional half gallon of same yeast five days before bottling.

I added some 100% cocoa Chocolate (one ounce) in the secondary of the three gallon carboy. I bottled that day before yesterday. It smelled very vinous (winey) but when I tried a bottle today (partially carbonated) it tasted pretty good, just a bit harsh (alcohol). I didn't notice the chocolate but the cinnamon came through subtly. It was sweet and spicy with a caramel malt note and had some characteristic Belgian spiciness in the aftertaste. Hop presence was subued. I can't wait to try it in a month or so (and then again a year or two or so...). At about eight percent alcohol it should age well!

I won't be bottling the other ten gallons for about a week or so, as it is still fermenting!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

BDS and Other Insanities

The Left is awash in Bush Derangement Syndrome. It is the overriding belief that no matter how far removed from the problem at hand, everything on earth that goes bad is Bush's fault. Now, I don't mean to denigrate those who've made a living or a name out of this behavior (Rosie O'Donnell, Sean Penn, and Liberal Larry come to mind...), but now that Bush's final term is winding down and he won't be running again, it is a bit silly to continue to blame everything on W.

Thinking about this topic, as I was today, I realized that this syndrome is probably based upon an emotional response to what Bush and his policies seem to be to the majority of the people who feel that way. This is no scientific study but I tend to think of most of the BDS sufferers as liberals and anti-war types, who are also likely not very religious or are actually secular humanists/atheists. These folks see Bush as a "cowboy", a misspeaking misanthrope and a religious nut that wants to rule America as a evangelical theocracy. Most of their anger and distrust of Bush comes from one or more of these views of his "agenda".

Full disclosure: I have photos of Bush and his wife on my basement wall, next to my brewery and my wife framed our Christmas card from the Bush's a few years ago. I admired the man very much for his leadership after 9/11 and his aggressive stance in the War on Terror. In truth, I probably embraced Bush almost as much for the anger he engendered in liberals as for the agreements I had with his positions. I was also very disappointed in many of his positions and decisions over the course of his two terms and am much more disillusioned in the man and his policies now. I see his good points and his bad by using reason and not emotion when I try to do the evaluation. That logical evaluation is the key.

That is what is missing from the Bush Derangement Sufferers and, consequently, what is missing from those who blindly support Bush and his policies when they are wrong. Supporting Bush when he presses for amnesty for illegals, for increased governmental powers and less freedom for Americans and for spending our progeny into the poorhouse is as deranged as any Truther position that Rosie spouts. If you really think that increasing the powers of the presidency and allowing the government to improve their ability to spy on US citizens is a good thing, it's only because you trust George W. Bush. I trust him, too, for the most part. But I don't trust the government and I certainly don't want powers given to Bush to be handed over to Hillary Clinton in a year or so. See my meanin'?

I was thinking lately that while this federal government continues to tell us that they need to be able to intercept emails and phone calls at the drop of a hat, in order to keep us free and safe from the terrorists, that argument really doesn't square with the facts. The fact is that our government, like all bloated, flabby, brainless bureaucracies, will not be effective with the tools we give it and will abuse those tools given half a chance. This will happen and is happening in Bush's term and will be much worse if a liberal Democrat wins the White House.

Now, I know many of my conservative friends will say that the federal government needs to be able to spy on us for our own good and that there have been no documented cases of actual citizens being spied upon by the government using the expanded powers of the federal government provided by the Patriot Act and its successors. They will say that the government isn't interested in our petty emails and phone calls; they are trying to stop the next Al Qaeda attack. Furthermore many of them will say that if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about. I'm sure that was a common statement of J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO.

Rather than arguing that the government is overstepping its bounds, as I believe it has (see this article and others at JWR by Nat Hentoff for clarification), I would rather argue that we can't trust the government because of its bungling, corrupt nature and ineffectiveness, regardless of whether it is deliberately invading our privacy against the strictures of our Constitution.

Take 9/11, for instance. Many people have argued that our government did not have the tools to prevent the attacks prior to that event and argue that we need these new tools to keep us safe. Hogwash! Remember that phrase "connect the dots"? The dots were there prior to 9/11 but we didn't connect them. Even the Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell admitted in September, before Congress, that if those "dots" had been connected, "9/11 should have and could have been prevented". Arguing for more governmental power in light of this statement sounds a bit contrived, doesn't it? If we had all the data we needed before 9/11 but failed to put it together, would more power to access more data actually help us in the future? And at what price?

In this month's Reason magazine, Jeff Taylor writes a brief article about the FBI's inability to stop 9/11, though they had all of the necessary information beforehand. It's an excellent, short treatment of the ineffectiveness of one of our top federal police agencies during the weeks leading up to that dreadful day. To paraphrase his article, federal agents on the ground knew that hijackers Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi had sought pilot training. They knew that Zacarias Moussaoui had sought the same sort of training and that he was carrying 747 manuals when he was picked up on immigration charges. McClatchy Newspapers' Greg Gordon reported on 9/10/2007 that information in Moussaoui's notebooks, for which supervisors at FBI headquarters refused to seek a warrant (against the pleadings of special agent Harry Samit), would clearly have exposed the hijackers and prevented the attacks. Samit, himself, blamed the "obstructionism, criminal negligence and careerism" as the roadblock in his own investigation. Increased surveillance powers will not improve those problems, will it?

Finally, as we head up to the next presidential elections and Hillary Clinton is the clear frontrunner among all candidates, do we really want to give this clearly corrupt, immoral and power-mad person the keys to our newly hopped-up terrorist hunting (and civil liberty destroying) hotrod? I think not!