Group Project: Which Powers Do You Want To See Used?

Isn’t having a minority government that knows it will never get a majority neat? Aside from the image of a runaway train clattering towards the disaster of earning the label “arrogant” faster than any government in Canadian history, it is a real lesson in the actual division of powers within the Parliamentary system of democracy. Yesterday’s action was a classic:

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Tuesday he was powerless to block the impending extradition of Karlheinz Schreiber to Germany, even though Parliament’s main lawyer said he has the authority to amend the federal order. Lacking guarantees that Mr. Schreiber will be able to appear before a parliamentary probe, the Speaker of the House issued a rare “Speaker’s warrant” to force his appearance before MPs this week.

For a government that has made the insane choice to label itself as “clean” (never minding that everyone has skeletons) the prospect of the a very public and opposition controlled discussion of why Mulroney was brought back into favour and even why a letter to the Privy Council conveying bad news about said elder statesman did not into the hands of the pan-centric PMO is just delish.

The point is not that this may be all political maneuvering. It that all this political maneuvering is just turning out to be so gosh darn fun. So, as the wheels do or do not come off, whose power play do you want to see? The Liberals actually play their card and pull the rug on Parliament? Maybe a coalition going to see the GG and get anointed this ousting Mr. Grumpy? Perhaps the Supreme Court ordering that a Senate reorg get passed by the provinces for approval? What should it be?

Photos From My Visit To Jolly Pumpkin, Dexter, Michigan

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It was a Ron-a-thon last Friday at Jolly Pumpkin. After leaving London, Ontario, Canada at about 1 pm and we hit Dexter, Michigan at about 5 pm just as Ron Jeffries was finishing up a days work. He gave me an hour of his time and by the end of it I was thinking this had been one of the most intense hours of beer I have had without taking a drink. Being the doe-eyed schoolgirl that I was, perhaps a bit like Ron in Bamburg, in awe of the moment of course I did not take notes until I got to our hotel in Ann Arbor. But I did get a brain full.

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Barrels everywhere. Everything is aged in oak. Barrels from bourbon and brandy distillers. Barrels from Firestone and other brewers seeking vanilla where Ron seeks tang. A 2000 litre barrel newly in from France. Being in a room full of barrels of beer is an interesting experience. The feeling was much more like cheese making than other brewers with their steel conical fermenters and bright tanks. These was life around me and it was asleep, seeking slow funkiness. Lame? Deal with it.

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I got an education. While Michigan has twice the brewers of Ohio, it has only 1% of the state’s market, compared to 6% nationwide. This means brewers have to seek markets out of state. I was happy to do my bit and introduce Ontario importers Roland and Russell to Jolly Pumpkin as was announced on Monday. Ron apologized when he explained the price would be high but I had to assure him that ten bucks for a 750 ml of some of the most thoughtful ale made on the continent was quite reasonable given what else we have to put up with.

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Ron makes beers unlike others. Beers that have the dryness of oak with less of the vanilla than others impart. There is a lambic, the only true one in North America, that has been three years in the wood soon to be released on a six month cycle. When I asked about the source of the wild yeast strains, Ron said the make of Cantillon told him you can make lambic anywhere. I have particularly liked the Bam and Bam Noire which I think are up for the CAMWA beers of the year award for 2007. I did, by the way, share the concept of CAMWA and think it is now Jolly Pumpkin approved. They have done well with 50% expansion in each of the first two years and 30% for both 2006 and 2007.

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The hour flew by and the generosity shared was quite the thing. We took a case of large format beers for just around 75 bucks and others to spare as well. Likely the best value in beverage that I can think of. A couple of hints. Ron recommends, as they age, chilling the beers before opening as they create be quite the fountain. I recommend leaving them to get to that age to get to this state as time enhances their complexity to a degree I have not experienced before with beer.

Friday Bullets Celebrating The Defeat of The Spammers

Rejoice! The war is won!

You may have noticed that there has been spam recently. The move to Recapture has apparently attracted a band of manual spammers who focus on sites who use it. Spiteful bitter Romanians for the most part. Anyway, this site’s admin also allows me to customize the spam filter quite easily and yesterday I thought that I would try filtering “URL” and “a href” – the tools used to create a link of any sort. I realized only spammers link. Hans has been posting here for four years and still can’t link. And even if you do, it will just be hidden until I check. Rejoice! Rejoice!!!

  • Timekilling Update: Death from above via John Gushue.
  • Asteriskman Update: A good commentary on SI about the indictment of Bonds. I guess we don’t have to worry about whether he shows up when the ball goes into Cooperstown.
  • I should find a copy of The Cult of the Amateur – a book setting out how stunned the infiltration of Web 2.0 mentality has made us all. Here is a screaming example from Metafilter. Can you believe someone is still citing the Cluetrain Manifesto? How many times can Dan Rather get fires in the minds of dopes with bandwidth?
  • As Mohammad is to Denmark, so too are nudy Royals to Spain…except the enemy is within.
  • We are entering Senate reform season again despite “vehement objections from some provinces which insisted the chamber can’t be reformed without their consent.” It is beyond me how it is possible to provide for such change without the provinces. I pray every night for an application to be made from PEI to the Supreme Court of Canada demanding a say if anyone touches their four seats. Because if you can shift the Senate seats without consent, the Feds should be able to shift the four seats in the House of Commons.
  • If killing a cat is a crime, is stealing virtual furniture?
  • I no longer watch much NHL hockey. In part it is the strike but in part it is also that I am a Leafs fan. Damian Cox in the Star neatly summed up the Leafs this week:

    A 22 per cent return on investment can buy you a lot of things, apparently, but just not a soul or a sense of professional pride. And just think: Ontario’s teachers own the majority share.

    Good dig at the elementary school teachers, Coxy.

That’s enough for now. You’ve had a few weeks off the bullets and need to reintegrate slowly. The bends can be hellish.

Beer Shop: Bello Vino, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

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When I realized I was going to be within a reasonable drive of a 24 hour zip into Michigan due to work requirements, I had no understanding of what the place was like. When we crossed the border at Port Huron and got through the town, I thought that I had driven into northern Maine – pretty sparse for a while there. How unexpected, then, to come across Ann Arbor – one of the most vibrant small cities I have ever been in. Sure it helps that 127% of the geographical land mass of the place is filled with the University of Michigan, providing plenty of lab coat jobs generating incomes and appetites for the good stuff.

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Bello Vino is a purveyor of plenty of the good stuff. As the name suggests there is a huge fine wine selection as well as general groceries (fresh, organic, ethnic, imports – the whole thing) but what I was there for was the beer. When I asked for MI shopping hints, I got some great suggestions in the comments but when I asked Ron at Jolly Pumpkin he said only one thing – Bello Vino.

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Why is this shop so great for beer? Well, they certainly treat beer like beer. The space is built into a corner of the whole store, a bit recessed into the wall. The effect of this is the whole space is chilled to ten or more degrees colder than the rest of the place. The steel racks are cool to the hand. Plus the selection is great – especially for someone used to the New England and mid-Atlantic shops. Michigan has something like 70 craft brewers and this place has many of their brews: Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Bell’s, Arbor, Dark Horse, Dragonmead and a bunch others. Plus, it has a massive selection of Belgians. I picked up a number of new-to-me abbey ales and lambics that I hadn’t seen before. Additionally, there is a good selection of UK brews, US craft bombers and sixes as well as even a short row of fine meads.

bv3But I think the real reason the place works so well is the guy up there in the smock, beer manager Jeremy McClelland who gave me an hour of his time, amongst helping other shoppers, to talk about the shop, Michigan beers as well as how proud they are of having the best selection in the state. I was quite surprised to see the mini-kegs and especially the mini-keg of Schlenkerla Rauchbier. Prices to my eye were fair. $10.99 for a six of Bell’s Double Cream Stout, $3.99 for Harviestoun Engine Oil Reserve and a whack of craft singles for $1.49 to $1.69. Jeremy was happy to break sixes and there was a supply of boxes there to let you mix your own.

From my house this shop is a ten hour drive, about the same as the coast of Maine if I go the other way. Like with the seashore, there is enough in Ann Arbor to justify making a long weekend with the family. Like with the beers of the north half of New England, there is enough happening in Michigan craft brewing to justify planning a family vacation around the beer – and Bello Vino should definitely be part of that plan. And to help you plan, you may want to follow the newly launched blog Michigan Beer Buzz. Also pick up Michigan Breweries by Ruschmann and Nasiatka – it’s worth it just for the maps which got us where we wanted to go in plenty of time.

About Oaked Beer: Bam Noir, Jolly Pumpkin, Dexter, MI

jpbn1Just a few days after saying that I could not find copies of Celebrator magazine – I find one at Jolly Pumpkin’s store in Dexter, Michigan. I also found this Bam Noir labeled as Batch #246 even though the brewery does not list that one as a Bam Noir batch. No never mind. Numbers can have that quality.

This beer is a great introduction to the style of this brewer. The drying planks of oak are there in the glass with the tang picked up from whatever was in the pores of the wood. I find that there are hazelnut, fig and brown sugar notes with twig hops. At 4.3% it’s a great candidate for the CAMWA brew of the year. Soft water. But be warned – a full 15% of BAers reject this one. Conversely, Bam Noir makes me want to roast a chunk of fatty salmon as it would cut through that richness well.

Monday Bullet Points Celebrating Standard Time

Ah, standard time. Time to sleep. Time to get up not in a rush. Time for bullet points. What were we saving all that daylight for anyway?

  • Update: note the subtle underlying concept – no one is as smart as me and my friends:

    “I think he’s a sincere and honest man,” Mr. Manning said yesterday on CTV’s Question Period. “I think the bigger question with Premier Stelmach and the administration is one of its competence. Does it have the competence to deal with these big-picture issues?” Mr. Manning said the opposition Liberals and New Democrats display even less understanding of Alberta’s potential leadership role, but predicted they could benefit from Tory failings.

    I thought Manning was a populist? How is this not elitist?

  • The battle of the spammers continues but today was a bit of a victory with everything getting filtered. Sadly we will not be able to discuss either Miss Alba or Miss Spears in the comments now but on the up side we will not be able to discuss Miss Alba or Miss Spears.
  • Fluke or no fluke? It was quite a game with New England pulling away from the Colts at the end due to a defensive play which saw a late game loose ball lead to the exciting NFL conclusion of two minutes of non-plays. If it was any other sport, goons would be sent in to interrupt the taking of the knee, a courtesy oddly granted the soon to be victors.
  • How long before the personal computer goes the way of the console TV? I liked when my TV came with a wood finish. Can I get an iPod with a wood finish? I don’t think so.
  • A TV writers strike – do you care? I know I will have to find something else to do when Numb-Three-ERs is on, but I mainly watch news and sports. If you want know know what is happening behind the line, have a read about what Ian and Tessa think. I would offer either side my full support if they officially adopt the pronunciation “numb-three-ers“. And about that show: I know it’s Charlie – he’s the evil one.

So there you go. Your first Monday bullets. I have no idea if this will continue but I am on the road this Friday so cut and paste these ones for use then if you are really having trouble with this change stuff.

A Saturday In 2007 And Those Of The 80s

If you are interested, I wrote a bit about Halifax in the 1980s yesterday for The Session, a monthly thematic series where beer bloggers globally write on the one same topic. Yesterday was “beer and music” and that reminded me of the Halifax of my young wayward adulthood.

It also reminded me how crappy the internet is in that there are few references to things that pre-date it. This post of mine is one of the better Goggle ranked sources for information about the early 80s music scene and that is sad as it does not say that much. I was ticked off that I could not find a photo posted somewhere of the old Ginger’s at lower Barrington Street in Halifax. The equipment for the Granite Brewery was first located there and me and my pals were very willing guinea pigs. In fact, I have no photos of any of the haunts of those days. In 1986 or so I actually took a few photos of certain Halifax scenes but for some reason not the places where I actually spent a lot of my idle time, like the Split Crow with the Kenny McKay and the Swell Guys on a Saturday afternoon. The LBR on a rainy night. If anyone reading this has any it would be great to post them as an archive.

Maybe there needs to be a joint archive of that sort of thing as a reference guide.

Session 9: When Beer And Music Shaped My Life

sessionlogosmA bit like Greg, when I thought about the topic for this month’s edition of “The Session”, hosted and proposed by Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey, I was initially disappointed as this one’s generality seems to be taking us another notch farther and farther away from the beer and nearer and nearer to a free for all, allowing for a drift towards that glaring lack of attention to detail that any good beer blogger should fear.

Yet the posts so far today have dispelled my fear as has just wallowing in a bit of recollecting. I have to go quite a ways back to a time when music and beer were more closely associated for me. Not as background music either – when one older brother came back from a trip to family in the early ’80’s, his most telling remark was that the British pubs he had visited all seems to have jukeboxes compared to our last trip, the summer of punk in 1977. And they were all playing “Born in the USA”. That’s not music. That’s music in a can.

hfx1-1Stephen Beaumont’s post for the session – or one of them – makes a very good point about the music in a bar being a huge part of the
experience but it is also important to note that canned music is a fairly recent introduction into a lot of bars – a reality of only the last 35-25 years. Even in my youth of the early 80s many Halifax taverns were still only either loud with conversation or had live music. And it was that live music we sought out because we sang, too. Maritime Canadians like me have a capacity for shout-singing a good shanty with the best of them and we sang them in the taverns like the Lower Deck with certain songs being somewhat obligatory like “Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers and, of course, the cultural anthem “Farewell to Nova Scotia” which usually brought the house down in pubs like the Lower Deck with the long tables being hammered and dimpled by beer glasses keeping the beat, students and guys in the navy sharing their benches and trying to out do each other on the chorus:

God damn them all
I was told we’d cruise the seas for American gold
We’d fire no guns, shed no tears
Now I’m a broken man on a Halifax pier,
The last of Barrett’s Privateers

hfx2The music was real and I was making it, the tavern was on a Halifax pier and the beer was then, for the most part, locally brewered draft by regionals Keiths and Moosehead even if a few imports were popping up like Newcastle Brown and the oddly present but welcomed Frydenlund lager from Norway – both also coastal brews. Stephen shares a bit of the flavour of Halifax that from that time, too, in his post:

Then there are times when beer trumps music, as it does in this story told to me many years ago by Kevin Keefe, founder of eastern Canada’s first brewpub, the Granite Brewery in Halifax. Winning Maritimers over to British-style ales wasn’t the easiest of tasks for Kevin, but in doing so he recognized that he would create for himself a sort of captive audience. And so, one by one, he convinced the locals to switch from the regional lagers and bland, blonde ales to his unique dark ales and best bitters, including, eventually, one long-time hold-out we’ll call Alan. Alan was for many months skeptical about the appeal of the Granite’s ales, Kevin told me, but after numerous tastes and talks, finally came around and began to drink the Best Bitter on a regular basis. This continued for some time, up to and including the evening when a hugely popular band was playing in a rival bar, attracting away the bulk of Kevin’s clientele.

Funny. The Alan I knew in the mid-80s of Halifax (me), the one hunting out the best place to belt out the best song at closing time, was starting to enjoy craft beer in a Halifax brewpub that actually pre-dated the one that came to be called the Granite Brewery. As I went on about back here, their equipment was originally at a sort of down at the heels place called Ginger’s which was a few blocks, a few rougher blocks nearer the train station and the docks, south of where the places now called the Granite and Ginger’s sits today. We’d also another source for early craft beer from a southern New Brunswick brewery, Hans House, that I do not think made it into the 90s.

But Kevin Keefe is right. It was the place as much as anything that made learning about his early efforts at craft beer so attractive and so different – whether that first harbour town tavern or later, at the Henry House, the new sort of upscale pub that he introduced into the scene that made for the setting. And those places of his had, for much of the time, something hard to find these day of mainly canned tunes or those days of table thumping massed messed choirage – the peace of no music at all.