Death On Yonge Street


A sad view out of the front window driving up Yonge Street Toronto this noon hour. Is there anything sadder than a big outdoor video screen that has been turned off? That wasn’t in Blade Runner. Maybe the spinning LP neon signs that are either gone or busted. Oh for a barn that had the interior room for a more dignified retirement for one of those flashing 33 rpm beauties.

Mucho Big Doings At Ontario’s Church-Key Brewing

johngI was going to call this post “John Graham – He Cleans Up Pretty” but that might have been the right one had I not been the last to know just about everything going on at Church-Key Brewing in the rolling Northumberland Hills about an hour and a half to my west. See…he cleaned up that pretty ten months ago – though to be fair, I can’t be certain there’s a tie under all that beard.

I dropped in today on my way back from Toronto where I gave a speech this morning. I have been popping in when coming heading home when traveling. Things look good, I think as I turn into the repurposed rural church parking lot. I walk towards the front door of the church when I realize there is a door at the other end of the building with a sign that says “Beer Store”. [This being eastern Ontario, I really think he should put up “In And Out Store” so people would really understand.] I said to the clerk “new store, eh?” to which I received a “yes, sort of…I guess.” I popped back into the brewery to see John and have a chat as he cleaned out a filter and when I mentioned the new shop he just “how long since you were in?” as he handed me a taste of the IPA he was making.

Too long as it turns out. Too long to know that they sell growlers of their excellent beer. [May I have a woot?] Too long to know he is bottling his special Heavy Weight Series in bombers – I picked up three including his Flemish sour. I had though they were all getting casked for the bar trade. Heck, you can buy some swag for yourself at the brewery’s on-line retail shop. And when I got home to look up something I wasn’t paying attention long enough to realize that last April John was nominated to run as a Federal Green Party candidate in the next election:

John provides a working example of how to maintain a healthy balance between environmentalism and entrepreneurship. As founder and President of Church-Key Brewing Company, John walks the talk in both his business and personal life. At Northumberland County’s only craft brewery, John puts his philosophies into action. Technologies such as solar hot water, bio-diesel, radiant floor heating, Bullfrog Power, and heat recovery units not only lower the carbon output of the award-winning brewery, they also improve the bottom line.

Hmmm – a small brewer controlling cost inputs though taking on responsibility for more aspects of their own operation. Who would have thought it was possible? I have got to stop by more often.

Sour Beer Studies: Gueuze, Girardin, Sint-Ulkis-Kapelle, BE

gira1The 2006 edition of Great Beers of Belgium showed up today and I thought that I had better pop a cork in its honour. A Girardin Gueuze seemed just the thing. The “1882” on the label is the date when the current family took over the brewery and they brew comprehensively, perhaps still with no other staff. Jackson noted:

They grow their own wheat, brew Lambic in winter and produce a Pils in summer. The Girardins use 40 per cent wheat in their Lanic, and still have a mill that grinds the grain between stones, as well as a more modern one with metal cylinders. “We continue to use the stones for some of the grist,” Lousi told me, “in case it contributes to the character of the beer.”

I like that “in case” a fine expression of traditional conservatism. Jackson called it one of the most complex beers he had ever tasted. The black label (or in Flemish Zwart etiket) appears to indicate unfiltered [Ed.: ie fond] while a white label (or Wit etiket) would not [Ed.: ie filtré]…though neither Ed nor I quite know why “etiket” in Flemish means “label” in English. I bet Ron knows.

On the pour, the funk jumps out of the madly growing off white head that soon fall back at a leisure pace. Barnyard. Very evocative of poo and stall of a former neighbour’s beef cattle barn. Plus rice wine vinegar as well as Gravenstein apple. But it is all wrapped around a small core of sweet. Once in the mouth, the barnyard knows and takes its place letting other flavours come forward. Overall, this is a far less austere Lambic experience compared to the stridency of Cantillon, even their gueuze. Relatively (by which I mean relatively) soft as well as acidic – an odd combination to describe but think mandarine orange juice without any orange flavour and a good slug of rice wine vinegar. Plenty of grain, a little lemon and a lot white grapefruit citrus, a little wheat cream even. Grassiness in the middle which morphs a little into something that is like a hint of licorice. Dry and acid and moreish in the finish. Fabulous. Love it. I am going to buy this beer whenever I see it. I promise me so.

Plenty of BAer love. $7.99 for 37.5 cl from Bello Vino in Ann Arbor Michigan.

A Bad Brewer Asks: “What The Heck Is That I Made??”


I am a bad brewer. I think it’s important to brew to make sure you have a hand on the paddle, a sense of what yeast might actually expect from you. That being said, though people have admired my beer greatly, I know the truth. I’m a bad brewer. It has a lot to do with the effort I put in compared to the output I get. I brewed from five to eleven last night to make a pre-boil 16 litres. Subtract from that some for evaporation, for trub, for that last bit the hose won’t reach, for the unintentional spilling while filling and all the other sources of wort loss. I’ll be lucky to end up with 12 litres. And look at that photo – what sort of technique is that suppose?

Not that this was unintentional. No, back in 2002 or so, I used to brew in a sort of parti-gyle way making multiple runnings that are later added back together again with a further gravity adjustment, making a strong syrup and cutting it with sterile water before the fermentation stage. That got me up to 40 litres per brewing session. That mean around 50 bottles and a keg. It also meant way to much drinking beer at hand even with those new friends that suddenly identify themselves to the home brewer. I’ll be doing sit-ups until about 2011 to make up for that little error in judgment. alive1Funny how I realized almost immediately that the skills I had gained to make my first four pound batch of the best cream cheese you’ll ever eat were going to be my downfall. I ended my cheese making career there and then. But I have brewed badly for yeast, off and on.

But what sort of 16…err, 12 litres of beer do I have. I started with an all grain ESB kit, brewed it a bit thick so that it came away with an OG of 1.055 rather than my usual 1.040 or so. And I threw in 350% of the suggested hops plus two star anise pods as well as 1/8th of a cup of molasses and then pitched Wyeast 1968 London ESB yeast. I think this might turn out to be Crazy Old Man Ale. Maybe it’ll turn out great, if the fermentation ever actually begins. Hopefully by Thursday morning, I’ll be watching a fierce roaring mass of yeast farts through the carboy’s glass wall giving off the first scents and sense of what the heck is growing in there.

Update: 6:00 pm, Wednesday. It is churning now! Given the rate of activity, the dry yeast was likely unnecessary but never a bad call to be safe and kick start the batch.

My Deep And Witty Analysis Of The Big Hop Giveaway!

My computer ate it. It was a virtual unified theory of beer blogging, an apology draped in an accusation resting on a question with its feet up on satisfaction. Brilliant. Gone. In sum: I didn’t like their variety packs, the special glass, Utopia, the ’90’s triple bock or their white-like thing; but, once called out, I found liked their value-priced Scotch Ale and premium Imperial pilsner a lot and the ads have grown on me; remember that good business knows it does one good to do good; remember, too, they are a big raft brewer with a range from perhaps some kraphtt, much craft, and some special; I have no idea what percentage of their total hops ordered this giveaway of allotment represents; but in the end it is great to see a breakaway brewery remember that a rising tide raises all boats. Good work, Jim.

The long version was better. An epic.

Friday Bullets For The Humpday Of February

Doesn’t February cling on this year, demanding one 24 more hours before we get to the month of hope? Well, February is half over as of noon today. I hate February. I really don’t know why particularly as there never were exams or a rush to get a paper out. Never a particular drain on the budget or time. What else could it be?

  • Election Readiness Update: even if I love all elections, I wonder if this one’s timing is wise?

    The Conservative government expects that it will be defeated over the budget in early March, which means Canadians could go to the polls by early April. The government has apparently intensified its election readiness, believing it may fall during a non-confidence vote on March 4, the day of the Liberal amendment to the Tory budget. That could set an election date for as early as April 7. Sources told CTV News that Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has told party members he is ready to pull the election trigger over the budget bill, even though some Liberals are against the idea.

    I bet the Liberals lose a few seats…or many…but maybe the Tories do, too. I see no reason for change at this point given we have a centrist government just like the last centrist government. Needless to say, however, we are ordering the lawn signs promoting the GX40 way forward: “Change, Order, Hope and A Record To be Proud Of!!!”

  • Forget February. Pitchers and catchers are reporting…even for Kansas City.
  • I have started the call for a global rage for beer and pie festivals. Isn’t it time to debate the fine points of lard and flour, whether leek or onion better does with that filling? I am guided in part by my recollection of the show Pie in the Sky but am ignoring all that gross obestity.
  • The post-Christmas collapse of the Morton continues with them falling from mid-table to relegation. The manager has quit, too. You clearly are not doing enough, not taking on enough misplaced angst.
  • Extremists. Aren’t they getting to be a bore? I am not talking about the terrorist or flag burner but the unreasonable expectations of those who would control political authority. Consider, by way of comparison this op-ed nugget from The New York Times this morning:

    If I were advising the Republican nominee, this is one of the places I’d ask him to plant his flag. I’d ask him to call for a new human capital revolution, so that the U.S. could recapture the spirit of reforms like the Morrill Act of the 19th century, the high school movement of the early 20th century and the G.I. Bill after World War II. Doing that would mean taking on the populists of the left and right, the ones who imagine the problem is globalization and unfair trade when in fact the real problem is that the talents of American workers are not keeping up with technological change.

    What? A call to moderation and prudent focused hard work? When did we last hear that sort of stuff? Maybe something is changing. It was nice to see Larry King call Limbaugh an example of “the far right” last night during the McCain interview. The effect of the extreme exceeds any logical sense of their reach other than in their self-promoting vicitimized imagination. Without the looney left and the wacko right (and perhaps the Web 2.0ers, too) what could be done with the world?

  • Hans has a blog and, unlike 99.99999999% of blogging, it appears to be clever. Brainy. I can’t tell you any more about it as my experience is like 99.99999999% of blogging.

Surely that is enough for the day that starts the slide to March that marks the edge of spring.

Is This The Beginning of The End?

Has it come to this?

Obama, McCain both win. (Yawn.)

We have to remember that this is not bad given that four years ago, it was George Bush and John Kerry. Both Obama and McCain are the sort of leaders who have put integrity, leadership and vision on the table and are staking their claim to the most powerful job in the world on their ability to put things right. It may even be an election devoid of most of the crap and spin we have seen for years – given that the vending of crap and spin seems to have been one victim of the primaries.

Duller questions still await. Like “can a win in Ohio prolong Clinton’s demise?” Like “will Huckabee join in an unholy alliance with talk radio to place the simmering disloyalty of conservatism above the greater good?” Like, yawn, the VP candidate selection. But what does this all mean? Is this really an urban v. urban race. It appears also to be a center-right v. center-left or even left race. These are both new things to US politics. Interestingly, it may also be a fight between relative radicals, one with substance and one with something that looks like a couple of slogans: hope and change. A product of the 1960’s against an echo of that decade.

And the Votemaster points out that the actual election may not be such an even fight as the process to date might imply:

In a development that should make Republicans nervous, Obama got more votes (619,000) in Virginia than all the Republican candidates combined (485,000). In fact, the combined Democratic vote in Virginia was more than double the combined Republican vote. And this in a state that hasn’t voted Democratic in a Presidential election since 1964 when Lyndon Johnson wiped Barry Goldwater off the map. If the Democratic enthusiasm is running so high in places like Virginia, what’s going to happen in the general election in true swing states like Missouri, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado?

People are coming out for Obama. I’m not really sure why but, despite that, I was very tempted to nick one of his lawn signs, holdovers from the primary, that I saw down in New York over the weekend. An opportunity to grab a bit of what might be going on.

Three Days And Three Side Orders Of Onion Rings

gpr6I got to tick two new to me diners off the list during this weekend’s central New York, The Glenwood Pines Restaurant in Ulysses down near Ithaca as well as the Crystal Restaurant in downtown Watertown. I think the first place dates in part from the late ’40s while the second is an all-1920’s kinda spot. I never did take a photo of the quite admirable onion rings at Shorty’s, also in Watertown, though. On Friday night, on the way south, we walked into selection of NY state fish fry specials. I had a slab of haddock on a bun the size of your forearm. I wonder where they got the fish? Maybe Norway.








Saturday at noon, the double Pinewood special, as illustrated, set me back $8.95 and I had onion rings and battered corn nuggets, too. I had no idea what a battered corn nugget was but that was even more reason to try. Turned out to be a little lump of creamed corn in a sweet dough. gpr4Dandy stuff. I was seriously doubtful of my capacity to suck back the burger but it was delightful with a Genny Cream as the kids played the bowling game. A good place for having a beer as kids run around and the food was particularly good diner grub. Again, very reliable onion ring action.

The Crystal Restaurant was a different kind of experience but certainly still a good joint. As I mentioned, it is pushing 90 years and the interior is all original wood panel and tin ceiling with a deep patina of most of those 90 years worth of smoking. gpr7Warning: the angle of the backs in the wooden booths is particularly Presbyterian. Best diner coffee ever anywhere ever. Great smoky bacon and my hot pork sandwich was as creamy bland as the dish demands. The only way you can get me to eat canned peas is on a hot chicken or pork sandwich. A solid finale to a weekend of onion rings, too. The place is also a little quirky, enhanced to a certain degree by the young soldier, an assistant chaplain no less, who was talking on his cell phone in too loud a voice about how he was going to marry someone just to get an increase in his army pay. He seemed to have it all figured out even though the girl, astonishingly, seemed (according to the tale to which all were subject) to actually get wed to the heel.








The pre-school girls of one family in their church clothes asked to help the waitress clear the table and they carried their own glasses and plates to the kitchen wearing big excited smiles, maybe like they did every weekend. Anyway, even though the place serves a solid all day breakfast and burgers and such, the bar was a stream of cocktails on a Sunday noon. Manhattans and whiskey on ice were the main drinks. Apparently the Crystal makes an old style hot egg nog or flip sort of thing at Christmas that the locals swear by. Here is an archived NCPR report on the place.

Friday Bullets For The 4,000th Post At Gen X At 40

Four thousand posts. Why do I do this? It’s just a cup of coffee in the morning. A way to get things going. I’ve met a lot of interesting ideas as well as a lot of tedious egos along the way but the best thing’s the incredible strength I have developed in my fingers. My God they are huge. More like sausages than hot dogs. I’d take any of you on in a finger fight. Piece of cake.

  • Update: should there be an election over the Afghan mission? I know I am at odds with my party of choice and have no home on the point when other policies or key player character is factored in. But isn’t that true for everyone these days?
  • When it comes to strategic alliances in a time of war, no two words give more confidence that “France” and “hinting”.
  • The problem with this study is it compares boomers to Gen Y’s:

    According to new research, teens and young adults are no more narcissistic or self-aggrandizing today than they were three decades ago. Instead, all those overconfident, egotistical kids demanding instant jobs and fame may be a figment of aging imaginations.

    Two sides of the same coin if you ask me. But you wouldn’t. Because I’m Gen X and you don’t care. No one cares.

  • Who knew wikipedia was a pack of cultist lies?
  • Good for Mitt for quitting some time after it was clear he would never win – despite all the money. He did his cause one favour, crystallize one thought that sums up the lack of political tolerance and savvy that is marking this demise of conservatism in America:

    …And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror…

    Because that is what Democrats want, right? A surrender to terror. They want to embrace their own terrorization and would feed the children of conservatives to the dogs. That is what Democrats want. You are warned.

    Nice to have that assurance, though, that he was in his heart utterly unfit for the job. That and his conservatism of convenience. Not that I am one but not that there is anything wrong with it either. If you know what I mean.

  • Seeing as this is the 4,000th post, let me tell you some things you don’t know about Gen X at 40:

    – I never post a post with an even number in the minute column. I have no idea why that is important but it is.
    – There are actually twelve people with authoring rights and I actually play more of an editorial role for all posts labeled “alan”.
    – I don’t own a shot put.
    – English is not the language I grew up with as I am really a Finn.
    – I played a small but important role in the development of hip-hop.
    – If it weren’t for Hans, I would have packed this thing in years ago.

    These, of course, are the least of my secrets.

That is enough for today – probably more than you can handle.

Being Hefty: The Laws And Lies

I’ve been a big guy most of my life, though when I look back now at pictures of me from when I thought I was too heavy makes me shake my head. You do what you can, put down the seventh Ring-a-Ding Junior, do an insane number of sit-up yet still you get to wake up to news like this:

While New York City proposes to force fast-food restaurants to post calorie information on their message boards, these three lawmakers have done the Big Apple one better – proposing to make it illegal for a Mississippi restaurant to serve anyone with a body mass index of 30 or more – the clinical threshold of obesity.

The funny thing is, as we learn through HB, that it is all a lie because the other news today is that “Healthy people place biggest burden on state“:

The study, led by Pieter van Baal at the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and Environment, found: “The underlying mechanism is that there is a substitution of inexpensive, lethal diseases towards less lethal, and therefore more costly diseases.” By comparison, being significantly overweight tends to lower overall medical bills: “Obesity increases the risk of diseases such as diabetes, increasing healthcare utilisation but decreasing life expectancy.” They concluded: “Although effective obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases, this decrease is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained.”

What comfort. We die earlier leaving our children to carry the burden of paying for the thin. No word, however, on the specific effect that beer blogging struggling novice masters shot putters in training have on the public purse. Does this mean health insurers should adjust the tables? Reduce premiums for those who will not reduce?