Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another Open Letter to the President

Dear Sir,

I am very pleased that you took my suggestion from almost a year ago to serve a microbrewed beer during your next episode of beer diplomacy.

While watching soccer is like watching paint dry, it is always nice to see our sports teams do well internationally. Even more, it is nice to see world leaders forget the formalities or niceties of the day and just swap beers. I think the decision for each of you to bring a beer "from home" was great, especially given that the World Cup game ended in a tie.

I hope my suggestion of the Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat Ale went over well. The suggestion made by Prime Minister David Cameron's Consultant is as good as my own. The Hobgoblin from the Wychwood Brewery, a beer I sampled in March of 2006, is a fine beverage. I'm sure you'll like it.

It has truly been an honor serving as your Beer Consultant, Sir. I look forward to our next tasting. I'll clear my schedule in the coming days. I am sure we can figure something out.

Thank you, also, for lifting my flight ban on Air Force One. I swear that the bathroom incident from a few months ago (now famous with the Secret Service, I'm sure) had nothing to do with me.

Cheers and good night, Sir.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mysterious Old Master

Some numbers of years ago, I found myself in a cool antique mall out West. After himmin' and hawwin' about buying a particular coffee can, I passed. I had already spent a ton of money and was lookin' to save a few bucks at the time. For the sake of memories, I snagged a picture.

Just a few weeks back, my travels (birding in Ohio where I added 4 new birds to my Ohio list) took me through Tecumseh, Michigan on the return leg. As I often do, when I'm there, I found myself strolling through the Hitching Post, an antique mall on the west side of town.

Imagine my surprise when I saw "my" coffee can again.

I gave it the once over. Overall, I was pretty pleased. Solid with very little rust. No dents of any kind. Images were lithographed on the can (as opposed to paper labels). Hmmmm. I thought the first one had a paper label. The lid? It read "Royal Garden Tea". this the can's original lid or a different one somebody stuffed in there? $80.00? Forget it. Home I went.

Later that day, I found myself doing some research about that can. I found two other cans for sale on the internet...both in the $80 range. That lid? I did not read it close enough. It read "Packers of Royal Garden Tea". Ahhh, that makes more sense now. Yup, it was the original. Lithographed? Not a problem. Basically, this was a match for the others currently selling and was a match for the one eyed years before.

Figuring I would not get a third chance at this, I called the place back and described where it was sitting (Thank goodness I could easily describe it. That place is a labyrinth). She pulled it from the shelf for me. Within a few days, I was the Master's Master:

Unfortunately, despite all the wonderful things one can find on the Internet, information about Old Master Coffee and this can seems so abundant and so limited at the same time.

I found the following courtesy of the geniuses at Google and their Google Books. It comes from a book titled "All About Coffee"(1922). Here is a snippet:

Toledo. The pioneer roasting firms here seem to have been: Warren & Bedwell; and JB Baldy & Co. Later, after 1876, we find the Bour Company, and the Woolson Spice Co.

The Bour Company was incorporated in 1892, following a partnership which had succeeded to a small business concern under the name of the Eagle Spice Company. The principal stockholders were: J. M. Bour, F. G. Kendrick, and Albro Blodgett. Mr. Blodgett bought the Bour interests in 1909 and with S. "W. Beckley, who had been sales manager for a number of years, acquired practically all the other outside interests. The name was changed in 1921 to the Blodgett-Beckley Co., the officers being Albro Blodgett, president, S. W. Beckley, vice-president and manager, and Henry P. Blodgett, secretary and treasurer.
A website dealing with coffee marketing and advertising had the following:

Experience has proven that a package coffee, to be successful, must have back of it expert knowledge on buying, blending, roasting, and packing, as well as an efficient sales force. These things are essential: (1) a quality product; (2) a good trade-mark name and label; (3) an efficient package. With these, an intelligently planned and carefully executed advertising and sales campaign will spell success. Such a campaign comprehends advertising directed to the dealer and to the consumer.
Point #2 is the one that really hit me. I have over $1000 in old coffee cans (most purchased for less than $20.00) and I can tell you Old Master is one of the best looking ones of the bunch. A good trade mark and label? Absolutely, yes.

On another peculiar note (to me, anyway) is this -they (the Bour Company) have two patents (#74,883 and #75, 939).

So, that is all fine and good, but here is a question I would really like answered: what happened to the Blodgett Beckley Company? You would think with all that info out there in the world, someone, somewhere, would put some basic info about the history of the company out on the web, wouldn't you? I can tell you who the VP of the company was and even look up some patents if I want to, but I can't find out when the company closed it doors?

Go figure.

It looks like, for now, the the Old Master is my master. A mysterious remains......

I Wonder

I wonder if this Kangaroo was telling us how many beers he had before he passed out?

Interesting Bill

Here is an interesting bill. No, not a bird bill, a bill bill. You know - politics. The bipartisan slant makes this even more cool. I'll be watching to see what happens!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eyes Maybe?

Ahhhhhh, Fridays. Okay, they don't mean as much to me as they do other folks, but I certainly enjoyed this past one. Myself and my good photo-friend took a road trip to the Detroit Zoo. For once, I am not going to get all blabby all you.

I suspect there might be theme here, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is....

Eyes, maybe?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sqeeze Play Addendum

So, I was mentioning the story about the guy who was killed by his snake to a co-worker. As I pieced together the story, I realized something really does not sound good here. It goes way beyond the fact that some guy got killed by his pet (one that, well, kills things regularly).

No, I'm talking about the buddy. Where did he go? Presumably, he called 911, but that's it? He stands there and watches his friend get killed by a snake? He couldn't go to the kitchen and get a steak knife and kill it? He couldn't go to the garage and get either a hammer to bludgeon it or a saw and cut it half?

As I would gather the story, he stood there.

What a pal.......

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sqeeze Play

Flying through the news tonight and a story caught my eye.

In case you don't want read the linked story, it goes like this: Man doesn't want boring pet. Man buys boa constrictor. Man shows off to friend by placing 9ft snake around neck. Snake squeezes. Man dies.

The parts of the story that made me chuckle:

Once a snake clamps down like that, they're extremely strong. It would have been very difficult for one person to remove that snake.

Uh, yeah, that's the point. If prey could just unwrap the snake, there wouldn't be many snakes, now would there?

The snake appears to have been well-fed, said Langan, who added he did not know what might have led the snake to strangle its owner...

I know why it killed the owner. It's a snake. They kill things. Equally valid is this - big snakes kill big things. This is so easy, isn't it?

They're not smart because they don't have to be "smart". True statements, like "2+2=4" and "B.P. is a bunch of buffoons", are not relevant to their lives. They don't fetch. They don't greet you at the door when you get home from work. They curl up on your lap only because you are warmer than the heat rock. I'm sure they really don't care about an owner either. We know they don't care about the owner's girlfriend's kids.

The clown in Nebraska? I'm strongly suspect he is eligible for a Darwin Award.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Milestone! #750...And Then Some.......

My first Friday in June 2010 was exactly what every Friday night should be - new beers. Once again, my brothers in brew at the Vreeland Mart hosted a beer tasting. This time, however, the co-host was Discount Drinks. These two locations combine to pack quite a punch when it comes to beer selection on both a national and international level.

Adding a nice change of pace, the venue was completely different. Instead of stuffing us all in a meeting room at the Community Center, we went outside. Tents, a DJ, and hot dogs and Italian sausage on the grill made for a great atmosphere. While the clouds and cool temps were pleasant, the slight breeze made sniffing the beers a challenge, but we got over it! It was really good, too, that the storms stayed to our north. The end of the world was taking place just over the horizon.

Something else made the evening more fun. It was the opportunity to spend a few bucks and help out the Relay For Life. Portions of the proceeds, plus the 50/50 raffles, went to the Relay. That fellow won $275!!! Like a true gent, he gave a chunk of it back to the Relay. Get a beer for that man! They should market this a bit better. If there can be "Save Second Base", maybe we should get something going with "Beers for Breasts" or "Hops for Hooters". I'm not kidding. Oh wait. It has already been done - here, here, and here. So what. Detroit needs it, too! Anything that can be done to knock off breast cancer is worth it. (Here is some encouraging news in case you missed it.)

Speaking of beer, how did I do? 6 newbies, plus a non-beer treat.

#750? Hamtramck Beer (pronounced "Ham-TRAM-ick) by the Michigan Brewing Company was, I am sad to say, dull. The bottle gave very little info on the beer. We were not even sure what it was! On the pour, I thought it was a wheat - yellow and cloudy. Further research showed that it is a lager. Really? I thought good lagers had taste! This didn't. From start to finish, it was pretty lifeless. It almost appeared to be a small brewer's version of the big names junk. Very disappointing. 2 out of 5.

With the sad start of #750, things picked up a bit. The Dundee Stout (#751), from the Genesee Brewing Company (formerly the High Falls Brewing Company) was, by all standards, a fair stout. The creamy body and the subtle roasted tones on the tongue were quite pleasant. There was nothing out of place. A fair drink. 3 out of 5.

The weirdest beer of the night certainly goes to #752, El Mole Ocho by the New Holland Brewing Company. Have you ever heard of a beer with mole spices in it? (That would be mole ("mole-ay") by the way, as in a mexican dark sauce. Not "mole" as in a burrowing beasty. I wouldn't want to try that beer!) A spiced porter, the overload on the nose was really quite something. The rep mentioned jalapeno and I found it, as well! Goofy, I tell ya! Unfortunately, the spices were so out of control, a weird transition occurred as I sampled it. When I first tried it, it was very "eh". A few sips later, it was really quite good. By the time I finished my meager sample, it was really sort of gross. Something was really killing it at the finish. Cinnamon maybe? When I think of spiced beers, I think of autumn stuff. Not summer. When I think of El Mole Ocho, it won't get an eight ("ocho" is spanish for "eight"). 2 out of 5.

You never know what might pop up at a beer tasting. Rapunzel (#753), a tag-team effort from the Arcadia Brewing Company and the Redwood Lodge in Flint, Michigan was probably the rarest beer of the night. According to the rep, this stuff was only brewed for a short time and in small amounts. In my opinion, in this situation, total volume produced is directly related to quality. Apparently, it has a wheat/IPA combo feel to it. I was a bit confused by what the rep said, but that is secondary, I guess. It looked like a wheat but had taste characters of an IPA. I suspect it would be good for a hophead, but not for me. 3 out of 5.

#754, St. Bernadus Abt 12, from the St. Bernadus Brewery in Belgium, was the best beer of night. In fact, it ranks as one of my best beers ever. I don't give "5's" very often but this one qualifies for sure. Every single aspect of this beer is a pure delight. The look, the smell, the body, the finish. All of it. I could tell you about the brown/ruby cast and the top-notch quality of the malts. I could tell you about the slight hint of fruits or caramel on the palate or the spectacular and smooth body. But what is the point, right? In the same sense as "a picture is worth a thousand words", I think "a good beer should be consumed, not described". Get out there and buy it. If you like beer, you must try this. Enough said.

The final beer of the evening was a bit of let down. Sofie (#755) , from the crew at the Goose Island Brewing Company, is a sparkling ale. I have reviewed these before and, sorry, I don't understand them. The label hooked me right in, stating that it was 80% ale with 20% ale that was aged in wine barrels with orange peels. Yeah, great. Tone down the carbonation, would you please? On the pour, the sampler glass filled up like a bad pop and per usual, the carbonation wrecked the opportunity to taste the beer. 3 out of 5. I was chatting with another fellow. He agreed.

Also, the evening was memorable as it was my first real chance to give mead a try. Yeah....mead, the ancient ancestor to all of our modern alcoholic drinks. Early Greek pottery shows them puking their spleens out so this stuff has been around a while. In fact, I would suggest that beer and wine as we know them would not have occurred it had it not been for mead. While other goodies can be added, it is basically water, honey, and yeast fermented to something wonderful.

So, where does one get mead nowadays? How about a meadery? The B. Nektar Meadery had a table and at least 6 different bottles of product. Admittedly, I found the Vanilla-Cinnamon Mead a bit harsh. The finish was a bit icky. The Bourbon Barrel Mead, on the other hand, was extraordinary. Both were quite sweet and had a nice, texture to them - I would describe it as something that is thinner than olive oil but not by much. I can promise you I will be adding a bottle of this stuff to my after- dinner menu when I have guests. Awesome.

Thinking back, "awesome" sums up the night. Yeah....good stuff.....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Have I Been Waiting For?

Despite the pleasant temps in the past few weeks, I have only recently begun my grilling this season. The testosterone is flowing, fists are thumping and the gas is lit. Let the flames begin!

With the Memorial Weekend calling for rain on Monday,and with other plans developing, I opted to have friends and family over on Sunday instead of Monday.

Cheese and grapes with the Aprihop Pale Ale from Dogfish Head Brewery were waiting for the guests when they arrived.

Plum Porter Barbecue Sauce over chicken sounded pretty damned good. For whatever reason, fresh plums where a bit hard to come by. Very few places seemed to have any available and I was not about to run all over town looking for them. Dried plums were on hand, so I used 'em.

Yeah, you read that right. Dried plumes.......otherwise known at prunes.

No big deal. Chop 'em up and put in the pan with onions. Before too long, paprika, garlic, salt, pepper, honey and a big ole bottle of Sierra Nevada Porter were added to it and dropped in the blender. Chop chop. Done. It was added to the grilled chicken in the final minutes of cooking. All in all, not too bad. I think I need to secure real plums next time and get the black bean garlic instead of straight up garlic. I needed to improvise a bit as I went...

Grilled asparagus with gobs of olive oil, salt, and pepper combined with a simple side of pasta rounded out the main course.

Of course, you can't have such a good meal with out trying a new beer. The Agave Wheat (#748) from the Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado was a nice twist. Sure, I could have had the porter that was used in the sauce but I was not sure I wanted such a heavy beer on such a hot day. Wheats seem like such thirst quenchers. All in all, I can't say too much about this. Yeah, it was a wheat, with all the standard wheat stuff - color, aroma, etc. The whole agave nectar thing (a sugar substitute) was lost to me. I did not notice anything radical going on here. That said, I don't think it was bad. It was bit dry on the finish, but so what in the big scheme of things. 3 out of 5.

Dessert was as simple as desserts can be - vanilla ice cream with a homemade butterscotch sauce. Okay, the butterscotch could have been store-bought but what fun would that have been? The Cereal Killer Barleywine Ale, paired with the ice cream, was from Arcadia Brewing Company and completely hit the spot. I have had it before and it certainly worth a re-do.

Let's see now. Beer. Fruit. Beer on grilled dead things with more beer. Ice cream. Beer. Friends. Family. Cool.