Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 June, 2010

Resource Wars by Michael T. Klare

With the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ongoing and no end in sight, it seemed appropriate to read Michael Klare's Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict. Klare is the director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Amherst.

The book's thesis is that human history is littered with conflicts over natural resources and, at the dawn of the 21st century when the book was published, global population was rising dramatically and so the conflicts of the new century will likely revolve around competition for those remaining resources such as oil, natural gas, timber, water, etc. Unsurprisingly it is oil that gets the most words dedicated to it with separate chapters for the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea basin, and the South China Sea. The first of these is perhaps the most immediately relevant considering our venture in Iraq.

One of the most interesting tales to this national security novice was the evolution of our support for Saudi Arabia and thusly our involvement in the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia is home to the largest proven oil reserves in the world and the Persian Gulf area has about 65% of the world's oil reserves. Klare notes that oil is the lifeblood of highly industrialized societies and then gives the reader a quote: "'America's vital interests in [the Gulf] are long-standing,' General Anthony C. Zinni, then commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOMM), told Congress in 1999. 'With over 65 percent of the world's oil reserves located within the Gulf stages,' the United States and its allies 'must have free access to the region's resources.'"

Our first engagement with Saudi Arabia in relation to their oil came in 1943 when FDR gave military assistance to them. He recognized that Western powers would become ever more dependent on Gulf oil and two years later met with King Abdel-Aziz Ibn Saud to further establish ties. Every president since then has made it national policy to protect our access to Saudi oil. Carter created the Rapid Deployment Force in 1980 to quickly defend our interests in the region. The RDF became CENTCOMM in 1983. Klare spends many pages describing U.S. policies in relation to Iraq which became a central concern for policymakers in the late 1980s. The book was published just prior to the 9/11 attacks and Klare presciently observed that Iraq was the most likely target of U.S. military intervention in the region.

So why did we invade Iraq? In the broadest sense, we did so because Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States' ability to get oil. And now that he has been deposed, we rattle sabers with Iran. "Iran is viewed in Washington as…the nation that is most likely to oppose American oil interests once the risk of an Iraqi invasion has been reduced to marginality."

Klare goes into a fair amount of detail such as discussing Iranian control over islands in the Strait of Hormuz and how it is a bottleneck for oil shipments out of the Middle East. But the larger issue is that, while countries see war as a method of last resort, the first world depends on oil and most of it is in the Persian Gulf region and so, when push comes to shove, conflict is almost inevitable. The takeaway for me was that the United States will do whatever it has to in order to maintain the flow of Middle Eastern oil and, right now, that means keeping the Saudi royal family happy and in charge as they have a big teat for us to suckle.

On a side note, it was interesting to read about Osama bin Laden not as the face of evil incarnate that killed thousands in New York, but as a terrorist and by-product of our involvement in the Middle East.

The Caspian Sea basin and South China Sea as sources of oil also get the treatment. We aren't currently fighting any wars in those areas so they don't readily come to mind when thinking of fossil fuel. But they are highly contested areas. In the Caspian, the surrounding countries (Russia, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, etc.) cannot agree on how to divvy up the sea. Territorial waters are disputed and thusly drilling rights in them are as well. Furthermore instability in the area means problems in building pipelines to get the oil to market. Over at the South China Sea, the region's powerhouse, China, is making waves by claiming an ever larger swath of the sea as its own much to the chagrin of other countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, etc. Japan has an interest here as well as tankers that supply it with oil sail through the area.

Water is not generally a scarce commodity here in Wisconsin, Waukesha excepted, but it becoming increasingly precious in other parts of the world. Klare begins his look at conflict over water by looking at the tensions in the Nile basin. The main actors here are Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. The populations of all of these countries is rising and thusly so is the need for the waters of the Nile. Unfortunately, no common agreement has been reached in order to ensure that all parties receive the water they need. Egypt is the bully on the block because it has the biggest and most modern armed forces. Klare leaves little doubt that, if another country were to build a dam or otherwise siphon off more Nile water, the Egyptian airforce would be used to destroy any such infrastructure.

The Jordan, Tigris-Euphrates, and Indus basins get a similar treatment. When reading about the Jordan, it occurred to me that we don’t generally talk about water as being contentious in this arid part of the world. We hear a lot about Israel, Gaza and disputed territories but increasing populations and relatively little water don't get a lot of play. Unlike the situation in Africa, it is not the case here that there is but a single country with military might so fear of a superior force doesn't factor into things here. Again, as of the writing of the book, there existed no comprehensive regional plan to distribute water equitably. With the relatively small size of the Jordan and the large population growth, water may become scarce very soon in the region and with this development will be conflict.

I realize I'm not doing justice to Resource Wars here so I highly recommend reading it for yourself. Klare writes in a fairly wonky way at least insofar as he gets down to brass tacks. There are no funny asides or debts owed to the For Dummies series but he does write for the layperson. He carefully lays out the relevant background and shows how the situation today evolved from past events. And maps show the reader where the hot spots are.

More than once in reading the book I was reminded of the movie A Few Good Men. The United States has its finger in many natural resource pies. The invasion of Iraq is the biggest, most obvious example but we have troops around the globe doing things like guarding oil pipelines which don't garner a whole lot of attention. Plus, as Klare notes, we may get dragged into confrontation in defense of our allies such as in the South China Sea if China were to take actions that threaten the flow of oil to Japan. Everyday our government engages in policies and actions to ensure that we Americans get way more than our share of the world's natural resources and we don't even know about it.

Some of the potential conflicts that Klare admonishes us about are due to simple numbers. To survive, every human being needs water. The more people you have, the more water a society will need. But I think there's also a side to some of the resource wars that is more lifestyle-driven. We Americans talk about "No Blood For Oil", compact fluorescents, hybrid cars, etc. but none of these things bring about changes which make invading countries or propping up brutal dictatorships of oil-rich countries unnecessary. My own opinion is that the environment will improve and the U.S. will avoid resource wars when we Americans stop thinking that we can have our cake and eat it too. I think we're under the illusion that if we just make things a little greener, we can still have our SUVs, iPods, McMansions, and use 100 gallons of water per day without damaging the environment or use more than our fair share. A good example comes from an editorial called "The other, bigger 'oil spill': Your use of disposable plastic". The money quote:

Recycling or even reusing alone will not reduce the plastic waste on our planet if we continue to create more and more disposable plastic products every day.

Being green by recycling and reusing doesn't cut it. What's needed is a reduction in consumption – a basic alteration to our lifestyle. Driving a Prius may be green but it's not taking public transportation.

To bring this back to Klare's book, I believe that we'll be involved in resource wars for decades to come because of a couple reasons. One is simply that oil is the foundation of our economy and lifestyle. It's used for transportation, heating our homes, lubricants, synthetic fibers, fertilizers, and so on ad infinitum. Secondly, we Americans want our Apple gadgets and our cars more than we want a clean environment or to disengage from war. It's just that simple. When we, less than 5% of the world's population, start consuming much less than our current 25% of the world's fossil fuels, then change will come.

For his part, Klare is more optimistic than I am. He says that "We undeniably possess the ingenuity and capacity to develop such institutions", i.e. – those which can equitably distribute water and develop desalinization technology. He also makes the case for strategies based on cooperation rather than violence. I think he's right in that we human beings have the capacity for cooperation and that there are very good reasons to go that route but I have very little reason to think that we'll do so.
|| Palmer, 2:02 PM || link || (2) comments |

24 June, 2010

Doctor Who: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Daleks

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23 June, 2010

Twelve Below Zero by Anthony Bukoski

Anthony Bukoski grew up in a Polish neighborhood in Superior, Wisconsin and, after many years returned there where he teaches English at UW-Superior and writes short stories which evoke his hometown and surrounding area. I picked up a copy of the revised edition Twelve Below Zero at the Wisconsin Book Festival a couple years ago and recently finished reading it. The collection is Bukoski's first.

I'm not a big short story reader for whatever reason nor do I read a lot of general fiction so this book was a bit off the beaten path for me. For people in a similar position, the best way for me to describe it that it reminded me of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio but that there were also moments of Philip K. Dick's Confessions of a Crap Artist. The former sprung to mind in Bukoski's depiction of small town life while the latter did so in certain stories with narrators who relate the problems of others.

There are a dozen stories here with four of them new to the revised edition. To steal a line from the DJ in "Your Hit Parade", Bukoski writes of memory, recalling the past, the losses, the hurt. Going in, I wasn't really sure what to expect but I was surprised at just how much loss and hurt there was. Rather than trying to cover all 12 stories, I'll talk about a few that I particularly enjoyed.

The first is "The Pulaski Guards". It concerns Walter Stasiak who returns to his hometown of Superior after having served in the Vietnam War. Walter suffers from aimlessness. His sweetheart married someone else while he was away and, generally speaking, everyone that he knew has moved on without him. He joins the local Polish fraternal organization as a favor to his dying grandmother. The club, however, is on the wane. The traditions, the community, and the people that once sustained the lodge are gone or going. One member relates how the men used to wear uniforms like that of Casimir Pulaski but, now, no one remembers who he or the other big Polish hero of the American Revolution, Tadeusz Kościuszko, were.

Walter's grandmother is essentially on her deathbed and has seemingly lost her mind. At times she thinks she's back in the old country while at others she mourns to be back there. Just as her desire is futile, so are Walter's gestures at creating a life for himself now that he is back home.

I think I enjoyed this tale for a couple reasons. It hit home in a way as one of my grandmothers was Polish and she died not too long ago. Plus I am a member of the Polish Heritage Club of Wisconsin-Madison and have a similar view of fading traditions as some of the characters in the story.

"Hello from Ture" chronicles what hatred does to the title character. Big Ture lives in Two Heart, Wisconsin and is a bit of a rogue and a villain who likes to pick fights at the local watering hole. The town tolerated him until he stole a train. After this incident, the townspeople had enough and they "lashed him with rawhide until his face and body were roped with blood".

As Ture's disdain for the people of Two Heart grew out of control, he met Kruger. Kruger is a wonderfully grotesque character. He wanders into town one day and drinks away his pain for his teeth are all broken and rotted. The two befriend one another with Ture thinking of the loner as a big brother of sorts. Their vengeance is loosed one day when the pair go to town and start breaking windows. Eventually Kruger lights a fire which takes out a whole block.

The bonds wrought of this barbarity are severed when Ture discovers that Kruger has been sleeping with his sister, Helen, with whom Ture lives. This revelation makes Ture go ballistic and he beats Kruger with the butt of a shotgun. The stranger is put to bed where Helen nurses him as best she can while Ture waits for him to die.

I'm not exactly sure what it is about this story that attracts me to it. The triangle here vaguely reminds me of a situation I was in many years ago. (We all had our teeth, however.) Beyond that, I find the characters intriguing in so far as they're pretty unlikeable. Kruger with his mouthful of rotting teeth and Ture the big bully who gets his kicks by intimidating and hurting others. I felt sorry for Kruger when he got hit on the head and was left to die. Big Ture never really garnered my sympathies but I was rooting for him to change after he had found someone with whom he could commiserate but it was not to be.

This story like many of the others take place during winter which lends them this vibe of isolation. It's not that all of the characters have no one around them, but the season is a metaphor for the death that it seems many of them undergo. Not physical, but rather spiritual. Their souls seems barren. Plus I think the weather provides an impetus, of sorts, for people to look inside themselves rather than out at the world.

Although not grotesque, the protagonist of "Wesolewski, Hedwig Room 301" is just as strange. Harold Hansen owns and runs the Hotel Chopin. The Zgoda Dance Troup of Eastern Europe books a block of rooms and Harry becomes infatuated with one of the dancers, Hedwig Wesolewski. The women make a nice change of pace as Harry is used to dealing with broken hearted men. Harry obsesses over Hedwig. He fantasizes about her naked and sleeps on the stairs by her room.

The story is about a tug-of-war going on inside Harry's head where there is little that's blatant. Everything simmers near the surface. Harry admits to having done "unsavory things" in the previous hotels he's worked at. He has had to move from Chicago to Milwaukee to Oshkosh and points further north until he arrived at the Hotel Chopin in Duluth. And so there's a hint of malice lurking underneath everything as well as erotic voyeurism. Will he turn out to be a relatively harmless Michael Barrett or someone more sinister?

All in all I enjoyed Twelve Below Zero. It's refreshing to be reading stories that take place in small town Wisconsin/northern Minnesota and which don't stereotype. Generally small towns are portrayed as being populated by dumb hicks or being nothing but seedy underbelly. Bukoski populates his stories with characters that are perhaps simple on the outside, but have complex interiors. These tales, for the most part, tread the darker side but I enjoyed Bukoski's peeks behind hurt, behind longing.
|| Palmer, 2:30 PM || link || (0) comments |

22 June, 2010

The Flood of 2010

That was a mighty fine storm we had last night.

Luckily my Emerson, Lake and Palmer shirt survived the flood.
|| Palmer, 3:03 PM || link || (0) comments |

19 June, 2010

You Know You're a Dork When...

...you're up at 6 in the morning and watching the Ticket to Ride World Championships.
|| Palmer, 7:15 AM || link || (1) comments |

18 June, 2010

Game of Thrones Teaser

HBO has shown its first teaser trailer for its adaptation of George R.R. Martin's series of fantasy novels.

Winter Is Coming
|| Palmer, 9:26 AM || link || (0) comments |

14 June, 2010

A Town Called Panic

I got a chance to see Panique au village (A Town Called Panic) before it left Madison and I was glad I did because it was a blast.

It is a feature film based on a Belgian TV series of the same name and stars Cowboy, Indian, and Horse as a trio of roommates who live in a small village. Horse is the sensible, mature one while Cowboy and Indian are rather brainless and impulsive. Across the road is a farm inhabited by Steven, whose normal voice is a yell, and his wife Jeanine along with some animals that resist direction. The only other resident is a policeman who lives in a little guardhouse on the road that passes through town. They are all brought to life via claymation. But it's not the variety of Wallace & Gromit. It has a much less polished look with figures that don’t have all of their parts adjusted for movement. Still, it's very effective and works well with the hectic storyline.

Cowboy and Indian discover that it is Horse's birthday and plan to build him a barbeque. They accidentally order 50 million bricks instead of 50 and, when they've finished building the BBQ, they store the remaining ones on top of their house hoping that Horse won't notice. He doesn't until the weight of the remaining bricks causes the house to come tumbling down.

Horse doesn't let this get him down so he gathers the troops and begins rebuilding. The problem is that, when they wake up in the morning, they find that the walls they've constructed have been stolen. A trap is set and the culprits turn out to be these pointy-headed marine creatures with large, unwieldy ears and the chase is on. Bringing the thieves to justice entails quite an adventure. Our heroes fall down a very deep shaft worthy to be spanned by the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, end up in the Arctic wastes only to be accosted by a gigantic mechanical penguin controlled by mad scientists, and eventually discover an underwater world beneath their feet.

There's plenty of slapstick to be had but more subtle humor as well. A favorite scene of mine is when our heroes are tumbling down that shaft and horse takes a call on his cell phone from a lady horse with whom he has romantic feelings. The title comes from the fact that everything – even the most minor – throws everyone into a panic and has them running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Once you settle in and get your bearings, the surreal adventures of Cowboy, Indian, and Horse are an absolute pleasure.

|| Palmer, 3:45 PM || link || (0) comments |

11 June, 2010

Good Summer Cinema

A couple interesting movies will be hitting the screens here in Madison next month.

First comes Micmacs à tire-larigot (Micmacs) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of the guys behind Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. It opens at Sundance Cinemas on 9 July.

A week later Sundance opens The Girl Who Played With Fire, the follow-up to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

And now that 30 minutes of footage thought lost has been restored to Fritz Lang's Metropolis, it is showing around the country. Currently it's in Chicago but, unfortunately, the film's website has no Madison dates listed. However, it will be screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival this autumn.

|| Palmer, 1:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

10 June, 2010

Capital Fest Now a Hop Fest

Has anyone had this year's Capital Fest? The summer seasonal was put on hiatus a couple years ago but has returned. (I assume Prairie Gold didn't go over well and Wild Rice is very expensive to brew.)

I tried some this week and, for a beer whose label proclaims "Refined Malt Richness Defined", it sure is hoppy. In fact, it seems much hoppier than it ever has. Is it my tastebuds or has the malt goodness been sacrificed at the Hophead Altar of Bitterness? Viking Brewing goes under then Capital's Bavarian Lager goes away, and now this.

Can I get my malt back, please?
|| Palmer, 11:44 AM || link || (2) comments |

09 June, 2010

And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer

When I first heard that Eoin Colfer was to pen the sixth installment of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, I was ambivalent. On the one hand, he wasn't Douglas Adams and messing with books that helped lay the groundwork of my geekness back in the early 1980s seemed like sacrilege. But on the other hand, nothing is sacred so I thought it only fair to wait for the finished product. I mean, why being prejudiced when Colfer might actually come up with a winner?

As time went on the book finally got published and I ignored it. While I didn't rush out and buy it, neither did I trash it or ostracize it. Actually, I had no plans to read it but this changed after I found a copy in the bargain bin for $4.98, I couldn't resist. I found it to be, like Capital Supper Club, not bad.

And Another Thing begins with Ford, Arthur, Trillian, and Random on Earth Mk II in Club Beta. They are living in holographic worlds, essentially, leading separate lives. The Vogons, wishing to make sure they do their job of destroying the Earth right, have the Grebulons destroy the second incarnation of our lovely blue-green ball. An appearance by Zaphod in the Heart of Gold almost saves the day except that Ford engages in a debate with the ship which renders it useless. Luckily Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged shows up to finish insulting the human race and gives our heroes a lift.

However, Wowbagger insults Zaphod by saying multiple times that he has a fat arse. This results in the President of the Galaxy seeking out Thor to kill Wowbagger, who is immortal, while the rest of the crew head off to the planet Nano on which resides the last outpost of humanity who were put there by the Magratheans. Now, when the Vogons get wind of this, they seek out the planet to finish off humanity so they can finish the job they started at the beginning of the series and finally lay some paperwork to rest.

While the story is not bad, it does retread a lot of old ground – Zaphod to the rescue, Vogons intent on destroying humanity, the Heart of Gold getting stuck in the face of peril, et al. I wish Colfer had made up his own scenarios and actions instead of going over the same old ground. As far as his writing goes, he certainly does a decent imitation of Adams but he goes over the top. The first half or so of the book reads like he's trying to prove that he's up to the task instead of simply plying his trade. There are too many entries from the book early on. Indeed, it seems like there's one every other page so Colfer can demonstrate just how funny he is and how many wacky alien races he can conjure. When he stops this and gets down to letting the characters interact, he writes some damn fine dialogue. I think he captures the characters well and Zaphod is a blast.

Reading the book I was reminded of one of the things I really didn't like about the Hitchhiker's movie. The film version of Zaphod is just a big dunce whereas the literary character is over-confident and a bit hapless, yet lucky, determined, and charming in his own way. Sam Rockwell's President of the Galaxy gets 0 out of 10 for style. Colfer, to his credit, gets Zaphod right.

A few other things. Firstly, Arthur kinds of disappears towards the end of the book. He should have been more actively involved in bumbling and almost screwing things up. Secondly, Random, a teenager, is pretty annoying. (A tautology, I know.) On the flipside, I appreciated the scene where Hillman, the leader on Nano, is interviewing deities for his people and invites Chtulhu in for a chat. Lastly, I commend Colfer for sticking to some of Adams' themes, namely raking on bureaucracy, religions, etc. He over does it occasionally but, for the most part, the satire was effective. He even updates the series by equating the Sub-Etha with the Internet, which I'm sure DNA would have done himself.

Like I said above, And Another Thing is not bad. It's just not particularly good. It leans towards the pastiche heavily when I think it would have been better served by Colfer injecting more of his own voice and creativity into the mix. Despite all its flaws, it was fun reading about Zaphod, Ford, Arthur, and Trillian again. May they rest in peace.
|| Palmer, 11:30 AM || link || (0) comments |

When She Traced the Killer's IP Address...

My friend Dogger pointed this out to me and I thought it was good humor.

|| Palmer, 10:36 AM || link || (0) comments |

Boycott the Boycott on BP

A week or so ago Tanya DeOliveira advocated over at Dane101 that consumers boycott BP for the oil spill now plaguing the Gulf.

Journalist Peter Maass, author of Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, has an op-ed over at The Big Money which argues that a BP boycott doesn't make sense. His conclusion:

The truth is that we care mightily when BP wreaks havoc in the Gulf of Mexico, but we pay scant attention when Shell harms Nigeria, when Chevron pollutes Ecuador, when PDVSA stains Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, when Suncor extracts oil from tar sands in Canada. It’s understandable that as we watch the live webfeed of the gusher, we want to know what BP officials knew and when they knew it, and we want to know why the Obama administration didn’t react sooner. But if we don’t broaden the horizons of our questions, we run the risk of reinforcing a fairy tale that says we can have our oil and our environment, too. The worst outcome of the mess in the Gulf would be the perpetuation of the conceit that error and greed can be regulated out of the worldwide oil industry.

In other words, we need to change the oil-centric paradigm of our times. It is broken. We must deal with BP, but we must also channel the power of our anger toward reducing consumption of fossil fuels. Smaller cars, less driving, more carpools, public transportation, better home insulation, smaller homes, less meat, more renewable energy—these are the sorts of useful things we can do. It little matters whether we fill our tanks at BP or Exxon stations. What matters is that we visit gas stations less often.

We need more people like my new neighbor whom I met this morning at the bus stop. He lives on the isthmus but works at Epic in Verona. And so his workday begins by taking a bus from home to the campus area where he catches another bus to the west transfer point. From there he hops on route 55 which takes him to the Epic campus. Now that's a commitment to visiting gas stations less often.

ADDENDUM: A few relevant links to add.

First is an article called "Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it." at The Guardian's website. "With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution." If you want to boycott BP, get ready to boycott Shell and others as well.

Secondly is Tim Dickinson's piece "The Spill, The Scandal and the President"> at Rolling Stone. The Minerals Management Service was a rubber stamp for the oil industry and the Obama administration couldn't give a shit. Remember, Obama wants more drilling.

Lastly there the blog Live For Oil by a woman named Ashlea who left a comment on this post. She is following the environmental and humanitarian crisis in Ecuador which is dealing with Chevron's disregard for the Amazon.
|| Palmer, 10:33 AM || link || (2) comments |

07 June, 2010

Peruvian Dining With the Eating Madison A to Z Folks

You can now read about The Dulcinea and I dining with the Eating Madison A to Z crew at Pollo Inka over at their site. It was quite tasty.

|| Palmer, 2:27 PM || link || (0) comments |

03 June, 2010

Farewell Bavarian Lager

While I'm on the topic of beer, I want to give a farewell to Capital's Bavarian Lager which has been put on hiatus. Apparently it just isn't selling enough. This is too bad as it's one of my favorite Capital brews and I don't understand why Supper Club is flying off shelves while a superior product goes the way of the dodo. Oh well. I bought a sixer at Steve's on Junction Road over the weekend. They had only three left.

Still, if Supper Club is going to bring in the cash, more power to 'em. It is admittedly nice to see a beer that isn't a pale ale do well. I suspect that the reason it's selling as it is is that A) it's an inoffensive beer and B) it has a retro Wisconsin name and label. I've heard that Bavarian Lager suffered because beer novices thought that it was a dark/heavy beer because they equate German bier with those styles. Mayhaps it'll return someday with a name that won't cause those unfamiliar with the style to turn and run away.

In other Capital news, Kloster Weizen is back but nur in das bier garten. Also resurrected is the Weizen Doppelbock. It shall be on shelves anon, if not already, in 4-packs as the latest incarnation of the limited edition Capital Square series.

|| Palmer, 1:06 PM || link || (0) comments |

Reunited and It Tastes So Good

After determining that the brewmaster over at Vintage Brewing is in fact the Scott Manning I know, I finally stopped in last week on a sunny afternoon. I got me a Sister Golden Ale and ordered some lunch before busting into Scott's office. It had been ages since we'd seen each other although we found that neither of us really knows how long it'd been.

Me: It's been a while. When was the last time we saw each other?
Scott: I don't know.
Me: Probably Lush's wedding.
Scott: When was that?
Me: I have no idea.
Scott: Me neither.

Obviously the intervening years have been good to us.

Scott looked well and pretty much the same as he did last time I saw him. He was still rail thin although I'm not sure if he's managed to keep all of his hair as he was wearing a baseball cap. I got the skinny on how he ended up coming back to Madison and becoming a partner in Vintage as well as the briefest of summaries of his life since we last met. Scott was enthusiastic about the new venture and was having a good time brewing whatever the hell he wanted to brew. The only downside was some paperwork that he'd been tackling when I stopped in but I guess that's part of being a brewmaster.

He showed me around his mash tuns and fermentation tanks. More importantly, he let me sample one of his brews in waiting, what he describes as "something like a Finnish sahti". It was nice and smooth and had more than a hint of the juniper berries which were still in the tank imparting their essence. Although tasty, it's probably not something you want to quaff all night long. I thought that it would go well with game or rabbit and am thinking that I'll get a growler when it goes on tap and try to pair it with some grilled venison steaks.

As for my Sister Golden Ale, I presume someone in the place was a fan of America. Regardless of taste in music, the beer was mighty fine. It's a Kölsch-style brew which means it's a light straw-colored beer that goes relatively easy on the hops. (Kölsch's are ales in that they are top-fermented but are lagered so the style is a hybrid of sorts.) It just what I needed on a hot day when temperatures were grasping for the 90s and me without air conditioning in my car.** I had ordered the roast turkey since I was to be grilling hamburgers that night and found the food to be good. It was especially pleasing to find that half of the giant heap of flesh I was given was tender dark meat. (Sorry Samara Kalk Derby.) I enjoyed the corn bread dressing very much as well and was happy that the cranberry sauce had whole cranberries in it helping retain a nice bitterness. It is also worth mentioning that Vintage makes their own hot sauces. I went with the Island Hot Sauce which is a blend of papaya, banana, habenero, and spices. Although quite flavorful in a Carmen Miranda way, it needed more habenero. The stuff was pretty weak-tit for having been made with one of the hottest chilies on earth.

I shall definitely return to Vintage. The Dulcinea was in New York City when I went on this little venture so she is keen to check the place out for herself and make me buy her dinner.

Keep an eye out for Scotty on Beerpocalypse Now, a show on Madison's cable access channel WYOU. He was interviewed just a couple days before I stopped in.

**One thing I don’t need on a hot day is an imperial stout which I was surprised to find on tap at the WORT Block Party a couple weekends ago. It was bloody hot out with the sun was beating down on my alabaster skin. The Madison Homebrewers Guild was doing their usual "No Crap On Tap" routine which means that only area microbrews were featured. I approached the beer stand and looked at the menu to find porters, stouts, and pale ales available. (Admittedly, The Grumpy Troll's sour ale eventually went on tap while we were there.) I just had no interest in drinking something heavy or having my taste buds assaulted by hops. Or pretty much anything they had on offer. Capital Supper Club was the only beer listed that held any interest to me and it wouldn't be available for a while. There certainly was no crap on tap but nothing to my taste that day either. And so I was totally sober at a WORT Block Party for the first time.
|| Palmer, 12:02 PM || link || (0) comments |