Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

24 August, 2012


I saw this Onion article this morning:

And then a short while later I ran into the real news:

|| Palmer, 10:19 AM || link || (0) comments |

23 August, 2012

Todd Akin and the Medieval Clerisy

Jacqueline Murray has a piece called "Todd Akin’s views are, literally, medieval" in which she demonstrates that Akin's view that women's bodies magically prevent pregnancy when they are raped would have fit right in with medieval views on the subject.

The notion that a woman’s body will experience different biological responses to intercourse depending on whether the sex act is consensual or coerced can be traced back to the Middle Ages. At this time the scientific and medical texts of Greek and Roman antiquity were being translated and appropriated by European doctors and philosophers, all of whom, without exception, were not only male but also members of the Roman Catholic clergy. Thus, science and medicine were given a distinctly ideological and theological spin.

The medieval roots of Mr. Akin’s comments lie in the scientific belief that a woman needed to experience sexual pleasure just as much as a man in order for conception to occur. Clearly, in a loving relationship this would be the norm. The old “Lie back and think of England” view, that suggested female sexual pleasure was unnecessary, and perhaps even unseemly, is from a much later time.

The corollary is that without female pleasure no conception would occur. Thus, according to the 12th-century philosopher William of Conches, “prostitutes who have sexual relations for money alone, and who take no pleasure during the sex act, do not conceive.” They would, however, get pregnant from sex with a lover.

Like Mr. Akin, William of Conche also considered the situation of rape, confidently asserting that there would be no offspring, unless somehow the woman “enjoyed” it. “Although in rape the act is distressing to begin with, at the end, given the weakness of the flesh, it is not without its pleasures.”
|| Palmer, 4:13 PM || link || (0) comments |

"Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City"

From Al Jazeera comes this devastating look at the effects of our drug war on Baltimore, especially it's black population. Ed Burns, co-creator of The Wire, pulls no punches here. The show is called Fault Lines and the episode is "Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City". After watching this and programs like it, I have to wonder if American inner cities will ever be able to recover as long as the federal government fights its drug war.

|| Palmer, 11:06 AM || link || (0) comments |

Curiosity Descent in HD

This is really cool. It's the descent of the Curiosity Mars rover and it's in HD. But wait. No widescreen? Forsooth!

|| Palmer, 10:51 AM || link || (0) comments |

21 August, 2012

The Automobile Takes Over the Street

Dane101 noted today that the Madison Area Bus Advocates now have a monthly column at Madison Commons. The inaugural entry is here. If you're not familiar with them, do check out their website.

As I was reading the column, I recalled an interesting bit of transportation lore that I found a few weeks ago. The 20th Congress for the New Urbanism was held back in May and there was a lecture given there that described how the streets were transformed from areas "owned" by pedestrians to being the domain of automobiles. As cars became popular, children started getting killed much more often. Prior to the advent of the car, streets were primarily pedestrian areas. Kids played in the street, for example. In his lecture, Peter Norton, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, describes how cars took over the streets and how that process was very deliberate on the part of people promoting automobiles. Once upon a time there were no crosswalks and no jaywalkers because the streets were considered to be for pedestrians with cars being the intruders.

His lecture was called "Why Did We Stop Walking & How Do We Start Again?" and it's available on YouTube. For a summary of his ideas, go here. The lecture is based on his book Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.

|| Palmer, 4:36 PM || link || (1) comments |

Madison Lakes Don't Get No Respect

Living near Lake Monona, I rarely think about access to the lakes as I just have to walk down the street and I am there. However the notion of the public enjoying the lakes and lakeshores became an issue last month when the City Council rejected part of the masterplan for downtown which called for filling in a couple acres of Lake Monona to enlarge Law Park. I liked the idea of an expanded park with more room to enjoy the lake, a pavilion, boat slips, etc. and the plan threw into sharp relief the paucity of public spaces on our lakeshores.

A couple weeks later Michael Doyle of Chicago Carless wrote a blog post entitled "Looking for Madison" in which he described his disappointment with access to our fair lakes.

It took three hours and lots of double-backs, U-turns, and retreating out of cul-de-sacs. Ultimately, it was a depressing effort. (At least from a Chicagoan’s perspective.) We figured we would find at least a few stunning views back across one or both lakes of Madison’s Capitol-topped downtown hill. Mostly, though, we found an unbroken wall of lakefront development in the form of endless exclusive single-family homes with private docks hidden behind view-stealing privacy hedges, very occasionally broken by a handful of boat launches.

This was the rule outside of Madison, where I can recall two public lakefront parks of any size and almost no unfettered view of the isthmus that didn’t involve peering between houses. Things were better within Madison, itself, with sizeable areas of lakefront parkland–though not many–both near downtown and further out in the neighborhoods, and pocket (street-ending) lakefront access in some neighborhoods. But not much better.

It isn’t like we weren’t pulling for Madison to come through. In some neighborhoods we circled and circled, hoping a strange squiggle on Google Maps might be a new, unnamed road, or trying to get to a big stand of trees we could see just over the rooftops, only to discover they were in someone’s private back yard.

Overall, though, after three hours of exploring public lakefront access and views in a metropolitan area famed for both urban beauty and lake recreation, the Madison region seemed pretty hemmed in and cut off from its lakefronts. It was a surprise for us both, and left us feeling that in one fundamental way the urban region that many consider to be the best in Wisconsin didn’t live up to its own press, which takes pains to tout lake recreation.

It sounds like they didn't hit Olin-Turville Park but he still makes a good point here about the lakes being rather inaccessible to the public. (Thankfully he avoided noting how algae-ridden and awful-smelling the lakes are.) Beyond this, there are very few waterfront spots which act as public attractions. There are some nice parks, beaches and boat launches, but, aside from the Union Terrace, there isn't much in the way of space for public gathering that go beyond a field of grass and some picnic tables.

Madison is very Capitol Square-centric and we have nothing akin to Grant Park in Chicago or the Henry W. Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee. There are no bandshells, museums, or festival amenities on our lakeshores; only state office buildings, apartments/condos, and homes. (And the convention center.) The lakes are something of an afterthought. So rest in peace, Law Park plan.

It's been well over a year since I've heard anything about the Nolen Centennial Project. Is that effort still ongoing? I really like the idea of a "waterfront interpretative center". Perhaps if people learned just how bad the lakes are, there might be some more initiative taken in their cleaning.

On a side note, Doyle also says "Milwaukee’s poutine is better, and the lakefront urbanites on either side of the state border are much friendlier than we found Madison’s lifelong inlanders to be."

I don't know about poutine in Madison but is it really inferior to that found in Milwaukee? Any locals reading this that have gustatory experience in this area? And I have to wonder who he ran into that lacked amicability. I hear people thanking bus drivers in Madison all the time. How could we not be friendly?
|| Palmer, 1:51 PM || link || (0) comments |

20 August, 2012

Bottoms Up - Book, Exhibit, and TV Show

Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin's Historic Bars and Breweries will be released by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press next month (although I wouldn't be surprised if you can find it in the Museum store now) and to go along with it there will be an exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum with the same name that runs from 25 September until 17 February 2013.

In small towns and city neighborhoods, in Northwoods taverns, working class bars and upscale tap houses, Wisconsinites gather to relax, socialize and enjoy a drink. Explore Wisconsin's tavern culture through historic photos and breweriana, and discover how the state came to dominate the brewing industry. This exhibit complements the Wisconsin Historical Society Press book and Wisconsin Public Television documentary of the same name.

Authors Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz will be doing a mini-book tour around the state promoting it. Dates and locations are here. Here's a couple early dates of interest:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Time: 7 pm
Location: Brocach Irish Pub and Restaurant, 7 W. Main St, Madison, WI 53703
Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz will be signing books. This bar is featured in the book.

Thursday, September 27, 2012
Time: Evening
Location: New Glarus Brewery, 2400 State Hwy 69, New Glarus, WI 53574
Catch a preview screening of the new Wisconsin Public Television documentary, "Bottoms Up," the companion to the book of the same name. Authors Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz will be available to sign books. This brewery is featured in the book.

|| Palmer, 4:39 PM || link || (0) comments |

Paul Ryan: Douchebag

Paul Ryan's handlers must be busier than a one-eyed man at a burlesque show trying to spin his comments now that he's trying to be vice-president.

He disparages the federal stimulus programs, denies requesting any cash from those programs and then, lo and behold, it comes out that he did, in fact, put his hands in that pie.

After repeated denials, Paul Ryan has admitted he requested stimulus cash even after sharply criticizing the program.

Ryan had denied doing so as recently as Wednesday, when he spoke to ABC’s Cincinnati affiliate, WCPO, in Ohio.

“I never asked for stimulus,” Mitt Romney’s new running mate said. “I don’t recall… so I really can’t comment on it. I opposed the stimulus because it doesn’t work, it didn’t work.”

But as we’ve now learned, Ryan did write letters. He did request stimulus funds.

Well of course he had to request stimulus money. His constituents were suffering from the closure of the GM plant in Janesville because of Obama's energy policy. Yes, he blames that plant closure on Obama despite the fact that it closed before Obama was president.

GM stopped production at its Janesville, Wisconsin production facility in 2008, when George W. Bush was still president, but according to Paul Ryan the person to blame is President Obama.

...Ryan told a crowd in North Canton, Ohio yesterday that the president's energy policies had led to the factory's closure in 2009. Ryan delivered the attack in personal terms, saying he had high school buddies who worked at the factory. "A lot of my high school buddies worked at that GM plant," Ryan said. "One of the reasons that plant got shut down is $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president's terrible energy policies are costing us jobs."

But despite Ryan's emotional story, GM announced the plant's closure in June of 2008. In October of 2008, the date was accelerated from 2010 to the end of the year. And on December 23, 2008 the last SUV rolled off the line.

Now let's go back to his quote above - "I opposed the stimulus because it doesn’t work, it didn’t work." These days he's all anti-John Maynard Keynes. But that was before he was pro-John Maynard Keynes, as Chris Hayes demonstrates.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

His latest exercise in being a doofus is in claiming foreign policy experience by having voted to invade Iraq. “I voted to send people to war." Wow! There's a real resume builder.
|| Palmer, 3:49 PM || link || (0) comments |

Anonymous UK Points Out Hypocrisy of British Goverment

With the British government rattling its sabers and threatening to raid the Ecuadoran embassy to get its hands on Julian Assanage for extradition, Anonymous UK has released a video pointing the extreme hypocrisy of the threat.

The British government will not send a convicted paedophile back to the United States for punishment but is threatening to violate Ecuadoran territory to get someone who is only wanted for questioning.

|| Palmer, 2:37 PM || link || (0) comments |

Trailer for Asylum of the Daleks

The new season of Doctor Who is rumored to start next month but there's no official airdate for the premier. However, there is a new trailer out for the opener, "Asylum of the Daleks".

|| Palmer, 9:17 AM || link || (0) comments |

18 August, 2012

Surly's Bitter Brewer

I am going to round out my trio of Surly reviews with one for Bitter Brewer which is their take on the English bitter.

BB poured a nice orange-brown and was completely clear. The head was very creamy and lasted a good long while. It clung to the sides of the glass well for some nice lacing. There were a few stray bubbles making their way up the glass. During my initial whiff my nose was overwhelmed with fruity aromas from the malt, namely apricot. However, there was some very faint grassy hop in there too.

Taking a sip, I was first greeted by that fruity malt but it quickly gave way to the hops which seemed to register on every part of my tongue. Despite the name, BB isn’t a mega hop bomb that will set your lips a-puckerin’. Yes, there was certainly a goodly amount of bitterness present but what was really notable was the big, fresh grassy/floral flavor of the hops with the emphasis on the latter. To my palate, the malt was drowned out by the hops but it was still there as evidenced by the mouthfeel which never felt watery.

While it mellows as you get to the bottom of the can, Bitter Brewer is all about that floral hop flavor being in your face. One pint was enough for me. Having said this, the floral taste was a very welcome change of pace. The German, Czech, and Polish lagers I’ve been drinking lately use hops that impart more of a herbal flavor while the pale ales that have crossed my path used C-hops which emphasize citrus. And so it was great to drink something which went in a different direction. While Surly tweaked the English bitter, they get credit in my book for keeping BB at 4.1% ABV - nice and sessionable and within the range for the style - instead of making a bigger beer.

Junk food pairing: I found that Bitter Brewer went well with corn nuts. The toasted flavor helped make up for the lack of malt and made for a nice balance on my palate.
|| Palmer, 9:12 AM || link || (0) comments |

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed takes its inspiration from a fake ad placed in Backwoods Home magazine back in 1997 which read: “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box ... You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.” Here the same ad becomes fodder for a Seattle alternative paper reporter named Jeff who suffers from a bit of egoism. For the investigation he takes a couple interns along with him. Arnau is a socially-awkward nerd while Darius is a beautiful young woman who is also a smartass with a droll sense of humor. The movie actually opens with her epic fail at a job interview followed by a scene at home with her widowed father.

The trio drive to a town called Oceanview which not coincidentally is also the home of one of Jeff’s old flames. While he is off trying to get a piece of ass, Darius and Arnau stake out the post office and eventually watch a man check the P.O. box in the ad. He turns out to be Kenneth, a rather odd duck who works in the local supermarket. After finding out where he lives, Jeff goes to Kenneth’s house pretending to answer the ad but the time traveler sees through his ruse and sends Jeff packing. Plan B is to have Darius approach him. She does so while Kenneth at work with her wiles and a tough guy act. She is in.

One big problem here. Kenneth is paranoid that someone, perhaps the government, is watching him. He places an ad with only a P.O. box in it yet he seems remarkably nonplussed when people show up at his place of employment and his home saying they were answering the ad. This plot hole is only enlarged later in the film at times when Kenneth is convinced that the voyeurs are near and he becomes absolutely manic and flees.

Setting this aside, Darius slowly earns Kenneth’s trust and trains for the mission while Arnau presumably sits in the hotel room and surfs the Net. For his part, Jeff seeks out his ex-girlfriend, Liz. She is a divorced hairdresser who lives a rather bucolic lifestyle out in the country where she raises chickens. Liz unwittingly seduces him with her home cooked meals and multiple varieties of pie. Elsewhere Darius falls for Kenneth. Although he’s a bit off kilter, he is friendly and earnest in his time travel endeavor which he reveals to be a mission to save a lost love.

Neither of these relationships pan out. Having failed with Liz, Jeff decides to teach Arnau a hedonistic lesson on the meaning of tempus fugit with a group of young women picked up at a gas station. Darius discovers the truth about Kenneth and confronts him with it. Their relationship is riven but Darius decides that she doesn’t want to walk away. I won’t spoil the ending but will say that it managed to provide some closure while also being wonderfully ambiguous.

The title of the movie refers not only to the potential perils of time travel but also to those of opening oneself up emotionally to another person. There’s a nice contrast here between Jeff and Darius. Jeff does so but flees immediately while Darius takes a risk. While a nice sentiment, it didn’t translate for me because, of the main characters, only Kenneth was interesting. Arnau is simply wallpaper. He doesn’t do much except look exasperated and suffer Jeff’s treatment of him. Jeff is mostly defined by his puerile comments and adolescent attitudes. And Darius is just all sarcasm. Some of this was funny but was one-note for too much of the time.

I think that this initial disappointment with the characters makes it difficult for me to accept their transformations because I feel really ambivalent about how things pan out. On one hand I think the shift from light-hearted comedy to love story was pulled off well. But there’s also something nagging at me that says it was too quick and that the ending was in some way trite and too much like a fairy tale. Darius and Kenneth’s relationship reminded me of Jack and Parry in The Fisher King with two damaged people looking to be fixed. But our characters here find healing with too few trials and tribulations for it to be satisfying for me.

Still, there is fun to be had in Safety Not Guaranteed and I give the creators credit for not letting the idea of time travel get in the way of focusing on characters.

|| Palmer, 8:16 AM || link || (0) comments |

17 August, 2012

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)

Pete Townshend once sang “Communicate, communicate/Never, never hesitate!” and Roger Brown, the protagonist of Headhunters (Hodejegerne), would have done well to heed that advice.

Roger is a headhunter who recruits people for executive positions in large corporations. But his salary just isn't big enough to lead the lifestyle that he wants for himself and his wife Diana. Diana enjoys tacking Oslo's art scene and is opening an art gallery. She is also a gorgeous valkyrie who towers over Roger's comparatively short 5'6” or so frame. He has a trophy wife and is under the misguided notion that he needs to maintain a luxurious lifestyle to keep her rather than giving her what she really wants, a child. Instead, to be able to afford the nice house, car, and gallery, he steals art on the side, using his connections and interviews with clients to scope out targets. His friend Ove works for a home security firm and he is able to disengage the home security systems of Roger's victims. And, perhaps to assuage his guilt and placate a Napolean complex, he has a mistress named Lotte.

As the movie opens, Roger is recruiting for a position at a company called Pathfinder. As luck would have it, a handsome, debonair man named Clas Greve shows up at the grand opening of Diana’s gallery and he just happens to be a former executive of Pathfinder’s archrival. Roger sets up a lunch date to work his magic on the new prospect. The next day Diana casually mentions that Clas owns an extremely valuable Rubens and Roger schemes to steal it.

The heist goes well until Roger calls Diana and discovers her phone ringing from Clas’ bedroom. Incensed that he has been cuckolded, Roger abruptly ends his recruitment of Clas. But things only get worse as the movie takes on a darkly comic tone that compares well to the Coen Brothers.

It turns out that Clas is a former member of an elite army unit and is pursuing Roger. Does he wish to keep Diana for his own? Or does he know of the theft? While short is stature and not a trained killer, Roger is no dummy. He manages to elude Clas through some quick thinking as when he hides in the muck in an old outhouse. He is also lucky and so is wedged between two portly identical twin polices officers in the back seat of a car when it is pushed off a cliff by Clas.

Although there is action in Headhunters, it’s not really fair to call it an action-thriller. I mean, unless you call a frantic Roger escaping on a tractor that has the corpse of a dog impaled on the front action. The fun comes less from visceral thrills and more in the setups and the topsy turvy situations Rogers finds himself in. Plus Roger goes from a real jerk to having our sympathies.

I was surprised by the character of Diana. She doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time but she felt very genuine. Roger is defined by his actions, for the most part, while Diana comes across to us mostly in her facial expressions and tone of voice. She is very nice while her husband is a philandering jerk, at least that’s where he starts out at. Diana provides of moments of real tenderness which contrast nicely with the dark humor and death in Roger’s story.

|| Palmer, 8:27 PM || link || (0) comments |

16 August, 2012

Quote of the Day

From David Cronenberg:

"It's still Batman running around in a stupid cape. I just don't think it's elevated. Christopher Nolan's best movie is Memento, and that is an interesting movie. I don't think his Batman movies are half as interesting though they're 20 million times the expense ... A superhero movie, by definition, you know, it's comic book. It's for kids. It's adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying Dark Knight Rises is 'supreme cinema art,' I don't think they know what the fuck they're talking about."
|| Palmer, 1:10 PM || link || (2) comments |

13 August, 2012

Hysterical Literature

This is a woman named Stoya (just looked her up - she's a porn star/model) reading a selection from a book called Necrophilia Variations by Supervert. The kicker is that someone is underneath the table applying a Hitachi Magic Wand to her naughty bits. She gets pretty far along before she, er, has to stop reading for a short stretch. I take it that this is the first installment of the Hysterical Literature project by Clayton Cubitt.

More from Stoya at her blog.

|| Palmer, 3:31 PM || link || (0) comments |

Great Taste of the Midwest 2012

Five hours go by quickly when there's good beer involved, especially when there are literally hundreds of different beers (and meads and braggots to boot)just waiting to be sampled. It always seems like the Great Taste goes by in a flash after waiting for 40 minutes in line for what feels like an eternity.

The weather was the nicest it's been in years, as far as I can recall. Sunny but only in the high 70s. Warm enough for lighter beers to work their magical powers of refreshment on you yet temperate enough to drink bigger beers as well. I had planned to hit the New Glarus tent immediately to sample their Aged Bourbon Barrel Kriek which was to be tapped at 13:00 but the line was out to John Nolen Drive by the time we got there. I suppose bourbon barrel fans hopped in line as well as folks who don't live in Wisconsin or near the border. And so we went off in search of shorter lines and this was my first beer of the Taste:

It's a Peach Berliner Weisse from Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis. It was good but I wished that it was a bit more sourness and that there was a smidge more peach. Still, it was tasty and refreshing. Here's beer nummer zwei:

This is Bubblelicious Weisse from Tenth and Blake, Miller's craft division. I've read articles by people who've been there for a meeting or conferences and who rave about the wonderful brews served there that are not for sale. In this case, they took a Berliner Weisse and added syrup bubbles a la bubble tea. This pour has mango bubbles – there were no woodruff or raspberry ones on offer. We craft drinkers may decry Miller Lite but the brewers there have the chops, I can tell you, because this was great stuff indeed. Very tart yet with a nice light body. The mango contrasted nicely with it. I grant you that there was novelty in the presentation but they made a seriously good Berliner Weisse. The D got a pour of their Jazz Hands braggot which was also excellent.

Goose Island had a tent where you could try your hand at mixing their stouts.

This was probably the best year ever for people such as myself who enjoy the less common German/Polish bier/piwo styles. I found zwei goses, vier Berliner Weisses, zwei Grätzers/ Grodziskies, and a roggenbier. I also saw a handful of Baltic porters, some fruit-flavored hefeweizens which sounded tasty, and a couple zwickels. The programs listed an alt or two, if memory serves and there were several Kölsches. Pale ales ruled the day, to be sure, but not a bad showing from the Teutonic/Slavic styles, all things considered.

I finally got a chance to try Sam Adams' Verloren gose. I simply have never seen the stuff in a liquor store here for reasons unknown. It had an incredible aroma. Tartness and coriander – ooh la la! Too bad it didn't taste as good as it smelled. Tartness was lacking as was salt. I am unsure if it was my palate or whether the beer was genuine lacking. I'd still try it again to rule out the former.

Lots of musos around. These guys drew a large crowd.

The better gose was by Destihl from downstate Illinois. This stuff had a wonderfully sour fruity aroma, like tart strawberries. It was much more sour than Verloren and the salt was present as well. Unfortunately I couldn't taste coriander. My tongue's fault? Hey, they got two out of three. Refreshing and I would definitely try it again.

Chicago's 5 Rabbit has quickly become a favorite brewery of mine. Their 5 Vulture is great and it irritates me to no end that I can never find 5 Lizard, a Latin-style witbier with passion fruit, on the northwest side when I'm in ChiTown. I only ever have it at the Great Taste. It is clean and fruity yet not overly sweet. A perfect summer beer. The D got a pour of it while I tried out their newest annual, 5 Grass. It's a hoppy ale brewed with herbs and spices including juniper, sage, and Tasmanian pepperberry. It smelled fantastic and tasted that way too. Sage and pepper were prominent and they complemented the hops very well. And it was all atop a nice malt backbone. I have three six-packs of the 5 Rabbit golden ale at home and hope to review it soon.

The crew from Metropolitan. I missed their zwickel. :(

New Holland threw a zombie prom and busted out the dry ice for the occasion.

About mid-way through the fest I ran into some former co-workers and we had the citrus IPA smackdown! We had just had Potosi's Tangerine IPA and were commenting on how tasty it was when they countered by saying that Blue Heron's Grapefruit IPA was even better so naturally we had to try it. Indeed, it was very good with a wonderful fresh grapefruit flavor. On the other hand, Potosi's variation had a sweet-bitter dichotomy that is hard to beat. Tough one.

We stopped in at the Vintage table to say hello to Scott and while I was there I had a Tippy Toboggan because it's one of the best beers in the known universe. He had his Grätzer on tap which reminded me that I had to try the Grumpy Troll's take on it. Here it is:

It was lighter that Scott's brew – only 3.7% ABV - which Scott admitted was probably more traditional. (He offered that his was an imperial Grätzer.) I liked the mellow smoke profile but, if Ron Pattinson is right, it wasn't hoppy enough. Despite this, it was tasty.

Towards the end of the day we ran into Doug from the Over Served Podcast. He led us over to Mineral Point's Brewery Creek to sample their shandies. The Frankenshandy was made with dark beer and was great. The "Another Side of Shandy" featured grapefruit and was also very tasty. A nice way to ease out of the festival.

Page hard at work.

Bell's was handing out capes to go with their comic which took up the side of their tent.

A few final tasting notes and thoughts...

I enjoyed Backpocket Scottish "Peated" Lager. The peated malt shone through yet it was crisp and not too heavy. O'so's Lemongrass Wit seemed to lack lemongrass. Maybe my tongue was just worn out by the time we made it to their booth. Arcadia's Shipwreck Porter, a Baltic porter, has only three legible words in my notepad: "could be deadly". Lafayette had two Berliner Weisses neither of which were particularly sour. Then again, it's possible some of those barrel aged Baltic porters temporarily damaged my tongue. I missed out on Flat 12 Bierwerks' Kiwi Kiwi Hefe and Kuhnhenn's chai and ginseng hefes. Anyone try these?

I'm reluctant to name a favorite brew but will say that it was nice to start the day off with goses and Berliner Weisses. Low octane but tasty. Throw in the Grätzer and some shandies to finish off the day, it was obvious that beer need not be high in alcohol to be interesting.

It seemed like I got many more "normal" 2oz. pours this year than at previous Tastes which seemed to have a lot which were 4+oz. Brought chairs for the first time. Didn't use them much but they were still nice to have. Where was the dunk tank? Somehow I missed any dirndls which were walking around but did see one guy in drag. Lastly, Rob Larson looked like he had forgotten his troubles with the Lake Mills government and looked to be in a cheerful mood.

Next beer festival is in Potosi.
|| Palmer, 2:10 PM || link || (0) comments |

Partying with The Polkaholics

After work on Friday I met The Dulcinea at the Essen Haus for their pre-Great Taste party featuring Chicago's Revolution Brewing who brought The Polkaholics along with them for their first gig in Madison in eight years. I'd never had any Revolution brew nor seen The Polkaholics live so it was a great opportunity to correct both of these highly unfortunate situations.

On the left is the Oktoberfest next to a rye stout. The Oktoberfest was good, if a bit light on the malt. I guess I'm used to Kirby's iteration of the style. The stout was also tasty. Nice'n'dry with the rye zip bringing up the rear.

The only Polkaholics album I have is Wally: A Polka-Punk Opera so I was yelling for "Division Street". Bassist Jolly James Wallace heard my plea and they played it. They even took my second request – "Caldwell Woods". At this point, The D ordered me to stop yelling requests. Not a problem as they proceeded to play lots of great tunes including "Existentialist Polka", "Who Stole the Kiska", and "Old Style Polka", among many others in their three sets. They were an absolute blast and all great fellows. James and guitarist Dandy Don Hedeker were in bands previously that had played here and James asked where O'Cayz Corral was. I pointed to the empty lot next door. The D and I also chatted with drummer Stylin’ Steve Glover and his significant other, Rosa, who was very friendly.

The owner of the Essen Haus approached the band after the first set and the plan is to have the boys return to play there in October.

|| Palmer, 10:58 AM || link || (0) comments |

09 August, 2012

The Great Taste Cometh

I now have Great Taste of the Midwest tickets in my possession and have been scouring the program for beers to drink. Too bad neither Lazy Monk nor Valkyrie will be there. I was also disappointed to see that Metropolitan won't be bringing any of their Arc Welder Rye Dunkel but such is life. On the other hand, they are bringing their zwickel. I am sorely tempted to stand outside the Vintage's spot and drink Tippy Toboggan all day but I hear that the Vintage cellar is being cleared out and it will be back on tap tomorrow. Or next Friday, I can't recall. There will be a couple goses including Sam Adams' take on the style which, for some odd reason, I cannot find here in Madison. I also noticed a couple Berliner Weisses including one from Miller's R&D brewery which sounds like a really fun novelty:

Bubblelicious Weisse: ABV 3.3%, 7.4°P, , IBU 5, Berliner Weisse. Wheat and Pale Malts. CDH (Debittered Hops). Top-fermenting wheat beer, with the quenching sourness of a lactic fermentation. This classic sour German beer is served with an Asian bubblelicious twist. This new addition is a translucent gummy ball that contains flavored juices in the center which “pops” with every bite. The bursting bubbles come in Lychee, Mango, Orange, Passion Fruit, or Strawberry.

If my plan to sample the Imperial schwartzbier and every Baltic porter comes to fruition, I may need to be carried out.

I would like to second this idea from Metropolitan:

Since it is going to be a while before this happens, I will now extend an offer to Metropolitan, New Glarus, Capital, and anyone else who brews lagers: I'd be happy to pitch a tent in my backyard to be used as a prototype. Consider it a test run (an ongoing one, if need be) until the MHTG sees the light on lagers. Obergäriges Lagerbiers will be welcome too.

News from New Glarus is that they brewed a new R&D sour brown ale in honor of the Great Taste:

Madison's Great Taste is coming up and we promised a new R and D release in it's honor. Announcing the latest R and D a Sour Brown Ale. 150 cases have been spontaneously fermenting for over two years in oak with a final finish carbonation in the bottle. This beer is funky and sour. 50 cases will be released Thursday Aug 9 at 1:00, fifty more 10:00 Saturday morning and the last fifty cases will be released Sunday morning at 10:00. Two bottle limit per person. 8.00 per bottle.

The Great Dane has started bottling. The new Un-Leashed series comes in bombers. MadTable has the straight dope.

Lastly, the label for Leinenkugel's new seasonal. Snowdrift will replace Fireside Nut Brown. How much do you want to bet this will taste like a vanilla milk shake made with beer?

|| Palmer, 12:14 PM || link || (2) comments |

08 August, 2012

Surly CynicAle

My second foray into the world of Surly beers was their CynicAle, which is something of a stylistic chameleon. It is perhaps best described as a Belgian saison-like brew or, as the brewery describes it, "a new school style". Whatever the case, it has French barley, English oats, Belgian yeast, and Slovenian hops which sounds like an interesting mix to me.

CynicAle is a mighty pretty beer with clarity and a golden/light amber color. The head was thick'n'rich with big bubbles. The smells here are quite a mix with yeasty bread commingled with grassy/floral scents and fruit, namely, raisins. On the palate, it was a similar situation. The brew was sweet at first with a bit of raw bread dough flavor and peach. But then came the hops with their spiciness that had hints of pepper. At the finish there was smoothness and some floral hoppiness. Surprisingly the mouthfeel was fairly thin. For whatever reason, I was expecting something a bit heavier. Perhaps it was the color or the sweetness of that first sip. I don't offer this as a complaint, mind you, because I think this made it all the more quaffable on a hot day.

All in all this is a very tasty beer. I really enjoyed the peppery vs. fruity dichotomy here and it was quite refreshing. However, it does weigh in at 6.7% ABV so it's not exactly suitable for extended sessions of refreshment.

Junk food pairing: CynicAle goes well with Snyder's Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Pieces.
|| Palmer, 2:35 PM || link || (0) comments |

A Minnesota Import: Surly's Hell

A friend of mine has, unfortunately, become a resident of Minnesota but occasionally makes his way back to Madison. This being the case, I like to encourage him to bring me Minnesota beer and I now find myself in possession of some Surly.

The first brew I tried was their summer seasonal, Hell, a zwickel. Although unfiltered, it was not hazy nor was their some tasty yeast detritus at the bottom of my glass. It was clear as day and a lovely yellow color to boot. As the photo above shows, I got a nice frothy head and the effervescent goodness made for a pretty sight in my pilsner glass. Also, it left some fairly heavy Schaumhaftvermoegen.

Taking a whiff, I caught bread dough along with some grass/straw, and a faint tinge of hops that were herbal in character. Since it was fricking hot out when I busted this stuff out, I was really looking forward to that lager crispness to cut through the heat. Lately I have found that pale ales just don't work in the heat. Recent bottles of Pearl Street's pale ale and a Moon Man went unfinished. Although I had emtpied the majority of the beer, I just couldn't finish them and still felt very thirsty afterwards. I guess you don't drink an ale for a lager's job. Hell worked well in this respect. The crispness quenched my thirst and took the edge off the heat. It has a medium malt backbone which is balanced nicely by the hops which impart a grassy flavor, not unlike the aroma. You can taste the carbonation but it was not prominent.

The problem was that, while I was enjoying the fine, balanced malt-hop thing, the flavor suddenly departed my mouth and my tongue could only register smooth velvet. I presume this was diacetyl as it is said to taste like butter and what I registered was butter without the dairy. Too bad. I don't know if this was because of bacteria invading the beer or something to do with the beer's lagering process but, regardless, it ruined a perfectly tasty brew. Once the velvety interlude had ended, the finish was clean and moderated by some hop bitterness. Oddly enough, it wasn't a particularly dry finish as I had expected.

Junk food pairing: Nothing fancy here. Just go with some good kartoffelchips.
|| Palmer, 1:24 PM || link || (0) comments |

06 August, 2012

Mmm...schnitzel sandwich

Oh man! My brother lives three blocks from Olga's Deli yet he's never taken me there, the bastard. Five bucks for a four-story chicken schnitzel sandwich. The Chicago Reader has the straight dope. Does any place in Madison serve schnitzel sandwiches?

|| Palmer, 1:34 PM || link || (3) comments |

Lovecraftian Double Feature

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society is booking double features around the country of their two films: The Call of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in Darkness. Andrew O'Hehir of Salon recently fave the latter a good review.

If you look at the HPLHS website, you will notice that Madison does not yet have a screening booked yet Oshkosh does. Duluth does. Lame. How do I rent a theatre that sells gummy Yog-Sothoths and Cthulhu Brewing Company's Black IPA?

|| Palmer, 1:27 PM || link || (0) comments |

03 August, 2012

Madison Is Now Ground Zero of a Grodziskie/Grätzer Revival

First Scott Manning at Vintage brewed a grätzer and now his confrère Mark Knoebl of The Grumpy Troll has done the same:

Scott tells me that Knoebl's version has less bitterness than his and has a lower original gravity as well. Methinks a trek to Mt. Horeb is in order.

A couple new labels of note:

A new Oktoberfest on the scene, eh? It'll be difficult to keep me away from Capital's mellifluous take on the style but I shall have to give it a shot. I am pleased to see Leine's do a Baltic Porter, a much under-appreciated beer. Capital did one a few years ago for their Capital Square series and I loved it. I long for the day when Kirby brews it again.

Turning to the world of mead, Bos Meadery has opened its doors over at 849 E. Washington. MadTable has a nice profile of Colleen Bos and her establishment. Oddly, the article describes mead as a "medieval drink" when it then proceeds to say that it is "world's oldest fermented beverage". Using these words makes it sound like a Dogfish Head kind of thing – a beverage that people haven't made in centuries and only now is the recipe being dusted off. But mead never went away. Poles, for instance, have been drinking it for centuries even as Americans forgot about it.

The near east side can now claim to be home to a meadery, a distillery (Old Sugar), and a brewery (One Barrel). Next thing you know someone will starting making sake on the isthmus.

On a similar note, I recently noticed that there's a new outfit making sangria in Milwaukee - Lovino. Biz Times has a brief article about them.

Jaime and Erica Zdroik have launched Sangria by Lovino, a Bayview-based ready to drink bottled sangria. The Sangria has been released in 83 Roundy's locations in Wisconsin and plans for release in a few Milwaukee-area restaurants are currently underway.

The sangria is produced and bottled in Algoma, Wisconsin and shipped to more than 83 locations throughout Wisconsin.

According to Erica, the product is best served on ice and mixed with citrus fruits.

"Our product is all natural and is different than other bottled sangria on the market," Erica said. "Our sangria is 12.5 percent alcohol, compared to other sangrias which tend to be closer to 6 or 8 percent. We don't dilute the product at all."

It is now available in Madison.

Narragansett Brewing Company of Rhode Island is expanding its reach outside of the East Coast and we Cheeseheads will be the first lucky victims of their cunning plan. To the best of my knowledge, I don't know anyone who's ever tasted Gansett brews. Their line-up of a pale lager, a "light" beer, cream ale, porter, Märzen, helles bock, and golden ale doesn't have any trendy styles but I can't complain about the prospect of another helles bock next spring.

Lastly, Madison Beer Review has a comprehensive list of Great Taste pre-parties. With such a plethora of choices, I don't know where to go. Last year I sweated out much of the night at Brickhouse but not before a stop at the Capital Tap Haus where I drunkenly pleaded with Kirby to avoid the primrose path of pale ales and to instead stay with the lagers. Thankfully he didn't remember me the next day.
|| Palmer, 10:48 AM || link || (0) comments |

Cloud Atlas Trailer

I started reading Cloud Atlas recently and now see that there's an extended trailer for the film adaptation by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis.

It will be interesting to see how they pull it off. I am only 100 or so pages in but most of the story so far is epistolary so there's either going to be a lot of voice over narration or a drastic retooling.

|| Palmer, 8:30 AM || link || (0) comments |