Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...
27 February, 2013
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
A few months before starting this book I listened to Cat Women of the Moon, a radio documentary about sex & gender in science fiction. In the program China Miéville talks about interspecies relationships and noted that he had paired up a human male with an insectoid female in one of his stories. I wasn't many pages in when I realized that he had been talking about Perdido Street Station.
The world here is one in which magic is no fantasy and steampunk is a reality too. The protagonist, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, is a resident of the metropolis of New Crobuzon. New Crobuzon is a gritty place which resembles our own metropolises in many ways but also has a fantastic dystopian feel as well. There's a corrupt mayor with a heavy-handed police force that repels down from zeppelins. Neighborhoods are populated by the various races. Humans live side by side with Khepri (humanoid beetles), Garuda (humanoid birds), Cactacae (humanoid cacti), and others. Plus there are the Remades, beings whose bodies have been modified. Sometimes they have mechanical bits grafted onto their bodies while other times organic matter is.
Grimnebulin is a scientist who pays the bills by doing some work at a university but spends more time in a shared laboratory pursuing his whims, the major one being chaos energy. He is in love with Lin, a Khepri who is also an artist. At the beginning of the story Grimnebulin is approached by a Garuda named Yagharek who wants to hire the scientist to replace his wings which were hacked off in a sad episode of Garudan justice. Meanwhile Lin is hired by the drug lord Mr. Motley to create a sculpture.
The pair is doing well with each being paid to do what they love. As part of his research into flight, Isaac sends the word out onto the street that he's interested in creatures of flight and soon his lab is inundated with them. He also acquires a strange caterpillar-like creature which he discovers only eats a new hallucinogenic drug called dreamshit. It grows and eventually matures into a very large and very dangerous creature called a slake moth which feeds on the consciousness of sentient beings. It frees its brethren who are being held captive at a government research lab and all hell breaks loose in New Crobuzon.
Much of the story involves Isaac and Yagharek banding together with a rotating cast of other characters to kill the slake moths. In addition to teaming up with various rogues, Isaac also encounters some steampunk AI in a scrapyard. The scramble against time makes for some great reading but Lin is kidnapped by her benefactor and is thusly out of the picture for most of the story. This is unfortunate because Miéville takes some time at the opening of the story to get into her psyche where he examines her relationship with her fellow Khepri as well as how her interspecies relationship with Isaac is seen in the community at large. He also plumbs the depths of her obsession with art.
While one character study is set aside, we get another which is equally enthralling. New Crobuzon is a wonderful creation with its mixture of species, magic, and a steampunk take on the Industrial Revolution. There is political intrigue within the halls of power there while out on the streets the poor of various races assemble in neighborhoods and eke out an existence. Magic is the common thread which binds the city and its inhabitants together. Thaumaturgy is an academic subject at the university but it is also an engine of industry. It is used to punish criminals by transmogrifying them into Remades but it is also practiced by some striking dock workers. Miéville also spends a fair number of words describing the inhabitants of the city and their cultures – what they are like, their homelands, and how they adapt to life in the city. He really spared no expense in trying to make New Crobuzon as vivid as he could.
While I think that taking Lin out of the picture was a misstep, Perdido Street Station was still a brilliant novel. It's part action & suspense (the scene with our slake moth hunters entering the creatures' nest had me on the edge of my seat) but it's also an engaging peek inside the heads of various characters and a sociological examination of the weird yet wonderful fictional metropolis of New Crobuzon which bears more than a passing resemblance to our own world.
The crowds were out for Bockfest at Capital Brewery on Saturday.
It had been a few years since I'd been and some things had changed. For one, the Blonde Doppelbock was available from the get-go whereas I'd swear that it wasn't tapped until after the Running of the Blondes in past years. Must have made logistical sense - the taps won't get bum rushed. I don't know about the last few years but an 80s cover band called Sixteen Candles performed instead of Pupy Costello & His Big City Honky Tonk. Two words: Lionel Richie. L-A-M-E.
Lastly, I didn't notice any chubs sailing through the air. I guess this is an invention of Kirby's that he took with him.
What hadn't changed was the tastiness of the beer. I was really thirsty when we arrived and made myself a radler with Supper Club and lemonade to start. Very refreshing on a relatively warm winter day. The Mindblock, er, Maibock was fantastic. Hearty yet not overly sweet. Malty but with a fine hop balance. The Blonde Doppelbock was also great. The alcohol is hidden well behind a velvety wall of fine malt flavor that is never cloying.
After a brief detour at the Village Green it was off to the Vintage where Scott kindly put up with two drunks. Square Pig should be on tap by Friday. It's a mish-mash brew that doesn't fit any round hole of a style. If memory serves, Scott kind of looked around the brewhouse and grabbed any and all ingredients that were in need of being transmogrified into beer. What I recall most vividly is the grapefruit aroma of the hops which weren't in the taste. Scott's Grätzer is to return this summer. (I am trying to convince him to include willow bark in this batch. Wish me luck.) My friend and I had Scott's alt and roggenbiers. I've already professed my love for Tippy Toboggan but I'll say it again - that is one great beer. And the alt more than held its own. Loved it. My superhero power is apparently an ability to drink like a Düsseldorfer.
To move away from my drunken adventures, I noticed that Capital is profiled in the latest issue of Grain & Grape. I think I am finally convinced that the lagers aren't going anywhere. Having said this, the article notes that Mutiny IPA comes out on 1 April. On the other hand, a beer akin to a pre-Prohibition style lager will be coming out in bombers in May. (1900: The Next Generation?) Most exciting to my palate was the revelation that the summer seasonal will be a Munich Helles. Bavarian Lager rises from the ashes courtesy of a new recipe. I found myself in complete agreement with the author of the piece, George Zens, when he wrote that the retirement of Bavarian Lager "was one of the dumbest decisions taken by the previous management." Amen, brother.
Speaking of the helles, word is that Leines shall release Hoppin' Helles this summer. Leines also seems determined to inundate the market with god-awful "shandies" that are better described as hard fruit punches. Orange Shandy is next. But there's also a couple new Big Eddy brews. Rye (Wheat) Wine hits the shelves in June while August brings Imperial Oktoberfest.
It looks like the state couldn't put the kibosh on BadgerCare soon enough for Dennis Smith because he has now resigned his position as the Secretary of the Department of Health Services to become a lobbyist.
This isn't surprising. DWD is now on their - what? third secretary under Walker.
And then there's the WEDC, a Frankenstein-like entity devised by Walker. Our Dear Leader got to hand pick the leaders of the organization which would be the standard bearer of his "Open for Business" mantra yet it was a complete clusterfuck. It's CEO and CFO resigned. And let's not forget that Walker was the chairman of the WEDC's board.
Many of Walker's cronies whom he puts in charge of state agencies just refuse to finish out his term for one reason or another. Smith, at least, stayed for a couple years. DWD secretaries, on the other hand, are appointed and then bail faster than a deacon in a whorehouse. Do these people just take these secretary gigs as favors? "Yeah, sure, I'll run your agency for a bit. I'm between lobbying/think tank jobs right now."
Look at the press release announcing Smith's new job:
Previously, Secretary Smith served as Director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under Secretaries Tommy Thompson and Michael Leavitt. He also served as Acting Administrator of CMS from December 2003 to March 2004. In addition, Smith also held positions as Medicaid Director for the Commonwealth of Virginia and as Chief of Planning for the California Department of Developmental Services.
He's leveraging experience gained at the taxpayer expense to hang out with Howard Dean and to advise "clients on long-term market opportunities and business strategies related to health system and health insurance reform". It seems like his stint at the DHS was just a resume builder.
I read an article recently but cannot find it now which addressed this kind of situation. This particular piece was about taking on the revolving door at the S.E.C. specifically, if memory serves, but can perhaps be applied to anyone who uses their civil service merely as a way to gain contacts to use in a more lucrative position in the private sector. The idea was to take a percentage of their salary for five years once they leave the government.
In this case, Smith appears to have cut his teeth at the taxpayers' expense and now he has landed a plum job in D.C. for a private firm (he also did a stint with the Heritage Foundation) where he will, no doubt, make what appears to be the riches of Croesus in contrast to the incomes of those folks whom he would deny Medicaid. Perhaps he can give we the taxpayers a cut of his new salary in exchange for the education and a list of like-minded "reformers" upon whom he can rely that he received at our expense.
Reality TV in Norway is much different than ours is. Here people sing, eat bugs, or get into fights. Over there people stack cordwood.
The TV program, on the topic of firewood, consisted mostly of people in parkas chatting and chopping in the woods and then eight hours of a fire burning in a fireplace.
That just sounds thoroughly Norwegian. But wait! There's more!
Yet no sooner had it begun, on prime time on Friday night, than the angry responses came pouring in.
“We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book “Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”
He explained, “One thing that really divides Norway is bark.”
One thing that does not divide Norway, apparently, is its love of discussing Norwegian wood. Nearly a million people, or 20 percent of the population, tuned in at some point to the program, which was shown on the state broadcaster, NRK.
Friday night prime time TV in Oslo is people chopping wood, stacking it, and then burning it. The program was 12 hours long - four of people chopping and eight of wood burning. Wisconsin Public TV should do something like this. A live broadcast from Stoughton.
The article doesn't say but I'm betting no dumb socialites in bikinis with their tits hanging out were featured.
When I met Kate Orman last fall at Chicago TARDIS, I was compelled to ask her if the references to Rush and Yes in this book were digs at progheads or if she enjoyed the music. I was pleased to discover that she too loves prog. Indeed, she was very friendly, as was her husband Jonathan Blum, and a joy to chat with and listen to at various panel discussions. Thankfully I can also report that Blue Box is a very fun read. The Past Doctor Adventures have been pretty kind to Sixie.
Blue Box plays with DW convention by having the story told by Chick Peters, a journalist. The book begins in late 1982 – about a year after the main events of the story take place – with Peters sneaking onto the grounds of Bainbridge Hospital in Virginia. There he spies Sarah Swan, a hacker who was recently at the top of her game but now is confined to giving a thousand yard stare from a wheelchair.
Peters then goes back and tells the story of how Swan ended up in her condition and that involves The Doctor, Peri, and some alien artifacts. Oh, and a lot of hacking. The Doctor has Peri contact a young hacker named Bob Salmon to recruit him to the cause which ends up being the theft of an alien device from Swan. There's a lot of cloak and dagger here and I'm told that Orman researched UNIX hacking on Usenet before writing the book so the scenes of Swan and The Doctor battling it out on keyboards is realistic instead of the usual stuff in fiction it takes the click of single button to bypass the most stringent security.
Having the story told from Peters' perspective instead of a generic third person works really well here. It gives Sixie something of the mysteriousness that his successor had in his novels. The Doctor is not always present but you know he's off somewhere scheming and he holds some stuff back. It's not that he's being manipulative in a bad way, but more that the narrator is not omniscient. It felt refreshing to have The Doctor give less explanations for everything or at least give them at much less regular intervals.
The return of Sabalom Glitz! And Frobisher too! The story opens with a bit of intergalactic larceny a la Mission Impossible as Jack Chance and his gang steal a Veltrochni artifact. We are then introduced to a couple of hit men, Sha'ol and Karthakh, whose next job is to kill The Doctor. Meanwhile our heroes are attending the premiere of Star Wars back in May 1977. After reading this far, I knew I was in for an entertaining romp.
Sha'ol and Karthakh somehow materialize inside the TARDIS but The Doctor is able to send them back from whence they came. They should never have been able to get in in the first place so The Doctor follows their time signature to the planet Vandor Prime. He and Frobisher meet up with Glitz and Dibber who are up to their old nefarious ways. They all run into trouble and, in order to extricate themselves from the long arm of the law, are recruited to reassemble Chance's team and steal the Veltrochni artifact, which is now in Vandorian possession, and return it to the Veltrochni who are on the war path.
McIntee spins a very fun tale here. There is political intrigue in the halls of Vandorian government, the Ogrons are running around causing trouble, an artifact is in need of being re-stolen, and all the while The Doctor is trying to figure out how those hit men got their hands on some extremely advanced technology – technology that only the Time Lords would have. As the Veltrochni and Vandorians find themselves poised on the brink of war, there are some asides in which Karthakh, a Veltrochni, ponders his relationship with Sha'ol, a Tzun. The two races do not exactly have a history of cordial relations. These bits of introspection aren't preachy and fit nicely into the story. They provided a little change of pace amongst all the other warring, conniving factions.
Apparently The Shadow in the Glass was a hastily written replacement for Instruments of Darkness which Gary Russell couldn't get done on schedule. While Mission Impractical threw in some seriousness, it was mostly good fun. This book, however, is pretty much all doom and gloom. It's not oppressive, mind you, but there is no shape-shifting penguin or Sabalom Glitz here for a bit of levity.
In the spring of 1944 the R.A.F. shoots down a mysterious object in the skies over Dorset and it lands in the village of Turelhampton. Less than a year later the Russians are taking Berlin and overrun Hitler's bunker. Curiously enough, they find a group of Tibetans dressed there in German uniforms who have committed suicide.
Back in the present – the books was published in 2001 – the army still keeps watch over Turelhampton. A reporter named Claire Aldwych, who works for the Conspiracy Channel, investigates the crash site and even gets some footage on video. They're discovered and flee. Claire gets away with the tape while her cameraman stays behind. The acting commander at Turelhampton calls in UNIT to find Claire and retrieve the tape which shows some mysterious imps.
Luckily for the reader, UNIT means the Brigadier who is retired here but brought on to help. He, in turn, calls The Doctor. It's a nice match. Lethbridge-Stewart keeps his friend on track when The Doctor gets all techobabbley. There's also a cult and it appears that Der Führer is alive and well. I liked how the book brought the occult into the picture along with the Nazis. Claire is a stand-in companion as we have The Doctor traveling alone here and she proves extremely capable.
I really enjoyed this adventure as it had a rather dark tone and it kept you guessing for a long time instead of giving the game away earlier and having a large chunk of the book being devoted to The Doctor simply racing against time to stop the bad guy. I appreciated the suspense. Plus the scene where The Doctor and the Brigadier meet Hitler was rather amusing.
I have only one gripe. In the process of trying to determine if Hitler could have really escaped Berlin ahead of the Russians, the Brigadier goes to Russia to investigate their archives. Claire plants a small camera in his briefcase since she is not allowed to accompany him. As I read it, I was completely flummoxed as to how the camera transmitted images from Russia to the UK. I kept asking myself, "How is she watching that in real time?"
Despite this, The Shadow in the Glass was another fine outing for Sixie.
Furthermore Crosses the Cheddar Curtain and Some Other Beer Notes
Some new brew labels:
I've never had a beer by Lucette. How is the stuff?
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Deb Carey has been invited to sit in on the State of the Union address in Washington D.C. and also that New Glarus is expanding yet again. The latest expansion will bring brewing capacity up to 250,000 barrels per year. Construction starts in April.
I also see that Furthermore will begin distribution in Chicago starting on Wednesday. Draft to start and bottles to follow.
Dear Chicago, please return the favor and send some 5 Rabbit and Metropolitan up this way.
Over at The Daily Page, Linda Falkenstein has look at the agenda of the next ALRC meeting. It includes this:
One Barrel Brewing is asking for an increase in capacity from 65 to 80, which hinges on a reduction of the rules for available parking stalls.
What are those rules? The way I read it, there are laws on the books that, in practice, ensure that taverns have enough parking spaces for people who want to consume alcohol and get back in their cars and drive away. I thought that we are in the process of discouraging drunk driving and here it sounds like the law mandates more parking spaces for people who drink and drive.
One Barrel is in a walkable neighborhood so I should think that Herr Gentry could get an exemption.
Having heard about this stuff, I was keen to give it a go and I guess I lucked out because there were only a few singles left on the store shelf. This is because it's still winter which means that now is the time for summer seasonals. From what I've read, the dastardly phenomenon of seasonals coming out a season or two early is due to Sam Adams so thank you Sam Adams. (He says sarcastically.) On the other hand, SA makes some good beers and they make lagers to boot.
Winter Lager is a wheat bock brewed with spices, namely cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel. N.B. - this is a bock brewed with wheat as opposed to a Weizenbock which is 1) a strong version of a weizen and 2) an ale. So were not talking that tasty clove-like flavor given by the yeast used in weizens. At 5.6% ABV, Winter Lager will not warm you up on booze alone but is certainly hardier fare than your typical pale lager.
It's a very pretty beer with a deep amber color. The head was moderate and dissipated quickly. On the nose there was a warm, caramelly aroma with just a hint of fruit which may have been the orange peel. While the beer smelled pretty tasty, the aroma was, overall, rather faint. I thought it was be a bit more pungent considering the color and the spices.
On the tongue, Winter Lager has a subdued sweetness akin to milk chocolate along with roasted grain flavors. I was very surprised that I couldn't taste any of the spices. This is perhaps simply due to it being the middle of winter and my stuffy nose. Still, I let the beer warm up just a tad yet I couldn't discern any cinnamon or ginger. There is, however, an earthy taste which rounded off the malt sweetness before the hops hit my tongue and I presume this is where the spices come into play.
The beer had a great mouthfeel. It was stout enough to provide some midwinter sustenance yet not thick and filling. Very quaffable and refreshing after a bout of snow shovelling. It finished with a moderately low lingering hop bitterness that was herbal/grassy. I'd swear that I could also taste the orange peel, but only just.
Winter Lager is a good beer but I was disapponted that the spices were hidden. Coney Island's Albino Python used a similar clutch of spices in a paler lager which worked very well and I was keen to taste how they'd work in a maltier beer. It was not to be. Nonetheless, WL was tasty. It goes down easily yet is heady enough to fend off the chill. New Glarus' Back 40 is still tops as far as winter bocks go for me, but Winter Lager is not a bad substitute.
Junk food pairing: grab a handful of garlic cracker nuts.
Matt Taibbi on why our government considers some bankers too big to jail. Infuriating stuff. Taibbi makes a good point here by noting out that the government sent CEOs to jail for the savings & loan scandal so why not now?
Citizen Dave Gets Transit Wrong (Well, Part of It)
In his latest post at The Daily Page Dave Cieslewicz writes about the recent report by the Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission concerning transportation in our state. Cieslewicz was on the commission and he laments that most of its recommendations are going to be ignored by the Republicans in control of state government.
While I agree with most of what he writes, I think he does a disservice with this:
Finally, it's a bad idea to move state support for transit out of the transportation fund to the general fund. That makes it easy to start thinking of transit as more of a discretionary program and not what it is, which is part of the transportation network that helps move people to and from their jobs.
I am inclined to agree with Jarrett Walker who thinks the heart of public transit is "personal mobility" which he defined as "the freedom to move beyond walking range without a personal vehicle". Cieslewicz's words here probably do not fully express his view on transit but, regardless, it is disheartening to have a member of the Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission explicitly label public transit as being for getting to and from work to the exclusion of all else. The truth is that all kinds of people use public transit to go to and from various places. People use public transit to go to school, go shopping, to the homes of friends and family members, to head somewhere to grab a bite to eat, to seek out arts and entertainment, to get to doctors' offices, etc. While I don't know what the state's transit fund is used for specifically, Amtrak is public transit as far as I'm concerned which means you can add going on vacation to the list.
Labeling transit as only having to do with getting to and from work may sound good to conservative trickle down job creator wannabes but it elides the broader function of public transit.
As I was writing this Governor Walker's State of the State address came to mind, specifically, "...I am committed to a healthy transportation system that includes roads, bridges, freight rail, ports, and airports. Whether it is traveling to a tourism destination or taking product to and from market..." What about passenger rail?
Rather than celebrating a degree of passenger rail success in Wisconsin, Walker ignores it. I was hardly surprised considering that the DOT's Connector newsletter now seems to avoid the subject. When Doyle was governor, the newsletter touted the rising number of rail passengers almost every month. After Walker took office Connector disappeared for a stretch and returned in a new form, avoiding all mention of passenger rail as far as I can recall. Considering that the Hiawatha Line broke a ridership record in Amtrak's FY 2012 with 838,000+ passengers, you'd think that would be something to cheer.
A couple new labels that caught my attention. The first is for Mutiny, Capital's venture into IPA territory. Robin Shepard reports that this comes out in April. Despite all the talk to the contrary ("We'll stay true to our core lager styles, but we're going to push the boundaries."), I am preparing for the demise of Capital Dark. That will be a sad day, should it come.
I'm not sure if this is just a retro label or what. Did Leines stop making Original? To me it looks like a marketing gambit to capitalize on on PBR's hipster cred and the popularity of the resurrected Walter's. Or perhaps there is an anniversary coming up...?
Considering that Last Chance to See involves a favorite author of mine, Douglas Adams, you'd have thought that I'd have heard the radio show by now. But no. Seeing my deficiency, I tried to rectify it over the weekend and started listening to the program. I'm only a couple episodes in and it's good. Peter Jones, who voiced The Book in the H2G2 radio and TV shows does the narration. In the episode I listened to last night, Adams and Carwardine go into a Chinese store to buy condoms so they can cover their mic for some underwater recording. But it's also depressing. That episode featured this creature:
That's a baiji or Yangtze River dolphin. The show was recorded in 1989 and there were estimated to be only 200 left at the time. Today, the animal is considered to be extinct due to fishing, getting chewed up in propellers on the crowded river, etc.
The entire series can be heard at the BBC site linked above.
I have the book too which I shall have to read soon.
I hear that Mildred's Sandwich Shop has been bought and will close only to be reborn as another restaurant. R.I.P.
ADDENDUM: Here's the announcement from their Facebook page.
Hello, dear friends and sandwich lovers. It's with a bittersweetness that we officially let you know that Mildred's has been sold and will be open for the last time on February 15. It has been a truly wonderful, heartful, delicious 35+ years. Thank you so much for staying with us, especially last year after we lost our Nels. Thanks also to Mildred's sandwich artists past and present and to Nels' family and to our neighborhood. Blessings, all.
We'll be open as usual for the next few weeks, so please be sure to get your favorite sandwiches, soups and potato salad while you can. On Feb. 15, we'll have a last hurrah shindig in the afternoon into the evening to celebrate Mildred's (more details to come as we plan this). Meanwhile, feel free to post any Mildred's memories or photos on this page and we'll do the same.
The new owners are really nice and plan to open a restaurant in the building after Mildred's closes. We don't have any other details, but we wish them well.
Again, thank you all from the bottom of our soup bowls.
I heard over the weekend that Jane Capito, proprietor of Lazy Jane's and Mickey's, has bought the Tip Top Tavern or is perhaps in the process of doing so. Will Eken Park now become gentrified? Next thing you know Resale Records will be torn down and have a Starbucks built on its remains. North Street could become glutted with craft beer nerds drinking The Malt House - Dexter's - Tip Top trifecta. I wonder if Slice's will pick up some business after this manoeuvre.
Milwaukee's Alterra Coffee Roasters is opening a café at 110 E. Main Street here in Madison - their first in our fair burg. Madison Commons reports that One Barrel Brewing will be brewing two custom beers for the joint.
Still, choices must be made, and when I thought back on all the beers I tasted over the past twelve months, I realized that no brewery provided quite as many “wow” moments as did the Wisconsin stalwart, New Glarus Brewing.
And, finally, we have another instance of stupidity in the seasonal beer saga from Leinenkugel. Last year they put Summer Shandy on store shelves in February and now I read that Canoe Padler, a Kölsch-style brew with rye, was released in January. In Wisconsin/the Upper Midwest. This is winter, a time when people are out ice fishing and they release a spring/summer seasonal. Right now it's 0°F outside my door and Leine's is putting Kölsch on store shelves. Apparently the idea is to make sure that, when the weather does warm up, all the Canoe Padler available is as old as possible. We can now look forward to their Octoberfest in March.
Luther is the latest in Lakefront's My Turn series which sees every employee of the brewery "design" their own beer. This is the third such brew and is named after Lakefront's head brewer Mark Paul whose nickname, it appears, is Luther. (You can read a profile of him at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)
The beer is a helles rauchbier lager, i.e. - a pale lager with some smoked malt in the grain bill. Rauchbiers don't get much love. I find it odd that so many craft beer drinkers will wait in line for hours to get a sour beer that tastes like my shoes smell or descend into fits of ecstasy as they worship their god Lupulus with 100IBU beer running down their chins yet they recoil in horror in the mere presence of a rauchbier, as if they had just been offered a chunk of uranium. For instance, both of Madison's most prominent beer reviewers, Robin Shepard at Isthmus and Chris Drosner at 77 Square, have professed a distaste for rauchbier. (Imagine one of them confessing that he didn't like C-hops...) Too bad. I guess Bamberg won't be seeing them as tourists. To each their own, I guess.
Well, onto Luther.
He pours a clear deep yellow (Which you, unfortunately, can't see in the photo.) and gives a nice frothy head. (Which is also unavailable in the picture.) There were a few stray bubbles making their way up. As for the aroma, I must warn you that I have the sniffles so my accuracy is not 100% here. My caveat aside, Luther smells very sweet - like corn - at first and then the scent of smoke - think smoked meat - wafts in.
Most of my experience with rauchbiers comes from drinking Schlenkerla's brews. However, I've not had their Helles Schlenkerla Lager, although I have one in my cellar. Thusly I am used to smoked beers that have a fairly thick mouthfeel. Luther, on the other hand, is smooth and effervescent. I didn't get that "Ooh! I'm drinking the beer equivalent of motor oil." sensation at all. (Not that I dislike a viscous mouthfeel, mind you.)
The first thing I tasted was malt sweetness. Here it was was more like corn than bread. Then the smoke hits your tongue. The rauch in this rauchbier is prominent but not as much as in, say, a Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen. While there isn't a lot of hop flavor here, Luther put just enough in it to cut through the smoke and be a recognizable flavor which is especially noticeable in the finish which is nice'n'dry. Luther comes in bombers only and I drank this one alone. As the bier gets warmer, the sweetness really comes through. As with all rauchbiers, one's tongue becomes anesthetized to the smoke flavor and it takes a subsidiary role. Once it has warmed up a bit, Luther takes on a bock-like quality.
This is an excellent beer. The smoke is not overpowering so the malt and hops each get their turn. What begins with a heady rush of sweetness and smoke ends in a pas de trois led by a pleasant spicy-dry finish. It's a shame that Luther is a limited edition beer that is not slated to return. Ever. Hey Wisconsin brewers - how about more rauchbiers?
Junk food pairing: Enjoy handfuls of Vegetable Thins or similar vegetable crackers with your glass of Luther. I will also note that this beer went very well with grilled turkey, cheddar, and bacon sandwiches.