Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

09 October, 2014

The Kimmie, The Yink, and the Holy Gose: Anderson Valley's Take on the Gose

Now is the time for all good Wisconsin beer drinkers to consume brews leftover from the warmer months in preparation for what the Farmer's Almanac is predicting to be a really goddamn cold winter. And so to make room for stouter fair in my refrigerator, I have begun to drink the lighter fare therein.

First up is Anderson Valley's The Kimmie, The Yink, and the Holy Gose Ale. I have no idea what the name is supposed to mean. I suppose that it's an in-joke for the brewmaster or some goofy northern California punage. Regardless of the name, I was keen on trying a domestic take on the German brew.

The gose (go-suh) dates back to the 16th century and gets its name from its hometown – Goslar. The brew spread and folks in Leipzig really took a shine to it and breweries there began to brew it. Eventually the beer became associated with Leipzig. Gose went on the decline around World War I presumably because, well, there was a war on plus the Reinheitsgebot had escaped Bavaria only to spread northward and lagers were the hip and cool (pun intended) beer trend. World War II seems to have killed it but the style was resurrected every now and again during the bad old days of the Cold War. Today I believe there are two or three breweries in Germany that brew Gose with the most common one to my eyes on this side of the Atlantic being Leipziger Gose.

Provenance aside, the style is that of a sour wheat beer. 50%+ of the grain bill is wheat with the rest being barley. It is spiced with coriander, salt, and hops while lactic bacteria provide the sourness. Until this brew, I had never had a brew by Anderson Valley and was really looking forward to it.

The Kimmie, The Yink, and the Holy Gose Ale pours a nice foamy head despite what my photograph shows. By the time I took a picture that was lit well enough and in focus, the head had dissipated. The bier itself is clear and of a very light straw color. There were a few stray bubbles making their way up. A lemony tartness dominated the aroma.

On the tongue The Kimmie... has a light body and you get the effervescence. You may not see the bubbles in your glass but you can taste them. As with the aroma, the lactic tartness stands out along with its attendant lemony/citrus flavor. Further along the tongue you catch a bit of grain along with a stone fruit flavor. There was just the barest hint of salinity. The hops only seem discernible in the finish which is tart, slightly bitter, and dry. It was disappointing to me that the salt was barely noticeable but even worse was that I could not taste any coriander. None. Zip. Keiner. Anderson Valley's webpage says it's in there but you could have fooled me. Perhaps their brewmaster is into homeopathy and really diluted it while counting on the wort to have a memory of the coriander.

As I drank I found that the bier yielded no Schaumhaftvermoegen. The sides of my glass were clean. But I did feel refreshed. Despite the near absence of hops, salt, and coriander, this beer goes down easily with its rather light body, lemony flavor, and dry finish. Anderson Valley reports that it is 4.2% A.B.V. which is sessionable and quite appropriate for hotter weather.

Junk Food Pairing: I would definitely pair this beer with Chinese shrimp chips – the ones that look like Shrinky Dinks before you fry them up.

Folks here in Madison should try Egon's Revenge from Next Door Brewing, although you'll probably have to wait until next summer to do so. It is a wonderful beer and probably more in line with the gose style as it has traditionally been made with a fuller body than The Kimmie... Best of all, the salt and coriander are not hidden, though not overwhelming either. It's a bit stronger at 4.6% but within the range for the style. Personally, I think it's one of the best beers you can find in Madison.

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|| Palmer, 3:30 PM || link || (2) comments |

Passenger Rail Returns to Madison (Temporarily)

Prior to a few days ago, the last time Madison had passenger rail service was back in 1976 when trains ran between Madison and Milwaukee for Badger football games. The last time Madison enjoyed regular passenger rail service was on 30 April 1971 when the Sioux and Varsity lines ran their last trips before Amtrak took over and abandoned Madison completely.

Last month Pullman Rail Journeys announced passenger rail service between Madison and Chicago on a couple weekends in October that would coincide with Badger football games against Northwestern and Illinois. The trips would be in old cars that had been refurbished with $99 buying you a Standard Class seat and for $100 more you could go Diamond Class which got you a seat in a domed car and a meal. The newly revitalized Varsity made its first trip last Saturday bringing people to Madison from Chicago and the Wisconsin State Journal was aboard.

(Photo by Brian Allen.)

The article interviews various passengers. An 82-year old gentleman seems to have taken advantage of the opportunity to revel in nostalgia while younger people enjoyed not being behind the wheel and the space and comfort that trains provide. Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific, Pullman's parent company, is quoted as saying, "Being able to get on the train in Madison and just not worry about (traffic) and have something to eat and drink and look out the window is a pretty pleasant alternative. People obviously picked up on that because we sold more tickets than we thought we were going to."

I have to wonder if these weekend rail excursions came about because of talks at the meeting which may not have been a meeting back on 21 June. Recall that All Aboard Wisconsin, a rail advocacy group, was trying to get stakeholders aboard a Pullman train headed from Chicago to Prairie du Chien to discuss rail service between Madison and Chicago. When word of this meeting got out, it turned out that this was apparently more of an attempt at a very informal get-together. Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, which owns track between Madison and Chicago, had "no immediate interest" in letting anyone use its track for passenger service. Indeed, they were unaware of any such meeting. Similarly, Ed Ellis of Iowa Pacific was surprised to hear of anything akin to a formal meeting.

The message suggested representatives from a number of rail companies, including Metra, Iowa Pacific and Wisconsin & Southern would be participating, but the president of Iowa Pacific, Ed Ellis, claimed that wasn't true.

Iowa Pacific, he said, is doing little more than providing the passenger cars that High Iron Travel will be using to transport passengers on a $2800-per-person weekend trip from Chicago to Prairie du Chien.

"My understanding is that they wanted to put some people on in Madison who are interested in passenger train," he said.

The companies, however, are not participating in any type of talks about future rail service, he insisted.

Perhaps Pullman had been planning these Madison trips for months prior to the June soiree but nothing seems to have been mentioned about them until last month. And so it seems a bit more than coincidental that three months after an effort to get stakeholders together to talk about Madison-Chicago rail service, we get a couple weekends of passenger trains running between the two cities. I don't mean to imply that these are test runs and that any formal plans emerged from the June "meeting" - heck, Ellis may just be following through on promises he made after a few cocktails. But that the runs did better business than expected can only help those looking to establish passenger rail service here in Madison.

For a bit on the history of passenger rail in Madison, see my Madrail posts.

Tangentially, 10 miles of disused track between Fitchburg and Oregon recently returned to service. Trains will be hauling what I presume is rock from McCoy Road to the Lycon concrete factory in Oregon.

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|| Palmer, 1:44 PM || link || (0) comments |

07 October, 2014

Judy Is Positive About This

I have to admit to being quite surprised to hear a few days ago that David Lynch and Mark Frost were posting mysterious tweets with references to Twin Peaks.

And so I wasn't quite as surprised when I found out that Twin Peaks is being resurrected as a nine episode mini-series for Showtime with shooting to begin next year.

The new Twin Peaks will be set in the present day, more than two decades after the events in the first two seasons. It will continue the lore and story of the original series, with Lynch and Frost committed to providing long-awaited answers and, hopefully, a satisfying conclusion to the series. It is unclear which actors from the original series will be featured in the followup. I hear that star Kyle MacLachlan will be back, reprising his role as FBI Agent Dale Cooper who was at the center of the show.

While this is indeed exciting news, I remain ambivalent. It should be a fun watch but Lynch and Frost had better not go all George Lucas and do something like explain the Lodges right down to the midi-chlorian level. Just be sure to get me some info on Judy and that monkey that said her name and I'll be happy.

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The Terror To Be Adapted for Television

Dan Simmons fictional account of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, The Terror, is being adapted for television as a series by AMC. I don't know how I missed the news for the past year and a half. I absolutely love the book - my review is here - and am looking forward to seeing how it makes the leap to the small screen.

I am hoping that the TV adaptation retains the pacing of the book which is a slow burn. My paperback copy is 760+ pages with Simmons in no hurry at all. Instead he is happy to let the reader wallow as the crew's slow, gruesome fate unfolds one death at a time. There's the thing out on the ice that is picking off crewmembers one by one which provides a terror that is constantly lurking in the background. But the real terror is the struggle of crew to simply survive. In addition to the something out there in the dark, they have to contend with extreme cold, food stocks that are running out, and scurvy taking hold. Expedition members were out on the Arctic ice for two years or so and Simmons documents their struggles in excruciating detail.

Simmons' book is one of the best and most rewarding literary slogs there is so hopefully the TV adaptation won't push the story along too quickly. I can imagine the TV version throwing in more attempts to capture the thing to make the story more action-oriented. Plus Crozier's clairvoyance and Lady Silence can be used less sparingly to add variety for viewers. Should be interesting.

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06 October, 2014

Those Poor Navarrese

Bill Maher recently stirred up a shitstorm by suggesting there was something wrong with the Muslim world when books, movies, and cartoons incite riots and provoke Muslims to threaten the authors' lives (and in the case of Theo van Gogh, threats became murder.) and that Muslim countries generally treat women poorly. Maher was called all manner of things including Islamophobic, racist, and a bigot.

Well, Maher's got nothing on the medieval author of The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela. I've been reading about medieval Iberia and the book includes some excerpts from this work which was written around 1140. As the title indicates, it's a guide for people making a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. According to the text, it was nearly as popular a destination for pilgrims as Rome or The Holy Land which makes one wonder why there's this myth that medieval folks didn't travel far from their homes.

The author is an anonymous Frenchman who informs travelers of which rivers are safe to drink, what towns are to be found on the route, and about the natives as well. Whoever the author is, he really didn't like the Navarrese. (Navarre is or was a region in north-central Spain.) I mean he really, really didn't like the Navarrese. He begins by noting that "These people, in truth, are repulsively dressed and they eat and drink repulsively." It gets worse.

...when the Navarrese are warming themselves, a man will show a woman and woman a man their private parts. The Navarrese even practice unchaste fornication with animals...He even offers libidinous kisses to the vulva of woman and mule.

A Frenchman decrying oral sex?! Forsooth! Up to this point in the book, at least, not even the Jews are described so harshly. Sure, they are said to be greedy and untrustworthy but at least they didn't practice cunnilingus.

Oh, but here's the best bit:

This is a barbarous race unlike all other races in customs and in character, full of malice, swarthy in color, evil of face, depraved, perverse, perfidious, empty of faith and corrupt, libidinous, drunken, experienced in all violence, ferocious and wild, dishonest and reprobate, impious and harsh, cruel and contentious, unversed in anything good, well-trained in all vices and iniquities, like the Geats and Saracens in malice, in everything inimical to our French people.

The author does concede that the Navarrese are good warriors on the battlefield so they're not all bad.

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|| Palmer, 7:04 PM || link || (0) comments |

On Cooking Mutton

I recently listened to an episode of the BBC's fine radio show Food Programme concerning mutton. At one point an Indian gentleman is heard explaining that the neck is best for stewing and braising. He goes on:

"As an Indian, naturally your tendency is to cook it in a, sort of a nice sauce. And even for us, the easiest thing I always tell people is do not mar it. Whole spices - cinammon, cardamom, clove, peppercorn. Onion, garlic, ginger, and some red chili. That's it! Do not overkill it because spices can easily destroy it."

Presumably the addition of an eighth of a teaspoon of fennel would destroy a fine piece of mutton.

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|| Palmer, 6:18 PM || link || (0) comments |