Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

30 March, 2015

First U.S. Penny Was Godless and Instead Promoted Science

A rare "Birch cent" recently sold at an auction for $1.2 million.

The coin, known as the "Birch Cent," was made in 1792, months after the one-cent denomination was first authorized by Congress, according to the auction house Stack's Bowers Galleries.

It was made in a trial run for the penny, and depicts Lady Liberty. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington discussed the design in letters dated August 1792, before it was presented to Congress as an option for the new coin.

The article makes it sound like this was merely a prototype coin and not legal tender. Having now looked at Wikipedia it would seem that this coin lost out to the Chain cent as the first penny used as legal tender in the United States. The profile of Lady Liberty was retained for the front of the Chain cent.

While the Chain cent merely says "Liberty" on the front, the Birch cent says "Liberty Parent of Science & Industry". For all the bluster of charlatans such as David Barton about the United States supposedly being a Christian nation, "In God We Trust" was not placed on American currency until 1864. And here we can see the privileging of science over religion in the very early days of our republic.

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A Winter Wonderland: Winterland by Hinterland

My previous review tasted a beer that was heavy on the juniper so, in keeping with that theme, I'm going to again engage with a brew that eschews hoppiness in favor of the coniferous. This time we have Hinterland's Winterland.

Hinterland is up north in Green Bay. From what I can tell, the brewery has a something of a middle-of-the-road reputation. I don't hear people bad-mouthing them but they also haven't found their break-out beer like Spotted Cow or Hopalicious – that beer known statewide and upon which their reputation is made.

Winterland, a porter brewed with juniper, is the brewery's winter seasonal. I believe the beer was first brewed or perhaps bottled back in 2010 but it took me until this past winter for me to give it serious consideration.

The beer pours a deep, dark brown that is opaque. When you look at it in the narrow portion of a glass, you can see that the brew is clear. My pour produced a nice, pillowy head that was tinted brown. And it hung around for a fair spell. As I drank, I got some pretty good lacing to decorate my glass. On the nose Winterland gave off a lot of that coffee aroma from what I take to be the chocolate or black malts. Oddly enough, there's also a slight berry fruitiness in there. And of course there's the resinous, piney goodness of the juniper.

One might expect a beer so dark as to absorb all of the light around it like a black hole to be heavy but Winterland has a nice medium body. It's slightly chewy but mostly smooth. The roasted grains are front and center with their bitter chocolate and coffee flavors but the juniper is no slouch either. When you pull a Winterland out of the refrigerator the juniper is definitely noticeable but the malt is still at the fore. As the beer makes is ascent to room temperature, the sharp piney flavor of the juniper grows. The effervescence complements the pine notes well here.

The brew finishes on a slightly bitter and dry note. It is here that my tongue became aware of the hops. While I'm not sure what varieties were used, they tasted like the Noble kind with a spicy, almost peppery, flavor that accented the fresh, resinous juniper very well indeed. Winterland weighs in at 7.5% A.B.V. which means it's a fairly potent brew but I couldn't discern any alcohol burn.

I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Winterland and that it will be a go-to winter seasonal for me later this year when Boreas reminds us that the snow is once again on its way. Why I neglected to give it its full due until now escapes me. It is a hearty brew and I love juniper. Here the spice plays well with the prominent roasted grain and Noble hop flavors. The juniper also reminds me of Wisconsin's pinery up north and of venison since I like to cook it with the berry. In this sense Winterland is a fine addition to the Badger State beer portfolio as I appreciate brewers and beers that reflect their regional origins.

Junk food pairing: Try Jay's Onion & Garlic Ridged Potato Chips. Let the sharp, clean juniper go head-to-head with the pungent root vegetables on your tongue.

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