Thursday, June 26, 2008

No visit to Canada :(

I can't come back to Canada in July for a visit. I just can't afford it.

This is due to the fact that I'm pretty much out of money and can't afford another return flight to Edinburgh (I already have a flight back to Calgary). In retrospect, it was a little naive of me to think that I could do it.

The bad side is, of course, that I won't be there for Brier's wedding, won't see my girlfriend, won't see friends who are only in town from abroad then, won't be able to have fun (drink) at Bruce's lake cabin, and won't be able to do the job interviews I had semi-planned.

But the good side is that I can therefore come home much earlier (I just moved my flight to August 25th). This is more than 3 weeks earlier than I had initially planned. Which means I'll be home before my girlfriend moves to our place in Edmonton. Then I spend a month visiting people, doing job interviews (in theory)... OH, and spending a lot of time doing the write up for my thesis before the 20th. Can't forget that last one...


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Short Loop Parade

Nothing beerish this time, just posting a wee mix I made. Its called "The Short Loop Parade", and the name suggests what it is. Its basically a mix of several short loops. Download it, perhaps even enjoy it. Let me know what you think... Download it here. Its only 28 minutes long, but has about 1.5 hours worth of music mixed together! Woo!

Here is the list of samples, in order of appearance:
Slyandro.mod - From the classic game Starcontrol II
Idioteque - Radiohead
Circles Blurring - Minus 8
Jah - The Playing Orchestra
American Life - Primus
Da Funk - Daft Punk
Looking down the barrel of a gun - Beastie Boys
The Battery - Boys Noize
White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
Blood Runs Cold - Jedi Mind Tricks
Summertime (UFO remix) - Sarah Vaughan
Kinetic - Radiohead
Noctuary - Bonobo
Difficult score - Marco Carola
Underwater - Elkysia
...then... - Black Era
Adn poubelle - David Aubrun
Turn Deaf - Modeselektor
Dead by Dawn - Future Forces
Thunder - Christian Smith & John Selway
Medusa's Path (cry on my console mix) - Prodigy
The Key - Tosca
Make me fly - Makingthenoise (Miximal)
Why do fools fall in love - Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
Mango pickle down river - M.I.A.
Croissance dans le mur - David Aubrun
Synthetic Rhythms - Ghislain Poirier
Come as you are - Nirvana
Galang - M.I.A.
Sea Lion Woman - Fiest
Girl - The Beatles
Flim Flam (David Alvarado Remix) - Yellow Sox
Sly (underdog mix) - Nicolette
Fast Track - Radiohead
Credits - Amon Tobin
Marine Machines - Amon Tobin
Chocolate Elvis - Amon Tobin
There is a war going on for your mind - Flobots
Credits - Amon Tobin


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Exploding Kegs and Bob McKenzie

Sorry for the lack of posts of late, my brain has been occupied with researchy stuff.
All I feel like posting today is this link to a story on exploding beer kegs that stopped traffic. The most interesting part? The driver was a guy named Bob McKenzie.

On a more technical note, why did the kegs explode? The police said "carbon dioxide in the kegs"... well that doesn't help, all beer ought to have carbon dioxide in it. Kegs are rated to take more than 60 psig in pressure, but a filled keg really ought to not have more than 30 psig pressure, even in hot weather. Unless, of course, the temperature was very very hot. Or the beer was very over carbonated. Seems weird... the only time I've heard of kegs exploding are from drunken idiots throwing them on the fire or somebody hooking up an un-regulated beergas line to the gas-in (which would be like 2000-8000 psi instantly).

Anyway, that was a lame post. Cheers!

Friday, June 13, 2008

America not for sale anymore

Just saw a funny quote in a story covering the possible InBev purchase of AB:
"Go home, InBev, and keep your money in your pocket. America isn't for sale any more."

America was for sale... not anymore though. Maybe its just funny to me.

The bigger point, I think, is that AB has the American market wound up so much with its marketing that they've made Budweiser synonymous with America.


Fight the Candadian DMCA

For years our poor American brethren to the South have been subject to a horrid beast, tearing the heads off of file-sharing youth and breathing fire on fair-use. This beast has been known as the DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. While the name sounds great, is misses the point. Big media realized that technology had changed such that they no longer had control over the media. So rather than change their business plan to take advantage of this new era of technology, they lobbied to create the DMCA.

And now, its coming to Canada. With more restrictions on consumers. Who is this law for? We're the citizens... why are corporate ties dictating what laws should be? This law is worse... FAR worse for the consumer than what we have now. It limits what you can do with what you own. It limits what you can try to do with things that you own but are supposed to be "locked" (like cellphones and out-of-region DVDs). This all benefits the media corporations.

Here is my point... why are we making laws that benefit corporate citizens? Mostly AMERICAN corporate citizens. We are the actual citizens of Canada... fuck them. We want to copy stuff. We want to be able to use our technology. We want a world without these restrictions imposed for the benefit of corporate profit. Big media needs to realize that technology has changed... the ability to create media is at the hands of almost all of us. They're not going to make as much money as they used to....

Who will? People who have figured it out. Like, for example. Free music, from the artists. Pay a donation, or go see them live. The big media method of spending millions on marketing to get us to think that we actually like band X isn't going to work anymore. Big media requires so much money to pay for the marketing and the execs in the middle. When you pay for music by traditional methods you don't pay very much to the artist, after all.

Anyway, read this criticism on the bill, and contact your MP. Luckily we're in a minority government, so there is a chance that it won't pass.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

InBev to buy Anheuser-Busch?

According to this press release that just fell into my inbox, InBev is offering to buy Anheuser-Busch.

This is interesting. InBev is the global supergiant. AB is also a supergiant, with about 45% of the American market last time I checked. If it goes through then most of the beer in the world will be produced by a ridiculously large company. Although to be fair, most of the world's beer already is produced by ridiculously large companies.

Will AB accept? If they do they won't be an "American" brewery anymore. In fact, none of the superbrewers will be American anymore... Coors became Molson-Coors (Molson being Canadian, of course). Miller became SAB-Miller (South African Breweries). AB played up a lot of marketing that they were the "only" real American brewer. Of course, that ignores the many many small American breweries.

So if AB takes the offer (it sounds like an easy retirement for the already wealthy board of AB), then the only way to get a true American beer will be to head to your local craft brewer. At least thats a good marketing angle for the craft brewers ;)


Black Malt Tea

I've started looking into lab work for my thesis project (more on that some other time). Basically my work involves specialty brewing grains - those brewer's among you know that this includes crystal malt, black malt, chocolate malt, and roast barley. Depending on the grain, they are roasted in a coffee-like roasting drum at high temperatures. Some grains, like black malt and roast barley, are basically burnt.

So these special malts have a lot of flavour. I'll have to do 100% extracts of these (usually they are used in <15%>

Here is what I did:
  • Crushed two tablespoons of the grain (crystal, black, or roast barley)
  • Placed it in a small French coffee press.
  • Added about 200 mL of boiling water
  • let it sit for 10 min
  • pressed the plunger down, poured off the liquid
Drinking it was interesting...
  • Crystal (140 EBC) had exactly what you'd expect - a massive aroma of sweet malt. The flavour was very weak though, but still pretty sweet. It was dark pale in colour.
  • The black malt of course created a dead black liquid. The blackness had a red hue, though. Sweet aroma with some burnt notes. Didn't taste too bad actually... it was a little sweet with some astringency.
  • Roast barley was similar to the black malt, except the colour hue was much more yellow than red. As well, the flavour was much drier compared to the black malt.
I suggest people do this with any malt they purchase, you really need to taste the product in some water to get an idea of how what flavour it may add to your beer.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Beer Stories

In the last few days I've added a Google Blogs search for "beer" RSS feed to my Google Reader aggregator. The search is actually quite good, and I get lots of interesting blog postings. Some from proclaimed beer bloggers, some from "normal people" who just happen to be writing about beer. The most interesting thing I've found is that there are very few beer reviews, or at least the beer review isn't the central point of the posting. I've found that most people tell a story, and somewhere in the story is something about beer, perhaps a beer review.

I like this because I've generally enjoyed the stories I've read. I honestly pass over most straight-up beer review postings quick scan for history or some interesting brewing fact. A story to a beer review makes it much more interesting, certainly.

Anyway, just a shout out to the blagosphere, keep up the good work.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

How I Judge Beer

I've had this in the back of my head for awhile... I've given up on the 'traditional' beer-nerd style of judging a beer. I've also given up on judging a beer 'to style', but thats a different story.

I'm not good with the fluffy verbiage. I can pick out certain things, I know what they are in my head... I can name a lot of key flavours and aromas just from sheer repetition, but I just can't write more than a few sentences about any beer. People like Michael Jackson, Rodger Prost and Rob Millichamp are good at that. I don't like trying to name flavours, or write descriptions, honestly.

I have one overall judging parameter for beer I drink: quality. Quality is, basically, does it meet (or exceed) my expectations as a consumer? Getting into the details is a bit harder certainly as my expectations can chance based on my mood, what I've eaten, what I've drank, what music I'm listening to, etc. But all other things being equal... there are two things I look for in a beer:
  • Technical quality: Do I like it, and is there any "flaws"? This is very tricky... what is bad for one style of beer is perfection for another. This is where the expectation comes in... eg, if I order an English bitter and it tastes sour and acetic, it fails my expectations. Its technically flawed. Colour, clarity, taste, aroma, malt sweetness, bitterness, off-flavours, etc. But I also include in this category the ultimate question - do I like it? This last question is really the most important one. Usually, one spends the most time considering this category.
  • Uniqueness: This is the bane of most brewers, I think. A beer can be technically perfect... a great beer. I can like it. I can even love it. The problem with tasting so many beers is that you seem to taste a lot of the same thing. I'm always looking for something different. Its few and far between. It seems to me that a lot of brewers, even small craft brewers, don't often like to stray too far from the mainstream of their market. Of course, there is "good" unique and "bad" unique. Bad unique probably results from a significant technical flaw.
Of course, there is a balance between these two. I've had beers that are technically great beers that I really like but just aren't unique - these end up as good stand by beers. I've also had unique beers that were technically well done but I didn't really like. Of course, I've also had technically horrible beers that were unique -- the bad kind. Most beers I try I think about the technical quality, and make a note of any uniqueness.

So this concept isn't all that ground-breaking, but it is how my head works when I taste a beer. Its also why I've pretty much stopped reviewing beers on this blog. I only ever write a couple of sentences and thats just not interesting to the reader!

But, I did have a bottle of Bacchus Kriekenbier today as I mentioned on my last post. I can say it was technically quite well done - good balance of flavours between the acidity of the beer and the sweet/sour of the cherries. Quite refreshing and made me glad I'm heading to Belgium at the end of the month. I liked the beer, probably 7/10 if I had to quantify. Uniqueness? Hm, well I know I've tasted similar krieks, perhaps this had a bit more robustness to it, to put it difficultly. Overall, it met my quality expectations!

Damn that sounds boring... So I'll post a photo to reward you for reading to the end. Its from the Heriot-Watt beerfest which I never got around to blogging about:
Beerfest - Heriot Watt 2008 -  034.jpg

Friday, June 06, 2008

I'm going to Belgium

First, some of you with keen eyesight may notice that I've re-branded my blog. The Beer of Brian sounds slightly less lame than Brian's Beer Blog. I'm trying to think of a better name, but for now this is all I have.

Anyway, in regards to the title... yes, I am going to Belgium. My friend Mike is doing some traveling to Europe. So we'll spend a few days sampling the local product here in Edinburgh, then onward to Belgium July 1st-ish.

When I was in Lisbon I was very kindly offered a place to visit/stay in Ghent by some fellow tourists, so that ought to be on my list to see. Hopefully I can get access to some "inside tours" at some breweries. After all I'm a pro-brewer, and just finishing off my MSc in brewing, so hopefully that pulls some weight when contacting breweries. Its nice to talk to the actual brewers, after all. Maybe I'll get some hints on brewing methods ;). When I was working at the craft brewery I enjoyed other brewers coming by, after all. Perhaps somebody else will feel the same. Otherwise I'll have to settle for the usual touristy tours that explain all the basics. Bah.

So I'll update when I know more. In celebration, I drank Bacchus Kriekenbier which is from a family-owned brewery in Belgium. Not too sour, not too sweet. Good amount of cherry, certainly not overdone. I quite like it, I'd say its quite well rounded and I like the slight sour bite. Its been awhile since I've had a decent sour beer (other than at Mather's the other night, but that wasn't supposed to be sour...)


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Something amiss at Mather's

Last Monday was our last day of exams for our MSc Brewing course, and naturally we went out drinking. We stopped for a pint at Mather's Bar, a relatively famous pub in Edinburgh. Four of our group grabbed pints of Batemans XB Bitter... and we each independently and immediately thought "this is off". The beer was clearly acetic (acidic character often a sign of an older cask). So we sent them back and got something else. The bar staff was very grumpy about this, as they all claimed it was fine when they tasted it (as well by some bloke at the bar drinking Foster's... clearly a man of fine taste). It was clearly off... I don't mind acidic beers, but if I buy a bitter I expect a bitter not a lambic.

To make matters worse, I tasted somebody else's Theakston Old Peculiar as I heard them say "wow, this beer tastes like apples!"... since I know this beer well I knew that wasn't right. I judged it was full of acetaldehyde (green apple character) which can be a sign of infection too or bad brewing practice. I assumed the former. I didn't tell them to send it back as I think I was in enough trouble with the bar staff and my friend seemed to be enjoying his beer regardless.

To make matters even worse, a couple of months ago we had the former brewing students dinner and the pub crawl stopped there for a few pints. I met an older gentleman who was sending back his pint as he said it was acetic. Turns out he was a retired brewer of 30 years.

My point is that there is a pattern of unkempt beers at Mather's. The only bad pints I've had in Edinburgh were there. Cask ales are alive need attention and proper cellarmanship. Bar staff needs training on off flavours. But perhaps if they're tasting the off beer regularly, and nobody complains, then they'll think everything is fine.

Otherwise, Mather's is a great little traditional pub with great beer selection. Its a shame that I'll unlikely go back there.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Expensive Scotch Drinking

Last Friday the student Whisky Society here at Heriot-Watt got together for our 'expensive' drinking night. Well damn, it was good. Below is the four bottles we drank, which totaled almost 300 quid in value! I've added a brief tasting note for each of them, but very short.
Whisky Society May 30  017.jpg
  • Redbreast Irish Whiskey 12 yr 40% v/v- This was a good start to the night as it was a fairly clean, smooth, and easy drinking spirit with strong vanilla notes. Irish Whiskey are (usually) triple distilled to obtain this smoothness. This retailed for about £28.
  • Glenfarclas 21 yr 43% v/v- I very much liked this one. Very complex nose and flavour. A little burn on the mouth. Heavily sherried. Retails for approximately £50.
  • St. Magdelin 32 yr ?% v/v- This distillery has apparently been closed for quite some time, which of course makes the value skyrocket. 32 years is pretty damn old too. Not that 32 years automatically means its good, of course. It was smoother than the Glenfarclas, but with a distinct bite of some kind. I hadn't much to say about it. I liked the Glenfarclas much better personally. This just seemed a little odd to me... don't get me wrong it was a good scotch, but I've had spirits I liked a more that cost a lot less... this retails for approximately £110, apparently.
  • And finally, the big hit of the night... Ardbeg Lord of the Isles 25 yr 46% v/v - Well I have to admit this was a pretty damn good scotch, and it better be for the price. At the distillery it costs £200, but a shop in town here sells it for £170. Still pretty damned expensive for 0.7 l of fluid. Anyway, usually Ardbeg is a very peaty (smoky) scotch. This was peaty, but not too over the top. It was very well balanced between the harsher flavours and the smoother flavours. Brillant!
Lord of the Isles Box
So, obviously a pretty damn good night. Followed by a few pints of fresh cask Deuchar's IPA down at the Riccarton Arms. Click here for photos from the night.

As for brewing school... I have one more exam left. Its today at 14:00... then all I have to do is research my thesis and try to have fun!