Monthly Archives: November 2009

Brewed Slowly: #2 Cherry Stout

I’m not a fan of fruity beers (or negative construction introductions), but today Steve and I made a Cherry Stout. We have our reasons. It’s a holiday beer of sorts. Steve brought some Sam Adams Cherry Wheat for the occasion.

(I got no pictures because our digital camera (my other camera’s an old-school film kind) killed the batteries as soon as I turned it on to take some pictures of the process. Imagine pots and brown/black liquid. Smiling faces on two medium handsome men.)

This might be the darkest beer yet. Like dark as in black hole with chocolate milk froth as the event horizon dark. You can’t even see this beer–it’s that dark. Also, we listened to Maiden’s The Number of the Beast record and a Replacements’ B-side record while it was cooking (what’s more atmospheric music for making beer than the Replacements and Maiden?). We’ll say that helped. Here’s how we did it:

The software:

0.5 lbs. dark crystal (grain)

0.5 lbs. roasted barley (grain)

0.5 lbs. black malt (grain)

3 lbs dry dark malt extract

6.3 lbs liquid dark extract

1 oz. Perle hop pellets

Safbrew S-33 dry yeast

We steeped the grains at about 150 F for half an hour. Then we took out the grains–toss ’em in the compost–and added the Perle hops, dry extract, and half of the liquid extract. Boiled it for an hour. Smelled good (seriously, if you haven’t tried making your own beer yet, you should–in addition to all the other benefits, it’ll make your house smell fucking good (and not like beer, surprisingly)). Flipped over the Maiden record. (Also, we watched some Sunny in Philadelphia on DVR. There’s a lot of waiting in beer making.) Around 45 minutes into the boil, we added the other 3.15 lbs of liquid extract to the boil. Fifteen minutes later, we put the pot in an ice bath to cool it down–I’ve got to get some kind of wort chiller to shorten this process–, and when the temp. got down down to 80 F, I pitched the yeast. Simple, easy,–beer is made.

Our starting gravity is a tree-trunk sturdy 1.080. I’ll let you guys know how the fermentation goes.

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Drinking It All: #2 Rogue Juniper Pale Ale

if Jesus had known about Christmas trees, and this beer, he would have said, "hey, these things are alike--but what's it gotta do with me?"

if Jesus had known about Christmas trees, and this beer, he would have said, "hey, these things are simliar--but what's it gotta do with me?"

Today I picked up a Rogue Juniper Pale Ale on my way home from getting some paint for a holiday home improvement project (see my wife’s blog for details soon (shout-outs!)). I’m a fan of the other Rogue beers I’ve tried, specifically the Brutal Bitter and Dead Guy Ale, and I also have come to enjoy gin (which gets its pine flavor from juniper berries) in the last few years. So Rogue Pale Ale with juniper berries–where do I sign?

This pale ale tastes, at first, about like a standard pale ale. Then you taste a bit of the pine flavor from the juniper berries. It’s not as strong as the Christmas tree flavor you get from gin, but it’s noticable. This beer tastes clean, if that makes sense. The pine-ness fits in well with the typically crisp and flowery pale ale taste.

I’m not sure whether this is a Rogue seasonal beer or not, but, as my wife says about gin, it (gin, but I mean also the beer) tastes like Christmas. And in the end, don’t we all want to taste our Christmas while we’re worthless X-Box-playing automatons listening to the Beach Boys’ Christmas record? Yes. Yes we do. Here’s the beer for the job. You’re welcome.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Up. If you like PAs, such as Sierra Nevada’s, I think you’ll like it. Even if you don’t, it’s mild enough to appeal to a variety of picky beer drinkers (god help ’em).

Drinking It All: # 1 Fence-Post 32 oz. High Life


big High Lifes are by nature higher high lifes

big High Lifes are by nature higher high lifes

Drinking It All will be a document of my attempt to try every beer in circulation. It’s a Herculean and tragic attempt at best. But it’s the means, not the end that counts here.

Let’s start this new feature, Drinking It All, with one of my favorite beers: Miller High Life. And not only is it High Life, it’s a big High Life. 32 oz. big.

I’m an unashamed fan of High Life. It’s a good solid blue-collar beer in the good company of PBR and Olde Style, and it holds its ground. The “Champagne of Beers” is easy to drink, as are most mass-produced domestic lagers, and it doesn’t hurt you where the money is. We’ll not get into the taste too much. The beer is heavily carbonated and tastes like a mildly hopped and mildly malty lager. It’s inconspicuous by design.

It’s the beer you drink when you’re cutting the yard on the riding lawnmower, practicing with your band, tailgating, or plowing through a new difficulty level on Halo.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Thumbs definitely up.

Here Comes the Beer

I’m going to be shifting gears and focusing, almost exclusively, on homebrewing and beer. In an effort to more narrowly define my site and hopefully find a focused niche, I won’t be posting about all of my interests anymore. Nobody’s a pro at it all, except maybe Tom Waits, and I ain’t Tom Waits.

I’m currently trying to find a new home (read: blog) for The Box of Vinyl Project (only one rejection so far) because I think the idea is too much fun, and hopefully, to you guys, interesting, to quit altogether. If you know of a blog that it might fit in well with, let me know. I’ll definitely send them a proposal to pick it up. And I thought submitting to literary magazines was hard. Sheee-it.

So from now on, you can look to Typed Slowly for all of your fermentation-related interests and also to satisfy your time-killing urge at your terrible job (everybody’s job sucks–yours is no different–unless you’re Jim Koch) by reading about beer. Fun, fun, fun. Yes, yes, yes.

Having said that, I’ll probably manage to sneak in a post about a book, record, show, film, internet video, or lawn-mowing experience every once in a while–while Kirby’s not looking. Mum’s the word.

On the sunny side, I’m starting another feature to fill the canyon-like void that will be left by The Box of Vinyl Project. We’ll call it (adopt Don LaFontaine’s voice (look him up)) Drinking It All. The title sounds a bit more Dionysian than it actually is. I’ll be setting out on a mission to try every beer I can get my hands on. I realize I’ve set myself up for failure from the beginning (it’s tragically flawed); I can’t possibly drink every beer made. But I’m goddamn gonna try. It’ll be fun. I’ll drink beers you wouldn’t consider smelling. I’ll drink beers I wouldn’t normally consider smelling. Emphasis on the drinking here, not the smelling. I’ll take suggestions and I’ll make suggestions. It’ll be educational. Economical. Inspirational. Farcical. It’ll be about beer.

It’s fixing to all be about beer.

The Box of Vinyl Project: #5 The Doors-Waiting For The Sun (Elektra 1968)

About a year ago, I acquired a little more than two crates worth of old vinyl LPs (about 200, give or take, records). I’ve listened to some of them, the ones I already knew and liked, but the majority of the records have stayed put in the box they came in. I figured I’d start making my way through the collection of vinyl. I don’t intend to research any records that I’m not familiar with, so hopefully I’ll arrive at as objective a review/summary of each records as possible. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never tried my hand at music criticism/record reviews.

everyone knows lizards are capable of infinite things

everyone knows lizards are capable of infinite things

I, like many people, went through a phase in which I was interested in rock music from my parents’ younger days. I listened to eight track tapes of the Beatles, the Stones, and Fleetwood Mac, but I also got some of these kinds of records on CD.  I don’t know whether my parents were big fans of the Doors, but they didn’t have any of their records. I had to get the two-disc Best of record when I was about 13. So, to me, junior high will always seem like an appropriate age to become a fan of the Doors, and sometime in early high school seems like an appropriate age to realize that they aren’t exactly as cool as you used to think. You realize that Jim Morrison was not, in fact, a poet. At best, he was a good rock singer and rock star, with all the cliches and connotations that title brings, and at worst, he was a pretentious over-indulger.

Even though I claim that I won’t research any of the records I review for this series, I admit that I looked up this record to see when it was released (interestingly, there is no date of release on the sleeve or record itself) and learned that this was the Doors’ third record. Not that that’s at all important or has anything to do with what I think of the record–I’m not really familiar with any of the group’s proper records. But this record does contain some of the more famous songs, such as “Hello, I Love You,” “Five To One,” and “The Unknown Soldier.” You know these songs–you’ve seen Forrest Gump, right?

Waiting For The Sun is a pretty good document what I think of when I think of the Doors. There’s the good keyboard driven pop songs (“Hello, I Love You” and “We Could Be So Good Together”), the dark brooders carried by Morrison’s “poetic” lyrics (“Not To Touch The Earth” (cause he’s a deep poet/Lizard King and shit)), and the weird Native American chanting stuff (“My Wild Love”) that Morrison seems to have been so fascinated with. To be honest, I’m not much of a Doors fan anymore, never listen to the Best of CDs on purpose, but this record is actually pretty damn good.

The obvious stand-outs are the hits we all remember. We’ll knock them off in a quick run down. “Five To One” is a slow, chugging-along rock song with a cool guitar solo and some of Morrison’s more understated lyrics. “Hello, I Love You” is catchy, quick, and simple–not much room for foolishness. “The Unknown Soldier” covers pretty dark subject material with relatively upbeat music. It also has the centerpiece firing squad section. We know these songs because they’re solid, concise, catchy rock songs. And we saw Forrest Gump.

The song “Love Street” is another catchy pop song that sounds familiar even if you haven’t heard it. It’s one of my favorites on the record. “My Wild Love” wanders into vaguely Native American musical territory with its chants and handclaps (I’m sure that’s a gross simplification Native American musical traits), and the song still feels pretty appropriate on the record. It somehow makes sense and fits.

Morrison does get his chance to dive off the deep end in “Not To Touch The Earth,” which contains lyrics from “The Celebration of the Lizard” a “theatre composition by the Doors” as indicated in the gatefold. The music is little more than vaguely structured banging set as a backdrop to Morrison’s singing. Maybe it’s a little more than that, but not much. To be fair, this song is really the only time Morrison is unreined on the record. And it’s a pretty short clusterfuck at 3:54, so it could have been worse. The song ends with the famous Morrison quote: “I am the lizard king. I can do anything.” Which maybe he can–he managed to finagle the song on the record.

One thing I noticed about the record is that it doesn’t actually contain the song “Waiting for the Sun.” But there is a Doors song titled such. Weird.

Like I said earlier, this record is pretty good. If I had to guess why the record is good, I’d go with it’s length–it runs just a little over half an hour. Keeping a pretentious rock star on a time limit seems to do wonders for the band’s ability to make memorable rock songs. Who fuckin knew?

Will I listen to it again? I imagine so, sometime. Although the record’s not in the best of shape–it’s pretty scratchy–so we’ll see.

Next up: The Who-The Kids Are Alright (OST)

Then: John Coltrane-Interstellar Space

On the Turntable

What’s good this week:

Against the Peruvian Monster–Man Man (The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face)

World Class Fad–Paul Westerberg (14 Songs)

Evil–Interpol (Antics)

Strange–Built To Spill (Ancient Melodies of the Future)

Winner’s Blues–Sonic Youth (Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star)

Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.–Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (Living With the Living)

The Worth of Art's Evolution Leading to Its Abandonment

Nabokov's latest trick on academia

Nabokov's latest trick on academia

With Nabokov’s unfinished, final novel, The Original Of Laura, finally being published next week, literary scholars and apprieciators are likely to be either defending the publication (which Nabokov explicitly opposed) or siding with Nabokov. As a fan of the few Nabokov novels I’ve read, I’ll admit that I’m a little interested in taking a crack at the new “novel.” However, I can’t help but feel strange about reading what (I’ve heard) amounts to a rough draft outline of the novel knowing that Nabokov asked that it be destroyed if he died before he could finish it. But I can see obvious merits to both the defenders’ and opposers’ of publication points of view.

This Nabokovian controversy brings up an interesting (to me) question of whether or not the evolution of a work of art, be it notes for a novel, scratched out lyrics for a song, or storyboards or deleted scenes for a film, should be considered another part of the artwork or if the end result should have to stand all on its own.

In an article on Slate.com, Aleksandar Hemon argues against The Original Of Laura’s publication, and he quotes Nabokov:

“An artist should ruthlessly destroy his manuscripts after publication, lest they mislead academic mediocrities into thinking that it is possible to unravel the mysteries of genius by studying cancelled readings. In art, purpose and plan are nothing; only the results count.”

So Nabokov isn’t much a fan of the academic literary unravelers/deconstructors. He’s definitely not alone. Lucky for me, any analysis I make of literature might be a lot of things, but it sure as shit ain’t academic.

While it would arguably be pretty interesting to know what might have been going on behind the scenes of Exile On Mainstreet‘s creation, or see some structural notes Wallace might have used when writing Infinite Jest (let’s just see how many times I can reference that book on this blog), would/should it enhance or affect how we look at/read/consume the finished work of art?

(In observation of the (correct, I think) philosophy that a “work of art” is never finished but is instead only abandoned, we’ll call what’s been released or published the “finished work.”)

To me, the short answer is no–what leads up to a finished work shouldn’t be considered part of the work itself. False starts, rough drafts, deleted scenes, notes, and failed takes are sometimes interesting in and of themselves, but I don’t see how they can logically be given enough weight as to affect the finished work in any meaningful way. Otherwise said notes would have been incorporated in the finished work, right? I’m obviously not much for the school of thought that art can take on different meanings, other than what the creator intended, after it’s been released. Whatever Faulkner meant for us to get out of The Sound and the Fury, he included in the text, however confusing it might sometimes be. If I’m listening to Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled record, I can’t superimpose proletariat (forgive me the Marxism) ideals onto the lyrics that don’t cohere with the politcal atmosphere of 1992. A work of art should exist only to the extent that it literally exists. Everything outside the work itself is out-of-bounds. Two-stroke penalty.

So, for me, Nabokov’s new “novel” seems like it can be little more than a priviledged look at how one of the 20th century’s most interesting writers got his shit together. Three-hundred pages of notecards is certainly not a novel, finished or otherwise. But in the end, I’m still wanting to read the damn thing, but then again, I’ll read just about anything (emphasis on just about).