Sunday, August 31, 2008

Back in town.

Denver was GREAT! A lot of events and things-to-do for the, ahem, not well connected. I say this because one of the Gordons was, ahem, well connected and was able to, omigosh like how did that happen, get into the convention hall (including the stadium) every single day. So it was a bit odd, both being in the same town, for the same event, and yet seeing each other for a total of, what, 40 minutes?

Strange. Not quite the week we planned together.

In any event, this unconnected plebian had a great time regardless. A lot to see and do. Some political folks to stalk and idolize. Many many brewpubs to visit in this microbrew mecca. And even made it onto CNN as a "man on the street".

Once pictures and notes are organized, the blogging will continue concerning at least Chris's adventures. Kimberly's on her own with her stories; and with the all-knowing, all-seeing eye of powerful lobbyists peering down, I'm not so sure what can be admitted here in a public forum. Her stories are WAY better, but you'll have to get hers verbally so there's no paper trail of secrets divulged. Seriously.

Friday, August 22, 2008

We interrupt our semi-regularly scheduled blogging.

Trent Reznor in Cleveland and Barack Obama in Denver both await Gordonian arrivals. We're sure some gripping and suspenseful posts will be promptly typed on these very internets upon our return. We apologize for giving you nothing to read for the next week or so, but we're sure all 3 or 4 of you will survive just fine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sneaky guy.

OK, so there was a rally in Raleigh for Barack Obama, and work schedules did not coincide well with going to the offices over there to pick up some tickets (they were gone in less than two hours). After the rally Tuesday night, the good senator was set to make his way over and up to Martinsville, VA for a Town Hall meeting. On the way, there was a secret stop in Greensboro.

Are you serious?!?!!? DAMMIT!!!! Why do we have to WORK????

One of Chris's techs got a photo sent to her on her phone today. It was a fairly good pic of Obama. I asked if that was from Raleigh last night. She said, "No. He's in town. He's in Greensboro."


He popped into the Farmer's Market over on Yanceyville Street in Greensboro to pick up biscuits, zucchini bread, pound cake, bread, tomatoes and peaches, and paid for them all. He also picked up a baby for a photo op.

Man. Rest assured once word leaked out and streets started closing, the Gordons would have raced over to see him.

Next time....

Maple Pumpkin Ale

The newest concoction in this latest round of homebrewing was brewed in time for autumn: Maple Pumpkin Ale. Some seasonal pumpkin ales are named because of their color (pumpkiny) and their spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, etc.) but have no real pumpkin to them. This recipe has both. To wit:

1 lb Munich Malt
1 lb Vienna Malt
8 oz Cara-Pils Malt
8 oz Crystal 60L Malt
6 lbs Extra Light Dry Malt Extract (DME)

8 oz Maple Syrup (90 mins)
four 15 oz cans of carmelized pumpkin (90 mins)
1 oz Liberty hops (90 mins)
1 tbsp Cinnamon (90 mins)
0.5 tbsp nutmeg (90 mins)

1 oz Fuggles (20 mins)
1 tbsp Cinnamon (20 mins)
0.5 tbsp nutmeg (20 mins)
4 oz Maple Syrup (20 mins)

1 tbsp Irish Moss (15 mins)

1 oz Cascades (2 mins)
1 tbsp Cinnamon (2 mins)
1 tbsp nutmeg (2 mins)
1 tbsp Corriander Seeds (2 mins)

WLP060 - American Yeast Blend

Four 15 oz cans of Libby's Pure Pumpkin were caramelized on a cookie sheet at 350 F for one hour to break down some sugars and add something to the fermentation. The recipe called for just leaving it alone for an hour, but Chris (always one to tinker on a recipe and not let anything be) swirled it around after 30 minutes to maximize the surface area being caramelized. The kitchen smelled absolutely wonderful during this!

The ingredients were gathered, and the brewing began in earnest. Some primo frou-frou maple syrup from Whole Foods in Alexandria was acquired for the day, and it was quite the tasty variety.

If only Smell-o-Vision were employed on the internets, because the initial tablespoon of cinnamon thrown into the boil was divine. Such a scrumptious aroma. When the boil got going, it was easily the most rigorous and vigorous boil of the bunch. Observe these findings in this edge-of-your-seat video:

All in all, this was by far the most nasally appealing brewday session in a while. And, hopefully if it turns out well, a repeat brew for every October's consumption. Sadly, 4 weeks of sitting need to occur. There is a lot of gunk and solids in this beer, with pumpkin flesh settling out. One week in primary, transfer for a 2nd week into secondary, then transfer it a THIRD time to sit for TWO more weeks. After all that, then it's the 2 to 3 week wait to carbonate in the bottles.

Now if we got rid of the toilet downstairs, we'd have more room for carboys....

A feisty one, this Honey Molasses Porter is.

Time to make way in the primary fermenter so the upcoming Maple Pumpkin Ale can be made , so the Honey Molasses Porter was transfered over into the secondary fermenter. The airlock hadn't clicked with any escaping CO2, so all appeared to be still.

A third pound of honey was added to secondary, and it was all set to rest in the usual spot downstairs. The honeycomb included in the jar was supposed to be added as well, but it was a tight squeeze to get it in, so I can imagine the fun in trying to get it out.

The following morning, fermentation had begun again, with a healthy gooey sludge of krausen on top. Mmmm....sticky molasses and honey. Crazy:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

We has a sad.

[The multi-repeated query today over the telephone was "Are you kidding me?"]

Chris called the Raleigh "Campaign for Change" office today after work to inquire as to the status of the community credential process for Senator Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. The calling process was to occur between August 12 and August 17. Today was the final day and no call to the Gordons yet. Let's see what's up...

After the delegates receive all their tickets to the final night's acceptance speech, calls were made from Raleigh to some lucky recipients of tickets for the historic event. Number of calls made?




Are you kidding me?

Out of all the allotted tickets for "common folk", a mere five people in the whole state of North Carolina get the opportunity to witness history firsthand.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Pot, meet kettle. Or are you just one of the same?

RE: Russia-Georgia crisis

What world leader ironically said the following statement today?
"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."

a) George W. Bush
b) there are no other choices

If it wasn't so scary, I'd laugh out loud.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Hi Christopher,

I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo has been selected for inclusion in the newly released fifth edition of our Schmap Washington DC Guide:

Ben's Chili Bowl

Thanks so much for letting us include your photo - please enjoy the guide!

Best regards,
Emma Williams
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Three years of good beer in North Carolina

August 13, 2005.

We "Pop the Cap".

Governor Mike Easley signs HB 392, raising the cap on beer's legal alcohol-by-volume from 6% to 15%, leaving beer nerds throughout the state to rejoice heartily. A lot of hard work, many trips to Raleigh and the statehouse, and plenty of fundraisers throughout the state helped achieve our goal.

Has it really been 3 years since a dedicated beer run to Blacksburg or Richmond in Virginia has taken place? Awesome.

Honey Molasses Porter

The bug has hit. The excitement is at a frenzied state. Chris has caved in and purchased a smoker.

The past two trips up to Alexandria have been accompanied by healthy afternoons of smoked meat extravaganzas. Pork and ribs and thighs and tenderloins. Rubs and marinades and soaked wood chunks. Delicious.

Home Depot was the place to buy one. And the driveway during brewday was the place to use one. Two huge pork tenderloins rubbed with just salt, pepper, and garlic powder over hickory wood chips resulted in a delicious dinner worthy of a bloggish post. Wow. This is going to be fun. Plenty of meats were acquired and stored in the garage freezer for future smokings and rubs and marinades. Yum!

While the air was filled with delicious meaty smoke, the brew kettle was fired up and a new recipe was boiled up. A "honey molasses porter" recipe was acquired and now rests in the carboy fermenting. This was one of the recipes brought up to Alexandria for James to choose what we do. He chose the Belgian Tripel, so the Honey Molasses Porter was brewed today at home. The recipe:

1/2 lb. 120L Crystal Malt
1/2 lb. English Chocolate Malt
2 lb. Amber Dry Malt Extract
4 lb. Dark Dry Malt Extract
1 oz Centennial hops (8.5% alpha acids) at minute 60
1/2 oz Amarillo hops (9.8% AA) at minute 35
1/2 oz Fuggles hops (5.6% AA) at minute 10
1 lb. honey at minute 10
8 oz. blackstrap molasses at minute 10
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1 lb. honey at flameout
WLP001 California Ale yeast

(1 lb. honey to be added to secondary fermenter)

OG goal was 1.068 and the actual was a stout 1.062. Giddy!

Joe Jackson Tripel

In my haste of posting about the latest trip up to NoVA / DC, I had neglected to post the recipe for the Belgian Tripel that James and I brewed. Am I an idiot or what?

2 cups Belgian Caramel Pils malt
9 lb. Light Dry Malt Extract (DME)
1 lb. clear Belgian candi sugar
1 oz. Centennial hops (8.5% alpha acids) at minute 60
1/2 oz. Tradition hops (5.3% AA) at minute 35
1 oz. Glacier hops (5.2% AA) at minute 10
1 Whirlfloc tablet
WLP530 Abbey Ale yeast

OG (original gravity) goal 1.091, actual 1.070. Hmmm....quite a bit low. Our 8.2% beer will probably only be 6.5% or so. At least with the QUICK fermentation it should be free of contaminants and infection.

Mini anti-golf rant

OK, so because of the "heralded" PGA Wyndham Championship being held literally one neighborhood over from our house, I have to drive waaaaaay out of my way to get to the grocery store just to get 7 gallons of water and some extra honey for a homebrew session today. Can't jut through the usual way past Sedgefield Country Club and the residential streets. Noooooo, we've got to drive out of our way because the Sedgefield streets are closed off with Greenboro Police asking for a driver's license to prove you live in Sedgefield proper and need to get through to your home.

Extra gas and miles (well, maybe it's just one mile) out of our way so that lower tier, subpar, trivial golfers like Brandt Snedeker can come to our fair town to win a trophy. The big-names-are-always-absent golf tournament that used to be held in the sticks down 421 at Forest Oaks is now right under our feet among our residences.

Seriously? "Brandt Snedeker"?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A couple of glaring National Portrait Gallery omissions

Received this via the magical email upon return from work:

Also, on your Portrait Gallery portion, you got nothing on Van Buren's pay-ola stack. Regrettable oversight.

This blogger regrets the error. Martin Van Buren, 8th President of these United States from 1837 to 1841, holds what appears in my mind to be a stack of bribes or maybe just some leftover friendly cash in conveniently non-conspicuous envelopes. This conjecture always results in a solid giggle, if not a hearty snicker, upon its viewing. I submit to you, what we like to call, "Payola":

Another favorite is a large and apparently gregarious Grover Cleveland, the 22nd (1885 to 1889) AND the 24th (1893 to 1897) President of these United States, as he finds time in his busy day of paperwork to remove his spectacles and lean every so comfortably back in his chair to receive a guest. You can almost hear a hearty bear guffaw as he exclaims the joy in receiving this unseen visitor. Another National Portrait Gallery favorite, forgotten upon these bloggish pages until just now:

We wholeheartedly regret these blatant omissions.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dissertation on Belgian Tripels and portraits

Drove up to Alexandria for a brew session, and on the way (right near where fraternity brother "Bones" used to live)....Gordonian history occurs. Observe, and view in awe (but sadly the Chesterfield water tower does not come through well on the digital camera at 80 mph):

With Kimberly in Minneapolis for the AANA national convention, Chris, Sam, and Maxie traveled northward with all the brew equipment loaded in the Jeep. (Maxie of course filling her requirement of sitting on the highest peak possible.)

Lunch at Rustico in Alexandria fit the bill for some tasty grub and a great selection of craft beer. De Ranke XX Bitter and a Bluegrass Brewing Co. Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout were consumed heartily by your faithful blogger. The BBC was served a smidge too cold, so it took a bit for the bourbon flair to rear its head, and the Belgian IPA was a winner as usual. Sadly, the point of even going was to get a pizza, but the damn waitress offered up a softshell crab sandwich that she described as delicious, so Chris bit...and instantly had buyer's remorse. I mean, come on, the duck confit pizza there ROCKS. At least James ordered one. But next time...

Smoke from the meat smoker, and steam from the brew kettle. Ahhhhh....

The NC-VA collaboration brew was completed, with a mere 2 hours between transfer to the primary fermenter and a bubbling, airlock-ticking fermentation. TWO HOURS! So, so sweet. Indeed, quite the vigorous fermentation with all the accompanied "Jupiter clouds" swirling about in a tsunami of hops and yeast floaties. Sadly, in a raging fit of obvious stupidity or patent drunkenness, no actual photos of the rusty gold brew in the carboy were taken. Your humble blogger apologizes immensely.

A wide variety of meats were smoked during the brewday: boneless chicken thighs, ribs, and some sort of pork loin. Between the smoker and the brewing, the Brannon backyard smelled abso-frickin-lutely divine. It was a gorgeous Northern Virginia day, with no humidity to speak of. The Sweetwater growlers were dispatched with utmost haste, as were growlers of Chris's Carolinian Smoked Porter concoction. It worked out well to carbonate some Carolinian Smoked Porter in the empty Sweetwater growlers Chris had to return anyway, so why not return them with beer enclosed? Seems ideal.

For a trip into DC, a visit to the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery was the destination. Visiting exhibitions included "Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture", a nifty collection of movie posters, election posters, and general poster mania; and "Herblock's Presidents: Puncturing Pomposity", a collection of political cartoonist Herb Block's critical work from FDR to Clinton; and finally "Recognize!: Hip-Hop and Contemporary Portraiture", with photos and paintings of current and "old school" hip-hop artists. There was a required LL Cool J sighting, but sadly, not one visage of Q-Tip. Damn.

Then it was a viewing of all portraits historical, to appease the nerd in Chris. Presidential portraits, revolutionary war portraits, just general historical portraits. James sadly had to withstand a mini-rant from Chris where the portraits of Revolutionary War figures Henry Knox, Horatio Gates, and William Moultrie were displayed, yet no framed countenance of General Nathanael Greene. James was a good sport in dealing with the mini-rage, and consequently mentioned that Greene's portrait would in fact be displayed in the very next matter what the topic or era. Grrrr....

Also in DC was a trip to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, a homage to all things criminal and the justice that is served them. Bonnie and Clyde's bullet-riddled 1934 automobile was a treat. As was the goofy picture taken with the heat-seeking video camera in the forensics portion. It was a pretty good tour, but like the International Spy Museum, it is not free with an $18 entry fee. A good 3 hours was spent there observing crimes and punishments from medieval times to today.

In addition to Rustico, the gastronomic portion of the trip was covered by breakfast (again) at the Lincoln Waffle House, and then a return trip to the famous Ben's Chili Bowl, which on August 22 will be celebrating their FIFTIETH anniversary of serving the finest chili, chili-burgers, chili-dogs, and half-smokes in the land. Deeeeeee-licious. A chili-cheeseburger with potato salad was ordered by your faithful blogger and consumed in a rather messy fashion with wild abandon. It's like heroin. It's that good.

The trip concluded with some bocce next door to the Brannons with Chris, James, Paul, and Dave throwing throughout the sprinkles. Sadly, Dave and Chris won the first match but lost the final two to James and Paul. I think it was Dave's devotion to Coors Light rather than the growlers of Sweetwater beer that led to our downfall. Afterward, it was the 4 & 1/2 hour drive back home and back to reality. Another successful Alexandria and DC trip under the belt. And in 5 or 6 weeks, some bottles and maybe a growler or two of "Joe Jackson Tripel" will be available for consumption. (Shoeless Joe hit a lot of triples, and his outfield play earned him the nickname "Where triples go to die", and the name of the Belgian brew is "tripel", so you can follow along with the nomenclature.....)

In closing, one of the niftiest displays at the National Portrait Gallery (and available on a t-shirt, another one of Chris's addictions...come on, Kimberly, we get 20% off in the gift shops for being Smithsonian contributing donors!) is the following. Click it to enlarge it and read the plates. Awesome:

Barack Rolled.

Sing it!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Community credential process started for Denver

The process for acquiring tickets to Senator Obama's acceptance speech in Denver has begun. The directions to do so have been posted online. Apparently, for the very small amount of non-Colorado and non-southwest tickets given away, you must prove to the local Campaign for Change office that you have a) a hotel, and b) a flight to Denver. We have both. We both left voicemails at the NC phone number provided. Holy crap, if this works out....

Step One:
Contact your local Campaign for Change between now and August 12 to request a Community Credential.

Step Two: Notification
Starting on August 12th, your local Campaign for Change office will notify you via email or text message if you have been selected to receive a community credential. You’ll find out when and where to pick up your credential, and you’ll need to verify your travel arrangements. If you are not selected to receive a community credential, you’ll remain on a waiting list in case more spaces become available.

Step Three: Pick up your credential
You’ll need to present a valid photo ID when you pick up your credential at your local Campaign for Change distribution center. Once you’ve received a credential, you will need to activate it through an online, in-person, or phone activation process. Credentials must be activated by August 19th.

Step Four: Come to Denver
When you arrive at INVESCO Field at Mile High on Thursday, August 28th, you will need your activated community credential to pass through a security checkpoint. Please note: Community Credentials are valid on Thursday, August 28th. The above information does not apply to Convention delegates, alternate delegates, pages or guests credentialed for the Pepsi Center, as these individuals will be credentialed in the same way for INVESCO Field at Mile High.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Gordon Brewery hits the road.

Kimberly is off to Minneapolis for the AANA national convention, so what is Chris to do? Hmmmm....

Sawhorses, plywood, tote-o-supplies, 6 & 1/2 gallon carboy, propane, brewpot, cooler, burner, ingredients. All packed up and ready to go...with plenty of room for dogs too. The first collaboration of North Carolina and Virginia homebrewers named Gordon and Brannon is set to occur. The Jeep is packed. The excitement mounts. The brewing will be fierce.

Two different recipes are being lugged up in that brown cardboard box. James gets to choose which one we brew. Two totally different styles. Two totally different colors. Two totally different yeast strains. I would leak the info here, but James is one of the only 4 people or so who actually READ these posts so I cannot reveal them now.

Should be fun. Growlers will be drained. Cigars will be ablaze. A large slab of some sort of animal meat will be smoked during the session, followed by a feast fit for kings. What better reward after concocting our malty elixir? And to top it all off, it will only be in the low 80s so it will be actually comfortable outside...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Happy birthday!

Happy 47th birthday, Senator Obama!

May all of your (and our) political wishes come true....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The ballad of Maxie Damn Doodle

The year was 1997 in August in the tiny podunk town of Ramseur, NC. Hey, Sam's 3 years old. Let's get another puppy.

A farm in the North Carolina country yielded an addition to our little family: Maxie.

Otherwise known as Maxie Doodle, Maxie Damn Doodle, Doodlebug, Fatty, Lunchbox, or the infamous Elmer...since she was almost glue.

Awwww, look at how she waits for us in the barn while the other puppies in the pack race around to the other side. She remembers us. (Little did we know that she was (seriously) mentally retarded and did not have the pack instinct inherent in dogs.)

She was an impossibility to potty train, as instinctually dogs do not mess where they nest. So overnight in the little box just big enough for her to sleep in, she would pee and poop and lay in it all night.

She would run away, race around our house and the neighbor's in our new development's construction zone and return hours later covered in burrs and what we call those "spiny nuts".

She would be submissive and roll over and pee the minute you tried to pick her up off the couch. We spayed her early with exploratory surgery to see if she just wasn't hooked together correctly resulting in her awful urinary habits.

She was impossible to train. She could not be taught. She was a disaster. Our couch was ruined. Our carpeting was ruined.

If we gave her up, she would be beaten and or euthanized for her retardation. We were at a serious crossroads. Open crying and weeping were included as we discussed what to do with this little black retarded dog.

The clincher: it was time to order her an embroidered Christmas stocking with her name on it from Lands' End. This is the final decision. This stocking would determine her continued inclusion in our family.

We kept her.

Now, looking back, Maxie has been one of the sweetest dogs we have ever had. She turned 11 years old yesterday, and still acts like a puppy. She plays with her toys with reckless abandon. She wrestles with Sam. She is our little bruiser. She is Sam's protector. She is an avid hunter of squirrel and bird and rabbit. And she is bionic with two rebuilt ACL's in her hind legs from her Maxie-esque behavior.

A common theme when we look into her deep faraway eyes and experience her carefree happy-go-lucky temperament: "It's always good in Maxie's world."

Happy birthday, Tubby Bitch!