Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

New Year's Eve. Time for a matinee. The Oscar buzzworthy film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the subject today, based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. 2 hours and 48 minutes of Brad Pitt in fantastic makeup from old man to handsome man to young boy. As always, the trailer:

"I was born under unusual circumstances..."

I should say so! The story is told in a hospital as old woman Daisy allows her daughter to read Benjamin's diary so she can know the man who courted her so many years ago. Hurricane Katrina bears down on the hospital, but instead of fleeing, the daughter wishes to say a proper goodbye to her dying mother. So they bond over the readings of the diary, learning (or in the case of the dying woman, revisiting) the life of this odd man.

Born the day The Great War ends in 1918, Benjamin emerges from the womb an old man. As the years progress he becomes YOUNGER. Fraught with the "monster" his wife died delivering, Benjamin's father drops him off on the steps of an old age home, where he is taken in and over the years fits in with the elderly crowd. Benjamin watches the residents die off as he slowly becomes younger.

As children, Benjamin and Alice, the granddaughter of a resident, forge a friendship that lasts over the years. Rites of passage for Benjamin while away seeing the world on a seafaring vessel (first drink, first trip to a brothel, and first affair with a married woman) occur, then Benjamin returns to Louisiana and eventually rekindles his relationship with Alice. Their trajectories are polar opposites: Alice grows older, Benjamin grows younger. Eventually they "meet in the middle" and consummate their relationship. A child of their own is brought to bear, and Benjamin is torn with the fact that Alice would now have to care for TWO children as she ages. Distraught by this fact, Benjamin leaves to grow younger and eventually die. The pair's relationship comes full circle as they both end up in the very old age home where they met: Alice as old woman, and Benjamin as youngster and finally a dying infant.

The mortality of life takes center stage here. Not a cautionary tale, but rather one of introspection. What does it mean to grow old? How does one face their own mortality? How do relationships evolve during the aging process?

A few slow spots as we see 17-year-old Benjamin take to the high seas, but once we get through those scenes the film picks up again and it is truly a delight.

Long, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a solid Full Price.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Maple Pumpkin Ale v.2.0

Maple Pumpkin Ale
Brewday info posted August 20, 2008:

Maple Pumpkin Ale v.2.0
Brewed December 27, 2008.

Both were pumpkin beers brewed with actual pumpkin. The caramelized flesh gives some fermentables to the homebrewing process, and the gourd's innards supply actual, gasp!, pumpkin flavor to the finished product. Some pumpkin ales call themselves that due to their spicing. It tastes like pumpkin pie. You could achieve that by brewing an auburn-colored pale ale and adding appropriate spice and nothing more. Me? I went for actual bona fide pumpkin in my homebrewed beer.

MPA Version 1 was brewed way ahead of time in August. The amount of time required for the solids to settle out was incredible. One week in primary fermentation, transfer to secondary for one week, then transfer yet another time to sit for 2 weeks. Then, allow it to sit in the bottle and carbonate for 2 to 3 weeks. An August brew for an October consumption.

It was a winner within our circle here. A tasty libation that many were unaware was a homebrewed concoction. Seriously. It was a staple at sunny autumn Sundays for Browns games, and the last bit of it was saved for Thanksgiving get-togethers.

For Christmas? No more to be had.

This was an outrage. How could this nectar be no more? Surely something could be done about it! Surely the brewer could be enticed to brew another batch out of season. The brewer REALLY wasn't going to wait until August 2009 to brew another batch, right?

Rules are meant to be broken. Maple Pumpkin Ale v.2.0 will indeed be ready for drinking in February 2009, the perfect month methinks for a pumpkin ale.

I won't re-post the recipe here. You can see it in the original August 2008 post. Minor modifications to v.2.0 include:
- 5 cans of pumpkin instead of 4 were caramelized
- more maple syrup now: 8 oz at 90 minutes, 8 oz at 20 minutes, and 4 oz at 2 minutes
- 8 gallons of water boiled to compensate for the liquid loss due to pumpkin absorption
- California Ale yeast WLP001 used instead of American Ale yeast WLP060

A full diary is to be seen with each Flickr photo over on our Flickr account, but for the purposes here on the HofG, here are some pics:

Maxie Gordon. Hooligan.

Nothing is safe under the tree. Nothing. Chewable heroin, um, I mean, Snausages were the most sought-after treat to tear open while the humans were away. She would not be deterred.

Immediately upon this garish discovery, the most common nickname for Maxie is uttered with contempt and maybe just a little bit of pride: Maxie Damn Doodle.....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December 24, NPR Morning Edition - Christmas beers

4 minutes and 36 seconds of beer geekiness heard on NPR just this morning:

Christmas Beer Yields Christmas Cheer
by Neda Ulaby
Morning Edition, December 24, 2008 ·

Consider the libations of the season: Spiked eggnog. Mulled wine. What about a nice frosty Christmas beer?

What might have seemed terribly declasse just a few years ago is now a full-fledged trend, thanks to the past decade's explosion of fine craft beers. At Tria, a Philadelphia bar known for its meticulously curated beer and wine lists, a half-dozen winter or holiday beers can be sampled.

The beers range from the Sly Fox Christmas Ale, brewed in nearby Royersford, Pa., to the potent Scaldis Prestige from Belgium, which might be the most expensive beer in the world. (It costs about $350 a case; a 5-ounce pour at Tria will set a person back $11.)

On a recent nippy December evening, Don Russell — better known as "Joe Sixpack" — hosted a Tria happy hour dedicated to Christmas beer. Russell is a former investigative reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News who now writes a popular weekly beer column.

Russell explains that Christmas beer has a reputation for big, malty, spicy flavors, but it comes in hundreds of variations. He urges doubters to experiment with the Dupont Avec Les Bon Voeux ("an awesome holiday ale") and the De Struise Tsjeeses (a cult beer created by a couple of Belgian jokesters whose playfully sacrilegious label had to be toned down for the U.S. market).

After making the rounds — and flogging his new Christmas Beer book — Russell hops in a cab with Tria co-owner Jon Myerow and sets off for the School of Fermentation. Originally started to instruct Tria's servers in the subtleties of the cafe's various beers and wines, the school is now open to the public.

A sold-out classroom awaits Russell's evening seminar on Christmas beer. Russell explains that Christmas beer predates Christmas. For millennia, he says, farmers around the globe marked the winter solstice by brewing particularly potent beer, heavy with fruit and grain.

His discourse touches on the ancient Egyptians, Saturnalia, the wassail tradition and St. Nicholas. Russell says Christmas beers have been common among small European brewers ever since the Middle Ages, but he credits San Francisco's Anchor Steam for reinventing Christmas beer for the contemporary market.

The class tastes a number of Christmas beers, including Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale, and Samichlaus, from Austria. Russell says it's brewed just one day a year in a huge batch.

"They actually have a Mass to bless the beer," he said. "There's a chapel in the brewery, and they have a priest come in."

Russell has one suggestion for those looking to add a little religious pluralism to their holiday tippling: Try HeBrew Jewbelation from Shmaltz Brewing Co.

A recent industry study shows that beer sales are up and wine sales are down — a finding that makes plenty of sense to Russell. Beer, he says, is recession's champagne.

Following the story, listed on the NPR website, a Christmas beer Top Ten....

10 Christmas Beers, From Soup To Nuts
by Don Russell

Smuttynose Winter Ale (New Hampshire), a sweet dark beer with notes of cherry and chocolate. Pair with snapper soup.

Stille Nacht (Belgium), a sweet, very strong pale ale. Pair with a washed-rind cheese such as Limburger.

Troegs Mad Elf (Pennsylvania), a strong dark ale brewed with cherries and honey. Pair with bacon quiche.

Mahr's Christmas Bock (Germany), a classic, malty Bavarian bock. Pair with a sausage plate.

Anchor Our Special Ale (California), a spiced winter warmer with a spruce aroma. Pair with cranberry salad.

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome (England), a classic unspiced winter warmer with mellow roasted malt. Pair with roasted turkey.

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice (California), a spiced winter warmer with warming vanilla notes. Pair with pumpkin pie.

Baladin Noel (Italy), a Belgian-style strong dark ale with a vibrant, spicy yeast character. Pair with those red-and-green-wrapped Hershey kisses.

Samichlaus (Austria), a smooth, brandylike triple bock. Pair with a cigar next to the fireplace.

Gouden Carolus Noel (Belgium), a strong dark ale spiced with herbs. Pair with salted pecans.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23rd - Happy Festivus!

A Festivus for the rest of us!

Thai Massamun Curry

(blogger's note: James in Alexandria will officially go bonkers over this recipe)

One of our favorite haunts is Greensboro's Taste of Thai restaurant. A staple? Massamun Curry. A yummy dish of coconut, peanut, and potato with chicken over rice. Outstanding. In a fit of experimentation, I searched online for some recipes, then found what I believe to be a fair representation of the dish.

Literally a block down the street from my pharmacy is the Dynasty International Food and Gifts grocery store specializing in Vietnamese and Thai items. After work one day I stopped in to acquire the specialty ingredients...and spent a whopping $3.63 in doing so. Crazy.

3 chicken breasts, massamun curry paste, 2 cans of coconut milk, two potatoes, one yellow onion, brown sugar, lemon juice, crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 cup peanuts, and the sauce.

Basically, mix all of these together at intervals and simmer. Easy. And delicious. Add a bowl-shaped mound of rice onto a plate then spoon the goodies onto it, and the flavor of Taste of Thai can be had at home. Minus the entertaining idolatry.

Kimberly remarked how much it looks, smells, and IS the real deal from the restaurant. A quality experiment and a successful rip-off if I do say so.

Now what to do with all this extra fish sauce?....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday season Hungarian Nut Roll

Every Christmas I make, if I do say so myself, some astounding nut roll. An old Hungarian recipe is used, however I use a Kitchen-Aid mixer and not my hands to mix this sticky dough. Every time I make this, I marvel at the fact that my Hungarian godmother would make these with only her hands time and time again.

In order to share this goodness with the world, I am here to post the recipe and the step-by-step instructions. You'll thank me.

Sprinkle one packet of bread yeast into 1/4 cup lukewarm water with 1 teaspoonful of brown sugar and let multiply.

Mix 6 cups (that is not a typo: SIX cups) flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup sugar.

Cut in two sticks of butter a la pie dough. Mix in 3 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 2 teaspoonfuls vanilla. Add yeast.

Allow the dough to rise in a quiet, warm spot until doubled. Then chill overnight.

Make the filling with two pounds of ground walnuts, 8 whipped egg whites plus 1 cup sugar until soft peaks form, 1 teaspoonful cinnamon, and 2 tablespoonfuls honey.

This recipe makes THREE nut rolls, so divide the dough and filling into three. Roll out the dough and spread your filling.

Roll and prick the top with a fork with each roll to vent. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. And if you want, do what I do and go overboard and make THREE batches, which equates to NINE nut rolls. NINE. (With enough extra trimmed dough to make a TENTH...experimentally using pecans on that one).


2008 version of our live tree

The plan was to ride out to Boone and/or Blowing Rock, NC on Saturday, December 13 to acquire our Christmas tree from the "farm". Throw the Cherokee into 4WD and head up the mountain.

Change of plans.

Kimberly returned home late, late, late Friday evening the 12th from, GROAN, yet another political fundraiser. So late in fact that she slept until noon on Saturday. NOON, I say. Which in the grand scheme of things was OK as I had some live online Continuing Education programs to listen to that morning in order to renew my license. So when she woke up....headache. Come on!!! It's our only chance to nab a tree! Our only mutual weekend day off in eons! Headache.

Grumble frigging grumble.

So anyway, once the pain relievers do their job, and a shower is had, we run and do all of our Christmas shopping in one fell swoop. Done. Easy. Well, the shopping anyway that we supplemented our German souvenirs with. On the way home, in the dark of night, we stopped at the empty lot 0.5 mile away from home at the nearest corner to our house and nabbed a tree. Some A Christmas Story scene reminiscing occurred, but no haggling was in fact needed...although they did tie it to the Jeep for free.

We have a tree. A mountain tree without the trip to the mountains. Anti-climactic if you ask me, but what are you gonna do?

And speaking of German souvenirs, an authentic Steinbach nutcracker adorns one of the end tables. You may know of my unnatural fascination with nutcrackers, so a trip to Germany (the land of Christmas decor) to bring home a way cool nutcracker occurred. A Steinbach was almost purchased last year at a Washington, DC ballet performance of The Nutcracker, but the asking price was $500. I passed. Needless to say, one purchased this past September in Germany proper was much, much cheaper....if you ignore the flight and travel costs...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dave Matthews Band tour

OK, so I'm a member of the Dave Matthews Band fanclub, "The Warehouse". Their concerts kick some serious ass. The jams and riffs and improvisations are spectacular. Songs that take 12 minutes to complete? Awesome. Second-hand marijuana smoke? Sure, I'll take it.

So anyway, they're coming out on tour this spring supporting a new CD. Locally! Or should I say, "locally"? Outdoor arenas in Charotte and Raleigh. Me? Well hell, I'll put my name into the fan club lottery for primo pavillion tickets for both.

Wednesday April 22 in Raleigh.
Friday April 24 in Charlotte.

Put in for both. It coincides with work schedules as I work 8-4 each day. I am so, as they say, "there".

For both.

Kick ass.

Bittersweet though as these will be the first North Carolina concerts since the death of Leroi Moore, the uber-horn player, whether it be sax, trumpet, horn, whatever. It will be emotional to see who takes on the torch of DMB horns. I for one am just glad they're trudging on and going forward after his tragic death.

Who else sings about the plight of Native Americans and their removal from tribal lands? Seriously. "All I can say, to you my new neighbor, is you must move on or I will bury you.....Don't drink the water, there's blood in the water." (Appropriate the YouTube snapshot below shows Leroi bellowing on his sax...)


The official word hits the street in early January. Can't wait to hear where my seats are...

Christmas dreams DO come true

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Citizen Kane

I usually only review current films seen in the theater. But I finally watched a film last night on Turner Classic Movies recorded eons ago on our DVR that merits attention.

Citizen Kane.

Wow. Why did I wait so long to see this?

The 1941 film concerns the rise of newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane: from simple upbringing in cold Colorado, to boarding school eastward, to newspaper mogul, to failed governor's candidate, to failed marriage, to a lonely death in an unfinished mansion. The film begins with Kane's dying last word, "Rosebud", then sets off a moviereel about his life. The story then crisscrosses acquaintances and friends and lovers to try and unwrap the mystery of the media man's dying word. Who, or what, is Rosebud? What would make him utter such a term with his last breath?

You witness the ambition. You see the power. You observe the man attempting to mold others into not what they want, but rather what HE thinks they want. You see the man, success in the eyes of others but methinks a failure in his own heart, yearn for that return to innocence before the wildly flamboyant ride he lived. A yearning for Rosebud, when all was safe and carefree.

The film, for 1941 or any age for that matter, depicts vivid scene framing. The foreground, the background, the lighting, the dark shadows, the fact that you never see the face of the primary interviewer who traverses the country searching for answers. all these intermingle and weave a film that unlike any other just leaps from the screen.

#1 on the American Film Institute's list of all-time best movies? I would heartily concur. I would venture to say I would even purchase this on DVD to watch over and over again. It was that good, and worthy of the hype.

A solid Full Price.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Spicy Chicken Corn Chowder

I love chowder.

New England Clam and any sort of Corn will suffice. (But screw that unnatural Manhattan!)

After my trip to Williams-Sonoma yesterday, with frankly the sole purpose of buying a soup cookbook, I gathered the ingredients and threw together the Spicy Corn Chowder in the book. Now if you know me, I cannot just follow along, I must individualize it. It needs chicken. Dammit, it needs chicken. So, during my barbecued turkey breast smoking whilst brewing beer, I threw on two chicken breasts for the soup.

The goods: one yellow onion, one jalapeno, two potatoes, one stalk of celery (I despise celery, and the fact that you HAVE to buy it in huge stalks annoys me, so I used one teaspoonful of ground celery seed instead), one teaspoonful of roasted minced garlic (found in those tiny jars), 4 cups of milk, 1 cup of heavy cream, three cups of corn, 3 strips of bacon, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Oh yeah, and those two cooked chicken breasts.

In a food processor, pulse the quartered yellow onion, the seeded jalapeno, the celery seed, and the roasted minced garlic:

Cut the strips of bacon then crisp it for 5 minutes max in the large soup pot (mmmm, and it's the double smoked thick bacon from the German Gourmet in Alexandria, VA too):

Remove the bacon then saute the onion/jalapeno/celery/garlic in the bacon grease for a few minutes to brown it up.

Add the peeled potatoes (cubed bite size), cooked chicken (cut bite size), milk, and heavy cream. Bring to a boil then cut the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

Now add the bacon and the corn. All that delicious corn. That succulent corn. That orgasmic corn.

Simmer it for 5 more minutes or until the corn is tender. Then, with a slotted spoon, remove two cups/16oz/5oomL of solids. With an immersion blender, a regular blender, or a food processor, puree these solids well. Reintroduce the puree to the pot and add the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then just continue to simmer until it's serving time. It will indeed need some salt, how much is up to you. Tasting it before any S&P, I thought it just needed a little "boost".

Holy crap. Delicioso. And relatively quick to prepare. A new Gordonian staple. The jalapeno gives a bit of insidious heat in the throat. Nothing overtly HOT, but you know it's there. If you're adverse to a warm mouth and gullet, I suppose you could eliminate the jalapeno, or go with a milder heat pepper. Me? This rocks as it is.

Try it.

And in the immortal words of Lois Griffin, "Who wants chowder?"

Canadienne Bière Brassée dans le Garage

Hey look! The sawhorses are out and there are plumes of smoke streaming from the smoker. Chris must have a day off or something. Canadienne Bière Brassée dans le Garage was brewed up today, a hunk of turkey breast was smothered in barbecue sauce and smoked, and two chicken breasts were smoked for addition in a new soup. More on the soup in the following post. But for now, the beer session...

Literally, via iGoogle's translation tool, the beer means "Canadian beer brewed in the garage". Novel. A trip to Triad Homebrew Supply yielded a perusal of the pre-packaged kits they have. One, "Canadian Ale" caught my eye for whatever reason so it came home with me. Brewed in the vein of "eastern Canada and Quebec" style. None of this Saskatchewan crap here! BJCP lists commercially available styles as Labatt Canadian Ale and, one of the muses (besides Canadian prog-rock band Rush on the iPod) for today's brew session, Molson Golden:
Yes, I will in fact occasionally drink a yellow mass-produced beer.

The recipe:

(no steeping grains this time!)

3.3 lb Light Liquid Malt Extract (LME)
5 lb Extra Light Dry Malt Extract (DME)

1 oz Willamette hops, 5.8% alpha acid at 60 minutes
1 oz Willamette hops, 5.8% AA at 5 minutes

1 Whirlfloc tablet at 15 minutes to clarify

WLP001 California Ale yeast

The kit only came with 2 lb of DME, but me, not one to sit idly by when there's recipe tinkering to be done, added an extra 3 lb bag of DME.

Done. Easy. And quick. No waiting for the water temp to hit 150-156 degrees to steep grains for 20 minutes, then re-heating to boiling. Add water, begin heating, add LME and DME, then hit boiling in one fell swoop.

The yeast starter in the growler took off this time for whatever reason. Past photos here show a layer of yeast settling to the bottom and then it froths up when shaken. This time? Huge ass frothing. Observe. One good shake before work, then 8 hours later I come home to this:

That's 8 hours+ of sitting. No shaking. Email correspondence with Ken at Triad Homebrew (including photos) settled my mind when he told me that everything looks good. Whew...

So now it sits in the Fermentation Center, ahem, the downstairs bath, beside the freshly dry-hopped Centennial Madness.

And did I mention I smoked some meat too (non-sexually)?

Travel back in time to the 1980s this Christmas


A pompadour'd George Clooney on Facts of Life. Need I say more?

A fuzzy television picture in the wood-paneled basement from the '80s. TV channels playing holiday specials, holiday-themed shows, and vintage 1980s commercials. And, best of all, it is not static. It changes throughout the day! A "Diff'rent Strokes" cover of TV Guide in the upper right is your guide. Change the channel with the online remote control. The content actually changes throughout the day. Believe me, I've looked. In between brewing, cooking, and learning pharmacy topics today, BetaMaXmas was visited often.

This is awesome.

Productive insomnia

Kimberly is frigging out of town yet again, so my day was kept quite busy to prevent madness from setting in. Observe:

Work from 8-4.

Go and browse Williams-Sonoma and pick up a soup cookbook, an immersion blender, and a lemon pound cake mix.

Stop by another of our pharmacy locations to pick up some prescription vials they're lending us.

Log on the computer for generalized surfing but mainly to set my College Bowl Game Pick 'Em league.

Meet two co-workers at P.F. Chang's for dinner at 7:30pm.

Hit the grocery store at 9:00pm.

Drop by my store at 9:30pm to deliver those vials I picked up earlier.

Come home, then spend the remaining hours in the kitchen. First, I make the Williams-Sonoma lemon pound cake.

Make a Funfetti yellow cake I got at the grocery store.

Transfer the Centennial Madness homebrew to the secondary fermenter.

Dry hop the Centennial Madness in secondary.

Clean the heck out of the gunky primary fermenter so I can brew tomorrow. Then rinse, and rinse, and rinse, and rinse, and....

Clean up the kitchen.

And now as this post ends just past 3:00am it's finally time for bed. Tomorrow's a busy day off with plenty of things planned: brewing a "Canadian Ale", making Spicy Chicken Corn Chowder using my new soup cookbook, smoking a huge ass turkey breast, logging on the computer for two hours of live continuing education in the evening, and maybe trying my hand at replicating personal Greensboro restaurant fave Taste of Thai's massamun curry. (Did you read that James? Possible homemade massamun curry.)

Yawn. Good night (morning).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An evening of apparitions

It's kind of a crappy photo, but the flash really didn't take from the view from my 3rd row seat at the High Point Theatre Saturday night for yet another performance of A Christmas Carol. Quite possibly my all-time favorite holiday play/book/movie. I take that back, it's EASILY my all-time favorite play/book/movie. It was the George C. Scott cinematic version on TV that got me hooked, and ever since I have strived to see whatever version I can.

Anyway, after work, it was a trip to Liberty Steakhouse and Brewpub in High Point for some Oatmeal Stout and a huge ass slab of meatloaf. Liberty is by far the least of our immediately local brewpubs: Foothills, Natty Greene's, then Liberty. I'd venture to drive the hour to either Carolina Brewery locations in either Chapel Hill or Pittsboro before Liberty. Most of their beers are subpar in my opinion, but their Oatmeal Stout and their seasonals are tasty. The current seasonal is a Light Carb Light Lager, so I passed. Oatmeal Stout goes better with meatloaf and mashed potatoes anyway. Besides, I was in High Point anyway, so why not?

After dinner, it was the quick jaunt from the brewpub to the other side of High Point University and the theatre. Another quality performance, although I was sad to see the theatre just a smidge over half full. Half full! It's opening weekend, people! Come on out and support the arts! That was a little disheartening to see, as I immediately worry that the plug will be pulled and they'll cancel it next year.

Between the Greensboro tree lighting last night, and A Christmas Carol tonight, the holiday season is truly underway for me.

(And looking back on last December's posts, looks like I missed out on one year exactly (2007's performance to 2008's) by a mere two days:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Greensboro tree lighting

Tapped into my inner resolve and suffered through the "bitter cold" of Greensboro in December to sing carols and watch the tree lighting in City Center Park downtown. After work, it was dinner at greasy spoon fave Fincastles then a few blocks walk northward to the park for the big 'on' switch for the lights.

'tis the season!

(The video took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to upload directly into Blogger, so I had to upload it to YouTube for all the world to see instead of just the 4 or 5 of you.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Repeal Day!

"Prohibition made me want to cry in my beer, and then denied me the beer to cry in." -- Will Rogers

January 16, 1920: Prohibition officially begins. Ratification of the 18th Amendment occurred January 16, 1919 with the law going into effect one year later.

The lightning growth during the late 19th century saw a rapid rise in urban centers in the U.S. Large towns became industrial centers. Labor issues began in earnest. Non-rural work days saw the need to "unwind" and decompress after the new 8-hour workday.

Welcome the tavern. The saloon.

These places of social congregation in time gave rise to unsightly sins of debauchery: heavy gambling, adulterous prostitution, and a reckless irresponsible affinity toward alcohol. The early 20th century worker did not "know when to say when". Many associations and groups lumped the social ills of the day as a direct result of alcohol. The Anti-Saloon League (what a name!) and the Women's Temperance Union were powerful and effective lobbyist groups of the time. Brewers, tavern keepers, and the alcohol swilling public discounted the power of these groups with the government, and as a result stood silently by. Surely the government would never curb the public's thirst.


13 years of a "dry" nation occurred.

Repeal was essentially a "quick" one, if you can count 13 years quick. Enforcement of Prohibition was spotty, with bribery and corruption running amok. Revenue from alcohol sales saw sharp declines, making government suffer as a result. The idea was that a larger sober workforce paying income taxes would offset any monies alcohol would produce. And a little something called The Great Depression cut income across the board with joblessness. Uh-oh. Once you start taking money from Uncle Sam, things are going to change. And change they did. Why not recoup some tax money with alcohol again?

December 5th, 1933: the repeal of the 18th Amendment. The 21st Amendment is ratified. That "noble experiment", Prohibition, ends. Essentially, the government could not effectively limit the populace to acquire a product they wanted. The costs of preventing the public from getting what it wanted were immense. Beer had been consumed for thousands of years. Thousands. Frankly, cutting it out of society completely was unnatural and counter to society.

This is the 75th anniversary of the Repeal, and a day truly deserving of a toast. A hearty glass of Gordonian ale will be most certainly be raised in celebration once pharmacy-type duties are completed today.

75 years.

Groups now rumble and murmur about alcohol's "sins" and the need to rid it from the face of the earth. Neo-Prohibitionists whittle away at our right to alcohol with blood alcohol limits connected to federal highway fund dollars, Sunday alcohol sales, legal drinking ages out of line with the age to die for one's country while in the military, package size restrictions, etc.

Never again. People are listening. Brewers and distillers and vintners are listening. The efforts of the holier-than-thou teetotalers will never again come to fruition. BUT, this is not a given. We must have resolve, we must be ever vigilant. But for now, we must enjoy a cold beer in honor of 75 years of forward thinking.

Cheers! Enjoy that beer.

(FYI, this is my first "repeated" subject posting. Observe December 5th, 2007 for the 74th anniversary:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Baseball America honors Greensboro

From an email I received this morning:

Baseball America Recognizes Grasshoppers with Bob Freitas Award

Greensboro, N.C. - The Greensboro Grasshoppers franchise has been recognized for its outstanding 2008 season and continued contribution to the Piedmont Triad and Minor League Baseball by being selected as the winner of Baseball America’s 2008 Bob Freitas Award for the Single-A level. The award was announced in the most recent Baseball America publication.

The Freitas Awards, in honor of longtime minor league ambassador Bob Freitas, are awarded to franchises that show sustained excellence in the business of Minor League Baseball.

Key contributing award elements consist of attendance, long-term consistency and commitment to the community. No franchise can win the Freitas Award until it has been in operation for at least five years.

“The Bob Freitas Award is one of the most prestigious awards in Minor League Baseball and we are honored and humbled to have been selected,” said Grasshoppers President and General Manager Donald Moore.

“It is a tribute to the tremendous support we have received from the community and our dedication to making NewBridge Bank Park an outstanding venue.”

In 2008 the Grasshoppers played host to a successful South Atlantic League All-Star game, drawing a crowd of 8,367 fans. The Grasshoppers finished the 2008 season with an attendance of 440,787 and have welcomed over 1,715,000 fans to NewBridge Bank Park, drawing over 400,000 fans in each of its first four years at the new downtown ballpark.

"Two of the most important things we try to honor with our Freitas Awards are franchise stability and commitment to the community,” said Editor and Chief of Baseball America Will Lingo.

"Greensboro made the best of its situation in War Memorial Stadium, which was one of the oldest ballparks in professional baseball. Opening the new ballpark not only energized the franchise but also the community and they have become one of the best draws in the minors.

"It was a great opportunity for us to recognize a franchise that has been a steady presence for almost three decades, yet has taken a quantum leap forward in the last few years.”

Moore will proudly accept the Baseball America Bob Freitas Award, South Atlantic League Club Merit Award and General Manager of the Year Award during a luncheon at the Baseball Winter Meetings next week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Grasshoppers have welcomed over 1,715,000 fans to NewBridge Bank Park, drawing over 400,000 fans in each of its first four years at the new downtown ballpark. The team is the proud recipient of both the South Atlantic League’s Club Merit Award and the General Manager of the Year Award for the past four years.

Season tickets and advertising packages are now on sale for the 2009 season. For more information, please contact the Grasshoppers office at 336.268.BALL or visit

Over 400,000 fans a year the first four years in the new park? Nifty.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Hurricanes coach

When we moved down from Ohio, we were in the midst of selecting our seats for season tickets to the minor league Cleveland Lumberjacks hockey team. Then, in November 1996 when we finally moved to Greensboro, we discovered the minor league Greensboro Monarchs, who then folded in favor of the Greensboro Generals, who then moved away when the NHL's Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina and became the Hurricanes. Their home in Raleigh was not ready, so the Hurricanes played in Greensboro for two years. The head coach who oversaw the move? Paul Maurice.

Maurice took the 'Canes to the Stanley Cup in 2002 and we lost 4-1 to Detroit. Still, it was thrilling to have a local team play for all the marbles. After an underwhelming post-finals stretch, Maurice was fired and replaced by Peter Laviolette.

Laviolette took the 'Canes to the Stanley Cup finals and actually won the whole damn thing over Edmonton in 2006. Hooray! Hockey fever gripped Dixie! It was pretty cool to see the celebrations and the general gaiety over Lord Stanley's Cup presiding in NC for a year.

Then, for the first time ever in the ancient National Hockey League, a reigning Stanley Cup champion misses the playoffs completely two years in a row. Two years. Ugh.

Things began to look bright for 2008-09: a promising team, some up and coming youngsters, a heady veteran to lead the way, and "Ronnie Franchise" Ron Francis as assistant GM. But an awful stretch in November leads to a paltry 12-11-2 record with a lackluster team that cannot score a power play goal and are always playing from behind.

So, gone goes Laviolette. The winningest U.S.-born coach gets the ax.

The new coach? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Paul Maurice. The story.


Coaches are hired only to be fired. And sometimes, they get RE-hired.

Their 2nd game with their new old coach will be Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers and I will be there with tickets. I'll be interested to see if there's a marked increase in intensity.

Sing with me: Come on, come on, come on, let's go 'Canes!