Friday, January 29, 2010

Colonial Amber

The snow was a-comin' this weekend, and my day off for the week was Thursday. It was 58 degrees outside. BREW DAY! The next in line for my little Brewery-That-Could was a basic amber ale. I titled it Colonial Amber well, just because. Early colonial American brewers probably brewed something similar to this, and North Carolina was an original 13 colony, and I wanted to wear my 1754 Albany Plan "Join or die" t-shirt. Makes perfect sense.

The recipe:

1 lb. Briess Caramel 20

6.3 lbs. Amber Liquid Malt Extract

2 oz. Cascade 7.1% alpha acid @ 60 minutes
1 oz. Cascade 7.1% AA @ 1 minute

Safale US-05 dry yeast

Easy peezy lemon squeezy. Another successful brew day on an unseasonably warm day right before a LOT of snow would be coming.

A Serious Man

Filmmakers the Coen Brothers are at it again. This time with a study on a lowly Jewish professor in suburban Minnesota who is just trying to do right amongst the loads and loads of disasters that befall him.

The trailer:

With regard to his health, work, marriage, spirituality, anything and everything is heaped upon him as he tries to make his way through the world. Obstacles abound.

The film begins with a short piece set in Poland decades upon decades ago. A stranger who helps a local man fix his wheelcart arrives at the the dismay of the wife who insists the stranger died three years ago. The man is a demon, she exclaims.

How many demons show up at the door of the poor protagonist in A Serious Man? Too many to count.

Matinee score from me here.

Broken Embraces

Another evening of independent cinema at Winston-Salem's a/perture cinema. Last time it was a film from Belgium, and now...Spain: Pedro Almodóvar's subtitled Broken Embraces. Penelope Cruz....yum.

The trailer:

A back-and-forth mystery from 1992 to present-day with Cruz as secretary-by-day/escort-by-night who is discovered and fulfills her dream of being an actress...against the wishes of her elder lover. The director of the film is smitten by her and it results in his best work ever. What a film! It will be a fine piece of cinema! Until...


The director is blinded. The muse is....

I don't want to ruin it. Twists! Turns! Gasps! A shocking ending!

A truly remarkable film. I loved it. FULL PRICE theater or not.

Katrina vanden Heuvel

OK, I told you that the posts here would be quite sporadic from now on. But some gentle readers are not on Teh Facebook portion of Teh Internets, so this would be the only forum to see this news.

Two weekends ago (yes, two weekends have elapsed) was one of my beloved 3-day weekends off, so it was a trip into DC for shenanigans. A bunch of the "regular" spots were hit: District Chophouse, Ben's Chili Bowl, Lincoln Waffle Shop, Shelly's Backroom, et al. A new one on the docket was the Langston Hughes-inspired Busboys and Poets, coffee/book shop. The 14th and V Street location was the destination for lunch Friday. There was a symposium/salon sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies concerning President Obama's first year in office. (Final grade? C-. Can't argue that.) Special guest? My not-so-secret most favorite editor EVER from The Nation magazine: Katrina vanden Heuvel. (By the way, not to be TOO creepy, but she felt and smelled GREAT.)

What a GREAT weekend!!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Town Called Panic

My first venture over to the new a/perture cinema in downtown Winston-Salem occurred tonight. The inaugural Gordon showing? A Belgian stop-action animation film A Town Called Panic. Yes. Belgian. From Belgium. Subtitled.

The trailer:

Wallace and Gromit meets little plastic toys.

It's Horse's birthday (June 21...quite nice). Cowboy and Indian have forgotten. A gift! What to give their good friend Horse???? A barbecue pit. They'll build Horse a barbecue pit. Doing the calculations, 50 bricks will be required. Ordering online, with a few extra zero's added to the end of '50' yields hijinks and hilarity. The mischievous Cowboy and Indian have finally gone too far and the town is set upon its ear.

Psychedelic with its warping plot line and scene locations. A bizarre journey. But one that results in plenty of laughs, touching moments, and outright drug-induced jaw dropping. I'm not condoning illicit substances to augment the film...but it might help.

Oh such a quick FULL PRICE score is given. A barrel of fun careening over the falls.

a/perture cinema

If you live ANYWHERE near Winston-Salem, NC and you enjoy film, you owe it to yourself and to the arts community to go to the new a/perture cinema. It's downtown right across the street from the Mellow Mushroom and a few blocks up from Foothills Brewing. Described rather succinctly by the theater owners themselves:

an independent theater in downtown winston salem. 2 screens, 160 seats, beer, wine, and a whole bunch of movies you’ve probably never heard of.

Outstanding. REALLY looking forward to the films they'll show. Sadly, the window for most of them is small, so if you see something you may enjoy....GO SEE IT IMMEDIATELY. It might not hang around very long.

I foresee many a 30-minute drive from Greensboro to the newest theater in the area.

Avatar in 3-D

Had a day off recently and quite thoroughly enjoyed sitting in a dark theater with crazy 3-D glasses on for over 2 & 1/2 hours. I fell in line with the hive mind and offered my own tribute to the throne of James Cameron. Cannot. Stay. Away.

Here's the trailer, which pretty much tells the whole story:

Breath-taking visuals. Seriously. Just truly awe-inspiring. A good thing too, as the incredible sensory optics are needed to trump the knuckle-dragging dialog. Who knew that in the year 2154 stereotypical military-types are still using such W. phrases as "Shock and awe" and fighting terror with...wait for it....terror.

The story? Dripping with irony and modern day comparisons. The lush and beautiful world of Pandora is a hotbed for a mineral highly sought after on our dying Earth. We've made our way to their world to obtain the precious rock, but need to protect ourselves behind a "green zone". Apparently the inhabitants of this gorgeous world are rather protective of their environment and use guerrilla tactics against the military to keep them at bay.

To coordinate a more diplomatic solution, human and Na'avi DNA are melded into clone material that can be controlled via an elaborate mind-meld. The creatures are "avatars" of the controllers. This way, humans can more readily interact with the locals and "convince" them to relocate so we can mine their precious mineral.

A Marine grunt paraplegic whose twin brother scientist has died is transferred to the Avatar program since his DNA is so compatible. He's charged with using this new skill to infiltrate the locals and "convince" them to relocate. As he spends more time with the locals, he inevitably sees the errors of his military's ways, falls in love, and eventually leads the locals against the humans.

Dances with Wolves + the Smurfs + the Iraq War + Al Gore. The human becomes immersed in the foreign customs, thereby attempting to make a social statement against war and the urbanization of greenery.

Dialog dripping with cheese overcome by FANTASTIC visuals. Still, the 3-D experience made it an EASY FULL PRICE rating. It readily overcame the script and cheap metaphors. A cinematic delight.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Farmers' Almanac Maple Porter

A couple months ago, Duke confessed to me his retirement from homebrewing. I was sad. I understand his time constraints and the lack of inspiration, but still, he won a freakin' medal and got a photo in the homebrew journal Zymurgy! Anyway, last month I was bequeathed some of his equipment (House of Gordon kegging coming soon!) and ingredients.

On another note, The Farmers' Almanac has an interesting little tidbit called "The Best Day(s) to Brew Beer in the Next 60 Days". Sweet. The website is here. It happened that the most recent good days were January 1 and January 2. Now January 1 I had to work 8-4 then there was Ohio State in the Rose Bowl at 4:30, so that was out. But Saturday January 2? Score!

Put the two together, and I'll brew Duke's ingredient gift on a great Farmers' Almanac day!

One glitch, it was COLD. 30 degrees cold. I hooked up my garden hose for my Therminator plate chiller and....something in the hose was clogged or it was downright frozen inside. No water flow through the hose. Water came out of the spigot just fine, just nothing through the hose.


I thought about canceling the brewday, but there was not another good Farmers' Almanac brewday in the next 60 days. And I just HAD to test the Farmers' resolve. So, it was cold enough that a chill plate or an immersion chiller would not be needed. Observe the simple setup to the right! I'll go old school: stir occasionally and allow the natural heat exchange to go from hot liquid to stainless steel to outside ambient temperature. Took forever, and frankly I was a little fearful of wild yeast or bacterial infection, but screw it....the Farmers' Almanac is on my side!

The hodgepodge makeshift recipe:

4 oz. Briess Special Roast
4 oz. Caramalt
4 oz. Belgian Debittered Black Malt
4 oz. Chocolate Malt
4 oz. Caramel 60L
2 oz. Caramel 40L

6 lb. Gold LME (Liquid Malt Extract)

1 oz. Cluster hops, 7.2% alpha acid @ 60 minutes

2 lb. Grade B Maple Syrup @ 0 minutes

Munton Dry Yeast (the Activator Smack Pack of London Ale did not activate nor swell)

In one week upon transfer to secondary fermentation, another pound or so of maple syrup will be added for more mapley aroma in the finished product.

OG (original gravity) 1.055. In the "robust porter" range in the grand scheme of things. Good to brew again. It's been a while. Even with the time consuming cooling scenario. Good brewing karma...the Almanac said so.