Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whitman's Brooklyn, black, chocolate and stout

It's certainly not every day that a libation from the storied Brooklyn Brewery finds itself propped up for a glamour shot on my cutting board, so a certain compulsion to fire up the old blogomobog was inevitable when this glorious specimen recently crossed the great divide and found its home in my cellar.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that this tail-end of summer, with its lethagic dog days tinged with little specks of regret and hints that a return to the regular grind is just around the corner, has infected me with a serious case of vacation brain. So I present you with a distraction, this: Whitman's Brooklyn. From the description of the project:
"If Walt Whitman’s association with Brooklyn is not exactly overlooked by mainstream documentarians, then neither is it explicitly celebrated or, one might argue, sufficiently considered in the vast majority of critical analysis of his work. The fact of Whitman’s residency–he lived in Brooklyn for over half his life and twice as long as he lived anywhere else–might not seem so meaningful if Whitman’s poetry wasn’t so saturated with the physical world."
With a bit of the East River running through my veins (not literally, thankfully for my health), and not just a little love for Walt, this site is a true treasure of a find. Until I get my act together to do some proper blogging, I say "Damned fine beer," and leave you with this:
All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it;
Did you think it was in the white or gray stone? or the lines of the arches and

All music is what awakens from you when you are reminded by the instruments,
It is not the violins and the cornets . . . . it is not the oboe nor the beating drums—
         nor the notes of the baritone singer singing his sweet romanza . . . . nor those
         of the men's chorus, nor those of the women's chorus,
It is nearer and farther than they.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, p. 61

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Meta-Pfiffing: Perpetual devotion

Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Six months into a reinvestment of devotion to writing on this here site, along with the promise of a brief vacation on the horizon, it seemed a good time to take stock of the Pfiff! situation, having just passed through a veritable whirlwind of activity that hasn't been duly documented. To wit:
I am, by all reasonable accounts, an intensely neurotic human being. It's rare for me to experience anything interpersonal without analyzing the occasion in retrospect through a funhouse mirror of exaggerated embarrassments, shameful asides, missed opportunities and guilts of sin (sloth and gluttony being perennial favorites). When I was younger, these harping memories would have normally revolved around either something stupid involving icky girls or some quality forehead-slapping in recollection of a particularly noodly, pointless guitar solo. Nowadays, though, it either has to do with poor judgment in raising my daughter (hint: if you make a joke by putting something in your mouth, any toddler worth his or her salt will likely mimic the joke) or in the dumbstruck half-witticisms I hear exiting my mouth during the increasingly frequent beer-related activities of late.

That's right: beer activities. I've said it. No shame there. No staring distractedly at my shoelaces while tracing circles in the dust with my toes, incoherently mumbling beneath my breath. Read any good books lately? Visit that new exhibit at MOMA? See any good live music? Any new hikes worth mentioning? I'd look you straight in the eye, shoulders relaxed, knees slightly bent: "Actually, I've been pretty busy with the beer."

Playing part in my neuroses is the fact that while in resurrecting the writing after a sabbatical of sorts (not a sabbatical on the drinking of beer, mind you, just one of forming coherent opinions about it, let alone setting them to writing), my perspective on the craft of brewing has thankfully grown wider in the past six months, only while the depth of the topic itself has seemed to grow at an exponential rate during the same time period. When beer, of all things, is even being advertised as part of this year's Slow Food Nation event at Fort Mason (curated by Magnolia's Dave McLean, nonetheless, and featuring an "outdoor beer pavilion" with "60 different microbrews from bottles, 30 different brews from casks and 60 different brews from kegs" yum yum yum), the stage seems set to usher in a new wave in American beer culture. And while the lens of the Internet Age is undoubtedly convex, giving any subject a perceived depth of discussion and information that's far greater than the reality, it seems likely that the camera obscura image that a snapshot of the Web's beer-related activity isn't an illusion of the amount of attention the topic's been recently garnering. The punk in me feels like a hanger-on, but the cheeseball in me is basking in being a part of it all.

A defining element of neuroses is that they are, above all, not based in reality. And recently, there have been enough (not terribly embarrassing) opportunities for the rational part of my brain to remind the rest of it to just clam up and enjoy the ride. Notably, a tasting-to-end-all-tastings hosted by the eminent Jay Brooks not only produced one of the more charming recent portraits of a beer blogger as a young man, but had a huge impact on my personal feelings on tasting, appreciating, and enjoying beer, while reminding me that there's no use in ever trying to outdo it.

On top of that, I had the splendid opportunity to make the in-person acquaintance of a few of the other members of the nascent Bay Area Beer Bloggers group at a gathering at our home during one of the more perfectly enjoyable Marin summer afternoons we've been exposed to this year. Once trapped within our outer-locking portcullis, we stole the chance to pour copious amounts of homebrew into their unwitting glasses while (kinda) discussing the state of affairs of beer culture and writing in the Bay Area.

And finally, Shawn the Beer Philosopher gambled that it wouldn't harm his reputation as upstanding member of the online beer community if he were to publish a lengthy interview with yours truly in his new Barstool Confessional feature, one that I treated with a true Method approach, not only taking care to enjoy some top shelf ale while composing my responses, but by allowing them to ramble on to a length apropos of the responses you'd be subjected to if you truly were to query me whilst pub-seated.

So while the cheeseball in me is basking in the heat of activity surrounding local beer culture, writing, and its online presence, the complete dork in me is thrilled with the possibilities for the future of the culture, the writing, and the tastings around the bend. Thanks, reader(s), for making this a place you regularly visit. Let's all see what's next. But first, a vacation.

On a related note, my Supplication pontification didn't take the cake, but the winningest entry deserves a hearty cheers as it's a pitch perfect insight to the homebrewer's world.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday linknibbles - Ignorance, beer, bliss

In which we continue to stubbornly refuse to make mention of a rumored merger between two behemoth brewing companies that I couldn't ever bother to care less about, give even the tiniest winge of interest in any of their actions or their respective brands, except, maybe, for the fact that I proposed to Des after fortifying my resolve with a glass of Leffe Blonde*. Damn! I've said too much!

Instead, we'll make this simple: Of the treasure trove of discourse that's arisen ever since Charlie Papazian started blogging and, unlike some celebrity writers, openly reacting and following up on the threads in his comments section, nothing beats the chatter sparked by the question: What is good beer?

Taste it. Is it the character? Is it the soul? Is it its birthplace? Read the posts, read the comments, and then ask yourself if you felt you were better off before... Back when you could just stretch out under a shady oak on a hot summer's afternoon, and let the cicadas lull you into a swoony haze while a pint of IPA cooled your hand, then your brow, and then your belly, without a thought, a thought in the world.

* That link does not, in fact, have anything to do with that rather *meh* Belgian ale mentioned, but with the place where it all went down. Interestingly, it's next door to what used to be Syvia Beach's original Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, where Joyce's Ulysses was first published. And, for a time, American maverick composer George Antheil lived in an apartment upstairs from the shop. As you can see, he often locked himself out and would resort to scaling the building facade to access his window. Doubtless, as a self-penned "bad boy", he enjoyed the attention. More interestingly, the first date that Des and I went on happened to be a performance of American maverick composers, an evening whose highlight was the San Francisco Symphony reading Amériques by French-born, but decidedly American-bred composer, Edgard Varèse, who also happened to be Frank Zappa's musical idol. Which brings us back to beer (beer! beer!).

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Laconic reflections on a pint

In a word: Unctuous

A reader who's spent more than five minutes perusing the content of this site could likely deduce that I have a difficult time with brevity*. And like an ironic torture device out of a splatter flick about beer writers, pub-running beer blogger Stonch has put forth a writing competition that seems designed to punish my propensity for pompous, prolix prose: describe, in no more than 175 words, a beer. Any beer. I'm worried that at that length, I won't make it past the brand of socks I was wearing before hitting that text limit, let alone even mention the beer I enjoyed while wearing them (black athletic crew Gold Toes, old enough that the toes aren't much gold anymore, and the left one's a real quitter). Nevertheless, enjoying a good challenge now and then, I'll likely take the bait and hammer something out, even if my continental residency precludes me from procuring the oh-so-delectable booty.

Back in 2007, incidentally, Stonch hosted another contest (in conjunction with the stateside A Good Beer Blog) which revolved around beer photography, a subject which I have a certain sick fondness for. It's too bad Matt from didn't send in any entries, as it would have been a surefire victory for the West Coast team.

So, anyone else game for trying to bring a (admittedly token) victory to Team West Coast (we need a better name, methinks), just in time to celebrate International Brewers Day?

* Number of words in this post: 251

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday linknibbles - Extreme summer lethargy edition

Sorry, whomever's out there waiting for this site to magically self-update, for the dearth of pfiffy entertainment of late, but there's been a whole lot of busy doing nothing goin' on around here. Sometimes, honestly, it's simply more fulfilling to kick back and enjoy life - and the beer that goes with it, like the above, quite pleasant Penneffoise - rather than talking about it. So, here's a bag of some general bits and bobs to keep you distracted until... sometime in the near future when I get my act back together:

* I'm a babbie!

* This babbie's public house is staying open!

* We're hosting the next Session!

* But first, another beer blog carnival next (Fermentation) Friday!

* And before you know it, it's International Brewers Day!

Until then!


Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday linknibbles - patience and payoff

Still no flowers.

Brewing is an exercise in patience, but with potential great rewards at the end of the day. From around the web this past week:

- Start off with a homebrew recipe from the man who practically coined the phrase, "homebrew recipe" - a Belgian dubbel courtesy of Charlie Papazian.

- Once you've slammed the cork and twisted the cage on some nice 750mL bottles of that dubbel, consider playing along with this cellaring experiment that's already revealing some surprise results.

- While you're waiting, head out to some great pubs and go find the mopey guy who appears halfway through the post, and maybe sing him an upbeat song or something. Perhaps a rousing verse of Hoppy Head?

- If you need to nurse your wounds following the beer-inspired techno onslaught, why not swing by your local beer importer for help working your way through this top 10 Belgian beer list I've been eying (not to be confused with this list of top 10 Belgian beer names).

- For which you'll undoubtedly need some nice glassware.

- At which point, thanks to this reminder from Alan, you can sit back with a classic bit of 90's sketch comedy while you sip your tipple and wonder who exactly prefers those icky alco-pops anyway.

Enjoy your weekends, all!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday linknibbles - Extra hot edition

As anyone in Northern California would be delighted to inform you, it's hot out. So hot, in fact, that it's not terribly conducive to the act of generating any original thoughts (outside of "boy, it's hot!") worthy of documenting anywhere. With that in mind, I'm shutting down the heat-generating creative part of my brain (leaving only the lizard brain in control, which is pretty neat) in order to conserve energy, and leaving y'all with some items from around the tubes:

* From Des' hometown, a pub tradition that might be the best way to honor its regulars since the Stammtisch.

* Wait, a green beer from Belgium called Dragon and it's not completely and utterly awesome?

* Did I mention it's American Craft Beer week? No? I also didn't mention that it's Vesak, so sue me. Stephen Colbert, on the other hand, had some words about it. (Oh, and it's apparently also San Francisco Cocktail Week, if you swing that way.)

* Did I mention how hot it is out? Perhaps if you're in the Bay Area suffering from the same solar assault as we are, you should consider signing up for JJ's farmhouse ale tasting that's coming up in a couple weeks. Because I also may have mentioned that the whole saison+summer equation = pretty freaking great.

* Say what you want about this whole beer vs. wine thing that's being so desperately marketed by the foodie press: winemakers are a buncha wooses. [note to self - add "woos" to custom dictionary]

* If it's not over 100 degrees where you are, and you still have your wits about you (did I mention it's hot here?), consider joining in the two upcoming beer-related carnivals: The Session on Friday, June 6th, and the inaugural as-yet-unnamed (yet I'm obviously rooting for "The Mash Out") Homebrew Blogging Day on Friday, May 30.

Other than that, business as usual. Don't forget to keep hydated, kids!

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dada's bouncy house

Usually, I'm not one to simply repost something I've found elsewhere on the web (this time courtesy of Pete Brown), but this link resonates just too deeply with a guy in my situation. Behold! The bouncy house for my next birthday party has finally arrived!

As a relative newcomer to this whole parenting thing, and a shy entrant into the "making nice with other folks simply because they managed to produce their own offspring at a similar point in time" game, one of the things that's really rattled me is the sheer ubiquity of the noisy, stinky, hair-dryer driven backyard monstrosity known colloquially by its disarming nickname: the bouncy house. In some social circles - ones I drift wildly around - they're the de facto keystone in any respectable birthday party. This beauty above (the Hogshead!) has completely changed my mind on the matter, however.

That's right, kids. It's an inflatable pub. And it's awesome.

See you in September.

Thanks again to Pete for sharing this beauty. And happy almost birthday!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Proof that teh internets loves us and wants us to be happy

For those of you who have long dubbed the online forum, the chat room and the blog as vast wastes of time, those of you who deride others for their instant messaging, Facebooking, MySpacing, Craigslist-missed-connectioning and cat-macroing, those of you who think we all oughta stop with the googlebits and the tubes and the pron and go outside, get some fresh air, lose some weight, maybe kiss a girl... I give you this:

Sure, it's not like we can control the weather or end world hunger or calculate the last digit of pi or find proof of terrestrial visits by aliens, but we can make beer. Or better yet: We can inspire beer. De Regenboog's BBBourgondier is Johan Brandt's commemorative ale (and pretty scarce with a limited production of a mere 50 cases per year) brewed in honor of the Burgundian Babble Belt, the definitive and singular online community of Belgian beer nuts. And it's not the only one: Dany Prignon also once produced a tribute beer under the Fantôme label BBB Babillard. How much input the members of the forum actually had on the recipe is pretty debatable, but one thing's for sure: It's a damn fine beverage and the folks at the BBB are most certainly proud to be associated with it.

A hazy, yeasty, slighty wild concoction, this. Figgy dark fruits, sweetly evident dark sugars, and harboring a slightly yeasty bitterness that gives way to a vinous and dry finish, the Bourgondier is like the farm-raised bastard child of a Belgian strong ale and a British barley wine. Way less effervescent than a typical Belgian, and only truly giving up its secrets once warmed to a good 60 degrees, the caramel layer becomes balanced by a certain herbal brightness which could either be coming from the hops or intriguing addition of valerian root - a not-so-coded reference to this truly being a nightcap of a drink.

It's refreshing, too, considering the spate of beer-related groups cropping up all over the net now, seeing as it's become de rigueur for folks to build their own topic-specific social networks via sites like Ning. Two newer ones in specific - Democracy's Drink and The Aleuminati - both have professional and home brewers, BJCP judges and PBR acolytes, published beer writers and *ahem* paltry beer bloggers counted amidst their ranks. And when I find myself feeling a little guilty about taking a minute to check on the forum discussions or upload some ridiculously dorky photo of a nice-looking pour, I just have to tell myself: Hey, maybe there is a greater symbiotic relationship between brewer and taster than ever before. And who knows? It's not distributed computing by any means, but if the lowly discussion forum can create give rise to the Bourgondier, anything is possible.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

I thought 42 sounded a little convenient

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The "lost" year, ep. 3 - newsy linknibbles

From around the web this past year, here's a few things worthy of a click and ctrl+D that never developed into fully-formed posts:

The 2:40 Beer Podcast - Get it? 2:40? The curious world of outsider beer blogging gets serious when WFMU gets in on the act.

New York's Best Beer Bars (courtesy of Gridskipper) - Even old Brew York was once Brew Amsterdam.

The Science of the Cellar
- Why strong beers age so well. Good info if you're the type of person debating whether or not to try brewing something you're infant daughter will be able to enjoy on her 21st birthday (clue: don't bother).

Archaeologists uncover secrets of ancient ale - Either that, or the prehistoric Irish had some pretty big dogs. An especially noteworthy post thanks to its inclusion of a list of watering holes in Middle-earth.

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