Sunday, July 31, 2011

Maryland Beer Month

August, for me, is going to be Maryland Beer Month. For some reason, I don’t drink a whole lot of Maryland beers. I’m not sure why this is, but I seem to drink mainly beers from CA, DE, and CO. But I’m switching things up - my goal for the month of August is to drink only beer from MD (aside from drinking Dogfish and Evo when I’m at the beach).

A few months ago, I wrote a post about Wine in the Woods and suggested that maybe we should have a complimentary event called Beer in the Bushes. The name not withstanding, I think it’s a great concept. Maryland’s wines are certainly miles ahead of where they were 10 years ago, but they still pale in comparison to West Coast wines and even a lot of East Coast and Midwestern wines.

But our beer, our beer is great. When I came of beer drinking age, we had Oxford, Clipper City, Wild Goose, Blue Ridge, Baltimore Beer Company and maybe one or two I am missing. I’m just old enough to have had quite a few delicious pints at Sisson’s in Federal Hill prior to it closing. In my “early professional years” while living in Baltimore, Brewer’s Art was my bar of choice. Heck, when I lived in Burtonsville and worked in Halethorpe, I would drive the wrong direction in order to go to Brewer’s Art for happy hour!

And today, our locally produced beer supply is even better. Hugh Sisson is still turning out great beers through Heavy Seas. Brewer’s Art is bottling and canning their beers, and while I still think the Resurrection in a can tastes different, it’s still a great beer. And I can’t leave out Flying Dog since their Bier de Garde has a visual that resembles a cross between Cujo and Daisy (my loving dog).

So, in August my plan is to stock the fridge with Maryland beer and visit the Heavy Seas and Flying Dog breweries. And it won’t hurt that the first few batches from my return to homebrew will be ready to drink!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Daughter had a Black Tooth (or How I Learned to Stop Being Over-protective of my Kids)

I wasn’t always crazy and obsessed with safety and risk management. I’m blaming it on parenthood and working at various public health nonprofits. However it started, by the time my daughters had turned one and three, I might as well have bought the entire stocks of One Step Ahead and Whole Foods. I was a helicopter parent – making sure to feed them the right foods, stepping in to catch them before they fell, saying “be careful” when I caught them jumping on the couch.

And then one night after dinner, preparing to take the girls to the neighborhood playground, I “indulged” my then 3.5 year-old allowing her to wear her orange Crocs rather than securely laced sneakers. Two minutes later we were standing on the front porch fumbling for the keys while blood was pouring out of my daughter’s mouth. Somehow, between the front porch and the driveway, she had managed to face-plant and smash her front tooth into her gum. My wife wiped up blood, comforted my daughter, and I freaked out calling the dentist and the urgent care center.

It was the blood bath to end all blood baths - a cross between Fight Club and True Blood. My daughter was fine by the next morning. But I woke to realize that no matter what we do, we can't protect our kids forever and the last thing I want is for my kids to turn out like the millennials... Btw, remind me to tell you about the book I'm writing entitled "The Worst Generation." Hint, it's about the millennial's parents.

So a few weeks ago, as my two year-old was repeatedly climbing in and out of the pool and ignoring my requests that she stop, I didn't make a big deal when she smacked her tooth against the edge and took out a big chip. What could I do? No matter how careful and protective I am, my kids will do stupid things and they will get hurt. The best I can do is provide a nurturing environment, teach them right from wrong, and hope they listen to 10% of what I say.

Oh, and about the blood bath, my daughter's tooth turned gray, then bluish gray, then dark gray, the pink, and is now normal again. Apparently, kids have extremely resilient teeth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Swampocalypse Now

Swampocalypse Now! Is there any turn of phrase to better describe the feeling that smacked you in the face as you walked out of your door this morning? And I can’t imagine what it will feel like this afternoon.

At 7:30 AM as I tried to coax the dog out of the door, she just turned to me as to say “are f***ing kiddig me? The air out there feels like a hot tub and you expert furry me to go out there. Whatever dude, I’ll learn to use the potty seat!”

No, Daisy (the dog) didn’t really say this, but her body language did. As did mine as I soaked through my shirt just trying to drop the girls off at pre-school.

Thank god we’re going to the beach this weekend. I think I’ll bring a mask and snorkel and try to remain submerged until the temperature and dew point drop!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Catch my Band in Bethesda on July 30th

My band (Artistic Differences) is playing at Parker's American Bistro in Bethesda on July 30th. We play a mix of indie rock, alt country, and some 80's and 90's alternative. Our set with likely be half originals and half covers. Please come out and show your support! We'll go on around 9:30 and play for two to three hours.

Parker's American Bistro
4824 Bethesda Avenue
Bethesda, Maryland

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Searching for a Session Beer

So, as often happens, it turns out that my brain/tastes are right in line or just ahead of a coming trend. It seems I’m not the only person searching for flavorful beer that isn’t going to knock me out after one glass. Session beers are all the rage – I was just searching in all the wrong places. Check here, here, and here.

The search for a flavorful beer of less than 4.5% is the biggest factor that brought me back to home brewing after a 10+ years absence. I am hop head, there is no doubt about that. And of my 10 favorite beers, 7-8 of them are IPA’s or other aggressively hopped beers. But sometimes, I want a beer in the 3-4.5% range. So what to do?

And while the name “session beer” has never sat well with me, it’s better than “daily drinker” or “lawnmower” beer. One of those makes me sound like an alcoholic and the other simply reminds me of my most hated summertime chore! But session beer? That sounds like I’m visiting a shrink. Let’s drop the nomenclature and just agree that we are looking for Little Beers with Big Flavor!

21st Amendment’s Bitter American and Stone’s Levitation are close to what I’m after. But Bitter American was only around for a limited time, and dropping $12 for a six-pack of Levitation is a splurge for me. I want Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with 2/3 of the alcohol and more hop aroma. I want a beer with oak undertones that won’t put me under the table. I want a beer that I can crack open on a Saturday afternoon and not immediately need a nap.

It’s like Dad Rock (you know, Wilco and the sort, music that is just cool enough, but not too noisy to offend) but in beer form. That’s it. Dad Beer – Small Beers with Big Flavor! Looks like my little basement nano-brewery has a name.

Dad Beer – Because one beer while the kids are napping shouldn’t make you need a nap!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day of Alonement

Today, Mrs. P90 and the girls took a day trip the beach with my father-in-law. I’ve already blown through a large chunk of my annual leave, so I chose to stay home. Assuming the girls don’t make it home until 9:00ish, I will have just over three hours of “me” time.

So what do? Crank the amplifier to eleven and rock out and work on some new songs? Brew or bottle beer? Go for a run free from pushing the suburban bourgeois rickshaw? Kick back in the hammock, enjoy a cold beer, and finish reading Player One by Douglas Coupland?

Often times, when faced with a glut of something that was once scare (“me” time in this case), I tend to squander. So, how to make sure I take advantage of this precious commodity?

Well, the skies seem to be conspiring to keep me from running. And let’s be honest, I might as well wait until the humidity breaks and push the extra weight to get a better work out. And the bottling or brewing is a one-to-two hour job at best, and can be done any evening after the girls go to bed.

Hammock time – that’s a serious luxury. Although, rocking out through an amp on the edge of explosion isn’t too bad either (and certainly can’t be done with the family at home). I’m thinking I’ll do a little hammock and a little rock. Seems wrong not to.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Are You Ready to Rumble?

You might have noticed a gap in blog posts a few weeks ago. What? You mean, you’re not coming here first thing every day to see what’s on my mind? I’m heartbroken…

The reason for the lapse in posts is that I was in Denver for a conference and a painful amount of meetings. I hear there are mountains in Denver. I wouldn’t know, the only things I saw were the giant blue bear in front of the convention center and the interiors of a few hotels and restaurants.

But on the good news front, I ate pretty well and enjoyed some delicious beers. My initial plan was to head out early and visit a few of the breweries (New Belgium in Fort Collins to be exact). However, paying $100+ for a rental car just to visit a brewery or two seemed like a crazy idea (even for me).

I resigned myself to visit a few brew pubs in the evening and then hopefully do a tour at Great Divide Brewery. Sadly, my evenings ended up being work-related dinners and events. Wednesday rolled around and I had yet to visit any of the brew pubs. At the end of the day, I quickly finished up my work and high tailed it to Great Divide.

Maybe it was the pent up anticipation, but a few of the beers blew my mind. I didn’t make it there in time for a tour, but I did make it in time to visit the Basic Kneads food truck. I’m not convinced that a 700+ degree wood fire inside a converted box truck is a good idea, but I am convinced that they turn out an excellent pizza. I forget the name of my pizza, but it had sausage, caramelized onions, and rosemary. And they do the first whole wheat pizza crust that I have ever liked. I’ve been doing some experiments at home to create my own version.

But back to beer. It’s probably sold out locally by now, but the 17th Anniversary Wood Aged IPA is maybe the best beer I have ever had. It’s got hops galore, but it also has a woody/vanilla sweetness that hides the fact that it’s 10% ABV. Best to split this one with a friend. I’m calling it the big bold zinfandel of beers. And I could see it pairing well with the same foods. I have one bottle of this left. I think I’ll be pairing it with ribs. It could be great with steak as well.

The other beer that blew my mind was the Rumble, an oak aged IPA. This beer is like a less intense version of the 17th Anniversary. Less hops, less alcohol, less wood. I need to try the three of them side by side, but I think I might this more than DFH Burton Baton and Stone’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard.  And the good news, the Rumble should be available at both Perfect Pour and IM Wine for a while.

Oh, and back to New Belgium. I’m lucky to have a co-worker that went out early and toured New Belgium. She picked up a six-pack of the Somersault (the replacement for Skinny Dip this year) and a bottle of the 20th Anniversary Super Cru. And luckily, these and a sox-pack of the Rumble all made it home safely in my suitcase. Sadly, both will be long gone when New Belgium arrives in MD/DC/VA in late August.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Awesome Album Alert – Dawes

The new Dawes album, Nothing is Wrong, is simply amazing. Buy it now. The Head and the Heart finally have a contender to battle for the top spot in my Best of 2011 (obviously the first thing on the minds of any band).

A few months ago, Dawes was “the band of the third dude in Middle Brother.” After enjoying all of the songs on the Middle Brother album, I bought the first Dawes album. It’s a good album, but it didn’t blow me away.

Early this week, Mrs. P90 and I caught Dawes on Letterman. No, we don’t stay up and watch Letterman, but I do Tivo it, Conan, and Fallon nightly in order to catch the musical guests. Back to my point – we watched Dawes and were blown away not only by how good they were playing (many bands seem to collapse under the pressure and short sound check associated with playing on live tv) but by how great the song was. Together, we said “this sounds like Jackson Browne!”

The song in question was “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” and it does sound like a great Jackson Browne song. In fact the whole album does, but not in a derivative way. It’s just that the songs are drenched in that combination of melancholy and joy that the best Jackson Browne songs drip with. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see “The Pretender,” “Fountain of Sorrow,” “Late for the Sky,” and “Ready or Not.” And if you didn’t have Jackson Browne to soundtrack the ups and downs of your late-20’s and early 30’s, I’m sorry. But it's not too late. Get some now! I'd suggest buying each album up through The Pretender, but feel free to start with the greatest hits. And the library has most of the albums...

But back to my point, you should immediately buy/download the Dawes album. Be warned though, there is a special itunes version with two extra tracks and they are equally great.

And if you want four stand-out tracks, I recommend:
  • Time Spent in Los Angeles;
  • Coming Back to a Man;
  • How Far We've Come; and
  • A Little Bit of Everything

Friday, July 8, 2011

Anthems for a 60 Year-old Man

Five years ago today my father died. It was sudden to say the least. He had been in the hospital to have surgery for prostate cancer. It went fine. He came home and started experiencing swelling in his right leg. He went back to the hospital. They said they thought he would be fine.

On the evening of July 8, 2006 Mrs. P90 and I were heading off to see Broken Social Scene and Belle & Sebastian at Merriweather. I spoke to my father on the way to the show. He was feeling fine. My wife was pregnant at the time, and my father was highly amused by the food comparisons used to explain the size of the developing embryo. I ended the call with my father and he said "Tell the raspberry that grandpa is thinking about her."

We went to the show. Broken Social Scene was a little boring, but they ended with Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl (see below) and it was great. We walked towards the bathrooms and I saw that I had three voice mails and numerous missed calls from my mother, brother, and sister. "This can't be good," I thought to myself. As I was listening to a voice mail from my mother asking me to call her, my brother called and delivered the news. I couldn't really process what he was saying.

With nothing I could do, and being 600+ miles away, I went back to my seat and watched the Belle & Sebastian show. I tried to keep my mind in a positive place knowing the next few days, weeks, months would be rough.

The show was good. I remember they played Dirty Dream #2 and it was awesome.

I don't think it fully hit me until a few months later when my daughter was born. It was so strange to not be able to share it with my father. Losing a parent is such a weird thing. I don't know if you ever fully process it. I know I haven't yet. At least I was an adult. My dad was only 60, but he wasn't the picture of health. He was overweight and smoked like a chimney. If there is a moral to this story it's that I need to take better care of myself so that I will be around to meet my grand kids someday.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mystery Fireworks in HoCo on Sunday Night - What/Where Were They?

For the last five years, my wife and I have been able to see fireworks from the upper level of our home. On Sunday evening, a little after 9:00, they occurred again.

So this is my last ditch effort to figure out what the "mystery fireworks" are and where they are launched from.

Various theories as to which fireworks they are have included Maple Lawn, Laurel, Fort Meade, etc. Heck, we have even wondered if they were launched from the King's Contrivance Restaurant as part of a wedding reception.

So, if anyone knows of semi-large professional fireworks displays that took place on Sunday (the 3rd) around 9:00 o'clock, please comment.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pigs and Zin

I’ve been  meaning to do a post about BBQ ribs for a few weeks now. I smoked ribs a few weekends ago and they were nothing short of amazing. That’s not a boast of my smoking prowess – I’m an amateur at best. No, it’s a testament to the classic combination of low smokey heat and delicious ribs.

So in honor of 4th of July and the fact that just about everyone will be grilling this weekend, I urge you to try making ribs.

I could write about my technique, but this recipe from the Post is better written than anything I can do. In fact, I’d recommend reading this whole article on ribs.

The advice I will give is:
  1. Try to do this on a Weber kettle if that’s an option for you, and
  2. If you like the results, splurge for a entry-level smoker.
My $150 smoker that I bought about four years ago has proven to be one of my best investments ever. With a little patience and practice, I consistently produce BBQ that is far superior to anything available nearby.

Oh, and my other advice is buy a decent bottle of California Zinfandel to pair with the ribs. Beer might seem like the right mate for BBQ, but nothing beats ribs and zin. You can’t go wrong with Bogle Zin, but Ridge, Rosenblum, and Sobon are all great as well. Especially the Ridge York Creek and the Sobon ReZerve (their spelling, not an error).

I promise that the ribs and wine will blow your mind. And if you want to make your own sauce, try my recipe here. If you want to tailor it to the wine pairing replace the beer with some zinfandel. If you want to get real fancy, use Dijon mustard in place of the yellow mustard. I did it once. It was good. It also felt a little fussy for BBQ.