Friday, August 27, 2010

Easy Drinking Brew

I read some of Andy Mosher's Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass sitting in the Barnes & Noble Café today. The topic: how to brew your own beer. I'm not prepared for that kind of undertaking right now; if you are, get that book! It's fun and informative. It was great to learn a little about the brewing process - the kinds of hops, yeasts, and temperatures it takes to turn barley and water into something inspirational.

Ben Franklin wrote, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." I agree. Some beers are harsh, though. The harshness usually comes from the kinds and quantities of hops used in the brewing process. The worst flavor to me is a dark, hoppy beer that's poorly made. It winds up tasting like soy sauce or liquid marmite. Don't get me wrong: I like dark beer. A good English Brown Ale or Irish Stout is great in the cold months. I like a few hopped-up beers as well. But I'm finding what I like most is balance, the right amount of hops with the right amount of characteristic flavor.

On the other end of the spectrum, some beers are profoundly underwhelming. You don't get really great flavor in a Budweiser or an Amstel Light. What you get is a mild, malty seltzer. Not my thing. I like tasting good craftmanship. Luckily, in the beer world, that's not too hard to find.

Good local brew can be had just about anywhere. A friend of mine told me he doesn't like American beer. I think he should try a few. Let me share four I like; of these, one is German, the other three are American. Here’s a picture:

Neat, huh? I made the photo mosaic on

Anyway, first on the list is Spaten, which has the distinction of being the first keg tapped every year at Oktoberfest in Munich. Their Premium Lager is versatile enough to appeal to Bud drinkers and connoisseurs alike. It has all the goods: nice color, great aroma, smooth flavor. They make a good dark beer, Optimator, and the well-known Oktoberfest as well.

Next, from San Francisco, is Anchor Liberty Ale. Look at that color! Tastes even better than it looks. Here’s what I mean by well-rounded - a little bitterness, a little citrus aroma (from the hops), a little sweetness, and a nice dry finish. Cool label as well.

Though I like Sam Adams Boston Lager, they really hit a home run with the Noble Pils. It’s not as orange as the Liberty Ale, and it has a different flavor profile, but it’s every bit as fun to drink. I could easily have two or three of these. Great seasonal brew.

Last, from Delaware, is the Dogfish Head Brewery 90-Minute IPA. Because of the 9% ABV, I don’t recommend more than one or two of these. The aroma and sweetness of the brew offsets the bitter kick. I love it. Reading the label, you get a good sense of the process they use to make the beer. It’s more expensive than the other three, but worth it for the right occasion.

Learn more about beer styles at It’s a great resource for folks who like having a cold one.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Microsoft Word Accent Codes

Typing accent codes in Microsoft Word (or WordPad) is almost as easy as owning a Mac. Thanks to Penn State for this helpful link.

Here are the basic ones. The symbol "V" means any vowel.

Acute ó Ó Control+', V (apostrophe key)
Circumflex ô Ô Shift+Control+^, V
Grave ò Ò Control+`, V
Tilde ñ Ñ Shift+Control+~, V (n, a, o only)
Umlaut ö Ö Shift+Control+:, V (colon key)

See the link for more details and additional characters.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Carl Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 - IV. Finale

Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Michael Schønwandt

A great live performance of the finale. Listen to those tympani! The thematic material that pours out at the end is first stated in the opening movement.

Nielsen wrote the following summary of his 4th Symphony (subtitled "The Inextinguishable") after the premier of the work in 1916, while the First World War was still raging:

The title 'Inextinguishable' suggests something that only music can express fully: the elementary will of life. Only music can give an abstract expression of life, in contrast to the other arts which must construct models and symbolize. Music solves this problem only by remaining itself; for music IS life whereas the other arts only depict life. Life is unquenchable and inextinguishable. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, life was, is, and will be in struggle, conflict, procreation and destruction; and everything returns. Music is life, and as such, inextinguishable.

You can hear these thoughts at work in the music.

If you would like to learn more about Nielsen, I highly recommend these recordings by Herbert Blomstedt: click here and here. Again, my alter ego (Ed Luhrs) has more to say in the customer reviews.