Apparently, there are some beers I’m just not going to love.

22 02 2007

I hit another beer-tasting tonight at Tria Cafe’s Fermentation School. This session was “Exotic Brews from Abroad,” and the speaker was Matthias Neidhart, the owner of B. United International, an importer. Neidhart was knowledgeable and entertaining, and he brought along six particularly potent (and certainly unusual) beers, a sake, and a mead(!) to taste.

Unfortunately, I can’t say any of tonight’s beers particularly appealed to me. That’s completely abnormal for me, of course. But the finish on Kiuchi Brewery‘s Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale was so bitter, so long-lastingly bitter, that I can barely remember what the beer actually tasted like. The Aventinus from G. Schneider & Sohn was just too blah (i.e., mild) for me. And Birreria Baladin‘s Xyauyu’…well, what to say. Although I enjoyed the Xyauyu’s light, almost-cognac smell, the taste was something I wouldn’t want to experience again anytime soon. In my notes, I described it as “nauseatingly sweet” and “sort of like sweetened cough syrup.” Sound yummy? Nah, it really wasn’t.

My two favorite beers from tonight’s event were the L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien from Brasserie des Franches-Motagnes and the Stille Nacht Special Reserva 2000 from De Dolle Brouwers in Belgium. The Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien offered a nice caramel smell and a light, tart flavor. The Stille Nacht, which has been rarely tasted in the States, struck me for its mild, delicious cognac notes. (Yes, that’s two cognac references in one sitting. Maybe I just had a cognac smell stuck in my head!) I don’t think I liked either the Stille Nacht or the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien enough to seek them out again, though.

Strangely enough, what I really, really enjoyed was the mead. Mead, of course, is a fermented honey beverage, and Neidhart brought along a cool example from South Africa—Makana Meadery‘s ¡Qhilika African Herbal Blossom Mead. ¡Qhilika is a semi-sweet, yet spicy mead. I enjoyed the anise, apple, and cinnamon flavors that predominated. Very, very nice. In fact, I’m thinking I should purchase some for the apartment, but I can’t imagine where I’m going to find it (in Pennsylvania, the state-owned liquor stores are anything but customer-friendly).

P.S.: I just realized there’s an International Mead Festival. Unfortunately, I just missed the 2007 iteration. Bummer.


Happy Mardi Gras!

20 02 2007


eighth blackbird

18 02 2007

Last night, I caught a performance of eighth blackbird, the classical music sextet that focuses on contemporary and avant garde music. Of the pieces on the program at the Kimmel Center, I particularly enjoyed:

  • Gordon Fitzell’s violence, a piece requiring the sextet to get all sorts of percussive, though not necessarily loud, sounds out of their instruments by unusual means (e.g., plucking piano strings, tapping violin strings, exaggerated breathing into the wind instruments, etc.);
  • Derek Bermel’s Coming Together, a piece for cello and clarinet, that blackbird’s clarinetist aptly described as bend-y (in a similar, but less evocative, vein, the Kimmel Center’s program said the “short duo consist[ed] entirely of glissandi”); and
  • Joseph Schwantner’s Rhiannon’s Blackbirds, which ended the evening in a whirlwind of fast sounds.

My concert-going friend, whose taste in music is more conservative than mine, seemed a little, well, distressed by eighth blackbird. I thought the performance was awfully cool, of course. Afterward, I’d hoped to get some funky cheese and exotic beer from one of my favorite local hangouts, but my friend was definitely not up to waiting for a table. So I had make due with fish and chips and some not-so-exotic beer. After a couple of hours of shrill, unexpected noises, I suppose it was too much to hope that my friend would put with a pile of stinky cheese, too.

After last night, I’m sure my friend better understands why I’m still single…. I’m obviously a weirdo. Hee.

I am here to praise tubaists. (Or, at least, one of them.)

16 02 2007

The British music magazine Muso recently conducted a survey on the sexiness of orchestra players and their, um, instruments. (I know this, by the way, because WNYC’s excellent music program Soundcheck featured the survey on Valentine’s Day. You can find the Soundcheck piece here.)

Among the results: Cellists were found to be the best lovers, and—naturally enough—respondents thought cellos were the sexiest instruments. It must pay off to, well, spend so much time with something that large between your legs (blush)…. Survey respondents also thought violists, of all people, had the most sexual partners, were most likely to have sex on the first date, probably had had the most sex in the last week, and were most likely to be gay. Gosh. I had no idea.

The news wasn’t as good for tubas and tubaists. Tubas were found to be the least sexy instrument, while tubaists were thought the most likely to be single.

Well, that’s just wrong, and I’m here to tell you about it. Over a decade ago, before I met the Soulmate-Who-Got-Away or the Ex, I dated a professional tuba player. It didn’t last all that long, but we had a beautiful spring together. The Tuba Player (T.B.) was a little bit inexperienced, but he was passionate. On a sunny weekend day, I remember, we drove into the country, his territory, and he showed me things and places he cared about. There were old country homes, a riverbank, a very old cemetery. I remember, too, that there was a sort of electricity whenever we touched. Hell, it was there when we even just brushed up against one another.

T.B. was (and is) a handsome man—tall, dashing, physically remarkable in, um, a variety(!) of ways. But maybe the best thing about him was his lips. It shouldn’t have been surprising, I suppose. Since childhood, T.B. had spent hours and hours of every day with the tuba, practicing his technique, using his lips. T.B. knew how to work his lips. And maybe even better, his lips were incredibly, incredibly soft. T.B. knew how to kiss. In my life, T.B. is the benchmark for kissing. He’s the A+. He’s the 100%. He set the curve on the kissing test.

T.B. and I weren’t meant to be. He was just finding his way as a gay man. I had to leave for a summer, and we unraveled over those months. It was sad for me, but it wasn’t unexpected. I think of T.B. as my first real love, and I think of him fondly.

So, anyway, don’t be misled by stereotypes about the tuba. Tubaists don’t have to be “tubby.” They don’t have to be awkward. And if you find one that’s single, I bet he can kiss like hell.

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Second Life

15 02 2007

I attended church services tonight at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Second Life. Is that weird? It was pretty much like a “normal” UU service; it simply required more typing. (Well, and I was sipping a beer while I worshipped from my desk. I guess that’s not entirely normal, either—even for me.)

What Does It Mean To Be A Church? – promotional video powered by Metacafe

If you’re not interested in the Supreme Court, maybe the snowshoes will keep you reading.

13 02 2007

Supreme Conflict
Sorry about being so quiet lately. Life sucks a little bit lately. That’s probably not permanent, huh? God, I hope not.

Anyway, tonight’s big adventure was a trip to the National Constitution Center for a program called “The Supreme Court Revealed.” You’re probably nodding off now…but I’ve been fascinated by the U.S. Supreme Court since I was a kid. On the program were the authors of two recent bestsellers about the Court. Jan Crawford Greenburg, who’s currently the Supreme Court correspondent for ABC, talked about Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court, her very cool behind-the-scenes look at the Rehnquist Court. (If you liked The Brethren 20 years ago, and you know I did, Greenburg’s book is a must-read.) Law professor Jeffrey Rosen, author of the companion book to the recent PBS series on the Court, also spoke.

Both Greenburg and Rosen were awfully entertaining. I especially enjoyed Greenburg’s stories about current Court members. Rosen, unsurprisingly, was much more professorial. Although his mostly historical material was more familiar to me, I was impressed with his passion for the re-telling of it. The entire program lasted an hour and a half, and I easily could’ve listened to Greenburg and Rosen for another 90 minutes.

The program was videotaped for showing on C-SPAN2’s Book TV. I was afraid that would mean that the Q-and-A session would be filled with oddballs asking questions just so they could see themselves on their TiVos. Happily, there really wasn’t much of that.

The weather was miserable tonight in Philly, and I guess I’m proud of myself for not just schlepping right home after work. (Well, not all that proud. It’s not like I won the Nobel Prize.) The program was worth it. After the program, though, the commute home was ugly. My train never showed, and the ever-helpful transit authorities never made an announcement. So I basically stood outside in the sleet and cold for 50 minutes until the next train, which was itself 20 minutes late, finally arrived. Then the train crrrraaaaawlllled all the way to my stop.  I could’ve snowshoed home faster, I bet.  But if I’d done that, I’d probably have no feeling in my toes right now.  Oddly enough, I like having feeling in my toes.

And, oh, I don’t own snowshoes.

Malty = Delicious

8 02 2007

I attended another Tria Cafe beer-tasting tonight. That makes six over the past few months, I think, plus I attended one of Tria’s cheese-tasting…. Am I a good customer or what?

Tonight’s session was titled Imbibing History, and it was led by Chris LaPierre—a brewer at one of Iron Hill Brewery‘s local outlets. LaPierre talked about the history of beer and, well, how beer may have altered the course of history. There’s a theory, for instance, that some hunting-and-gathering populations settled down so they could grow grains and make beer. (There may be a chicken-and-egg problem there. Did early people settle down to make beer, or did they make beer because settling down made it easier?)

Anyway, of the beers LaPierre presented, I was most fond of the Thomas Hooker Octoberfest, a malty beer that offered pleasant caramel notes. The Octoberfest is brewed in the German Marzen style, which originally meant that a beer was prepared in March (at the end of the brewing season) in a manner ensuring it would last (over the yeast-unfriendly summer) until the end-of-the-harvest festival.

I also enjoyed Iron Hill’s own Baltic Porter, particularly the pronounced chocolate flavors it boasted. Baltic porters, I guess, were originally made strong, to withstand the long journeys from western Europe. Zywiec Porter, which I blogged about a couple of months ago, is a notable Baltic porter. I need to figure out how Baltic porters are different from Russian Imperial stouts….

I also liked (if a bit less so) Traquair House’s Scotch Ale. Historically, Scottish brews haven’t featured hops, which didn’t grow well in Scotland. So this was yet another malty treat for me to enjoy. In fact, I’d say that was tonight’s theme for me: I was in a malty frame of mind.