Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Road to Beer Judging Certification: Light Hybrid, Amber Hybrid, German Wheat & Rye

This week we worked our way through Light Hybrid (6A. Cream Ale, 6B. Blonde Ale, 6C. Kölsch, 6D. American Wheat or Rye), Amber Hybrid (7A. Norther German Alt, 7B. California Common, 7C. Düsseldorf Alt) and German Wheat and Rye (15A. Weizen, 5B. Dunkelweizen, 5C. Weizenbock, 5D. Roggenbier).

The hybrid categories are that blurry line between lagers and ales. The subcategories are either ales fermented with lager yeast (California Common) or lagers fermented with ale yeast (Cream Ale) or some similar jostling. The German Wheat and Rye styles were included to conveniently compare the wheat presentation against that within the American Wheat or Rye and Blonde Ale styles.

This was the most difficult class so far. The vast majority of the beers had significant faults, from minor things (stale) to more significant things (nowhere near the declared style). Adding to judging difficulty, the ranges of these styles is significant. As was the selection: 21 beers across 11 substyles.

Cumulative Statistics:
IBU: 8 – 50
SRM: 2 – 25 (straw to dark brown)
OG: 1.038 – 1.090
FG: 1.007 – 1.022
ABV: 3.8 – 8%

On the plus side, a distinctive hop presence in flavor and bitterness is starting to become much more prominent. On the downside, it’s still mostly inappropriate.

Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)

  1. 49 – St. Blasius Weizenbock (Weizenbock, great example of the style and delicious: malty with deep plum and rum notes and pineapple sweetnees. You must find this beer.)
  2. 48 – Flensberg Weizen (Weizen)
  3. 47 – Ayinger Ur Weisse (Dunkelweiss)
  4. 47 – Flying Dog Amber Lager (California Common)
  5. 45 – Anchor Steam (California Common, considered the classic example of the style)
  6. 44 – Franiskaner Dunkelweisse (Dunkelweiss)
  7. 40 – Lake Superior Kayak (Kölsch)
  8. 36 – Genesee Cream Ale (Cream Ale, considered the classic example of the style)
  9. 34 – Bell’s Oberon (American Wheat or Rye)
  10. 32 – Weihenstephan Hefeweisbier (Weizen)
  11. 31 – Innstadt Weizenbock (Weizenbock)
  12. 28 – Uerig Sticke (Düsseldorf Alt)
  13. 28 – Pyramid Curve Ball (Blonde ale, to timid for the style)
  14. 28 – Widmer Bros Citra Blond (Blonde ale, way too big and hoppy for style)
  15. 28 – Alaskan Amber (Northern German Altbier)
  16. 24 – Schlägl Roggen Gold (Roggenbier, though it had nothing in common with the style)
  17. 20 – Schell Deer Brand (Cream Ale)
  18. 20 – Mankato Original (Kölsch)
  19. 20 – Anchor Summer (American Wheat or Rye)
  20. 18 – Pinkers Munster Alt Organic (Northern German Altbier)
  21. 18 – Mankato Stickem (Düsseldorf Alt)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The iPad Mini is about Killing the iPod Touch

The iPod touch has always been Apple’s odd model out. More than an iPod yet significantly less than than an iPhone.

Three years ago, I bought an iPod touch because I wanted the iOS experience without being tied to AT&T. These days the iPhone is available on multiple carriers and the iPod touch finally has a camera.

In between times, Apple didn’t know if the iPod touch was “training wheels for the iPhone” a competitor to the Sony Playstation Portable or just a colorful camera that can play music.

Hardly compelling compared to the iPad’s positioning of transformative convenience.

Hell, this isn’t even compelling against multi-touch iPod nano that’s half the size and half the price.

Apple’s ~8″ iPad mini debuted at $30 more than the 4″ iPod touch. Twice the screen size and half the storage space for just over the $300 price point. For an additional charge, a persistent cellular broadband connection is available through AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.

No such broadband option exists for the iPod touch. Making the iPod touch once again the odd model out.

Historically, Apple’s responses to competitors has always been strategic – not direct and obvious. Additionally, they’ve always been comfortable killing off popular products for the sake of an easy-to-understand product line. For all these reasons, the iPad mini isn’t about competing directly with the Kindle Fire or Nexus 7 – it’s about quietly killing off the albatross of the iOS family – the iPod touch.

This time next year, the iPod nano will have a camera and the iPod touch won’t exist.

Monday, 22 October 2012

How to Run a Rake Task via Cron Under RVM

Cron needs to be explicitly told which RVM to use, the easiest way to do that is to pretend to open up a bash shell (as all the pre-reqs are loaded by default).

Save your afternoon and reuse the following in your crontab:

/bin/bash -l -c 'cd PATH/TO/RAILS/APP && $HOME/.rvm/gems/THE_RVM_RUBY_TO_USE/bin/rake RAILS_ENV=production THE_TAKS:TO_RUN --trace'

for me, it looks like this:

*/5 * * * * /bin/bash -l -c 'cd /srv/www/app/ && /home/garrick/.rvm/gems/ruby-1.8.7-p370@global/bin/rake RAILS_ENV=production cron:parse --trace'

huge thanks to Edgar Gonzalez, Hector Castro, Murtada Shah

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Road to Beer Judging Certification: European Amber, Dark Lager, Bock

This week we worked our way through European Amber Lagers (3A. Vienna Lager, 3B. Oktoberfest), Dark Lager (4A. Dark American Lager, 4B. Munich Dunkel, 4C. Schwarzbier) and Bock (5A. Maibock/Helles Bock, 5B. Traditional Bock, 5C. Doppelbock, 5D. Eisbock)

The overwhelming attribute of these 3 styles is a prominent toasty, sweet, and complex malt aroma – like the crust of freshly baked bread (melanoidin). Still little to no hop aroma or flavor. Again the hops only job is to cut the malt sweetness and provide a dry finish.

Cumulative Statistics:
IBU: 8 – 35
SRM: 6 – 22 (gold to brown)
OG: 1.046 – 1.072
FG: 1.008 – 1.018
ABV: 4.2 – 7.4%
(notice all but OG & SRM are very close to last week's Light Lager & Pilsner styles)

While the Oktoberfests and Doppelbocks are still plentiful this time of year, the Maibocks are scarce, the Eisbocks are endangered. A visit to 5 of Twin Cities’ best beer stores (Four Firkins, Ale Jail, Merwins, SAV #1, and SAV #2) proved Traditional Bocks are extinct.

Even though my time in Germany introduced me to many of the beers from tonight’s selection, some pleasant surprises came up in the rankings. The Hofbrauhaus Maibock was an amazingly delicious and accurate example of a Maibock; pale, dry, malty, sweet, balanced, clean. Similarly, the Köstritzer Schwarzbier was an outstanding surprise; dark, clean, smooth, and roasty (just this side of burnt). Again, highly recommended. The biggest surprise came from Baltika #4 – this Russian interpretation of a Dark American Lager was clean, with a toasty rich malty aroma followed by a malty dark sugar taste and slightly sweet finish. Very enjoyable.

Tonight’s Ranking (using BJCP’s 0-50 scale)

  1. 49 – Hofbrauhaus Maibock (Maibock/Helles Bock)
  2. 46 – Paulanar Salvator (Doppelbock)
  3. 45 – Köstritzer Schwarzbier (Schwartzbier)
  4. 43 – Haacker-Pschor Oktoberfest (Oktoberfest)
  5. 41 – Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
  6. 39 – Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock)
  7. 39 – Spaten Dunkel (Munich Dunkel)
  8. 39 – Paulanar Oktoberfest (Doppelbock)
  9. 37 – Baltika #4 (American Dark Lager)
  10. 36 – Hofstetten GranitBock (Doppelbock)
  11. 35 – Capital Amber (European Amber Lager)
  12. 34 – Shiner Bock (American Dark Lager)
  13. 34 – Capital Eisphyre (Eisbock)
  14. 32 – Sam Adams Black Lager (Schwartzbier)
  15. 20 – Hofstetten HellenBock (Maibock/Helles Bock)

Monday, 15 October 2012

6 Players are Too Few, 10 is Better

Coming out of my third kubb tournament of 2012 and my first 6-player tournament, I’m even more convinced a 6-player kubb team is an awkward number.

This year at U.S. Nationals this year Jamie, Jim and I played under the Kubbchucks banner. I was the primary inkastare – for something like 9 hours non-stop. After the hundredth time inkasting 8 kubbs in the hot Midwestern sun, I was exhausted and didn’t want to aim and throw another god damn piece of wood.

So – first off, it’d be really good to have 2 inkastares – neither of which throw batons. At minimum a relief inkastare. Ideally, someone that can consistently inkast deep, ~7m.

That brings us up to 8 players.

There’s also huge value in having someone just watch the pitch and coach the players – both the baton throwers and the inkastares. Some one to build strategy against the evolving pitch and keep players conservative.

9 players.

In Dallas this year, the Kubbchucks had 7 players. Rotating a player in and out as we saw fit. The relief and flexibility this 7th player provided was instrumental in helping us reach the Quarterfinals.

10 players.

A serious team with enough energy and management to power through a championship bracket. And a damn lot of people behind the pitch.

Until I can build out this super team, I have a strong preference for 3 player teams.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Breaking Habits

“What’s sad is that when product managers break stuff, these people blame themselves; my pain is abated by anger, theirs amplified by embarrassment.” – Tim Bray

This afternoon, I fought with both an iPhone 4 and an Samsung Galaxy S to find the answer to a question both promised to make easy and straight-forward.

Neither did for completely different reasons.

The keyboard on the iPhone is complete crap, slow with a counter-intuitive spell checker. The Swype keyboard on the Samsung made text entry easier though the GPS and bandwidth speeds on the were tedious and spotty to the point of useless.

In the end, turns out – we really didn’t need to use either. Where we were going was obvious and intuitive – once we got there. But, that’s not what the smartphone ads say.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Road to Beer Judging Certification: Light Lager and Pilsner

This week’s BJCP class was Light Lager and Pilsners – which is to say, beer I haven’t drank in 15 years.

And oh how the quickly the memories returned; the smell of DMS and hormonal college kids in a cramped basement, the epiphany that is the first sip of a Spaten Pils, constantly asking yourself ‘where did I go wrong?’ with each sip of Grain Belt Premium.

Even though there are 8 substyles across these 2 styles, the range of characteristics is quite narrow. Cumulatively:

IBU: 8-45 (human taste range is 8-100 IBU in beer)
SRM: 2-6 (straw - gold)
OG: 1.028-1.060 (water is 1.0)
FG: 0.998-1.017 (again, water is 1.0)
ABV: 2.8-6.0

In other words, these 8 substyles range from highly carbonated water to highly carbonated, slightly sweet, crisp water. The only function of the hops is to balance out any malt sweetness. The lack of any flavor characteristics means flaws and defects are not only more noticeable, but both more likely and more common. The DMS from the corn or pils malt can quickly dominate. The same for issues caused by poor handling (skunky, light struck, old). These are very fragile styles. It is only in the high ends of these styles that any positive characteristics other than high carbonation levels become noticeable. It’s only in the German and Bohemian Pilsners that a hint of hop flavor and alcohol are both noticeable and appropriate.

Yes, despite the narrow characteristic range and propensity for defects – there was a surprising breadth across the tastings. If you concentrate – it is possible to notice a definite difference in carbonation, mouthfeel, and flavor between Miller High Life, Miller Lite, and Miller Genuine Draft.

Across the board, there’s a refreshing crispness that is both a significant characteristic of the all the styles and most often absent from the tastings. Instead, there’s frequently a dull flatness or wet cardboardy-ness. Not ideal.

    Overall Ranking:

  1. Spaten Pils (German Pilsner)
  2. Staropramen (Bohemian Pilsner)
  3. Left Hand Polestar Pilsner (German Pilsner)
  4. Coors Light (Light American Lager)
  5. Miller High Life (Standard American Lager)
  6. Miller Genuine Draft (Premium American Lager)
  7. Amstel Lite (Light American Lager)
  8. Miller Lite (Light American Lager)
  9. Dortmunder Gold (Dortmunder Export)
  10. Avery Joe (Classic American Pilsner)
  11. Grain Belt Premium (Standard American Lager)

I wasn’t looking forward to these styles. I fully expected to be holding my nose and choking down bad beer (just like in college). In the end, it was quite enjoyable (just like in college).