Friday Beer Blogging – A Brew For All Occasions

Through the ages beer has lubricated social functions ranging from the thick, heavy ploughman’s lunch of the middle ages to the ethereal champagne-like product served at royal funerals and re-created in Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch. Today ploughmen and the rest of us will more likely take a tuna salad on rye than a bucket of warm beer, but the principle lives on in cheap easy-drinking “session” lagers that you pick up in mass quantities at quitting time, during the game or to fill the cooler beside the barbecue grill. There’s nothing wrong with this variety of beer but at the very least you have a right to demand that they don’t sell you even less than you’re paying for, which is why I’m so big on macrocheap-but-drinkable varieties like Yuengling.

The Pittsburgh Brewing Company’s flagship brand, Iron City, competes weakly with other rice-based carb water such as Bud and Coors. Skip it. For not much more you can enjoy a bottle of their European lager, Augustiner.

Immort and Stiner

This is pretty much the definition of a session beer. The thin amber color and receding head will look familiar to Am-lager fans and the carbonation makes more of an impression than the whiff of hops that balances the mild ABV and thin mouthfeel. You have to concentrate to notice the slight grassiness and the slight whiff of cheap beer, but at the end of a long day or sessioned with chips and a football game you won’t notice either. It isn’t insultingly bad like most of the stuff one step down but it also lacks the character of Yuengling, my personal favorite at this price level.

Now about Dogfish Head’s bizarre, extraordinary Immort Ale. Let’s say that you have volunteered to host a dinner welcoming your new boss to town. He/she has a beer cellar, writes a monthly beer column for the local paper and spends money on gastronomic travel rather than kids. I have no idea what kind of food you might want to serve but the beer will look something like this.

Immort pours a remarkable hue somewhere between mahogany and cherry wood and leaves a lingering sandalwood-colored head. Pay attention to where the label advertises ‘maple, vanilla and a bit of oak’ because oh yeah, that’s what you get. The first sip practically assaults you with a maple nose, like lightly carbonated maple syrup. Dogfish Head presumably used hops somewhere in making this beer but here the malt, and the extra sugar from juniper berries and Massachussetts maple syrup, win out big time. Fruit beers aren’t this sweet, in fact a good frambozen is usually relatively dry, with most of the fruit sugar converted to alcohol. Even my gold standard for sweet beers, Delirium Tremens, cannot really compare. Clearly the Boston Brewing Co. didn’t feel like loaning out their “ninja yeast” because the yeast in Immort could have gone a lot further than 11%. Next you will notice the phenolic nose from the juniper berries and a pleasant toastiness that helps out the overpowered hops in balancing the brew’s sweetness.

On the whole, kudos to Dogfish Head for blazing yet another completely untraveled path in the world of beer and doing it with characteristic elan. You probably won’t put this on your regular rotation, not unless you’re the kind of person who follows dinner with a cigar and two fingers of Laphroaig, but on the rare occasion when you want to completely flummox and/or impress a beer-philic guest this would make a great choice.

Hang Up And Drive


People who talk on cell phones while driving, even using “hands-free” devices, are as impaired as drunk drivers, researchers said on Thursday.

[…] The researchers used a driving simulation device for their study, published in the summer 2006 issue of Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

They studied 40 volunteers who used a driving simulator four times — while undistracted, using a handheld cell phone, using a hands-free cell phone and while intoxicated to a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level — the average legal level of impairment in the United States — after drinking vodka and orange juice.

Three study participants rear-ended the simulated car in front of them. All were talking on cellphones and none was drunk, the researchers said.

That last bit was because the drunk drivers were driving on the sidewalk.

Could this kick off a new round of road-safety legislation? States like New York that ban handheld but not hands-free cellphones will have to seriously consider the logic of banning one but not the other. Specifically, they will consider it for the brief time that it takes to imagine convincing people driving through Manhattan to pull over to make a call.

Open Thread

Semi-busy today, although beer blogging will arrive on schedule for once. Two amusing news bits via BoingBoing:

* One of the funnier anti-419 scam vigilantes that I’ve ever seen.

* People act more honestly when eyes are watching them. Even when the eyes aren’t real.

Chat about whatever.

Friday Science Bits

Today’s science news in a bulleted list.

* Many folks think that oil means gasoline and jet fuel, but in fact a huge fraction of the materials that we use in our daily lives, plastics for example, start out as petroleum derivatives. In an age when demand threatens to outstrip supply and send oil prices into wacky world it is encouraging to know that synthetic chemists have worked out a way to make similar materials from the sugar commonly found in fruits, fructose.

* The idea that increased CO2 will increase crop yields has taken another hit. Estimated time until Exxon-funded advocacy groups absorb this new information: never.

* Via Aravosis via TP via the inimitable David Attenborough, a giant Venezuelan centipede that eats bats. Great for ooking out squeamish coworkers. [Update: read more here.]

* The San Andreas fault is due for a major quake. The basic math of earthquakes is that they build up strain at a constant rate, so the longer you wait between quakes the bigger the quake will be. The San Andreas fault is pretty good about releasing pent-up strain as far as highly-active faults go (compared to, say, this) but let’s hope that it doesn’t wait too long.

* Stem cell news: the good, the bad and the political.

* At Kos, Darksyde has a must-read on the problem of accelerating glacial melt.

What else is up? Chat about science and science-related program activities.

With us or With Them

Via Michelle Malkin, Andrew Cochran:

The decision is actually a huge political gift to President Bush, and the detainees will not be released that easily. The President and GOP leaders will propose a bill to override the decision and keep the terrorists in jail until they are securely transferred to host countries for permanent punishment. The Administration and its allies will release plenty of information on the terrorist acts committed by the detainees for which they were detained. They will also release information about those terrorist acts committed by Gitmo prisoners after they were released. They will challenge the “judicial interference with national security” and challenge dissenting Congressmen and civil libertarians to either stand with the terrorists or the American people. The Pentagon will continue to release a small number of detainees as circumstances allow. The bill will pass easily and quickly. And if the Supremes invalidate that law, we’ll see another legislative response, and another, until they get it right. Just watch.

Let’s put aside the inherent nihilism in this response- the first thought of Mr. Cochran is not how to fix the current situation, but the political opportunities made possible by this situation. A goodly portion of the mess this country is in can be traced to this mentality- political power comes first, the good of the country dead last.

Let’s put aside the instinctive rush to simply find a way to do whatever the administration wants- this decision means nothing, it doesn’t mean we should step back and think about what we are doing- none of that. We are right, and let’s just find a way to do what we want to do, by hook or by crook.

Put those aside, and there is still something even more offensive about this passage:

They will challenge the “judicial interference with national security” and challenge dissenting Congressmen and civil libertarians to either stand with the terrorists or the American people.

It never gets old, being told you are a traitor and in league with the terrorists because you disagree with current administration policy.

Let me be the first to tell Andrew Cochran, whoever that is, to go fuck himself. Twice.

** Update **

It has been brought to my attention that Mr. Cochran may not be saying this is what they should do, but what they will do. If that is the case, my apologies. If not… well, I am not going to say it again.

Guantanamo Treatment Illegal, Says SCOTUS

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-3 that the Bush administration violated American law and the Geneva Convention (technically they’re the same thing) in its handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In response the administration must either release the detainees, repatriate them at Guantanamo or try them in a legal manner.

In lieu of commentary I will repeat something that I said earlier:

Frankly I doubt that the government is ready or able to present a coherent answer to judge Walker’s questionnaire. This administration has a history of ducking legal oversight that stretches from removing JAG officers from the detainee treatment process to the Jose Padilla debacle to the basic mistrust of the FISA warrant application process that lies at the heart of this current eavesdropping scandal ( see here for more). They don’t think that the law will approve of what they do and they don’t have the nerve to change the law, so they cut the law out of decision making and they count on secrecy to keep it under wraps.

The Bush administration actually isn’t that hard to figure out. They love secrecy because they know that they are breaking the law. Part of that, probably a small part, comes from actual malicious intent but the much larger fraction probably just comes from the fact that they are not good enough at their job to do things right the first time. If you cannot get things right and you have too much self-regard to admit a mistake (that would look weak in front of the terrorists French liberals press jackalopes) then you get the dysfunctional mess that we have now.


Unlike Marty Lederman I am not a lawyer or a SCOTUS expert. Read his analysis for more informed commentary (formatting his):

More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today’s ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely,” and that “[t]o this end,” certain specified acts “are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever”—including “cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

What A Week It Has Been

It is only Wednesday, but, boy, what a week of news it has been. First, we had more information about Rush Limbaugh’s flaccid member than I ever wanted (and I am not talking about Bo Snerdley), and now this:

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is hoping to stamp out the sex trade by taxing pimps and prostitutes, then jailing them when they don’t pay.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote Wednesday morning on the pimp tax. The bill also calls for more jail time for sex workers.

If passed, the provision will authorize at least $2 million toward the establishment of an office in the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation unit to prosecute unlawful sex workers for violations of tax laws.

“Recent headlines have focused on sex trafficking in connection with the World Cup in Germany,” Grassley said. “This vile crime is under our noses in the United States, and it’s a no-brainer to have the IRS go after sex traffickers. Prosecuting these tax code violations can get these guys off the street and yank from their grasp the girls and women they exploit.”

Grassley said the problem is “especially horrible” when underage girls are involved.

I am assuming ‘especially horrible’ is to horrible in much the same way ‘double-secret probation’ is to probation. Suffice it to say, it is the editorial postion of Balloon Juice that having minors (both male and female, Sen. Grassley) involved in the sex trade is horrible, and what consenting adults do is simply none of Grassley’s god damned business.