Monthly Archives: August 2007

Happy anniversary to the Paxes

The Beer Baron (a.k.a. Perry Ellis, a.k.a. Pax Perry Ellica, a.k.a. The Groper Eloper, a.k.a. Jowly McSeersucker) would like to extend his heartfelt congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Pax Arcana, wherever they are, on their imminent wedding anniversary. You guys rock.

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The beer baron: The black stuff, part 2

Last night, the Beer Baron set up a (totally unscientific, drunken and ridiculous) blind tasting of five Irish stouts for a pair of friends, the Birdman and Owen O’Connell.

The Birdman likes his beer but doesn’t consider himself an expert by any means. O’Connell, an Irish anarcho-buddhist vegetarian, knows a lot about beer, especially Irish stouts. Here’s a blow-by-blow account as they march their way through an array of unidentified brews—will the Birdman’s lackadaisical tasting acumen match O’Connell’s vaunted palate?

First sample (Beamish)

Birdman: “A nice little bitter kick on the end that I like. The  aroma ain’t shit.” Guesses Guinness. 

O’Connell: “[It’s got a] nice taste of chocolate and a smooth whiff of cats arse.” (At this point, one of the Baron household’s felines was perched on O’Connell’s lap.)  “It’s got all the qualities [of Guinness].” First guesses Guinness, later amends guess to Murphy’s.

Score: Birdman 0, O’Connell 0

Second sample (O’Hara’s)

Birdman: “Aromas.” Guesses Guinness.

O’Connell: “That is tasty. … A dry finish, nice and crisp. It’s a good summer beer.” Guesses O’Hara’s.

Score: Birdman 0, O’Connell 1

Third sample (Guinness draft can)

Birdman (in a terrible Irish accent) “Ah yes, that’d be the black stuff. Fhr fhr fhr fhr fhr fhr.” Guesses Guinness.

O’Connell: “[This] the black stuff. It’s Guinness, man. It just has a strong onset of Guinnessness, followed buy a sort of Guinnessy mouthfeel and a Guinness finish.” Guesses Guinness.

Score: Birdman 1, O’Connell 2

Fourth sample (Guinness bottle)

Birdman: “Eau de licorice with some sort of fungus on it. It has a bold flavor that wants to make you get down on your knees and thank God you’re a man.” Guesses Guinness.

O’Connell (cat has jumped back on his lap): “Definite notes of cat’s arse and licorice.” Guesses Mackeson’s.

Score: Birdman 2, O’Connell 2

Fifth sample (Murphy’s)

Birdman: “This smells like wood. It has a bit of watery bitter[ness] that I could do without.” Guesses wood.

O’Connell: “Kind of smokey, chipotle-esque. I have no idea what [this] is.” No guess.

Final score: Birdman 2, O’Connell 2

So it’s true what they told us in beer school: roughly 85 percent of taste perception is completely subjective. Even an expert palate can be fooled in a blind test (I know for a fact that O’Connell is well familiar with Beamish and probably would have correctly identified it if he’d known it was one of the choices), while a novice taster is bound to get some picks right some of the time.  

As for the Beer Baron, I thought the best two were Beamish and the Guinness draft can. I have to say I liked the Guinness draft can the most. It’s rounder, better balanced, super smooth and tangy with that thick body or mouth feel from the flaked oats. The Beamish, a very close second, was rounder and slightly less tangy, very mellow with a nice smooth finish.

Stay tuned for future tastings of other styles, hopefully involving Mr. and Mrs. Pax and the lovely and talented Mrs. Baron, who graciously took the picture above. Slainte!

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The beer baron: The black stuff

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like Guinness and those who don’t. The latter should just skip this post.

One reason for the love/hate split is called something like “Guinness Flavor Product” by the sages of St. James’ Gate. It’s pretty simple: they let 5 percent of every batch go completely nasty-sour, then add it back in.

In reality it’s a bit more complicated than that, but a very small proportion of soured Guinness is what imparts the beer’s famously dry, tart aspect.

Another thing Guinness brewers do (other Irish stout makers too, most likely, though I’m not 100 percent sure) is use flaked oats—otherwise known as oatmeal.

The oats contribute glycerides, the gelatinous compounds that make Guinness feel so thick. You can’t really taste them, but they impart that silky mouthfeel and “weight” that make you think it’s a heavy beer, when it’s got roughly the same density and alcohol content as regular Bud.

And then there’s the nitrogenated “carbonation.” Instead of using straight carbon dioxide, the brewers at Guinness dissolve a mix of nitrogen and CO2 into the beer that roughly approximates their concentrations in the atmosphere (roughly 75 percent to 25 percent, respectively).

So instead of the bubbles looking to equalize with the atmosphere (by losing 25 percent of their CO2, gaining the equivalent in nitrogen and collapsing in the process), the mixed gases stay inside the bubbles—and the head stays on the beer.

As an added bonus, nitrogen also makes smaller bubbles than CO2, so the head is denser. And the nitrogen surging through the beer also smoothens its flavor by stripping away any volatile organics (like hop oils and fruity esters), leaving behind the malty goodness and roasty chocolate flavors we know and love.

Next up, a blind comparison of four other Irish stouts and “the black stuff.”

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Man bites snake

With Pax winging his way to unknown shores for a work-related and well-deserved rest, it falls on the Beer Baron to maintain the high quality and stringent standards of Pax Arcana. So here’s the first of what I hope will be many posts over the weekend until Pax gets back Monday.

 

If a dog bites a man, according to the old newsroom adage, it’s not news. But if a man bites a dog, well, stop the presses!

 

That’s apparently just as true if a man bites a snake. From the Associated Press, via boston.com:

 

A Northern Ireland man bit off the head of his girlfriend’s pet snake during a fight and remarked that it “tasted lovely.”

 

 

The biter, a 33-year-old bricklayer named Shane Cooke (no word on the name of the bitee), apparently had one too many Guinness and decided to abuse his girlfriend and her pet python. He admitted in court to headbutting the poor lass twice and throwing the severed head of the snake at her. What a charmer.

 

But herpetologists everywhere, rejoice! Headless snakes had their revenge! Check out this headine from the the Seattle Times:

 

Decapitated snake bites Prosser man

 

Apparently, 53-year-old Danny Anderson and his son trapped a 5-foot rattlesnake on their Central Washington farm and chopped its head off with a shovel. From the Times:

 

“When I reached down to pick up the head, it raised around and did a backflip almost, and bit my finger,” Anderson said. “I had to shake my hand real hard to get it to let loose.”

 

The kicker is that Anderson, after being bitten by a large, venomous and clearly irate snake’s head, had to be talked into seeking medical attention:

 

His wife insisted they go to the hospital, and when they arrived 10 minutes later, Anderson’s tongue was swollen and the venom was spreading. He then was taken by ambulance 30 miles to a Richland hospital to get the full series of six shots he needed.

 

Call me a coward, but if I get so much as an annoyed look from a rattlesnake, I’m damn sure getting those six shots. You can’t be too careful these days.

 

– Perry

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Pax PerryEllica

planes_trains_and_automobiles.jpgPax Arcana and the courteous and provocative Mrs. Pax Arcana will be missing in action from Friday afternoon until Monday night, on a trip to, well, somewhere. If I stumble across a computer this weekend, I’ll post an update about where we are (seriously, we don’t know, it’s a total mystery to the 1,000 or so of us who are going).

In the meantime, you’ll be in the capable hands of the rakish and debonair Perry Ellis. Be nice to him or he’ll drown you in beer.

Don’t forget to check out Lucy, Perk, PhD, Katz, and Karl for all your bloggity blog needs between bites of pork roll.

– Pax Arcana

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Kristin Hersh, meet Michael Pollan

So I got an email from Kristin Hersh. She wants to go all, like, local and stuff:

“I often feel there is an inverse relationship between quality of output and material success in the music business. This is distressing, but not out of line with what I’ve come to expect. Throwing Muses would wander the halls of Warner Brothers back in the day, muttering, ‘You don’t have to suck in order to work here, but it helps.'”

Then she’s all, like, “the financial climate and current upheaval in the music business mean that musicians like me are genuinely poor investments for the traditional powers that be.” Then she totally goes off on toothpaste and inner life and natural selection–I mean, weird, right?

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Jock shockers shock boondocks

Three members of the Carroll High School (Carroll, Iowa) football team could be suspended for displaying “obscene hand gestures” during a team photo for the local paper:

The photo, taken by the Carroll Daily Times Herald, appeared Monday in the newspaper’s fall sports preview section. The newspaper “blurred” four players in the photo, three of whom were making similar hand gestures and a fourth whom the newspaper judged not to be acting in a “respectable manner.” The fourth player was not suspended from playing.

footballteam.jpg

Oooooooooooooooooh! I wonder what the gesture was!!!!!!!!!

Was it the middle finger?
Was it the one-handed “blah-blah” sign?
Was it the Clinton Thumb?

As you probably guessed from the headline, it was none of the above. The offending gesture was, of course, The Shocker.

More after the jump.

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