Whether by design or by happenstance, Dogfish Head has been helping me out greatly as of late with a couple of beer releases that apparently have been made specifically to accompany certain everyday activities.
It started with Beer to Listen to Music To, a nice little Belgian Triple that as the name would seem to indicate should pair well with my music listening habits.
But recently DFH took a big leap in the enabling of a more questionable habit by offering up their latest libation in the manner of their stout styled Beer For Breakfast.
Now I don’t have any reprobation about sipping suds at sunrise, after all, I’ve participated in some recreational activities that almost demand you drink a beer regardless of what time it is. You all night BBQers and homebrewers know what I mean, right? That’s right. Get it up there!
But unfortunately there was once a time when my forenoon festivities were not the occasional hobby related indulgence, no sadly I’m talking some “8:30am is the new happy hour” level stuff here. Not to say that my experience is unusual. I’m sure many of you out their have similar stories.
Quickly put, I spent a lot of my early work years in north New Jersey working straight shifts that ran from 11pm to 8am, which meant that many of my (and my fellow employee’s) “Friday nights” often started at 8:20 in the morning at the nearest bar that would cash our paycheck and more often than not, ended when the 11am lunch crowd started to file in with a look of both loathing and disgust on their faces as they realized we’d already been drinking there all morning.
Nothing harshes your Long Island Ice Tea induced breakfast buzz like people who have been working all morning taking seats at the bar while loudly nattering about how Steve once again conveniently forgot that it was his turn to bring in the Friday doughnuts.
Nothing harshes your Long Island Ice Tea induced breakfast buzz like people who have been working all morning taking seats at the bar while loudly nattering about how Steve once again conveniently forgot that it was his turn to bring in the Friday doughnuts. So my morning would usually end with me yelling, “You’re an assistant manager, Steve! Spring for some freaking Krispy Kremes once in awhile you cheap bastard!” as the bar’s manager roughly tried to pry my hands off the door jam as I resisted being tossed out into the sunlight like a vampire in a John Carpenter horror movie.
But I’m older, wiser (don’t laugh) and my job is now a normal 9-5 gig that contains none of the benefits and almost all of the occupational and social stigma from starting to pop tops when you roll out of bed to the annoying buzz of a 7am alarm clock.
But now here comes DFH with Beer For Breakfast, a stout whose ingredients are so Mrs Butterworth meets Juan Valdez it’s as if the brewer is handing me a plate at the beginning of a Golden Corral breakfast buffet line while reassuring me that nothing bad has ever come from drinking 7.4%ABV beers first thing in the morning. I have experience that says otherwise.
This is a coffee stout. Through and through. From the aroma, to the flavor, to the intense blackness in the glass as if like you’re looking into Darth Vadar’s soul.
THEM: From the website, “A stout tricked out with all sorts of breakfast ingredients including Guatemalan Antigua cold press coffee, Maple syrup harvested from Western Massachusetts and for the quintessential Delaware breakfast touch – Rapa Scrapple and their secret blend of spices.
2-row Applewood smoked barley, Kiln Coffee malt, Flaked oats, Roasted barley, Caramel malt along with additions of Molasses, Milk Sugars (lactose), Brown Sugar, Roasted Chicory lay the foundation for this malty, breakfast-themed concoction. Enjoy huge notes of coffee in the nose and savory layers in the flavor.”
Beer for Breakfast clocks in at 7.4%ABV and 30IBU.
THE BUZZ: Beer Advocate 89%, Untappd 3.88, Rate Beer 97%
AVAILABILITY: Readily available in DE.
ME: Before we address the 800 pound post-processed porcine product in the room let’s get to the heart of this beer and the reason I underlined “coffee” and “chicory” in the above description.
This is a coffee stout. Through and through. From the aroma, to the flavor, to the intense blackness in the glass as if like you’re looking into Darth Vadar’s soul. The sugars play nicely together, with hints of maple syrup and brown sugar popping out in the aroma and flavor every now while supplying a velvety mouth feel and sweetness for all that roast flavor to play out on, but Beer For Breakfast never strays to far from its roots, from the the first sniff to the sticky iced coffee after taste.
But let’s prattle the pork….the scrapple! I’ve read a few reviews/comments that say they don’t taste any of the scrapple in the beer. On the one hand, that’s a relief because on the package a Rapa scrapple I opened the other day (by the way, all the women of the Kerper clan from my mom to my great-grandmother salute DFH’s use of Rapa – that’s the stuff right there) listed pork snouts as the third ingredient. Not sure I want to taste that in my beer.
But on the other hand it’s not just the meat that makes scrapple, it’s the blend of spices as well and after about half a glass I could almost convince myself that I was getting some woodsy spices out of the nose, plus a slight warmth like a pepper in the after taste.
If you’re a beer hunter and a DFH fan, you’ve probably already tried this. If you are and you haven’t – there’s nothing here to make me discourage you from giving it a shot, just as long as you remember that the key word here is coffee. As for the casual fan or everyday drinking? Well, at a $15 a six price point I don’t think I’ll be buying too much of it. Your dollars may vary. Having said that, I applaud DFH for at least not dropping it down to a 4-pack. Because in 2017 just like 2016, 4-packs are devil witchery.
Two years ago I posted a recipe I found online for the traditional English Christmas pudding that takes center stage at the Cratchet family holiday dinner in the classic tale “A Christmas Carol”.
I’ve now made it several times (my Daughter says it’s her favorite part of Christmas – I’m thinking she means the non-gift part) and as I tend to do with most recipes, I’ve altered it over that course in both ingredients and procedure.
Some changes are simply due to ingredient available and my tastes, while others are simply due to modern conveniences and my laziness.
Also, having pulled that post up to follow the recipe, I realized I didn’t do a very good job in organizing it in a manner that lays it out well for someone who wants to read it off the computer – like me, because printers hate me. Really.
So, with that said, here is my updated recipe for my traditional English Christmas pudding. I know what you’re thinking, “Ah Dog, Christmas is like 363 days away. You trippin’?” No, I’m not tripping!! I want to post this now while it’s fresh in my mind and besides, stop being a slave to your Wacky Weeds Farm calendar (Yeah dude, I see it right there over your shoulder). This pudding is delicious any time of the year.
The recipe and procedure are pretty easy. If you’re even a moderate kitchen troll you should be able to pull this off. I’ve broken the recipe down into sections with the ingredients listed twice, once in an organized shopping list, and then in the actual procedure as they come into play.
The pudding can be done in one day or over several days. I recommend letting the fruit soak overnight, but in a pinch several hours will do. The pudding can be assembled and cooked the next day, or if desired assembled and kept in the fridge for a few days to be cooked later – but don’t forget that it contains raw eggs, so use your judgement.
Traditionally the mixed spice is an English mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. You can substitute pumpkin spice if you wish, or just make your own with whatever strikes your fancy (I love a touch of ginger).
On the day you wish to cook, scroll down to the SAUNA section to see how to set up your bain-maries (fancy French word alert!). In order to get the water level correct you should do this before you start to cook your puddings.
The Shopping List, In My Acme Layout Order (L to R) (Patent Pending):
1 orange (juice and zest)
3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped)
4 slices crustless white bread (crumbed or chopped fine)
1tbsp mixed spice
6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch)
2.6oz (75g) self-rising flour (you can find self-rising flour in any supermarket)
3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)
6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)
The Fun Shopping List:
3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best)
3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier, or Drillaud.
two pudding basins (use what you can find that will work. Circular is best, but mine aren’t)
two large pans with lids (to make bain-maries)
AND NOW LETS DO THIS:
The Night Before, The Soak:
3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped) 5.3oz (150g) chopped dried dates 5.3oz (150g) chopped dried prunes 5.3oz (150g) raisins 5.3oz (150g) chopped dried apricots 5.3oz (150g) chopped cranberries Juice from one orange 3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best) 3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier
First, drink two of the cans of Guinness to insure freshness. If the Grand Marnier has been sitting around for a while or looks suspicious, then taste test some of that as well.
Don’t bother with that “chopped” nonsense if you’re able. Simply stick all the fruit and the carrots in your food processor and pulse until it’s well chopped and mixed. I though the dried fruit might be a little too rubbery to chop in the processor, but my processor had no problem.
Empty the chopped fruit into a bowl and add the OJ, Guinness and Grand Marnier and stir until very well to combine. Let the mixture sit for at least one hour. Longer is better. Overnight is killer.
The Next Day, The Prep: This All Happens in a Single Large Bowl
The zest of 1 orange 6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch) 6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)
In a large bowl, combine the orange zest, sugar, and butter. Mix well to combine.
3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)
Either beat three eggs with the technique of your choice and add them to the bowl, or just add three eggs to the bowl and beat the whole mixture until it’s smooth like Barry White.
Sift the flour and mixed spice into the bowl. If you don’t have a flour sifter, then mix them together the best you can with whatever you have available. Add the bread crumbs and nuts (again, forgo the hand chopping and use a food processor if you have one). Stir until they behave.
Add the fruit from the night before into the bowl and mix together.
Split the mixture into two well greased pudding basins. Cover with foil and use the string to tie them securely. This year I didn’t have string, so I used cable ties…don’t judge…
Set up the bain-maries by putting each of your pudding basins into each of the large pans (or if you have a pan big enough, both into one). Fill the pans with water until the level of the water reaches about 3/4 of the way up the basin. Remove the basins.
Bring the water in the bain-maries to a strong simmer. The water should put off a lot of steam, but it shouldn’t be a rolling boil. Once the water is to temperature, lower one of the filled pudding basins into each bain-maries and cover.
Let the puddings steam for 6 hours, checking the water level in the bain-maries often, and adding more water if needed to keep the level constant – I’ve never had to.
Once done, carefully remove the basins. The puddings can be immediately turned out and served, or left to cool in the basins and refrigerated for later.
To serve, turn out onto a platter, pour the brandy on top of the pudding (I poke a small dent in the middle of the top of pudding to create a well) and light (My lawyers instruct me that I must tell you to be careful with this step. We are not responsible for tabletops, eyebrows or long-haired pets). Owww and Ahhh until the flame goes out. Slice and serve. If serving hot I suggest serving with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a snifter of something good, like scotch or hey, brandy.
Over the last couple months as I have traveled my normal routes in life it has become apparent to me that while I frequent quite a few different liquor stores, no one store fits all my needs. It’s not that these stores are bad in anyway, it’s just that each one seems to be missing that one or two items that another store has that makes me stand in front of the cooler or counter and go, “awwww, you don’t have….”.
So, with that in mind I’ve been musing about what items or attributes a liquor store would have to have to be my all-time one-stop favorite liquor store.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Ed, you work 5-minutes from State Line! Surely no liquor store could ever top that!”
Well, yes and no. I mean, it is the store that I grab a shopping cart even if I’m just there to ‘pick up a few things’, spend the most time in (it’s easy to lose track of time in that place), and spend the most money. But even with its vast mind numbing selection, State Line is still missing a few things (unimportant to the rest of the beer buying world but hey, this is my list) that keeps it from being my absolute perfect liquor store.
No, see this isn’t some beer geek pipe dream along the lines of, “my favorite liquor store would sell growlers and Pliney the Younger, Hill Farmstead, Heady Topper, Wicked Weed and Westie 12 would always be on tap, and the coolers would be filled with Trillium –Trillium as far as the eye can see!”
No these are things that liquor stores in my area do actually carry but no one store has all of them but I wish one liquor store in my feeding pattern did. So, do you want to be my favorite liquor store? Here’s what you need:
LOCAL BEERS – A killer selection of local beer is a must, Mispillion, 2SP, Blue Earl on the shelves, Bellefonte, Dew Point, Big Oyster on the growler station, and 3rd Wave on either. No room because of those two rows of Dogfish Head? Well, I guess that’s just the way it is. No room because of that row and a half of 16 Mile? Yeah, we’ll talk.
ARROGANT BASTARD – And I’m not talking about your counter guy who when I asked, “Hey, do you have Mispillion’s Holy Crap?”, responded with, “WHY? Who said that we did?” I’m talking about the beer. You know, my favorite beer? The one which comes in 6-packs of 16oz cans at a price point of about $2 a can? Please? OK, I’ll take the bombers if that’s all you can get. I’m easy. But seriously, you need this beer.
STEEL RESERVE 211 (Black can, seriously, not the silver one) – Sometimes all a dog wants is a beer to sip on while he’s making dinner, and not something that overpowers the already complex process of slapping together Hamburger Helper. This beer fits the bill – crisp, tolerable in flavor, and just the right ABV kick to dust off any acquired crappiness from the work day. Besides, I think occasionally going into a liquor store and buying one or two beers with nothing more than the change I could scrape out of my truck’s cup holder is great practice in case my company decides next year to pack everything up and move west without me. Any breweries out there in need of Media/Communications Manager whose only education/experience is writing a crappy blog and posting fuzzy pictures on Instagram? No? OK, just curious.
ANDRE BRUT CHAMPAGNE – Sunday mornings were made for champagne. I can’t state it any more truthfully than that, and Andre Brut is my go to. But listen, I know you’ll be tempted to, but don’t try to win any points here by up grading to a more expensive bottle. Andre is cheap and serviceable, which unless you’re having company or celebrating something, is all a peaceful Sunday morning requires. Just make sure it’s Brut, because daddy likes his champagne dry. Oh, and feel free to get rid of those 2 cases of Cold Duck if you need to make room because we both know that no one under 65 drinks that stuff.
PEANUTS – Sometimes I like to nibble on something on the drive home, and those little packs of Planter’s peanuts are the best thing going. Smooth, salty and tasty. Should there be a joke here? If feel like there should be a joke here.
This is also a major convenience for those rare occasions when a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum mysteriously falls into one of my bags. I’m not sure how this happens to me. Let me know if it’s ever happened to you.
1 LITER DIET COKES – Sometimes I like to nibble on something on the drive home, and those little packs of Planter’s peanuts are the best thing going. Smooth, salty and tasty. But with or without a joke, the salt will eventually hit and I’ll need something to drink. Since Delaware frowns on me popping open one of my Steel Reserve 211’s on the ride home, a shot of Coke always does the trick. Diet, please. Caffeine free if you can. This is also a major convenience for those rare occasions when a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum mysteriously falls into one of my bags. I’m not sure how this happens to me. Let me know if it’s ever happened to you.
DOG TREATS – A lot of people say that dogs are dumb, but I refuse to believe that. Instead, I simply believe that they’re just picky about the things that are important to them (they’re kind of like nerds in that regard). It’s not that his lack of intelligence or thumbs makes it impossible for him to grasp the fundamental function of a torque wrench and therefore renders him useless in helping you change the head gasket in your truck – it’s just not important to him. But figuring out that when you walk into the house with one of those little black bags from the liquor store there is sometimes a dog treat in it, that’s important to him, and he’ll pick that shit up quicker than a dropped slice of bacon. Some liquor stores sell dog biscuits at the counter, and you should too. I recommend you carry biscuits from Baxter’s American Dog Bone Company. Buddy loves them, they’re 100% organic, and family made right up the road in West Chester PA.
AMERICAN SPIRIT YELLOW PACK – This one isn’t for me, heck it’s not even REALLY a requirement. This is Tracey’s smoke of choice and on rare occasions when she asks me as I’m walking out the door to pick her up a pack, it would be nice if I could buy them at the place I’m most likely going to rather than having to make a second stop. Granted, sometimes that second stop is only the grueling 35 foot walk to the Walgreens next to the liquor store, but it feels a lot farther when you’re muling two bags of booze. Plus, sometimes the wild dogs that run in packs around our town try to steal Buddy’s treat. And let’s not mention the hordes of Girl Scouts that sometimes block the doors while demanding in a Negan-like manner that you buy their cookies. Yeah, it’s pretty apocalyptic over here.
Is that it? Well, I think anything else would pretty much be covered under the banner “liquor store”, you know, ice, wine, port, the basic stock items. I would like to ban lottery machines and sports betting from my favorite liquor store, because those people hold up the line and are evil, but that probably would make me a dick, and as you all know, Tracey says I can’t be a dick anymore.
So yeah, that’s it. Short, easy list. And if you can pull it off, then YOU can be my favorite liquor store.
Why do cats sit for hours and stare at the thresholds of one room into another? Perhaps it’s due to an old promise.
[Author’s Note – if Oliver Gray didn’t invent Beer Fiction he certainly embraced and championed it. Struck by the torrents of same-old-same-old beer reviews out there, Oliver would often offer a different perspective – he would open a beer and write a story based off of it. Sometimes the story was just a play off of the title, but a lot of times he tried to capture his experience of the beer (did he like it, hate it) within his words, and as a writer he always seemed to succeed. Check out his story from his experiences with a certain Dogfish Head beer that I was fortunate enough for him to have written for a guest post on my blog.
I’ve tried on occasion, but haven’t done anything along these lines in awhile, but this one spoke to me pretty strongly and since it is the Halloween season, I thought it seemed very appropriate.]
The man walked out of the kitchen and through the dining room. The cat, always alert, was already aware of his approach from the vibrations softly reverberating out through the wooden floor beneath him.
As the man crossed the threshold between the dining room and the hallway he spoke out loud to the cat before turning down the hall. The cat, requiring nothing from the man at the moment did what most cats do – heeded him no mind but instead remained focused on the passageway the man had just transverse.
The hallway was now quiet and dark except for a small streak of light and the sounds of running water, and the cat thought that soon he would be able to rest for the night after all the dwellers of the house retired to their beds.
But just as the cat began to close his eyes he caught sight of something. It was the faintest of movements that would have been imperceptible to most anything else, a dark shape that had begun to appear in the threshold between the dining room and the hallway where the man had just walked through.
The cat froze and stilled its breath as the mist swayed from side to side as if curiously surveying its surrounds. Its movements were both convulsive and fluid all at once as some of parts of the mist slowly drifted from its main body like dew fog creeping through the grass on a chilled morning, while others swirled and eddied much like the smoke from the man’s pipe.
The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.
Finally, as if satisfied by the situation, the mist continued to flow from the opening between the two rooms until it was fully formed in the hallway. The cat watched patiently as the mist coalesced in front of it, some areas appearing nearly transparent through its vapor, while other parts were as dark as the blackest night the cat could remember.
The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.
“Welcome traveler! Have you journeyed far this evening?” the cat greeted the mist in a language long since forgotten by all but those who had promised to keep watch.
The mist responded quickly to the cat’s introduction by pulling back several inches, its undulations now less rhythmic as they became more erratic and frenzied.
“Be calm, be calm,” the cat continued, attempting to sound as reassuring as possible. “I only wish to talk.”
The mist continued its frantic convulsions for a bit and then seemed to relax, allowing itself to expand and drift slightly towards the cat’s position.
“Ah, but I see you are young gentle traveler and no doubt weary from your trip. Therefore, I will be a generous host and bid you rest a bit. But once rested, I’m afraid that I must ask you to continue on your travels elsewhere or better still return to your own home.”
The mist floated motionless for a few seconds and then started to slowly drift down the hallway only to stop when the cat quickly sprang to its feet.
“I have shown you more graciousness than is normal for my kind or my post, young one. Surely you would not be so insulting as to return that graciousness by disrespecting my wishes?”
The mist halted its movement quickly, its undulations suddenly becoming more steadied and forceful.
“Stay? No young traveler. That I cannot let you do. You will take my offer to return home, which sadly I most now say is no longer a request.”
Just as the cat finished his sentence the mist began to swirl, violently folding in on itself, all hints of transparency gone while at the same time slowly growing in size until it was slightly larger than the cat itself.
The cat backed up one step not in fear, but to better position himself to drop into a crouch, his ears dropping back against his head which caused his eyes to pull back into slits. “That would be unwise of you little one. For although I too am little, the blood of the first cat flows through me. My claws are shape, and my spirit is bolstered by all the cats that have come before me and I have NOT forgotten my duty.”
The mist froze motionless almost as if startled by the cat’s words. After a few tense seconds the mist’s swirling began anew, but this time almost in reverse as it began to recede back into itself. Once back to its original size the mist pulsed from side to side slightly as if unsure of what to do next.
The cat turned its head slightly in puzzlement at the mist’s motions. “Duty? You ask of my duty? Do they not tell you the stories anymore where you come from? Do they let their young ones travel in ignorance?”
And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.
The mist just hung there, slightly hovering inches off the floor as if it did not have an answer for the cat.
“Ah, such as it is here I’m afraid,” the cat raised its long body back up in a stretch before sitting itself down on the floor. “Then I guess it is up to me, young one.”
And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.
That is until one day another animal, who would later be called man, rose up from the rest with their ability to fashion tools and harness fire. While many of the animals thought that one day they would rule supreme, it was man, who proved the most resourceful and before long began to hold dominion over the world.
But as man grew more powerful and spread throughout the lands they encounted great dangers. Not just the normal dangers brought from everyday living, but other dangers, dangers that traveled in the dark, both unseen and unstoppable.
Where these dangers came from man did not and still does not know, however as oblivious as they were to these danger’s origins, over time they become keenly aware of their existence and the taxing toll they brought.
One day, as the story goes, a priest was visited in a dream by Bastet the Goddess of protection whose worshipers said would often appear to men in a variety of cat like forms, and offered the priest a deal. If mankind would place cats above all other animals, second only to man, the Goddess promised that her and her kind would protect man from many of the dangers that plagued them, include the ones beyond their human perceptions.
The priest waited not until morning, but went directly unto Pharaoh that night and relayed the Goddess’ message. And the Pharaoh, having spent much of his reign watching his people fall to numerous aliments and diseases both known and unknown, accepted the Goddess’ offer and began to elevate cats in his kingdom to a status formally reserved only for the Gods.
“And that was the beginning,” the cat continued a sly smile coming across its up till now serious face. “Soon the number of cats grew in the kingdom. Cats were welcomed in all houses, be it the lowest of workers to the mightiest of Pharaohs. Great images were erected in our honor. We became known as the guardians of the thresholds as our figures adorned the doorways of the most common of buildings and statues in our like guarded the grandest of temple entrances.
“From alabaster to bronze to gold, no material was too valuable or too precious not to be used to fashion into our likeness. To kill one of us, even by accident was to bring death upon a person. We protected man from the dangers they feared, both those they could see and those that they could not, and we prospered.”
The mist, having moved not a wisp as the cat recounted its story, slowly began to pulse ever so slightly.
“No,” the cat said sadly as it bowed its head. “Just as it seems your kind has forgotten to pass on the stories to you, so has it been with man. Although they still adorn our likeness on many of the things they make, the reverence of why they should be doing so has been lost. Our pact has been forgotten by them, our story faded over time.”
“Even by the time of the great death our status among mankind had dwindled. Oh, there were many that still treated us kindly, but others treated us as callously as they treated the vermin that was spreading the sickness within their cities. We were cast out to the streets to fend for ourselves. Children threw rocks at us for sport. Our lives and the lives of our kittens had become insignificant, almost disposable to the race who had once worshiped us. But still we continued to honor Bastet’s promise, to guard the houses of man from the pestilence that would attempt to enter their houses at night.”
And with that, the mist fluctuated violently as if suddenly agitated by the cat’s words, only to finally stop when the cat stood up. “Why? Because Bastet made the pact with the humans. She forged the agreement with her words and bound it with the spirits of all the cats who had come before or have yet to come, and therefore only her words can break it and despite all that has happened, all that we have been reduced to, she has yet to do so. Regardless of what we have become, you will find no cat that will break her promise.”
“So with that said, I have been more than patient with you, young traveler. I have let you stay here longer than I should or than any other of my kind would, so I say for the final time, you will return from where you came.”
The mist did nothing. Not a wisp-like tendril nor a fluctuation from within its dark shape until slowly, quite deliberately it began to recede back to the opening between the two rooms. As the mist began to cross the threshold from whence it first appeared, it began to fade from the cat’s keen eyesight until only a small amount was left.
“Do me a favor young one in return for the courtesy I have shown you tonight. Tell your kind my story. Remind them of the pact my kind has made. Impress upon them that for reasons, that sadly may not even be of their own doing, they are not welcome here. And assure them young traveler, that although mankind may have forgotten our charge, we cats have not.”
The cat straightened up with a sense of pride, “We still guard the thresholds.” With the cat’s final words, the mist totally disappeared into the darkness, back to a place the cat knew not where.
Quite content with itself the cat took a few minutes to do a quick grooming before once again settling down on the hardwood floor. By now the sound of the running water had stopped and the hallway had gone quiet.
Finally, the man came out of the small room and walked into the room where he slept, pausing only momentarily to glance back down the hall and speak out loud in the cat’s direction. The cat turned its head in the man’s direction, not because of the words the man spoke, but to watch as the man walked through the doorway into his bedroom.
And the cat watched, remembering Bastet’s promise. But this time the threshold remained still, so the cat lowered its head and closed its eyes. The dwellers of the house would sleep through the night, so he too could rest for a while.
And just as the cat began to dose off and the last traces of reality slipped from his mind to be replaced by the siren like song of Morpheus, a voice sounded in the distance. It was weak, as if it had traveled untold distances to finally reach him. A voice that he didn’t recognize, but seemed as familiar to him as if it were his own.
“You have kept my promise well, my child. You have earned your rest.”
I thought I’d do some not-exactly-beer-related posts in observance of the Halloween season just to have some outside of the norm fun.
While traveling, when Tracey and I are not seeking out the local beers and the various establishments that sell them, we’re searching for the local historic, and supposedly haunted places, to rest our weary heads for, hopefully, a not so restful night’s sleep.
My fascination with the paranormal is quite simply an extension of other aspects of my personality – my love for horror movies, occult, Halloween, and generally anything from TV shows like the Adams Family to things that might really be going bump in the night.
Do ghosts exist? I don’t know and I suppose to a large degree that’s what fascinates me about the topic. Certainly there’s a lot of supposed ‘evidence’ out there but I won’t deny that much of it is suspect at best, fraudulent at worst.
But every now and then you come across something that seriously defies scientific or rational explanation, and it’s those times that really catch my curiosity.
Pseudo-science you say? Perhaps. But I spend all my working time in the real scientific would, and sometimes it’s just fun to let all of that hard, locked into the laws of Newton, Archimedes, Fermi, Kepler, Schrodinger, Hubble, and Cooper/Hofstadter stuff fade into the background for a bit and imagine ‘what if?’.
I suppose it can all be summed up by one of my favorite quotes by Thomas Hardy, “Though a good deal is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.”
So with that in mind, I present some recordings I captured a few years ago during an EVP recording session while Tracey and I were spending a long weekend in Salem, Massachusetts (a more beer-centric view can be found here).
Along with graveyard tours, historical presentations and museum exhibitions, we got the chance to investigate with Paranormal Salem in the old Historical Firehouse that’s well known for its paranormal activity.
For those new to the game, EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon the premise of which is that under the right conditions and with the proper equipment voices of spirits can be captured as recordings
What those ‘right conditions’ and ‘proper equipment’ are varies from investigator to investigator, but many believe that all you need is a recorder and a haunted spot.
The audio samples below were captured on my handheld digital record during the EVP session which was held in the basement of the old firehouse. The session consisted of various people led by a representative from Paranormal Salem. All errant sounds were tagged – in other words a statement about the sound was spoken out load so as to not contaminate the recordings.
The sound file from my recorder was dropped into Audacity and split into the smaller samples that you hear below. The sound file was not altered or enhanced in anyway and all sounds and voices are exactly as taken off the recorder. Some fidelity was lost converting them to their current format, but other than that they are totally as recorded at the firehouse.
For each file a question mark will pop up at the point of the interesting sound or voice. I’ve hidden what I think it is saying (if I have a guess) between the two sets of ** so that you can have a chance to guess for yourself before seeing what we think it is. Just select the space between them to see what we think it says.
As with all these types of recordings, you might get better results if you’re listening through headphones.
We’ll start with the least interesting and work up.
The first one isn’t much, just an odd sound you can hear after the girl gets done asking her question:
After Tracey asks if the ghost known as the Boy in the Corner likes to play jokes, she appears to get an answer: What we think it says : **YES**
Another woman in the group asks for one of the ghosts to announce its favorite color. While I think I know what it seems to be saying, I find the choice rather interesting: What we think it says **White**
According to stories, the Boy in the Corner is often heard crying, when asked why that is, the answer seemed pretty clear: What we think it says **Daddy**
I have to admit, the first time I heard that last one I got chills.
Looking at it from an investigation standpoint, I’d say this was a pretty good collection of EVPs with that last one being very good. Unfortunately, nothing showed up in an photos we took.
We had a great time investigating with Paranormal Salem, not only at the Firehouse, but Tracey got to have a very good divining rod session out in the old graveyard and witches’ memorial. If you’re ever up in Salem and are interested in the paranormal you can investigate with them as well. You can find information on their group and investigative tours here.
In a few weeks we’ll be back in Gettysburg staying at the infamous Sarah Black room at the Farnsworth Inn. Hopefully we can scare up something there. If we do, maybe I share it the next time Halloween comes around.
As I’ve stated before, interesting packaging on beer and wine shelves will always grab my attention and by extension, an interesting or playful name will also entice me to pick up a bottle to learn more about the contents. Especially if the name reflects either a pop culture reference or a witty play on words.
Today I want to talk about Magic Hat’s Wilhelm Scream, their yearly pumpkin beer that appears as part of their Night of the Living Dead (itself a timely pop culture reference) sampler 12-pack.
Many people may not know of the over 60-year history that marks the Wilhelm scream as one of the most iconic and storied screams in movie history…
…or how it found its way through well over 250 movies, TV shows, cartoons, and even commercials to end up on the label of said Magic Hat beer. To understand that journey, let’s set the Way-Back Machine to 1951.
New York, USA, 1951 to be precise. Warner Brothers studio is set to release its latest film entitled “Distant Drums”, what a film student would describe as a ‘Florida Western’ that over all probably wouldn’t have been very remarkable (except for starring screen legend Cary Grant) if it had not been for a certain alligator.
Taking place in the Everglades the film makers simply couldn’t resist a good old fashioned alligator attach (who could!) and quicker than you can sing, “Wally Gator is a swinging alligator in the swamp.” some poor soldier is being death rolled in the marshy water. The scream of the soldier as he’s being pulled to his untimely end was recorded later as part of a series of screams that were used throughout the film.
Warner Brothers at the time had an extensive sound library and once the cut of the scream was archived inside it the effect began popping up in all manner of movies. How often? Well, often enough that USC cinematic student Ben Burtt started to get the funny feeling as he watched certain movies that he’d heard a particular scream before.
And he was correct. By the time Burtt and his friends realized that the scream had become a somewhat go-to sound effect it had already been used in a number of films including “The Charge at Feather River”, “Them!”, “PT-109”, “The Green Berets”, as well as many TV shows produced by Warner Brothers in the 50s and 60s.
Burtt had discovered a sound effect that might have simply remained nothing more than an audio curiosity except that Ben Burtt went on to become a legend in modern movie sound design whose career ignited when a friend by the name of George Lucas asked him if he’d be interested in doing the sound for a film he was working on. Yep. THAT film.
As fate would have it, during filming Burtt actually stumbled upon the original recording labeled “Man being eaten by alligator” in the archive, and referred to it as “The Wilhelm Scream” after the character in “The Charge at Feather River” who seemingly lets out the scream after being shot with an arrow, and proceeded to use it like an audio version of a watermark.
Burtt dropped the scream into a “Star Wars: A New Hope” scene where Luke shoots a Stormtrooper who then falls off a ledge, and he never looked back, including it in not only the subsequent movies in the Star Wars franchise but also the Indiana Jones movies. But in 2005 when he joined Pixar to work on their upcoming film “Wall-E”, Burtt announced that he wouldn’t be using the Wilhelm Scream anymore.
But by then more studios had access to the sound bite and its use in movies and TV just exploded. Soon everyone from Indy film makers to top tier directors like Joe Dante, Peter Jackson, and Quinten Tarantino were placing the scream into their films in an effort to keep the gag running.
The Wilhelm Scream has become an audio meme, one-to-two seconds of sound that continues to get proliferated by many in the film industry who hear the story. So well know is the scream among film geeks that many of them (including a couple of my Facebook friends) swear they can recognize it every time in any movie its in. Give a listen and see if you’ve ever heard it before:
Is Magic Hat’s beer up to all that fabulous nerdy history? Let’s taste.
THEM: Wilhelm Scream is built on a bill of Pale, Victory, Caramel 80L, and Caramel 120L which is then balanced with Apollo and Nugget hops. An English ale yeast is used to ferment the beer to 5.4%ABV. The beer clocks in at 20IBUs and 22SRM.
From the website, “Wilhelm Scream is ripe with fall flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and caramel malts. Medium-bodied and the color of orange setting suns, it finishes similar to the way we finish summer: with just a hint of bitterness.”
DELAWARE AVAILABLE: Most liquor stores that carry a good variety of beers. Only available in the variety 12-pack.
ME: The base beer almost strikes me as a brown ale, but it’s a little lighter, almost copper color when you hold it up to the light. The spice hits your nose as you pour it into the glass, the quick but energetic head pulling the fragrances out of the liquid and easily dispersing them into the air.
The initial taste almost has a tea like quality with maybe a touch of grains and then the spice comes in. You know them – cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe a few others. While there is indeed nothing amazing here, that’s kind of what Magic Hat beers are and listen, I don’t mean that in a negative way.
Look, I’m aware that some people give Magic Hat a bit of shit because of various reasons, but I’ve always found them to make pretty serviceable beers and this one is no exception. I mean are you going to want to mule 8 cases of it from Vermont on a midnight beer run – no.
But it’s a well constructed, balanced pumpkin beer that doesn’t kill you with the spices and since it’s part of a variety 12-pack, you don’t have to drink 6 of them if it turns out that Wilhelm Scream is not your cup of pumpkin and between you and me, Vamplifier is pretty tasty as well.
[UPDATE: The list was updated on 10/4 as beers continue to pour out of the TTB. Not only are keg labels being approved for Amber Sun, but now labels for Blues Golden Ale mixed with various flavors are also being approved. The Updated list is below.]
The TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) is the government agency that over sees much of what goes on in the world of beer, wine, mead and cider. Among their duties is (where required) the approval of labeling that appears on these products.
The TTB releases approved labels on their website’s database. This is how sites like mine and My Beer Buzz get the label information we do before the beer hits the shelves or cooler.
For me, it’s pretty simple. Delaware is a quite state compared to some and a routine check now and then usually only unveils a label or two, most of which are keg labels that I don’t normally share because there’s normally nothing interesting on the label beyond the name of the beer.
So I was shocked this morning when I checked the database and found that the tally of new labels approved for Delaware within the last month now stood at 54, when a check a couple of days ago showed it solidly in the low 20s. What happened?
Well, 16 Mile happened. And they happened big time.
Apparently the brewery will be dosing their Amber Sun ale with – well almost everything under the sun. All the beers at this point appear to be keg only as shown by the example label below and as the list of approved labels appeared in almost perfect alphabetical order (not how the TTB presents them in the database) and ends with the letter C, I’m left wondering if there’s more to come.
What’s this all about? No idea, but color me intrigued.
Below is the list of all the 16 Mile beers that the TTB approved keg labels for. As I stated above each one is described as “Amber Sun ale with…”