Readers and personal acquaintances know that I’ve generally been supportive of the craft beer movement that has exploded over the years. After all, craft breweries provide an ideal destination after a long bike ride.
One of the more puzzling aspects of this movement is the obsession with cans. Many craft breweries have been canning beer for a while now, and while I certainly appreciate that this allows breweries to offer their beers beyond their own taprooms and a few nearby bars, there’s a bothersome subculture that has emerged to buy cases-upon-cases of these cans to trade them with other beer aficionados. This was on display yesterday at LIC Beer Project, in Long Island City.
The brewery released cans of their Pile of Crowns IPA on a rainy Saturday, beginning at noon, and by one account, they sold out within a half hour.
Although I wasn’t set on buying cans, I was disappointed to find out they were out of Pile of Crowns IPA. Except they weren’t out of this beer at all! They were serving it on tap, for on-premises consumption and for take-home growler fills. You bet that I got a pint.
The taproom at LIC Beer Project has draft beers, even after they sell out of cans.
Having savored the tasty, fruity, juicy beer, I wondered about the hype behind the craft beer cans. No doubt, the can artwork is one of my favorite aspects of these cans. Because they print on a wrap-around label, rather than on the can itself, the artwork adorning the can is more akin to a poster or an album cover than the bland labels or printed cans we’ve seen forever.
I really like the artwork on these cans, as you can see in this ad for the Pile of Crowns IPA can release at LIC Beer Project.
However, these can releases and the euphoria surrounding them seem to be a way of introducing scarcity to the craft beer movement. Buying a can of craft beer is getting a precious object that you can trade like a valuable commodity. It reminds of those subcultures that buy and trade sneakers, limited-edition 180-gram vinyl records, or, going back to my youth, baseball cards. While there’s nothing precious about having someone spill some beer into your glass or growler, there’s an authenticity to that exchange. In essence, you’re buying the beer for the beer, as if you’re buying a record for the music or the baseball card because you’re a fan of the player. Being a collector is not necessarily the same as being a fanatic.
The NY Today morning newsletter, published each weekday by the New York Times, is filled with stories that of interest to readers in the local area. There are bulletins on local events, stories that connect to local history, and some profiles of area people in newsworthy situations, in addition the weather forecast and updated on local mass transit conditions. Yesterday, they published a guide on how to ease a hangover.
The advice they got from a local nutritionist and wellness manager runs counter to various commonsense remedies. When we crave food to soak up the alcohol, our bodies are really asking for carbohydrates to raise our blood sugar. When we go in search of a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich, it’s not the grease that is helping us recover but the salt that we’ve lost since taking the first drink. And, to get rid of that debilitating headache, drinking electrolytes, such as those founds in coconut water and energy drinks, should help. And as we’ve all figured out, your best friend when you’re hungover is water.
But conspicuously missing from these remedies is coffee. At no point does caffeine appear to help, other than curbing the headache you get from caffeine withdrawal, a sure sign that you’re an addict.
As you know, grinding your coffee right before you brew is critical for doing Good Coffee right. In fact, the common wisdom holds that the most expensive part of your coffee brewing setup should be your grinder.
Your coffee maker determines how fine or coarse your coffee grounds should be. Usually, directions for grinding your coffee have vague descriptions. One such description, “it should be fine as kosher salt,” frustrates me because kosher salt varies in fineness. Believe me, I’ve checked.
According to the video, I’ve been grinding my beans too fine for my Chemex (or what they call a “Large Pourover”). Usually, time is short in the morning, and I just bloom for half a minute and then slowly pour the rest of the carefully measured water. Their method says it should take about four to five minutes, while my method results in something closer to three and a half minutes. I wonder whether that is because I don’t “pour and pause” like I probably should. That’s the only way I can account for my brew time being so much shorter than theirs.
And if you need a grinder, here are five that I’ve owned or have wanted to own:
When I first saw the can, I didn’t correctly identify the producers. I didn’t think “Other Half Third Anniversary.” I thought “Threes,” as in Threes Brewing, another brewery located in nearby Gowanus, Brooklyn.
The case of mistaken identity is notable because, about a year ago, Threes Brewing was engaged in a dispute over their name with another brewery in southern New Jersey, named Three 3s. Brooklyn’s Threes even took their case to their Instagram followers, asking whether they should pursue legal action against Jersey’s Three 3s.
I chimed in and thought that the different names and wordmarks—as well as their very different sense of graphic design—were enough to distinguish one brewery from another. Also, the two don’t seem to compete in each other’s markets. Threes is primarily in Brooklyn, and Three 3s is in Hammonton, about halfway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. But my initial confusion with Other Half’s Third Anniversary commemorative can suggests, at least to me, that there’s so much beer out there that it’s almost impossible to not inadvertently release that might run afoul of someone else’s creation or intellectual property.
As the late Umberto Eco wrote, “books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.”
The purpose of a trademark is to prevent a consumer from confusing one product with another and to protect the reputation of the company that holds the legal right to that trademark. Again, I don’t see anyone reasonably confusing one brewery with another, as with Threes and Three 3s. Furthermore, I certainly don’t think that the fine folks at Threes Brewing would ask Other Half to cease and desist: it’s not a neighborly thing to do, and no one owns a trademark on the number three.
In any case, potential trademark clashes such as these are a sign that the craft beer industry is in really good shape. There’s a lot of beer being brewed right now and some day we’ll look back at this period as a golden age of craft beer. We can drink a lot of different beers, and we have no hope of ever drinking the same beer twice. This is a good problem to have.
But alas, the history of every Golden Age ends in one of two ways: with a spectacular crash or slow withering decline. Either way, Golden Ages don’t last forever, and the craft beer industry will be no exception. I can’t tell exactly why the Golden Age of Craft Beer will end, but here are some theories:
People’s taste will change and they will stop drinking beer.
There will be too many breweries, and the beer-drinking public will settle in to their choices. The others will die.
Breweries begin to merge and consolidation will take hold of yet another industry.
There will be a hops crisis like the one in 2008. Never forget!
Teetotaling Trump will sign some executive order that will ban all beer that is not the same color of his skin. At least Schofferhofer will remain on the market.
All of this is to say that we should enjoy this period before all we have to drink is something from Goose Island and Ballast Point.
I’ll let you know what I think about that can of Other Half 3rd Anniversary IPA as soon as I get to enjoy one.
Sometimes you feel like homemade pizza among all the other holiday fare.
The holidays are upon us, and in the last few years, I’ve been tasked by my family to handle a lot of the cooking. Shopping for a bunch of different recipes at a number of different grocery and specialty stores can be stressful. Preparing a list makes this manageable. I have a two solutions: a sheet of paper with rows and columns, and a recipe manager app.
Low-Tech Solution: Paper
Most shopping lists consist of a series of ingredients that you’ll use for a recipe. That works until you find that you have to go to multiple stores and you can buy at more than one store. I used to have separate sheets for each store and list the ingredients on each sheet where those ingredients are available. However, that led to a lot of flipping between pages and often missing things.
My new solution is to list the ingredients I need in a series of rows, as one usually does. My big breakthrough came when I added a column for each store I planned to visit. I would make a mark, such as an “X,” in each “cell” where that ingredient is available. It looks like this…
When I buy that ingredient, I cross it off my list. That way when I visit other stores, I skip past that ingredient.
High-Tech Solution: Paprika Recipe Manager
I’m not an expert cook, but I can follow a recipe pretty well and can make some effective on-the-fly improvisations.
One tool that has been really helpful with this particular workflow is the Paprika Recipe Manager. The app can very accurately read a recipe from a webpage and parse the ingredients and directions into its own database. When it’s time to cook, you can browse the ingredients list to prepare your ingredients and then read the step-by-step directions. My favorite feature of the latter process is that Paprika detects times. Tap on the time, and your device starts a timer. You can have multiple timers going at once.
Paprika can also help you make a grocery list.
Tap on the Grocery icon in Paprika
Deselect the items you don’t have and add the rest to your Grocery LIst
When reviewing a recipe, you can add the ingredients you don’t have to your shopping list.
tap the shopping cart icon
uncheck the items you already have
add it to your list
As you shop, mark ingredients as complete.
No matter which way you chose, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t rely on your memory. This is a stressful time of year, and you’re going to forget items if you don’t write them down, either on paper or with a digital tool like Paprika.
Not quite two years ago, I learned that Starbucks was introducing a high-end line of stores known as Starbucks Reserve. At the time, I thought it was an exercise in brand disassociation:
For years, Starbucks has become more or less the default coffee shop in most of the world and certainly in America. However, there’s been competition coming from cafes that feature baristas with fancy hats among other accoutrements. That’s right, instead of serving coffee that has been “roasted within an inch of its life,” as The Awl’s Matt Buchanan refers to it, Starbucks will serve single-origin, small batch coffees that will be prepared by hand.
Last month, I found one of these Starbucks Reserve cafes, located in the heart of NYU–New York, on the southwest corner of Mercer St and Waverly Place. Like the Green Starbucks-branded location a few blocks away on West 4th Street, the place was packed.
It also felt a lot like every other Starbucks location I can remember as it included a lot of what you see at each location: the drip pourers of their Verona Blend, the warm food offerings, and the same point-of-sale experience you’ve probably had at every other Starbucks location (Apple Pay, FTW!).
But unlike the Green Starbucks, this Starbucks Reserve location featured brewing equipment not seen at any shopping-mall location: a siphon pot, Hario pourover cone, a Chemex, and the infamous Clover cup-at-a-time machine.
Each method was available for the featured coffees, but the price varied according to the process. I inquired about a siphon pot but didn’t order it because it cost $10. The Chemex was a little bit less, and the Clover method was $5. Feeling more thrifty than picky, I opted for the $5 Clover-made cup.
The coffee came in a cup bearing the star-and-R logo and feeling heftier than other paper, coffee cups. The heftiness, I realized, was from two layers of paper, with a layer of air in between, that was designed to act as a heat shield, replacing the need for Java Jackets.
The coffee, however, tasted exactly as I remember Starbucks coffee tasting like. The roast overpowers any flavor the coffee might have had. The cup-at-a-time brewing method only made that unpleasant flavor all the more noticeable. Think of the taste less as Starbucks Reserve than Starbucks Plus. It reminds me of what Budweiser did with Budweiser Select: all the “flavor” of a Bud, just more intense.
If you drink Starbucks, you’ll feel right at home. The difference in the Reserve stores is that they use a lot innovative brewing methods made popular by indies over the last decade. But Reserve tastes like plain Starbucks, except you’re paying $5 for a Clover brew or $10 from the siphon pot.
With the crazy markup for the artisanal brewing methods, you’re better off visiting an indie.
Years ago, I quipped that the three most festive “days” of the year were as follows:
Your Last Night in Town,
The Wednesday Before Thanksgiving.
Sure, these are “drinking days,” but more importantly, these are days when you’re feeling a sense of relief from having few obligations. On Your Birthday, your friends and family regale you with gifts and sometimes pay for your meals and drinks the entire day. What’s not to like? Your Last Night in Town is always fun because you’ve presumably done all you came to do and are now packed and ready to unwind before hitting the road the next day. “Tomorrow it’s back to reality.”Finally, aside from some last-minute grocery shopping, the Wednesday Before Thanksgiving is usually met with relief after traveling home (or because you didn’t travel at all) and are ready to unwind. “Make mine a double.”
But apparently, the Kids Today have turned this moment of relief into some awful binge-drinking ritual on part with New Year’s Eve and St. Patty’s Day.
a training ground for the kind of single-A-level bozos who think it fun to cram into all the joints in town everybody already hates, turning them into college-bar pop-ups for the night. Bad music! Pitcher deals! Sexual deviance! If the pilgrims could see them now…
In all fairness, this diatribe isn’t referring to my conception of the Wednesday Before Thanksgiving. This is for college kids going home during the Thanksgiving break and hitting up the bars they were too young to visit when they lived at home. I did that once with some high school friends during my junior year of college, but I never reprised the ritual. The Britisher was kind of depressing and after three years away, I didn’t have as much in common with those friends as I did before.
But in the public imagination, the kids have ruined Thanksgiving Eve. And now, consequently, I feel like an old-timer, complaining that the kids are doing it wrong. Because they are!
Tomorrow is the first Saturday of May, meaning that some horses will be running in, like, the 945th annual Kentucky Derby. The Derby is such an all-consuming affair for the city of Louisville that the University of Louisville actually schedules its entire academic year around it. And beyond the confines of Churchill Downs, there are a bunch of traditions associated with it, including…
Derby Pie. A chocolate and walnut tart that can only be marketed by that name by a bakery in Prospect, Kentucky. A lawsuit awaits those try to do so surreptitiously.
Mint juleps. A refreshing cocktail made from bourbon whiskey (Kentucky’s most popular export), sugar, and—yes—mint.
While the recipe for Derby Pie is a closely guarded secret and Burgoo apparently derives from throw-everything-in-a-pot approach to cooking, a mint julep is elegantly simple: three ingredients, a cup, and crushed ice.
Over the years, I’ve had various concoctions called mint juleps. The worst one I had was in 2004. A bar in Brooklyn was serving them for the Derby, but the bartender was using crème de menthe to make them. Gross!
Around 2006, just a year after YouTube became a thing, a video began to circulate that showed how to make a mint julep. It became popular because of how horribly wrong the drink was being made: “a mojito with bourbon, instead of rum” was the guiding philosophy.
Ten years later, this video still screams “made in Miami!”
The mint julep is to cocktails what playing first-base is to baseball: it’s easy to do, but it’s hard to do well. I once thought about making a mint julep with unoaked rye whiskey. By far, the simplest and best executed approach to making a mint julep is Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe. Morgenthaler, who alerted the world to the “mojito with bourbon” video, described a mint julep like an “old fashioned with mint instead of bitters.”
Although I’m a little less excited about the julep cup frosting before his very eyes, I agree that this is how a mint julep should be made. No limes, no sour mix, and definitely no crème de menthe.
Morgenthaler’s “old fashioned with mint instead of bitters” is a great way to conceptualize a mint julep.
Soylent is indeed real. It is a food substitute, launched in 2014 by Rosa Labs, a Silicon Valley–type startup based in Los Angeles. It aspires to be the future of food.
It’s a Startup
After poking around the Soylent website, I was stricken by how much Soylent uses the lexicon of contemporary tech startups. The website promoting Soylent is mercifully responsive, peppered with little jQuery animations, and styled in the minimalist aesthetic that will someday soon date websites as “soooo 2013.” As you scroll down the page, you’ll find a requisite feature list, illustrated with those circle-masked images that are all the rage these days. The Soylent store is powered through Stripe, and there’s also a “sandwich” video.
Your food has a feature list, illustrated with circle-masked images.
Spend more time on the website and you’ll wonder whether Soylent is a software platform, and not an actual drink. First, Soylent is versioned. The 1.x line was a powder mix, which has undergone several iterations. There are release notes charting the evolution. Though Soylent 1.5 is still for sale, the current 2.0 version is a ready-to-consume drink. It is, after all, a major upgrade. Second, they also open-sourced Soylent for anyone interested in mixing their own Soylent. Third, there is also a beta program to test future versions of Soylent. And lastly, there are the user forums.
It’s “The Future”
Some members of the Soylent Forums appear to belong to a sect of techno-utopian futurists who are determined to save time and money by cutting out food.2 Some active discussions surround pairing Soylent with MealSquares, another food substitute. Others wonder how to deal with the lasting hunger that comes from drinking your meals. But, by far, my favorite discussions come from the polyphasic sleep crowd, who have come to regard sleep as a waste of time and are interested in maximizing net-waking hours. (Full disclosure: I am a coffee napper.) One friend asked what these people are doing with all the extra time they’ve saved by not sleeping or eating: are they researching new ways to save even more time?
I asked a machine learning company to try to find nutrition databases of readily available, deliverable foods from Amazon and to cross reference those databases against the Amazon delivered price in one urban city. The goal is to create the least cost, deliverable daily or weekly menu of food that meets a high level of nutritional requirements for individuals and families.
Although I presume he’s referring to actual food, not necessarily meal replacements, it’s not a stretch to wonder if something like Soylent could be a compatible solution.
Despite being initially hesitant, I couldn’t stop thinking about Soylent. I succumbed to my curiosity and ordered a case.
At first taste, I thought “soy milk.” That’s not a stretch given the product’s name and that its primary ingredient is soy. A friend sampled it and reported a more nuanced tasting note: it reminded her of “soy milk left over after finishing your cereal.” That dispelled my first concern, whether it would taste bad. It doesn’t.
That same intrepid friend and I split a bottle recently, before watching Frederick Wiseman’s newest film, In Jackson Heights (2015). Our initial plan was to eat dinner after the screening and drink a Soylent tide us over until then. I even naively quipped about the movie, “it’s not like it’s going to be three hours long.” I was wrong. The documentary ran 190 minutes. I can report that while I was craving food throughout the screening, I didn’t get a headache, feel low on energy, or get “hangry.” I circumvented needing to eat so I could watch a three-hour film. That half-bottle of Soylent did its job.
While Soylent is technically food, it’s hard to see this as a sustainable and nutritionally complete food substitute, even if its stated aims are to be sustainable and nutritionally complete as food. Celebrated food writer Michael Pollan sees Soylent as little more than “Silicon Valley” hype:
Soylent! Soylent is not new. We had Nutrament; you can go to the diet aisle of your supermarket and find all sorts of equally disgusting food substitutes. The genius of Soylent is that it comes out of Silicon Valley, and anything that comes out of there is assumed to be new and technologically advanced and wonderful. But it’s nothing of the type.
Although the company is actually based in a Southern California, I take his point. Soylent is poised to “disrupt” food.
Future of Food is Food
The year before last, I regularly ate dinner at the dining hall at Fordham University. Having broken up with my girlfriend at the end of the summer, I was too depressed to make myself food. Also, because the faculty dining room was being remodeled, the university discounted our meals—to five dollars—so that we would eat with the students living on-campus. While I was excited to eat a cheap, balanced meal, I was surprised to see how many students bypassed the buffet and opted for only a bowl of cereal at dinnertime. Not even pizza or hot dogs could entice them away from Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Lee Hutchinson, an early Soylent adopter, jumped into the polemics of “food vs. ‘food’” and carefully judged it as a “tool in a toolbox.” In his article, he also considered the various people who struggle with food, both those who fear making it and those who don’t much like the taste of food. Soylent offers these people a simple solution: like the undergraduate students who ate a bowl of cereal before heading to their rooms for the night, presumably to study, to game, or both. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it solves the food problem for a while.
But that’s just it: it is ephemeral. The history of food diets—like technology and mass culture—are notoriously riddled with passing fads that don’t endure. Right now, it’s the era of Paleo and gluten-free. Next, we might eat only vegan and raw food. By the end of the century, someone might open an retro, early-21st century place that serves beef and pork. I’m not foolish enough to try to predict whether Soylent will be around in five to ten years. But, like the wave of hot new tech startups and the aesthetics of web design that accompanies that wave will teach us, the future of food might not be as futuristic as some might expect.
A “nutritionally complete” food substitute that comes in a white bottle.
I do remember seeing an ad for this a while ago, but this time it made an impression, both in terms of grabbing my attention and getting my money. ↩
I really hope someone archives these discussions so that historians and anthropologists can study them in the future. ↩
Who doesn’t like a good movie or a good cup of coffee?
One of my rituals of long-distance air travel is to rent one of the 99¢ movies of the week from iTunes. Usually, there’s a mainstream, fiction film—sometimes good, often terrible—but there’s always a reliable supply of independent and documentary films.
Before my recent flight to Los Angeles for the holidays and the subsequent weeks, I rented the documentary Barista (Rock Baijnauth, 2015). The competition follows five baristas from the Los Angeles area as they make their way to the 2013 National Barista Championships in Boston.
To an esoteric coffee snob—that’s me!—I was already familiar with barista competitions that take place all over the world. In fact, I was fortunate to meet and learn a couple of things from Erin McCarthy, a World Champion who ran the coffee cuppings at the Counter Culture Coffee Lab in Chelsea some years ago and, in my estimation, singlehandedly brought respectability to the basket filter well after everyone jumped on the cone-style filter bandwagon—both the two-dimensional cones and the 3D cones found in the Chemex and Hario manual drip methods.
The competition is fierce. It’s fascinating to see how contestants are judged not only on the coffee they brew—an espresso, a latte, and a personal signature drink. Each contestant engages in a kind of performance art and is judged on presentation technique and technical skills. Much of the competition reminded me of academic or professional conferences, where each contestant is firmly associated with an institution. In the barista world, each is identified by name, coffee shop, and city, not unlike academics who are judged by their institution and its recognition well before anyone listens to their presentation.
In the documentary, five baristas were representing three cafes: Intelligentsia in Venice, the Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa, and G&B in downtown LA. The heavy representation of Los Angeles area baristas is likely due to the filmmakers working in their own backyard, which not only skews the prestige of the Southland in the coffee world, but it also creates a dilemma when only one of their profiled contestants makes it to the final, six-person round of the national Barista competition.
Despite the gravity of Good coffee permeating throughout the film, the documentary is compelling because its subjects are so relatable. Each is clearly passionate but none articulates a holier-than-thou attitude about their craft. (Perhaps, profiling LA-area baristas instead of those from San Francisco or from Seattle was done for this reason.) The film makes a humorous attempt to outline the three waves of coffee and the significance of competitions to the professional development of each barista. To most people, coffee is as pedestrian—and complimentary—as milk and sugar, and very few people can understand how one kind is distinct from another. However, because the contestants are so passionate and driven about their artistry and chemistry for brewing extraordinary coffee, it provides the necessary ingredients for a wonderful film.
A compelling profile of five Los Angeles-area, third-wave baristas competing in the national Barista championship in Boston.
Home | TripMode | Your mobile data savior.2017/03/01 MacSparky suggested this to help you save data transfer when tethering. Looks reasonable for those of us considering switching to an unlimited plan with tethering.
The Jobs Americans Do - NYTimes.com2017/02/24 An enlightening set of portrayals of nine job Americans do now. An old college chum, Eric Steuer, penned on of the portraits in the series.
Underground New York2017/02/22 "A rare behind-the-scenes view of the exploding New York “underground” in the late sixties, a turbulent time and place that was to change American culture forever. A German TV crew, led by journalist Gideon Bachmann, explores the epicenter of the sixties revolution in art, music, poetry and film and interviews the main players in the “New American Cinema,” that was born on the streets of New York. Against a backdrop of cultural upheaval in all of the arts and growing political agitation against the Vietnam War, Bachman interviews the most prominent figures in “underground film,” including Jonas Mekas, Shirley Clarke, the Kuchar Brothers and Bruce Connor, and visits the most notorious location in the New York art world of the era - Andy Warhol’s Factory - to conduct an interview with the genius of Pop Art himself."
– Scott Hammen
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