Friday Linkage 4/18/2014

I thought that it was going to be a breakthrough week. The temperature was going to warm up and the sand would be cleared from the streets. Instead, it rained all day on Sunday and almost snowed later in the week. Nice start to spring.

On to the links…

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fell 3.4 Percent In 2012, Says EPA—It’s good news, undercut by the fact that GHG will probably rise in 2013. Ugh.

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says—Basically, we are heading blindly into the worst case scenarios for climate change. Joy.

Solar Installation Industry Grows 45 Percent in 2013—Is there bad news about solar anywhere lately? Sure, a few companies are going to fall by the way side and Darrel Issa will probably try and talk about Solyndra but the industry is moving and shaking all the time.

Department Of Defense Undertakes Largest Solar Project To Date—The DoD is going crazy for solar. I have been to several military installations where south facing roofs are covered in solar panels and tracking arrays populate barren no-man’s lands between access roads. Just drive down I-25 near the Air Force Academy and you can see this in full effect. This is your tax dollars at work. In a good way.

World Wind Power Poised to Bounce Back after Slowing in 2013—Wind power worldwide can now power the equivalent of the European Union. Awesome. What is even cooler is that by 2015 Iowa will generate the equivalent of 33% of its power from the wind. We rule.

Ikea is Investing in First Wind Farm in U.S.—If every company put as much thought into sustainability as IKEA the world would be a better place. Of course, IKEA still sells furniture that is essentially disposable so it is not completely off the hook. Love that lingonberry jelly though.

The Denver Post’s ‘Energy And Environment’ Section Is Produced By The Oil And Gas Industry—I post links to the Denver Post a lot, so it is critical that people know where some of the information in that paper is coming from. Campaigns like this are just a joke.

Born-in-Boulder Wild Oats Brand to Re-launch in Walmart Stores—I am not a fan of WalMart. No matter what it does it will still be a planet and soul killing retail behemoth that should go the way of the dinosaur and Woolworth’s. However, anything that puts organic products in reach of more people is a good thing. Unless it is an organic Cheeto.

Small Seed Supply Remains Large Hurdle for Legal Hemp Farming—As more states outright legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana and by extension hemp there is going to have to be some federal action to clear up the muddied waters. Why can’t we farm hemp nationwide?

Minnesota’s Wild Turkeys: A Wildlife Success Story—It’s hard for me to believe that there was a time when wild turkeys were not all over the place. I grew up in southeastern Minnesota in the 1990s and we saw those creepy birds all the time. Heck, on my drive home in suburban Cedar Rapids there is a flock of fifteen or so wild turkeys. Still, it’s a good story.

Invasive Lionfish On The Decline In Jamaica After National Campaign To Save Reefs—I’ve never had a lionfish, but I would eat one if it was on the menu. I am glad to see that our voracious appetite for seafood has had at least one positive effect on the marine environment. Now, if we could only figure out a way to get people to crave Asian carp.

Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds—Farmers are an often overlooked ally in attempts to restore habitat. As a group farmers own a lot of land. Although it is a cliché, farmers also have a connection to the land that most non-farmers would not understand.

How to Make A Refrigerator More Efficient in Five Steps—It’s easy and with Earth Day quickly approaching it’s the least you can do. Okay, the least you can do is sign onto some silly Facebook page about Earth Day. At least making your refrigerator more efficient could actually help.

You Must Read—Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming

If you spend enough time around researchers or market analysts you will learn one adage—it’s not what a company says that is important, it’s where a company puts its money that matters. This is not just about “following the money” per se, but trying to determine where a company thinks it is wisest to invest for the most return.

9781594204012As you read McKenzie Funk’s Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming it is readily apparent that there are a lot of people all around the world who are betting on a very different climate in the near term.

Whether it’s the coming thaw in the Arctic that will allow for reliable shipping through the famed Northwest Passage or the inevitable fight that will occur over the oil and minerals long buried beneath ice choked landscapes there are companies and governments betting on that future. It is telling that they are not betting on a future where the potential warming stalls out and the landscape looks like it does today. How does that make you feel about international climate accords? Thought so.

The business of global warming is actually pretty frightening. As wildfire season begins again in the American west—if it ever really ends anymore as persistent drought is the rule of the day—insurance giants are turning to private fire companies to protect high value properties. It’s a libertarian’s wet dream in warmer world. Private fire companies pale in comparison to what the business of water in a hotter and drier world looks like. Parts of the world will also get wetter, but the amount of potable freshwater will decline so it is not really a net gain.

Funk’s book is not just about the business of global warming, but the radical restructuring of our complex civilization that may occur because of climate change. Some places will witness sea levels rise more than others because of plate tectonics, ocean sub-floor, etc. It’s not fair because the places most likely to be dramatically affected are the same places that emit very little carbon on a per capita basis. No one in Bangladesh is responsible for global warming.

Apparently there are winners in this global reordering as Greenland will likely move closer to independence based on the fact that it has rich resources which will become viable for extraction as glaciers melt into the sea. Greenland’s gain, Denmark’s loss, and the world is just screwed in general.

The one real takeaway from Windfall was that the people who are most likely to see their lives washed away are the poorest and least responsible for the changes brought about in the Anthropocene. Rich people in the developed western world will build flood barriers and desalination plants and move to higher ground, but there are billions of people who cannot. How chaotic will our future be when we have displaced hundreds of millions if not billions of people? That is really scary.

Finally, a Trip to Lion Bridge Brewing Company

1441430_457244274380802_767164573_nWith my Community Supported Ales (CSA) certificate in hand I finally made my first trip down to Lion Bridge Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village. I know, it seems crazy that someone as into beer as me would wait this long to visit a brewery in his own backyard but life has a way of intruding on so many things.

A note on the space first. In 2008 Czech Village, along with a lot more of Cedar Rapids, was decimated in an apocalyptic flood. Slowly areas have begun to rebound as infrastructure was rebuilt, etc. It is great to see a person making a commitment to an area like the good folks behind Lion Bridge Brewing. The brewery is housed in a building that once contained a business called Maria’s Tea Room. I cannot speak to that business, but I imagine it was quite different. Finished in an industrial chic the tasting room reminds me a lot of Perennial Artisan Ales setup in St. Louis. This is a very good thing.

I would have included some pictures, but I did not want to be that guy photographing everything like a blogging a-hole. It did not seem to fit into the ethos of the evening.

The first pour was a pint of Workman’s Compensation. At 4.7% ABV this beer is aiming to be a session beer, in terms of alcohol, but its body is significantly more malt forward than most session beers. It lingers on your palate more like a brown ale than would be expected.

Calling a beer a session beer is getting to mean as little as the term pale ale in the American brewing spectrum. One consistent theme is a lower alcohol content, which is a good thing, because it seems like every time I turn around someone is releasing another beer that is riding north of 9% ABV. Try drinking a few of those after work and doing anything other than craving fried mozzarella sticks for the rest of the evening. Nonetheless, the beer was a success:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

As a member of the CSA, I was entitled to my first growler fill gratis and I chose Workman’s Comp.  Drinking it over the course of the last couple of days I cannot help but draw some comparisons to beers that use coffee extracts or dark roasted chocolate malts. It has that coffee bitterness, in a good way, that is somewhat unexpected. Try it for yourself and see if you notice the undercurrents.

Next was a pint of Mad Maximillion.

Mad Max was described as being aggressively hopped with Australian Topaz, a variety heretofore I had not been exposed, but I doubt that most American “hop heads” would consider this to be a bomb of resin and such. It’s a smoother bitterness without the lingering hop resins that can build sip after sip until you are left with a mouth full of hop aroma that makes it seem like you are breathing out of a bong.

I did not get a chance to try it, but Mad Maximillion was available on a nitro draft system. Overall, a solid beer:

Two Mug Purchase

Belgian Golden Wheat was really surprising. I expected this to be the lightest of the three beers in terms of both alcohol and body. It was the highest alcohol (6% ABV) and the body was light, but not to the point like a lot of wheat beers where it is vapid. Saaz hops, I do not know if these are from the Czech lineage, are always a welcome addition because the variety has a really clean profile with a lot of peppery notes. Combine Saaz with a rye malt base and you have a really complex peppery beer. Just an idea.

I came in wanting to savage this beer, but left liking it as much if not more than Workman’s Compensation:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

Overall, the beers being poured at Lion Bridge Brewing are a nice departure from the hop forward pale ales that seem to dominate American craft brewing.   You won’t find piles and piles of Cascade, Willamette, Amarillo, or Citra hops. It’s a nice change of pace to drink beers with different profiles.

Here is to hoping that a patio is in the plans because warm summer nights call out for enjoying a beer al fresco.

Friday Linkage 4/11/2014

This week was such a bummer. The most recent apparent chupacabra turned out to be bogus. One day we will find this mythical beast nuzzling with a friendly sasquatch. Oh well.

On to the links…

Carbon Dioxide Levels Just Hit Their Highest Point In 800,000 Years—Welcome to the era where human behavior has altered the basic functioning of the planet.

Wind Power Provided 4.8% of U.S. Electricity in January—Damn, that’s a big number. Granted, I live in a state—Iowa—where wind power can be over one quarter of our power any given day and is growing with the addition of some big projects coming on line.

The Energy Haves and Have-Nots—What is the future of distributed solar? I do not know, but this seems to make the case that it will be the domain of the rich in sunny climes. Great.

Here’s Why the World Is Spending Less on Renewable Energy—The spending drop is not all bad news because the per megawatt cost is dropping so much that it was bound the exert some downward pressure on spending in the near term. Granted, it would be nice to see an increase in spending and a decrease in per megawatt cost delivering a double whammy of market penetration.

Five Pathways to Post-Capitalist ‘Renaissance’ by a Former Oil Man—I thought that there some excellent thoughts and ideas presented here about the imminent future.

Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards Under Attack Again by ALEC –ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, writes “model” legislation that Republican legislators nationwide introduce as bills with little or no modification. It’s just another right wing front for big money interests.

What Should Happen To Coal Ash Ponds?—The EPA estimates, remember that no one knows for sure, that there are over 600 coal ash ponds in the U.S. This is a silent danger lurking in a lot of communities in this country.

Thank You, Rio Tinto: British Mining Giant Divests From Pebble Mine—The Pebble Mine is a bad idea no matter how you look at it unless you are trying to make money off environmental destruction. Rio Tinto divesting from the project has to be considered a death knell for this project.

Electric Cars Growing 100% Every Year—The growth rate is great, but the key factoid to me is that you can buy 11 plug-in electric or plug-in hybrid cars for less than $30K. Why is $30K an important number? It’s less than the average price of a new car in the U.S.

The Capitalism of Catastrophe—I have my problem with the entire prepper or survivalist community. It’s no secret. It’s turned into an apocalypse industrial complex complete with tradeshows.

Another Cause of California’s Drought: Pot Farms—I would not say that the pot farms, illicit or otherwise, are a cause of the drought. However, the diversion of water for these operations is exacerbating the supply issue for sure.

Poachers Attack Beloved Elders of California, Its Redwoods—Some ass clowns want burl lumber and are cutting down ancient redwoods to get it. Really? This article does blame both meth tweakers and the Chinese, so it’s got that going for it.

Climate Change: The Hottest Thing in Science Fiction—Now let’s see the young adult blockbuster about a climate change refugee who must also deal with her coming of age in a brutal and foreign land. Kind of sounds good actually.

Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products—Basically, if you add extra sweeteners to honey it will no longer be considered honey.

How Food Marketers Made Butter the Enemy—Butter was an easy mark. The very name is synonymous with gluttony. Too bad natural fats are real food and in moderation not bad for us. Oh, and food marketers wanted to sell us vegetable oil shot with hydrogen which is killing us. God bless America. Or is that ‘Murica.

Miller Fortune

If you have watched a sporting event in past few months—recently concluded NCAA basketball tournament anyone?—chances are pretty good that you have seen an advertisement for MillerCoors’ latest creation Fortune:

Miller Fortune

British bad guy—at least according to Jaguar—Mark Strong is there to goad an otherwise staid individual to embrace the wilder side with a swig of lager. Perhaps, but how does the beer taste?

If you read any press material about this particular beer you will notice one thing features prominently…the alcohol level of 6.9% ABV. That’s about the only redeeming quality that the mar-com wonks have decided will sell this beer. Spirited nights apparently begin with a heapin’ helpin’ of grain alcohol.

Now, some beers can handle a 6.9% ABV but this is not one of them. Fortune is supposed to be brewed with Cascade hops, a favorite of craft brew fans everywhere. You would be hard pressed to identify a distinctive hop note in this beer—bitterness or aroma.

Like Budweiser Black Crown this is a beer that is being sold on the image of some kind of urban dreamscape where the drinker attends parties in unique spaces that are populated by revelers nattily done up in little more than black. Don’t believe me? The beer finder for Miller Fortune will direct you to a bottle shop if you do not happen to live in an “urbandaddy” market. WTF?

This beer is basically a dumpster fire in a can.

Zero Mug Purchase

Bush Signature Copper Lager

During my childhood there were two consistent beer memes. One was the whole “Great taste, less filling” battle of Miller Lite. The second was the tag line “Head for the mountains of Busch…beer.” If you were a child of the 1980s you know what I am talking about.

Busch moved from being a fond childhood memory to the beer du jour of my college days. We did not drink Natural Light or Keystone Light. Nope, my house was a Busch Light house. Keg after keg of Busch Light came in through the back door and served up ice cold to all comers. The almost non-existent flavor of that beer is still in the back of my throat.

Since then I have grown up and abandoned the drinking habits of an 18 to 22 year old college male. Imagine my surprise when I saw that AB InBev was releasing the first new beer in a long time under the Busch brand name, Busch Signature Copper Lager:

Copper Lager

You may not have seen this beer yet because it was initially rolled out in 12 Midwestern states that probably correlate quite nicely to the markets that quaff high quantities of the mainline Busch products.

Regular Busch and Busch Light clock in at 4.3% and 4.1% ABV respectively, while Signature Copper Lager comes in at 5.7%. This is a decent jump from Busch Light and will probably end up kicking some fool in the rear who is used to drinking can after can of the nearly water beer.

The primary difference, save for the alcohol increase, is the addition of copper malts to the brewing process, hence the name. The extra malt in the body of the beer does enough to support the extra alcohol and the beer drinks really easily. Actually, it drinks really easy and would be a great beer for a tailgate when you need beer that is in cans and you are not really going to be spending the morning discussing the finer merits of dry hopping. There is a time and place for cheap American lager.

With all that being said, I was pleasantly surprised by Busch Signature Copper Lager.

Two Mug Purchase

The beer’s advertising is probably the most honest I have seen in ages. It’s billed as the beer for “Slightly More Special Occasions.” That just slays me.

I don’t know what this means, but the website for Busch and Busch Light do not mention Signature Copper Lager at all.

House Pale Ale #1

Somewhere I read a line that really stuck with me. It described brewing a lot of different types of beers as a “series of one night stands.” It was meant to convey that the results might be satisfying, but you were only skimming the surface of your possible skill set because there was no baseline from which to grow.

Okay, it was a metaphor that was meant to shock a little bit and I am sure the writer was not trying for a bit social commentary. The idea, however, is solid. To get the most out of your talents as a brewer and to make the best beer possible you need to focus on creating a single so-called house recipe.

With my keezer finished and pouring pint after pint, as well as the occasional growler, it seemed like a perfect time to start devising a house recipe of my own.

My goal is to create a beer similar to my new favorite—Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue. I wanted to produce something that had a lot of Citra hop notes and was light enough to drink more than one:

House Pale Ale No 1

The recipe was a fairly simple extract brew with no steeping grains and a low level of hops. It went as follows:

  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 60 minutes
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, 30 minutes
  • 3 lbs. Munton’s Extra Light DME, 20 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minutes
  • Safale K-97 yeast
  • 1 oz. Citra pellet hops, dry hopped after one week of primary fermentation.

Primary fermentation was for 2 weeks, with the dry hopping one week in, and the beer was keg conditioned for 2 weeks prior to hooking it up to the keezer.

I put this beer into the keezer under pressure and waited a few days to serve. The first few glasses were…um…disappointing. The dry hopped Citra notes were overpowering and there was not enough body in the beer to hold up the flavors. iBrewMaster calculated the batch to have 4.6% ABV and 36 IBU.

A few days later the pints went down better, as if the beer had mellowed somewhat in the keezer. Subsequent pours in the following weeks have confirmed that this was a beer that needed some additional time to have the flavor profile blend and mellow somewhat. Oh well, my desire to drink my homebrew got the best of me.

Overall, a minor failure for my firs go at a house pale ale recipe.

One Mug Homebrew

The biggest change I am going to make in recipes going forward is to reincorporate some specialty grains steeped prior to the boil. I believe that this will add some needed complexity and body to the base of the beer so that it can handle bolder hop profiles. We shall see.