Archive for April, 2007

Don McCloskey CD Release Show

Monday, April 16th, 2007

On Friday the 13th was Don “Big D” McCloskey’s CD Release “Party” Show at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly. As far as I know it is his first time playing there, to a sold out crowd no less, plus he had his new band in tow with him. To say it was a blast for all is an understatement.

Big D

The new disc “Northern Liberties” came out about a month ago on Big D’s own Lemon Hill Records. One of the songs “This Just In” was also featured on WMMR’s Local Shots Volume 3 disc. I think because of the LSV3 CD Big D was getting some air play on MMR, especially during Jaxon’s show. It’s nice to see a local favorite take it to the next level; radio play and interviews, going from solo act to full band sound, playing new and larger venues, and dropping a new disc all within a month or two span – Big D’s prayers from “Open the Door” may have just begun to be answered.

The show itself was a blast! I went up with Karen, Todd, Jody & Heather and met up with Mikey, Wooly & Mitchell and later Big Steve “The Hammer”. Unfortunetly, the show sold out before Mitchell could get a ticket, bummer. We all basically hung out together for the night which was fun. The opening act Nervous Cabaret was LOUD. That is pretty much the best way to describe them. They are a 7 piece out of NY with only 3 member there that night. I seriously thought my ear drums were damaged. I did start to get into them at the end, but all in all – not so much.

By the time Big D came out (11:00ish) Todd was recked, and he knew it. He was trying to roll with it and have fun, but it eventually caught up with him. The band took the stage burning hot – a lead guitar/banjo player whose sound was good and full, a mellow bass player, an almost non-existent keyboard player, and a very charismatic drummer, plus Big D tore the place up. Johnny Brenda’s has a capacity of 250 and I think they were pushing 325+. Initially they played a lot of stuff off the new album (not surprising), then threw in some off the old album (Bombs Over Bristol) but more rocky/funk-style then the album versions. Big D then let the band take a break and he played maybe 4 songs acoustic style. When the band came back it was time for the long 14-different-encores-kick-you-in-the-shins-wrap-up. Several highlights from the show, but one good one was during “Up In This”, Big D pulled an Eddie Vedder from the Even Flow video and climbed up onto the front of the balcony to perform with his mega-phone. After he was done with the verse how else are you going to get back to the stage besides drop into the audience and crowd-surf? It was very enjoyable to say the least. Todd was walked out to the car at about 12:00AM to pass-out, and Big D went off about 1:30AM so we all could go home and pass-out.

You can watch a video of Big D’s “Up In This” from Johnny Brenda’s on YouTube here:

You can pick up the new album at some of the usual places: CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon – check it out!

Mash Tun / HLT Conversions

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

 Another project long in the wings saw some progression last weekend. I have been slowly working on converting two coolers into a new mash tun and hot liquor tank (HLT). Part of the reason the process has been taking so long is that I wanted to do this once and not have to worry about volume and shape and other variables too much. There is still work to be done to both the mash tun and HLT, but I suppose they are usable at this point since I have officially brewed a batch of beer with them.


I finally made the decision to go with a 60 quart Igloo Ice Cube cooler. The main reasons for this being that (1) theoretically the tall square type shape would help the grain bed have sufficient depth vs. a rectangular cooler in which the grain bed would cover a larger surface area thus having a shallower grain bed and possibly not enough overall mass to mash and sparge properly. (2) With one mash tun I will be able to brew any style of beer that calls for water infusions to control the mash temperature (vs. decoction, HERMS or RIMS). (3) And, when I upgrade my kettle to most likely a converted Sanke keg (another project in the wings)  I should be able to brew most styles of beer in a 10 gallon format (twice as much as now) with the same mash tun and HLT.

 Originally I was aiming to find/buy the non-wheeled 60 quart Igloo Ice Cube coolers. The advantage of them are that they have the spigot  come into the cooler parallel to the bottom. The main disadvantage is they are almost impossible to find in the 60 quart size without ordering them, and then they cost twice as much as the wheeled versions plus shipping. So, I bought the wheeled version of the coolers. The potential advantages are that with the wheels moving the cooler either empty of full should be easier, plus they are much more easily accessible at the stores and fit the budget perfectly. The biggest disadvantage is (which we’ll see how bad it really is) that the spigot comes into the cooler at a 45 degree angle to the bottom. I suppose Igloo chose to do this because of the wheel configuration, but it seems odd considering that the spigot is on a totally different side on the non-wheeled coolers.

Anyway, because of the angle of the spigot I had to rig-up some extra tubing to be able to reach the middle bottom of the cooler to extract the sweet liquor. Originally I was planning on building a full copper manifold, which is basically a series of parallel copper pipes with slots or holes cut into the bottom to strain the liquid from the solid bits in the mash tun. But instead I opted on trying a Bazooka-T mash tun screen. This is basically a copper T fitting with stainless steel mesh arms that filter out the bits and a copper tube which come from the middle and leads to the spigot on the mash tun. After I have brewed a few batches with this set-up and if I am happy with the results, I will stick with the Bazooka-T, if not I’ll try to build a manifold for it.


So far both the mash tun and the HLT have had the old spigots replaced with 1/2 inch stainless steel ball valves. I also have a 6 inch probe stainless steel thermometer to mount in the mash tun which isn’t mounted yet. Plus, so far, the copper parts for the mash tun have only be dry fitted, they still need to be soldered together. Oh yeah, and the pick-up tube in the HLT needs a little tweaking too. Like I said, I have been dragging my feet with these things for quite some time now, but now that things are in motion I think I’ll want to see them come to completion. So for now I am satisfied with the direction the project is going in.

Grain Mill

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Almost two weeks ago now I received a new toy in the mail that I have wanted for some time now, my new grain mill! There are many different brands out on the market available to homebrewers, and several are supposed to be very good. I narrowed my choices down to two companies the Barley Crusher and the Crandandstein mills.


I decided to lean a little in favor of the Crankandstein because I have actually seen it in action. On there website they offer many different varieties that all accomplish the same goal, to crush grains in particularly malted barley. I decided to go with their packaged deal which they offered. It includes a base to hold the mill/to rest on top of wherever the gains will be going (ie – a bucket), the mid-level mill itself (the model the owner of the company actually uses), a mounting board for the grain hopper, and the grain hopper itself. This mill is fully adjustable like most of the others just not as easy to adjust as some. Some of the mills they offer have three rollers which double crush the grains vs. mine which has two rollers. All of the mills are meant to be drill or motor powered though they do offer an optional handle. I chose the drill technique

The objective of a grain mill is to squeeze the endosperm (inside) of the grain from the husk (outside), trying to leave as much of the husk in tack as possible and crushing the endosperm as much as possible without turning it to flour. The endosperm is where all the starches of the grain are which is what gets converted to sugar during the mash, which in turn is what the yeast metabolize to make the beery-goodness we so love, and the husk is where the different malty flavors and color come from. The husk also works as a natural filter bed during the sparging/run-off process to help keep as much of the grain bits in the mash tun while extracting as much of the sweet liquor called wort.


So far I have only used the mill twice, once to clean it/test it and once to actually crush grain for a recipe, a Pale Ale brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Warrior hops – yum! I think I am going to be very pleased with this mill in the long run, and should never have to buy or upgrade to a new one as long as I maintain it and keep it clean. The only thing that would really make it better would be to motorize it, but that’s another project for another day (Garrett you bastard!).

Wooly’s Birthday Party

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Last Saturday Wooly through a Birthday Party for himself. It was a great time and I’m really not going to go into too much detail. Erik Mitchell’s band with Robert and Corey played which was really cool because they decided to have a lot of fun with it, check out the set list below:


4/7/07 The Rodney Latimer Memorial (Stonehenge) Amphitheater, Wilmington, DE
Old Man*>
Wanted Dead Or Alive*
Baba Dochia
Need You Tonight*
The Humpty Dance>
The Humpty Dance
Worst Woman
Chili’s Theme Song*^
The Bride Of The Black Sea
Pepper’s Ghost
Dukes Of Hazzard Theme*^
Ocean Man*
She’ll Follow
What I Got*

Eye Of The Tiger*
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter>
Dick In A Box Tease
The Jefferson’s Theme*+
Morning Dew*
Staying Alive
Real Men Of Genius*(see below)>
Happy Birthday*
America, Fuck Yeah*>
So Ronery*>
Locomotive Breath*%
In The Bayou*

Hells Bells/Kells Bells*$
Cracklin’ Rosie*
If This Is It*#
Grandma’s Hands
Bri-Bri Beer Spill Jam*>
The House Of Osiris>
Franklin’s Tower*@
Son Of A Preacher Man*
What’s Going On*~
Easy To Love You
Piece Of The Pie
Cherry Hill Nissan Theme*+
Out In The Rain
Wharf Rat
I Try
Every Rose Has Its Thorn*

all songs with Corey Bonser on bass, Robert Desjardin on drums (except Locomotive Breath and Real Men Of Genius)
*first time played
^w/Dan Woolard and Erik Mitchell on vocals
+w/Mike Kavanagh and Erik Mitchell on vocals
%w/Robert Desjardin on vocals
$w/Mike Kavanagh on vocals
#w/Corey Bonser on vocals
@w/David Carson and Mike Kavanagh on vocals
~w/David Carson on vocals

Wooly B Day Brew

Real Men Of Genius:
This week we salute you, Daniel Craig Woolard.
(what’s up Wooly)
Without you, Don McCloskey would have no one to hold his harmonica.
(slobbering on his hand)
We know you like to be at the concert five hours early, and that your pockets are full of Immodium.
(no poop pills pack me up tight)
You have an entire room in your house dedicated to porn.
(57″ wide-screen gapes, yeah)
You’re the only human over twelve years old who Tivo’s Battlestar Gallactica.
(he’s so gay for Gaius)
Rule #137 – No one is allowed to drive your car… ever.
(it smells like dead french fries)
Your friend once made you a beer with your name and picture on it, but you couldn’t drink it because it wasn’t in a green bottle.
(so sorry Bri-Bri)
So put this on the list Mr. Listmaker, right after you buy your new Ikea writing table.
(you support the Swedish economy)
Even though we know your circles never cross, we believe you truly are having sex…
Happy Birthday Wooly


It was an awesome night to say the least. Thanks, Wooly.

Oatmeal Stout Experiment Tasting

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Last Wednesday Karen & I tasted all of the different flavors from the Oatmeal Stout Experiment. Just to recap these were: “Plain” Oatmeal Stout, Vanilla Oatmeal Stout, Bourboned Oak Oatmeal Stout, Coffee Oatmeal Stout, and the ever popular Cocoa Pebble Oatmeal Stout. I tried to pour them all in the same glass at about the same time and temperature.

Stout 2

These reviews are going to be based on memory. I didn’t take any notes because I thought I would have posted much sooner. Because of that they may too be shorter.

  • The “Plain” Oatmeal Stout was good, but nothing extraordinary. I will say that it is the best stout I have ever brewed. Creamy, smooth, yet still robust. Don’t get me wrong, when I say not extraordinary I’m not saying it is bad, just not ‘Oh-My-Gawd-My-Stout-Kicks-Your-Dark-Lord’s-Ass-So-Bring-It-Stout’. But it was a perfect base beer to build this experiment from. The biggest draw back is because of the experiment I have fewer bottles.
  • The Vanilla Oatmeal Stout was love-good, but very vanillay. The more you drank it, the more it seemed appropriate, but initially it was very intense. The smell was great! I guess it is true that a little good fresh vanilla goes a long way. One person who tried this suggested that it would be an award winner in competition.
  • The Bourboned Oak Oatmeal Stout was good yet more subtle. Hints of both Wild Turkey and oak were present in the aroma, and a little bit more present in the taste. But this wasn’t one of those ‘Would you like some stout with your bourbon sir?’ kind of bourbon stouts. I actually can’t wait until I have a chance to blend a bottle of this and the vanilla stout together – give this an extra boost and mellow out the vanilla, together with them already being complimentary flavors – nice!
  • The Coffee Oatmeal Stout was originally dubbed the ‘Breakfast Stout’, but I think it would have been better dubbed the ‘Old Percolator Stout’. It both smelt and tasted of cold old coffee, a little different that I had planned. I was hoping for something along the lines of FC Espresso Stout or Peche Mortel, oh well. It isn’t bad, but I bet it is the last of the stouts that are finished.
  • And the Cocoa Pebble Oatmeal Stout. Well, … I honestly had low expectations for this stout from the get go, so I wasn’t disappointed. When the cap was cracked I took the precaution of opening it over the sink (reminiscent of the ol’ Fall run of FC 2001). This one was a gusher, but I’ve had my training and knew the proper thing to do was pour into the glass immediately to help relieve the pressure. The beer had an odd brown film on the top reminiscent of the scum you may skim off the top of a home-made soup, yum. The smell too was of, sweet alcohol? It was weird to say the least. And the taste? Not Cocoa Pebbles, that’s for sure. I can’t really describe it besides sharp and biting – I also only took two sips, a braver man than some.

Stout 1

Originally I started this whole experiment just to try and make a pre-sweetened cereal beer for a specific category for a specific contest, but didn’t want to “waste” a whole batch by mashing with the cereal just in case it flopped. Well, the one I was trying to have come out did flop. I actually drain-poured the other 6 Cocoa Pebble Oatmeal Stouts, trust me, you aren’t missing anything.

BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #4

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

This issue was titled ‘Living the High Life’. Did somebody say Miller? Did BeerAdvocate house Miller’s slogan? Just kidding. This issue was kind of about the bling-bling of the beer world. Not quite the who’s who, but more like the if you want the best of this style beer get this, or the ultimate 6 pack of beers would be made of these, and the best beer trips in the world would be to these places. Once again my favorite article was the ‘9 Steps to Beerdom’ where Greg Koch of Stone was highlighted. Dunno why, but I think in every issue this has been my favorite part, Tomme Arthur, Larry Bell, Nick Floyd and now Greg Koch. I swear I can rattle off at least 5 or more people I would love to see featured here. Regardless, the layout and articles are very cool and appropriate once again. Also, the article on the new Sam Adams pint glass is pretty cool, cool enough that I may put out the $32 for a four pack of them (not counting shipping).

BA Mag 4

Once again, the worst part was the reviews section, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – leave them on the website! And finally the cherry-on-top of all stoopidness was the full page ad by Eulogy and Michael Naessens (owner) where he makes himself look and sound like a ridiculous pompous ass. I’m not saying Eulogy isn’t cool, or there new place won’t be the shit, or even that he doesn’t know his stuff about beer – but what I AM saying is you look like a freakin’ buffoon trying to convince us (persuade us?) all that you are not only ‘The Man’ but the one and only true ‘Belgian The Man’ (whatever the hell that means). Learn to be humble, it goes a long way – wow, at least your ad got my attention.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

OK, finally book two (I could have swore this was the third book?) of the year is done, “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” by David Sedaris. It’s a shame the way it kind of comes off sounding like a chore, but with all the other dumb shit I try to squeeze into a day some how reading usually takes a back seat. This book was pretty good as a lunch reader because it is more or less a bunch of short stories that sort of go together because they are all based around David Sedaris’ life.

Dress Your Family

It’s funny, it’s hard for me to think of what to say, but I have honestly never been good at “book reports”, which is how this kind of feels to me. I used to hate book reports in school. I understand they had to figure out a way to see if you were really doing your reading, but I swear half the time I wasn’t. I would either borrowed someone else’s book report, or have them explain the book to me, or read the Cliff Notes, or just read the back of the book and like two pages and make it up (as if the teacher couldn’t tell). I seriously used to hate reading, since first grade I can remember faking reading assignments. The worst was summer reading. I don’t think I ever read one whole book on my summer vacations. I just didn’t like the idea that what they wanted me to read was better than what I would have chosen to read. Especially Mrs. Ryan and her freakin’ Newbury Award Winners – all of her books for 7th and 8th grade had to be Newbury Award Winning books, as if that made them better. Usually they were so overlaid with metaphor that the message and plot were lost to me, and then when she asked about the metaphors after the fact I’d get all pissed off because I didn’t get it but could have gotten it better if someone would have just said something – whatever!

Anyway, I finally was in tune with David Sedaris on this book and thought it was very enjoyable and made me laugh out loud a few times. I especially like the way he writes his brother’s dialog. If you’re into David Sedaris and haven’t read this one pick it up. Not to knock his writing skills, but I think he would make an excellent magazine writer; quick witted, humorous, and not long winded, maybe that’s just me.

Green Ridge State Forest

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Last weekend (March 31st, April 1st & 2nd) Robert and I went for a 3-day 45 mile backpacking trip. We have tried to go every year for the past 5 years, but somehow it has turned out to be every other year or so. With Robert completing an Outward Bound course during the summer of 2006, I think we were ready for another adventure. Some of the prerequisites for this trip were: it had to be during a specific time frame (Robert’s spring break), it shouldn’t be more than about 4 hours drive away (this was 3 and a half), and going south sounded better than going north (OK, we went west). After all the planning was done, we were off. All basically went to plan except for one thing, we planned the trip without a map. We tried to order one over 2 weeks in advance and it never showed, so we had to buy it the day of. Originally we were hoping to do three 15 mile days, instead it turned out to be more like a 15, a 19, and a 11 mile day.

Since this has now been over a week ago, I may not go into as much detail, but I’ll run through each day. Saturday (March 31st) I got up about 4:30AM to finish packing, take my last shower for several days, and eat some breakfast to pick Robert up by 6AM. I left the house a little after 6 running late and we were officially on the road a little after 6:30. It was about a 3 and a half hour car ride south on I-95 to Baltimore than west on I-70 to GRSF. We checked in at the office, paid our fees, and got our map. After looking at the map and seeing the state had built a few Adirondack Shelters, we decided to get going and aim for one of them – about 15 miles away, which turned out to be mostly down hill. It was a long day to say the least. I was up late the night before, up early that day, had driven a decent drive (why does driving take so much out of you?), and was now hiking in the “mountains” of Maryland with a 50 pound pack on my back.

Robert and I quickly slipped into Bundles McFister and Duchon Mandik mode rather quickly. That night we stayed in one of the shelters. It was both very cool and very weird. The coolness was that we didn’t have to set-up or break-down the tent, we were pretty much guaranteed to stay dry if it rained (we had a 50% chance for most of the weekend), and it gave you a place to sit down other than the ground. The weirdness for me basically boiled down to the fact of my sense of security was all wacked out while sleeping since these things only have 3 walls instead of 4 – it made me feel very exposed.

GRSF Robert 2

The next morning (April 1st) we woke up kind of crunchy. Fortunately it had not rained while we were asleep, so we got to start our day dry and prepare some breakfast and break camp. We knew today would be the most miles (we weren’t sure quite how long when we started) and the flattest of all the days, so that worked out to be a good combination. Funnily, as soon as we started hiking the rain started, it only really lasted an hour or two but the timing was hilarious. Just to get the morning off to a good start, while we were crossing a creek I slipped and fell. Just before my face was about to hit a rock, I caught myself and thought I was OK, but because of the momentum, my back kept going and busted me in the back of the head slamming my face into the rock. Robert was in front and didn’t see it happen, but when he turned around and asked what happened all I said was ‘I face-planted’. In the long run no major injuries, no stitches or anything just a funky bleeding nose for a couple hours.

We were hiking from GRSF to the C&O canal and we were going to follow the C&O canal tow path from Lock 67 to Lock 58. The exciting things about the C&O canal from my perspective were the Paw Paw Tunnel, the first couple Locks we saw, and the fact that we camped in a place named Devil’s Alley. Other than that, the C&O canal tow path has got to be one of the most boring, repetitive, straight, and boring, repetitive, straight, and repetitive trails I have ever hiked, especially for as long as we did. My feet were turning into meat-puppets and my attitude was not staying high. We eventually hit Devil’s Alley campsite which was feet away from the Potomac River. And right when we hit camp, right when we took our bags off – it started to rain again. This almost broke me. I was so exhausted, I was starting to feel like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump when he is yelling during the storm on the shrimp boat. It rained for about another hour – long enough this time to get most stuff wet while we set up and most of the easily accessible firewood wet too. I would have loved to have had another one of those shelters again that night. Everything else went alright that night. After we went to bed, a few hours later it really started to rain for a little over an hour, lightning and thunder – the whole deal. So to say that sleeping wasn’t easy isn’t saying much at all.

GRSF Robert 1

The next morning (April 2nd) we were both drained. Two nights of not enough sleep after too much physical activity can just wipe you out. The positive was we knew it would be the shortest amount of miles, the negative was that it was basically all uphill. Actually let me rephrase that, it could have been all up hill, but instead it was repeatedly up really big hills just to go back down again and to do that over and over again about 4 or 5 times. And when I say big hills, I’m talking 1 to 2 mile stretches with 500+ feet elevation gains and drops. That third day was an ass-kicker of a day. Even with the shortened miles, but because of the elevation changes, it still took us a full day to do the hike. We arrived at the trail head where the car was about 5PM.

We both brought a clean set of clothes for the car ride home (lesson learned from the past), changed, called our girls, and hit the pike – next stop, Brewer’s Alley in Frederick Maryland. Brewer’s Alley is a brewpub about an hour from GRSF and about 5 or so miles off the interstate. It was nice to have a beer, and food someone else cooked, and to sit in a stable environment, but it is always weird to have to deal with people, and traffic, and not peeing wherever you want. The cask-conditioned dry stout was excellent. It took us longer to get home than I would have wished, but home and safe we made it all the same.

GRSF Brian 1

I hope we get to go on another trip soon. We try to go once a year which doesn’t happen, but I’d really like to go twice a year to once a season. We started to talk about a trip in June when Robert is done school, we’ll see. Even though it probably comes off that I am bitching about this trip a lot ( and we bitched a lot on the trail too), I still really enjoy myself and feel a great sense of accomplishment when I have finished. Good job buddy.

April Fools!

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Since the brewmaster is out getting down with nature, I have taken over and given foolcircle a facelift (insert lightning strikes and diabolical laughter here).

Some things are new – the posts are managed by wordpress, the guestbook works, the contact page works, and the archives are much more user friendly. Some things are the same – brews, games, villiage idiot. Over the next little while , those that are the same will move to new.

The wordpress backend gives access to a lot more tools. You can now comment on posts (and brews in the future – along with much more brew info), grab the RSS feed so you are always up to date, or search the site.

Keep an eye open for updates.