Monday, November 30, 2009

Barley Wine

As some of you may or may not know, I am a bit of a beer fiend/geek. I have a fairly extensive cellar of bottles aging, some of which are fairly rare.

This last Saturday 7 of us guys who are into beer in the same way got together, pooled together some of our collective beers and had a giant tasting within a particular style - barley wines. The average beer drinker won't know what a barley wine is so, since I am looking for ways to procrastinate on my final papers, and since I just feel like educating you all, here is a little bit on some of what we drank and a little about barley wines.

First, one of the bottles that I brought - just because it's just so darn cool looking and I was pretty proud of it.

The bottle on the right is Olde Bluehair from Big Sky Brewing in Montana. I picked it up on my trip through the States when I moved here to Toronto.

It is a barley wine which sits at 8.75% alcohol and is aged in oak bourbon barrels for at least 3 months. It is also bottle conditioned which means active yeast is added to the bottles which helps the beer evolve over time within the bottle. A quick summary of my review says, "Nice woodiness and vanilla from the barrels, very faint hints of bourbon, still a faint hop bite in the finish, raisins, plums, apricot, candied sugar, caramel, light alcohol burn in the finish as well."

It is special because it is only one of 1800 bottles ever made and each bottle is hand numbered by the brewery; this was bottle #1575.

This was one of the bottles we tried. We also had a couple verticals of particular beers there. A vertical is the same beer but each one is from a different year. Barley wines are typically higher in alcohol (8% - 14%), much like wine, and can be aged much like wine. So we had a 5yr vertical there of a British barley wine, from 1998-2002; the 1998 version was also the oldest beer I've had to date though many barley wines have been aged successfully for upwards of 20-40 years under the right conditions (cool and dark). As they age, many of the flavors (especially the hop bitterness) mellows, the flavors meld together to form a more cohesive unit, and the alcohol bite sometimes found in these high alcohol beers, subsides.

My cellar is still quite young and the oldest beer I have is a 2005 Belgian Dark Ale aged in Bordeaux wine barrels. So, while you now think I am an uber-dork, if you ever come to visit us here in Toronto (hint hint) I'll pull something out of the cellar to celebrate and you won't be worried about getting my leftover, too-old beer!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Emotions are a Funny Thing

People always tell you that when you become a parent, things change. What I always took this to mean was that you have less time to yourself, your house always looks like someone picked it up and shook it, and you learn how to change a poopy diaper while talking on the phone and making dinner at the same time. What I didn't realize, is that becoming a parent would make me appreciate things differently.

There have been a couple things over the past week that have made me take notice of this change. First, was the story of the 15 month old Toronto boy who fell to his death at the airport. Second, Nolana and I watched the movie My Sister's Keeper. I found myself on the verge of tears both times as I thought of having to go through losing a child, either slowly through cancer or quickly in a fall. Normally, I would have thought to myself, "Man, that is sad" or "That sucks" and probably sloughed off a movie such this one as emotional kitsch. And while I can still recognize the cheeseyness of a movie such as the one I mentioned, there is something there that touches me as I realize how heartbroken I would be if we lost Daija.

I guess as I 'mature', I'm getting a little softer in more areas than just my gut. Emotions are a funny thing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Run, Don't Walk

5 tracks you should probably check out now. As in drop what you're doing (unless it's holding a baby) and go to iTunes now to preview (and don't pretend you're one of those people without iTunes either...)

1. Sufjan Stevens - You are the Blood - Dark Was the Night

2. Andrew Bird - Not a Robot, But a Ghost - Noble Beast

3. Fionn Regan - Hunters Map - The End of History

4. Fleet Foxes - Mykonos - Sun Giant EP

5. The Decemberists - The Bachelor and the Bride - Her Majesty, The Decemberists

Consider this my good deed for the day.

Edit: My good deed has been trumped by Matt over at Bing Dynasty who recommends Grooveshark for full song previews. I checked it out: easy to use, full downloads - go listen there!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

No Way Through

Palestine. Israel. Regardless of your thoughts, this video is worth watching.

Via: Africa Is a Country

Thursday, November 12, 2009

4 Years

4 Years ago I made what was undoubtedly the best decision of my young life: to marry that gorgeous lady in the picture above. In those 4 years we've traveled and lived in Africa and Asia, moved across Canada, and had our first little munchkin. Through everything she's been there for me and it's pretty hard to imagine that I'd be where I am now without her. It would be pretty hard for anybody to honestly argue that marriage is easy but I can undoubtedly argue from my experience that marriage, despite its difficulty, is totally worth it.

Honey, I love you more now than I did the day I married you and look forward to learning how to love you more over the next 4 years, and then the next 4, and the next four, and on. I love you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1st Birthday!

It's hard to believe that one year ago we welcomed our baby girl into the world; crying, screaming and that was just me! Now, a year later, she confidently walks from room to room, has learned a few sign language words, knows what sound a cow makes, loves being chased, and bring so much joy to our life (along with so much frustration!)

Time flies when you're having fun!

This morning we woke her up with party hats and brought her downstairs to streamers and balloons. I'm at school all day today so the festivities will continue tomorrow with gift opening and hopefully some cake (if I can convince Mom!)

Happy Birthday baby girl!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scattered Leaves

Some miscellaneous.

Fall is here and this is what it looks like from my vantage point on the 12th floor. Wish my office had a window...

I've finished my first assignment and presentation and got my feedback/grades - suffice it to say that I am pleasantly surprised at how they have been received. Brag brag brag. Now back to work.

Daija is still not eating and the pediatrician has ordered us to reduce her breast feeds in order to "encourage" her to eat. This makes for a grumpy girl. Which makes for grumpy parents.

New album out (well, out last month) from the folk super group Monsters of Folk. Made up of M. Ward, Connor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes fame, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket this is a diverse, pleasant album. Check it out.

We are realizing our jackets, clothes, etc... from Victoria are simply not going to cut it here (and it's not even really cold yet!) Time for some shopping.

I am now officially 2/3 completed my semester - where did the time go and wow, those final papers are coming up fast!

Being the season, we've been making some pumpkin recipes. Pumpkin pie milkshakes and Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake Turtle Bread both from a local food blogger, Closet Cooking. Next up, Pumpkin Butter and Pumpkin Pie French Toast!

Now you're up to date and I've successfully procrastinated for 10 minutes!

Monday, November 2, 2009

When God Shows Up

How many times have you heard the phrase, usually after some intensely emotional church event, retreat, camp, worship night, etc..., "God showed up tonight" or "I love it when God shows up, it was awesome!"? When I hear this it grates on me. God showed up? Like a party guest, he knocked on the door, waited for you to let him in and then ate all your pretzels? Or was it more like the Aladdin genie who, with a rub of the lamp, popped out ready to give you your heart's desires? What do we mean by this?

Certainly there are times in scripture that give us some basis of this "showing up" phenomenon. There was the Holy of Holies in the temple where God permanently crashed, there was God talking to all sorts of people in the Old Testament (Moses in a burning bush, Elijah in a cave, Gideon, etc...), he arrived in tongues of fire at Pentecost. So let's not dismiss that perhaps God does indeed "show up" at times. What strikes me though about these examples, is that they are all to some extent physical manifestations of God (as long as we read the stories literally). Voices, bushes, flames - God showed up in ways that were direct, physical and validated in a sensory manner.

Is this what we mean when God shows up at the latest worship night? I hesitate to argue the point, but most likely no one saw any physical manifestations of God (unless someone spotted his outline in a grilled cheese...) The intended meaning is usually something akin to "I felt God's presence." Again, nothing wrong with this, that's a powerful feeling to be in the presence of the divine.

Yet, this statement feels to me a little juvenile, perhaps based too much on emotion. I think it feels this way to me because I believe God is everywhere. I know with every breath I take he is the sustainer, with every bud that grows that he is the creator, with every relationship built that he is the glue, with every trial faced that he is the healer. The idea behind the Pentecost was that that God left his spirit here to do his work among us, not just in prayer meetings or church services or summer camps, but in everything.

Perhaps, what really happens in settings such as church is that we are finally able to remove the multiplicity of distractions that close our eyes to God around us. In those moments we become aware of the closeness, the intimacy of our relationship. Perhaps it is not that God "shows up" but, in fact, we who "show up". The party has been going on the whole time, God has been in the house eating pretzels all the while, and finally we took time to stop, look around, knock on the door and join.

So when we say, "God showed up" it seems to me that the onus is on God to make an appearance - as if once in a blue moon he takes to the red carpet and graces us with his presence. In fact, every moment of every day he is there. The onus is on us to realize it, to see grace in the day to day, to interrogate what it is that is closing our eyes to it. Perhaps it takes a worship night to lead you to that place, maybe it's a quiet walk in a park while the leaves fall, it could be a the feeling of belonging as you tuck into turkey dinner with your family, perhaps a pint at the pub with great conversation and chicken pot pie. Whatever it is, God is there - it's up to us to see him.