Monday, June 6, 2011

Brewing - Hops: A bilateral opinion

Hello and welcome to today's post.

Today I was considering my next brew (more on that process, or the one I follow anyway, later).  As I was coming to the conclusion that I would like to do a big Imperial IPA with around 100 IBU's, it struck me as funny that I used to hate this beer.  In fact, at one point I hated beer altogether.  Yes this was when I was very young, but the actual enjoyment of beer did not occur for me until very recently.  Even then I refused to drink IPA's because of that bitter after taste.  Now suddenly if a beer doesn't have some level of bittering, I'm not into it.  How could my palate change so drastically?

Hops and bittering are considered to be one in the same.  Though hops do provide a bittering flavor, that is not the only sensation that they bring to beer.  Hops are aromatic, they can provide some fruity notes. Yes ultimately they do bitter a beer, but not always to an extreme or even noticeable degree.

So my thoughts expanded beyond me.  Lets take a look at beer consumption in America.  Miller, Coors, and Budweiser hold around 90% of the market share for beer consumption in this country.  None of these breweries ever claimed to make a beer that had a great hop characteristic.  Miller Light does now claim "Triple hops brewed", however I fail to understand exactly what that means.  The best that I can guess is that either they use three hop variatals, or they hop the beer at three points during the boil.  In either case it is obviously not a beer with a large hop characteristic and I wonder exactly how well that ad campaign is treating them.  The converse of that is an old advertisement that my room mate reminded me of.  "Bitter Beer Face", I can't recall who created this advertisement, but what I can recall is that having bitter beer face was a very bad thing in a beer.  To put it all together, 90% of beer consumed in this country has little or no hop quality and to top it all off, having a bitter beer is considered a crime in beer advertising.

Now it all makes sense to me.  Bitter is not a flavor that is well liked in the old US of A.  In fact we avoid that flavor at all costs!  So to drink a beer that has an IBU of 40 or more is quite shocking to the palate.  In fact the first time I ever drank an IPA, the only thing that I even noticed was the bitter.  I didn't notice the fruity nose, the malty characteristics of the various grains used.  In fact, I didn't even notice the great aroma that the hops gave when smelling the beer.  Bitter was all that beer was to me, and I didn't like bitter.

So how does one overcome this deficiency? (this is of course my opinion since I obviously have a much more refined beer palate than you. Kidding of course!)  I think that gradually one has to expose themselves to hops.  Try different beers, different varieties of beers.  Some with more hops, and some with less hops.  Eventually you will find that the bitter flavor you found so shocking is not that any more.  Maybe you will get to a place where, in some beers, you actually expect or want that bitter finish.  In either case, what hopefully would come out of such experimenting is that hops are not a bad thing! They are after all, in EVERY single beer you drink.

Thanks for reading!
- Chad

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Technology - Ubuntu 11.04 - a review of sorts

Welcome to to the first tech posting of the BST blog.  Today I am writing to you from within Ubuntu 11.04.  For those of you unfamiliar with this software, let me quickly explain.  Ubuntu is an open source operating system based on the Linux platform made freely available to the general public.  You may be asking yourself "What does that mean to me?".  Linux is an open source derivative of Unix, and Unix just happens to be the backbone of all of Apple's operating systems.  So essentially this is an operating system developed on a similar backbone to Apple but made freely available for download and use by the general public.  The mobile version of Linux similar to iOS is Android, and I'm sure that everyone out there has heard of that.

So what does that mean for you?  Well it means that if you think Apple makes good products that are reliable and more stable than the Windows counterparts, then Ubuntu might be a nice alternative to Windows for you without having to pay the premium that Apple charges.  It does require some effort on your part to install the operating system, but the people over at Canonical have made great strides over the past few years and I find this latest offering most impressive.

To provide a bit of history on why I chose to look at this software, I have to enlighten you that this is not the first time I have attempted to use Ubuntu.  In fact I have gone through many different revisions of Ubuntu in the past ultimately, not finding it useful for my needs and the last version I looked at was actually in the 9's.  The reason I want this software to be useful is that I have a deep longing for open source software to be successful.  It's not that I don't like paying for software, I just hate paying hundreds of dollars for software that doesn't live up to expectations (Microsoft) or limits me to what the author says I can and can't do with the software provided (Steve Jobs ala Apple).  So I keep going back to the well of Open Source trying to find something that will officially announce the arrival of relevant free software.

So on to the "review" which will be very short and sweet since I bantered on so long with the background details.

WARNING: You will not be able to install Ubuntu along side your existing operating system unless you have free disk space.  For questions about how to create more disk space or check to see if you have any available, please feel free to email me.

Download and Install:  You can easily download the software which is freely available at Ubuntu's homepage.  They make it very easy to select the version and download.  Next you will need to burn a copy of the ISO (Disk Image Format) to a disk so that you can run it.  I would recommend another Open Source offering for this and go ahead and download CD Burner XP which though not a pretty piece of software, is very quick and efficient at what it does.  After burning the iso to disk (should take 2 - 3 minutes) you can reboot your computer and boot from the disk.  This will boot you into the Ubuntu 11.04 operating system from the disk and either allow you to try it out (Keep in mind your running the OS off the CD, it will be SLOW), or you can choose to install it directly to your hard drive and take the plunge, or so to speak.

The installation was actually much easier than expected and took about 20 minutes to complete.  They have designed the questions outlining the install to speak to the average every day computer user and I have to give them kudos for refining the process to the point that they have.  It was very clear that I was going to be installing Ubuntu along side Windows 7 and not on top of it.  After the install completed I was prompted to reboot and the installation disk was ejected.

First Boot and other thoughts: On boot you are brought to a Boot-loader screen.  This is a very small piece of software that allows you to designate which operating system you would like to boot.  The wording behind each option is probably a little advanced but it very clearly designates which is Ubuntu and which is Windows.  The boot up time was a matter of seconds once I selected Ubuntu.  The login I created during installation was the only one available and I typed in the created password and 30-45 seconds later I was at my desktop.

The new version of Ubuntu is very Mac OSish to me.  The app bar is on the left instead of the bottom, but everything seems to look and feel like OSX otherwise.  I was able to connect to my wireless network with no issues (Previously I had to find a driver to install and run it with some command line to make to make it work).  I was prompted to install updates which did require a password, Windows 7 tried to duplicate some of this security but they missed big time.  The only time you will get the cancel or allow in Linux is for something major like software installation and removal, or major changes to application permissions.  Each time you will be prompted for your password, and though this may be annoying, it is really for your protection. 

The Ubuntu software center is very much like an app store and makes it easy to find various applications based upon search criteria.  Some of the apps even have screen shots and user generated reviews!  I think that this will be a big selling point if this is to become more main stream.

Ubuntu One is a new cloud based offering that is unique to Ubuntu, though I think Apple is right on their heels with iCloud.  You can share all sorts of files including media with all of your mobile devices.  You can get a free account to start off with 2GB of storage, which I find to be plenty for my music needs.  I haven't played around with this a whole lot but I think they have done a pretty good job with it.

Overall impression: I like this software.  I have not really been able to say that about an Ubuntu offering before.  I will continue to use it and ultimately find out, for home use, if I can just ditch Windows altogether.  I think that anyone can install and try this Operating System out and it is probably just fine to take care of your needs. 

I hope that this small nondescript write up was beneficial to you and that you do give this Operating System a try.

Thanks for reading!

Hello World

Hello and welcome to my first blog post.  This is my first and possibly only attempt at entering a world I have often looked down upon.  Through the years I have seen many blogs come and go often providing useless opinions on matters that were not thoroughly understood.  But at the same time I have also seen some very profound writing come out of a 10 sentence paragraph. 

I have entitled this first writing "Hello World" from my very limited programming background.  "Hello World" is often the first program that an individual will write in an entry level course.  The program itself very simply posts the phrase "Hello World" onto the screen.  This simple program is quite amazing to the first time programer, and I view this first simplistic entry as an extension of that programming model.

The topics that I have chosen are those that I feel I can write about on an almost daily basis.  Though these topics are the bulk of my interest, I can also say that not all of my postings will be based upon them.  I hope to get out the thoughts that have been buried in my head for a number of years in this place.  I hope that those thoughts will entertain, inspire, or in the very least make you look at a subject from a different perspective. 

I hope that you enjoy my musings and I look forward to any and all comments that are posted.