For various reasons, I decided to move this blog to a self-hosted wordpress. Hopefully all the permalinks and RSS URLs will auto-redirect properly.
If like me, you’re wondering how you can support the Japanese craft beer industry in recovering from the earthquake. If you’d like to take this opportunity to explore some new Japanese beers, here are my recommendations:
Kiuchi Brewery makes the Hitachino line of beers, which is by far the most available craft beer from Japan. For the most part they are competent and drink-worthy, but not particularly inspiring. The big exception I’ve come across is their Real Ginger Brew, which is fabulous and the only great ginger-flavored beer I’ve ever seen (“ginger beers” don’t count and are not my cup of tea). I respect Kiuchi’s experimentation with other ingredients too, like their red rice beer, and I hope they do more. Kiuchi was damaged a bit by the earthquake (it is 180 miles away from Sendai) and they’ll be losing money for a while as they use their facilities to bottle water for tsunami victims, so they could use some support.
Baird Brewery is relatively new to arrive in the US, but might be the best Japanese beer I’ve tasted. They do a good job on newly popular styles in the US like imperial stouts and imperial IPAs. Even better, they are making great beer with experimental Japanese-specific ingredients like the Natsumikan fruit. Also, their art is my favorite. They were far away from the earthquake and did not slow down their normal operations.
I’ve only seen Coedo Brewery beers twice now, but I’ve been somewhat impressed. They don’t brew particularly interesting styles, but they focus on doing a really quality job on the basics. Their Beniaka sweet potato lager in particular is excellent in its nuance (though beeradvocate seems to disagree with me for once).
I suppose you could also go drink an Asahi, Sapporo, or Kirin to support Japan, but you shouldn’t admit that to me.
The other day I wanted to make a wicked anagram for my name, since all the cool kids are doing it. But the internets gave me crappy “anagram generators” that just spewed out a bunch of gibberish that was impossible to navigate through or customize, so I wrote my own anagram builder.
It’s very simple:
Then you get a clickable list of all the words that can be made from that set of letters. If you put in my name, you get:
Clicking the words uses up those letters and adjusts the list accordingly. Even a little 2 letter word can dramatically reduce the number of options you need to consider:
Furthermore, it becomes clear very quickly if you won’t be able to use that really awesome big word:
And if you DO use all your remaining letters, you get a prize.
I collect beer coasters (among other beer accoutrements) and I recently completed a project to display a bunch of them nicely in frames on my walls. Here are some of the things I learned along the way.
I decided I would uses some sort of glue dots to stick the coasters onto a nice artsy textured paper background. They were able to fit depth-wise in any frame (except for the really tall ones).
I first tried “removable” glue dots because I wanted the coasters to be repositionable (without damaging the coasters that were really rare) as I expand my collection. Within an hour of being hung on the wall, some of the coasters started falling down. Even plenty of the coasters that I had put 2 glue dots on. Furthermore, within a few days, removing the dots from the coasters ripped parts of some coasters.
Unfortunately, there is no type of glue dot that is able to both support all the coasters and not damage any of them.
I then used “poster” glue dots (2 per coaster), and after a week, they seem to be holding well. I know they will take some damage on the coasters and the background paper when I have to move them, but I’m relying on that being rare enough that it’s ok.
For more pictures (including the 2 other framed sets), see my flickr set.
Someone at the craft store suggested another option that I could have tried. He suggested using L-pins or L-screws to simply hold up the coasters, and drill them into a 1/2” thick foam board backing. The foam board fits because most frames have a second channel 1/2” further back from the main edge that you latch the poster backing onto. I could also use the same artsy paper between the coasters and the foam board. This method would definitely not damage the coasters and would leave them basically repositionable, but I decided it was more work than I wanted to continue investing in the project. If anyone out there tries this, I would love to know how it goes.
Have you mounted coasters or something similar in a frame in another way? Please email me - pbarry at this domain.
I threw a Miracle Fruit tasting party, and it was a success of flavor!
I bought 50 frozen berries and kept them in my freezer until the party. The berries come with instructions on how to best masticate for flavor-tripping optimization - it takes about 2 minutes in your mouth to do a good job of recalibrating your taste buds. The effects last a good 30 minutes, tapering off completely by an hour. Apparently it’s easier to find the processed tablets of the fruit extract, and the couple people who had done that before said that the effects were pretty close to identical.
What worked really well:
- Limes - This is really the best place to start. There’s a reason every miracle fruit site lists limes first.
- Lemons - A little sourness still comes through (more than limes), but still fantastic.
- Grapefruit - Grapefruit may be the only normal-ish food that I loathe, but on miracle fruit, it tastes fantastic!
- Lemon Juice - Tastes like lemonade.
- Bloody Mary mix - Unfortunately I forgot to taste this myself, but everyone raved about it.
- Hoppy/Bitter Beer - I bought Stone Ruination IPA and this was the clear winner of the 3 beers we had. Normally I can’t stand even tame IPAs because of the bitterness, but the miracle fruit really toned down the bitterness while leaving the floral characteristics of the hops.
- Vinegar - Drinking balsamic vinegar raw was really fun and delicious!
- Tabasco - Still spicy, but delicious by itself now.
- Endives - My favorite of the vegetables we tried. The bitterness is gone and it makes a great snack.
- Mustard - This one surprised me the most. I hadn’t read much about it, but eating raw mustard was fabulous. It tasted like the fanciest sweet mustard I’ve ever had.
- Wine - Some people disagreed with me, but I loved how the berries made a Malbec wine taste like a madeira or port dessert wine.
- Umeboshi - Pickled plum paste. The sourness still came through, but it was rendered much more palatable and was fun to eat raw.
Mixed reaction items:
- Sour beer - I got Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze which is normally nearly excruciatingly sour. It was rendered very sweet, much like a Faro, but I happen to prefer it in its sour form, and I don’t think I heard anyone say they significantly preferred the sweetened form.
- Normal beer - We drank some homebrewed beer, and it was just a little sweeter, but not in an overly malty way, which I sort of liked, but other folks’ reactions were mixed.
- Coffee - Coffee is certainly less bitter, but it tastes somewhat like it has a strange sweetener in it. Like stevia, but in a very different way.
- Blue cheese - Mildly affected, but nothing terribly impressive.
- Dark chocolate - We tried fancy 85%, 99%, and 100% cacao. The berries only cut a small amount of the bitterness - the 100% was still unpalatable, and the 85% and 99% weren’t much different either.
- Worcestershire sauce - Mildly affected, but not as fun to drink as tabasco and vinegar.
- Dill pickles - They tasted kind of like bread and butter pickles, which some people liked and some didn’t.
- Radicchio - Still way too bitter to eat raw.
- Brussels sprouts - We only ate them raw, but still unappetizing.
- Sweet fruits - We tried plums, watermelons, mango, and pineapple, but I don’t think any of them tasted significantly different since they were already sweet.
- Peanut butter
- Boiled peanuts
- Cassava melon
All-in-all, this was a very worthwhile adventure in flavor-land, and I highly recommend it.
Similar to the love of food of the hyper-exacting food critic in Ratatouille, I love beer. If I don’t love it, I don’t drink it. In the US, we’re familiar with wine snobs, scotch snobs, bourbon snobs, and more, but rarely beer snobs. This is not ok.
Arrogant Bastard lobs a good volley with their “you’re not worthy” motto, but that’s not actually true. It’s the beers that aren’t worthy, and we need to raise our expectations.
Maybe you think I’m talking about Bud, Miller, and Coors. I’m not. Those aren’t beer. Those aren’t even TRYING to be beer. For that matter neither are Stella Artois, Corona, or anything else found on the menu at 80% of the beer serving establishments I’ve seen.
Something like Blue Moon (still owned by one of those guys) is at least trying. It doesn’t quite make it in my opinion, but I suppose some people can tolerate it. Otherwise great microbreweries are reduced to having staple beers like New Belgium’s Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, or Anchor Steam at this level of quality to be meat-and-potatoes cash flow providers because of the sorry state of our nation’s beer taste buds. People don’t even know what to ask for - I’ve heard many people think an “ale” or a “lager” is a good enough way to describe what kind of beer they want when it’s actually just a subtle technical difference.
Real beer - beer that is worth drinking - is something like New Belgium’s other beers, Allagash, Dogfish Head, Avery, or lots of good Belgian and German beers. NOW we can start talking about comparative quality levels and taste preferences.
But I don’t just drink real beer. I drink GREAT beer. What is great beer, you ask?
Great beer hard to find. 99% of stores do not carry any. Even fewer restaurants.
Great beer is not an “everyday beer” or a “session beer.” I reject the entire notion. If I’m going to poison my liver, it better be WORTH it.
Great beer almost never comes in a 6 pack. 4 packs are slightly more likely, but in my opinion one doesn’t buy something unique and special in bulk. Brewers making beers intended to be gourmet products have generally adopted wine bottle appearances to market towards people who expect such packaging of high-quality quaffables. If you’ve never bought a 750ml sized bottle of beer, you probably haven’t had great beer.
Great beer costs as much as good wine. If I have to hear one more person whining about paying $10 for a glass of world-class beer at a world-class bar, I will give them a boot to the head. It boggles me how people can be willing to pay so much for smushed grapes and not for something that takes significantly more processing work and cooking skill. I once drank a $200 beer (or rather, a 1 ounce pour from it). It was totally worth it - I’m sure I’ll never drink anything like it again.
Great beer is more varied than any other type of fermented beverage. The differences between a merlot, a zinfandel, and a sauvignon blanc pale next to the differences between an IPA, a doppelbock, and a gueuze. Great beer will often be so malty, bitter, sour, etc that it will be undrinkable to people with different taste preferences (others will of course worship it).
Go drink some great beer. You’re worth it.
I made a little artsy mathy thing. It’s a java applet, so you have to click through to see it, and it didn’t work well in Chrome for me, but Firefox and Safari (after enabling Java) did fine.
I used to love playing around with Processing. This was a really fun little project.
I recently discovered that I have a family motto I was unaware of:
"Boutez en avant" - meaning "push forward" - has apparently been the Barry motto since there were Barry’s, which I discovered is just after the Normans conquered Wales and right before they got into Ireland (wikipedia tells me the history of the De Barry family). There’s even a town in Ireland named for the motto - Buttevant.
I also never noticed the wolf in the coat of arms. Apparently my sister and I were fated to go to North Carolina State:
I buy a lot of fancy beer. Most of the beers I get excited about now are local to other regions in the US. So over the last year I’ve compiled a big list of sites to look through for certain beers. It’s gotten rather tedious to do all that searching.
So I threw together a custom search engine that searches over good beer stores online!
Because of the nature of such stores, this is also a good tool to search for wines, meads, ciders, liqueurs, spirits, glassware, and more.
It’s already helped me find a store in Europe that will ship the beer that introduced me to great beer to the US (Andechs Doppelbock from Munich if you’re curious), though it’s sold out at the moment. You can even find Westvleteren beers on this thing.
I’m pretty happy with it so far. I might make a v2 at some point in the future, but for now I’ll probably just add stores to it for a little while.
I’ve worked at Google for several years, and I’m often fascinated by the differences in internal perception of our products and external perception.
As a little experiment, I used Google Trends to rank all Google services that I could think of (starting with the “even more" page). It was somewhat difficult because you can only compare up to 5 at a time and the numbers given are relative to only the current search. I know that search volume is not an accurate estimate of popularity for MANY reasons, but I’ve found that its rough conclusions are usually pretty solid.
And so, if you’ve wondered how various Google services stack up against each other, here is the final battle:
- google maps
- google earth
- google translate
- google chrome
- google images
- google books
- google scholar
- google news
- google docs
- google calendar
- google finance
- google talk
- google toolbar
- google reader
- google code
- google desktop
- google sites
- google groups
- google checkout
- google labs
- google trends
- google buzz
- google pack
- google latitude
- google health
- google moon
- google shopping
- google maps mobile
- google alerts
- google bookmarks
- laiba (来吧) (China-specific social network)
- google my maps
- google notebook [cancelled]
- google directory
- google answers [cancelled]
- google 411
- picasa web albums
- google blog search
- google mars
- custom search
- google goggles
- open social
- friend connect
- google lively [cancelled]
- google moderator
- google patent search
Comments on methods:
- I tried to find the most popular version of a product name that was still specific to it. For example, “Google Product Search” is much better known as “Google Shopping” so I used that, and though “Lively” is probably more searched by itself, it’s not distinct enough, so I used “Google Lively”.
- Some products do not have their names translated internationally, and thus get a boost in this comparison. For example, Orkut is the same name in Brazil and India (its 2 big traffic sources), while Google Maps has a translated name in most countries around the world. This is probably quite a big boost to the untranslated products - mainly Youtube, Gmail, Orkut, Picasa, Blogger, iGoogle.
- All searches were done around 3 June 2010, only over the last 12 months of searches. I would not be surprised if these ranks change somewhat in the months ahead.
- Some comparisons were very close and I may have made the wrong call by a spot or two in some places.
If I left off any services that would be interesting, please drop me an email at pbarryatpatrickbarrydotcom.