Monday, November 30, 2009

Beer Review, Week of Nov. 29: Pliney the Elder

About a week ago, I came across an interesting 'beer battle' on the beer-blog, Twinbeer. The battle was a showdown between Lagunitas' Hop Stoopid Ale and Russian River's Pliney the Elder. Both of the beers received generally positive reviews, with Pliney the Elder ultimately taking the victory. When I spotted Pliney at Whole Foods in Campbell, I decided to make it my next choice for the weekly review.

Pliney the Elder is a Double IPA, a style of beer that, by definition, incorporates a large amount of hops into a relatively slower brewing process. The result is a "big beer" featuring a medium-to-high alcohol content, and an intensely hoppy flavor. If you aren't a fan of hops, this may be a style to avoid.

The beer bottle features a classic logo, and includes a charming narrative about Pliney the Elder. Born in 23 A.D., the Roman naturalist was credited with the discovery of hops, and supposedly perished while attempting to save fellow Romans during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The brew is Russian River Brewing Co.'s homage to the "scholar, historian, traveler, officer and writer." Also, somewhat humorously, the bottle contains no less than 14 warnings about drinking Pliney as fresh as possible..." If you must, sit on eggs, not on Pliny!" With these admonitions in mind, I eagerly cracked open the bottle.

The pour produced a thick, frothy white head on the beer, that again, did not dissipate quickly [as seen the picture]. The snifter-style glass beautifully showcased the brew, as the carbonation was slowly released, creating a tantalizing display of bubbles that coupled with an intensely bright, (and alcoholic) flowery aroma.

The color of this brew was bright orange, with subtly warm undertones. Peering through the glass, the beer appeared surprisingly clear and was more phosphorescent than cloudy. The smell was potent, extremely hoppy and citrusy, with a clearly alcoholic overcast.

This beer has a huge flavor. It is immediately hoppy and sweet, yet finished crisp and clear. It definitely delivered an "explosive hop flavor," as promised on the bottle. After drinking the beer for a while, my only complaint was that it proved to finish a little overpowering, yet the taste never degenerated into an unpleasant one.

Style: Double IPA
ABV: 8.0% , 100 BUs
1.071 O.G.

Overall, I really enjoyed this beer and was glad to have tried it. Although this beer won't be one that I will drink regularly, it will certainly be one to keep an eye-out for (especially if it is fresh... "Age your cheese, not your Pliney!").


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beer Review, Week of Nov. 22: 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

Well, here goes nothing...

For my first review, I decided to sample a brew from a brewery that I know and love, New Belgium Brewing (plus, I already had the matching glassware). One of my favorite beers of all-time, is their summer seasonal, Skinny Dip. Yet, the brewery is probably most well-know for its flagship beer, Fat Tire, which can be found on tap at numerous locales throughout Northern California.

The 1554 Enlightened Black Ale is one of seven beers that New Belgium produces year-round [part of the "Our Folly" lineup], although it is not as easily found as Fat Tire. The bottle states that 1554 "redefines the phrase keeping time in a bottle." Further, it boasts a "surprisingly bright taste and a dry, chocolaty finish..." My weekly beer review provided me with a great excuse to pour one!

The pour was smooth, creating a nice head on the beer that stuck around for a few sips. I found the beer to be a little bubbly at first, but this might have been caused by my storage of the beer on its side and opening it too quickly (you can sort of see the carbonation in the pic...I know, I know that B+ in undergrad photography sure doesn't show! I will be working on improving the quality of the photos...).

The beer simply looks delicious; I wanted to drink it right away. The hue was a deep brown, certainly darker than an IPA or an amber (Fat Tire), but much lighter than a stout (or a Xingu Black Beer - which will probably be the beer I fall back to for comparison on this one extreme). Also, the beer was quite aromatic throughout the pour, as I was hit with a pleasant smell, rich and chocolaty, with just a subtle hint of that alcohol 'beer-smell' (not too overpowering).

My first sip was outstanding, everything that I was expecting. Very malty, just the right level of sweetness and very flavorful. My only criticism of the beer was that as I continued to sip it, it lost some of its initial smoothness. The beer developed a slightly bitter edge, eclipsing some of the more initially pleasing flavors of the beer. On their website, New Belgium recommends a pairing of 1554 with "meat stew" or desserts, like chocolate- or cheesecake. 1554 would pair well with practically anything off the grill (they also, interestingly suggest beet greens as a potential menu item).

Style: Belgian Dark Ale
ABV: 5.6%

Overall, I will definitely seek out this beer again. It has much more character than your generic dark beer (e.g., a Guinness), and it is satisfyingly delicious. 1554 is certainly on par with the level of quality that I have come to expect from New Belgium's line of brews. Be sure to look out for this one, if New Belgium's brews are available where you live (unfortunately, not NY).


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Announcing MT;COTM Weekly Beer Reviews...

Those who know me particularly well, are fully aware of my tendencies to "geek-out" on seemingly ineffectual subject matter. I have been known to accelerate my interests in say, skiing or Mixed Martial Arts (or IP Law), from zero to a hundred rather quickly.

My current geek indulgence, has been beer.

Thus, I am announcing that (starting soon...just in time for law school finals!) I will be reviewing one beer a week here at Modern Time; Crimes of the Mind.

My tastes have changed significantly since my college days (although I am at risk of reverting to Natural Light nearly every time I purchase beer...truly upsetting). Lately, I have been eschewing the lighter, more popular beers/brands to experiment with some more flavorful brews. Now, make no mistake, in my heart of hearts I absolutely love what I affectionately have dubbed the "Hometown Breweries" such as Saranac, Long Trail Brewing Co., Magic Hat Brewing Company, southern tier brewing co., etc.

I would desire nothing better to review some of my favorite brews from the great North East, however, I will simply be limited by availability. Luckily, I am surrounded by some fantastic breweries. A few of my favorites discoveries thus far (expect to see reviews of beers from many of the following):

Pyramid Breweries - probably most well known for their Hefe
Anchor Brewing - maker of the SF classic, the Anchor Steam

Plus a few of my favorite "bigger-breweries" out in Colorado:
Flying Dog Brewery - the 2009 'Mid-Size Brewery of the Year' (GABF).

My ambition is to sample and review one beer each week. I will attempt to include pictures, as well as my (expert/charming/batman-esque) insight concerning each beer. I am still toying around with a rating schematic, but rest assured, you will know my opinion, one way or another, regarding each brew.

Now, here comes the FULL of this moment, everything that I am reviewing and including in photographs (i.e., glasses with brand names on them) have been paid for entirely by me. This ensures an unbiased, hard-hitting opinion that you can TRUST and RELY on! [please note this as sarcasm] That being said, I am always open to receiving beers or beer/glass combo sets for fact, you could say that I readily welcome and invite solicitation (full disclosure if and when of course!). Please simply contact me...

Also, be patient - twice a year blogging (and beer reviewing) takes a deferential, "back-burner," position to law school finals...but you can expect to see a weekly installment soon.

Thanks and [of course] Cheers!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"The Future of the DVD"

On Monday, I was in attendance at the haunting Varnish Gallery in San Francisco, where the Electronic Frontier Foundation presented a panel and happy hour event, titled "The Future of the DVD."

The panel was moderated by EFF's Senior Staff Attorney, Fred von Lohmann. Fred introduced three main talking points for the evening, each highlighting some apparently conflicting interests between Hollywood (dubbed as "big content") and consumers of DVD's.

First, he noted that consumers want to be able to space-shift and format-shift the content that they purchase. Users need to be able to take advantage of their fair use rights, for instance, when making back-up copies of their DVD's.

Second, he touched upon the charged atmosphere surrounding DVD rental. Due to the increasingly ubiquitous nature of "Redbox" kiosks, movie studios are threatening to withhold wholesale pricing for new releases and are attempting to impose a period of delay between movie release dates and Redbox availability.

And finally, Fred reiterated the 'Remix'/creativity theme that academics like Lawrence Lessig have considered to be absolutely vital in this changing technological climate. Fred mentioned how the EFF was pushing the Copyright Office to recognize another DMCA exception, this one to allow users the ability to use clips from DVD's to remix movies in the creation of works of fan-fiction or in the remixing of other non-commercial, transformative works (e.g., music videos).

The rest of the panel hour was comprised of two stories. The first was that of Kaleidescape, and their product, movie server systems [if you have never heard of the company or their line of products, it is probably because an entry level system will run you at least $8,000...the systems average $30,000 each]. Kaleidescape CEO Michael Malcolm commented on the absurdity of the movie studios "rent, rip and return" claims. Given the nature and expense of the systems, he argued that movie server users are not typically engaging in this behavior [if you have the money to buy a system, you can afford (and are likely) to purchase movies outright].

The second story was a more familiar narrative, the RealDVD case. Deputy General Counsel for RealDVD, Bill Way, discussed his frustrations with Real's attempt to work collaboratively with the studios; he claimed that RealDVD's product was actually in the best interests of the studios. As opposed to open, unencrypted DVD burning programs and devices, RealDVD actually only makes encrypted copies, and thus provides for certain security measures. Their product, he stated, is strictly "designed to limit [the user] to fair use rights..."

Bill went on to further discuss RealDVD's ongoing litigation. A declaratory judgment was initially filed by RealDVD in the Northern District of California, and a concurrent temporary restraining order was filed by the movie studios in Los Angeles. The two suits were combined and heard in the Northern District, where Judge Patel ultimately issued the TRO. On Tuesday (the day following panel event), RealDVD filed their appeal. Bill commented on how he hopes to convince the appellate court to allow a Microsoft declaration to come into evidence [allegedly suggesting that the DVD CCS contract is not meant to prohibit all DVD copying...potentially a smoking gun-type statement?].

As for the 'Future of the DVD', the panel painted a foreboding description of what the movie studios want, i.e., "managed DVD copies". The panel urged that managed DVD copying would be extremely detrimental to user's interests, as it would provide a mechanism for content producers to get consumers to pay again and again for the same content, each time they want to create another copy.

The event was certainly an informative, albeit one-sided (biased?) view of the current debate surrounding both rental and copying rights for DVD's. Ultimately, this debate might prove to be relatively inconsequential as the future of the DVD could be nonexistent. Physical media is likely headed the way of the dinosaur, as more and more people move towards streaming and digital downloads. The question is what will happen, in between now and then.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Facebook Memorial Park

Facebook's introduction of the 'Memorial' Page was a topic of discussion on This Week in Law, Episode 36. The panelists addressed primarily legal issues -- what sort of legal planning (i.e. issues that arise in the law school requisite course, Wills & Estates) and post-death, familial dispute resolutions would be necessitated by the act of memorializing a deceased user's Facebook page. Denise Howell also addressed a social functions of the memorial page, in providing notice to users regarding the passing of a (perhaps, attenuated) friend.

In my opinion, the memorialization of a Facebook page, or the creation of a similar landing site on the web, is a reasonable supplement (or alternative?) to traditional funeral/memorial practices.

First, a virtual memorial is both cheap to create and relatively easy to maintain. Facebook does not charge for this service, and given that a user page is 'frozen' at the time of memorialization, there is really no effort required to setting up the site (yet the site is still capable of being dynamic, in that a limited group of people can write on the wall, post pictures, etc...essentially, information can still be added or removed).

Second, a virtual memorial is not constrained by real-world, physical limitations. A headstone can only capture the name of the individual, the crucial dates, and maybe a short quote or phrase. A virtual memorial, on the other hand, can be drastically more inclusive. The website could contain photos of the individual, quotes by and about the person, videos, music, etc.

Most importantly, a virtual memorial is far more convenient than a physical one. A virtual memorial can be accessed at anytime, from anywhere. It would be possible to "visit" the site for as long as you wish, or to stay for just a quick glance at a photograph or two. This virtual memorial may not replace a physical memorial (i.e. graveside/cemetery location), but it could definitely supplement a real-world memorial in an appreciable way.

While the idea of a virtual memorial website is certainly not new, Facebook creates the opportunity to dedicate one where this option was not so readily available in the past. Facebook eliminates the barriers and disincentives to creation of such a site.

Currently, the notion of a Facebook page for a deceased user may appear a little offensive or untimely. But, it will be interesting to see if these memorial pages are regularly adopted on a widespread basis. This could very well be a possibility, as our culture continues to evolve with an increasingly open mindset toward online social interactions.

After all, the interactive social processes surrounding the death of friend or family member are one of the most cultural and sociological aspects of the human experience. It is only a matter of time until they shift and blur into the virtual world, as has been the case for so many other of our daily interactions.