Archive for the ‘Geekery’ Category

Hymn to Ninkasi
December 13, 2011

Hymn to Ninkasi, Hop Pendant Necklace by Feral Strumpet on Etsy

The Hymn to Ninkasi is a 4,000 year old song to the Sumerian goddess of brewing, and it’s also a recipe for beer.  (There’s a brewery in Eugene, Oregon named after her, but I have yet to try any of their beers.)

History often shines a miraculous light on what we take for granted.  Who first learned to turn the heel of a sock when knitting it?  Who first knew which herbs would cure or kill? And who first discovered brewing? There are many legends across cultures, but when confronted with the details of the thing it’s no less startling.

“You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks
the malt in a jar
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked
mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes.
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads
the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes.

You are the one who holds with both hands
the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey and wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

(translation by Miguel Civil.  You can read the whole poem here.)

The goddess is both the brewster and the brew itself. The rhythm and repetition, the vivid scene rendered in each stanza reminds me that brewing is very much a fun time, some cooking and cackling over a boiling pot– but it’s also a ritual, a visit with the ancestors who once saw brewing as such a wonder, they sang about it.

I was inspired to make the necklace pictured in the post after reading this poem. I have many elegant beer-inspired designs in the Feral Brewhaus section of my etsy shop.

August 5, 2010

I wouldn't mind one of these cuddly cases from latelierdeluluu on Etsy

I resisted the iPhone.  I really did.  I won’t evangelize; in my social realm, the device has become an antisocial distraction.  No, I don’t want to see your pictures or your gimmicky app or watch you surf the net while we try to have a conversation. Within a matter of a year or two, some new, rude behaviour has become commonplace as well as some ugly words like “app” and I think it’s fair to blame Apple.  Why not.

With that said, in the short time I’ve had my iPhone I’ve found it indispensable.  I’m sure other smart phones are just as handy, I just happen to have the mac one. I read Keats on it, have my choice of virtual mediation bowls, keep track of my knitting, make on-the-fly sound compositions and don’t get lost in London anymore.

But what about beer apps? Mark at Real Ale Reviews has put out some feelers, and I’ve decided to dive right in.  Mind you, diving has required treading through some muck, like iBeergoogles, the iPee, burp machines, simulated “quarters” or the Carling app (stolen from an indie developer‘s iBeer) that makes your phone look like a glass of beer.

I was looking for something like Remembeer, an app Sarah from the Irish Craft Brewers had on her Android phone which allowed her to log beers with her tasting notes and the when and where.  It was simple and elegant.  It’s available as Open Source. (Does anyone know how to install an Open Source app on an iPhone?  Is it possible?)

I’m not on Rate Beer, but I have downloaded the app at £1.19, which was a waste.  I fully intended to review the app’s features.  I hate giving stars to anything– books, movies, beers.  It just doesn’t make sense to me, but I understand this is how things are done when beers win awards.   This app allows you to tap (rather slowly) into the huge database of Rate Beer ratings and see the random stars everyone else has given beers, but I can’t get it to do anything beyond that.

There is the simply-named Beer! app by Metosphere (who also do a Christian prayer app if you want to really multitask).  It ain’t pretty, but it’s also free. It allows you to keep track of beer notes. It’s simple and in theory  you can share your notes with others, though in playing around I couldn’t get this feature to work.  I could see getting caught up with the category dial, not know where to put some things.  There are some Google ads on this app and I’m not sure how easy it would be to retrieve and organize the beer notes.  Also did I mention it’s a tad unsightly?

The unfortunately-named Beer Pad is a similar beer note app which costs £2.39.  It’s very similar to Beer! except that it has a generic “dewy lager glass” background rather than the grey streaky photoshop fill on the Beer! app, and it allows you to put in food pairings and customize the styles if you’re in a beer pedant mood. I didn’t try this one out personally because I couldn’t bring myself to pony up the pounds for it.

Beerlicious, £1.19, allows a similar rating breakdown by beer characteristics like aroma, mouthfeel and taste, averaged into a standardized rating.   Very concise and slick.  I found the style groupings and sub-headings of the Beer! app more user-friendly, but the quasi-Soviet looking icon is cute.

There are also apps that help you pair beer with food.  As I’m need of remediation when it comes to pairing, these seem particularly useful, though if you are an experienced beer foodie this kind of app might annoy you.

Beer Match costs 59 pence.  This app is a nice “beginner” type, with beer styles paired to different sorts of food, with a separate (if extremely limited) section of cheeses as well.  For instance, I haven’t yet forgiven them for omitting yarg.  Like most beer apps I’ve considered, this is geared toward the American beer drinker and the beer descriptions are almost too simplistic to really be useful.  Also, it seems like the kind of app one would use in a full service shop where you could ask for a particular style of beer.  If you live in London, good luck with that.  It may be geared to the total beer newbie, but I’m looking forward to using this app while I make meal plans for the week.  That’s about as Martha Stewart as I get.

BeerCloud is is an even better deal, as it’s free.  It’s also very shiny, very American. (And available for Android phones), a group of beer wholesalers which distributes information about availability of craft beers and organizes beer fans into local groups are behind the app which has an excellent Beer Sommelier feature more comprehensive than Beer Match. It suggests brands that are US beers, so you have to ad lib a substitution with what is available here.  Likewise, when you look for local beers or brewers, the UK isn’t represented.  This app would be great if there were a British equivalent, but I’ll definitely be using this when I go back to the States, as well as when planning meals in general.

I also splashed out on the mobile version of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide which costs a whopping £4.99, and is the most I’ve ever paid for an app.  So far it’s reminded me of locals I already know about, but perhaps will be handy if I’m in a part of the UK I don’t know well.  According to the app, the Wenlock Arms is local to me, which I wish were true. There are interesting notes and trivia with each pub listing, as well as a downloadable directory of breweries’ contact information, a short background and a list of their beers which is nice for on-the-go researching.

If you have a beery app that you use frequently, I’d like to hear about it.

Periodic Table of Beer
December 18, 2009

periodic table of beer, originally uploaded by John602.

I confess high school chemistry was hard and some of this metaphor is lost on me. But, you know, it’s fun to look at.