The Friday Fermentable: The Presidential Beer Summit Edition

I absolutely guarantee that the President wanted a fine, handcrafted American ale. But I am certain that the conservative press would’ve jumped this as an “elitist” choice as they did his campaign comments on arugula.
Instead, he chose Bud Light.
The President had a choice to promote the craft-brewing industry in the US – the most noble and patriotic of pursuits shared by our Founding Fathers.
Instead, craft brewers across the country – nay, perhaps the world – let forth a collective “D’oh” upon the announcement of the President’s watered-down choice.

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The Friday Fermentable: Apollo 11 edition: Trying not to harsh on your Buzz

Please accept my apologies in advance for taking another edition of The Friday Fermentable to bring you a sober (pun intended) story about alcoholic beverages. The heat, beginning training for a half-marathon, and other stuff have my personal alcohol consumption at nil so I don’t have any recent wine or beer finds to share with you, Dear Reader.
Moreover, there have been some prominent stories as of late relating to alcohol and substance abuse such as the pharmacology and toxicology of Michael Jackson’s death (which we’ve discussed here, here, and here) and the prevalence of alcoholism in the food and beverage industry. In addition, my professional interactions with real-life and blogging colleagues have renewed my interest in drugs of abuse, particularly since a great many of these agents are (or are derived from) naturally-occurring chemical compounds.
But if you want something fun about finely fermented beverages, please revisit the rosé wine promotional music video from my local heroes, the owners of the Durham, NC-based artisan wine/cheese/bread/beer/cured meats purveyor, Wine Authorities. I am still peeing my pants everytime I watch this.
Buzz Aldrin Magnificent Desolation.jpgBut my serious topic today relates to the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission: a book released on 23 June by Apollo 11 astronaut and second man to walk on the Moon, Col. Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Sr., entitled “Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From The Moon.” In partnership with writer Ken Abraham, Aldrin details his life before, during, and after his central role in one of the greatest accomplishments in human history.
From the Random House book description:

The flight of Apollo 11 made Aldrin one of the most famous persons on our planet, yet few people know the rest of this true American hero’s story. In Magnificent Desolation, Aldrin not only gives us a harrowing first-person account of the lunar landing that came within seconds of failure and the ultimate insider’s view of life as one of the superstars of America’s space program, he also opens up with remarkable candor about his more personal trials-and eventual triumphs-back on Earth. From the glory of being part of the mission that fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon before the decade was out, Aldrin returned home to an Air Force career stripped of purpose or direction, other than as a public relations tool that NASA put to relentless use in a seemingly nonstop world tour. The twin demons of depression and alcoholism emerged-the first of which Aldrin confronted early and publicly, and the second of which he met with denial until it nearly killed him. He burned through two marriages, his Air Force career came to an inglorious end, and he found himself selling cars for a living when he wasn’t drunkenly wrecking them. Redemption came when he finally embraced sobriety, gained the love of a woman, Lois, who would become the great joy of his life, and dedicated himself to being a tireless advocate for the future of space exploration-not only as a scientific endeavor but also as a thriving commercial enterprise.

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The Friday Fermentable: Wine Authorities Spread the Gospel of Roséism

As I agonized over what I’d write about for this week’s installment of The Friday Fermentable, my Wine Authorities newsletter arrived followed by their tweet on their inaugural music video.
Wine Authorities, my local wine merchants and community gods, have been spreading the gospel of rosé wines as a summer alternative to the red wines we enjoy most of the rest of the year. But contrary to the sweet white zinfandels and such that might turn off those who enjoy good wine, there is now a plethora of foreign and domestic wine offerings (and values) that show off red grapes in a lightly-crushed version. (Briefly, by minimizing the amount of time the red grapeskins are incubated with the must, some color and flavor compounds in the skins are extracted without the heavier tannins of a fully-extracted red.)
From the circle of the magnificent rose collection at the Sarah P Duke Gardens, I present The Pope of Pink, The Right Reverend of Rosato, and The Rabbi of Rosé, “(We Always Promised You) A Rosé Garden.”

(We Always Promised You a) Rosé Garden from Wine Authorities on Vimeo.

At Wine Authorities we practice Roséism – the drinking of dry pink wine. Our mission is to convert the unconverted. We want to teach wine lovers that pink wine is not necessarily sweet. Drink the pink. We donate a percentage of every rosé bottle sold to the Triangle, NC Susan G. Komen Foundation.

There are too many highlights to list but as a former Polish National Catholic altar boy, I particularly appreciate the incensing technique of the Jewish co-owner, Seth Gross, using a bottle of ros&eacute. The nod to Jimi Hendrix at the end was also a nice touch of reverence.
Please excuse me while I find my asthma meds and change my pee-soaked underwear.
Special thanks to:
Chris Boerner (Sound Pure Studios, Durham, NC)
Dennis Scoville (pedal steel guitarist extraordinaire)
Charles Stern (Best Boy, Key Grip, Fluffer – I can’t believe they said “Fluffer”)
Larry Gottschalk (Photographer, Cinematographer)

The Friday Fermentable: “Mixing Drinks With Work and Staying Sober, Too” (NYTimes)

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Figure 1. SouthernFriedScientist (@SFriedScientist) and Kevin Zelnio (Deep Sea News; @kzelnio) and their 40s preparing to leave to attend the 4th International Symposium on Chemosynthesis-Based Ecosystems – Hydrothermal Vents, Seeps and Other Reducing Habitats – in Okinawa, Japan. Yes, Dr Zelnio, those are absolutely gorgeous beards.
I don’t know if Kim Severson of the New York Times knew this when writing her thought-provoking article earlier this week, but it coincided with the annual meetings of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) and the College of Problems on Drug Dependence (CPDD). (btw, this timing is annoying for researchers who work in the general area of substance abuse who would normally like to go to both meetings. DrugMonkey has pointed out that the pending merger of NIH’s NIDA and NIAAA, a logical step, has not been met with enthusiasm by RSA, further reflective of the rift in the substance abuse research community).
But I digress.
My point of bringing up Severson’s article is a question that interests me given the context of The Friday Fermentable; namely, what happens if you have a career in the alcoholic beverage industry but become an alcoholic or alcohol abuser?

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The Friday Fermentable Commencement Address

I was having a lovely conversation this week with scribbler50, our beloved blogging bartender at Behind The Stick. Describing him as “just” a blogger does not do him justice; scribbler50 is a writer. If you haven’t been over to Brother Scribb’s crib, do yourself a favor and read a few of his essays. In fact, read the whole archives.
Scribb and I got into a discussion of wine connoisseurs sometimes being as pretentious and annoying as the single malt scotch drinkers about which he has written with piercing accuracy and humor. Thinking that perhaps he had offended me, he qualified the remark to mean pseudo-connoisseurs: people who spout out wine information with the intent to impress others when, in fact, the result is to alienate and cause the inquisitive to become anxiety-prone instead of delving into the enjoyment that wine can provide.
As I wrote in the July, 2006 Mission Statement for The Friday Fermentable, I am a wine enthusiast. I claim no special degrees or professional experiences that make me an expert. I did make wine a fair bit in the 1990s and met with a handful of winemakers around North America, but no more than many out there. But I can drink wine, and often do so with reckless abandon.
For me, wine should be a beverage that brings people together. Having even extensive, technical knowledge of wine should not interfere with that simple fact. From the Mission Statement:

3. To use this forum as a bully pulpit to offset the snobbery and exclusionary behavior of some alcoholic beverage experts that serve the counterproductive aim of alienating the public from gaining a rewarding, enriching, and stress-reducing experience.

In chatting with Brother Scribb, I was reminded of a theme I introduced in a commencement speech when I was an assistant professor. As university graduations are occurring all around the States this week and next, and since the commencement address is one of the most tedious forms of oratory, I wanted to share this recollection with readers of The Friday Fermentable:

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The Friday Fermentable: Triangle Tweetup 2.0

If you follow me on Twitter (@abelpharmboy) or looked at this post Thursday, you’d know that I was going to a meetup of area Twitter users. I honestly had no idea what to expect and have to say that it was a rather enriching experience. It gave me a chance to press the flesh with a crowd very different and higher energy than some (but not all) scientific gatherings.
The group was different because the people I met were more in the tech and communications biz and the higher energy might have come from that I was probably one standard deviation away from the mean age. Click through the photo booth pictures taken by Josh Hofer here to get a feel for the crowd – the brontosaurus was the mascot of the host, Bronto Software, and the bird is the icon for The Iconfactory whose Greensboro, NC-based representatives were onsite to demonstrate the new version of Twitterific for the iPhone and iPod touch.
fullsteam.jpgAs I predicted, the highlight for me was indeed drinking my first samples of beer from Fullsteam Brewery. A brewery-in-planning, Fullsteam is led by Sean Lilly Wilson (@fullsteam) who, “founded and led Pop The Cap, a lobbying organization that opened up state economic markets to North Carolina’s specialty beer industry.” With Sean was brewmaster Chris Davis (@fullsteam32). Together, they poured their “Control” beer Rocket Science India Pale Ale and their “Experimental” beer, Sweet Potato Amber.

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Triangle Tweetup tonight

I only signed up for Twitter (@abelpharmboy) on 21 January but have found it incredibly valuable for staying up to speed on blogs, MSM articles, local and national news, and science and medicine stories. I’ve already accumulated 284 “followers” which is about half of our daily blog visitors. I’d say that about 60% of those are not spammers.
Well tonight in the Bull City, there is an event called Triangle Tweetup, a meetup of local Twitter users at Bronto Nation Software (@bronto). I’m going as are a few bloggers our readers may know such as Bora Zivkovic and foodie, jewelry-maker, and artist, Lenore Ramm.
fullsteam.jpgPerhaps most relevant to me, and readers of our Friday Fermentable feature, is that Fullsteam Brewery founder, Sean Wilson, and brewmaster Chris will be there pouring samples of their offerings. Latest word has them pouring their flagship beer, Carolina Common, and one of their local-ag beers, Sweet Potato Amber. This is absolutely tremendous for me as Fullsteam is still in the brewery-in-planning period and has yet to offer beer for sale or even secure a site for their brewery and pub. (Also just saw that Lone Rider Brewing Company will be there.).
But otherwise, I have absolutely no idea what a tweetup is for. I think it is social networking in meatspace. There will be 200+ people there and I recognize very, very few from the signup list. Will we have to speak to each other in sentences that comprise 140 characters or less?
Who are you people and why are you going?

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The Friday Fermentable: Wines of the Pacific Northwest by Erleichda

Our dear colleague, Erleichda, is back with another wine dinner experience. For those new to the blog, Erleichda is my slightly-senior colleague from whom I have learned a great deal about life and science. Recently retired from the discovery and development of life-saving anticancer drugs, he posts routinely on the escapades of his travels and wine dinners with his friends, known by the name “Jim’s Disciples” to acknowledge their recently departed founder. This is an older column that I missed posting awhile back so here it is for your enjoyment.
Another Wine Experience: Dinner Paired with Wines of the Pacific Northwest
by Erleichda

Jim’s Disciples tried a new approach to their monthly, or thereabouts, wine tasting dinners. Rather than the usual selection of a wine theme and attendance at a nearby restaurant, this particular Spring night we did something different. The restaurateur of a somewhat new BYOB establishment suggested wines of the Pacific Northwest (if that would be an acceptable focus to us) would make an interesting match for her husband’s cooking. For each course of her proposed menu she suggested a type of wine we could find from Oregon or Washington (or British Columbia). Each of us was then assigned one of the recommended varietals or theme topics as the basis for our wine purchase, with the intention that it would serve as the perfect accompaniment for the food course for which it had been chosen. Our selections made, we awaited the evening with great anticipation.
It was a dark and stormy night, but inside the restaurant the many glasses for the multitude of wines were twinkling and tinkling. Greetings all around, a congrats to the new grandpa amongst us, and all the bottles were opened and set aside as we settled in for an amuse bouche. A small dollop of smoked salmon canape on 7-grain toast went so nice with the Argyle 2002 Brut Cuvee Willamette Valley, Oregon sparkling wine (ca. $30), or was it the other way around? But I was hungry at this point and wished these temptations set before us were more plentiful. I found the wine, composed of 75% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir, to be a pleasant mixture of perfumed citrusy olfactory sensations, and toasty pear flavors on the tongue, along with good minerality. My tasting and smelling senses were still sharp at this point, but that would change. Others around the table mentioned tasting apple in this “fresh and dry” offering, and that the sparkling wine was “limestone mineraly” for a “not very dry brut”, as well as “light and citrusy”. Another nice beginning.
The meal began in earnest with the appearance of a pan seared crabcake with aioli sauce and a white bean relish. Two pinot gris wines had been selected to accompany this appetizer. The 2006 Lange Pinot Gris ($17) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley had a clean nose and tasted crisp to me with a very light viscosity. Two people said they tasted peach; I did not. I thought this wine went well on its own whereas the next wine did better when had with food. The second pinot gris, a 2006 Lachini, was from North Willamette Valley (available for $18, though I paid more). It was lighter and thinner than the first wine and tasted somewhat more acidic. Hence it did better with food, and this opinion was seconded by a few others, but not all participants. A few noted an after taste, or a strange odor, or a raisin taste.

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The Friday Fermentable: Wines of Israel

This week’s Seder supper with the Zivkovic family and local friends gave me the opportunity to investigate several Kosher wines from Israel. My local wine merchant, Wine Authorities, has been carrying several Israeli wines for over a year but I’ve only tasted one and have unfortunately lost my notes on that one. You can read descriptions on the four they are currently offering: go to this link and then click on “Israel.”
Co-owner Craig Heffley tells me that he and his partner, Seth Gross, have tasted about 40 wines in the last year with 20 being quite reasonable and 10 outstanding.
Briefly, people like me who grew up in the northeastern United States are most likely to equate Kosher wines with the sweet, Concord grape-based offerings such as Manischewitz. But over the last 20 or 30 years, Israel’s wine industry has focused increasingly on dry, premium quality wines made from fine wine grapes (Vitis vinifera).
Three of the four wines offered at Wine Authorities are from Barkan Winery’s “Classic” series from the Tel-Safit (or Tel-Zafit) vineyard. I picked up a bottle each of the 2007 Barkan Shiraz and 2007 Barkan Chardonnay ($13.99 USD each). Barkan is the second largest winery in Israel and it was established back in 1889 so there is an extensive wine tradition in the country of which most people are not aware.

Our wines are produced from high quality grapes from all the wine growing regions in Israel, from the the Lebanese border in the Galil and the Golan in the North, to the Jerusalem mountains and the coastal plains in the center of the country, to the mountains in the Negev, where our Mitzpeh Ramon Vineyard in the South with its unique climate produces some amazing wines, and whose potential is still being explored.

However, I never got to taste either. The Shiraz was down at the opposite end of the table and never made it down to me. And since we went right for the reds, we never opened the Chardonnay. So, readers will have to ask Bora and Catherine Zivkovic how that one is.
Instead, I feasted upon two reds selected by Catharine:
2002 Yarden Galilee Syrah
2004 Gamla Galilee Cabernet Sauvignon
I couldn’t find a website for Gamla, but here is a post on their method champenoise offering.
In general, the styles are fruit-forward with little or no oaking. So, if you’re looking for a California-style, licking-the-barrel-style cab, you won’t find this here. Bitter tannins were, somehow, also not very prevalent. Instead, the Israeli wines taste more, I don’t know, in touch with the land like true agricultural products instead of chemically-manipulated concoctions.
The Yarden Syrah was my absolute favorite because of the very pleasant earthy flavors and aroma. Given that this was a 2002, it is quite possible that the Yarden had been more tannic at one time but it was now soft and medium-bodied.
Both the Yarden Syrah and Gamla Cabernet went well with everything, including the gefeltifish. There was just a touch of sweetness that stood up to the two kinds of fresh horseradish served but also didn’t overpower the charoset.
I would broadly characterize these wines as ones for people who never thought they would like a red wine. The two I tasted were well-rounded and low on the aggression scale. As I said, they were not going to blow you away like a big California cabernet or even an Oregon pinot noir. Instead, the Israeli wines were humble yet delectable offerings, just like the traditional foods we enjoyed at Seder. And while I am not Jewish, I can imagine the additional appeal these wines might have for Jews who wish to have a true piece of Israel at Pesach.
For a more detailed discussion of Israel’s wine history and wine growing regions, there is a nice medium-length article at
I also neglected to check in with my colleagues, Erleichda and Anjou, for their recommendations as I am certain they will have something to offer – please do so in the comments. (And many thanks to Erleichda and Anjou, and several of you, on last weekend’s birthday wishes!)

The Friday Fermentable Live!!! – ScienceOnline’09

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Arikia Millikan, then-Intern at (now gainfully employed Ex-Intern), demonstrates her facility in liveblogging the comparison between two pinot noirs.
So why has it taken me exactly 11 weeks to write this post? I think it’s because once we post it, I have to let go of how awesome this event was. But, this post has been sitting in my queue for way too long. So, now, I must finally tell all regular readers about our proposed live winetasting on 16 January at ScienceOnline’09.
scionline09 small.jpgAs you may know, about 240 science bloggers and associated miscreants gathered in Research Triangle Park, NC, in mid-January to discuss all things about communicating science online. On the opening night of the conference, the Duke University Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) group sponsored a fantastic talk by journalist, Rebecca Skloot, author of the upcoming book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and blogger at Culture Dish.
WineAuthoritahs_275px.jpgIn the hour prior to Rebecca’s talk, I had gathered a couple dozen folks who signed up in advance to join me to compare four really nice wines, selected for the occasion by Craig Heffley (Grand Poobah Wine Swami), co-owner of Wine Authorities, an internationally-recognized Durham, NC, wine merchant and community resource and gathering place.
With his business partner, Seth Gross, away in Austria and Germany on a wine scouting trip (which he blogged), Craig was still generous enough to spend about an hour-and-a-half with me at the store coming up with these selections for The Friday Fermentable Live! The group of 20-25 was comprised of first-time wine tasters and experienced enthusiasts, local Bull City folk and guests from Berlin, Helsinki, and Toronto, youngsters of 22 and others of us, uh, older than 22.
I’ve gotta hand it to Craig for recognizing the wide variety of folks we were trying to please. After much deliberation, we concurred on having a demonstration of Old World and New World wines from the same grape and then show off a nice American red comparison.
Craig suggested a fine American chardonnay to compare with a French white Burgundy:
2005 Lynmar Estate Chardonnay (Russian River Valley, CA) – $33.99
2005 Eric de Suremain, Rully 1er Cru Blanc (Burgundy, France) – $27.99
For the American red, Craig suggested we compare a California pinot noir with that of Oregon, where pinot is doing best in the States.
2007 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills, CA) – $37.99
2006 Lemelson Pinot Noir, Thea’s Selection (Willamette Valley, Oregon) – $36.99
Burgundy Lynmar.jpgYes, yes, I know that these price points are well outside my normally stated goals for postdoc- or grad student-friendly wines but, hell, I was buying and these people are my friends, or at least friends that I hadn’t yet met.
Let it go forth from this time and place: if you come to my town, you get treated well. (PharmMom will remember the late PharmDad saying to my college friends who I’d bring home, “We don’t want you to go home and tell your family you were at the PharmHouse and they didn’t give you enough to eat or drink.”)

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