Monday, April 13, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Brew it Yourself

Professional Craft Blueprints for Home Brewing
Erik Spellmeyer (Microcosm)

Home brewing has come a long way since the the mid 90s when a roommate of mine brought home some ridiculous contraption called Mr. Beer. While Mr. Beer did allow you to brew your own suds back in the day, it sure produced an awful tasting end product. At least that was my experience. Not to be outdone, another roommate during this period also tried his hand at home brewing. Instead of some preformed plastic gizmo, he kicked it a little more old school with stainless steel pots, big thermometers, giant wooden stirring spoons and whatnot. His output tasted like crap too. Were either of these gents to read my description of their beer making efforts here today, they would undoubtedly, wholeheartedly defend their product and defy that it tasted anything but delicious. My taste buds don’t lie, however.

At any rate, we’ve come a long way from the skunky flavor, moldy basement aroma and horrendous aftertaste of Mr. Beer and his ilk, and Mr. and Ms. Beer Drinker appreciate that. It's too bad this book, Brew it Yourself, wasn't lying around the apartment back then because that certainly would have helped the situation.

Brew it Yourself  is a do-it-yourself guide that comes correct with info and how-tos on the how to of extract brewing, all grain brewing and the importance of sanitation to the fermenting process. Written by beer crafter and suds enthusiast, Erik Spellmeyer, this is an informative guide that will allow anyone with a little time, a little money and a passion for great hops to brew their own. You can make it as easy or as involved as you like. There are recipes for pales, ales and extra special bitter beers as well as a glossary, conversion guide and a brew log to chart your progress, or lack thereof.

I must confess that I do not plan on brewing my own beer, ever. I prefer getting beer the old fashioned way, I buy it already bottled. However, I am definitely going to pass this book on to Roommate #1 who has since returned to home brewing, this time employing a much more efficient system, and is no doubt brewing delicious malts and IPAs while the former Mr. Beer more than likely lies at the bottom of a deep landfill somewhereChris Auman

Thursday, March 05, 2015

It's T.R. Miller Time!

Friday, February 27, 2015

It's T.R. Miller Time!


A Graphic Tale of Working Woes at NYC’s Strand Bookstore
Greg Farrell (Microcosm)

The retail book business has changed since the dawn of the Internet Age and organized labor has certainly seen plenty of shifts of its own since that time. A long recession followed by a sluggish recovery, the proliferation of ebooks, Nooks and that destroyer of worlds, have proven as harmful as the apocalyptic chain store threat of Barnes and Noble just a few decades ago. This is all evident in the graphic novel, On the Books, created by writer/artist/rapper and bookstore employee Greg Farrell. This is Farell’s depiction of the 2012 labor dispute between his UAW union (United Auto Workers? Don’t worry, that’s gets explained in the book) and his employer Strand Bookstore. His is the POV of the, perhaps stereotypical, “over-educated, low-wage earning hipster” — the kind Republicans care about only slightly less than the under-educated low-wage earner, hipster or otherwise. 

New York City’s Strand Bookstore, once a haunt of such punk literati as Tom Verlaine and Patty Smith, has been in business for 86 years. It purportedly contains 18 miles of books and is a bonafide New York institution. The employees think this family-owned business can let a little more money trickle down to them. The owners feel otherwise and therein lies the friction among the fiction. Nothing new there. The book details the events that occurred during the buildup to, and the aftermath of, the summer of 2012. That's when things got sticky with protests and the intrusion of outside agitators, who may have had good intentions, but whose one-size-fits all tactics did little to help the Strand workers' cause. 

Farrell gives us a history of the Strand as well as the United Auto Workers Union that represents the company’s 150 employees. Different points of view are represented, some opposed to a work stoppage, some accepting of its necessity and some falling right in between. Greg shares his coworkers opinions by including their own testimonials. 

With such a gung-ho, anti-union presidential contender like Scott Walker looking to establish his union busting street cred on the national stage, the tension between workers and owners will be something we can expect to see a lot more of on our various electronic devices, but comics are as good a medium as any to get the newsChris Auman

You can read the finale to On the Books here: