Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Derailers at Johnny D's

Went to see the Derailers on Sunday night at Johnny D's in Somerville. Fantastic drumming by Scotty Matthews and excellent, acrobatic keyboard playing by Basil McJagger. He had his electric piano and his organ lined up in front of each other and he'd dash back and forth between songs and during songs (while not knocking over the pints he stashed beneath them). At one point he actually stood on his head on his organ while playing it. They closed with a medley of every song you've ever heard, including L.A. Woman, Mr. Spaceman, Tutti Frutti, [theme from] Batman, Act Naturally, I'm a Believer, and a couple of songs of their own. My ears were still ringing when I went to bed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

NERAX 2010

We had never been to NERAX but always meant to go sometime. We went this year to the 14th New England Real Ale Exhibition in a nice room in an old marble building in Davis Square. We ran into Laurel and Mike there and we all stood around and traded beers and stories for a few fantastic hours.

"Real ale" or "cask ale" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cask_ale) is a sobriquet for beer produced by a certain, traditional, manufacturing and distributing process. The key is the beer undergoing fermentation in the vessel from which it is served and then being dispensed without help other than gravity or natural air pressure.

We were there for the opening of the festival and a good number of the firkins they had shipped in were ready for tapping. Others weren't ready yet (the festival lasts 4 days) and we missed a few we had looked forward to. We mostly drank halves (half imperial pints ... did you know that the imperial pint is a more modern unit of measure than the American pint??) and managed to sample a good number of beers.

Here's an annotated list of what we had. These are all among the crème de la crème, so put no significance if I damn by faint praise, I was probably distracted:
  1. Acorn Brewery (England), Golovka Imperial Stout - very similar to the Imperial Stout I make with a hoppy profile over the dark malts, just like mine
  2. Dark Star (England), Hophead - a nice session pale ale with some interesting flavors
  3. Elland Brewery (England), 1872 Porter - a recent contest winner and you can see why, beautifully full and smooth taste
  4. Fuller's (England), Gales HSB - a dry, classy bitter like they don't make in this country, I love Fuller's beers and wish the ESB had been on! (the Pride was but we didn't get to it)
  5. St. Austell (Cornwall), Winter Warmer - we've vacationed in Cornwall at Christmas right near the brewery and this was the first one I tried last night ... like going home
  6. Cairngorm (Scotland), Black Gold - rich and heavy Scots beer, is that possible??
  7. Fyne Ales (Scotland), Vital Spark - a fizzy bitter with a little taste of roast barley, kind of a Scots chick beer
  8. Harviestoun (Scotland), Old Engine Oil - my idea of a dark ale, reasonably tart balanced by some nice aftertastes
  9. Isle of Skye Brewing (Scotland), Black Cuillin - very complex but might have needed some more age for its gravity
  10. Brecon (Wales), Six - we've also holidayed in Brecon and I was really looking forward to Brecon's award-winning Rambler's Ruin, but it wasn't on; the Six is a lighter, rye beer with some high notes
  11. Günther Brau (Germany), Märzen - a nice Munich ... not used to a lager from a cask!
  12. Allagash Brewing (US), Black - wonderfully flavorful like an Bach (ah, Bach) organ romp
  13. Blue Hills Brewing (US), IPA - fresh hops, good malt, the kind of simple beer I love
  14. Moat Mountain (US), Moat Square Tail Stout on Oak - a remarkable beer that should be in a museum; an incredible assortment of flavors
  15. People's Pint (US), Pied pIPA - the hop champion of the day ... you could smell the hops from across the room but the beer was remarkably well-balanced for that

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Ancestors

We have a couple of old portraits of ancestors with decaying plaster/gilded trim that my grandmother was desperate to pass on to a descendant who'd care for them, back when she went from a nicely-sized apartment to a smaller one years ago, in the course of her gradual shedding of worldly and earthly concerns. My Dad, who's now in that way himself, recently discovered some notes she'd made about the portraits. He'd been unsuccessful in trying to remember who the people in the portraits were ... all we knew was that they were some relatives.

We found "A Genealogy of the Nye family, Volume 1," by George Hyatt Nye, Frank Eugene Best, Robert Glen Nye, Luther Bert Nye, Nye Family of America Association, digitized on Google Books ... and this corrects some dates. Here's what my grandmother's notes say with those corrections:

There were two Chaddock brothers:
1) Joseph Chaddock, born 1724, died 1812
2) Calvin Chaddock, born 1765, died 1823
  • born in Brookfield, Mass.
  • graduated Dartmouth College, 1791
  • ordained in Rochester, Mass 1793 (Congregational Church)
  • founded Hanover Academy 1808
  • Representative to the General Court 1811
3) Calvin married Meletia Nye and they gave birth to...
Ebenezer Nye Chaddock, born 1793, died 1880 (subject of one of the portraits)
  • fought in the Battle of Lake Erie (age 21) on Ticonderoga under Commodore Perry
  • pressed into British Navy, escaped by swimming ashore to the Connecticut coast
4) Ebenezer married Hannah Gibbs Fearing in 1817; they gave birth to...
Abby Fearing Chaddock on October 6, 1818 (subject of the other portrait)

5) Abby married John Avery Parker Allen, 1840 (we have his Civil War sword on the wall in Maine); they gave birth to...
Lucy Cushing Allen, 1841 (we have a photograph of her holding her baby granddaughter, my grandmother)

6) Lucy married Obed Clement Nye, they gave birth to...
Alice Sumner Nye on July 30th, 1877

7) Alice married William Howard Russell on June 14th, 1902; they gave birth to...
Sylvia Rousmaniere Russell (my grandmother) on July 27th, 1903

8) Sylvia married Standish Tabor Bourne (my grandfather) on October 15, 1924

So my son's been sleeping in a room with his great-great-great-great-grandmother and her father snoozing along with him.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ice in Early March

We’ve had a very wet late-winter, mostly rain and high winds. The snow is almost all melted, especially in the wooded areas where it was never that deep anyway.

The rivers, of course, are extra-super high with the ice that must be downstream backing them up and the heavy, cold rain trying to flow down the hills. I’ve been wondering about kayaking … maybe this weekend when it’s supposed to be in the 50s and sunny.

My friend warns me that ice is still in, especially in places where the sun rarely shines, and though the water is spreading all over the winter-sparse floodplains, it’s still running dangerously fast, turbulent, and confused because of normal channels not being available.

After work yesterday I went by the put-in on 117 and walked down to the little inlet there. The water is so high that you could paddle straight into Fairhaven Bay through the sunken trees. However, the ice is a problem. It’s melted in a ring around the shore, but a bit farther out it manifests itself as shelf after shelf in shades of gray-blue and green-brown, some lurking beneath the water as if they’re anchored to the bottom still, waiting for sudden Spring release, and some crowding and swarming over each other like tectonic plates.

You could paddle around the ice but as I say, it’d be a problem up there. Also, the water’s so high that the bridge is impassable … no room underneath it even for a kayak. I’ll check farther downstream after work today!