an idea
in concentric circles

through kisses
and tempered inscriptions

on lips
on paper

is becoming
something real


International Berliner Beer Festival 2013

This weekend I will be attending the International Berliner Beer Festival – also know as the Beer Mile – to sample some of Germany’s most famous and delicious brews, as well as many other well-known beers from abroad.

New to the festival this year will be a tent showcasing a handful of US craft brews, including Ballast Point (CA), Dogfish Head (DE), Founders (MI), Epic (CO), FIrestone Walker (CA), Boulevard Brewing (KS), Lexington Brewing (KY), Maui Brewing (HI), Odell Brewing (CO), Oskar Blues (CO), Cisco Brewers (MA), Green Flask (CA), Rogue Ales (CA), Sierra Nevada (CA), Shipyard Brewing (ME), Sixpoint Brewery (NY), Stone Brewing (CA), Victory Brewing (PA), and Woodfour (CA).

This is not the first year that american craft beer has been present at the festival. However, this is the first time the festival has advertised a craft beer tent as the main attraction. According to the official website, the Berlin Beer Academy, who is sponsoring the craft beer tent, claims that it is the biggest exhibition of US craft beers of any beer festival in Europe, and they even plan on expanding it next year.

It will be interesting to see how these american beers will be received by the crowds of germans flocking there this year. Berlin is abuzz with craft beer right now, as the local craft brewing scene is beginning to pick up steam with micro-breweris sprouting up here an there. Being an american and living in germany,  and having experienced both german and american beer culture, as well as tasted my fair share of german and american beers, I can say with absolute confidence that American beers will hold their own.

Picking Out the Wood

I once met a master carpenter who built furniture only from wood that he found on walks through the forest. He told me that he never built a chair to build a chair or built a table to build a table and so on, instead he gathered wood on his forest wanderings and decided what the pieces were best for. I admire this philosophy but frankly have no time to live by it. So I went to my local mega-lumber yard and picked me out some good old timber.

For my rustic table I decided to go with a hard and heavy wood. I wanted something that also had a fine grain and not too many knots, like pine, so my first choice was to go with classic Oak. Oak is beautiful and I highly recommend it for building any furniture that is meant to last the test of time, but it has grown expensive as of late. So instead of Oak, I went to the closest/cheaper alternative, Ash.  Ash is a hard and heavy wood, its grain is not quite as fine as Oak but the burl structure in the wood tends to be a bit more wild in appearance and, to me, looks quite interesting. The prices were 84Euro/m^2 for Oak and 44Euro/m^2 for Ash. Striving to be rational, I chose the Ash over the Oak. Ash is hard, Ash is rustic, Ash is cheap.

My wood and I at the lumberyard packed up and ready to go home!

Designing a Table

When designing a table I had to think about the room which I was designing it for. While thinking about dimensions, I also wanted to build a table that would complement the architecture and aesthetic of our apartment.

After I decided on a style I began drawing. For starters, I used the classic method of doodling in a notebook, but for a better visual I used a CAD program called SketchUp. Some of you may have heard of this useful, layman’s CAD program that is offered freely by Google. I used it to design a 3D model of the table I had in mind. It was easy and fun to use and I suspect I’ll be fiddling with it again in the near future.

For the design, I decided on something timeless, it’s called “barn” or “farm” style. It is very robust and rustic, and I feel it is the type of table that could support two large turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, withstand the slamming of large beer steins, and outlast my son’s destructive phase, all while maintaining a noble and austere appearance on four simple legs.

Here is my 3D design and some sketches.

3D model done in SketchUp

I designed the dimensions of the table 2 x 1 x .78 meter to fit perpendicular with the length of the room. 2 meters allows for 6 seats, 1 meter allows for conversation, .78 meter accomidates my stocky legs and short arms. Not too big and not too small, these proportions will make the table look like it belongs to the room and not the other way around.

Budweiser Budvar Imported Dark Lager

Dont let the name fool you, this one is not the same as the so called “King of Beers” found in virtually every store in the USofA. Although they happen to share the same name, Budweiser Budvar is from quality incomparably better than its Us counterpart.

Budweiser Budvar is brewed in the village of Budweis in the Czech Republic and, therefore, does not officially qualifying as a German beer.  Although, if we go back in time – say about 150 years – what is now the Czech Republic was once part of the German Empire, so in a way you might say that Budweiser Budvar and German beer share a comm tradition. Indeed, one can find many similarities between Bohemian/Czech Pilsners and German Pils . That being said, I still believe this beer needs to be documented and appreciated, deserving to be showcased alongside the great German beers. (From time to time I will include other beers from around Europe) Budweiser is best known for its lager, and it is one of my favorite beers due to its crisp hoppy taste. The Dark Lager is one of my favorite beers on the shelf at the moment. I simply cannot get enough of it. It reminds me of Sessios Dark Lager back home.

Without further ado, I give you the beer:

.5 liter bottle poured into my Ikea chalice

Appearance – The color is dark crimson-brown. It has medium carbonation that produces a sturdy initial head which quickly dissipates leaving nothing but a few patches of bubbles on the surface.

Scent – Wow, what a beautiful, sweet, dark chocolate like aroma. Hints of coffee can be detected as well.

Taste – Like a traditional bohemian lager, it has very bitter taste, nevertheless you can still taste the sweetly smoked grains. This aspect gives the complexity of an ale.  Floral hop accents can not be detected. Overall, very well balanced.

Mouthfeel – Very full mouthfeel. On the other hand it does not have enough carbonation for my tastes.

Drinkability – Very easy to drink. This beer is better for sipping than a normal lager.

I give this beer a solid B

Premeditations On Building A Table

My family and I are moving, and we need a new dining table for our new apartment. My first thought was to look into tables sold at Ikea(even though I hate Ikea). I quickly found that a good table made from massive wood can be quite pricy, and since Im a semi-rational economic ape, a “cost-benefit calculation” showed that building a table myself would be a far better solution than going to Ikea – despite factoring in the delicious hotdogs that would surely be included with a visit to Ikea. By the way, you can forget about going to most other furniture stores to find a table: sure they sell beautiful tables, but they will charge a 1000%  markup. Any good table found at an antique store will also cost a pretty penny.

Besides, building your own table has a high intrinsic value. I mean, there is something incredibly fundamental and beautiful about building a table, and about working with wood, a material that seems to live and breathe. The process from freshly milled boards to our first dinner can be found here.

Do your own “cost-benefit” analysis, find what is right for you. Maybe this blog will help some.