Short Pours #3: Holiday Cheer and Brett Beer

Short Pours is my short-format series of posts that will allow me to publish more frequently, and get a bit more creative with my content. Check out my introduction for more information on this series.

In this edition of Short Pours, I’m going to cover my feelings concerning the Holiday Season, and figuring out what Christmas is about. I’ve got some Good Reads to share. And finally, I’ll let you know What’s Brewing in the old BF household. Enjoy.

Holiday Cheer

So this is Christmas. A time of year rife with family gatherings, drunken parties, and peak consumerism. What’s not to love?

Full disclosure: I’m not very religious. In fact, by perusing the authors on my bookshelf (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens…) you might infer that I’m anti-religious. But I was raised in a very Catholic household, and I went to Catholic schools straight through college. I was force-fed religion my entire life. Now do you understand my cynicism?

To be honest, I look at Christmas as a more secular occasion. Not many people think about the ‘true meaning’ of the holiday. And that’s OK. I value the holiday because it means getting together with family, eating great food, drinking A.M. mimosas and watching Christmas Vacation.

Hallelujah, holy shit!

Now that we’ve brought another life into the world, I’ve been thinking more and more about the Holiday Season. What will Christmas be like for Baby BF as she grows up? What do we want to teach her about belief systems and hedonism?

The Tree

I haven’t had a Christmas tree in the last 12 years. But we’d like to preserve some semblance of tradition, and not feel like we’re depriving our daughter of something her friends will have. I know, it’s a slippery slope.

So we decided to get a tree this year, but not in the traditional sense. Mrs. BF has been cruising our area for the past few weeks with a saw and some rope in her car, waiting for the opportunity. And finally, it came! While we were doing our weekend dump run, we noticed some discarded bushes among the brush and debris. We had found our tree!

WTF am I doing?

That look on my face is a combination of disbelief and disgust. But I’ve been with my wife for 8 years now, so I’m used to this crap. We took our little tree home, strung it up and threw on some ornaments.

Well, it’s not Charlie Brown bad…

So we’ve established our new tradition of scavenging Christmas trees. Next, we need to figure out Santa, presents, and all of the other stuff that goes along with holidays. I guess that can wait til next year.

Good Reads

Freddy Smidlap put together this nice list of things to do when starting your career (especially in the technical field). This is brilliant, and I wish someone shared all of this advice with me when I was just entering the workforce. It can help people to avoid common pitfalls, and get on the track of climbing the career ladder early.

Fat Tailed and Happy, who I’d describe as the Economics professor for FIRE University, has been warning us recently about the yield curve and the cyclicality of markets. More recently, he warns us about sequence of return risks and retiring at the peak of the bull market with his post “$1 Million Isn’t Enough.” I think the message here is very important: the 4% rule may not work as well as we assume it does, and one must stay cautious with their retirement planning.

Accidental Fire asks us to reframe our view of net worth declines as a loan (to Mark E’tdecline). This is a really clever way of thinking about things, and it has helped me personally to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture.

This short post from NPR warns us that math anxiety can be hereditary. Being a chemist by trade, I cruised through years of trig, statistics, and calculus, and mostly enjoyed it. My wife, on the other hand, hates math and gladly declares her ineptitude in the subject. Fortunately, I will coach our daughter through multiplication tables, algebra, and geometry, and hopefully she will not fear numbers.

Finally, being the proponent of continual improvement that I am, I had to share this post from Choose FI on “50 Ways to Improve your Finances by 1%.” There are some great ideas in this article, certainly many that I want to try in the coming months. My favorite: try new (free) things to do in your city each weekend. Lately we’ve been exploring our area more, going to parks we haven’t been to previously and checking out free events. It’s really enjoyable, and can reinforce your sense of community at the same time.

Checking out the Lighted Tractor Parade

What’s Brewing?

Last week I tapped my latest brew, a Brett Pale Ale I’m calling No Ragrets (not even one letter?). If you’re interested, here’s a short lesson on yeast, bacteria and fermentation.

No Ragrets
No Ragrets Brett Pale Ale

Brett is short for Brettanomyces, a family of yeasts that are the wild cousins of traditional brewing yeast, Saccharomyces. The vast majority of beers on the shelf at your local beer store are fermented using Saccharomyces. The ones featuring Brett will normally include descriptors such as “wild” or “funky.” When used in combination with bacteria (Lactobaccilus, Pediococcus), the result is a sour beer.

In most cases, Brett introduces unique flavors that are often described as funky, barnyard or horse-blanket. Not very appetizing when you read that, huh? The funky Brett flavor is an acquired taste, and much of the reason that sour beers are often so polarizing.

But here’s the magic attribute of Brettanomyces that many people don’t know: a 100% Brett beer is not funky, not sour, and actually delicious!

When Brett is allowed to ferment by itself, it creates an amazingly aromatic and flavorful beer. This is primarily due to production of esters from hop compounds during fermentation.

No Ragrets is a pale ale with medium bitterness (~35 IBU) and a nice dose of late hop additions. The aroma is intensely tropical, and the flavor is light and clean. I’m really enjoying this brew, and will be submitting it for some competitions in the coming year.

That’s it for my last Short Pours post of 2018. Feel free to join my various discussions in the comments section. Happy Holidays, and see you next year!

2 thoughts on “Short Pours #3: Holiday Cheer and Brett Beer”

  1. thanks for the shout out, adam. the funny thing about brett in wine is that it’s a contaminant and most certainly unwelcome. i went to a “brett tasting” at the ny state winemakers conference many years ago and everybody had a headache afterward but we could all identify this wine flaw…..flawlessly. i’m glad the stuff is good for something. buffalo has a million free events and some of them are even walkable from our house, which is nice. they’re mostly in summer around here.

    we planted that same type of bush/tree around ’02 right in the front yard as i always thought i might string lights onto it for christmas. the thing that happened is that it’s right next to the sidewalk and dozens of dogs whiz on it every day so the growth is stunted and it’s never gotten more than about 3 feet tall. doh! even thought we don’t have kids i gotta agree with you about being sensitive to making sure they’re not percieved by their peers as being from the total oddball family. religion for me falls about the same way. with all that, bring on the drunken parties. cheers.

    • Apparently brett is bad in pretty much every case, except when you want it haha. I think we’re doomed to eventually be “the oddball family,” but hopefully our kid will be able to wear it proudly. If the FIRE community teaches us anything, it’s to not be afraid of making unpopular decisions, especially if they fit your values. Have a great mini-vacation!


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