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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Good To Have Friends

An old friend of mine sent me this graphic (Thanks, again, Ed.)

Some of these were old news, while others I was unaware of. It's a really neat poster.

I don't mind being told stuff I already knew, especially if it's done in a new way.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

I thought about separating this into two articles. But, I figured, what the hell, it's all connected, anyway. So, here goes.

It's very rare that I'm ever stuck for what to brew next. In fact, I often have my next 3 or 4 brews all set to go. This time, however, it came time to brew, and I had NO idea what to do. I knew I wanted to continue alternating dark and light colored beers. I knew I wanted to make something a bit stronger for fall. After that, nothing.

As I often do when I'm confused, I reached out to my lovely daughter-in-law, and asked if she had any ideas. Bless her soul, she immediately came back with some wonderful inspiration.

The result? I'm making a chocolate-macadamia porter and a maple-oak amber ale. If the taste comes anywhere near what I anticipate, they won't last long.

Shortly after that episode, the same young lady sent me a link for  a home brew competition at a local restaurant.

The wheels in my head started turning, and I thought, "Well, how cool is that?" I've got two new beers lined up, and a competition to enter one in.

Now, all I have to do is get them both made, decide which is best, and submit my entry. If you're interested in doing this yourself, here's a link to their site.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Some Things Are Always True

This will be another non-beer post. I'll get back to brewing shortly.

From 1970 to 1972, I spent some of the best years of my youth. Those three years, I worked summers at the local Boy Scout camp; Camp Mattatuck, in Plymouth, CT. I worked in Scoutcraft, teaching boys the various skills of Scouting; handling outdoor tools safely, building fires, cooking, recognizing stars. etc.

I'm now 61, and those lessons I taught, and learned, have stayed with me throughout my various careers and ventures.

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with that past. An organization called The Mattatuck Volunteers puts on an annual dinner at the camp. It's partly a fundraiser, and the money is used to maintain and improve the camp. It's also a chance to see old friends, and catch up on each other's lives.(

I  had the chance to see old friends I had stayed in touch with, and re-connect with some who had drifted away. I can't find anything bad to say. The atmosphere was relaxed, the company was wonderful, and the dinner was delicious. In short, it was an evening I'll always remember, at least until next year.

After dinner there was a silent auction and a raffle. (OK, there's something bad. I didn't win anything!) Prizes were all worthwhile and fun, and there were plenty of winners.

As we went our separate ways for the night, I was struck once again by a thought that keeps re-occurring. My last year working there was 1972. My last year in Scouting was sometime in the 80's or 90's. After all this time, that place, and that organization, still have a hold on me.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beer! Pizza! Birthday!

If you follow this blog, you know I like good beer, and it doesn't have to be mine. Recently, my son and his wife took me out to dinner for my birthday (I just turned 61.)

We went to a place that recently opened in Waterbury, Called Pies and Pints.

Main Entrance - Leavenworth St.

I'm surprised no one thought of this before. I've often joked that "beer-and-pizza" is actually one word, and this is a restaurant that combines good pizza with craft beer.

To me, this seems like a concept that can't miss. The beer list was extensive, but not excessive. I thought it was a nice combination of classic styles, and beers that bent the rules a bit. I ordered a brown ale, My son got an India Pale Ale, and my daughter-in-law got a flight of 4 four-ounce glasses.

I don't remember all her choices. I know there were a couple of pumpkin ales, and one that I think was a stout aged in bourbon barrels.

I got a taste of all of them, and I would pronounce them all excellent. I was especially impressed with the two English ales. The flavor, temperature, and carbonation would all fit right in at any English pub.

They're in the process of installing an in-house brewery. While that's going on, their house beers are being brewed under contract by Shebeen Brewery (another terrific local place).

For food, we ordered baked boneless chicken as an appetizer, and a large pizza with chicken, bacon and spinach for our meal.

Honestly, everything wasn't perfect. Service was a bit slow. I've worked in restaurant as a manager, so I know things don't always go as smoothly as you would like. In their defense, our server was attentive and apologetic. She explained the delay, and kept us up to date on the progress of our order. We never felt ignored.

My wife, Barb, and my daughter-in-law, Tanya

Once the food did arrive, it proved to be worth the wait. The chicken was nicely breaded, and cooked to perfection.

My son, Joe

And the pizza was as good as any I've ever had. I was particularly fond of the crust. Crunchy on the outside, soft inside, just the way I like it. Sauce and toppings all combined for a very satisfying meal.

The bar at Pies and Pints
This is a place I would recommend to anyone. I would only caution you not to be in a hurry. If you don't mind being a bit patient, you'll be rewarded with excellent food, and great beer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Not Beer, But Yummy

Fruit smoothie and sugar cookies
If you follow this blog, you know I like talking about non-beer things. I not only make beer, but I also like to make food for myself.

The other day, I made a couple of things, and thought I  would share them with you.


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
3. Chill at least 2 hours or overnight.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with trefoil cookie cutter available at Girl Scout stores, or use small cutter of your choice. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets.
5. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Since I first tried this, I've come up with a couple of variations. Instead of butter, I've also used margarine or shortening, with good results. I find that fruit juice can be used for milk. Finally, I like to add flavors. In my last batch (In the photo), I added a tablespoon of orange zest.

In my relatively small apartment, I don't have a flat surface large enough to roll it out. So, I came up with an alternative.

I drop spoonsful of batter onto the cookie sheet, and flatten it slightly with my fingers. The size of spoon depends on the size of cookie. In the picture, I used a regular teaspoon.



2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 cup frozen fruit
1 cup whole milk


Add all ingredients to blender cup, and blend until smooth.

In this recipe, the amounts are approximate. I've used a bit more or less of each, depending on my mood. Any frozen fruit will work, although pomegranate seeds get stuck in the straw.

 Both of these are really easy, and tasty as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams

Many people, far more eloquent than I, have spoken about the tragic death of Robin Williams. I've noticed that the pieces Ive seen seem to be dominated by the good he's done for others, and the joy and laughter he gave us all,

But, Ive seen a sizable minority saying that his depression should not be classified as a disease, that taking his life was a choice. I wish to differ, a bit.

I will grant you that there was no disease, no pathogen, bacterium, or virus. But depression is an illnes, with a biological base. When it leads to suicide, it steals your options, until you're left with what seems to be only one remaining course. If you haven't ventured down this road, you can't be critical of someone who takes it.

Personally, I'm struck by the juxtaposition of the joy he brought others, and the pain he must have felt. If any small measure of good can come of this, it is the realization that people with depression are truly suffering, regardless of what they seem to have. Perhaps we can keep a closer eye on our loved ones, so we can keep them from going down that terrible road.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Interesting Tidbit

I just came across this from the Brewer's Association (parent of the AHA), and I thought it was worth sharing.

The American brewing industry reached another milestone at the end of June, with more than 3,000 breweries operating for all or part of the month (3,040 to be precise). Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is likely the first time the United States has crossed the 3,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Beer, My Choice

One thing I've always like about brewing is that I can make whatever strikes my fancy. There's no marketing director telling me what flavors I should be liking, no "style police" telling me I'm breaking some obscure rule.

Of course, I have a couple of examples.

A little while ago, we got about 2 dozen oranges for free from the local food bank. They were very small, and extremely hard to peel (Probably why they were free). I stared at them in the back of the fridge for a few days, then had a thought.

I got out my trusty box grater, and took the zest off all the oranges. Not hard, but it took awhile. Then, with a manual juicer, I got a couple of cups of orange juice. Again, more time than difficulty.

Now what? Well, I love sherbert, so I made some orange sherbert. I still had a bunch of juice and zest, so I started thinking beer.

I've always felt that wheat beer lends itself very well to any fruit flavor. I've had wheat beers with cranberry, apple, apricot, strawberry, and probably others. I figured, why not make an orange-wheat?

So, fermenting now is an all-grain 100% wheat beer with orange zest and juice. If it all works out as planned, it'll be a low-gravity, tart, refreshing summer beer.

Next, I'm making one of my stand-bys, a mild ale. It's easy, quick, not too expensive, and another good warm weather refresher. The style guidelines say not to add finishing hops. Nobody checks, so I'm dry-hopping with an ounce of Williamette. This is one I've made many times before, and it's always been a good one to have on a hot day.

I've said it here, and I used to sign off my old podcast every week with this. It's you beer. Make what you want to drink.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Momentous Occasion

On July 5, we held our family summer session beer competition. It was momentous for several reasons. It was the first time we had a competition that wasn't part of our St. Patrick's Day dinner. Will Siss, friend, teacher and author (, had the marvelous idea of combining our little family gathering with a larger, more important event, the Harwinton stop of Todd's CT Pour Tour.

Last year, Todd visited all 351 Massachusetts municipalities to benefit pediatric cancer research. This year, he's doing the same thing in all of Connecticut's 169 towns.

Here's the link. Please donate, if you can, no matter how small.

Will again was our judge, and Todd graciously agreed to help out. This time, we had the largest turnout yet.

John Labeck (my nephew) - Honey Pale Ale
LeAnne Renaud Labeck (his wife) - Belgian Saison
Joe Labeck III (me son) - Blood Orange Wit
Tanya Palmer Labeck (his wife) - Ginger Rye Pale Ale
Joe Labeck Jr (me) - Sour Apple Berliner Weisse

The rules were simple; any style, 5% alcohol or under. As you can see, everyone brought their own spin to the table.

I tasted all 5, and I would serve any of them proudly. My personal opinion was that Tanya's pale ale had the richest, most complex flavor. That's usually what I look for, so I would have picked hers as the winner.

It was great fun watching Will and Todd judge the entrants. They obviously took their charge seriously, taking notes and discussing each beer.

In the end, they asked for a re-taste of several beers. Finally, on the basis of adherence to style, they chose my Berliner Weisse as the winner. I was pleased and surprised. As my son had mentioned, making a sour beer was a bit of a risk, but one that paid off.

In the end, we all had a great time, good food, fantastic beer, and were able to help Todd in his worthy endeavor. We were able to raise over $300 for cancer research. As I mentioned, every bit helps, and we were happy to be part of it.

And, I finally won.

A plug

I'll shortly be posting the results of our summer session beer competition. But first, I wanted to entreat you to contribute to a very worthy cause; cancer research.

Please, visit the site. If you have a couple of extra bucks, make a donation. Whether it's $1 or a gazillion, every bit helps.

Monday, March 24, 2014

More Competition

This thing of competing against the family in brewing skill is a lot of fun. During our St. Patrick's Day brewfest, I was talking to John and remarkin g hoe once a year wasn't quite enough.

We came up with the idea of holding a summer event, too. This time, the rules will be slightly different. We can make anything we want, but no more than 5 % ABV. We've made stouts and barleywines, now lets see how we all do at making a session beer.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Lose Again

First, a bit of history. A few years ago, my niece, Emily, hosted a family get-together for St Patrick's Day. The highlight was a dinner of Irish stew, with Guinness Stout in the gravy.The following year, she asked if I would brew a stout for the dinner. Happily The next year,  I thought about the brewers in the family, including my son and Emily's brother. I suggested we have a competition, with the winning stout used in the stew. My son, Joe, won.

As we got closer to this years competition, we thought, "Why just make stout every year?" So, last Thanksgiving, we held a drawing to see what we would all compete in. We picked barleywine, and everyone started making plans. Joe wasn't able to compete, but John's wife decided to give it a try.

The contestants were me, John, and his wife, Leanne. Our judge, for the second year, was Will Siss, (, teacher, local author, and family friend.

I lost again, this time, to my nephew, John. So, we've had two competitions, and I've lost to my son, and my nephew. However, since they both brew because of me, I feel like I won anyway.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


The other night, I was outside, just looking up, and I noticed the constellation Orion.

The star in the upper left-hand corner, Betelgeuse, is a red giant. I read that scientists say it's in the final stages of its life.

If I recall correctly, they say it should explode and die sometime in the next 10,000 years. Now that doesn't mean it'll be that long, just that we don't know exactly when it will happen.

It could be 10,000 years from now. It could be next year. It could be next week. It could be tomorrow. Or...

It could have already happened, and the light of the explosion just hasn't reached us yet.



Before I write what I want, I need to apologize.

I haven't posted anything since October. A lot has gotten in the way, but I think things are back in order, now.

I have a new post coming shortly, and I hope to get back on track.