The sports world is at fever pitch every NFL Draft season, and if the aftermath of the draft conjures feelings of the day after Christmas for you, we can relate. To provide further proof that football is king, consider that the NBA and NHL playoffs (yes, playoffs) are treated like runners-up in a beauty pageant by the media in the weeks preceding and following the draft. They are hot, but who even remembers the participants?

The NFL Draft is made up of a finite number of eligible participants and an even smaller subset of players that are considered future stars. However, the average fan can become saturated with the skinny on prospects at the close of the NCAA bowl season and/or during the NFL combine. The only thing left to ponder is who is going where. This guessing game combined with the ability to effortlessly publish media online these days has triggered an explosion of posers giving the people what they want: Predictions of what player is going to what team.

We here at The Ferm certainly do not have a problem with posers. Our virtue and our vice is the culture of drinking, and more specifically beer related topics. But to those familiar with mock drafts, most are downright worthless. 95% of the mock drafts published are like jigsaw puzzles made entirely of square pieces. Perfect! Everything fits! These mocks are the muse for our draft – a derision of the whole idea of mythical drafts: The Anything Mock Draught.

For our draft, we do our best to stay within our wheelhouse (that being the drinking universe) and to make it fun. The list of rules is small.

  1. The draft consists of three rounds (format is top to bottom, top to bottom -- not snake).
  2. The pick (or description) must be drinking related in some way.
  3. Picks from previous drafts are off the board.

Relive the 2009 Inaugural 'The Ferm' Anything Mock Draught

We are not an exclusive "league." Guest drafters are encouraged. Anyone wanting a pick can leave a comment on this post, drop us an email, or tweet at us and you'll be slotted in the draft. Over the next few days we will start an open thread, which will be used for announcements and comments on the current and previous draft.

It is time to meet with your front office, call some prospects in for private workouts, and get your big boards ready. This thing is going to get started early next week!

Floating Bar

Posted by J.R. Ewing | Saturday, April 24, 2010

No, not talking about a swimming pool here. One has to wonder, when and how many astronauts/cosmonauts nipped a little bourbon, vodka, sake, beer, wine, etc. between space walks, exercise, and running science experiments?

It's rumored back in the Soviet days, that vodka was part of the USSR's standard allotment of provisions for MIRs inhabitants. It was also rumored that a cigarette or two were allowed, although that remains largely unconfirmed.

There's also been a history of astronauts using their very limited personal allotment of space/weight to take things meaningful to them. Alan Shepard brought a golf club head and ball, Buzz Aldrin brought consecrated bread and wine and celebrated the first Eucharist on a heavenly body in our Solar System other than Earth. It remains to be seen if other civilizations in other systems and galaxies have done the same, but pretty sure for our Solar System that is true. So there is concrete (okay, anecdotal since they wouldn't broadcast it) evidence that wine (in sacramental form) has traveled all the way to the moon.

Hollywood reenactment of Buzz Aldrin (or he looked really different and cameras were more advanced than I thought in 1969). Subtitled in English in case you don't understand their thick American accents.

You have to wonder if Alan Shepard enjoyed the "19th hole" with a refreshing beverage?

I'd have to think a number of astronauts have brought a little something something to celebrate their trip of a lifetime. Think how many times you went somewhere and the trip was made all the more meaningful by breaking out a beverage of choice to commemorate?

There is probably a non-trivial stash of alcoholic provisions on board. Having been permanently occupied since October 2000, there have been many a birthday celebration, space milestone (see video below), even new fatherhood worthy of a cultural tip of the glass.

Yuri's Night 2008

In fact, The Ukraine appears to have featured a vodka drinking "experiment" on a local TV news show. I don't speak Ukrainian, but the tags at the host site imply that indeed this is how to drink vodka in space (skip to the 2 minute mark unless you know Ukrainian and can follow the dialogue). The crewmember is Yuri Malenchenko.

How to slam a shot in space

There are PR reasons against a government space agency making this public. In the era of people being hypersensitive to government's every dollar spent, and NASA (in particular, as compared to ESA, FSA, JAXA) in need of nothing but positive publicity, it doesn't make sense. I even recall that briefly on Twitter/Twitpic, a St. Arnold floating bottle cap on ISS was posted, it seemed to be taken down within minutes as I sent the link out to friends and many were too late and I've never found it again (presumably didn't pass muster for the public affairs office of NASA)

I submit this censorship of sorts is the wrong approach. As the space shuttle winds down, NASA and its international partners are missing out on a golden opportunity. The beer and liquor industry are heavy hitters in the advertising world. How much would they chip in to "sponsor" a happy hour event on the station? These days, when upwards of 6 residents permanently float around in the ISS, with over a dozen there during Shuttle Missions, the idea that European, Russian, American, and Japanese astronauts could sit down, each holding up a beverage of their home nation (beer, wine, sake, vodka, etc.), and toasting to human space exploration (with ad banners in the background) would be worth way more than a 30 second spot on the Super Bowl. Well, that is debatable, but the agencies could use this money in a way that would be socially acceptable, too. Funding scholarships for science and engineering, funding outreach programs in schools, facilitating trips and tours of facilities to those who couldn't otherwise afford it.

I certainly would not pass up an opportunity to have a swig of something in space and I'm sure other astronauts haven't passed it up either. One has to wonder to what extent or whether or not it will ever become more mainstream, as ISS will be utilized for upwards of another decade.

Dear A. Rafanelli,

We hope this letter finds you well. More importantly, we regret that in recent years we haven't spent as much time together.

We opened a bottle of wine tonight and thought of you. Your Zinfandels are absolutely fantastic.

It is inexcusable, but the last time we visited Dry Creek Valley was the summer of 2006. Several months before our visit, the itinerary started taking form. This process consisted of choosing our favorite stops, making some appointments, and positioning the subsequent visits to line up efficiently from a driving perspective. A. Rafanelli was certainly a must stop.

Our itinerary will filling quickly, but you told us when we called that you do not take advanced appointments – something we could respect – and to call back closer to the visit date.

Persistence is often essential to success, and we were persistent. Having previously enjoyed your wines, usually opened up on only the most special of occasions, all our unanswered calls were not a bother. You may want to check on your answering machine though, because it very rarely picks up. Fixing the answering machine is not imperative, since we both know you don't return calls anyway. Who of us isn't the same at our work!

We flew from Texas to California with you penciled in to the itinerary… not exactly penned in, but maybe erasable-penned in. Your wine making is brilliant. It is easy to look past the high cost and very limited distribution of your wines. Each sip is a reminder that it is all worth the trouble. Having previously visited and being on your "list" (wine clubs are for wineries of the pedestrian sort), we feel visiting wineries is as much about soaking in the experience as it is getting access to limited releases, so this was a stop we did not want to scratch off the itinerary. The day before we were to visit, we still had not made contact.

It was the fourth of our four day stay. We began the morning with breakfast at our Healdsburg, CA hotel and a phone call to you. No answer. Ferrari-Carano served as our breakfast stop that day and Quivera our brunch stop. By noon, we were still unsuccessful making contact with you; nevertheless we headed to your property. Surely as previous visitors, customers, and passionate admirers we would not be stood up at the gate.

But there we were, parked at the gate to your winery and still no answer.

We thought of that moment at the gate while we began writing this letter. We understand a certain level of pretentiousness when you produce the kind of wines you do with a small and family owned business. As we mentioned, your Zinfandels are truly fantastic, but you are a**holes.

Today is not a special occasion. We are casually enjoying a glass of Lambert Bridge Viognier (Dry Creek Valley Bevill Vineyard, 2008). After being snubbed at your gate, we needed to go somewhere to settle the disappointment from your indifference to us. With Gary Farrell scheduled for later in the afternoon and now a hole in our itinerary, we headed south and pulled in to the next closest winery. This winery was Lambert Bridge.

What a find. Similar to your business, they too make wines that are not widely distributed because of their limited production. Their wine tasting was not free, but we were impressed enough to move to the Reserve Tasting Room. We were served by an unforgettable wine steward named Dean. His Boston accent was contradictory to Lambert Bridge's elegant tasting. We immediately nicknamed him Boston Dean, which I understand stuck based on conversations with the winery in recent years.

After several outstanding wines and possibly as a rebound from your "visit," we joined Lambert Bridge's Liquid Assets Club. Only seconds after merely vocalizing our intent to join the club, Boston Dean reached under the desk and brought out additional glasses and wines that were not even available for purchase. In a moment etched in all our minds, Boston Dean said "you are family now" as he set the new glasses down on the bar. We are family now. Nice.

As we finish off this bottle, we just wanted to thank you for introducing us to Lambert Bridge. You indirectly made a love connection that summer of 2006. While we never connected that trip, we still have one thing between us. You may be a**holes, but you make fantastic Zins.


The Ferm

This April marks the one year anniversary of When we opened the proverbial doors a year ago, we began with the bar set so low that failure was not an option. At our core, we are a drinking related blog. However, if you are looking for savvy wine reviews (then you probably won't ever find your way to this post) you'll probably need a subscription to some premium content site. If you want expert beer reviews, go to Beer Advocate or Rate Beer. (Seriously people, 95% of all beer blogs are just regurgitated versions of what already exists in one of these awesome online resources. And if you were offended by the previous statement, then you are probably one of the 5%. Look, I subscribe and read beer bloggers that give reviews; I just don't write beer reviews… much. OK, enough parenthetical text.)

We are who we are, and I am who we be… or something. While I am but one of the motley crew of professionals interloping in the online writing world, if there was one thing I'd like improve in Year Two (no, not avoiding the occasional and inadvertent ticking off of Cathy Matusow), it would be writing some shorter posts. "Tasting Flight" is my first attempt at this resolution.

The idea behind the posts will be to present a few random notes about things I've seen, read, or tasted recently. I'll keep it semi-brief and just make a few comments before presenting you with links to other people's work. Think of it as a scratch and sniff version of stuff on my brain at the moment.

  1. Beer Taxes
    Taxes on beer have been a hot topic over the past year in several states. On the national scene, Charlie Papazian and the Brewers Association have been supporting H.R. 4278, which would half the excise tax for small brewers from $7.00 to $3.50 per barrel for the first 60K barrels and from $18.00 to $16.00 on barrel 60,001 to 2,000,000. More recently, I've been reading about states also scrounging for more things to tax to cover budget deficits. While cigarettes and gasoline are easy, but already heavily taxed items, fat taxes are picking up momentum with lawmakers. A recent proposal in the state of Washington to add a huge tax on mass-market beers is getting a lot of attention. Is taxing Bud-Miller-Coors beers (~$0.43 more per 6-pack) the magic bullet for states scrambling for cash? Does it surprise you that it is Democrats, who win elections by representing the little guy, are the party behind the beer tax?

  2. The Wine Purse
    Let's face it, box wine will never be fashionable because it has the word "box" in it. But a wine purse… this could catch on. If that spigot pops off for travel, this thing would be great for sporting events! Especially filled with bourbon.

  3. "Home" Brewing
    Ronald Walcher and wife Jackie Jenkins are small brewery owners in Arlington, WA who have run into a small problem lately: They are too popular. Skookum Brewery, which the two run out of their home on a small 10 barrel system, opens their tasting room Friday from 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM and Saturday from 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Their neighbors (at least 47 of them) have asked the County for help to force Skookum to move its tasting room because of the traffic it brings to the neighborhood. But if you guys are picturing a neighborhood getting slammed by hundreds of beer drinkers, think again. This is a farm town. Neighbor please! Cheers Skookum.

  4. Hot, Hot, Hot!
    I've read about two universities planning breweries in the last few weeks. Where was this idea when I was in school? In March, the LSU chancellor announced the intentions to open a microbrewery on campus. Appalachian State University has also given the go-ahead to faculty to start a microbrewery. According to the article, The University of California at Davis and the University of Denver are also leading this trend of educational breweries. My only suggestion for the App State brewery is that they somehow incorporate their promotional song in the tasting area. Hot.

  5. 140 Character ReviewReal Ale Devil's Backbone
    (because I drink and have thoughts on beer, but I'd rather write about App State's promotional video)
    Real Ale Devil's Backbone. 1st time in bottles this yr. Belgian tripel w/ in-house candy sugar. 8.1%ABV. Fruity&Strong. Love it. #craftbeer

  6. Dr. Analytics, Web M.D. – "centennial hops odor pee cat"
    (helping the lost Googlers who mistakenly land on our site)
    I'm going to assume this Googler was drinking a Stone Ruination IPA with his friend and this conversation happened:
    Dude 1 – Wow! The hops in this beer coat your entire throat. It practically ruins your taste buds. Says here it is loaded with centennial hops.
    Dude 2 - *cough* This is going to take me a while to drink.
    Lady Friend – Greg Koch is like soooo dreamy.
    Dude 2 – This beer smells like cat pee. Didn't a Golden Girl or Designing Woman pass away today? I might have to pour some or all of this out for my homegirl.
    Dude 1 – Cat pee!? Are you high? And how do you know what cat pee smells like anyway?
    Dude 2 – Dude. Cat pee city up in this.
    Dude 1 – I'm Googling Centennial hops from my Andriod phone right now.
    Dude 2 – And… what is taking so long
    Dude 1 – I found this great blog called The Ferm. Who wants kolaches?
    Lady Friend – Me!
    aaaaannnnnd scene…

    For what it is worth, in my experience cat pee is an aroma I've seen in a few white wine reviews (and it is a good thing, not a bad thing). I suppose some citrusy hops, such as centennial, may have the essence of feline urine, but I wouldn't know… mostly because I'm not a litter box connoisseur.

  7. BONUS TASTE: A Horrible Turn
    Some of you may have read my homage to the amazing online musical Horrible Turn, which is a prequel to Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog that starred Neil Patrick Harris. Chance McLain's movie was recently nominated for a Streamy Award (the Academy Awards for web television) and Chance wrote a great post recapping the whole experience. I highly recommend you check it out.

OK Stop. Before you guys say anything, I just want to remind you that Rome was *not* built in a day. Maybe next Tasting Flight post will be shorter.

Last week an unexpected email showed up in The Ferm’s Inbox. Eating Our Words, The Houston Press’ foodie blog, was hiring again and I apparently caught the interest of one Catherine Matusow, who ended our last exchange with “we are looking for people with a more general interest in food.”

Hopefully I’m not ruining it for the reader, but this story doesn’t have a happy ending either. Thus, I considered naming this post after its predecessor. But my first Houston Press failure post gets so many hits (mostly from Googlers), that I decided to not sponge off its success. Sequels are usually not as good anyway. Plus, this post does not have the levity of the first. Absent in this post is the harebrained self interview, and only bitterness and scolding based on false impressions are to be found. Who is pumped for the story now?!

For a generally shy individual such as me, the Internet opens doors that I would never even dream of turning the doorknob in real life. When Cathy posted yet another job opening to write for Eating Our Words, I fired off an email without hesitation. I had nothing to lose. Two days later, Cathy responded.

Could you give me a more concrete idea of what you'd like to write for us? You may be aware of this, but we have a blogger named Mike Morris doing beer coverage. How about a list of ideas?

I was aware of Mike. In fact, Mike seemed to appear mere weeks after Cathy blew off my first offer to contribute to Eating Our Words (was he the other candidate?). Despite Mike providing the same content I had previously offered for the blog, I found it great to see Mike’s posts on Eating Our Words. Mike is someone who has taken an interest in beer and is a journalist. Make no mistake, in my mind regular beer topics on Eating Our Words is a huge step for thirsty craft beer enthusiasts in the city of Houston, no matter who is providing the coverage.

It would probably be an exaggeration to call Mike and I friends, but we have conversed back and forth through the comment section of his posts and through various personal emails. After his first post, I sent a few emails with ideas and some details on beer styles. More recently, we have tried to organize a get together to discuss determining esters in beer flavors (esters are the by-product of yeast during fermentation detectable in many ales). We still haven’t had that beer together, but I still have a folder of things I printed for him in my car.

Imagine for a moment if I had proposed to write a series on molecular gastronomy and a blogger with personal experience with the craft came along. Could both of us not exist harmoniously on a single blog? Does the Houston Press’ Eating Our Words not have more than one blogger covering the bar beat? Cocktails? Maybe beer itself carries a stigma that it is not worthy of standing with the foodie counterculture. This is one reason I am grateful for local beeros Kevin Floyd and Ben Fullelove, who are doing more to advance craft beer awareness in Houston than those of us that only write (beer+hero, I may have made up another word! If so, beero™). But I digress…

So the answer is yes Cathy, I’m aware of Mike. I’m a beer and wine enthusiast that enjoys writing, and I am passionate about sharing what I have learned through homebrewing and my beer travels. I don’t think I would be stepping on Mike’s toes at Eating Our Words (neither does he, but I won't speak for Mike here), and I expressed that in my response. We would have no doubt written posts on different topics or with different approaches. I mentioned my “relationship” with Mike in my response, as well as delivering a bunch of post ideas consisting of food, wine, and beer topics. I won’t copy my 774 word response in this post (yet), but apparently mentioning Mike was my big faux pas.

Cathy responded the next day.

Greg, I am going to say no. We've never presented Mike as an expert but a curious beer drinker who is experimenting. I don't like the way you've spoken of him here, and neither does my boss. So good luck to you.

Whoa! Well at least she wished me luck. I pointlessly replied:

These things are something I would say to him too, and I don't think he'd take offense. Like I said, we are friends. You probably misunderstood my tone. I figured we should have met first, but such is the nature of the Internet.

Let me be very honest here: I don’t let a lot of things in life bother me. My wife often mistakes this attitude as carelessness and has told me it bothers her, but she has learned to live with it, mostly because I’m so awesome. But Cathy’s response did bother me. I reread my email to her. To me it still read the same. No regrets. What really went wrong?

Am I an a-hole?

I emailed Mike, “Just checking... you don't think I'm an a-hole right?”

Mike promptly responded, “Absolutely not, I do not think you’re an a-hole at all whatsoever. On a related note, I am still interested in having that beer.”

I checked with my wife, “Yeah, you come off as an a-hole. And don’t think you are just going to leave me with the kids while you go have a beer with this Mike fellow.”

But I still love her, and I still love you Houston Press too. Eating Our Words luminary Katharine Shilcutt is arguably one of the best bloggers of any kind on the Houston scene. But while I will not be contributing with Mike or Katharine, you can bet that I’ll be filing another one of these next time a job opens up at Eating Our Words. Stay tuned...