PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's 'Hood

I’ve looked at a lot of real estate ads over the last couple of years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that some neighborhoods are highly coveted. You may think you live in an unnoticed little neck of the woods, but it turns out that everyone is salivating over your school’s MCAS results. Whether it’s Revolutionary Ridge in Concord, or Prospect Hill in Lexington, or the Bates neighborhood in Wellesley, you might as well face it that people have an unhealthy and maybe even sinful longing for your leafy streets.

I was commanded as a child not to covet things like wives and asses and other “possessions” of my neighbors. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by wives – I mean you can’t imagine how many wives there were in my neighborhood when I was a kid! – I managed not to be covetous of them. (As it was a suburban enclave, there were no asses to be found, though there was a fair bit of random asininity). However, I don’t recall any directives about not coveting the school district in which one's neighbor resides.

Real estate agents must believe that a neighborhood cannot be classified as something its inhabitants “possess,” as they keep trumpeting which streets and school districts and neighborhoods are coveted in an effort to get you to covet these places as well, the implication being that if God didn’t want you to desire living on a certain street, he’d have etched that information into stone tablets.

Rest assured that I have little desire to possess that 3-bed, 2-bath split-level home on half an acre that’s for sale in your exclusive gated neighborhood. On the other hand, I can’t help but covet that Belgian ale you’re about to uncork.

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Dust In The Wind

I’m sure you’re wondering how my brewing life is going these days, so let me tell you: it's going tremendously well! Did you know that I’ve been voted “homebrewer most likely to believe he’s going to brew commercially in an old barn?” And no, I don’t own a barn. (Yet!)

But I do own a Grainfather. If you don’t know what one is, would you believe that it’s a new, consumer-level brewing device that enables you to make fantastic beer just by sprinkling magic beer dust into fresh water, and then bottling? Hopefully not, as that would expose your gullibility. I’m told that the technology to concoct magic beer dust is still several years away. Needless to say, I’m working on my own version of magic beer dust in my beer laboratory. I think we can all agree that America can’t be made great again without a drinkable version of instant, powdered beer.

In the meantime, there is the Grainfather, a device that steeps grains to extract sugars and then boils the wort, all in one chamber, before pumping out the precious liquid gold through a chiller and into a fermenter. It’s practically like magic beer dust!

I suppose, actually, that the closest thing we humans have to magic beer dust is dry malt extract, which certainly is dusty, and, when mixed with fresh, clean Quabbin Reservoir water and inoculated with a dose of dry yeast, is magically transformed into beer.

(But the grainfather is still much better).

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The Meathead Inside Me

There may be thousands of qualified pit masters out there capable of smoking their way through an animal’s ribcage or some other gnarly cut of meat, but I’ve narrowed down my advice-taking to just two sources: Meathead Goldwyn of the site amazingribs.com and the BBQ Pit Boys.

The biggest difference between these two ambassadors of outdoor cookery is that Amazingribs.com has more science and requires you to read, while the BBQ Pit Boys have a widely-followed YouTube channel and look like members of the band ZZ Top when they throw a few frogs on the grill. Also, I’m not sure that Meathead has ever cooked either a reptile or an amphibian. Having eaten alligator once (on Sanibel, an island within the boundaries of Florida that is nevertheless entirely bereft of strip malls), I can’t see myself ever seeking out one of these critters for my grill.

Of course, once you begin surfing the ‘net, you’re basically allowing your every move to be tracked by search engines and their evil advertising funders (“it’s part of the unwritten contract”). And so the internet, having observed me seeking countless recipes, has begun to direct me to online methods for cutting up live lobsters, rendering squid into sashimi in a less than five minutes, and so forth.

Soon to come: my suggestions for pairing frogs’ legs with Belgian Ales.

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Foiled by Belgians Again

I recently fantasized in these pages about brewing a mustard ale. Imagine being the first person in the world to acheive a particular feat, as I was scheming to do by brewing a beer using mustard. Pride would have dripped from my pores like mash through a sieve. Alas, I’ve once again learned that when it comes to beer, never claim you can beat the Belgians at it.

2013-03-23 15-49-05 734 1My mustard ale would have had 8.0% alcohol

I suppose it’s time to rethink my next beer and moniker. Perhaps “Horseradish Pat” is where I should be headed. Next task: brew horseradish ale.

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