Author Archives: phil

Congo, Special Requests and Vacation Reminder

Some astute Test Subjects paying attention to the website have noticed a new variety appear in the radio buttons for selection. Others have asked “WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT’S THIS? HOW CAN I GET MORE OF THIS?” when they found it as one of the capricious whim vials in their Sampler Set II. Well, now you can, Congo Kivu is available.

I grabbed the Congo in my continuing interest in the coffees of the East African Rift Valley as a sampling of the higher, wetter eastern side of the southern Rift. It’s also a matter of sorrow at the loss of one of my chosen coffees from the Rwandan side of the Rift to resuming/ongoing violence in the region. Attempts to maintain coffee farming are one of the few industries that are friendly to women in the region, and the Rising International co-op that was able to provide me these beans are collecting a premium to make sure to support that industry. Instead of, say, gold and tantalum blood mining in the region for example. I’m willing to do some good in the interest of deliciousness, sure.

And oh, it is delicious. The baking chocolate of the Rwandan Abakundakawa is there, but rather than the brut champagne dryness there is a very fruity, dry Sangiovese red wine flavor, possibly plum wine, with a some long staying power on the palate. With vodka addition, the wine like character grew even stronger. In the words of Test Subject Zitron, “It’s a keeper. Make that a regular for as long as you can.” And so I will. Get it while it’s there.

I had another person with a Sampler II notice that their special vial was Jamaican Blue Mountain and wanted to know how why this is listed nowhere on the site. That was actually the remainder of a very special, NOT AT ALL CHEAP request from which there were a couple extra vials from the run that people got near Christmas. In general, I am willing to do custom request BBotE for people if it fits in the larger production schedule, you’re willing to make an order for at least 3L of BBotE to make it worth doing the batch, and are also willing to pay premium prices. For example, Jamaican Blue Mountain was a bit more than double the normal price, but I’m told the resulting BBotE was worth dipping cigars instead of cognac. On a somewhat less classy end, I’ve cranked out a couple dozen liters of Dunkin Donuts BBotE because people asked and I hate saying no to glistening eyes and quivering lips of  those seeking the caffeine of their youth. All you need to do is drop me an email and ask.

As a reminder, the April 26th BBotE pre-order slots are up. The final pre-order slots before my vacation will go up after that and they’ll close on May 21st. Then there will be nothing until production resumes on June 15th after Cross-Country Road Trip 2014 ends. I’ll try to make as much BBotE as I possibly can so that I don’t leave anyone high and dry; in fact, feel free to place an order now with “delay shipment until mid-May” if you like. 

Nevada Test Site Cocktails

These both come to me from retiree workers at the Nevada Test Site who were there when we were still “stamping our feet”.  Some vocabulary review is necessary:

Mercury, NV was the ghost town inside the Nevada Test Site that was taken over by DOE and the military. It’s about as nice as you could imagine a pre-1950s middle of nowhere desert town subsequently attacked by military aesthetics and architecture to be. These days, with staffing levels dramatically reduced, it’s effectively a ghost town again.

A “shot”, in Atomic Energy Commission/Department of Defense/Department of Energy parlance, refers to a nuclear test, as opposed to NASA where this refers to a vehicle launch.

The Nevada Test Site was formerly known as the Nevada Proving Grounds.

The Proving Grounds Test Shot
1 part whatever juice mix (usually military Bug Juice) or soda type item the Mercury commissary has available
1 part spectroscopic grade (99.999%) ethanol
Mix with ice, if available, in a large container, serve in shotglasses stolen from a Vegas casino or commissary coffee cups (whichever is handy)

Safety recommendation: DO NOT serve in Dixie cups.  The wax melts in the heat and dissolves with alcohol that strong.

Frenchman’s Flat Martini (be sure to bring ingredients in a cooler)
4 parts gin
1 part dry vermouth
Crush desert sage and drop leaves into the drink
Mix with ice in a shaker, serve in a martini glass in the presence of a nuclear device to be detonated within the next 24 hours.

Etiquette Recommendation:
The device is a member of the team as well.  Team members should toast the device by clinking their glass against it.

Safety Recommendation:
DO NOT drink from that side of the glass.
DO NOT use desert sage collected within the Nevada Test Site.

Impending Service Interruption

HLARF!

Perhaps the only thing the Lovely Assistant wants less than writing her dissertation.

BBotE and Stein of Science production has been ticking along nicely while I try to stay out of the Lovely Assistant’s way as her PhD draws to a close. There are few states more delicate than someone in the home stretch of their dissertation and thus are desperate to do anything that isn’t that. If there is one thing more distracting than the cats, the internet, cats on the internet, and herself, it’s me. I’ve been over here in the corner quietly making coffee, drinking beer, and playing with uranium. Don’t mind me.

But in late May you all should be aware that there will be a three week BBotE and stein drought when Cross-Country Road Trip 2014 takes place. The final pre-order slots before vacation will close on May 21st and then there will nothing until production resumes on June 15th. In that last window before departure, I will try to make as much BBotE as I possibly can so that I don’t leave anyone high and dry; in fact, feel free to place an order now with “delay shipment until mid-May” if you like. I will permit ordering while I am slowly driving my way back to California, but the coffee engines will obviously be idle while I’m away, so nothing can ship until I get back.

“WHY ARE YOU DRIVING ACROSS AMERICA AND SPENDING THREE WEEKS NOT MAKING ME ULTRACOFFEE!!!?!?!?” you might ask. Well, the short answer is that it isn’t entirely a trip of pleasure. I’m wrapping up the last of my dad’s affairs after his unexpected passing last October and that means a trip to the mountains of South Carolina. Keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter (more likely) for my usual blithering streams of words, pictures and nerdery. I expect to be drinking a great deal of beer from across our fair land in my stein…at least, in the counties and parishes that aren’t dry.

Really, c’mon people. The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition a long time ago. I know many of your counties and municipalities got into the Prohibition movement decades before the 18th Amendment passed, but it’s time to move on and explore how well you can ferment your local agriculture.

You have been warned.

Cocktail Challenge: The Water of Life

As regular visitors to the blog side of Funranium Labs and my long suffering friends know, I am a fan of the works of Frank Herbert, particularly his Dune series. When other people were diving into fantasy as children with C.S. Lewis and Tolkein, I was reading up on the rise of Islam, pre-Islamic polytheism in Arabia, the Umayyad Caliphate, and geologic terms I needed to even try to get a grounding on all the things Dune was throwing at me. Trust me, this is relevant.

EXHIBIT 1: Jen's birthday cake top.

EXHIBIT 1: Jen’s birthday cake.

This weekend is my friend Jen’s birthday. Jen has hit that very special stage in life where she has looked around and said, “Fuck you world, I am having the birthday party I always wanted when I was 12, except now there will be booze too.” I applaud this moment where a person realizes her dreams and also realizes she has both the means and the skills to make them a reality. You see, Jen really, really, REALLY likes Robocop. As evidence, I submit to you her birthday cake top. For her birthday party, Jen will also have a tastefully arranged exhibit of items that anybody may take, provided they pay her back for for each item. This art installation will be called “Things I Have Bought For A Dollar“.

And then a conversation happened. This is how these things start.

Me: If I were to do your Robocop birthday, but for me, everyone would need stillsuits. Because Dune.
Me: It would be a pub crawl without rhythm.
Me: I may need to create a series of Dune related cocktails.
Jen: Plz call one the Water of Life
Jen: Plz also call one Relcaimed Water, and make it with Pocari Sweat
Me: The problem Jen, and there is one, is that the Water of Life practically invites me to use blue curacao.
Jen: Why is that a problem? That is not a problem.
Me: I will have to work hard to mute the orange flavor.
Jen: Oh. Well. It is the Water of Life. Ain’t it supposed to be tangy?
Me: And cause the Agony.
Me: I’m gonna go make this RIGHT NOW.
Jen: oh no. Phil. I care about you, man. plz don’t do that.
Me: TOO LATE

Exhibit 2: The Water of Life - assembling the ingredients

Exhibit 2: The Water of Life – assembling the ingredients

And that’s how this cocktail happened. First, the line up of ingredients that spoke to me as all of these should be in the Water of Life. One of the things that Frank Herbert harps on in Dune is that the spice melange tastes different every time you taste it. That as you have changed in the flow of your life, so too does the flavor of spice. This demands a wide variety of herbal flavors, the alcoholic equivalent of throwing your entire spice rack in a glass. Luckily, I have just the things for that. Also, the end product has to be blue.

Exhibit 3: The Water of Life

Exhibit 3: The Water of Life

My mix was as follows, stirred with ice:

1 part Botanivore Gin
1 part St. George Spirits Absinthe
1 part Canton ginger liqueur
1 part green Chartreuse
1.5 parts cinnamon schnapps
1.5 parts blue curacao

I chose the ingredients I did to give the greatest chance of an incredibly complex and evolving flavor, particularly the Botanivor gin and absinthe from St. George Spirits and chartreuse. The cinnamon schnapps is there as Herbert is always quite clear that the primary flavor of melange is cinnamon. I was unable to add BBotE because that would screw up the color. Also, it was 11:30pm when I did this.

The Lovely Assistant’s official review: “This is not nearly as horrifying as I thought it would be looking at the bottles you lined up. You have no right as a bartender to make all those things taste acceptable together.”

Please note that “acceptable” is a far cry from “good”, but it is nowhere even remotely close to the worst cocktails I’ve had/made. On the 1 to 10 scale, it’s probably a 6; an amusing stunt drink, but not one that I would drink regularly and I have no idea what food I’d eat with it. The cinnamon schnapps and blue curacao conspire to make it cloyingly sweet at times. The really bizarre thing was I had succeeded in making the eternally changing flavor. The palate is looooooong. Sometimes it started with anise, sometimes cinnamon, sometimes juniper, sometimes sage and then it kept changing on the tongue. Perhaps this is because taste buds or brain cells were dying one by one.

Really, this is all just an elaborate excuse to get you all to listen to the the Dune Prologue/Main Title Theme by TOTO.

Dunecember and Indianapolis

First and foremost, I am pleased to announce the new BBotE Ambassador to Indianapolis, Jeremy! And I don’t want to hear people on the coasts complaining about BBotE heading to the Flyover states rather than them. You don’t even know the MIGHTY NEED of the heartland for caffeine; what they lack in population, they make up with enthusiasm.

Jeremy is a brave soul that subjected himself to experimentation to see if BBotE would destroy him, as there were Fuckbrain(TM) medication considerations and the delicate stomach they’d had given him, for he wanted coffee back in his life so badly. I am happy to say that he survived The Harrowing and emerged on the other side faster, harder, and stronger…and as an Ambassador. So, feel free to drop Jeremy a line, IndyBBotE [at] gmail [dot] com. He is stocked with 750ml bottles for your drinking pleasure.

In other news, all of the December 18th pre-order window BBotE shipments are on their way along with all the Steins of Science ordered as of yesterday. New pre-order slots ending January 4th go up today, though any orders placed at this point have only a slim chance of being shipped and arriving before Christmas. There seems to be a bit of confusion as to how pre-order slots work, and it makes me sad that may have torpedoed some folks’ cunning Xmas present plans, so allow me to reiterate:

I can only generate so much BBotE in a given time period. I parcel that production in to pre-order slots to make sure that I can make everything people want and ship it out by the end or that window. Your pre-orders tell me what you would like that production in that window to be. The longer you wait in an pre-order window, the fewer slots that remain as time and other people claim them.

In order to keep myself sane through what, frankly, is a ridiculous level of production over the last several weeks, during brief downtime I have been reading Frank Herbert’s Dune again. I first read this book in the third grade and finished the series quickly, as I did the weird leap from Golden Books and Dr. Seuss to Dune without any intermediary steps. A younger me made it a point to read that entire series, along with all the Hitchhiker’s Guide books, every year and every time I found something new, something else Herbert had hidden in there. Eight year old me found his hero, what I wanted to be, hiding in the chapter headings blurbs of Dune: Pardot Kynes, not Liet, the Imperial planetologist, a character that doesn’t actually appear in the books.

Sometime around when I started working at LLNL back in 2004, I fell off the Dune wagon. The free time to read became scant. But this year, I have collected enough people that had never read Dune, or never gotten beyond the first book, or hadn’t read it in decades that I was willing to shepherd to them and crack the books open again for the first time in a decade. My first and most important observation: the older I get, the more I identify with Duke Leto but Pardot Kynes still holds my heart.

So, as my holiday wish for all who read this, pick up Dune again. In fact, pick up Dune Messiah and Children of Dune too, as the three are meant to be read as a set. It’s intricate, dense, slow read but well worth it. It’s like the puzzle boxes from Hellraiser; Herbert and his wife Beverly (who contributed at least as much to these stories as him) have such sights to show you and you see more every time.