Beer and Pavement

Top 5 List for September 12, 2011

Posted in Top 5 by SM on September 12, 2011

Acer japonicum Vitifolium JPG1fu

I feel like this feature has to make it two more weeks for it not to be forced. This is number 3, I believe. Digest what I have to tell you and know that there will be a beer and record review on Wednesday.

1. Anniversaries
Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth. That’s right. She was born on September 11th. While not thee September 11th, it’s a pretty important day in our house. Eventually (or now), I will grow tired of every September 11th focusing on patriotism, terrorists, and fireman. For once, I’d like it to be a day my daughter can look at as her own. She’s too young to realize what a big deal everyone makes over this day. I have chosen to move on and remember this day for the life it has wrought instead of the death. Also, the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA was pretty great and will be featured in Wednesday’s post.

2. The Womyn of Merge
Also featured in Wednesday’s post will be Wild Flag, but I’ve said too much already…I recently acquired albums by Eleanor Friedberger and Wye Oak. These were nice gets as both albums are really powerful and of the highest quality. However, since I was so late to their bandwagon, I’ll just mention them here. The Wild Flag will get a proper review with a beer (see above) on Wednesday.

3. Black Francis
Black Francis is the imperial stout I brewed that’s currently sitting on oak chips, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans all soaked in bourbon. It tastes pretty awesome at the moment, but I’ll probably leave it in the secondary for a little while longer just to let it acquire as much flavor as possible. The plan is to bottle by October so that I have it ready for the holidays.

4. Seasonal Beers
The stores are loaded with beers meant for fall: pumpkin ales, Oktoberfests, etc. However, I’m more excited for the beers featuring freshly harvested hops that will be slowly released all fall. These beers feature a sharp bitterness that is lost in your average IPA. I’ve grown a little weary of those who go on and on about pumpkin beers and just wait patiently for my fresh-hopped beers to show.

5.  OK. I couldn’t resist. Here’s some Wild Flag…

New Slang Saison, pt. 3: Bottled Up

Posted in Beer by SM on June 20, 2011

After somewhere between three and four weeks in the secondary, the Saison is now bottled. Below is what happened.


I had to gather a variety of caps as I was unsure which would fit the few 750 mL bottles I had gathered. My only worry is that some of the bottles wouldn’t let me affix either size cap on straight.



I’m not sure why this beer looks so dark. It’s more of an amber color, which doesn’t really match the style.




Secondary to Ale Pail. Pail to bottle.

I’m trying out several different bottle sizes to see which suits me best. I also tried some of the beer and can’t wait to see what a little carbonation does to it.

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Ohio, Here We Come

Posted in Beer, Life, Travelog by SM on May 26, 2011

Then, it’s off to Spain.


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New Slang Saison, pt. 2

Posted in Beer by SM on May 26, 2011

Here’s a quick update on the beer…

As suggested by Jamie in the comments, I didn’t provide enough yeast for the beer. Luckily, friends Jeff and Brian had some slurry laying around. For the non-brewer, slurry is just the yeast leftover from a batch of beer. We made a starter and pitched a second round. This worked and the final gravity hit somewhere just under 1.015, which is what I was looking for.

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Bottled Up

Posted in Beer, Intersections by SM on May 16, 2011

Sample, ale pail, OSU shot glass, Brewer's Whiskey by New Holland, caps, capper, etc.

Sorry. I bottled my Harnessed in Slums IPA last night instead of writing a post. The beer hit exactly where I needed it to final gravity-wise. Thursday’s New Slang Saison started bubbling late morning on Friday and has gone steadily all weekend. I’m thinking there’s enough yeast in there to get me through.

There’s one post that’s like 1/3 done (1/2 written, footnotes left to write), but I just didn’t have the energy for it. So, just gander at another Hipstamatic photo above (because I’m not a real photog with a real camera) and watch the video made especially for this beer below.

New Slang Saison, pt. 1

Posted in Beer by SM on May 13, 2011

I had a post started almost a week ago that I just haven’t had time to finish. Then, I decided to brew last night, leaving me with no time to write a proper post. So, what you get instead is part 1 of my brewing process. It’s only extract, so nothing super professional-looking will happen. Also, it’s a style that’s nothing like I’ve done before. I’ve gotten pretty good at the extract brew, but a Saison with herbs and whatnot is something new.

The recipe is here and what happened is below…

First, I assembled the ingredients: 0.5 lbs. Briess Caramel 20L (specialty grain), 7 lbs. light dry malt extract, 1 oz. Amarillo hop pellets, 1 oz. Sorachi Ace hop pellets, zest of one lemon, a sprig of rosemary, Wyeast Biere De Garde 3725 yeast

I steeped the specialty grain for about 20 minutes. It was actually when the water reached 170 degrees Farenheit. This usually adds some character – particularly in terms of color – to the beer.

Once the specialty grains were removed, I brought the water to a boil, threw in the extract, removed it from the heat (so as not to boil over), stirred until the extract was dissolved, and returned it to boil. Once the boil started up again, I added the Amarillo. While waiting, I put some cold water in the carboy and made sure the rest of my equipment was properly sanitized.

With 15 minutes to go, I added the Sorachi Ace hops. These hops are pretty new. They were developed by Sapporo and produce a lemony sent and flavor. I’ve had a beer by Brooklyn Brewery once that used the hop exclusively. It was a good beer and thought that this might add something unique to my Saison. Between that hop addition and the end of the boil, I prepped some honey by putting the bottle in warm water so as to liquify the stuff before dumping it into the wort. At the end of the boil, I tossed in the lemon zest and Rosemary, baby.

Now, comes the worst part of my process: cooling the wort. Since it was storming out, I didn’t have my typical option of chilling it outside, in this giant laundry tub, with cold water running constantly from my hose outside the pot. Instead, I had to resort to the old way of sticking it in an ice bath in the sink. Luckily, this doesn’t take that long if you consider that the ice bath is only part of the cooling process. After the ice bath, I add the wort to cold water in the carboy. That usually puts it over the top if the aeration doesn’t.

Now, the real wait begins. My hope is that the beer ferments in a week. That way I can rack it to the secondary for four or so weeks. Part of that time, we’ll be out of town. The beer will be ready to bottle shortly after I return from my travels. I’ll let you know how the rest goes in future posts.

So far, preliminary smells suggest the lemon will be pretty prominent. In fact, before I pitched the yeast, the wort smelled like an Arnold Palmer. The drink. Arnold Palmer the golfer smelled of cigarettes, sweaty polyester, and women’s perfume. The wort smelled like the drink made out of lemonade and iced tea. Herbally, lemony goodness. However, I know a little Rosemary goes a long way. So, that may come out as things settle. It will be fun to see.

Update: There’s a little action going on. I’ve never used this yeast, but I seem to remember that everyone I’ve known who’s used Belgian strains have had slow starts. I should see more bubbling by tomorrow.

Update 2: Despite what I thought and some have suggested, fermentation has been active throughout the day. I’m thinking we’re in the clear, but I’ll wait for a final gravity in the 1.012 to 1.015 range before I make any bold predictions.

Update 3: So far, so good. The beer fermented all weekend long. It’s supposed to be done in a week. Since getting a proper hydrometer (long story), I will be able to take an accurate final gravity reading. If it comes up short, I might have to hunt down some champaign yeast to finish it off. I’ll post a part 3 to this story either Friday or Monday the 23rd.

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The Neglected Beer Blog

Posted in Beer by SM on March 16, 2011

A beer blog this is not, but I do post about beer all the time. That is, when I post. After the True/False onslaught and a weekend of strep and pink eye in the house, I have fallen behind. This blog is supposed to be about beer and music. Here’s the beer post for the week with a music post to follow. There’s no time for footnotes. Just bear with me.

Folks have been all over the black IPA trend. No one is obsessed with it the way folks drive all over the globe for sours or barrel-aged beers, but they’re into the Cascadian dark ale enough to send the message to every craft brewer that they need a black IPA. It’s easy to taste why. The black IPA/Cascadian dark ale has the best of both worlds. There’s the sweet maltiness of stouts and bocks mixed with the floral bitterness of your favorite IPA. It’s a rather versatile beer for pairings and is naturally balanced.

I brewed one of these beers and named it after the seminal indie/math rock band Big Black. IPA’s of all colors are bitter, so I tend to call the style “black bitter.” All this adds up to the name of my beer: Big Black Bitter.

Originally, I had planned to design a label to print at Kinkos, but I wanted to save money while labeling my beers over the long haul and went with a rubber stamp and labels. You can see the results below.

Look at the head on that mother.

How is the beer? Well, it has a pretty incredible head. There’s no need for an aggressive pour. The lacing is wet and almost foamy, not sticky. The sent is a cacophony of citrus and grassy hops with a touch of the roasted malty goodness. However, there’s something not quite right. I’m chalking it up to the Amarillo hops as the same aroma is in another beer I did with loads of Amarillo. I thought I liked this hop, but I’m beginning to discover that it’s not my favorite.

Anyway, I tasted the bugger. Bitter roastiness dominates with a touch of citrus to finish it off. As it ages (which is days and weeks in an IPA’s lifespan), the bitterness grows, making this a beer true to its name. Luckily, the sweetness provided by the malt balances the beer out. There isn’t much in the way of mouthfeel, which is typical for an extract homebrew. It’s something I can live with. There’s a little heat, but not too much.

Overall, the beer is a success. It’s not as mind-blowing as I had hoped, but this style rarely is. What it does do, once again, is live up to its name. It’s black and bitter. It looks good in a glass and feels good going down. In the end, that’s all that matters.


Soon, my favorite brewery will makes its way to Missouri. Stone has hinted before that they’re coming to the Show-Me state, but has backed out on that promise. Apparently, it’s hard to get a foot in the door in this state. It’s as if some conglomerate, industrialized rice-adjunct beer maker owns property here (hint: ANHEUSER BUSCH). Whatever. Stone is finally coming to Missouri.

Of course, I’ve had a pipeline to Stone’s product for some time. My family all live in Ohio where Stone is readily available. My brother recently grabbed me the 2011 Old Guardian Barley Wine as well as the new Belgo version. Plus, he grabbed me the beer Stone collaborated with Green Flash and Pizza Port Carlsbad breweries, Highway 78 Scotch Ale.

Good, not great scotch ale.

Typically, the Stone collabs are pretty amazing. This one was really good, but somewhat ordinary. I don’t know whether the style has limitations or the breweries just tried to make a really good scotch ale. The ABV isn’t high, which suggests they didn’t press the limits with this brew. Plus, there’s nothing extra going on here. It’s just a really solid scotch ale. I have no complaints, but I was hoping for something more. At least I won’t have to wait for my mother to deliver me Stone anymore.

Speaking of new beer arrivals in MO…

Half a flight and plate of fries to go.

Favorite beer nerd local Sycamore celebrated the arrival of another Southern Cal brewery, Firestoen Walker, with a tasting event. They didn’t get the free glasses promised, but the beer arrived. A flight of 5 oz. samples of FW beers cost $14. That and a plate of fries for my daughter and I made a nice pre-dinner session. The beers in the flight were consumed in the following order.

  1. Double Jack IPA – Grapefruity and balanced, this IPA might have ruined my taste buds for the rest of the evening and I was thankful. Seriously, though, this is as good an IPA as you’ll find. We now get several of the great IPA’s from the west coast. If we could only get all of them…
  2. Reserve Porter – I don’t know whether it was the fact that I drank the IPA first or this is just your typical, run of the mill porter, but I was not impressed. Sure, it was smooth, clean even, but I like my porters to taste like…well…imperial stouts. So, that might be a me problem and not a Firestone Walker problem.
  3. Abacus – Ah, barley wine brewed in bourbon barrels. You really can’t beat that. All kinds of dark fruits and booze runneth wild over my tongue. I wanted to make sweet love to that beer, but my daughter was present and there was only 5 ounces in the glass.
  4. Anniversary 14 – Of course, then I met Anni. Man, what a mouthful this beer was. More bourbon barrel goodness only in the form of a strong dark ale. Tons of molasses, fig, vanilla…It was maybe the only beer that could follow Abacus, yet it was so smooth and tasty.

I’m really looking forward to more from Firestone Walker and Stone in the coming months. For now, I’ll have to settle for the Double Jack I purchased at the Hy-Vee yesterday and my Old Guardians. Oh, and I still have loads of that homebrew.


Building Coalitions Through Homebrewing

Posted in Beer by SM on January 17, 2011

This mess should result in a good beer. The blog post probably will not result in anything good.

Disclaimer: From time to time, I have a great idea for a post on this blog. However, my execution fails to deliver. This post had promise, but it lacks focus. I start out by making a case for homebrewing being an integral part of coalition building only to suddenly delve into homebrew geekery. For this, I apologize. Read this if you like or wait for Wednesday’s post which should be better.

I am a homebrewer. I’m not this guy, but I brew my own concoctions from time to time[1]. I typically do extract brews. That’s all I’m committed to at the moment. Still, I can make a pretty tasty beer brewing with extract malt instead of using an all-grain system[2].

Homebrewing was added to my long list of hobbies partly as a way to demystify the brewing process and partly to be able to hold my own in beer discourse. I’ve never done it for financial reasons. Lord knows I blow the budget with extra malt and hops, but that’s fine. I want to like the beer I brew and it’s worked out fine so far.

What people don’t realize about homebrewing is that it can be a rather social practice. A friend taught me how to brew in his kitchen. In the process, we polished off several beers – homebrewed and professionally brewed – as various folk stopped by to check and see what was happening. I’ve had people over for brewing and bottling sessions and have attended such get-togethers when other dudes brew. And at every brew day, there’s beer consumed.

For this latest batch, I wanted to try a style that’s taken the brewing community by storm: the Cascadian black ale. Some refer to this it as a “black IPA” which makes no sense. How can you be “black” and “pale?” By naming it “Cascadian black ale,” the Northwest (in particular Oregon) are laying claim to the style. This doesn’t sit well with me either. There’s nothing I hate in my beer more than marketing. Others call it an “Indian black ale.” I prefer to call the style a “black bitter.” Of course, if you want anyone to know what you’re talking about, you call it a “black IPA.”

A black bitter is basically an IPA with a darker malt profile, typically picking up the roasted and sweet flavors of the malt to balance out the bitter fruitiness of the hops. At worst, the style is a little bit of everything we like in our dark and hoppy beers, pairing deliciously with hamburgers and pizzas, to name a few. It’s a versatile style that fits nearly any mood. At best, it’s an amazing conglomeration of bitter, citrus, pine, roastiness, and even chocolate. The best of the style somehow balance the sweet and bitter while blasting your senses with hops.

My black bitter is called “Big Black Bitter,” in honor of math-rock originators Big Black[3]. I haven’t done this in a while, but I created the label on the left for the 22 0z. bottles I plan to fill in a couple of months. The recipe is here, and you can probably tell that it should be a hop-bomb. My hope is that the malt profile matches, even compliments the intensity of the hops.

So, Saturday was brew day. The specialty grains steeped for 20 or 30 minutes, filling the house with a hot cocoa aroma[4]. I moved on to the boil and added the first portion of extract along with 2 ounces of Chinook in order to put the bitter in this beer[5]. At this point, the kitchen smelled like a chocolate pine forest. I knew something was right… Simcoe… Centennial… Citra… Amarillo…

As I moved through my process, buddies came by to watch, give advice, and even help a little. We sipped on a homebrewed dubbel that was all bananas[6], a couple of Ska’s Modus Hoperandi[7], and a New Belgium/Allagash Vrienden[8]. Hop schedules were debated and assistance was given when dealing with the sludgy hop flowers at the bottom of my brew pot (see above).

It was decided that to balance out the bitterness of the Chinook and roasted malt, I needed to hold onto an extra two ounces of hops for dry-hopping[9]. I’ll dry-hop with a Cascade/Citra mix in the secondary and Simcoe/Amarillo in the thridary[10]

Wait, have I lost you yet?

The point was that this hop schedule was determined as I went along and the three of us were able to discuss options and that would benefit the beer most. The nose is both the most important aspect and first feature to fade in a homebrew. The excessive dry-hopping should overcome this unfortunate side-effect of the homebrew. Lots of hops at the end will insure a piny/fruity aroma to balance out the roastiness of the malt.

Eventually, my beer found its way into a carboy with some yeast. Now, the waiting begins as the yeast does its job by eating the sugars in the beer and spitting out alcohol. Eventually, this should be a great example of a black IPA and possibly even a fine tribute to Big Black.

Homebrewing encourages creativity, community, and patience. The end result is a beer one can be proud of. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Stay tuned…

1Not often lately, but I feel a resurgence. I’ll finish this batch, collaborate on a couple more before doing another of my own in the coming months.
2Simply put, brewers typically make beer by processing grains, hops, water, and yeast. The work they do with the grains to make it fermentable is done for you when you use extract. It cuts some significant time and equipment from the process.
3I actually not much of a fan of Big Black nor math-rock. However, founder Steve Albini has recorded just about every meaningful record of the past 20 or so years. He’s had an incredible amount of influence on music and is under-appreciated. The least I can do is make a beer in his honor.
4These are for flavor and color. Right away, the water took on a black look, making the appearance of the beer match expectations.
5Chinook smells like it should be an incredibly bitter hop. I look for this beer to be heavy on the bitter side, which suits me well.
6Beer geeks will describe a beer as tasting like raisins or bananas. It’s cliched and imprecise, but it works.
7This beer’s quickly replacing Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale as the go-to beer in Middle Missouri. Pine forest in a can.
8Oddly enough, this beer has not been available in this part of Missouri. I grabbed a couple of bottles in Kansas City several weeks back and tried it on tap. It’s a fantastic Belgian-style sour; balanced with just enough sweetness. It has been one of my favorite beers of the last few months. Too bad it didn’t reach town. I still have one bottle left. Now, with whom will I share it?
9“Dry-hopping” always sounds like “dry-humping” to me. God. I miss dry-humping. I guess I miss college.
10I know that it’s tertiary, but I couldn’t resist calling the third occurrence “thirdary.”

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Wowee Zowee: When Worlds Collide

Posted in Intersections by SM on April 24, 2010

In case you hadn’t figured it out, I blog about beer and music. Rarely do these two interests fit together, at least in quality, but I find a way when I can. There are the Hi-Life/PBR-guzzling indie rock fans or the craft brew-drinking fusion jazz dudes. In these instances, high quality beer does not match high-quality art. There is a disconnect.

Of course, the idea of high-quality music is way more subjective than similar thinking about beer. You can love Phish or Steely Dan1 and appreciate Magic Hat #9 and make an argument that you enjoy good music and beer. I won’t spend this post putting down those opinions because your heart is in the right place. You listen to the one Phish bootleg from the ’93 tour and it sounds amazing to you2. The vegetable in a bottle of #9 suits your tastes for respectable craft beer3. I get that. However, when you choose to see No Age/Pavement/Sonic Youth while swigging a can of PBR, knowing that the occasion should demand something better for your pallet, that is unacceptable4.

My point is that great beer should be paired with great music. I think you know where I stand on music5. I won’t argue my band versus yours. However, drinking swill because it’s cheap is not doing the experience of a great live show or essential record any good.

That said, I wanted to mesh my two interests. Since I am only a consumer of music, I decided to brew a beer in honor of one of my favorite albums by my favorite band. I present to you: Wowee Zowee Double India Pale Ale!

It doesn’t always work, but somehow this beer turned out. It’s a dank, dirty, stinky mess of a beer6. The aroma of grapefruit smacks you in the face as you open the bottle. It’s not even in the glass and you can tell what’s coming. The beer sticks to the sides of the glass7, almost to the point that is looks more like potato starch than beer residue. The Simcoe8 does not overwhelm the palate as the other hops and the strong malt backbone balance things out. And there’s booze. Lots and lots of booze9.

How does this fit with Pavement’s third proper LP?

I don’t know that I could have answered this question when I formulated the recipe. I knew that I wanted to make a big DIPA with lots of high-alpha hops. The recipe is a bit insane as far as the amount of ingredients. Folks worried that it would be too sweet or too bitter10, but the huge amounts of malt extract and a pound of hops balanced the scales. All that has nothing to do with the music.

Wowee Zowee the album, like the beer, is boozy and loopy throughout. There are moments of sweetness as well as bitterness, making both hard to swallow. Either way, both are packed with ingredients and complexity that somehow come out coherent and plausible at the end, momentarily staining the walls of your glass and your cerebral cortex in the most enjoyable way. I sometimes forget how much I like my homebrews and big, hoppy DIPA’s just as I’ve lost touch for periods of time with Wowee Zowee. Of course, whenever I reconvene with either, I get it again11.

I will never be able to create an album like Wowee Zowee (or any Pavement album for that matter), but I was able to create a beer that does one of my favorite records justice. Next up is a listening party with just my beer and Wowee Zowee on vinyl. Great beer can pair with great music.

1Actually, you can’t enjoy either…I’m kidding. Just don’t play that shit in my house…I’m kidding again. No. Seriously. Don’t ever play a Phish CD in my house EVER…I kid. No, I don’t.
2Of course, you’re stoned out of your gourd, but that’s besides the point.
3It doesn’t mine, but I can except that Magic Hat is a green-conscious microbrewery. So, they deserve some support and respect.
4Even when one cites cost, I can’t accept bad beer at a good rock show. Instead of drinking five PBR’s for about $10 at 4.7% ABV, drink a bomber of Avery Maharaja at 10.3% and actually enjoy your beer the same way in which you can enjoy your music.
5Like: Pavement, Sonic Youth, Wolf Parade, etc. Dislike: Phish, Miley Cyrus, Lil Wayne, etc.
6These are actually good things in a beer. Sure, some will be turned off by such a beer, but it’s at the very least more interesting than a bland, rice-based beer with it’s fizzy yellowness and three hops.
7This is known as lacing, considered a sign of quality in a beer. Wine drinkers say that the wine has “legs”. Same thing.
8Simcoe is a hop that gives a beer a grapefruit flavor/aroma. It’s a high-alpha hop, so it also provides a lot of bitterness and character to the beer.
9Original estimates had this beer somewhere around 11%. That’s rather ridiculous for an extract homebrew. I bet it actually lands closer to 10%, but it’s boozy either way.
10A common concern among fellow brewers was that I’d never be able to fully ferment all that sugar, causing bottles to explode. Also, it was suggested that the beer would be just sugary and sweet. Then they worried about the hops making it too bitter, almost on the verge of undrinkable. Then they put the two together and just wanted to drink the beer.
11I still remember the road trip back from Coney Island where I saw the first ever Siren Festival. One of my traveling companions put on WZ and I fell in love with the album all over again.

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Posted in Manifesto by SM on January 19, 2010

DIY. Do it yourself.

This is a sentiment that has had a long, slow growth over the past couple of decades. While mainly a hippie thing in the sixties and early seventies, punks (and not just the mohawked, rocker types) have adopted the DIY ethic as their own. Creating their own music, style and politic.

DIY has manifested itself in nearly every industry or craft. It’s spread beyond economies and has seeped into our daily lives. We build meat cart beds, sew our own clothes, build our own web presence without giving any real money to giant corporations making these products for us. Sure, the end results are often rough around the edges, but that’s what gives our things, our lives character.

In no other industry or craft has DIY had a greater effect than indie rock and craft beer.

Yesterday’s garage band playing the prom is today’s Lollapalooza headliner. These bands have moved from cheap cassette tapes of their songs to small runs of 7″ vinyl to full albums available online and created on their MacBooks. They didn’t like what the mass producers were mass producing, so they made their own. Some of it good, a lot of it unlistenable, but all of it original.

Take Pavement, for example. A couple of college kids from Stockton, CA decide they want to record some songs and put it to vinyl. A scary hippie with a makeshift recording studio and an uncanny ability to not keep a beat helps them out and you have Slay Tracks. The rest is history. Had SM and Spiral Stairs (pseudonyms) never worked up the nerve to record their own songs, Pitchfork would have nothing to pine over this year.

And Pavement is just a small piece of the indie-DIY puzzle. They sounded like they were doing it themselves (good thing). I haven’t even mentioned Sonic Youth making their own path through the major labels when so many 80’s indie bands had failed. Those old codgers even rebuild their own instruments. Folks at Merge (as well as countless other indies) started a record label just to release records by themselves and their friends. Indie rock is littered with DIY success stories.

Beer had a similar rise. About the same time punk rock was blowing up – making way for the hardcore and indie movements – Jimmy Carter signed a bill into law declaring homebrewing legal. No other development has had more of an impact on the beer market than this one bill. Soon after, a dude named Maytag brewed some steam beers in San Francisco and another guy started a brewery in Chico, CA. Charlie Papazian founded the Association of Brewers. It all took off from there.

It’s this DIY attitude that provides all the innovation for both of these trades to flourish. In the midst of these economically hard times, indie labels and craft brewers are a few of the folks still making money. Major labels have been losing money for almost two decades. The big mega-breweries are experiencing something they never thought breweries would feel: a pinch from a down economy. Folks are willing to pay good money for quality music on vinyl or extremely hoppy imperial IPA’s or sour beers brewed in wine barrels.

Instead of waiting for someone to make something they liked, these indie rockers and craft brewers did it for themselves. And they’re finding that other people wanted the same things they did. So, they’re able to make a living doing what they love.

Even I’ve done some things for myself. I can’t play an instrument and I didn’t have the capital to front a label, but I’ve done what I can to promote and support these DIY bands. Even better, I’ve taken up homebrewing in the last year. Three out of four batches made it to bottles. The first was drinkable; the second was a huge success; and the third gets better every time I try it. These things and various DIY projects litter my life with meaning and accomplishment.

By trade, I’m a teacher. There is maybe no other profession that uses DIY as much as teaching in public schools. There is often nothing in the way of appropriate materials available on a daily basis. We make our own. Now with all this Web 2.0 stuff, we really make our own all over the place.

The point of celebrating the DIY ethic is to call attention to the capabilities we all hold inside. We can do and make whatever we want or need. There is no more waiting for governmental or private enterprises to make what we want. We have to do it for ourselves.

So, build your meat cart bed. Learn to knit. Take a guitar lesson. Plant a garden. Do it for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else. “Yes we can” was not just a campaign slogan. Believe in it. Believe that you can do it for yourself.

This is just the first in a series on my manifesto for life. I feel most strongly about DIY. You should too. Let me know what you plan to do or are doing that fits the DIY lifestyle.

(*Note: This is not some lame-ass hipster, holier-than-thou diatribe. You should really give this a try.)