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Friday, October 5, 2007

10 Best Beers with Balls of 2007

Finally, Fall is upon us, and that can mean only one thing: Beer! Well, that shouldn't be your only concern, but with football season in full swing and the commencement of Oktoberfest, a lot of us out there have beer on the brain. With that in mind, we here at Inventor Spot bring you 10 of the ballsiest beers we could find.

What makes them so noteworthy?

Well, the beers on this list push the limits of conventional brewing in a number of ways. Whether they are the stoutest of the stout, or the odd brainchild of a Japanese liquor store owner (milk beer anybody?), these ales definitely have some gusto that the rest of the beer world lacks.

10. Midas Touch Golden Elixir- The King's Beer

Besides the stout 9% ABV(alcohol by volume),Dogfish Head's Midas Touch Golden Elixir boasts a pretty interesting story behind it. Under a huge mound at the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion in central Turkey, a University of Pennsylvania Museum expedition in 1957 excavated an intact burial chamber which likely belonged to King Midas himself. Also found inside was an ancient drinking set that, when examined, exhumed residue that revealed an ancient alcoholic beverage. Those determined brewers at Dogfish Head "recreated" this elixir--a mixture of wine, beer and honey--and got their very own Midas Touch Golden Elixir. The taste is rife with fruity notes and is served best in a clute or sniffer.

9. Mamma-Mia Pizza Beer- The Foodie's Beer

Upon hearing the name of this beer, my immediate reaction is to cringe. Although I like to drink beer with my pizza, I'm not sure how I feel about having my pizza in my beer. However, Tom and Athena Seefurth of Campton Township, Illinois claim to have created the first "culinary beer," hinting at an air of sophistication. Created in 2006, The beer contains what you would expect: tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, basil—everything you would find on a pizza. Locals claim it tastes pretty much like those ingredients, but there is still the flavor of beer as well. A ballsy move to use such unconventional ingredients? I'd say so. But, who knows, maybe it will catch on.

8. La Terrible - The Purist's Beer

Contrary to the name, there is nothing terrible about this French ale crafted by Unibroue brewery. Well, the 9% ABV might be a little on the dangerous side for the average drinker, but, other than that, this beer performs well. Part of Unibroue's rare collection of beers brewed with 100% raw materials, meaning that it's flavor is rich and powerful. Look out for a rather thick head on this ale, and enjoy the fruity yet malty tastes that last you all through Oktoberfest.

7. EKU 28 - The German's Beer

In the early 1950’s, the EKU brewery of Kulmbach , Germany set out to make the world's “biggest” beer. But, with traditional malt brewing techniques being a little too sissy, the beer-crazed Germans at Kulmbach doubled and sometimes even tripled the malt concentrations giving the yeast more fuel for alcoholic conversion. And, after an unheard of nine month cold storage period, the brewers got the end result: a robust beer, very sweet beer with an 11% ABV that will slap you in the face. Though not the biggest beer by any means, EKU 28 still packs a wallop and is not for the timid drinker.

6. Samichlaus - The Christmas Lush's Beer

Schloss Eggenberg brings us Samichlaus, which, as you might have guessed, means "Santa Claus" in Swiss German. The beer is only brewed once a year, on December 6 (which is the day of Saint Nicholas), which makes it a relatively rare brew. It is in the style of a Bavarian bock, and is fermented slowly over ten months so there is very little sugar left in the final beer. The process also allows for the development of a mind-numbing 14% ABV that goes perfect with those dysfunctional family holidays. With one of the highest ABVs in the world, this beer will make you forget all about your dead-beat brother and senial grandfather.

5. Westvleteren 12 - The Monk's Beer

The Westvleteren 12 beer brewed by Westvleteren monks pushes the envelope not only because of it's flavor and alcohol content, but because of the strictness under which it's produced. The Westvleteren Monks don't take no crap from no body when making their beer, and, despite their distributors nail biting, they take their time to craft and delicate beer that represents their dedication to brewing. And they're so successful at it that the Westvleteren 12 consistently ranks among the best beers in the world—even taking the #1 spot on —and there is even a black market for most of their ales. The Westvleteren 12 is so named due to its 12% ABV and it runs deep with rich aromas and tastes of cocoa, raisins and dates. Gotta find some way to stay entertained in the monastery, right?

4. BILK - The Weird Guy's Beer

Bilk. What do you think that means? If you guessed beer + milk...then you're right! Oh yes, a Japanese liquor store owner has fused beer with milk to make Bilk. What a name, right? The mix is roughly 30% milk and 70% beer, and was conceived to help alleviate the amount of overproduced milk in the region. The process of making Bilk doesn't differ much from that of regular brewing, and the result is actually quite similar to normal beer, but with a strong taste of milk and something fruity. Though only available in Japan, Bilk has been receiving a lot of media attention, and the beer is often sold out. If that keeps up, we might see it stateside yet.

3. Smoked Porter - The Hunter's Beer

As you may have gathered, the Smoked Porter from The Alaskan Brewing Company has an unconventional flavor mixed in with the normal brew of barley and hops. One would think that a smokey flavor would be intrusive in a beer, but this beer has actually won numerous awards and wowed audiences at beer festivals all over the country. They get their signature taste by taking selected malts prior to brewing and smoking them in small batches under carefully controlled conditions in a commercial food smoker using local alder wood. The resultant beer is definitely different, but good nonetheless, and they only produce a limited amount in vintage years, so start looking now if you want to try it.

2. Kelpie - The Salty Dog's Beer

Taking their cue from Scottish coastal and island farmers, Heather Ale Ltd. developed Kelpie, which is brewed with seaweed. Nearly 400 years ago, these farmers used seaweed beds to grow their barley crop, thus the resulting beer ingredient made for a beer with a distinct taste of the ocean. It caught on with locals and visitors alike, so Heather Ale Ltd. kept producing and it still remains a favorite of certain Scotsmen.

1. Utopia - The Extremist's Beer

This is easily the ballsiest beer on our list because of one simple fact: It has a 24% ABV, which rivals some liqueurs. Not carbonated and meant to be served at room temperature, Utopia is part of the Samual Adams Extreme Beer collection and has a warm sweet taste of vanilla, oak and caramel. But rest assured that this beer, who's ABV smashes records and gets stronger and stronger every year, is only meant for the serious beer drinker who knows a thing or two about the complexities of ales. Wine Enthusiast Magazine gave Utopia its highest rating back in 2003, but this beer still stands the test of time due to Sam Adam's dedication to quality brewing.

And there we have a stout list of a few beers that are guaranteed to tantalize and intrigue your taste-buds. As you've seen, they range from the weird to the wonderful (and maybe even worrisome), but they all deserve to be called a beer with balls.

Adding an Extra Room for the Sky

Michelle Litvin for The New York Times

STARGAZERS New light-filtering technologies make home observatories viable even in Chicago, where John Spack, an accountant, built one on top of his house.
Published: October 4, 2007

IN the quaint seaside community of Gloucester, Mass., on Cape Ann, one gray clapboard house stands out from the rest. It has a big white dome rising from the top, with a sliding shutter that opens to the sky and a powerful telescope inside. “My wife got an ocean view and I got a view of the sky,” said Dr. Mario Motta, 55, a cardiologist and astronomy enthusiast, of the house they built three years ago.

Michelle Litvin for The New York Times
Mr. Spack's house in Chicago.

Daniel Snyder for The New York Times

Steve Cullen, a retired software executive, is building a home observatory in Rodeo, N.M., which has “some of the darkest skies and clearest weather for space photography in the U.S.,” he said.

Erik Jacobs for The New York Times

Dr. Mario Motta’s telescope sits atop his Gloucester, Mass., house.

Erik Jacobs for The New York Times

Dr. Motta's house in Gloucester, Mass.

Erik Jacobs for The New York Times

HEAVENLY VIEW Dr. Mario Motta, with his wife, Joyce, at their Gloucester, Mass., home, is one of a growing number of amateur astronomers who have built an observatory into their house.

At a time when amateur astronomy is becoming increasingly popular — thanks in part to the availability of high-tech equipment like digital cameras that filter out light pollution — Dr. Motta and his wife, Joyce, are among a growing number of Americans incorporating observatories into new or existing homes. Manufacturers of observatory domes report increasing sales to homeowners, and new residential communities are being developed with observatories as options in house plans.

“As the baby boomers and wealthy tech types retire, they want challenging hobbies like astronomy, and have enough cash stashed away to afford to build their own observatories,” said Richard Olson, president of the Ash Manufacturing Company in Plainfield, Ill., which makes steel domes for observatories. His customers used to be limited to academic and research institutions, but within the last five years, he said, homeowners have begun making requests, to the point where 25 percent of his sales are to people like Steve Cullen, a 41-year-old retired senior vice president of the Symantec Corporation, who is building a home and observatory on 190 acres in Rodeo, N.M.

Mr. Cullen said he chose the location because it has “some of the darkest skies and clearest weather for space photography in the U.S.” (Most sophisticated telescopes now allow for the addition of digital cameras.) He expects the total cost of his observatory, which is still under construction, to be close to $340,000, including a $225,000 telescope, but his is a high-end project.

Most home observatories have between $10,000 and $40,000 in equipment, including telescopes, computers, refractors, filters and tracking mechanisms, according to astronomy equipment retailers. The total budget for an observatory can range from $50,000 to more than $500,000, depending on how technologically advanced the equipment and the size and complexity of the structure.

Dr. Motta also photographs deep space from his home’s observatory, posting his images of distant galaxies online and publishing them in astronomy magazines and journals.

His telescope, which he constructed himself, weighs well over a hundred pounds, and would be cumbersome to move outdoors if he didn’t have an observatory. And like most sophisticated telescopes, it would also require at least an hour of careful recalibration if relocated.

“The reason why people don’t use their telescopes is they are such a pain to haul out and set up,” said John Spack, 50, a certified public accountant who had a domed observatory built on top of an addition to his house in Chicago last year. “Now, if I want to get up at 3 a.m. and look at something, I just open the shutter.”

Like observatories at research facilities and museums, most home observatories now have computers that rotate the dome so the telescope is oriented toward precisely what the user wants to see. Once fixed on a point in space, the dome continues to slowly rotate to compensate for the earth’s rotation, so whatever is in view doesn’t move out of range.

“It’s all fully automated, real high-tech,” said Mr. Spack, who estimated that he spent at least $100,000 to build and equip his observatory. Many home observatories also allow remote real-time views through the telescope from any computer with an Internet connection.

Roy and Elise Furman, who own a software company, view the cosmos through the telescope in their vacation house observatory in Portal, Ariz., both when they are there and when they are at home, in Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia skies are so light polluted, we got depressed trying to do astronomy,” said Ms. Furman, 48. So the couple bought the Portal property, which is about 10 miles from Rodeo and part of a community called Arizona Sky Village, founded in 2003. Half of the 15 adobe-style homes there have matching domed observatories, and five more observatory homes are under construction. “We are a bunch of astronomy buffs looking through our telescopes out in the middle of nowhere,” said Mr. Furman, 57.

Other astronomy-themed residential developments include Deerlick Astronomy Village in Sharon, Ga., about 100 miles east of Atlanta, established in 2004, and Chiefland Astronomy Village in Chiefland, on Florida’s west coast, which began in 1985 as a place for amateur astronomers to buy or rent land on which to camp. Within the last five years, several houses with observatories have been built there.

These communities encourage home observatories, but elsewhere, “people do run into problems with deed restrictions,” said Jerry Smith, president of Technical Innovations, a manufacturer of observatory domes in Gaithersburg, Md. The company started in 1991 and primarily served universities and government agencies, but since 2002 individual consumers have accounted for 60 percent of the 1,400 domes it has sold.

To avoid overheating and warping the viewing equipment, Mr. Smith said, “it’s better to have a white dome, because it’s reflective, but we’ve had to do them in earth tones because that’s the only way to get them approved by property owners’ associations.”

Domes in home observatories are typically made of metal or fiberglass and range in size from 8 to 30 feet in diameter. They are sold in kits from manufacturers like Ash or Technical Innovations and start at about $5,000, depending on the size, materials and features. The price includes a computer-controlled motorized system that opens the dome’s sliding or hatch-like shutter and rotates the dome.

The telescope beneath the dome requires “a dedicated foundation so it’s not subject to the vibrations transmitted by people walking around in the building,” said Gregory La Vardera, an architect in Merchantville, N.J., who designed Mr. Cullen’s observatory. This usually involves elevating the instrument on a discrete concrete pier. A telescope mount is bolted to the pier and the mount is motorized so it rotates the telescope in sync with the dome.

Observatories cannot be air-conditioned because any difference between the inside and outside air would distort the telescope’s optics, Mr. La Vardera said. For comfort, most home observatories have a separate insulated and air-conditioned control room that houses all the computer equipment. These rooms often look like studies, with lots of space photography hanging on the walls.

“I have a lot of astronomy books on the bookshelves so I can feel knowledgeable,” said Dr. M. Eric Gershwin, the chairman of clinical immunology at the University of California, Davis, about the control room in his home’s observatory in Davis. An avid amateur astronomer, Dr. Gershwin, 61, had the observatory built 10 years ago and has been tweaking the instrumentation and control systems ever since. “You’re never done,” he said. “Right now I’m updating the computers.”

Helping people with the installation and computerization of observatories has become a sideline for Kris Koenig, 45, a video producer from Chico, Calif., who specializes in astronomy-themed productions.

“It started a couple of years ago, when I helped set up the digital equipment in some public and private observatories locally,” Mr. Koenig said, adding that he is now getting at least half a dozen calls for assistance a month just through word of mouth. He charges $500 to $1,000 an hour depending on the difficulty of the job, plus travel expenses. His most recent project involved linking a California home observatory’s telescope to an entertainment center, so the images could be broadcast on a big-screen television.

The work is gratifying, he said. “It’s great that so many people want to bring the universe home.”

$8.5-Million NYC Penthouse is Gadget Lovers Paradise


If you thought your pad was a gadget lovers paradise, then check out this $8.5-million penthouse, located in NYC, overlooking Central Park. Click here for more pictures.

We just visited this ridiculously expensive penthouse at the top of New York's Central Park, looking down on pretty much everything. Intel decked it out with some serious computing horsepower, and the result has us buzzing
[via Gizmodo]

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The gates are open, let your bloggin Begin - Happy Van Damme Friday