This is an episode of the Living Proof Brew Cast.
This is the second of five interviews we recorded at Balticon. In this one, we were joined by good friend of the show, Chris Miller. From the first it should be pretty apparent this was the second interview on the same day, recorded pretty soon after we talked with Nate so the first beer of this episode was our fourth or fifth of the day. That beer was a bourbon barrel aged Devil’s Milk from Duclaw. We are both immense fans of the regular version of this beer, the barrel aging did all kind of wonderful things to it.
This was the first local beer we shared on mic at Balticon. It was a new brewery to Chris. He definitely was thinking of picking up some more local beers like this to try during the weekend or possibly even to take home with him. We talked a bit about regionalism, a favorite topic, and how many of the originally local beers have been becoming more available more broadly. This also put us in mind of travel, especially some of the TSA inspired insanity we have to endure.
Speaking of local flavors (all jokes aside), Chris enjoyed some crabs the evening before the con got under way. As much as he might have enjoyed the flavor, he simply couldn’t see the effort picking them as being worth it. John strongly disagreed, explaining how when crabs are boiled right, they are well nigh addictive inducing a haze of shelling and eating that can be highly satisfying.
Chris talked about how much he enjoyed socializing with friends he doesn’t see but once or twice a year. Sadly, the early gatherings, not even proper room parties, were not well received by the hotel staff and security. By the time we caught up with Chris, he had shifted more into the working portion of the con, presenting, participating, attending and networking.
We turned to the subject of steampunk after John revealed his belief in time travel, largely because of the fun he has at Steampunk World’s Fair. Chris has largely been skeptical of the genre but has found some reasons to start to coming around. He mentioned Stephenson’s “Innovation Starvation” as the kernel of his new thought, that the optimism lacking elsewhere has perhaps moved into the retro-futurism of steampunk. He admitted he may not have read widely enough, that he did enjoy “Clockwork Fagin” and seemed willing to try “Steampunk“, edited by the Vandermeers.
John related steampunk and the ethos of the Enlightenment that informs some parts of it to the modern maker movement. Chris articulated the second artist affect as the basis of his quibble, that as much as he may enjoy the aesthetic and some of the deeper inspirations, like the stories and essays n the Steampunk magazine series, it is the derivative work for the sake of being derivative that perhaps makes him grumpy in general on the subject.
Speaking of those deeper themes, I mentioned a conversation I had with Chris’ collaborator on The Secret Lair, Dr. Pamela Gay. She tracked this trajectory of how technology goes through epicycles of being accessible and understandable to seamless and sealed and back again. The maker movement and steampunk represent the same urge back towards hands on technology after decades of increasingly miniaturized and unrepairable commodity electronics.
Speaking of Dr. Gay, Chris explained this astronomical phenomenon, one that looks like a dancing Kermit the Frog, some apparent effect from light rejected by black holes and only recently perceived and understood. More than just the astronomy that is her day job, she has gotten creative in pulling together story tellers to help explain this work and make it accessible. Chris explained how this feeds into the distribution of information, the inspiration and collaboration that gets him excited. It isn’t computer or network technology but how it supports and enables hands on work. John attributed a lot of this to native curiosity, the desire to look below the surface.
Chris touched again on why he comes to Balticon, to take water from the well, to delve into such deep ideas. John agreed, how despite being tired coming into the weekend, how much he delighted in the whirlwind of ideas around him. I expanded on how as much as there may be similarities with the stream of ideas at the day job, a convention is still a very difference, renewing experience since it is much more free form, arising spontaneously from people’s passions.
Chris related this to his plans and ideas for his podcast, The Secret Lair. He is trying to intentionally cultivate the same intelligence and depth rather than producing just another lightweight entertainment cast. I realized a strong parallel between the New America podcast and Chris’ goal, that these are both about what is behind and informs the more readily apparent news and events, whether that be from the world of public policy or from geekdom. John suggested that The Secret Lair is also a smart filter, an excellent effort at taste making and curating in a sea of entertainment on the net.
We returned to the subject a beer, touching on how the Devil’s Milk warmed and anticipation of the tasting of one of Chris’ earliest brewing efforts, one we made with him, a clone of Midas Touch, his old 2700. As great as this beer was, Chris was very open about his instructive failure beer. As we were challenged by the black rum stout we made, and have discussed before, the Rassilon’s Emphatic Spittle ultimately ended up being useful as a learning moment but not so much for the sharing. Chris gave a rundown of the recipes he’s made, good and maybe not ready for primetime, he has made since.
We expanded on the learning experience. Chris has picked up a copy of “Designing Great Beers” and John mentioned again his love of Randy Mosher’s writing, especially “Radical Brewing.” That same spirit of learning and experimentation also had John yearning to get into micro distillation. Well, working on getting it legalized for a starter. In the meantime, we chatted about infusions as a legal way to express the same creativity with spirits. The Austin episode of the TV show, Drinking Made Easy, included some great material on infusions. All three of us love the zaniness of Zane Lamprey and crew. Chris did suggest that we could express some of the same silliness by advocating the drinking game rules for Evil Overlord Dice, a game he and his collaborators are working on.
Chris bridged from there into how he as a brewing dad is being open with his kids. We agreed that doing so demystifies alcohol and hopefully encourages a more responsible balance when they are old enough to partake on their own. Even if they don’t enjoy the end product, many of our kids have in common the enjoyment of the science, the craft and the sensory experience of brewing.
We took a turn to the silly towards the end. Chris mentioned some new recipes his resident artist at the Lair, Natalie, has come up with. He explained quickly the reference behind the name for the banana stout he is thinking of making soon. It reminded us of the peanut butter cup, coffee stout from Willoughby we had earlier in the con. To complete that thought about beers that shouldn’t work but do, we mentioned the peanut butter and jelly witte beer Eric and Bret at Growler’s made that we had at the beer dinner many months ago.
You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.
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