Visiting Brooklyn During the Pandemic

Last Friday, my son got married in Brooklyn. It was a beautiful wedding, but as Arlo Guthrie might say, that is not what I came here to talk about. Being in Brooklyn from Thursday afternoon until Friday afternoon was very unnerving, because of COVID-19.

We drove down on Thursday. It was the longest car ride we have taken since some time in February. We parked the car in a garage about three blocks away from our hotel. Walking on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we saw everything. There were a lot of people, many more than we have seen during the five months of the pandemic. Some were wearing masks, but some were not. It wasn’t very easy to keep six feet of social distance on city sidewalks.

The hotel, itself, felt safe; we didn’t really see many people. Thursday, we met my two sons and my daughter-in-law for dinner. Again, we had to walk on sidewalks with lots of people, masked and unmasked. We ate outside and tried to keep on our masks when we weren’t eating.

Friday morning, we walked toa bakery to get something to eat for breakfast. The store did have social distancing measures in place. Only one patron was allowed in at a time and the line outside was spaced six feet apart.

These experiences of the pandemic in a big city made me realize how fortunate I have been to sit out the pandemic in Western Massachusetts. We have not eaten at a restaurant at home; we have just gotten takeout. We can walk at home not wearing masks and often we don’t see anyone else.

Being in Brooklyn made me realize the enormity of COVID-19 and the fear and anxiety I have lived with for over five months. I do not want to get sick and I do not want anyone I love to get the virus either. I wish no one else would ever get sick from Corona. My heart goes out to anyone who has gotten the virus and all the families affected by the disease.

Summer Vacation – Sort Of

I will not be posting next week. Unlike previous summer where we would probably be taking a summer vacation, I am staying home. I will be attending, virtually,  a Jewish women’s silent retreat.

I have always wanted to attend such a retreat but I have never had the chance. I am curious to see if I will be able to keep silent during most of the day, given that I live with someone.

I am going to be social media, email, and internet free for  at least the four days of the retreat. You are also supposed avoid reading materials, so no books. I might extend the device free time from the Friday evening before the retreat, which begins on a Monday, to the following Monday morning. That is the part that feels most like a vacation.

I  will let you know how it went when I resume posting on August 5th. Have a nice two weeks.

Maine, last summer.

Belgian Beer

A few years ago, we visited both Bruges and Brussels in Belgium. When I started seeing some articles about Belgian brewing and Covid-19 I was interested.

During this pandemic, things have changed quickly. A good example is the Belgian brewers. When Corona first hit and businesses closed, Belgian craft brewers were doing well. Later, the situation changed.

In April, about month into the pandemic, the New York Post had an article about Belgian brewers developing a delivery process because all the bars were closed. It highlighted one craft brewer whose business was expanding due to delivery sales. At this point the picture might have looked rosy.

By May, the situation ad changed. The Belgian Brewers Federation announced that production of beer had dropped 50 percent in April.  The drop in production affected small brewers the most and one third of brewers had ceased producing any beer.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Eoghan Walsh who has a blog, Brussels Beer City, stated a podcast, Cabin Fever. On the podcast where he and other people involved in aspects of the craft brewing industry talk about what they are doing during the pandemic and what they are drinking. I have enjoyed listening to it because it is an easy going way to learn about how the pandemic is affecting the beer industry.

Brussels, 2017

Inequality

I am back from a vacation. We spent four nights in Miami Beach and four nights in Mexico City. One of the nights we were in Miami Beach was my birthday; to celebrate we had dinner at The Bazaar, a Jose Andres restaurant.

Andres is a well known chef who has had legal issues with Donald Trump. He has also done a lot of humanitarian work  for Puerto Rico and other places following hurricanes and natural disasters.  The Bazaar is at the other end of the economic spectrum from hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. Many  of the restaurants in Miami Beach are in hotels; The Bazaar is in the SLS hotel.

There was a strict dress code; my husband had to return to our hotel to change from his sandals to closed toed shoes. I did the same for good measure. The server, Louis,  was nice but very obsequious. He kept calling me Miss Amy. The food, served tapas style was excellent but very expensive. The whole meal, including drinks and dessert, cost $220 . A single piece of caviar, which we didn’t have, was $85. A shot of Tito’s vodka was $19. At a package store, you can buy a 750 ml bottle of Tito’s for the same price.

There is a dichotomy between Andres’ charitable works and the prices at some of his restaurants. I really don’t know why a meal should cost several hundred dollars. My personal preference is for less expensive food in a more relaxed atmosphere. While in  Miami Beach we ate at another restaurant, Orange Blossom. The food tasted great and was half the price of The Bazaar. The place hada cozy yet romantic ambiance.

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Teotihuacan Pyramid

View from the 18th floor of our hotel

My whole family at my niece’s wedding

 

Mexican Beer

The next two weeks I will be on vacation. Part of the time I will be in Mexico City. In honor of my trip here is a post about Mexican beer. I will resume regular posting on March 11.

Before 1910 most beer in Mexico was brewed by small brewers. In the 1890s big modern breweries developed and by 1899 five firms controlled sixty three percent of the market. By 1910 the major brewers distributed nationally. The companies were vertically integrated, holding monopolies in everything from bottles to the railroads.

Corona Extra is the sixth largest beer brand in America and the top import. Constellation Brands owns Corona and Modelo. Modelo is the seventh largest beer brand. An industry analysis of Constellation  stated “Constellation’s story includes … a powerful demographic tailwind. Its core consumer base skews towards Hispanics, a sizable demographic whose primacy will only increase over the coming years. We find it fairly intuitive that Hispanics place a premium on Mexican beer, as it speaks in part to a shared culture and heritage, and in our view, these dynamics are at the heart of Constellation’s superb operating profile…”  There are some stereotypical assumptions in this analysis. For the full analysis, click here.

In 2010 Heineken bought the Mexican brewer Femsa; its brands are Dos Equis and Tecate. The company had a 43 percent share of the Mexican beer market. Dos Equis is twentieth. A german brewer in Vera Cruz created it in the nineteenth century. Tecate is 29th; Since  2013 it has had a 35 percent decrease in shipments. For the  full list of the top 31 brands, go here.

Mexico has a small craft brewing segment. These brewers produce ale; the majority of Mexicans drink lager. Most Mexican craft beer is exported since there is not really a market for it within Mexico. Mexico is third in global exports of beer, most of which goes to Canada and the United States.

 

 

Skating Competition, Part 2

I competed for the first time, Saturday, at the 33rd Halloween Classic, Winterland Skating School, Rockland, Massachusetts. Here is a picture of me before I went on the ice.

Despite all my preparation, I was extremely nervous and did not skate the way I had planned.  My legs felt like jelly but I did go on the ice and skate, which I feel was a big accomplishment. I was the only skater in my event, so I skated against “the book”. I am not sure what the criteria for judging was, but I got second place and received a medal.

I also earned four points for the Silver Lining Club. The club came in second for the competition so I contributed to that result.

I can’t say I enjoyed myself but it was a learning experience. If I compete again, I will try to find an event where Kiara, my coach from the Skating Club of Amherst, can be the one takes me. She knows me really well and I have complete confidence in her.

I would also practice skating my program from different places on the ice so I would be comfortable no matter where the judges were and where I had to start.  Connecting certain moves to specific points in the music would also help.

It turned out that competing in a spotlight event meant that the rink got dark, very dark. The only light was a spotlight the followed the skater. I didn’t realize what spotlight meant until I got to the rink. Next time, I would know, be more prepared, and not get so freaked out.

The nicest part of the experience was the support I got from the audience, other skaters, Kiara, Andrea and Aaron. I appreciated that so much and I am very grateful.

Travel Part 2

The end of July we went to Bridgewater, MA where I tested in the Pre-Alpha level of skating in the ISI system. I did this so I can compete in October. Before we got to Bridgewater, we went to the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA. It was a great place. The museum  had a basket exhibit which I wanted to see. I used to weave baskets so I found the exhibit really interesting. This basket is by  Katherine Lewis. It is willow and the technique she used to make was rope coil randing and twining.

We also saw  Tom Kiefer: El Sueño Americano – The American Dream which was  photographs of the various personal items, food and other materials that are taken away from immigrants and refuges who are being held in a detention camp in Texas. This was a very powerful and disturbing exhibit.  One of the items people have to give up is condoms.

In August we went to  Maine for a few days. We stayed in Casco, right on one of the lakes. We took a couple of hikes with some beautiful views. It was a lovely relaxing time with the whole family.  It already feels like was a long time ago.

 

Travel, Part 1

This post is a bit like “what I did on my summer vacation”; more accurately it is some of things I have been doing this summer, with pictures. In June,  Horizons for Homeless Children had an event for volunteers at the Smith College Botanical Garden. I am a volunteer; I go once a week and play with children who are living in a shelter.

In July, we went to New Orleans to visit my cousin and his wife. It was very hot but we  had a great time.  July is not usually the time I would visit New Orleans but my cousin was recently diagnosed with ALS and I wanted to see him. My brother died of ALS so this feels like a cruel joke. ALS is a terrible disease and I hope there will be a cure very soon.

While we were there we visited the World War II Museum. During the war my father helped produced parachutes while stationed in England and in Scotland.

Next week, I will tell you about what I did at the end of July and the beginning of August. I bet you can’t wait.

Maine Beer

I recently read an article about Maine beer. The state is second, after Vermont, in the number of breweries per capita. Maine has over 80 breweries.[1]  Maine’s love of beer is a recent development. Here is an explanation from Brewing Battles.

“In Jacksonian America, the various states regulated the retail sale of alcohol, placing license fees on dealers as a minimal control on consumption. The growing temperance movement attacked the license system as inadequate and advocated new legislation. By 1850 reformers had moved from local control of liquor sales to statewide prohibition.[2] In every northern state except New Jersey and Pennsylvania legislators enacted or popular referenda passed “inclusive prohibitory or constitutional measures.”[3]

“In the 1850s, no state had the police capacity to enforce the provisions of this legislation, known as the Maine Law. As a result, advocates of the legislation created extra-legal groups, ostensibly to gather evidence and swear out complaints. Unfortunately, the “leagues” often overstepped these boundaries, generating violence. Both retailers and drinkers refused to accept the legitimacy of prohibition legislation. Liquor sellers organized to fight the Maine Law and the extra-legal enforcement “leagues,” and German and Irish immigrants opposed the law for cultural and economic reasons. The working class as a whole also resisted state intrusion into customary behavior.”[4]

Maine was the first state to pass such a law. Most states repealed the legislation by the 1860s. Maine repealed its law temporarily but reinstated it in 1857 and didn’t repeal it until 1934.[5]

Today, however, Maine is a poor state and beer is a source of reliable revenue. You can go on a Maine Beer trail and visit some of the over 80 breweries. We will be in Maine in August and I plan to visit at least of few of the breweries on the trail. I’ll let you know about the results.

 

[1] https://www.craftbrewingbusiness.com/news/infographic-what-states-have-the-most-breweries-per-resident/

[2] Tyrrell, Sobering Up, 226.

[3]; The Cyclopaedia of Temperance and Prohibition, (New York, 1891), 275–361.

[4] Tyrrell, Sobering Up, 290–307.

[5] William L. Downard, Dictionary of the History of the American Brewing and Distilling Industries (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980), 17.

In the News

Here is a look at some articles about beer and distilled spirits that I have read recently.

George Lenker, the Beer Nut, writes about a new craft beer bar opening in Northampton. It is in my neck of the woods so I will definitely try it and let you know what I think.

Mankato, Minnesota was the home town of Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy-Tacy Books. I loved the books when I was growing up and last year I re-read them all. This article is about a brewery in Mankato. I hope to visit Mankato some day and see Lovelace’s house.  Now I will also plan on visiting the brewery.

The final article looks at craft beer and distilled spirits across the country. The author picks a local beverage for each state. The pick for Massachusetts is Mystic Brewery’s Table Beer which is a saison . Some of the other choices sound really good. I will keep them in mind when I am traveling.