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30 Days

Today’s prompt challenges the blogger to touch on the experience of being an outsider looking in. I dislike that this is a temptation to be narcissistic given that outsiders are generally valued as somehow special, but there are two things that come to mind.

First, like I mentioned in Day I, I grew up in a variety of countries whilst cultivating a love for hardcore music, and at least in the early-2000s, there wasn’t much love for it outside of fairly developed nations that I didn’t live in. So, in good DIY fashion we got together with friends and made our own utterly awful bands and concerts, but it was lots of good fun. In tribute and in the thematic spirit, I offer what would probably be called by own ninth grade anthem: Stretch Arm Strong’s “Outside Looking In.”

Then once you have the tune, watch the live version played as hardcore should be in a dingy, dark VFW hall, and let the chills run up your spine.

Anyway, bringing this around to the usual topic of this blog, I was a latecomer to beer. I didn’t really start appreciating it until after graduating college, and didn’t start brewing for a year after that. And then I moved to Bolivia, which offers little by way of variety and beer-tasting/educating opportunities.

I mostly have the ingredients I need to brew a wide variety of beer styles here, but the fact is that I haven’t actually tasted commercial versions of a a lot of those styles. Take dubbel, for instance. I relied on the taste buds of brewer friend and fellow expat Ben O. to confirm that I was on the right track. The first (and only) commercial dubbel I have ever tried was La Trappe’s version, two weeks ago! Pathetic on some levels, I know, but I’m happy to say that my go-to recipes appear to nail it pretty well.

I still haven’t actually tried a commercial “wild” beer, but I do have a Chilean brewery Szot’s Wild Ale sitting in my fridge awaiting a tasting, along with, you know, two wild beers in fermenters right now and two carbonating. Based on what I’ve read, I think I’m on the right track. But, when it comes down to it, I’m ever so thankful for all those other bloggers out there who write about various beer style histories and profiles, so that I have some idea what to look and aim for.

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The fourth assignment in these 30 days is to “explore the neighborhood” and a bid to get people to use WordPress’ rss reader feature, which I’ve never actually explored because the demise of Google Reader took me straight to Feedly, which has been a useful. Although, I’m annoyed that I have to get charged to use a search function, but it just pushes me to use the tags more frequently.

My Feedly inbox is a source of constant distraction, with far too much already explored, but nonetheless here are five blogs from the “Drinks” category that I particularly look forward to reading every day and why.

  1. Beervana: insightful, in-depth, and with lots of good storytelling or information such that even if it is frequently focused on Oregon’s beer and cider, I’m still quite interested.
  2. Brain Sparging on Brewing: mostly a homebrewing blog, but a great resource that I find helpful for my own brewing in terms of techniques like sour mashing and such.
  3. Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog: I’m only interested in probably 40% of the material that comes up here, but it’s a great way to learn quietly and absorb from people who do indeed know what they’re talking about. Also, their quarterly-or-so “Go Long” compilations have proved very absorbing.
  4. Oh Beautiful Beer: this appeal directly to the design side of beer and is a really enjoyable way to see what people are doing and thinking on the visual aesthetic side of the craft.
  5. The Bruery: of the various brewery blogs I’ve perused, few are as interesting or useful as the Bruery’s, whose recent series on cellaring and managing sour beers are actually quite helpful. Granted, I live in the part of Bolivia where summer averages 90+ °F and my storage room has no A/C, so I’m sure everything I’m “aging” is basically just oxidized, but one can dream for the future.

I’d be remiss not to pay tribute to the Mad Fermentationist, but who hasn’t read it at this point? I mean, when the NY Times calls you for a quote, I think you’ve got it made.

The third assignment in these 30 days is to examine what brought me to this in the first place. So, why not go back and revisit the very first post, “Wherein I explain”?

Mostly, it’s everything I said in “30 Days: I” and then a collection of now-seemingly-quaint observations about the Bolivian beer industry. Traces of three microbreweries? Well, I’ve done some homework and found at least 12 confirmed microbreweries operating in the country. I’ll toast to hoping that there are ever more in the works!

Of the listed attempts at brewing I made in that first post, “a pyment, strawberry wine, and Dark Ale fermenting under my bed, and horribly executed Dubbel, Dubbel on grapes, and George WA Small Beer;” only the pyment was actually enjoyable. So, I like to think that my success rate recently has to do not only with better ingredients, but hopefully I’ve actually learned something in the past two years of making it work here.

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Offhand, seeing the daily prompts that come out for this 30 Days project, I realize that these are aimed more at people recently arrived at the blogosphere. So, I’ll just be picking and choosing the ones that are most useful and actually helpful for the goal of doing this, which more than anything is simply to write in a disciplined way.

What’s in a name? What is a Brewolero? Well, it’s really very simple and boils down to beer’s insipid tendency to indulge in puns.

I live in Bolivia, which is a very regionalistic country. People are extremely proud of where they are from. Take pique macho, for instance: ask a Cruceña where it’s originally from, and she’ll say “Santa Cruz, of course.” Ask a Cochabambino where it’s originally from, and he’ll say, “Cochabamba, of course.” Ask a Paceña where it’s originally from, and she’ll say, “La Paz, of course.”

Surely you get the idea.

I live in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the largest city in Bolivia (together, La Paz and El Alto are just a smidge bigger, but they’re technically two separate cities), located in the Bolivian lowlands.

Santa Cruz has many football teams, but two primary ones: Blooming and Oriente Petrolero, and it’s a fair question to ask most folks whether they’re Bloomingista or Orientista. I’ve never really made the plunge to support either one. I keep saying that whichever advances the furthest in Copas Libertadores or Sudamericana will get my support so I have a reason to go watch the best teams in South America play at the stadium in town. Oriente Petrolero translates to “Eastern Oilmen” and Blooming to, err, Blooming (other teams in the top league here include the unsubtle The Strongest [current champions], Sport Boys Warnes, and Wilstermann…go figure).

Anyway, you’ll notice the url tag is “orientebrewolero,” which is an obvious pun on the green and white half of Santa Cruz. Not that I have any affinity for the hydrocarbon industry.

And, since this was initially a place to just write about my own beer, the tagline “Brewing in tropical Bolivia” follows, because believe me, it’s 95+ °F out right now and sticky. This is the tropics, not the snow-capped Andes.