Thirty Years of Rum Technology at INRA

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Trente ans de travaux en technologie rhumière à l’Inra-Antilles-Guyane

This wonderful French paper came across my desk a while ago and it may finally be time to tackle it. It contains the history of the last thirty years of rum history (starting 1970) contributed by many great scientists.

Many times I’ve described rum history as starting with W.F. Whitehouse and then the torch being successively passed through the generations. The torch has wandered around a lot but basically for the last thirty or forty years been held by the French speaking parts of the tropics.

The paper summarizes their investigations and achievements and provides a stunning bibliography to pursue further (I’ve already dug into a lot of it over the years).

I’m going to try and translate it with Google to see if it can launch some ships. I’m going to take some liberties to smooth the translation so do not rely on it and please pursue the original work linked above.

Thirty years of work on rum technology at Inra Antilles-Guyane: Thirty years of research on rum technology

by Fahrasmane L., Parfait B.

Abstract: Thirty years of research on rum technology at INRA Antilles-Guyane. The rums produced in the French overseas Departments are marked by their strong and original aromatic character. Thirty years of research conducted at INRA Centre Antilles-Guyane allowed the inventory of the bacterial flora and the yeast strains involve in fermentation media, and get out of a manner of production mainly based on empirical practices. The collected data have contributed to control the vagaries of fermentation and at the same time to control the acidity of the distillates, resulting in better control of the regularity of rums quality. Among main results there were: a commercial yeast strain selected for the rum distillery, the first in the world for this purpose, and processes developed for waste waters remediation by anaerobic digestion producing also energy.

Keywords: rum, microbiology, sugarcane, fermentation, yeast, bacteria, waste waters, waste waters treatment, composition

I have heard of this Sacharomyces yeast, but was not aware it came from this French effort.

Introduction:

In the three islands French overseas departments, the production and processing of cane to sugar (Saccharum officinarum) remain a significant part of their respective economies, sugar production and the production of traditional rums.

The term “rum” is generic and refers to alcoholic distillates from the distillation of fermented must, prepared from sweet products derived exclusively from cane sugar: juice, syrup, molasses. Traditional type rums are characterized by their aroma. This type of production uses the empirical know-how of producers. To keep pace with the new patterns of consumption, changes in distribution and need to negotiate with the administrative and political structures involved in the environment of this sector, producers have had an urgent need for technical data and of production processes and products. This has resulted in a need for research that has been taken into account since 1970. Since 1972, INRA within its Center Antilles-Guyane has operational resources that enabled work to be carried out for this sector of activity.

Their idea of empirical parallels the idea of practical that we saw in American whiskey production. American whiskey got a little bit of help from the IRS’ excise officers, but the move to guided traditional processes did not exactly happen with government help. Here, private companies are given a very strong public foundation of basic science to advance on.

Sugar cane is an agricultural resource that, on a global scale, is subject to creation for a little more than a century. However, there has not been cane specially designed for the processing of rum.

A very interesting admission. When rum becomes more of a primary product and less of a byproduct it becomes possible to find out which varieties have the most extraordinary aromas. Cane varies in color a lot and there are a lot of unique aroma precursors correlated to skin color similar to wine.

The manufacture of traditional rum involves yeasts and bacteria that convert sugar into ethanol and co-produce compounds with aromatic properties. These strains are often genera and species identical to those found in other agro industrial fermentations (Saccharomyces, lactic acid bacteria). Schizosaccharomyces is a spontaneous genus, singular, and obligatory in the production of traditional rum of great aroma type. Ecosystems which constitute the fermentation media of rum production, have physicochemical conditions remarkably different from brewing, oenology or milk processing environments. The knowledge that could be generated on these micro-organisms, from tropical environments, is scientifically interesting for modern microbiology.

Extra fascinating and here we see strong language promoting Schizosaccharomyces for fine rums. The idea that this basic science could teach lessons to other biotech processes is very exciting.

Traditional Rhums

Their diversity as well as historical, cultural and fiscal reasons make them appreciated. The dynamic stronger marketing of rums of all types makes the French aware that the road of rum goes around the world. As a result, traditional production will have more and more to face, in its markets of choice, to world production. Hence the need for it to produce knowledge in order to be able to value its products, to acquire new technical understanding making it possible to have marketing arguments, which guarantee the reputation of the most known.

Marketing arguments is a much more important concept than anyone has realized at the moment. Lost Spirits jumped the gun and tried to make marketing arguments without doing any due diligence and though it worked out for them overall, it exposed them to a lot of weakness. A lot of my rum history explorations are based on collecting and exposing marketing arguments that can support a fine rum category.

Traditional production has long been characterized by the use of cane or molasses, without specification of the quality of these raw materials, as well as by the use of non-sanitized dilution water taken from the natural environment (watercourse, groundwater). The fermentation was often spontaneous. This resulted in a high variability of the quality of the products, some of which were characterized by high volatile acidity and off-flavor, abnormal tastes (acrolein, allylic alcohol, etc.). Production was thus confronted with the quality of raw materials, and of a random mixed fermentation.

I would love to learn more about the abnormal tastes so we can compare INRA influenced rums to those of Cape Verde.

Implementation of the research approach

French West Indies rum production has always been marked by the aromatic character of its products. At the beginning of the last century, attempts to integrate into the production new practices from industrial microbiology (pure culture, mother-cell, strain selected), had failed, as productivity gains had been favored. Products had become aromatically neutral. Most producers returned to 1920, to mixed fermentations. However, the passage from the still to the Creole column, with the aim of improving productivity gradually took place between 1818 and 1865 without any recognition that the products produced by the pot still are of better aromatic quality than those obtained with a distillation column.

Pure cultures are even plaguing other spirits and my hunch is that they’ve eroded the quality of tequila. I don’t know if 1920 is a significant date or just an expression here. And I’ve never heard of the column still referred to as a creole column. Very cool. We are seeing the return to guided to traditional processes.

The aromatic character of traditional rums is a determining factor in their culinary use. In France, in particular, nearly 2/3 of the rum is singularly used as an culinary ingredient. Within spirits, the extent of this form of use of traditional rum is singular. For the time being, in manufacturing and marketing, there has been no consideration for this specific type of use. It is interesting to note that approximately 10,000 hectoliters of pure alcohol of rum, a highly aromatic flavor, are marketed annually as a culinary ingredient, exclusively for culinary preparers, with particularly low taxation. This is a path that needs to be revitalized. To do this, there is an acquisition of knowledge to be carried out on the microbial ecology of the manufacturing rum of great aroma. It is a complex and spontaneous ecosystem that we hardly know how to reproduce. The failure many attempts to reproduce it bear witness.

I think by culinary use they mean bulk highly flavored rums for larger scale food production like making tons of pâté or flavoring tobacco. Potability parallels Angostura bitters so they are looking for the same tax break. It is admitted that they hardly know how to produce these high ester / grand arôme rums which are likely concentrates such as Jamaica used to make.

The need to control the quality of this aromatic production, and to objectify the descriptors of products, led the professional rum groupings, from Guadeloupe and Martinique, to research and development. It is in response to the expression of this need that INRA has put in place research work. P. Dupuy, Director of Research at INRA, created a two-week mission to the Caribbean in March 1970, with the main aim of a scientific orientation to a future INRA laboratory, working for the rum industry. In his mission report, he proposed a research program for “a study on the fermentation of rum”. The purpose of this was agricultural rum and industrial rum. The proposed objectives were:
• «… better know the flora responsible for fermentation and in particular the role of bacteria».
• determine «the conditions that will increase yield and esters, and decrease higher alcohols and aldehydes».

As early as 1972, A. Parfait began work at the Research Unit in Product Technology Plants of the INRA Antilles-Guyana Center.

It looks like they are creating an agricultural experiment state just like Jamaica had and just like the work of Arroyo. They were probably not exactly reinventing the wheel but seeing it first hand for themselves so they could consult. Tons of work was available such as Studies on Rum, but faith in it had likely eroded. It was also pre internet and hard to assemble materials. No French person wanted to create a million dollar company relying on a pamphlet of Puerto Rican science from the 1940’s.

First Approach Work

These have been based on: esters which are deemed to be quality compounds of spirits, the problem of abnormal taste which existed on the products of the time, and the necessity of drawing up a state of art.

The composition of the traditional rums in volatile esters of higher fatty acids was the first published results (Parfait et al., 1972). Although the mixture of these compounds is not the complete characteristic aroma of rums, it participates in their qualities. The factors presented as distillation at a low rate of rectification, the addition of fermentation medium, the distillation of turbid musts and the use of selected strains of yeast.

I think the idea here was that if you targeted esters, you’d get the other stuff you wanted. Now, my hunch is that if you target rum oil, you’ll get all the esters you want when you consider how all the processes and consideration align. By turbid musts, I think they mean centrifuged and defecated cane juice such as Arroyo discussed and we can see in the comparisons of Martinique to Cape Verde.

The presence of acrolein derivatives in an abnormal flavor rum (Dubois et al., 1973) was the subject of which concluded that the observed bad taste was due to the presence of acrolein in fermented must. Parfait and Sabin (1975) gave an update on the main operating parameters of the technology ruminant, yeast flora, and the analytical composition of the main types of traditional rum that are: agricultural rum, industrial rum, grand arôme rum, and syrup rum. The authors concluded that «this traditional production of the French West Indies gives an important place to the art of the operator». These authors added that the determination of fermentation parameters (temperature, flora, distillation apparatus, complementation, etc.) did not guarantee obtaining a given product in conditions. So there was no control of the process.

I think this shows their complaint with the state of the industry they found. Distillers were too practical. They had no chemical or biological control so their products varied all over the place week to week. The acrolein idea is very important and I’m going to pursue it. It may plague some of the Jamaica rums or even be an unintended feature. It only becomes a flaw when we can attached regrets and miss opportunities to it.

In 1975, an international symposium on rums was organized by INRA and the Association for Promotion of Agricultural Industries was an opportunity to take stock of the skills available and the approaches developed in various parts of the globe in the area of ​​rum technology. These first established milestones identified that traditional rum-problems of non-quality, which went beyond the problem of abnormal products of the time. It was clear that there was a lack of apprehension of health problems, raw materials, dilution water, and industrial facilities. Beyond elements that regulate rum, it was necessary to identify health data, microbiological and fermentation processes, which would make it possible to produce bad taste and off-flavor, while leaving room for diversity.

The symposiums is very interesting and I did a ton with it such as discovering Olbrich. By health problems I think they primarily refer to pollution and not copper poisoning or anything like that.

Research paths were then developed gradually with a view to identifying means of control, the sources of non-quality of traditional rums and control of the regularity of production. They concerned:
• the microbiology of fermentation media, both for yeasts and bacteria, rum chemistry and metabolic pathways,
• the operating conditions to control the appearance of off-flavors.
• processes for the treatment and valorisation of effluents from rum- land,
• the chemistry of rums in connection with the microbiology of fermentations and the maturation of distillates.

Metabolic pathways and microbiology become very important here. These people weren’t just biologists or chemists, they were microbiologists. They could ask and answer questions that even Arroyo could not. Arroyo suspected S. Pombe produced more rum oil, but microbiologists could actually tell us how which could be tied to more specific actions on the part of the distiller. They could even look closely enough to tease out the nature of complex off aromas.

Control of non-quality

Raw materials, molasses and sugar cane juice are not sterile and fermentation are neither sterilized nor pasteurized. With dilution water, raw materials host a bacterial flora that develops during the fermentation for rum production. The work in bacteriology have shown that in rum technology there is a varied bacterial flora (Fahrasmane and Ganou-Parfait, 1998).

In the aromatic character of traditional rums, the bacterial flora plays a decisive role; their elimination leads to neutral products, this is the case in the production of light rums. Beyond of a certain threshold, bacteria can be detrimental to the quality of the products. Without searching to eliminate bacteria, it will be interesting to identify the conditions, mechanisms of onset for negative factors to rum, resulting from bacterial activity, in order to propose solutions for control.

Bacteriology of dilution water

For the composition of the musts, water is supplied. The volumes used represent between half and 4/5 of the production. It comes from rivers or groundwater. A study on the bacteriology of distillery production waters in Guadeloupe was carried out (Ganou-Parfait et al., 1991). The bacteria of dilution waters are anaerotolerant germs (106 cfu / ml): coliforms, fecal streptococci, Clostridium, sulfato-reducing bacteria (BSR) (103 c.f.u./ml). Their number increases with the rate of mineralization of these waters. The flora of the waters, particularly rivers, grows seriously in bad weather. Increasingly, distilleries are equipped as a water treatment plant; it is a necessity to manage the health risk from the dilution water, in particular with strongly water mineralized or in rainy weather. The health status of manufacturing waters has improved.

This reminds me when I covered Scotch, pond water, and floaties.

The volatile acidity of wines and rums.

Three main factors affect the nature and quantities of volatile acidity of rums (Fahrasmane et al., 1983):
• fermentation agents,
• the temperature of fermentation whose rise increases the volatile acidity,
• the degree of distillation.
The volatile acidity of fermented media and distillates is related to the activity of the yeast that occurs during alcoholic fermentation. The bacteria present in the media fermentation contribute to the volatile acidity pool; in particular during fermentation accidents, the volatile acidity of these media is increased. The slowing down of the fermentation rate, which may result in a cessation of fermentation (Ganou-Parfait et al., 1991).

The consumption rums usually have a volatile acidity which varies between 1 and 5 ml/l (ml/ l). This parameter doubles in aged products. In acidic rums, the volatile acidity varies between 10 and 20 (ml/l).

The level of volatile acidity and the proportions of its components appear as indicators the presence of bacteria and their activity during rum fermentation.

So when fermentation is temperature controlled to ideals, volatile acidity implies flavor and implies contribution of bacteria to aroma.

The bacteriology of musts.

Sugar cane juice, which is the raw material of agricultural distilleries, contains germs (Ganou-Parfait et al., 1991). Micrococcus, Corynebacterium, Bacillus are the most common assets. They come from soil, sugar cane stalks, air and installations. We find there also aerotolerant anaerobes, capable of using the lactate produced by Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus and anaerobic Clostridia. Lactic acid bacteria dominate.

In molasses, mainly lactic bacteria and sporulates (Bacillus) are found.

The populations of distillery musts are very varied. We find there:
• Micrococcus in sugar cane juice (Ganou-Parfait et al., 1988). These are bacteria of the soil, which is also found on sugar cane stalks, in distillery wort; they can be divided into three types. They are preferential: whereas anaerobiosis is not yet established, their populations reach 105 cf. / ml in musts. Their activity is detrimental to the quality products because they produce acrylic acid and allyl alcohol in rums based on cane juice.
• Bacillus in sugar cane juice musts (Ganou-Parfait et al., 1987). They come from canes attacked by rodents (rats), and dug by galleries by insects borers. The strains remain anaerobic. They produce volatile fatty acids from the lactate. They have the characteristic of forming sails at the surface of the tanks at the end of the alcoholic fermentation. These sails seem to protect open-pit tanks from the development of bacteria.
• Corynebacterium (Lencerot et al., 1984) and Clavibacter. They come from the sugar, especially when its health status deteriorates. These bacteria degrade glycerol, which produces secondary alcoholic fermentation by yeast, acrolein (2-propenal) and 2-propenol. These reactions give rums with a pungent taste.
• Clostridium which are anaerobic germs. The improvement of the sanitary quality of manufacture has made it possible to decrease the population of Clostridium telluric. Clostridia play an important role in the manufacture of rum great aroma, with in particular Clostridium saccharobutyricum. Sugar cane juice media frequently contain Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium bifermentans. In molasses based media, also some species of clostridia.
• Lactic bacteria, the number of which varies between 107 and 108 c.f.u./ml, at the beginning of fermentation, whether in musts based on cane juice or molasses. 80 to 90% of strains have anaerobic behavior. It contains homofermentary bacteria and heterofermentative. Their activity generates lactic acid and polysaccharides. Bacteria lactic acid constitute the bulk of the bacterial flora of molasses-based musts; while is more varied in those based on cane juice.

There is just so much in here. First we find that rat eaten canes pick up rodent bacteria that may be aroma beneficial. It is also an ancient European invasive species influence on the terroir. The protective nature of lactic bacteria also makes rum seem more like sour mash whiskey and we get more explanation of surface films and how they protect fermentations. Basically I’m going to get Boston wharf rats to eat cane and infect it with their bacteria for my New England rum.

An approach to the dynamics of the various bacterial species during the fermentation cycle it can be concluded that, in particular, sugar cane juice lactic preference of musts, before the alcoholic fermentation takes place (Ganou-Parfait et al., 1989). Work in progress aims to model this “co-culture”, in order to enhance it technologically. Indeed, the current practice is to acidify the musts at the beginning of fermentation by supply of sulfuric acid. By directing microbial ecology, it could be lactic acidification which would then allow alcoholic fermentation by yeast, in the usual pH range which protects the environment from the development of bacteria damaging.

Here I think they are proposing trading sulfuric acid which eventually became traditional for dropping pH for lactic acid which can better protect a ferment from bacteria without dropping the pH as low. Definitely need that paper.

Alcoholic fermentation of rum

The main unit operations carried out during the production of rum are the extraction, fermentation and distillation. There are losses at all these stages. Losses during the fermentation are the most important. Measurements of fermentation yield in fermentation (Fahrasmane, 1991).
The results are as follows:
– Yield Gay-Lussac 0.67 l AP / kg glucose,
– Pasteur yield 0.61 l AP / kg glucose,
– Optimal theoretical efficiency 0.59 l AP / kg glucose,
– Yield on molasses 0.52 l AP / kg glucose,
– Yield on cane juice 0.47 l AP / kg glucose,
– Yield on syrup 0.40 l AP / kg glucose.
In a beet molasses distillery, with a yeast per stock, the fermentation yield is of 0.58 l AP / kg glucose (from Miniac, 1988). While improved performance was not a priority, after the problems of non-quality had been resolved, the professionals improvements in performance. One of the pathways explored is the search for yeast strains selected, adapted to the fermentation of sugar cane products (Fahrasmane et al., 1986)

I think the measure meant there is liters of pure alcohol produced (AP) per kilo gram of sugars as glucose.

Schizosaccharomyces of rum distilleries have been isolated and collected in our Unit (Fahrasmane et al., 1988). Their taxonomic study showed that there were essentially Schizosaccharomyces pombe (90%), some S. malidevorans (8%), and S. japonicus (2%). A study on their use in rum technology was carried out (Ganou-Parfait and Parfait, 1980). This type of yeast may under certain technological conditions, have a productivity in alcoholic fermentation, equivalent to Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The aromatic profile of secondary compounds products is very different from that of Saccharomyces.

Schizosaccharomyces and the bacterial complex, rich in Clostridium, which accompanies it in the fermentation of the flavoring rum constitute for the moment an ecosystem, giving products singularly rich in aromatic properties. Producers know at best how to reproduce ecosystem without controlling it. There is knowledge to generate, in order to master it and better value.

I think what he means at the end of this passage, is that they know how to start the ferment but not exactly how to control it. In the days of the Jamaican experiment station, it wasn’t confidently even known how to start these ferments.

A collection of strains of Saccharomycetaceae of rum distilleries was constituted (Parfait and Sabin, 1975; Fahrasmane and Ganou-Parfait, 1998). From this collection, a study was undertaken in to select yeasts for the rum. This work culminated in 1997 in the selection, world, of the first commercial strain of rum distillery yeast: DANSTIL EDV 493 (Vidal and Parfait, 1994), a Saccharomyces cerevisiae marketed, in the form of active dry yeasts, by Lallemand. This selected yeast allows an improvement of the fermentation yields and of the productivity, by means of a seeding arrangement, in relation to the usual conditions cutting. One of its peculiarities is not to be as affected as the other strains of yeast, used as make-up yeast, at temperatures around 35 ° C which can be measured in the vats of rum distillery.

So it has heat tolerance and “killer yeast” characteristics that prevent the growth of wild yeasts.

The sugarcane stem is wrapped with a cuticular layer of wax. The wax is concentrated in the defecation sludge from the sugar. A fractionation of these sludge was undertaken. Steroids, including stigmasterol and sitosterol have been isolated. These have been added to media fermentation in order to study their action on the fermentation behavior of yeasts. when the addition of these steroids results in an increase in ethanol production, compared with a control medium without the addition of steroids. Bakery yeast already relatively rich in sterols is much less sensitive to the intake of steroids (Bourgeois and Fahrasmane, 1988).

I don’t completely understand what is happening here.

Secondary products of alcoholic fermentation

Glycerol is a by-product of alcoholic fermentation, frequently present in quantities, in the rum fermentation medium. It has the particularity of being consumed by bacteria (Fahrasmane and Ganou-Parfait, 1998) (Micrococcus, Bacillus, Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Clostridium) by producing compounds related to the bad tastes of rums: acrolein, propenol 2 and sometimes acrylic acid. These compounds are indicators of disorders bacteria, which must be remedied, for example in molasses-based production, avoiding fermenting conditions which are favorable to the formation of glycerol (18), and by working in sanitary conditions which inhibit the action of an overabundant contaminating bacterial flora.

At the end of a thesis work on «the formation of short fatty acids and higher alcohols by of yeasts of a rum distillery», Parfait and Jouret (1980) showed that the choice of the species and of the strain of yeast is crucial in the quantitative and qualitative control of the production of short fatty acids and higher alcohols. It appears that in the cane juice medium there is formation of propionic acid; the composition of organic acids (citric, aconitic and malic) of the juice appears production. It is necessary to put this result in conjunction with the singular wealth of traditional rums to propionic acid in particular, and more generally to short fatty acids.

From a methodological point of view, we have been interested in ethyl 2-methyl-butyric acid, identified by some authors as a characteristic of rums (Fahrasmane et al., 1985). This work showed that it is more the quantities of this acid of bacterial origin which are singular, because in the end it is found in other stuff as well.

Some translation errors obscure the specific significance here. I’ll have to track down those papers. A lot of this considers what specific fatty acids and esters most characterize rums.

Rum Chemistry

The work carried out in chemistry of rums, beyond the esters, involved chemical compounds or chemical families that are major in non-alcohol (higher alcohols), or that are sensitive in terms of product quality.

Rum contains a greater variety and greater amounts of organo-sulfur compounds than other spirits (Fahrasmane et al., 1989). According to Leppanen et al. (1979), rum is the only spirits containing dimethyl sulphide. The activity of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the media fermentation would be partly at the origin of all these compounds. The composition of sulfur-containing elements in sugar cane and the addition of ammonium sulphate and sulfuric acid, would provide a substrate for sulfate-reducing bacteria in musts.

I definitely need this paper because I’ve heard anecdotal stories about cane high in sulfur that I’ve never been able to make sense of.

Downstream of the distillery, the methanisation of effluents poses the problem of a precarious balance between methanogenic and sulfato reducing flora. The organo-sulfur fraction of rums deserves a thorough and systematic study, because it has an analytical and organoleptic interest for the characterization of rums.

The dosage of formic acid in aged or non-aged rums shows that the level of formic acid in of traditional rums is within the range of figures found for other spirits. Also, the intervention of bacteria leads to a significant increase in the level of formic acid in rums (Jouret et al., 1990a). This acid is quantitatively more important in molasses rums than in those based on sugar cane juice.

Some alkylpyrazines of rums appear to be able to differentiate molasses based white rums from those of cane juice. Indeed, 2 methyl pyrazine, 2 – 5 methyl pyrazine and 2 – 6 dimethyl pyrazine are absent from agricultural rums, although they are clearly present in those based on molasses (Jouret et al., 1990b).

Ethyl carbamate or urethane is a molecule known to be carcinogenic that can be found in rums. The North American market has adopted an upper limit for the presence of this compound in the rums, which is 125 μg / l. This substance may originate from fermentation, particularly in urea-containing media, which is not the case for distillery media, but it can also be formed by purely chemical reaction during and after distillation.

Rums have never been known to be particularly rich in ethyl carbamate. Its presence, beyond the defined threshold, is a concern for producers who want to export, in particular, to North America; some rums are exempt but others are not, can now have explanation. The quantities measured are up to 2,500 μg / l. There is therefore knowledge to be generated on the determinism of the appearance of ethyl carbamate.

I don’t think I’ve ever posted on ethyl carbamate though I’ve read quite a few papers. My theory is that it is a chemical trade barrier. It might technically be toxic, but because the enforcement is so selective it can effectively become a trade barrier. U.S. compliance is voluntary which shows just how toxic it is. Ethyl carbamate is produced by exotic copper reactions and is reduced by using stills that are combinations of copper and stainless to reduce the reactions. Substrate is also a factor and I’m under the impression that the Scots bread new generations of malt to reduce ethyl carbamate. Even post bottling it can form from UV reactions and it increases in fruit eau-de-vies that have sat on a store shelf.

The raw material sugar cane

The production of traditional rums combines the production of ethanol with the production of ethanol aromatic or non alcoholic compounds, during the fermentation. This production depends on the suitability of the must, and therefore of the raw material, to meet the needs of the yeast and the co-fermentation agents are the bacteria. We are interested in sugar cane as a plant resource, (Célestine-Myrtil-Marlin and Ouensanga, 1988), its contents, and that of molasses (Célestine-Myrtil-Marlin and Parfait, 1988) into organic acids. Measures have also been of the age of sugar cane (Célestine-Myrtil-Marlin, 1990). The organic acids act on the metabolic behavior of yeast, during fermentation (Fahrasmane et al., 1985).

Work has begun on methods of processing sugarcane associated with a method of sugars (Célestine-Myrtil-Marlin and Parfait, 1987). We needed precise and reliable methods for measuring sugars and monitoring their evolution during bio transformations (Célestine-Myrtil-Marlin, 1991).

Their involvement has deepened so much that they’ve worked backwards into investigating and developing more suitable substrates. Arroyo never got that far.

Treatment and recovery of effluents

The distillation of fermented rum media produces discharges, waste water, vinasse, which contains a polluting charge. Programs in our Unit have contributed to the characterization of the vinasses and propose processes of depollution and valorisation, by digestion to form methane.

The pollution flows generated by the distillation of cane molasses alcohol are particularly high: 950 to 1900 kg DCO / m³ of pure alcohol (A.P.) produced, i.e. a polluting load of 13 to 26,000 equivalent per day / m³ A.P. product. The distillation of agricultural rum represents pollution is six times lower: 250 kg / COD / m³ A.P., i.e. 3000 equivalent inhabitants day / m³ A.P. product (Bories et al., 1994). Where the organic load of waste water from the agro-food industries, such as distillery, is discharged without precaution into the natural environment, it causes different forms of disadvantages, the most characteristic being water pollution and odor pollution accompanied by the nuisances they induce.

Various channels have been proposed for the elimination or treatment of vinasses: evaporation incineration, irrigation, anaerobic lagooning, microbial biomass production, digestion anaerobic digestion or methane digestion. The latter is a natural biological process consuming and reducing organic pollution. Its application in sewage treatment plants, effluents and at the same time the production of combustible biogas.

In Guadeloupe, in a major distillery, the molasses vinasse is digested anaerobic, according to a process sized by an INRA study. This process makes it possible to under normal operating conditions:
• decontamination with 60% of DCO eliminated,
• energy production: biogas representing 60% of the energy needs of the distillery (Bories et al., 1988).

Pilot trials result in more than 95% removal of DCO from juice
of cane by anaerobic digestion (Bories et al., 1994). The biogas produced is of very limited interest for the agricultural distillery, as it has bagasse as fuel.

Arroyo never really got into effluence disposal but it was the main subject of the rum pilot plant. What is interesting is that its less useful for agricole distilleries because they already have tons of bagasse to use for fuel. Distilleries have gone to more extensive efforts to be green than you’d think without consumers even noticing.

Conclusion

Two symposia on the traditional rums of the French Overseas Departments were held, in 1994 and 1996 respectively in Guadeloupe and Réunion. They were an opportunity for meetings between professionals, technical institutes, administrations, institutes of research. These events resulted in the publication of Acts which provided an update on the problems and questions of the production of traditional rums.

I was not aware of these. Will have to track down any special papers.

The work carried out on the manufacture of traditional rums, over the last thirty years, knowledge and understanding of bacterial flora and its products, the mechanisms of quality in these products, and to suggest ways of remedying them. The products of bad qualities are now much less frequent than thirty years ago. The medals won by the distillers of the French West Indies, to the agricultural competitions are more and more numerous.

When it is noted that problems are less frequent, it makes me wonder if we are seeing flaws marketed as features coming back to the market such as with natural wines. New producers (and bottlers) are coming online that are wading into this ambitious grand arôme territory and are not technically versed enough to see what should be regrets and missed opportunities. We do not understand enough of beauty and sauvity or what is possible to make all the connections. I’ve tasted a number of acrid spirits that are raising flags in my mind (not from the French!).

Work on yeast strains collected in rum distilleries has made it possible to select a strain which constitutes a tool to contribute to the conduct of the fermentation. There are fewer knowledge on the functioning and bacterial dynamics of distillery ecosystems, marked by a great biodiversity. There is phylogenetic proximity between the lactic bacteria of fermentations and corynebacteria, some of which are sugar cane pathogens.

I don’t completely understand the bacteria being described here and I think it might just be microbiologists nerding out and pushing the boundaries of what can be investigated.

On the raw material, there is the need to define a technical itinerary of agricultural production and post-harvest treatment, suitable for processing by rum, taking into consideration other organic acids, aroma precursors, markers, tracers, etc. cane juice, sterile, stabilized by tangential microfiltration, which we have developed, we have a study environment of behavior, in pure culture, of microbial agents.

Things get really interesting here and I just know rules of thumb for dealing with fresh cane and haven’t actually read anything too aroma centric. Cane degrades rapidly and the recoverable sugars changes, but if your objective isn’t sucrose recovery, what can be said specifically about aroma? Filtration or centrifuging becomes significant here, either for logistics of large productions or for optimizing aromas. “Undefecated” fresh sugar cane juice rums are very different as noted by Arroyo, but I’ve never read exactly from a microbiologist.

Most of the work was carried out on a laboratory scale. Consideration of the matter and co-cultures requires the addition of a pilot-scale device to the laboratory scale, and also to carry out operations on industrial sites.

We have not developed any distillation activities. This manufacturing step is also significant to the development of product quality.

The maturation of rums is a stage on which we have for the moment only done preliminary exploration, through the use of woodlands and red woods of Guyana.

Very exciting! Tropical cooperage!

The singular aromatic character of traditional rums has received little attention. It has the advantage to be outside the field of alcoholism. There is potential for innovation to formulate products of the rum distillery, responding in a targeted way to these aromatic uses.

Treatment and recovery of effluents benefit from the results obtained, both on effluents from molasses than on sugar cane juice effluents. On the former, there are treatments of upstream or secondary of different types to be studied or to be dimensioned: plowing, spreading, lagooning …

The traditional rum model is relatively complex, because it involves:
• treatment of raw materials: molasses and cane juice (biochemistry, physiology …),
• complex bioconversions: alcoholic fermentation, bacterial co fermentation, methane fermentation of downstream effluents,
• unit operations in process engineering: grinding, extraction, distillation ….
• maturation treatments of distillates, varying in length, to develop various qualities of products.

The different tools and itineraries mastered and the achievements of the research and development in the sector cane-sugar-rum can find applications in the agro-processing of tropical plant resources.

In summary, the work will benefit many, even beyond rum!

Bibliography

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Bories A. Bazile F. Lartigue P., 1994. Traitement anaérobie des vinasses de distillerie en digesteurs à micro-organismes fixés. Actes, Colloque sur les rhums traditionnels 219-242. ISBN N° 2-9506 860-2-8.

Bourgeois P., Fahrasmane L., 1988. Effet de stéroïdes de la canne à sucre sur des levures en fermentation alcoolique. Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology 21, 5, 555–557.

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Dubois P., Parfait A., Dekimpe J., 1973. Présence de dérivés de l’acroléine dans un rhum à goût anormal. Annales de Technologie Agricoles 22, 2, 131–135. (On ILL Request)

Fahrasmane L., Parfait A., Jouret C., Galzy P., 1983. Etude de l’acidité volatile des rhums des Antilles françaises. Industries alimentaires et Agricoles 100, 297–301.

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canne à sucre, 296–302.

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Grow Roots and use Positive Nationalism to Displace False Populism

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I’ve been working on a piece that explores the idea of positive nationalism as opposed to the more common negative form and I aspire to illustrate how the culinary arts plus hospitality industry are the places to find it. A problem is the topic is a little too big for me and probably needs to be broken up (so here we go!). As usual this is a continuation of my study of the Canadian philosopher economist, John Ralston Saul. All quotations are from the last chapters of JRS’ The Collapse of Globalism.

The roots we need to grow for values the majority of Americans hold, such as inclusion, are found in positive nationalism, a new form of nationalism unlike the old Westphalian model. This also segways right into a strategy of displacing the toxic white supremacist narrative creeping up.

It is hard for any society that slips into a vacuum to admit that it is no longer advancing in any particular direction. This is particularly difficult for those individuals who hold power. Their vocabulary, their image of themselves, even their skills have all been honed to fit the certainty of a direction that no longer prevails.

It is not apparent to everyone, but we are fumbling through a vacuum that is bringing us back to nationalism and we have the choice of embracing intentional complexity and doing something positive or gravitating towards ideology, dangerous oversimplification, relentless scapegoating, and negativity.

We are here because globalism (not internationalism) has collapsed and the promises of completely free markets leading to prosperity never panned out. What we got was a lot of averaging down, a lot of wealth evaporation, and a dissolving of the public good. Corporatism and all those capitalist ills went global.

Multinationals have become so large they can damage whole large nations. The tax base that supports the public good has eroded detrimentally. Citizens have not been able to come together to solve our collective problems like climate change, the housing crisis, or our massive education gaps/debts, etc.

What only states and state alone are able to do is aggregate and purposefully deploy legitimate power.

Taxes cannot be raised on a multinational unless citizens come together as a nation to assert their legitimacy and even then it is tricky. With simple corporatism, a state cannot raises taxes because the auto industry will jump states, leave Detroit and end up in the America south (less China than you’d think). Amazon is currently playing every state against each other in a race to the bottom for its new headquarters.

This escalates and the federal government cannot even raise taxes because corporations just go multi national and jump the border for Ireland. It is not the easiest thing to see, but this cheapens your citizenship and your ability to solve problems alongside your fellow citizens. We are constantly divided and tricked into succumbing to inevitability instead of collectively forming as a nation to solve our common problems.

The economics of globalism get weird and we see multinationals doing things like trading with themselves to shift profits away from tax burden. This clear path of least resistance gets covered up with relentless negative nationalist scapegoating. Globalist trade is not the trade we learn in undergrad econ and is the reason increasing trade has not increased prosperity. Again, only the nation, respecting and colluding with other firm nations can deploy the legitimate power to reign in this colossal tax flight and theft of the public good.

The question is not what to do about global economic integration. It is how to ensure that this new nationalist era is citizen based, focused on the national common good and on developing binding treaties in a range of areas at the international level.

Reasserting the nation with a positive framework is tricky. Many people with wonderful common American values and common decency don’t have a matching economic understanding. They think the nationalism option is abandoning international trade and agreements in knee jerk reaction, but that isn’t the only option. It will be complex and gradual, but regulations can be adopted to rebuild the tax base and our commitment to the public good. A lot of this will be done through anti-trust and the need for it is starting to become more popular to Americans across the board.

When so much inarticulate concentrated economic anxiety makes its way through the American prism with all its baggage, much scatters as hate and we can only scapegoat in response. I optimistically believe a lot of that can change if we give people another option and displace the negative voices. This won’t be easy.

When young Americans are trying to figure out how they lost so much ground and why they will not have what their parents have, their options are complexity or scapegoating. It becomes no wonder why we have an uphill battle. Economic narratives like above can cut through the conspiracies, but we must admit that some of our recent leaders (BO,HC) were/are not suited for this vacuum (others are very clearly not).

A challenge to creating a new positive nationalism is that while many people weren’t looking, the American flag (usually twin flags), on the back of a pickup truck has been claimed by the negative nationalists and turned into a hate symbol. This is where the displacement comes in. Those who value inclusion and multi culturalism need to start waving the flag, en masse, to smother or displace the hate and give those simply gravitating towards nationalism a visible positive option. The American flag will always be a symbol of nationalism, we must fill it with inclusion and optimism.

The recent Boston free speech protest/counter protest featured possibly 50 white supremacists to 30,000 peace loving, liberal, inclusive counter protesters. Believe it or not, the white supremacists had more American flags than the counter protesters. I spoke to quite a few educated looking people who seemed as oblivious to economics as we assume white supremacists are. Even though their numbers were awe inspiring, the counter protesters were content to merely play word games with the other side and not grow deeper roots that can explain the economic anxiety leading to the new hate. (This is not completely true because the Democratic Socialists were there and the only people organized enough to have a PA system and give speeches. I do not completely fit in with them, but their message is ready to get updated and rapidly evolve to society’s needs/challenges).

Many people may want to have an international side to their lives, but they want to live in their communities. Or rather they do live in their communities. They want their civilization to reflect and build upon this reality. They don’t want this reality to be treated as recalcitrance or an accident. They have just lived through a period in which their elites have been obsessed with abstract theories of how economics must work at the global level. As a result it was deduced that citizens were first subjects of these theories and must do their best to fit in. There was an incapacity among our policy-creating leadership to begin their thinking with the real lives of their real citizens. When they’ve been faced by popular resistance, their tendency has been to wait it out or offer bagatelles, distractions.

I’ve been sporting an American flag on my motorcycle recently and I get some confusion from friends. They don’t know what it means any more. Is it hate of non citizens and the last refuge of a scoundrel? Or is symbolic of my understanding of how we are going to recover from globalism and rebuild the public good? If we had 30,000 American flags at the Boston rally more people would be curious about the latter.

The positive form of nationalism is tied to self-confidence and openness and to a concept of the public good. Negative nationalism is dependent on fear and anger and a desperate conviction that one nation’s rights exist by comparison with those of another nation, as if in a competition that process winners and losers.

If we harness the flag and a new human centered understanding of economics we can recruit Americans to inclusion and positive nationalism using a lot of the same techniques as altright=Nazis. We can displace their scapegoating with intentional complexity.

They have white bread, light beer, paralyzing cultural consolidation, and oppressive monopoly. We use inclusion to unleash the massive creative energy of multiculturalism and reap its prosperity. America’s vibrant culinary scene, our national treasure, is our clearest proof of what positive nationalism can do (and I will dive into it).

They write propaganda to reinforce their sham position and we need to rewrite our positions to include the nation, wave the flag, and dig our economic and policy roots. If you want to participate, and this will take an army of writers, the two forms of nationalism have characteristics to keep on the tip of your tongue.

Now the idea of choice is back. Much of it is tied to the return of the idea of national power. With that comes the democratic reality of choice. Choices for citizens. Choices for countries. Choices for coalitions of countries. And with choice come all the uncertainty that provokes fear in some and releases the energies and imagination of others.

Negative nationalism is brash, self interested, indifferent to or ignorant of the interests of others. It is often an expression of fear, insecurity, poverty, ambition, ethnic loyalty, appropriation of God to one’s side. Pride in ignorance is a trait or encouraged. There is often conviction that they’ve been permanently wounded. An obsession develops with the idea that human difference is negative.

Positive nationalism starts with an embrace of intentional complexity, self confidence and openness. It is also an expression of the public good. Human difference is celebrated (in restaurants!). It is about empathy, responsibility, and grappling with the other. Freedom is associated with the ability to be different. The disinterest of the citizen is emphasized as the path to freedom over the potentially damaging corporate interest. All religions are seen as equally true. Competition is valued over consolidation. Inequality is recognized as damaging to liberty. The public good is recognized as equalizing. Involvement and civic commitment are recognized as necessary for maintaining freedom. Inclusion is a creative, prosperity generating human force.

You could say that all nationalism is about belonging, about place and about imagining the other. It can take a positive, civic form, one in which belonging brings the obligation to reach out and to imagine the other in an inclusive, multiple way. It can also take a negative form, above all ethnic, dedicated to belonging as an expression of privilege and exclusion.

Before I end this, it is important to note that positive nationalism began with indigenous movements and the U.S. is a late comer to this party. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and I’m sure other nations I’m slowly learning about have growing Indigenous movements at the center of their recovery from globalism and their reigning in of capitalism.

The average intellectual in the U.S. did not know what it could truly gain if support was added to native Americans fighting to assert their sovereignty against the Dakota Access pipeline. Many intuitively felt the tribes were right, but they could not articulately tie our various struggles together.

There is this myth you hear in grade school that ownership of Manhattan was bought for a handful of beads from native Americans. But ownership is the wrong metaphor and we let it inject itself too deeply into our concept of capitalism. What was really intended to happen is that responsibility was transferred. And this wisdom of indigenous peoples, this emphasis of responsibility over mere ownership is at the heart of positive nationalism and how we will re-concept capitalism into a more sustainable form.

Originating in American universities, abstract ideas about economics and capitalism forced out any notions of responsibility because it could not be easily tidied up, measured and modeled. Western notions of capitalism were prone to skewed distributions relative to other nations that we’d categorize as collectivist and on the socialist spectrum. Anyone that overly embraced the new globalist notion lost while resistant countries, maintaining their own identity, like India and China, actually prospered.

North Korea wants to integrate into the international economy on its own terms (and sadly retaining its human rights violations) so that it keeps its footing like China. The West wants NK to integrate only on the West’s terms. The North Korea situation is very complex, but the character and qualities of capitalism is at the heart of it all. A lot of questions should be asked and answered any rash decisions are made.

We … made you into
Nations and tribes, that
Ye may know each other
(Not that ye may despise
Each other).
-The Quran, possibly analyzing the regional cooking of Italy.

So you see where this is going next?

Father, Forgive Them; For They Know Not What They Are Doing

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When I wrote American Whiskey by the Numbers I had never before actually looked at Bourbon, though I’ve certainly drank my fair share. Believe it or not, I haven’t read any of the recent titles on the subject and I don’t really know what anyone else knows. Are all the mash bills, fermentation, and distillation parameters known, or am I blowing the lid open on a big story? It is slow going finding out and I probably got the lowest amount of interest ever in a story I thought was pretty significant. Be warned, this saga is a bit of a disillusioning mess.

Since profiling the document, I’ve read two older books on Bourbon plus a few great old research papers. Some really interesting things turned up and I’m basically convinced that Maker’s Mark saved Bourbon from destroying itself. I’ll get to that slowly. I used to think that the American whiskey story lacked the wide dimensions of other traditions, but boy is that wrong. It is full of churning culture wars that pushed it to the brink and they are still unfolding.

The first book I read was by Sam K. Cecil who’s big claim to fame was being the scientist counterpart to practical distiller Bill Samuels at Maker’s Mark. It was sort of a dead end, believe it or not. The book turns out to be a lot of births and deaths and locations which does interest a lot of people, but does not help our quest.

Even though Cecil was in the thick of it, his writing does not explain the document. I was hoping for someone as crazy as Fitzcaraldo grappling with beauty. I’m always looking for aesthetic opinions, style, and other criteria by which to judge what is fine, what is commodity, and what is flawed (regrets and missed opportunities).

Cecil, however, was kind enough to point me in the direction of Harry Harrison Kroll’s Bluegrass, Belles, and Bourbon (1967) which is chock full of confrontation with the 20th century and modernity told through the guise of a book on Bourbon. It is also told by a guy traveling around with a nun, sister Kathy, as a chaperone. Initially, I imagined it kind of like Two Mules for Sister Sara, but there never were any plot twists.

Before I complement Kroll, I need to lay down a few asterisks ∗† and luckily we all just received some excellent guidance in recognizing these matters from Wayne Curtis. Because the book isn’t solely a compendium of births, deaths & locations, and it encompasses all that grappling and confrontation, Kroll reveals himself to probably be a misogynist and a racist. He says uncomfortable crazy uncle things constantly. The writing style is unusually candid which provides evidence for my diagnosis. By the end however, when the book appeared to be about much more than Bourbon, I was getting the sense that his was a flexible mind. Kroll overcame prohibitionist ideologies, and I began to suspect that unlike David Embury, Kroll was not likely to die a racist. Sadly, I don’t think he was going to make much progress with his casual misogyny (Kroll actually died in 1967 so technically I’m very wrong).

You can really time travel in this country, back then and even now. I see a lot of it in the restaurant. Many people have hairstyles like they haven’t left the house in 15+ years. In that time they just did not absorb anything that influenced the style they present themselves with. You hear economic and political conversations that are 15 years dated like someone heard something so formative that they never read the news after. Eight years in and seven years to go, countless people will still be talking about her emails.

Kroll does a lot of that fifteen year time traveling, or he sort of watches himself doing it when he writes later. No wonder he must travel with a guide. He is constantly pursuing the effects of prohibition & repeal thirty years prior to his trip, revealing that for some people it wasn’t that distant. This can strike today’s reader as odd. The book becomes comparable to Infinite Jest with some readers being bored to tears by the parts on tennis and AA, but I actually enjoyed them the most.

A large part of the book, where the bluegrass and belles come in, is Kroll romanticizing his own typical American past where he grew up barefoot, eating squirrels, walking to school uphill both ways, and apparently had a very formative early job making barrel staves at subsistence pay. He keeps aligning himself with a young Abe Lincoln that did grunt work under his father at Watty Boone’s distillery. Kroll warms up that story a few times almost coming across as a senile repeater until he finally tells it, and tells the best version of it I’ve ever heard. He is either slightly nuts or pretty damn masterful in his gonzo ability to romanticize, humanize, build myth, and plain old story tell. He is a lot of Bourbon personified.

Eventually Kroll time travels from all this back into the bottling room of the day at Heaven Hill where teams of women are earning great middle class wages, the industry is proud of paying, and gives a “ya don’t say?”, like it all snuck up on him. Things are always sneaking up on Bourbon. The recent Bulleit story is no surprise. You don’t really know what the time traveler thinks about it. Was he happy American prosperity was spreading and women could be independent or did it threaten his masculinity and cheapen the hard years of splitting barrel staves he romanticizes? The time traveler walks an unclear line, but it has the effect of humanizing the industry.

The Shapiras snuck up on Kroll and he may have brought some antisemitic baggage to their “temple of iniquity” though it is never as pointed as his other major short comings. These furriners were an assault on his brand of Kentucky negative nationalism and they were getting rich. Hiring a Beam as master distiller didn’t make it right. Kroll keeps noting that he can barely taste the difference between bourbons so its all in what they represent to him. This experience was disillusioning.

Before I move on a little, I will quickly note that a possible reason we don’t see more information turning up about New England rum production pre prohibition may have been the influence of the temperance movement and the semantics of demon rum. Kroll, noting about doing his research, clues us into a pacing of the temperance movement I wasn’t really aware of. The peak of New England rum as modernized by Dr. Harris Eastman Sawyer unfortunately coincides with that tenuous time when it wasn’t wise to publish much about industrial demon rum. The right to a drink was hanging by a thread for quite a while before it was actually cut.

Our time traveler sets us up to see Bourbon’s confrontation with modernity. Practical distillers had to start competing with scientists (even though they had somewhat different objectives). The most practical of distillers had to compete with other practicals who were going huge and creating very large operations.

We don’t really recognize the practical distiller today yet they are blooming all around us. Kroll likes to celebrate them and believes they may be solely capable of making an uncompromising fine product even though so few then actually drank it (I never fully appreciated that last detail). Today many hold practicals with a mild disdain.

To be practical in this context means you have no formal education, and back in the early days, many were even illiterate. They never took a chemistry or biology class and operated from an old fashioned notion of empiricism and a heightened intuition. Practicals were viewed as born with it which kept the profession dynastic, male and mostly white (though there are some awesome stories of black distillers in America and Kroll notes a few). Practical can be authentic, but that is another term we haven’t given much thought.

Today, all the new American distillers are practical distillers with very few exceptions (and the acceptance of consultants). They’ve started their businesses with grit and determination plus probably only two PDFs and a skimming of this here blog. Start up costs are so high that they also often have generational wealth, IPO money, or predatory capital that will eventually rob the best. They compete with huge well researched scientific operations who have also monopolized distribution channels. The practicals still all sound all very American, but somehow the consolidated establishment, big Bourbon, has really won the public over.

The scientific distillers of Kroll’s era were the Seagrams, Hiram Walkers and their Herman Willkies and Paul Kolachovs which were all commodity producers. Commodity spirits aren’t exactly authentic, but authentic working people often only drink commodity liquor. See why I’m avoiding the authentic concept?

In a great chapter, Kroll singles out a wonderful new fusion of the two which was the team of Bill Samuels and Sam Cecil (he returns to this story!) working to build Maker’s Mark which to me seems like it saved Bourbon. When Kroll visited in roughly 1967, Maker’s was only producing 20 barrels a day relative to other operations that were up to multiple hundreds of barrels a day. Many of today’s craft operations are starting at one barrel per day.

Bill Samuels kicked off a new era of fine whiskey using a frame work I call guided traditional practices. The stylistic ideas of practical distiller Bill Samuels were proven scientifically and made to scale forward and up by lab guy Sam Cecil. Flavor returns as modus operandi, not price and volume.

Around this very same time, wine was going through the same paradigm shift led by Grigch Hills and Stags Leap plus the others that won the Judgement of Paris. Wine did however move in the opposite direction. Samuels got himself a lab while in wine, the lab guys like Mike Grgich got practical and embraced flavorful risk in ways not seen in the commodity framework. Wine in America, many don’t realize, started as a commodity product because it initially was a salvage product. The priority was table grapes, then raisins, and lastly wine, which was for a long time a skid row beverage. Walt Whitman probably didn’t drink American fine wine and there are no tales tying wine to great generals like there are of Old Crow.

It is really important to understand these tensions and transitions so we can understand other spirits categories. You could be a practical distiller in the Bourbon racket using yogurt technology (I say that because that is basically how advanced it got) and get pretty far, but could you do it with rum? Can you do it with grape brandies like Cognac?

Jamaica rum, as we revere it, was success at random until the top Victorian scientists stepped in. These guys were following the development of modern chemistry and yeast technology by the day. Cognac is the most quality focused spirit out there because it has it’s back up against a wall. Every acre of the appellation is pretty much planted so they cannot expand, they can only improve. Cognac has easily moved beyond the merely practical or scientific to the complete state of guided traditional practices. Tequila is just entering the end of its commodity phase. Consultants have gone in, homogenized everything with pure yeast cultures and efficient processes, stripped all individuality and beaten the price into the commodity floor. A few productions are finally starting to investigate the flavor they left behind and revive it with more than marketing speak.

Before we move on, I should quickly state my theory that the scientific era probably allowed women and minorities into white male dominated production positions. If you could handle the lab work, you could handle the job and all the white male mysticism was no longer relevant. Seagrams early on, employed some notable female chemists.

Kroll gives us some great insights into the document. He visits Yellowstone noting their huge operation and their production angle of mellow mashing to make a light whiskey distilled in a giant column and he implies the removal of fusel oil. If you remember, this was the controversial technique and avenue for loss of identity that provoked the IRS survey of whiskeys that is the document. Am I grasping here or is that umbrella-like do-dad not a fusel oil separator?

No itemized list is presented, but we also get the sense that there were far more distilleries in operation than what the IRS selected for their survey. Very interesting to note is that the exclusively sweet mash producers like distillery no. 2 and no. 42 likely weren’t tiny little heritage operations. Their sweet mash did make inferior whiskey according to Kroll (and production theory) and he sadly doesn’t even bother to name names, but he does note that they were in Daviess county. There is a bit of ambiguity to the logic of his paragraph, but he may imply that some sweet mashers were among the largest in the state.

Towards the end, Kroll goes to visit the Medleys and gives us the greatest hint behind the M&A churning that has always been a hallmark of the industry. Taxes were everything. Distillers would build up value in the business then unleash it all at once in a sale instead of taking it steadily year by year. Capital gains taxes were very different than income taxes and I don’t think it was proper to have private jets and write off your golf outings like we do today. Corporate decadence came in the 1970’s from Barbarians at the Gates culture. That is what consumed Tribuno vermouth, remember?

Who knows how long that tax logic was true, but it makes a lot of sense to these highly rational thinkers who didn’t even drink the stuff they made. Foreign money would come in and the labels would get traded around. The foreign money would have to pay the dynasties of practical distillers again to operate the places. It was a little bit of a racket.

These practical distillers often said dumb patriarchal shit like he could never make whiskey as great as his father (and on up the line), but none of these people ever really cared that labels were getting swapped and not corresponding to their juice. Bill Samuels may or may not have carried a family yeast, but he did use Stitzel-Weller as a template, mash bill and all.

Beauty, that thing we’ve been trying to confront, has always been a little lopsided in American whiskey. Beauty is the composite of extraordinary sensoriality and exemplary human behavior. Here its git-up-and-git over the specifics of grist. Grain bills don’t matter, If you’re allowed to pick one thing, they pick yeast because it is the easiest to mystify. We’re supposed to admire hard work and tradition with a lineage that leads us through Lincoln to pastors like Elijah Craig.

If you pursue that other side of beauty, that aesthetic sensory side, which with distillation takes startling science, you’re headed down a road to decadence and demoralization. Stick the Venus of Willendorf in the bottle and you’ll just get alcoholism and depravity. Did we learn nothing from the temperance movement? Teams of conspiring scientists, corporatism, undermine the individuality of the loan practical man. Bourbon is just fraught with moral peril. Who’s side are you on?

No doubt clutching his copy of Huysman’s Against Nature, Hiram Walker’s own C.S. Boruff writes a plotless listicle of actionable aesethtic advancements for the journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry in 1937.

Repeal of prohibition ushered in an important new phase of the business of manufacturing whisky. Chemistry, biology, and engineering meant little or nothing to the old industry, occupied as it was with its deep obeisances to age and hoary tradition. To the reborn industry, science and technology have become essential tools.

Who you callin’ hoary?!

Age was the fetish of the distillers and of the drinkers of alcoholic beverage of two decades ago and with many it still occupies a sacred niche. Even the niche has vanished before the enlightening discovery of research which form the basis of today’s distilling practice.

You’re going to let him talk about your Pappy that way!?

Necessarily there are three steps in the manufacture of beverage alcohol: fermentation, distillation, and maturing. For many reasons which will become apparent, the ancient practice of distillers place particular emphasis on maturing over long period of time and the fetish of age became the idol of the industry.

This guy is quite confrontational.

The crude distillate of old-fashioned stills was harsh and unpleasant and long aging in charred oak barrels was known to accomplish a remarkable change in it. After long maturing, whisky lost its rough harshness, acquired a pleasing aroma, and delighted the palate. Chemists explained this as the removal of certain unwanted constituents and the chemical rearrangement of others to yield a palatable result.

So the practical distillers produced ends to justify their means, but this guy gives credit to the chemists. The ends didn’t matter if you didn’t understand them. It is an assault on intuition that would build throughout the rest of the 20th century.

Either this fact failed to reach distillers or they were too busy with other matters to heed it. In any case, it remained for the reborn whisky industry to apply this fact to its operations to the advantage of all.

“What we need is a bigger ideology”

The new technic is exemplified in the operation of Hiram Walker & Sons, in a plant at Peoria, Ill.

No one ever calls it Hiram Walker & Sons!

In the old practice of the distillery, fermentation was allowed to take place as it would in open wooden tanks which were never sterilized and into which every possible wild yeast was encouraged to come and grow.

This is an assault on yogurt technology! And a criticism of the IRS!

Distillation was conducted for the prime purpose of recovering every bit of alcohol possible from the mash without regard to other constituents. The result was a distillate which contained all the volatile (with steam) constituents found in the fermented mash and whose maturing required long stretches of time to correct its deficiencies.

Dr. Science here thinks he’s superior to a practical distiller. But, we just learned from Kroll that they built up value in their distilleries via inventories then unleashed it all at once in a sale. Practicals were no fools and they dangled the promise of the buyer extracting value by walking down the aging times. Clever like a fox! Problem is, its a routine you can only use for so long before it is worn out and Kroll was wading through the late years and a talking to a cast of characters like Marcella McKenna who had already played that hand.

The vital importance of the maturing process justified analysis and investigation, and from this came the key to the whole situation. Maturing was found to consist of two parts. (1) corrective aging and (2) maturing. During the corrective aging period the objectionable flavor and bouquet-producing substances found especially in whiskies made by the “rule of thumb” method, are absorbed and modified through assimilation, while during the second stage (maturing) slow chemical reactions occur between the congeners (nonethanol constituents) of the distillate and the wood extractives, whereby the desired bouquet is attained.

Rafael Arroyo, writing at the same time on rum never talked down to anybody like this. Boruff goes on and starts to walk the reader through procedures like yeasting. Yeast has been that one thing that practical distillers had really latched onto to build myth and create exclusivity, but they never did perform any analysis that could prove that their chosen organism hit objectives better than another. Boruff doesn’t tackle this issue, but mainly claims that all practical distiller’s ferments were tainted by aroma-negative wild yeasts.

The concept of whiskey of two decades ago reached the point of making the product an alcoholic solution of a quantity of congeners—that is, compounds other than ethanol present in whisky. In other words, the congeners themselves became the prime objective of the distillery and the alcohol merely a convenient carrier for these flavors. On this basis long maturing to permit the completion of slow chemical reactions in the distillate and the dissolving of extractives from the oak barrels containing the spirits was essential. The new industry, however, has been built upon the concept that the primary objective is the alcohol in the finished whisky and that such congeners as are present make this potable. The difference between these two conceptions has enabled the new industry of whisky distilling to provide whiskies of high potability and palatability, and yet whiskies which may possess quite different characteristics from these of even a quarter century ago.

Wow. Did Kroll ever have any sit downs like that? Sister Katherine would have started murmuring over and over, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.” That is where tequila is at right now, but we do know that if we pray hard enough, the next phase will be guided traditional processes, and be delicious.

In the old art, the fermentation was conducted and the choice made of the raw materials used in it to foster the formation in the ultimate distillate of alcohols, aldehydes, and acids in variety and abundance. This end was accomplished by encouraging the growth in the mash of organisms other than the yeast. When the product of a fermentation of this kind was distilled, the distillate was an extremely unpalatable product, requiring extensive subsequent correction to give it the desired bouquet and flavor. The larger the proportion of congeneric substances, the longer the period of aging required and the greater the quantity of extractives needed to balance their effect.

Boruff is describing a large aesthetic shift and it doesn’t start with consumer demand for lighter whiskeys which is the narrative we’ve been peddled. These guys were simply condescending the work of the practicals and chalking up the old sensory experience to randomness, accident, and byproduct (but not the regrets and missed opportunities that are flaws). They also had to extract value from brands they paid huge prices for. A departure of style was needed to justify themselves.

In contrast to this, the new whisky industry has devoted its efforts to finding methods of fermentation and distillation which control the original formation of congeners in the mash and which subject those present to logical treatment. Smaller proportions of congeners are balanced in the finished whisky by smaller amounts of extractive matter, and at the same time, since extent of the chemical reaction involved is materially reduced, the time required for them to occur is much shortened.

What is cool about this is that these guys were in some ways neck and neck with Arroyo and rum. At the same time, they were moving in opposite directions. I’ll leave that for another time.

In other words, by making distillates containing predetermined amounts of congeners, the subsequent treatment to make the alcohol palatable is predetermined.

They didn’t quite make good on this inevitability engine, but they kicked off the pursuit. Currently it is at work in the industry using startling amounts of inline monitoring and data science. How else could you manage scarce resources and scale products to global demand?

In the selection of the grain the primary consideration is its starch content, since other constituents (proteins, etc.) are always present in ample amounts. In the old days, distillers apparently failed to recognize that differences exist between the starch content of various grades of grain and consequently always bought the cheapest. The fallacy in this has been amply demonstrated and the first and second grades of corn, although selling at higher prices per bushel, have been found actually cheaper sources of starch than the lower-priced inferior grades.

What are we dealing with here? This can go a few ways. Boruff paints the practicals as ignorant even though upthread he describes them as having wholly different production objectives. Were these backwards aboriginals that were thought devoid of technology yet somehow wanted for nothing and built an elaborate civilization no one noticed?

Again, this can go multiple ways. We’ve already found economic incentives for practicals to operate exactly as they did given their sellout culture. Dan Barber presents another angle in his lovely op-ed, Why Is This Matzo Different From All Other Matzos? Traditions can be a bit arbitrary and often they have unintended benefits. Part of the guided traditional processes framework is to make no assumptions of backwardness. Wine makers have found it a safe bet to assume brilliance in tradition and that techniques that survive were democratically selected for advancement even if it is not apparent. Dave Hickey won a McArthur for the concept if you need the art angle.

It is worth reading to the end of Boruff’s paper, but we need to go no further here. American whisky was fraught with cultural collision for decades after prohibition, well past Harry Harrison Kroll. Maker’s Mark clearly looks like the precedent that moves Bourbon past the creepy shortsightedness of C.S. Boruff et. al. and moves the spirit into the era of guided traditional practices. It took a while to capitalize, but this framework is where all of Bourbon’s recent prosperity comes from. There is still opportunity to do a lot more reflection and understand the place of all the new practicals popping up. Now that we better understand American whisky and its historic tensions, we can also reflect a lot more on comparisons to other spirits as their histories also start to fill in.

The Mazaruni Scorpion

In Georgetown there is a certain drink made of green granadine, rum and ice. It is called the ‘Mazaruni Scorpion’ and is sometimes given to unsuspecting visitors who praise its pleasant taste and are beguiled by its receptive mildness. They ask for more. After the third or fourth drink the ‘Mazaruni Scorpion’ may turn on you and, like its namesake, it is found to have a sting in its tail.

This 1957 paper by Dr. Audrey Butt published in the Guianese journal, Timehri, is really “a study of the symbolic significance of tattoo patterns among the Akawaio”. The drink, described above, is named after a classic tattoo pattern worn by the old breed of Akawaio women that appears to be a scorpion’s tail protruding from their mouth. The green granadine in question is likely a lime cordial so the drink is most probably a daiquiri sold with a local name. It would be no surprise if the globe trotting mining engineers of David Wondrich’s recent daiquiri narrative brought the drink to Georgetown. The Akawaio may seem remote and exotic, but it is a small world.

This short excerpt and Wondrich’s article are important because they drinks as being connected to a deep and powerful mythology. Too many drinks today are written and exchanged deprived of any connection to life. They symbolize near nothing and they aren’t even part of a conscientious aestheticism movement (that I used to rock!). We have countless new drinks with no tales.

Mythology often proves authenticity and that a drink was formed and perpetuated by the noble pressures of the zeitgeist. Thirst and necessity of stimulation were the mothers of its invention. Anxiety, complacency, cementing memories, and retrieving memories were all to be solved for the imbiber and not brand kick backs, narcissism, and ego stroking for the bar star living in a bubble.

There is this strange thing going around in the new circles discussing drinks where everyone talks in the dialect of a conformist business school grad and not the rebellious dialect of art nor the dialect of the mythology creating bon vivant.

It is noticeable in written accounts of the Guiana tribes and also in my own investigations that there is a particular connection between the patterns and the making of sweet drinks and sweet cassava. The women bear the symbols of bees on their arms and faces and the ingredients of the tattoo dyes always include, something sweet —wild honey or sugar cane. Even the ‘aluai skin’ pattern is related to this stress on sweetness since the skin of the aluai fish is said to taste sweet. Farabee noted that “… the tattooing serves as a distinguishing mark, but it all appears to be most important in rendering the drink sweeter to the taste.” Roth maintained “that among the Makusi, Patamona and Arekuna “The honey, with which the pigment is mixed, is believed to act as a charm or bina to make the drink taste ‘sweet’ “.

What did we do with all of our charms and symbols? In the early days of the cocktail renaissance you used to look for that jigger, or that stir, or fuck even that tattoo to know your drink would be the right kind of sweeter, the kind steeped in mythology, connected to a lineage of people that were fun and helped you to simultaneously remember and forget the correct parts of your life. Now all the old symbols and signifiers have been stripped from us and commodified. Now half the time you look for the place to be scuffed up enough and not over renovated. You look for stuff to not be on the shelves, meaning no one panders to the reps and you look for the glassware to be clean, but modest. You still want to see the sacred silver repoussé relics used to convey sweetness, but not piles of their stamped reproductions.

When we drank Wray & Nephews years ago, we had to find it. It wasn’t brought to us with five other options and sometimes it wasn’t even written about yet (When I first drank Fire I found it myself and loved it). Our choice wasn’t only relative to a scene. Sometimes we were being lumberjack sexuals. Sometimes we were trying to retrieve the memories of spending three weeks in Jamaica drinking with a construction crew (they drank J.B. Trelawny with Campari). Ed Hamilton’s stories of the oil industry are actually the best out there and you’ll want to drink along. Other times it was gravitation to an authentic drink, drunk by real people and helped ground us after we worked away in cubicles and only broke a sweat artificially in a gym. Sometimes it was a fetish for something in a tiki book, but I never got into that.

The young generation wonders how politicians can get so corrupt, but a bunch of people that consider themselves artists go on paid trips and get politely in the pocket of their hosts so quickly they ask no questions and contest nothing. They feel they do no harm if they don’t open their mouths and that is why so many come back in silence. I’m not allowed to go because I’ve read too much. I ask too many questions (with no great writings, no great tales [except Matt Pietrek]). I demand to see things. I want to know what they’ve read and where they’ve been. I write letters to their old timers. I’m like a fucking U.N. weapons inspector, but you’ve got to be if you don’t want to be a pawn in a globalist marketing scheme. The pharmaceutical industry is going to start poaching these malleable people and then maybe we can get back to drinks that are a reflection of lives lived.

If you are lost in a post-modern drink scene with so much churning long after all the precedents were set, look to the Akawaio as a guide back to authenticity. Strip everything back down to its stinging and biting essence then start again.

On the practical side, they are believed to assist the bearers of the pattern in these specific tasks. They are formalised, symbolic representations taken from nature. In every case, the creatures which have inspired the patterns are those which are regarded as producing the essence of sweetness or of stinging and biting. The combined essence of this sweetness and powerful stinging is brought into the closest contact with those who require to stimulate it in their activities —the women who, years ago, made the cassava bread and chewed the ingredients of the spree drinks. Their aim was a sweet, powerful drink to make the men merry and drunk during celebrations and to achieve this they enlisted the aid of the creatures which possess the necessary characteristics and by symbolic association they thought to reproduce these same qualities. It is the Mazaruni scorpion which puts the kick, or sting, in the Akawaio drink!

The drinks world has gotten so lame I turned all of my creative energy over to the Houghton Street Foundry.

The Evaporation of Wealth

John Ralston Saul, in his 2005 Collapse of Globalism, keeps mentioning the evaporation of wealth. The concept is curious, elusive, and basically not talked about by anyone else because it challenges a lot of ideas in economics. We have to remember that money is not real and something that always sits a top the value of an asset is the concept of utility (which is hard to measure so economists hate it). We all know economics eventually have to go beyond a focus on GDP and switch to harder to quantify measures like happiness, but that is barely discussed. As JRS likes to remind us, if you ask around at economics schools if they’ve changed their curriculum since 2008, they will admit not by much.

There is a growing anxiety related to the not yet widely understood evaporation of wealth phenomena that is driving the democratic socialist movement which many elites like to ridicule. Our leadership and even our intellectuals are really weak on economics so they tend to grasp for or mock ideas like socialism. They cannot seem to see giant problems staring them in the face.

The easiest way to begin wrapping your head around the evaporation of wealth (exacerbated by globalism) is to consider decades ago what happened when women were added to the work force. If a family has two incomes, it should be wealthier, but that just hasn’t been the case. We once had a prosperous country where a family could support itself and achieve considerable happiness on a single income often working only 40 hours a week. Somehow we have evaporated that entire extra income as well as a hundred years of other accumulated assets. A lot of this has to do with how we allocate the tax burden and how we allow sanctioned corruption in the political process (lobbying).

A lot of people think of the evaporation of wealth only as inflation and deflation as well as speculation, but there is a lot more subtlety to it. Evaporation may also not be the best metaphor, but it is a good starting point. Evaporation also happens by degrees and is not an on or off phenomenon. Not all saving is evaporative, but some is significantly as the piles grow and the amounts in the billions lose productivity. When middle class people benefit from tax cuts and can save, their savings have normal utility, but when the 1% and .01% get a tax cut, the money has significantly different utility and is essentially evaporated or put into permanent storage where is does not contribute to the prosperity of the country. At the moment there is only one Elon Musk, but more on him later.

The main focus of this blog is the collecting and republishing of old beverage technology research papers and they are a great example of evaporation (my library card is my condenser!). These papers were publicly funded research that took place over large spans of the 20th century and they should be part of accumulated American wealth and resources with utility to draw from, but somehow they managed to become hidden.

This is just like money we stashed and forgot where we put it, but it also gets wrapped up in various infamous pay walls that privately tax you when you try to access your public wealth. We do not understand our miscellaneous public assets. We improperly archive them by under funding our libraries, allowing private gatekeepers that should not be there, and essentially evaporating vast utility. Americans have so thoroughly forgotten their public resources that they’ve allowed lobbyists to hijack our copyright system, robbing the public of wealth that is supposed to accumulate.

The new American distilling scene is approaching a billion dollars in market value and for some reason this rickety blog is the largest source of advanced educational material because I condensed a forgotten trove of public research returning our wealth. I’m currently holding multiple pieces of forgotten public research I haven’t shared that will dramatically advance every major distilled spirits category (I just leaked the most major piece to a spirits writer you all adore).

The biggest art museums which are quasi public-private (but essentially have public missions) are quick to tout statistics like only 3% of their collection is on view at any one time. This means they evaporated nearly 97% of a few millennia of art they rounded up and put in warehouses. Civilization should have accumulated so much fine art by now that it is coming out of our ears, but we put it in storage where it has near no utility. This art could adorn our public schools which look like prisons and countless other public spaces like post offices and public libraries. If the West is turning its back on Enlightenment values, spread that damn Enlightenment art!

Vladamir Putin is thought by many to be the richest man in the world, but all the wealth he robbed from the people of Russia has very little utility. It is all hidden and sheltered because he is not supposed to have it. Russia has vast natural resources and it has been extracting them for decades during their recent kleptocratic era, but all that wealth basically evaporates because they have no Elon Musk who can create new prosperity from so much accumulation. Kleptocratic wealth is not original prosperity, but merely a transfer from the public good. Much of it goes to countless 40 million dollar Manhattan apartments that no one lives in. Though many of these investments have a dollar value, they have no typical utility.

We drag along far more military these days than our grandfathers did who supported large families working one blue collar job which is a wide avenue of wealth evaporation. The world may have changed, but it takes us so much more military to get the same utility (hell, we may get less because we are in perpetual conflict). At forty hours, we used to drag along diplomacy and the draft, but now we drag along bloated pork project fighter jets and multi million dollar missiles that are useless (declining utility) against the increasing irregular warfare phenomenon.

Spending on police or the TSA is relatively less evaporative because it is labor intensive and employs the middle class, but that is starting to change as the police militarize and use expensive swat teams to serve simple warrants. We are also evaporating money into settlements for police misconduct that we likely aren’t even legally allowed to track and study. The expense of wrongful death after wrongful is a part of that albatross around the neck of every citizen keeping them from supporting a household on 40 hours a week.

Much global tension comes from the rapidly deflating value of fossil fuel assets. All parties know their fossil fuel wealth is slipping into relative uselessness and there is a race to unlock this wealth before it evaporates. As a non-OPEC member, the U.S. is currently winning big time and as demand slows, the U.S. keeps opening its faucet to keep the price down though many parties have innovated and automated to the point they can make money on $35 crude.

In the new era of fossil fuel divestment, there is actually multi tiered evaporation going on. First, oil wealth is evaporating like just housing wealth in a deflating real estate bubble. Then secondly, this wealth is distributed to where it’s utility is low so it does not create a diverse economy that can help the civilization it serves move on. Petrol-states rely on a template of transference prosperity, they have proven unable to create hard won original prosperity.

Many futurists are starting to discuss the parasitic city where housing crisis are developing. Housing speculation is transference prosperity and those that benefit from it fall into the petrol-state template and can likely never create original prosperity. Money is sucked up from would-be middle class innovators and perpetually put into storage. Vast wealth is sucked up by the land lords to create pretty mundane lives of no particularly amazing happiness (I know countless of these people personally via my restaurant). Ostentatious behavior would condense the wealth and we don’t even see that. The only place the money ever goes is to corrupting our political system.

Commodity speculation is a classic hated layer of evaporation. Imagine the supply and demand curve of the price of oil. Now add another elusive pulsating curve atop it and the space between is the meddling of the spectators. When you reach in, you cannot grab that efficient price, you can only grab something from that layer above belonging to spectators and pay their private tax. Speculation is a transference of wealth from those trying to create original prosperity with the commodity to the speculator who is often Goldman Sachs, Exxon, or actually myself.

I have had great success as a commodity speculator and have funded a lot of my art projects that way. The wealth I transfer (should be illegal) is not evaporated because I use it at normal utility. Putting the money to use, I am overall a prosperity originator. The first dollars Goldman Sachs makes are not exactly evaporative because staff eats, clothes themselves, drives to work, and participates in gross ostentatious behavior supporting original prosperity. The last dollars, the majority, are supremely evaporative.

Oil is a strange ethical case. If the price is high we will use less creating less environmental burden and alternatives may seem more viable. If the price is low, oil isn’t always worth taking out of the ground. Oil companies make significant money on speculation and at the moment it keeps the price up in a viable zone. Banning speculation by financial regulation is a choice we are allowed to make and could eventually propel oil out of it’s viable zone downward toward staying in the ground. This is complicated by the fact that a lot of speculation these days is betting against oil. It starts to melt your brain and I would rather make my money via my workshop.

I work in an odd neighborhood restaurant in a super zip where I’ve noticed hundreds of millions in pretty evenly distributed wealth sitting around on a Sunday night. The modesty is amazing and there are bank executives with Timex watches that drink $9 Montepulciano by the glass. Everybody knows our names and there is no hint of any gross culture associated with Wall Street (so I’ve set the scene with all the “elites” you hear about #banalityoffinancialevil). Second only to 45, everyone talks about Elon Musk. These bankers, real estate tycoons, heirs to fortunes and family businesses are all enamored with Musk’s massive scale original prosperity and intuit that his wealth draws from a more noble category than theirs (but sadly they leave it at that). Their money is in storage because they don’t know what to do with it besides protect it from taxation while Musk is commanding hundreds of billions and knows what to do with every dollar like someone on minimum wage.

Musk is what we thought trickle down economics was for. Reagan might have had the best intentions, but the country could not produce enough prosperity originators for all the evaporators. Those that didn’t spend their capital actually inventing stuff, the evaporators, they had plenty of money to influence government and here we are today.

There turned out to be no trickle down economics, but there certainly is the evaporation wealth.

 

If you are intrigued, I took a break from beverage technology blog work to write:
Optimism is your weapon!, Inherently Good, and the Public Good
What is water? Swimming in the Public Good
Our Social Contract, Taxes and Charity
Ideology and the Supernormal Stimuli
A New Institution of the Public Good: Mandatory Civil Service

You can check out my Victorian door hardware workshop on IG: @houghstfoundry

RTFM: Keg to Champagne Bottle Manifold, Bottler, Bottle Filler

Welcome to the Bostonapothecary Keg-to-Champagne counter pressure bottler. You have just purchased a very unique tool, unlike any bottler on the market, from a very tiny Boston workshop.

[Purchase]

SAFETY DISCLAIMER: USE THIS HIGH PRESSURE PNEUMATICS PRODUCT AT YOUR OWN RISK. WE ARE NOT LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY INCURRED BY THE USE OF OUR PRODUCT. ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES WHEN USING THE MANIFOLD. USE ONLY BOTTLES RATED FOR THE PRESSURE YOUR REGULATOR IS SET AT. DO NOT SET YOUR REGULATOR HIGHER THAN 60 PSI OR RISK WILL ESCALATE. BEWARE OF OUR SEDUCTIVE DESIGN AND MARKETING, THIS PRODUCT IS DANGEROUS AND SHOULD ONLY BE USED BY THOSE THAT FULLY UNDERSTAND THE RISKS. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE BEFORE YOU OPERATE THIS PRODUCT.

This device is convertible between acting like the original Champagne Bottle Manifold and performing as a counter pressure bottle filler. When acting as a plain bottle manifold, the long down tube will be removed and a shortened one inserted in its place to help create a seal with the top Cornelius fitting. A Guinness silicon check valve (from their keg couplers in case you need to source a replacement) will be inserted into the food safe silicon seal so that when agitated, liquid cannot enter the gas line. When converting to counter pressure transfer operation, the Guinness valve is removed and a down tube is inserted through the very top fitting straight down the body of the manifold. The Cornelius fitting will create a seal so that no liquid will enter the inner cavity of the manifold. The cavity stays open so that air can be directed upwards to vent through it out the side port reducing pressure so that liquid is slowly drawn from the keg filling the bottle. The silicon bottle seal contains a tiny slit which air can move through when the down tube is inserted. The slit is closed when the Guinness valve is inserted.

The manifold is carefully designed so that if you lose a component it can be quickly replaced, often from third parties that have expedited shipping.

An optional tool recommended for use during counter pressure bottling operation is a bleeder key with gauge (pictured above). If this tool is not present, an object can be used to depress the Cornelius fitting, venting the bottle. With practice, you can get quite good at it and may not want to use the bleeder. The advantage of the bleeder is that you get consistent bleeding among inexperienced operators and the gauge can be used to measure carbonation levels in a bottle for product development tasks. A bleeder with a gauge can also be used to measure the pressure in the keg to keep carbonation levels consistent.

Counter pressure bottling happens at pressures typically under 35 PSI. If too much pressure is used, the liquid will increase in dissolved gas during transfer while if too little is used the liquid will decrease in dissolved gas. As rules of thumb, without knowing your specific equilibrium pressure or the resistance of your jumper line, sparkling wines and highly carbonated cocktails can be transferred at 35 PSI while beers can be transferred at 20 PSI. Liquid transfer hoses can be as short as 12 inches to reduce resistance and minimize warming of the liquid during transfer.

To start a liquid transfer, the chilled bottle needs to be brought to the same PSI as the keg (your keg pressure may need to be brought down to your transfer pressure). A gas line is disconnected from the keg and connected to the top fitting of the transfer manifold (this single fitting shares both liquid and gas). At this time the bottle can also be vented of atmospheric oxygen. The down tube will flush air straight to the bottom of the bottle, up and out creating a very thorough flush.

When the bottle has the same pressure as the keg, the gas line can be moved back to the keg and the liquid jumper line can be connected from keg to bottle manifold. The liquid will be nearly indifferent on moving between vessels because the pressure is the same. When the pressure is reduced on the bottle by venting the side port, liquid will flow across the jumper line into the bottle. When the bottle is filled, the liquid line can either be disconnected to stop the flow or the gas bleeding can also be stopped.

The manifold seal on the bottle cannot be disconnected right away or detrimental foaming and loss of dissolved gas may occur. Bottles often need to bond for upwards of 45 seconds depending on how cold they are and how much dissolved gas they contain. Chilled kegs and chilled bottles help everything move faster. Bonding time can slowly be reduced by empirical testing to maximize productivity. Once the bottle is released, it must quickly be capped. The inactive time of counter pressure bottling is significant and the transfer manifold is designed modularly so that multiple units can be used to reduce inactive time.

Adding a down tube and a second gas port adds lots of functionality to the transfer manifold beyond classic counter pressure bottle filling or acting like the original bottle manifold. Tubing can be put over the down tube to reach the bottom of a bottle and a gas-in line put on the side port to turn a bottle into a mini keg for research tasks. Chilled uncarbonated liquid can also be put into a bottle, such as a magnum, and gas moved down the down tube and vented out the side port, very much like the mechanism used by a Soda-Stream, to carbonate liquid in a bottle without agitating like is done with original bottle manifold use. All of this versatility means the transfer manifold can be in use 24/7 in your institution.

Congratulations on your smart purchase and thank you for supporting our small workshop.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER: USE THIS HIGH PRESSURE PNEUMATICS PRODUCT AT YOUR OWN RISK. WE ARE NOT LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY INCURRED BY THE USE OF OUR PRODUCT. ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES WHEN USING THE MANIFOLD. USE ONLY BOTTLES RATED FOR THE PRESSURE YOUR REGULATOR IS SET AT. DO NOT SET YOUR REGULATOR HIGHER THAN 60 PSI OR RISK WILL ESCALATE. BEWARE OF OUR SEDUCTIVE DESIGN AND MARKETING, THIS PRODUCT IS DANGEROUS AND SHOULD ONLY BE USED BY THOSE THAT FULLY UNDERSTAND THE RISKS. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE BEFORE YOU OPERATE THIS PRODUCT.

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Our Social Contract, Taxes and Charity

Our social contract is something that has seen a lot of straining lately with the change in presidential administrations. Not many people even realize its connection to what they are debating. Are we keeping the ACA or dumping it and is that a contract to pool risk with all of society? Is defunding public schools and restructuring education in America also a revision of our social contract?  Our social contract is an invisible thing, very much like the public good, and we interact with it very much like DFW’s famed fish; what the hell is water?

Society requires participation and a lot of unwritten stuff gets agreed upon and lived by. Sometimes it gets written down such as do unto others… and a lot of what is written is the philosophical arm of the public good. Membership to a democracy is a little more specific than merely society and citizens get perks while non citizens do not, even when they often fund the perks by paying taxes. The rules get spelled out and formalized a little more. Taxes get paid, charity is given out, and disputes get settled by rule of law. A well agreed upon social contract keeps us from descending into murderous anarchy. And when we do descend, it keeps us from engaging in barbarous irregular warfare. No one has been burning down the unoccupied summer homes of GOP politicians because our strong social contract says you should not, and yet the GOP is trying to weaken it.

Higher quality more thoughtful social contracts can be designed to spur investment, produce culture, reduce inequality and basically be the high tide that lifts all boats. Single payer health care is freeing entrepreneurs to go off on their own and start new companies. Improving the social contract requires optimism. Pessimism is the erosion and slow opting out of the social contract into every man for himself. Pessimists just can’t see the value of living without need of a gate. They think backing off into armored cars and into a guarded compound is somehow saving them money on taxes and making them freer.

Lets wrap this up quickly. We could quote some Thomas Hobbes, John Locke or Rousseau, but the concept to be able to summon and hold on the tip of your tongue is that of taxes versus charity. “Betsy Devos is trying to take away free school lunches for needy kids.” That is what we hear and we are outraged (think of the children, we cry!), but that is not what is happening. Those kids will get their lunch, but who pays for it will change and that is where the outrage should be.

Currently those lunches are funded by taxes because enough of us believe they are necessary to have them legally embedded into our social contract. Devos change is to force charity to take over (and it will). The change is also the weakening of our social contract where some people are allowed to opt out and back away from their obligations as members of the same society.

The way the numbers historically add up, the burden will disproportionately move to the poor because the money is most likely to be raised locally where it is needed. Communities that need the most will pay the most even though it is hardest for them to do so.

We have this illusion taxes are going down, but only formally. The vast majority of people that do not want to break the social contract of feeding children in need will certainly pay up. The freedom sought by the pessimists is merely to avoid a commonly held sense of responsibility.

Tenets of the social contract, like feeding hungry poor kids, should be absolutely basic and fulfilled with disinterest as opposed to interest. Pessimists seeking freedom to optionally skirt the contract often participate in charity in very high numbers, but with interest. Large donations have names attached and come with leverage and egotistical satisfaction that does not belong there if the social contract holds that tenet as absolutely basic.

Sometimes contractual shifts are nefarious and sometimes they are not because few people can articulate these properties of the social contract (I learned it mostly from John Ralston Saul). There is often a gravity to these shifts, a path of least resistance, and a lot of it has to do with globalism and tax erosion.

We need new strategies for combating vindictive threats to cancel tax funded programs like the National Endowment for the Arts. We shouldn’t only be saying, but art is important!, but the amount is so small! We should be in command of the theory behind the policy change and its relationship to our social contract. Pessimists want to opt out and we either shouldn’t let them or need to convince them why it is so naive.

The right to health care is possibly the biggest renegotiation of our social contract we’ve seen since the civil rights movement. Burdens too often taken up by charity or failing to be met altogether were entering the tax code. The Affordable Care Act took us pretty far and now it is moving backwards, possibly because we did not invoke the language of social contracts. If enough participants in this democracy believe health care should be a right, we should all set a course to pool our risk together reducing the costs for as many individuals as possible.

As the wealthiest large nation, such an improvement to the benefits of being a member of society should not be out of the question. Actually, what are other benefits of being a member of society? There should be some easy to enumerate resources to pursue happiness. There is enough public land to traverse and escape to, to keep a well rounded mind. Somewhere formally it states that when we borrow water we return it clean so it can be re-used without fear (but some are trying to opt out of that responsibility). Our contract states that we are not allowed to be at the mercy of a monopoly and we are allowed to bust them up. Our contract goes on and on.

If an interest group messes with the countless tenets of our social contract they can unlock a lot of money and that is why there is large incentive to do so. The staggering breadth of the contract is why we must know its theory. If we go specific by specific we will become exhausted. We should also not be put in a position for experts on specifics to discredit our intuition, strong common sense should be enough to guide us (though that seems rare these days).

Money unlocked from weakening our social contract is not the creation of prosperity, but merely a transference of burden. It benefits the few at the expense of the vast majority. This is very much similar to how wealth can be robbed from the public good by privatization. GOP plans to lower taxes are often attempts to skirt responsibility veiled as freedom. Our ability to pursue happiness depends on the quality of our social contract. Tearing it up is pessimistic, selfish, and naive. As our nation grows wealthier, we should optimistically strive to strengthen our social contract and be ready to summon language to defend it against inevitable attack.

Ideology and the Supernormal Stimuli

Ideology and the Supernormal Stimuli

What does ideology and supernormal stimuli have in common? The answer turns out to be everything. Ideology is an important concept to have a handle on as we all grapple with polarized politics, the rise of fake news, a generation succumbing to dangerous organized nihilism, and increasing authoritarianism. The supernormal stimuli, a near forgotten Nobel prize winning discovery, is a topic I’ve covered quite a bit in relation to creative linkage in the culinary arts and its particular application to the cocktail. Supernormal stimuli are commonly thought to be only sensory in nature, but with ideology we experience a purely symbolic version of the concept and it is no less dangerous.

To quote wikipedia, “A supernormal stimulus or superstimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.” If you need more background, Stuart McMillen’s comic strip primer on the subject is absolutely brilliant. The seductive tug of breast implants comes to mind immediately or the Venus of Willendorf. In the classic studies, the robin sits on the bluer egg and lets it’s own go un-incubated while the Australian beetle tries to mate with the beer bottle because it is bigger, more orange, and more dimpled than its natural mate. Multiple male beetles have been known to stroke the dimples of the same beer bottle until they all ran out of energy and died right next to each other. This last example sounds very much like ideology, but lets try to build a stronger case.

From the Doubter’s Companion (A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense), John Ralston Saul defines ideology as:

Tendentious arguments which advance a world view as absolute truth in order to win and hold political power.

A God who intervenes in human affairs through spokesmen who generally call themselves priests; a king who implements instructions received from a God; a predestined class war which requires the representatives of a particular class to take power; a corporatist structure of experts who implement truth through fact-based conclusions; a racial unit which because of its blood-ties has a destiny as revealed by nationalist leaders; a world market which, whether anyone likes it or not, will determine the shape of every human life, as interpreted by corporate executives—all of these and many more are ideologies.

Followers are caught up in the naive obsessions of these movements. This combination ensures failure and is prone to violence. That’s why the decent intentions of the Communist Manifesto end up in gulags and murder. Or the market place’s promise of prosperity in the exploitation of cheap, often child, labour.

There are big ideologies and little ones. They come in international, national and local shapes. Some require skyscrapers, others circumcision. Like fiction they are dependent on the willing suspension of disbelief, because God only appears in private and before his official spokespeople, class leaders themselves decide the content and pecking order of classes, experts choose their facts judiciously, blood ties aren’t pure and the passive acceptance of a determinist market means denying 2,500 years of Western civilization from Athens and Rome through the Renaissance to the creation of middle-class democracies.

Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection and their fear of debate.

The first part of ideology we see from John Ralston Saul is that they are a manipulative tool, very much like breast implants. She knows they are fake, but presents them as the simple truth to hold power. And it works. Men are quick to suspend their disbelief. They are also often exaggerated to make up for deficiencies.

The nth degree is often invoked in ideology as with gods and kings. If law comes from a common man it is not as attentional as when it comes from a supreme figure. The modern day supreme figure in our corporatist world being the expert. The more supreme the figure invoked, the more likely the ideology is in violation of common sense. Pre-destiny or harnessing inevitability is a mode of simplification that ideology takes. We become more biased to accept.

Class and race are the intersection of the symbolic aspects of ideology as supernormal stimuli with sensation. Class categories often divide along sensory features. This starts with the color of skin and when that existing response tendency changes, the shape of our noses is always available to provoke an exaggerated response. I have done a lot of writing to explore the ordinary and extraordinary in sensation and have found that frequency of occurrence rules so much around us.

Obsession that consumes those introduced to ideology is very much the beetle stroking the beer bottle until it runs out of energy and dies, unsuccessfully mating. Failure is ensured because key details are missed and overshadowed by the blown out oversimplifications. In the movie, Her (2013), society quickly becomes obsessed with their seductive tongued personal assistants and messy human relationships get dropped. Matching with someone possessing the complete details to achieve a goal like reproduction also comes with confronting the grittier side of the human condition.

Detail is the enemy of ideology. That willing suspension of disbelief relates to lack of ability to categorize, parse, and build detachment. She is in the same room and you are allowed to touch them if you dare, you literally gravitate towards the breast implants. Those doomed beetles could not parse and categorize the beer bottle as not a useful mate.

Marshall McLuhan emphasized the difference between acting and reacting. Ideology is the guilty pleasure of reacting and being willfully illiterate so that a primal satisfaction does not go unindulged. Many very smart people succumb to ideology and various motivators perpetuate the ruse. The guilty pleasure of reacting (sometimes we say “overreacting”) without detachment transitions to the euphoria of obsession and that sometimes gives way to wielding ideology to win or hold political power.

For those that learn to wield them, ideologies start to get swapped like trading cards. When open racism is no longer a useful enough ideology to harness the votes of the ignorant masses, it is traded in for Islamophobia and/or transphobia. Most politicians personally do not care about about the ideology of the moment, they know the robin will jump to the bluer egg or that if they troll with a beer bottle, they will come up with a pile of beetles not afraid to die without successfully mating.

Polar politics is all about ideology and both camps are capable of generating them. The pessimistic right leans on prejudices and policies to undermine taxes while dismantling the public good whereas the left is capable of being overly optimistic and does not respect enough the importance of private industry and choice. One side needs to be there to check the other, but it becomes harder as a fear of nuance and debate sets in. It almost seems as if we are at a point where we cannot talk down the beetles, we simply have to wait for them to die to move on.

Fake news is a form of supernormal stimuli and a pizza shop where Hillary Clinton traffics children for many, believe it or not, is just a bluer egg. Response tendencies have changed due to the 24 hour news cycle, and to stand out, a story has to be more attentional. More attentional these days is often plain fake. You’d think the average person would dismiss so many of the stories, but then again how could the robin not know? We are back at John Ralston Saul’s willing suspension of disbelief (he likes to use that term a lot).

The rise of nihilist culture and its ideologies is greatly exacerbated by supernormal stimli. Much of it starts with sensory stimulation and it also straddles the line of supernormal stimuli as therapy versus a grave danger. To start framing things it must be realized that all art is an attempt to create a supernormal stimuli and art is not so completely innocent anymore now that it has been widely co-opted by propagandists and advertising agendas. Games, a big part of internet culture, are an extension of art and they create protected worlds where response tendencies can be abstracted and again manipulated. Gamification is a fairly new field of study worth following and is generating very interesting ideas.

Games are thought of as therapeutic in moderation, but when they take up enough time they can start to interfere with productive goals like mating or being an integrated member of society. Unemployment among the male internet addicted demographic is many multiples that of the national average. When you give up on inclusion or being included you join the nihilists and somehow they’ve decided to organize to increase the “lolz”.

Nihilist internet culture is pornography obsessed and dependent, creating a significant enough population for concepts like “invol cel” to become pop culture. Sex with a partner is important because it ends up teaching compromise. Many that remain involuntarily celibate develop dangerous misogynistic ideologies.

Taking gaming beyond a therapeutic distraction to an obsession creates isolation and stunts social skills. Due to its artificial protective shield, risk tolerance increases in a game and decreases out of it. When social skills are developed in many online games they have a way of collapsing outside so that the afflicted demographic becomes increasingly isolated from contribution to productive goals. The importance of inclusion in society is becoming increasingly relevant to this group that is part of the majority (white males) yet little of their own actions support inclusion. Society needs this demographic included to break the nihilist cycle, but their own actions lead to exclusionary viewpoints that are increasingly turning violent.

The internet seems like it would be a place for debate and nuance, but it becomes a breeding ground for ideology and communicating in all caps oversimplifications. This happens because it is saturated with supernormal stimuli. It is not called hyper-text for no reason. One has to dodge bluer eggs left and right to find nuance. The nature of reward makes us prefer short pieces with abstracted “click-bait” titles over detailed long form journalism. In McLuhan-esque ways, in what we could even start calling media disease, shortened attention spans gravitate towards ideology. In a strange twist, these ideologies are not championed by priests invoking gods, kings or experts, they are championed by a collective being called anonymous who ascends as they are shared.

The world some no longer want to be included in requires authoritarianism. Many want a figure who can single handedly solve their problems short cutting nuanced affairs while they stroke the dimpled bottle. For others, the chaos is just a hysterical vindictive prank. Those used to the game world become increasingly detached from real world consequences. Regret does not set in fast.

Precocious figures start to navigate among this vast demographic that has risen, it seems, out of nowhere and manipulate them as seen with the growth of alt-right commentators. This finicky group seems like it could turn on a dime, but doesn’t because the externalities generated from their pursuit of lolz is typically outside of their isolation. On the verge of violent radicalization, this large population of men is an unprecedented problem we do not at the moment have strategies to tackle. We need to transition from making fun of them to incentives and policy.

Ideology’s link to the supernormal stimuli phenomena could continue to be elaborated into a full fledged book, but hopefully enough of a picture has been painted to jump start critical thought. Supernormal stimuli is a near forgotten concept and it has been hard enough to draw interest to studying it in relationship to the culinary arts. Just like in culinary, there is possibility for supernormal stimuli as productive therapy, but a line can easily get crossed and they can become detrimental to health as seen in the classic animal examples.

McLuhan prophetically warned us about the consequences of introducing new media. The internet, catalyzed by economics, has created a population dangerously susceptible to destabilizing ideologies. Home grown extremism is growing rapidly in the U.S. and we are seeing a large population of white males fail to become productive members of society. Hopefully new ideas to help us frame these challenging problems will also help us generate solutions.

A New Institution of the Public Good: Mandatory Civil Service

In my last short political thought piece about the public good as a support system for immigrants, I highlighted some great language by John Ralston Saul about public schools. Saul explains public school as a vital inclusive equalizing institution that is more relevant than ever due to modern life. If we needed a new institution to carry out those same vital roles and possibly solve a host of other hard to reach problems, what would it be? I wager it would look like mandatory civil service.

Today we have a largely urban population. Our cities are filled with a highly mobile population, two job families, high divorce levels, single parent families, the return of long hours of work, the loss of community identification, high immigration levels, a new rise in the division between rich and poor and so on and so on. All of these factors mean that the one—if not the only—public structure we have which is capable of reaching out to all citizens in all parts of the country and making them feel part of the extended family of citizenship is the public education system. In the classic sense of the inclusive democracy, those simple bricks and mortar buildings, which we call the public schools, are in fact the one remaining open club house of citizenship. Not only is the public education system and its fundamental structure not old fashioned, it has found a new form of modernity. I would argue that we are more reliant on it today than we were through most of the 20th century. -John Ralston Saul, Address to the Canadian Teacher’s Federation (2001)

To combat the formation of class divisions and to promote the idea of inclusive democracy we likely need to create a mandatory civil service as an extension of our public school system (which is in danger of going private). U.S. politics have become extremely polarized, almost as if we are living in bubbles, so we may benefit from the forced mixing of young people. Conservatives would rub off on liberals and liberals on conservatives. We would have the opportunity to create a new center before we spread too far.

I never thought I’d be outlining this and I’ve encouraged a discussion group of women I know to also pursue it, but the ideas have to become more common place. Whether we adopt one or not, thinking about a civil service and outlining one reinforces that we rely upon, and need to firm up, our equalizing institutions.

A mandatory civil service may also positively impact three of the most pressing and hard to solve problems within our society. The first is the heroin epidemic that gets many people at the critical age range of a civil service program. Young, impoverished Americans succumbing to hard drug addiction are often thought to be in cages and need geographic change to escape. Programming could be designed to give maximum positive impact to the nation’s growing heroin and meth problems.

Second, is the gang problem which is something I do not know of firsthand, being from Boston, but no doubt geographic change and forced mixing of young people at a critical age will make a positive impact where other strategies have failed.

Lastly, is making a dent in America’s startling leadership gap. The recent election season has shown that we are critically short of viable leaders. Programming within a civil service can highlight individuals who show strong leadership abilities and opportunities can be provided so they can advance as public servants. The equalizing nature of a program may fill our leadership gap with much needed diversity.

Civil Service programs previously have been associated with the military and were used as methods to build large trained forces in times of war, but this does not need to be the case. The U.S. is a startlingly large country and currently has a vast network of neglected and crumbling infrastructure that could be the target of civil service. Much of the infrastructure work is labor intensive and cannot be automated. The U.S. is also in need of transformative change to its energy infrastructure to combat climate change. All of these needs could be met and channeled in a way that provides equalizing opportunity for America’s young.

The major classic pro of a mandatory civil service is the promotion of national unity through shared experience and training together. Where in the past, programs have rallied around a threat from another nation, America could rally around the threats of climate change and extreme partisanship. A lot of the labor required to mend American infrastructure will be physical. Military programs create an appreciation for sacrifices, and no doubt young Americans would learn to appreciate the physical sacrifices of hard labor.

A new civil service deal will not be military oriented, but the American military will benefit from an increase in organized and trained individuals. Catching young Americans before they fall at ages where they are far more likely to commit crimes will increase military eligibility. Countless young Americans cannot benefit from the positive life transforming effects of military service due to prior offenses.

High levels of government participation come from civil service programs generated by heightened awareness of issues. Classically, this watches politicians and puts the breaks on military intervention because anyone’s immediate family could be impacted. An infrastructure orientated program would increase participation by tying more Americans to smaller national decisions that have typically attracted less scrutiny. Knowledge of local politics would increase as more communities worked with the civil service department.

Many neglected skills will be taught offering significant equalizing opportunity. Infrastructure work would require vocational technical skills and fill large voids in the American work force. Due to national mixing, young Americans will also migrate to fill these voids in ways that previously saw too much friction and expense. A young person from North Dakota with no local opportunity could find their calling and become a machinist in Georgia. There will be gains to character related skills such as teamwork, responsibility, stress management, initiative and diversity tolerance which are all increasingly deficient in young Americans. Anyone that goes on to college after their civil service will likely be more successful.

Civil Service is equalizing because it exempts no one. The wealthiest and the poorest Americans will have to work side by side and come to understand each other. Urban Americans and rural will have the opportunity to see more of the country and learn each others concerns first hand. The opportunity for all walks of American life to rub off on each other will hopefully generate bi partisan interest in developing a program.

There are classic cons to a mandatory civil service and the number one is the violation of free will. This is true, but few young Americans have enough opportunity to make it worth their while to skip out. Many rebels may find some adventure in it (though I’ve seen some Israeli movies that make it out to be horribly boring and bureaucratic). Wealthy Americans who want their children to work for the family business would likely be happy to have their children cut their teeth elsewhere (at civil service), shedding entitlement, and developing a work ethic before they return. A non military focus with the promotion of inclusion will reduce concerns for violating free will.

Interference with higher education is a concern, but statistics are showing that we are sending young people to college unprepared for what they are committing to. Too many are also unable to afford higher education while most jobs require education beyond a high school degree. State sponsored education within a civil service program may help everyone.

Safety, which is a concern of military oriented programs, will be less of a concern for a climate change and infrastructure orientated program. The military may also benefit with higher quality recruits that have graduated the civil service program. The American military is in transition to more specialist personnel and capital intensive warfare. Civil service may be a catalyst for significant military transformation while maintaining a pool of organized and trained young Americans to draw from in an emergency.

Not everyone will fit in, even while not being military orientated, but a big percentage require a kick in the pants. Americans are riddled with physical ailments, emotional problems like anxiety and depression, as well as unstable political ideology. It is time to take stock. Many young Americans will rise to the occasion and mandatory civil service could be the cure to numerous ailments. Bi partisan support should not be hard. What heartland American does not want to see a rich kid from Connecticut forced into some manual labor? What coastal progressive does not want to see a rural kid meet their first Muslim, work side by side, and learn they are not too different.

The aim of this article is simply to get you to ponder the idea and hopefully take up a pen and outline it for yourself. What did I overestimate or what did I miss all together? Is civil service more pragmatic than making college free where students exercise their miss guided free will and study for unmarketable degrees? When I discussed this with the group of women I referenced in the beginning, I assumed their children would not benefit, but wondered if they would anti them up to help others by rubbing off. The unanimous reply was that all their children would benefit immensely. Straight from their mothers lips, they all need to shed entitlement and gain focus before college. Near no kid out there is on a straight path out of high school through college and straight to a high paying job at Google. Any premier high tech company, no doubt, would want to hire the identified leaders of a few years of mandatory civil service.

What is water? Swimming in the Public Good

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?” -DFW at Kenyon

My last political thought piece included an introduction to the public good which was a new concept for a lot of people even though we swim in it. Institutions like public schools or documents like the Bill of Rights are not often explicitly categorized and taught as the public good so few of us can easily outline it. We commune with, and draw from this resource constantly but probably end up just like the David Foster Wallace’s fish, “What the hell is water?”

Last week I watched the video monologue of Marine Steve Gern in Iraq who is a very impressive guy and I admire the calming way he speaks about a very charged topic. Gern’s (over)simplified conclusion did not take into account that back in the states we are swimming in this public good that other countries simply do not have to our degree. The Marine notes that an American cannot go and walk the streets of Iraq alone because they’d probably get kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. That being the case, he concludes that no Iraqi should be allowed to come to the U.S. because they’d likely carry out the same behavior. Gern seems like an exemplary soldier, and no doubt has made many friends in hostile territory, but Iraqis to Gern are regarded as inherently bad until they are vetted.

Countless immigrants come to the U.S. from dangerous places around the world and this peculiar thing keeps happening, near all of them become productive members of society. But what makes that possible?

A fish needs water. Out of water a fish thrashes around dangerously gasping and embracing primal instincts. A fish in merely stagnant water languishes. The public good is the set of resources and rights that supports our inherent goodness and lets each of us participate in the American optimism that creates prosperity. The public good works when it is around. It stops working when it is privatized by kleptocrats.

A reason for the failure of the democracies we’ve tried to create around the world is that they were built with no strong institutions of the public good, no rights actually held firmly by checks and balances. They were set up by American politicians and consultants who cannot recognize the properties of the water they are swimming in.

There is a human gravity towards being lazy and corner cutting to make a job easier, especially when we stop exercising foresight, so there will always be a push towards ideologies like immigration restrictions that we need to resist. What we need to realize is that immigration, with its inherent risks, is integral to expanding prosperity. There will be a few bad eggs and even those that want revenge after seeing their entire families murdered in front of them at the hands of the West, but that may be laissez faire no matter how hard that is to swallow.

In parts of the world we’ve meddled, there is even a large shell shocked generation with hidden physical scars very much like our own soldiers who come back and succumb to erratic behavior and often suicide. We are in denial of their condition, often inflicted by us, just like we are in denial of our own veteran’s state. This kind of risk complicates freedom of movement yet we must allow it. We need to restrict the obvious, but never fully exclude. Anyone left behind will become increasingly dangerous. The ability to leave a hostile land with the choice to join the West reduces radicalization in areas we destabilize. Crossing our border and joining us, anyone foreign should realize they are entering water and can become their good self. It works, we’ve done this for years.

The relationship between immigration and prosperity is something we need to thoroughly debate more often so we can resist ideology. Many think immigrants are taking the jobs of American born citizens, but they are often taking jobs Americans will not do and at the other end they are truly innovating and creating new jobs for Americans as seen by looking at the figures in Silicon valley. Countless doctors who are the best and brightest of their countries come to America to supply our growing demand for healthcare. The closer you look, the more clear it is that we are nowhere near a point where immigration is damaging American prosperity.

What we also need to debate is whether fear of immigrants particularly Muslims is invented to accumulate the easy votes of the ignorant. Racism worn on the sleeve against African Americans has mostly subsided into covert systemic racism so that it can no longer be easily used as an electioneering tool. The hate vacuum has been filled by plainly spoken prejudice against Muslims. Many politicians, personally, barely care, but for the GOP party of pessimism, any category to hate openly is a tool to enter or maintain power.

Today we have a largely urban population. Our cities are filled with a highly mobile population, two job families, high divorce levels, single parent families, the return of long hours of work, the loss of community identification, high immigration levels, a new rise in the division between rich and poor and so on and so on. All of these factors mean that the one—if not the only—public structure we have which is capable of reaching out to all citizens in all parts of the country and making them feel part of the extended family of citizenship is the public education system. In the classic sense of the inclusive democracy, those simple bricks and mortar buildings, which we call the public schools, are in fact the one remaining open club house of citizenship. Not only is the public education system and its fundamental structure not old fashioned, it has found a new form of modernity. I would argue that we are more reliant on it today than we were through most of the 20th century. -John Ralston Saul, Address to the Canadian Teacher’s Federation (2001)

As explained by John Ralston Saul, the public good reaches out to people and makes them feel included and connected to others through citizenship. The outstretched arms of the public good, in forms so easy to take for granted as public lands, is an equalizer that prevents class formation and increases economic mobility which is important because most immigrants come here so poor.

When defending immigrants, asylum seekers, and refuges to those that are fearful or ignorant, it is important to mention the outstretched arms of the public good. For generations we have absorbed those that came from hostile lands and a positive force not readily apparent has been there to guide them in participating in the creation of American prosperity. For those of us that have never stepped outside of this force, we are doomed to say “What the hell is water?”