Thursday, June 3, 2010

Crash Course

Is The United States on a crash course? According to Dr. Chris Martenson, red lights are flashing all over the dashboard, yet we keep driving down the freeway instead of pulling over and rethinking our trip, our speed, and our gas-burning vehicle.

Yesterday Nancy and I attended a presentation at the Minnesota History Society co-sponsored by the Legislative Committee on the Environment and the U of M Institute on the Environment. Martenson painted an alarming picture of the economy, energy, and environment.

Given the exponential growth of population and need for energy we humans are in a fix. He believes that massive changes are ahead of us in the next decade or two as we face economic upheaval, energy demands that cannot be met with fossil fuel, and dwindling resources that require ever more expense to extract fewer and fewer minerals from the earth.

"It's not a problem," he says, "it's a predicament." Problems have solutions, predicaments require management. But instead of tackling the challenges--for example, putting money into a Manhattan-type project to come up with an energy/economic system that can replace the mess we have now, the U.S. government continues on the path toward insolvency.

Bottom line, we need to shift our paradigm of what constitutes a fulfilling life. We need to use less energy, fewer resources, and shrink the economy. (Europeans use half the energy per capita that Americans do and still have a satisfying lifestyle.) We need government to start dealing with the hard problems. We cannot sustain an economic system based on consumerism, debt, and continual growth.

Martenson offers a free three-hour course on his website ( Nancy and I were riveted by his twenty short, clear, engaging chapters. I encourage you to check it out and share The Crash Course with others who would like to know what they can do about the probability that the next twenty years will be nothing like the last twenty years.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Beer from the Brau Brothers

Our favorite brewery is located in Lucan (pronounced LOO-CAN), Minnesota, population 220, a forty minute drive from Fort Ridgely State Park where Nancy and I camped last weekend.

Brau Brothers occupies a large red utilitarian shed at the edge of town. Outside is a pond used to drip-irrigate the nearby 600 hops, each plant requiring 6 gallons of water a day. A hops plant can grow up to 12 inches daily, curling up a rope in a counter-clockwise direction as it follows the sun's movement across the open prairie sky. Adjacent to the hops yard is a barley field. While it's fun to think that the Braus raises their own beer ingredients, these fields provide a miniscule percentage of their brewing requirements. They do get most of their grain locally, however, from a distributor in Kasota, near Mankato.

Dale Brau, the father of the three brothers who run the brewery, showed us around and gave us generous samples of ice cold beer. (Being the designated driver, I switched to Schell's 1919 Root Beer after the first round--how classy to offer premium root beer on tap!)

The brothers, Trevor, Dustin, and Brady, started the company in 2006. They bought repossessed brewing equipment in Virginia and shipped it to Minnesota on three semi-trailers. The beautiful copper vats line one wall of the building.

Nancy and I had our first taste of Brau Brother's Cream Stout one night at the Guthrie Theatre a couple of years ago. We immediately loved its rich, smooth depth --and have sought it out in local liquor stores every since. We tasted the Ring Neck Braun Ale and wow, does that slide down easily! For me, it's a toss up between the Cream Stout and Ring Neck. Both are fabulous.

For the first time the company is offering a light beer to answer demand. We don't care for light beer, and this one met our expectations--thin. But if forced to drink a light, I'd choose Old No. 56, named after Dale's newly acquired fire engine made by Forstner Fire Apparatus of Madelia--our home town! If we didn't already appreciate Brau Brothers, we would now with a little fire truck from Madelia scheduled to start pumping samples of their micro brew at the Lucan BrauFest street dance next weekend.