Homebrew Labels

SPF 80 Label

You may be asking yourself… are Evan’s nipples really blue?

Monkey Mango WineCheesehead AleDirty PineapplePumpkin Beer

This beer was inspired by one Evan Brost.  For a few glorious weeks, Evan was the whitest person in all of Malawi thanks to a generous lathering of SPF 80 sunscreen about 4 times per day.  He positively glowed!  Some of that positive glow shines through in this refreshing wheat beer thanks to some of Evan’s simple suggestions as to how we could get better results from our ghetto brewing setup.  Thanks Evan!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, pressing mangoes in the apple press was a terrible, squishy, and pasty idea that didn’t yield much juice.  That said, the few drops that did squeeze through the press must be like a nectar of the gods… or a nectar of the monkeys at least.

Blind Sheep Cider

We went blindly into this one – letting whatever yeasts were floating in the Malawian air ferment it for us, rather than using a cultivated yeast. Also, an interesting history note: during the early days of the Prohibition, brewers were prohibited from “selling” alcohol, so they often “sold” tickets to see a blind animal or some other oddity, and it just so happened that the customers were then “given” a drink.

Wild Fruit Wine label

Made with wild fruits from the bush! We don’t even know what they’re called, but they tasted interesting and didn’t poison us!

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing pairs better with cheese and a Packers touchdown!

 

 

 

Biking in Belgium Ale Label

Inspired by the funky brews of Lambic-land, we divided this brew in two and steeped strawberries in half of it and steeped oak chips in the other half. It doesn’t taste too far from the real thing.

A blend of fresh-pressed pineapple and molasses – sounds tropical and rummy, right?  Perfect for a mixer maybe?  Or, if it comes out undrinkable, at least it might make a pretty good marinade…

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s pumpkin season in Malawi.  We’re bottling this one this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Diet Beer

It works. We’re both super buff now.
(Or maybe we didn’t grind our grain fine enough… or maybe we didn’t mash the grains long enough cause this beer came out kind of light of body)

 

baobab beer

An African original, made with the tangy pods of a baobab tree and some peat smoked malted barley… never mind that the grains and hops were really just left-overs from all the other batches.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Little Problem

Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger, Evan.

I re-checked lodge report.  I re-checked the emails exchanged between the lodge owners  – Matt and Marie – and myself.  Yep, they DEFINITELY said that skiing conditions were good, with a minimum base of 6”.  And yet there I stood, drenched in sweat at the Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, Malawi – with a pair of madshus racing ski’s freshly waxed with violet special – and not a flake of snow to be seen!

Marie greeted me with a bear hug and a wide smile.  Exasperated, I exclaimed, “you said that there was a 6” base?!?”.  “Ah, yes”, Marie smiled, “skiing conditions are quite nice here, but you see there is only one problem … it does not snow in Malawi”.  Such was going to be the story of our first week of travels in Malawi; everything went perfectly … except for one little problem.

I had arrived on a Friday afternoon, and by Saturday morning, the crew (Matt, Marie, Beth, and myself) was readying for our weeklong road trip into the north of Malawi.  First task; Beth and I needed to get some cash: a simple undertaking in the 1st world, not so much in the 3rd world.  The denominations of cash in Malawi have not kept up with inflation; to take out even a modest sum of money means receiving a ridiculously fat wad of cash.  And, because everyone is taking out ridiculously fat wads of bills, the ATM’s are constantly running out of cash.  To combat this, many of the ATM’s limit the amount of Kwacha (Malawian currency) you can take out.  Consequently, Beth and I simply re-inserted our debit cards, and took out the max four times (with a long line of disapproving Malawian’s behind us, annoyed by the Azungu’s – Malawian term for a white person – who were making them wait and draining the ATM).  So there we stood, on the side of the road, waiting for Marie to pick us up, with our pockets literally bulging with Kwacha.  Luckily, Malawian’s are notoriously friendly, and despite the fact that we were prime for a mugging, our only hassle was the guy selling avocados.

Cash in hand, we hit the road for our first stop: Malawi’s top tourist destination – Nkhata Bay on Lake Malawi.  We had three days booked at the Butterfly Lodge, with separate cabins overlooking the lake paradise.  The setting was magnificent: gorgeously pleasant swimming, premier snorkeling, cliff diving, canoeing, and beach volleyball.  The accommodations, however, could not have been a greater contrast to the setting.  Our cabins were dilapidated; our sheets crusted with dead insects, and the mosquito nets were more hole than screen.  The single pit toilet (which served over a dozen cabins) smelled not so much as though the waste was composting, but more like it was stewing.  Rather than install a urinal, they instructed guests – girls and boys alike – to pee on the lodge grounds (I would not want to see the results of that policy during the dry season).  Equally as unsanitary were our fellow guests at the lodge: an exceedingly annoying, intoxicated, and lazy crew of ex-pats and aimless travelers.  It was paradise with only one problem: it was a total shithole.

The view wasn't bad.

The view wasn’t bad.

We shook off the stench of Butterfly, and set out for the second half of our road trip: Nyika National Park.  It was a long drive and we hit road early.  Driving in Malawi can be stressful: highways in Malawi are the primary arteries for not only cars, but also pedestrians and some animals.  Add an occasional pothole (more like pot-chasm) and rainstorm into the mix, and driver’s need to be especially vigilant.  The last 110km of our drive up to the Nyika plateau was a dirt road.  The first 50 km of the dirt road was laborious but uneventful, under the steady hand of Matt in the driver’s seat.  I took over for the last 60km.  Roads conditions quickly deteriorated: massive mud pits, flooded road, potholes, and terrain that resembled more of a rutted riverbed than a road. We reached a flooded section of the road, and Evan slowed to develop a game plan.

I would like to pause at this point of the story for a little life lesson.  The next time you’re thinking about driving an overloaded, low clearance vehicle into a water pit of unknown depth, I would offer two pieces of advice: 1) don’t 2) the ‘gun it so you don’t get stuck’ philosophy is a stupid philosophy.  If either of those pieces of wisdom had occurred to me, the week may have been salvaged . . .

Not even the worst spot.

Not even the worst spot.

As it stands, however, I hit the pond with momentum.  We bottomed out – HARD – but made it through.  As we approached our next treacherous section of road – a lengthy section of deep, rutted, mud – I stopped the car to evaluate the route.  There was only one problem: the car would not go into park . . . or reverse or change gears at all.  There was no going back now … literally!

The injured automobile clunked and scraped its way to the ultimate destination: our rented lodge atop the Nyika plateau.  We arrived 5 hours after beginning the 110 km dirt road: exhausted, relieved, and wearied by an anxiety filled journey. Despite our mechanical misfortune, Nyika immediately intoxicated us: open, rolling plateau scattered with massive, bright grey boulders; antelope and zebra and baboons and hyenas galore; wilderness that felt both peaceful and wild; and massive, mesmerizing sunsets.Nyika

We settled into our lodge, and set up a half-day safari and hike for the following day.  A mechanic arrived the following morning, and worked on the transmission while we took our safari.  When we returned, the mechanic had great news: the car was fixed!  Finally some GOOD LUCK – we were ecstatic!  Marie took the Toyota Rav4 for a test drive to confirm the good news.  Marie reported that there was only one problem … the mechanic had fixed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!  The car would still not shift! We were screwed!ZebraRoan AntelopeClip Springers

The mechanic was leaving the next day.  We decided to leave our Nyika paradise early, as we did not want to traverse the road in our wounded automobile without the assistance of the mechanic.  Matt took the first driving shift, and successfully navigated us through the most difficult sections of the road.  By early afternoon, we had descended the plateau into Mzuzu, where we dropped the Rav4 off at a transmission specialist.  Before long, the dent in the bottom of the car had been knocked out, and the transmission was working perfectly.  FINALLY!  A bit of good luck!

Nkhata bay may have been a bit of a bust.  Our Nyika trip may have been a disaster.  But the Rav4 was now fixed, and we still had a couple more days left on our road trip.   This week could be salvaged!  We headed out for the largest man made forest in Africa, the Viphya Forest Reserve.  A number of lodges operate in the Viphya Mountains, making it a tourist friendly destination.  We pulled into one such lodge, and were approached by the owner.  We informed the owner that we were looking for a cabin for the night.  The owner responded, “Yes, that will be just fine”, followed by a pregnant pause, “there is just one problem – we have been shut down by the health department due to fly infestation”.

Yes, indeed, that was a problem, and we pushed on to the next place down the road:  Luwawa Forest Lodge.  There were full up, but had space available in their dorm accommodation.  By the time we arrived, it was dark; we were road weary and hungry, but thankful for a bed.  Perhaps we should have been more discriminating.   The dorm rooms had not been inhabited for what seemed like a decade.  The walls were infested with mold, and the accompanying stench was suffocating.  Too tired to protest, we attempted to gut out the respiratory biohazard for the night.  By morning, however, we found ourselves sleepless, incessantly coughing & sneezing, and generally feeling ill.  We sought out the owner for an explanation.  He waived the dorm fees for the previous night and offered us a whopping 10% discount on our next night.  F!%# you very much.  We had had it.Matt

Our week in paradise was littered with one ‘little’ problem after another.  Africa had beaten us.  We packed our things, and set off for the refuge of the Malawi Ski Lodge.  Skiing conditions at the lodge may not have been ideal, but at least that was a problem I could deal with.

Beer: Making a Difference

We have a theory.  Good beer leads to economic development.  Many economists have hypothesized other underlying drivers of development like human rights and democracy, education, access to finance, policies that are conducive to economic growth, and the list goes on and on.  Clearly these economists have missed the mark as evidenced in Figure 1 below.

Beer graph

Figure 1: A clear CAUSAL relationship based on thoroughly researched and solid evidence

carlsburgThe beers pictured to the left are a sad testament to the development state of Malawi.  To be fair, Carlsberg and even Kuche Kuche are not actively bad, but they do lack the potential to stimulate real and lasting economic growth.  The sad truth is that Carlsberg’s near monopoly on the Malawian beer sector is strangling the country’s economic potential.

DSCN1776Kick-starting development with good beer is no small task, but we at the Malawi Ski Report are doing what we can to contribute.  Over the last few months we have started a rigorous brewing effort.  Look at all the active carboys with bubbling brews pictured to the left!

DSCN1691And we are going beyond just beer.  The availability of a wide variety of fresh fruits and cheep honey repeatedly led us to the statement, “I bet we could make booze out of that.”  We’re brewing beers, meads, fruit wines, and cider.

 

Apple press for mangosAt times we have run into some technical difficulties.  Matt may look happy in this photo, but that is because he has not yet attempted to press the bucket of mangoes through an apple press.  Turns out that mangoes turn to a mushy paste rather than releasing any juice.

In the coming months we will continue to work and to drink to Malawi’s development.

In Search of Snow

Well, to be perfectly honest with all of you, the skiing conditions in Malawi have not been as favorable as we had hoped at the outset of our quest.  It has been almost 6 months now, and we have yet to actually encounter snow.  This has put a real hamper on our plans to introduce cross-country skiing as a sport to be enjoyed by all Malawians.

Mulanje Mountain behind a tea plantation

In an act of desperation, this past weekend we travelled to southern Malawi to climb this nation’s tallest peak, Mulanje Mountain, in search of snow.  Perhaps the middle of the hottest season was not the most promising time for our journey, but the possible allure of a snow-covered peak was irresistible.

Glacial Melt?

The first portion of the hike was disheartening as we sweat out gallons of water in the tropical heat.  What kept us moving were the dozens of waterfalls we encountered, which we hoped were sourced from glacial melt from above.  Sweat continued to pour out of us as we trudged up near vertical slopes.

Our Cabin

After 6 hours of hard hiking, we came to a cool, highland hut where we spent the night.

Then in the morning, we went scrambling over boulders and through little caves towards Malawi’s highest peak.

View from the top

We asked our guide about the quality of the skiing conditions near the summit, and he informed us that a few times during his 11 years of working as a guide, he has seen “ice blocks” form during the cold season.  Perhaps there is still hope.

You can see our excitement about the prospect of ice blocks next May in this carefully choreographed dance video:

http://youtu.be/h6pyceX-q34

Gallery

Chicken Coop Part 2

This gallery contains 8 photos.

After seeing our previous chicken coop post, you might have thought that there was no way that our chicken coop could have gotten any awesomer.  Turns out, you were way wrong!  The pictures speak for themselves.  This coop is glorious … Continue reading

Spodosol

It’s hard to get a good picture of me when I’m awake, cause I have a hard time staying still.

My name is Spodosol.  You may think that Spodosol is an all-purpose cleaning agent or maybe a stomach ulcer medication.  That’s why I go by “Spodi” for short.

A Spodosol is actually a taxonomic soil type with a color profile that resembles my puppy fur.  Maybe Lou dog should have been called Histosol.  Here’s a link so you can learn all about Spodosols: http://soils.usda.gov/technical/classification/orders/spodosols.html

As you may have guessed, Spodosols are commonly found under coniferous forests in Northern Wisconsin.

Sometimes I sleep in funny positions, but mostly I like to sleep hiding in a corner somewhere.

Lou is my best friend.

But actually, I’m from Africa.  I believe I am a very specific breed of Malawian mutt, but I don’t really remember my parents.  Rumors are that my mother was quite the show dog back in the day and not a street dog eating garbage.  I just remember a few things from my first couple months of life at the Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals.  One at a time, all of my brothers and sisters were adopted.  Then they put me in a pen with a bunch of other puppies (most of them were Inceptisols).

I was starting to worry that I would never be adopted and that either they’d put me down, or even worse, put me behind the fence with all the terrible dogs who never get adopted.

We have viscous battles all the time.

After we battle, we like to take naps.

But then Matt and Marie found me.  I knew they were the ones, so when Marie picked me up, I immediately peed on her, marking her as my own.  I knew that they sealed the deal when Sophie the vet brought out the microchip machine and some paperwork.  A couple shots and pills later and I was in a classy RAV-4 on my way to living the high life as a US diplomat in Lilongwe Area 12.

So far I have been a very good puppy.  I’m learning not to pee in the house, and I’m slowly starting to figure out what I can chew on and what I’m not supposed to chew on.

I love food.  I love it so much that I’m learning to do things like sit and lay down on command.  Because I eat so much more than I did before getting adopted, I’m getting bigger every day, and Matt and Marie are a little worried that I’m going to get as big as a house, just like Clifford the big red dog.  Clifford was an Oxisol.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

The other Obi-Wan Kenobi

When some people hear the name Obi-Wan Kenobi, they think of a Jedi from the Starwars.

I am not that Obi-Wan Kenobi.  I am a dog.  In fact, I am the biggest dog that I have ever seen.

Look how big I am

My head is particularly big.

I am also a puppy.  I think I was born about 10 months ago.

Lou knows how to fit through this gate. Someday I will figure it out too.

Normally I live with these people called Oghale and Sara, but they went away for a while.  Now I’m living with these people named Matt and Marie.

Matt and Marie also have this dog named Lou, and I can tell that they love Lou much better than me.  Maybe that’s because I’m a big oaf, and I’m dumb.  Maybe it’s because I’m a giant puppy that doesn’t have much control over the movements of my giant body.  Or maybe it’s because I peed on their bed a couple times.

I overheard Marie talking to Lucy the housekeeper.  Lucy said, “He’s too big… Maybe his owners fed him too much.”  Maybe that is what happened.

I can tell you something else that happened.

One day while I was at Matt and Marie’s house, I did as I always do, and I ran out the gate when it opened.  But on this particular day, I guess “the force was not with me.”  I’m not really sure what happened, but I’m told that a car hit me.  My leg got ripped open and I could see my bones and muscles and tendons and stuff.  My skin was all flopping open, and there was blood all over the driveway.

Seriously, they thought this cone was big enough?

The good part is that it meant that I got to spend some quality time with Matt and Marie cause they came home from work to take me to the vet.  Every time I go there, this lady named Sophie pokes me in the butt with something, and then the world gets kind of cloudy and serene.

Since that day, I think I’ve had to take another 5 or 6 trips to the vet.  I overheard some things about them thinking of cutting my leg off, and I heard some things about infections.   One time I think my gross leg almost made the volunteer pass out.  They never did cut it off though, and it’s getting better.  I can even put enough weight on it so I can occasionally run around in circles like my usual big stupid self.

I like to have a ball in my mouth at all times.

I think Marie does most of the work for my nasty leg – probably because she wants to get a puppy and wants to show Matt that she’s a stupendous caregiver for dogs.  She has been feeding me half a dozen pills or more a day.  I like to try to eat the food around the pill and leave the pills behind when I can.  She also changes my bandage all the time.  That’s mostly cause I like to rip it off.  You see the vet in Lilongwe didn’t have a big enough cone for my giant head, so I can still rip the bandage off.  Then when Marie tries to put it back on, I like to roll my big body all over the place and scratch my giant paws on things and squirm around, getting up and laying back down and doing other stuff to make Marie mad.

My owners come back next week.  I think Matt and Marie will bring me back to them, and I think I overheard them say something about giving them a pile of receipts from the vet too.