Posts Tagged ‘Liquor – Beer – Wine’

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

During Prohibition my great uncle Denis Warren, a veteran of some of the bloodiest American battles of the First World War, was left for dead on the side of Route 9N south of Port Henry. He was in the second of two cars of friends returning from Montreal with a small supply of beer.

Going through Port Henry customs agents gave chase, the car Denis was in hit a rock cut and he was badly injured. Figuring he was dead, or nearly so, and worried he would go to prison, one of Denis’s close friends rolled him under the guardrail, climbed into the other car, and sped off. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let’s Eat: Prohibition and the Burris Whiskey Jug

In 1918, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, banning “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States …for beverage purposes.”

The new law was widely unpopular. One Adirondack camp owner asserted, “We looked upon Prohibition as a great disaster. There was no sense of guilt in breaking this law. Everyone we knew shared our sentiments.”

During the “dry decade,” some Adirondackers found their isolated homes and camps made perfect spots for defying the ban on alcohol. Rumrunners smuggled booze from Canada through the Adirondack Park, finding it easier to hide from or outrun Federal agents in the woods. Adirondack neighbors looked out for one another, storing contraband and secretly gathering to enjoy a variety of smuggled or home made brews.

Clyde Adelbert Burris (1883-1957) lived on Pleasant Lake. Like many Adirondackers, he engaged in a variety of work to make ends meet. He worked as a painter and carpenter throughout the year. In the winter he cut and stored ice to sell to campers in the summer and made rowboats which he rented for fifty cents a day, on the honor system. During Prohibition, Clyde Burris made alcohol.

He owned and operated two stills near Pleasant Lake in Fulton County. One was located off the present-day East Shore Road “behind a big rock.” He sold whiskey by the gallon or in teacups to neighbors at “tea parties.” His granddaughter, Joyce Ploss, recalled discovering Burris’ hidden liquor bottles: “At the top of the stairs [there] was a panel which covered a secret room under the eaves. The whiskey was stored in this secret room, and we found many gallon jugs there, waiting patiently to be put to use.”

Ploss also discovered some of her grandfather’s handwritten recipes for making beer (in 6 and 20 gallon batches), and Tokay, alder berry, dandelion, and black sherry wines. His recipe for “Elder Blossom Wine”:

1 quart of blossoms with stems picked off and packed down

Pore 1 gallon of boiling water over them, let stand 1 hour then strain

Add 3 pounds sugar and let it boil a few minutes

Skim well and let stand until luke warm or about 70 [degrees]

Then add 1 grated lemmon and ½ yeast cake

Let stand in warm place for 24 hours and strain again

Then bottle but do not cork tight until it is through fermenting or the bottles will break

When it does not work any more it can be corked tight

On March 23, 1933. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which permitted the sale of certain types of alcoholic drinks. In December that year, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition altogether.

Come see Clyde Burris’ whiskey jug (2004.21), and more, in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

North Country-Grown Wines Win Awards

This week Richard Lamoy will help begin the harvest of 25 varieties of cold-hardy grapes at an experimental farm in Willsboro. “The grapes are running about two weeks late this year,” says Lamoy, who lives in Morrisonville and cultivates a three-acre vineyard of his own. With a cold winter, wet spring and summer, windy pollination and now a cold rainy harvest, he says, “pretty much anything that can go wrong this season has gone wrong. Still we’re hoping to get some good wines out of it.”

Wine grapes are new to the Champlain Valley so LaMoy was eager to find out how locally grown wines compare to more established vintages. This year he entered eight wines he made in a contest sponsored by WineMaker magazine. He came home with six medals, including a gold for French hybrid white grapes (LaCrescent). “Obviously they did pretty well,” he says. “I’m encouraged by that. The whites are doing especially well in this region.”

LaMoy is one eight grape and wine producers participating in a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded cold-hardy grape research trial based at the Cornell University Agricultural Research Station at the E.V. Baker Farm in Willsboro. The project was established in 2005.

The WineMaker contest is reputed to be the largest amateur winemaker event in the world and had 4,474 entries in 2009, judged in Manchester, Vermont.
 
Lamoy earned three silver medals for varietal wines (St. Pepin, Adalmiina, Petite Amie) made with locally grown French hybrid white grapes, and one bronze medal for a wine made with Champlain Valley French hybrid red grapes (Leon Millot). He earned another gold for a non-local grape.
  
Lamoy plans to apply for a winery license so he can sell wines next year. For now he’s gaining experience working in the vineyard at the Willsboro Research Farm and conducting Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education-funded trials in his own vineyard, Hid-In Pines.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program awards grants for practical on-farm research, outreach and technical assistance and is supported by funds from the New York State Legislature through the backing of the North Country’s state senators and assembly members.
 
The program receives support (funds, time, land, expertise, etc.) from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, six Northern New York Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations, W. H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, U.S. Department of Agriculture, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, cooperating farms, agribusinesses across the region, and others.

To learn more about the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, go online to www.nnyagdev.org, contact Program Co-chairs Jon Greenwood: 315-386-3231 or Joe Giroux: 518-563-7523, or call your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Photograph of grapes from the Willsboro Research Farm


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Adirondack Harvest Celebration Events

Adirondack Harvest, the community-based farm and food development and promotion program, is welcoming the fall harvest season with a week-long Adirondack Harvest celebration. the events offer opportunities to meet farmers, visit farms, taste products from local farmers, chefs, and markets. Here is the complete list of events from Adirondack Harvest:

Farm Tours on Saturday, September 12:

Black Watch Farm. 9:00am to 4:00pm. 56 Elk Inn Rd., Port Henry. 546-3035. Come visit this 1860’s civil war era farm located on 60 acres. Primarily a horse farm offering riding lessons Black Watch features Connemara ponies originally from Ireland. Their vegetables garden is laden with pumpkins, gourds & cornstalks. Delicious homemade jam for sale as well. A walk through this farm will bring you many photographic opportunities.

Adirondack Heritage Hogs. 10:00am to 12:00pm. 26 Clark Lane, Lewis. Adirondack Heritage Hogs currently has 20 pigs of varying ages, sex and breed including a litter of 5 that will be two weeks old at the time of the tour. They also have some pigs on pasture, and some in the woods as well as free range turkeys, laying hens and meat chickens. In addition they are nearing completion on a custom butcher facility and operate a sawmill on the premises.

DaCy Meadow Farm. 10:00am to 2:00pm. 7103 Rte 9N, Westport. 962-2350. The Johnston family at DaCy Meadow Farm raises British heritage livestock, sells natural pork and beef, and has an agricultural themed art gallery. They also host special events, business meetings, educational groups, and serve farm to table meals.

Uihlein Maple Research Station. Tour at 1:00pm sharp until about 2:30pm. 157 Bear Cub Lane, Lake Placid. 523-9337. The core of the Cornell Sugar Maple Program, the Uihlein Field station’s sugar bush of 4000 taps is used to demonstrate the merits of new technology and proper forest stewardship to visiting maple producers and landowners.

Ben Wever Farm. 2:00pm to 4:00pm. 444 Mountain View Drive, Willsboro. 963-7447. Heart and Harvest of the Adirondacks. Working with previous owner and “senior agricultural consultant emeritus” Ben Wever, the Gillilland family has given new life to an old family farm creating a diversified operation specializing in grassfed beef, pork, chicken, and turkeys. They also sell eggs and honey and have a picturesque farmscape scattered with beautiful horses.

Crooked Brook Farm & Studios. 4:00pm to 8:00pm. 2364 Sayre Rd., Wadhams. 962-4386. Come experience the famous Mongolian barbeque! Bring your own veggies and meat to throw on an original hand-forged grill. View oil paintings and monumental sculpture by Edward Cornell.

Adirondack History Center Museum on September 12 & 13: Daily 10:00am to 5:00pm. Court Street, Elizabethtown. 873-6466. During a year filled with celebratory events, the 2009 Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission has inaugurated the state’s first Heritage Weekend on September 12 and 13. Visitors are welcomed free, or at a reduced rate, to many museums, historical societies, and heritage areas in the Champlain Valley, the Hudson River Valley, and New York City. The Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown is offering free admission on Sunday, September 13 for Heritage Weekend and in celebration of Harvest Festival week sponsored by Adirondack Harvest and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County. For further information on Heritage Weekend sites, visit the New York Heritage Weekend website www.heritageweekend.org.

Cornell E.V. Baker Research Farm Tour on Tuesday, September 15: 10:00am to 12:00pm. 38 Farrell Road, Willsboro. 963-7492. The Cornell University E.V. Baker Research Farm serves to connect Cornell University faculty with important agricultural issues facing northern NY farmers including best management practices for perennial forages, tillage and soil health interactions, wine grape variety evaluations, small grain variety trials and season extension using high tunnels and other studies.

“A Taste of Essex County History” on Saturday, September 19: Crown Point State Historic Site and Campground, Crown Point, NY. Part of a day-long celebration of the Crown Point Lake Champlain Quadricentennial event re-dedicating the Crown Point Monument & Rodin Sculpture. Adirondack Harvest will have an agricultural history display on site as well as a market devoted to serving local foods and offering farm fresh items for sale from Adirondack Harvest members.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Hyde Museum Offfers ‘A Taste of Art’ Wine & Food Event

In conjunction with The Hyde Collection’s exhibition Degas & Music, the Museum (in Glens Falls) is hosting its 7th Annual A Taste of Art … A Wine and Food Experience on Friday, September 18 from 6:30 – 9:30 PM. In keeping with French Impressionist Edgar Degas’ lifelong interest in all things musical, the wine tasting décor will evoke the feeling of a 19th century ‘café concert’ – a popular form of musical entertainment of the period featured in the exhibition.

The evening offerings include a combination of various wines, complementary foods, and lively entertainment. Putnam Wine (Saratoga Springs) and Uncorked (Glens Falls) work together to bring in a wide selection of wines from New York and other US wine producing regions, as well as vintages from Europe, South America, and Australia. The wines are complemented by food samplings from a number of area restaurants including Adirondack Community College’s Culinary Program, The Anvil, Cherry Tomato, The Farmhouse Restaurant, Friends’ Lake Inn, Fifty South, GG Mama’s, Grist Mill, Luisa’s Italian Bistro, and The Sagamore. Davidson Brothers Restaurant and Brewery will host the beer garden in the Museum’s Hoopes Gallery.

Attendees will be entertained by two musical groups – The Dick Caselli Trio and Alambic, as well a silent auction featuring music, food, and art-related items.

Tickets for ‘A Taste of Art’ are $75 per person. Reservations are required and accepted on a first-come, first served basis. Those interested in attending should call 518-792-1761 ext. 23 or email bchildress@hydecollection.org. A special master class is open to Connoisseur Committee members (those contributing an additional $250 to the event). This year’s master class will focus on the wines which would have been familiar to Edgar Degas and his contemporaries. Because of the limited master class space, those wishing to join the Connoisseur Committee should contact the Museum at their earliest convenience.

All proceeds from the wine tasting event will benefit The Hyde Collection’s exhibitions and educational programs through the Museum’s Annual Fund.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

An Adirondack Cocktail

Adkforum has an interesting thread going about a bride’s search for an authentic Adirondack cocktail to serve at a Keene Valley wedding. So far the consensus seems to be Genny, though the western New York beer is being edged out by Lake Placid’s Ubu Ale.

Joe Conto teaches a class at Paul Smith’s College called “Beverages: Six Glasses that Changed the World.” Last summer his students invented Toni Basil Lemonade (“oh, basil, you’re so fine, etc.” ), a vodka and lemon cooler garnished with basil, for Lisa G’s restaurant in Lake Placid.

As for a drink with Adirondack ingredients, Professor Conto offers, “I make this one cocktail with:
1.5 oz Makers Mark
1/2 oz maple syrup (good stuff)
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into martini glass, Garnish with lemon twist (not wedge). The bourbon and the maple taste gooood together.”

He adds, “One time in New York City I had a drink with dark rum, maple syrup and lime juice (I assume the same proportions, maybe a little more syrup) served on the rocks with a lime wedge garnish. Also good. Actually, I might add a splash of club soda to this one.”

Potatoes are the region’s cash crop, so vodka would seem a possibility, but locally distilled P3 Placid Vodka is actually made with grain. Its Adirondack cred comes from Lake Placid water and filtration through Gore Mountain-area garnet. Whatever—this drink recipe from P3’s Web site sounds pretty good:
“The Miracle on Ice”
The Red – cranberry juice
The White – ice and a splash of Sprite
The Blue – muddled (mashed) blueberries
The Miracle – P3 Placid Vodka

There is a cocktail called an Algonquin, but it originated at the New York City hotel, not on the mountain or the lake. It calls for 1.5 oz Old Thompson Blended Whiskey, 1 oz dry vermouth, and 1 oz pineapple juice. Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Enjoy.

Photograph: left to right, Wood, Earth, Metal, Water and Fire: drinks invented by the bartender at Reflections, High Peaks Resort, Lake Placid.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ADK Club To Host "Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball"

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will host a “Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball” on Saturday, May 30. The gala and auction is the largest fund-raising event of the year for the club, with proceeds supporting ADK programs such as maintaining hiking trails and connecting children with the outdoors. Recommended attire for the event is semi-formal dress (black tie) and hiking boots, although the dress code will not be strictly enforced.

The Black Fly Affair will be held from 7 p.m. till midnight at the Fort William Henry Resort and Conference Center in Lake George. Selected regional food and drink vendors, including The Boathouse, Villa Napoli and the Fort William Henry Resort, will provide their specialties for sampling. Wine and champagne tasting is courtesy of Frederick Wildman & Sons Wine Distributors and beer sampling courtesy of Cooperstown Brewing Co. There will also be dancing to the music of the Frank Conti Band.

ADK boasts one of the largest silent auctions in the region in addition to its very lively live auction, where guests will bid on original artwork, outdoor gear, weekend getaways, jewelry, cultural events and more. The auction will be conducted by Jim and Danielle Carter of Acorn Estates & Appraisals. A preview of auction items is available at the ADK Web site, www.adk.org.

Dr. John Rugge, CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, is chairman of the event. Dr. Rugge is an avid paddler and author of two books about wilderness paddling. Longtime ADK leader Bob Wilcox will serve as master of ceremonies. Corporate support for the event has been provided by the Times Union, Jaeger & Flynn Associates, Cool Insuring Agency, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, TD Banknorth, The Chazen Companies and LEKI USA.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. To make reservations, visit www.adk.org or call (800) 395-8080, Ext. 25. To donate an auction item or to become a corporate sponsor, contact Deb Zack at (800) 395-8080, Ext. 42.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

John’s Ten Favorite Irish Songs For St. Paddy’s

Mary’s post on local traditional Irish music today inspired this list of “must have” Irish music everyone with Irish aspirations should know. Although these tunes are in no particular order, learn them and you’ll never spend St. Paddy’s alone.

Whiskey in the Jar – This classic tune is believed to have originated in the late 1600s or early 1700s. Since then it’s by been covered by The Dubliners, Thin Lizzy, Peter, Paul & Mary, Gerry Garcia and David Grisman, and Metallica. My favorite line: “I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier.”

Wild Colonial Boy – About 40,000 Irish convicts were transported to Australia between 1791 and 1867, many as political prisoners. There they continued to battle the British authorities as Jack Duggan does in this ditty – it doesn’t end well for Jack. My favorite line: “A terror to Australia was, the wild colonial boy”

Whiskey, You’re The Devil –
Whiskey leads our happy balladeer over hills and mountains. The word whiskey is an Anglicisation of the Gaelic “uisce beatha” (pronounced sort of like ishka ba) which translates as “water of life.” Today the Irish word is “craythur”; get The Pouges version. My favorite line: “Oh, whiskey you’re the devil, you’re leading me astray”

Finnegan’s Wake – James Joyce based his book in part on this song which includes the death of Tim – a hod carrier (a mason’s laborer) – and his subsequent wake at which a brawl breaks out, whiskey is spilled on Tim and he is revived. The Dropkick Murphy’s punk version is good craic. My favorite line: “You see he’d a sort of a tipplers way, but for the love for the liquor poor Tim was born. To help him on his way each day, he’d a drop of the craythur every morn.”

I Got Laid on James Joyce Grave – A Black 47 original. The band is named for the worst year of the Famine, Black 47. The song is an homage to Joyce and that says enough. My favorite line: “I Got Laid on James Joyce’s Grave, I was hoping that his genius would rub off on me.”

Wild Rover – A Traditional favorite you will hear on St. Paddy’s almost anywhere. It sounds like a proper old Irish drinking song, but in truth it is a Temperance song from the early 1800s. My favorite line “I’ve been a wild rover for many’s the year, and I spent all me money on whiskey and beer.”

James Connolly – One of my favorite songs of all time about the socialist labor leader, one time resident of Troy, NY, and commander of the Free Dublin forces during the Easter Rebellion of 1916. “With Pearce and Connolly bidding each other goodbye,” he was seriously wounded, captured, and taken to Kilmainham Jail where he was tied to a chair and executed. My favorite line: “So don’t give up your rifles boys, hold on to the dream, of a republic for the working class – economic liberty.”

Come Out Ye Black and Tans – Although Americans typically don’t know it, the half ale and half stout served as a “Black and Tan” is called a “Half and Half” in Ireland, and for good reason. The Black and Tans were a paramilitary group used to suppress revolution in Ireland in the 1920s. Their main targets were the Irish Republican Army, but they were notorious for their attacks on Irish civilians. My favorite line: “Come out ye Black and Tans, come out and fight me like a man, show your wife how you won medals out in Flanders, tell her how the IRA, made you run like hell away, from the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra.”

Seven Drunken Nights – When The Dubliners play this song, they announce they can only sing five of the nights – the last two verses are generally considered too raunchy for the general public. If you hear them in the pub where you are, you know you are in the right place. My favorite line: “Your drunk, your drunk, you silly old fool, and still you cannot see.”

Irish Men Will Set Them Free – The beginning line – “In the jail that held McSwiney; In the prison where he died” – is all you need here, but there is more to this tale of women imprisoned for their “love of dear old Ireland.” The title is sometimes offered as “The IRA Will Set them Free.” My favorite line: “Twas the love of dear old Ireland brought them to a prison hell, but the ghosts of Pearse and Connolly, filled their lonely prison cell, Clarke and Plunkett stand beside them, McDonagh McDermott and Wolfe Tone, and all the voices of old Ireland, cry for us to bring them home.”


Monday, August 25, 2008

OPINION: Lower The Drinking Age

I recently read that as many or more people are killed crossing at marked crosswalks than jay-walking. It got me thinking about all those jay-walking stings – you know, where the police lay in wait for people to cross the street.

In July more than 100 college presidents took an important step toward backing away from that kind of criminalizing barrage on Americans by suggesting we lower the drinking age to 18. It’s called the Amethyst Initiative and it was begun by John McCardell, the former President of Middlebury College in Vermont.

The website says:

These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses.

The Amethyst Initiative supports informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. Amethyst Initiative presidents and chancellors call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

Those locally who have supported the idea include (1, 2, 3):

  • Paul Smith’s College President Dr. John Mills
  • Clinton Community College, Interim President Dr. Frederick Woodward
  • Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins
  • St. Lawrence University President Daniel F. Sullivan
  • Hamilton College President Joan Hinde Stewart
  • Plattsburgh State President Dr. John Ettling “feels the idea deserves serious consideration”

Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Robert Clarke and University of Massachusetts System President Jack M. Wilson also signed on.

MADD is, well, mad. They still argue that raising the drinking age in 1984-1988 is what has reduced alcohol related deaths among 16 to 20 year-olds (why 16 and not 18?) some 60 percent since 1990 – though they have risen over the past ten. I’ll bet the cause is more likely the stricter DWI enforcement and penalties – the bottom line is young people need to learn from their elders what responsible drinking is about.

Chicago’s Mayor Daley (son of Richard “the policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder” Daley) is also mad:

You think the president of the university is gonna open a beer hall in his house? Do you think the coach of the baseball team or football team will open it up? They should raise their standards and think that drinking is not part of college life. … Everybody has responsibility on this and drinking at universities isn’t something you should be proud of. … You don’t send your son or daughter to learn how to drink at universities. You send ‘em for an education.

According to the more civilized discussion points in the piece:

More than 40 percent of college students reportedly show at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependence. And every year, more than 500,000 full-time students at four year colleges suffer injuries tied in some way to excess drinking.

I’ll go with Peter McWilliams – a man who really understood these issues and who once wrote:

It is the law’s job to protect innocent people from likely harm to their person or property. It is not the law’s job to protect adults from the risks of their own consensual acts.

In case you still have any doubt that criminalizing drinking will make any real cultural difference, here is an article from the Ticonderoga Sentinel on backsliders in the Schroon Lake Temperance Society in 1884:

C. T. Leland has found an old book giving the facts concerning the organization
of the Schroon Lake Temperance Society in the year 1884, and gives the names of all members, business transacted, record of back-sliders, etc.

At the start 185 persons joined, altho we find that beside many names are written the words “withdrawn,” “older,” “drank,” “intoxicated” giving exact dates of each slip-up, while beside one name appears this amusing inscription “Mr. Benthusen,” “drank every time any body asked him,” and below that information some one had added these words, “Who could blame him.”

Who could indeed. Abstinence and enforcement have failed, it’s time for another approach.


Wednesday, November 1, 2006

20th CD – The End of Congressman John Sweeney?

According to a New York State Police document unofficially obtained by the Times Union [pdf] Corporate Republican Congressman John Sweeney‘s wife told police last year that he was “knocking her around the house.” According to the TU:

Sweeney’s wife, Gaia, [twenty years his junior] placed the emergency call to a police dispatcher in Saratoga County at 12:55 a.m. on Dec. 2, according to the document.

“Female caller stating her husband is knocking her around the house,” a dispatcher wrote. “Then she stated ‘Here it comes, are you ready?’ and disconnected the call. Upon call-back, the husband stated no problem … asked the wife if she wanted to talk. Wife (caller) then got on the phone and stated that she’s fine and that she’s drunk. Caller sounded intoxicated. She advised that she was endangered for a moment, but everything is fine.”

He’s claimed the report is, if you can believe this, fake! What’s more, he’s threatened any media that reports on it:

“If any media outlet plans to run a story based on this unauthentic, false and concocted document the outlet should be prepared to deal directly with our counsel.”

There is really no surprise here. Just two weeks before the alleged wife beating incident Sweeney’s son seriously beat another young man in a fight:

Less than two weeks earlier, his son, John J. Sweeney, then 19, pleaded guilty to felony assault charges for his role in a fight that left another young man with skull fractures and blurred vision. The younger Sweeney initially faced the prospect of spending up to 15 years in prison, but a plea deal gave him youthful offender status and a sentence that included four months of weekends in jail and community service.

No surprise there either. Remember that bar fight from almost a year ago?

New York Daily News reported Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, took a blow from a Red Sox fan who’d had enough of Sweeney’s pro-Yankees banter one evening earlier this month at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse in Washington, D.C. Sweeney spokeswoman Melissa Carlson flatly denied the report, saying the alleged incident was nothing more than a “heated discussion about Yankees vs. Red Sox.”

No suprise there either – remember the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections Republican riot? Guess who couldn’t keep his anger in check there either; guess who “gave the signal”?

The suddenly prominent Mr. Sweeney is credited for giving the signal for last week’s productive Republican fracas inside the Miami Dade county offices, after which the canvassing board abruptly canceled a hand recount of votes that would have helped Al Gore.

How about his refusal to answer questions about the ORDA sweetheart deals he was passing to his lobbyist buddies?

How about his lies regarding why he won’t debate?

How about his lies about his opponents place of residence?

How about his attempt to distance himself from his record of supporting the Bush Administration.

Or his voting in support of the positions of the Christian Coalition 69% of the time.

Or his voting for prayer in public schools on numerous occasions. The National Education Association gives him only an 18% approval rating.

Or his voting for making it a federal crime to transport minors across state lines for an abortion. His record is 90% anti-abortion.

Or his voting to ban adoptions by gays or other individuals who are not related by blood or marriage (HR 2587). Sweeney has just a 21% rating by the ACLU.

Or his support for free trade, tax cuts, and social security privatization.

According to his wikipedia entry:

Sweeney also opposes environmental protections and was given a “D” grade by EANY for opposing GE dredging of PCB aka Polychlorinated biphenyl from the Hudson River.

In 2001, Sweeney voted against a bill that would require increasing average fuel efficiency standards and offer incentives for alternative fuel vehicles. (Bill HR 4).

Sweeney received an “F” on the Drum Major Institute’s 2005 Congressional Scorecard on middle class issues.

According to EMILY’s List, Sweeney has taken more campaign contributions from special interests than any other of New York’s 29 Representatives.

Sweeney is also the seventh largest recipient of contributions from lobbyists out of all 435 House representatives.

Then there is the January 2001 trip Sweeney made to the North Marianas with Tony C. Rudy, an associate of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Sweeney has said that the North Marianas Islands government paid for the trip, but the government denied that. And just what is the Jack Abramoff – Lake George – John Sweeney connection?

Then there is also this:

On April 11, 2003, Sweeney began paying a company called Creative Consulting for fund-raising. The company had been founded a day earlier by Gaia (goes by the name Gayle) Ford. Between April 2003 and December 2003, Sweeney’s campaign paid $42,570 to the firm.

Sweeney’s wife, who had no previous fund-raising experience, gets 10 percent of whatever she raises. Between January 2005 and April 2006, Ford was paid $30,879. And that’s not all the fundraising scandals.

And there was this classic:

On April 22, 2006, Sweeney reportedly appeared at a registered party at the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity of Union College. Witnesses reported that, after leaving a bar, he appeared to be intoxicated. Photographs and videos captured some of the events. Sweeney denied being drunk and denied drinking at the party.

All of this seems to pale by comparison, if that’s possible, to his alleged drunk driving incident:

On the night of January 23, 2001, around 10:00 p.m., Sweeney lost control of his 2001 Jeep Laredo and hit a utility pole on a rural upstate road, shutting down power to the homes of several residents and to the nearby Willard Mountain ski resort, stranding skiers aloft on the chairlifts. Sweeney was not charged or ticketed, and the state trooper on the scene refused the offer by a volunteer-fire-department chief to send a crew to the site to direct traffic (instead, a local resident did this, for an hour and a half, with downed and live electrical wires about). In early February, a local newspaper reported that Sweeney had been in a bar before the crash. Witnesses came forward to insist that Sweeney had only one or two glasses of wine. The newspaper noted that Sweeney was not given a sobriety test by the state trooper on the scene.

Now for the resignations:

State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett
Awarded for allowing Sweeney to get away without a sobriety test in 2001 and for covering up the domestic abuse incident.

Saratoga County Republican Chairman John “Jasper” Nolan
Awarded for lying to the citizens of his county by stating that the domestic abuse document was forged and saying “In my mind, that certainly came from the Gillibrand camp. And I think it’s low and disgusting.”

Warren County Republican Chairman Michael Grasso
Ditto, though he said “It’s obviously garbage”

The Editors of Glens Falls Post Star
Awarded for failing to protect the citizens of their community by endorsing Sweeney.

“Kirsten Gillibrand is a strong candidate and has waged a solid campaign. But she’s just not experienced enough to have her first elected position be congresswoman. If you want a candidate who has the political clout and experience to help the region, then put aside any misgivings you might have about his conduct and vote for John Sweeney on Nov. 7.”

Yeah… sure – exactly what job did he have before being elected in a heavily germandered district held by the retired Gerald Solomon? That’s three years as Executive Director & Chief Counsel of the New York Republican Party and then two years appointment by George Pataki as New York State Commissioner of Labor.

What he does have experience in, as someone at the TU Capitol Confidental blog pointed out:

No oversight of Bush
No oversight of the war in Iraq
No oversight of the war in Afghanistan
No oversight on whether or not we are torturing detainees
No oversight of the Dept of Homeland Security
No oversight of the Katrina reconstruction
A Congressman who turns a blind eye to sweatshops

A Congressman who thinks that NYS taxpayers should pay for junkets for his campaign contributors

A Congressman who, through his wife, collects a percentage of all the money that is donated to his campaign fund.

But hey, at least he’s experienced. He may be a disgrace to his office, but he’s an experienced disgrace.

We couldn’t agree more – the people of New York’s 20th Congressional District, perhaps one of the most important of the Adirondack election districts deserve better that one of the 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress. Even veterans don’t like him any more – but that’s ok with Sweeney, he likes millioniares more than veterans anyway.

Oh.. and one last resignation – Sweeney Spokeswoman and North Creek resident Maureen Donovan, the former Warren County Development Corp [read scam development corp] leader who seemingly opposes both the rights of women and the electorate. The first volley in the Sweeney Gillibrand campaign was fired by Weeney in May 2006:

“You can’t take a resumé and a pretty face from New York City and say to people this is good for you simply because we can spend a lot of money and raise a lot of money,” Sweeney told the Troy Record.

“Someone should tell John Sweeney that it’s 2006, not 1906,” Former State Democratic Chiar Judith Hope said, adding that “the remarks jumped out at me because I think it’s so inappropriate for the congressman to use. … As a woman in politics, I call on Mr. Sweeney to represent the district and address the issues and provide accountability and some answers.”

What was Donovan’s response?

Sweeney campaign spokeswoman Maureen Donovan fired back that Hope “needs to lighten up a little bit.”

That’s no suprise either. Anyone who’s met Donovan’s husband – who is the notorious owner of Casey’s North bar on Route 28 – can probably already guess what the Donovans think of local Adirondackers, male or female.

We only hope local Adirondackers will remember what Sweeney thinks of them.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Adirondack Pool Balls: The Albany Billiard Ball Company

Here in the Adirondacks local pubs almost always have a pool table. For most of the history of Adirondack billiards, the Albany Billiard Ball Company supplied the balls. The company is believed to be one of the earliest plastics companies in the world.

According to The Smithsonian the business was started in 1868 in the South End of Albany. John Wesley Hyatt (1837-1920), one of the company’s founders, was the inventor of celluloid which was used as a substitute for ivory, from which billiard balls were then being made (before the 1600s, bibilliardalls were made of wood).

According to Brunswick: “Ivory from elephant tusk grows in an annual ring, much like a tree. A blood vessel that goes through the center of the tusk can be seen as a black dot.” The dot served as the center mark of the ball where the ball was pinned while being turned on a lathe.”

The Plastiquariana> reports that:

[Albany billiard ball maker] Phelan & Collander were offering a $10,000 reward for a suitable substitute for ivory, the growing shortage of which was threatening their business. Hyatt spent several years in the search for such a material but there is no evidence that the prize was ever awarded. Indeed, Hyatt set up his own manufacturing company which, a little later, became the Albany Billiard Ball Company. Initially, composition balls were coated in a coloured layer of almost pure cellulose nitrate [called collodion].

According to the Smithsonisn, The “Hyatt” composition ball dominated barroom and pool hall tables until the 1960s, but according to the Billiards Guide:

Unfortunately, the new balls could shatter under hard impact and manufacture of them had to be stopped until a fix for this problem was found. The discovery that solved this problem was celluloid. However, because of the problems with his earlier billiard balls, acceptance of these celluloid billiard balls did not come easily. However, this process did lead to the discovery of Bakelite and cast-phenolic resins which are the main components of billiard balls even to this day.

Thanks for the photo and idea from an anonymous Craiglist Request.

Some Adirondack Pool Links

The Winners of Last Year’s Joss Cues Northeast 9 Ball Tournament at Adirondack Billiards in Glens Falls

The Greater Albany American Poolplayer Association


Suggested Reading

Byrne’s Complete Book of Pool Shots: 350 Moves Every Player Should Know

Byrne’s Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards


Friday, December 30, 2005

Hops Around. Hops Around. Get Up and Get Down.

A while back (a long while back) William Dowd’s Hops To It post got us thinking about doing a nice piece on the history of hops in New York and the Adirondacks; Especially now that the Beer Hawkers have returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Over at the Northeast Hop Alliance, there is a nice recent NY hop history. While hops was a staple crop of New York farmers in years past it, only last year was the first beer brewed with all New York hops.

Hops, once a leading specialty crop in New York state, suffered from plant disease and insect pests. Prohibition in the 1930s also helped spell the crop’s demise, and 50 years ago, production ceased.

The last beer made entirely from New York-grown hops was brewed in the 1950s.

In the Adirondacks hops were an important supplemental crop for many farmers and hop picking provided income to many women and children as well. In Merrilsville George Lamson hired local women to pick his hops every year – Mrs. Henry Fadden wrote a poem about her hop-picking experience:

I went picking hops and though I worked with a will,
I had to go back with my box half filled.

To find my house in disorder, my dishes unwashed.
The children were sleepy, my husband was cross;

And because I didn’t get the supper before I swept the floor,
He kicked the poor dog and slammed the back door.

And said that if I would leaving picking hops alone,
He would give me a job of picking stone.

His advice was unheeded, I refused with disdain,
And resolved the next day to try it again.

Convinced if only I would do my best,
I could pick hops as fast as the rest.

But the weather was cold and I almost froze.
My fingers were numb and cold were my toes.

Thus for five long days I labored and toiled,
My work was neglected, my temper was spoiled.

And though you may think my experience funny,
I am resolved in the future to let the men earn the money.

The last reference I could find regarding the growing of hops in the Adirondack region was a 1949 notice of the arrival of “400 pounds of Bavarian beer hop roots” in Malone where “local growers hope to revive a once-flourishing New York industry.” Unfortunately, the importers were not mentioned by name, and how the experiement went was never revealed.

And who knew? Hops are good for you!

And while we’re at it:

Alan over at Gen X at 40, has our region on his mind – he’s looking forward to a trip to the Adirondacks, and at his Good Beer Blog, he has spotlighted Saratoga’s He’Brew 9 and declared his pick for Best Pub of 2005… drum roll please… is…..

Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George

Have a great new year!


Suggested Reading

The Homebrewer’s Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing Herbs


Friday, December 2, 2005

Demon Rum: The Adirondack Winter Elixir

Alternet is offering a nice set of articles [one, two] on Rum the booze that changed the world. One of our favorite excerpts:

As the Prohibition and Temperance movements grew in strength patriotic prints of the first president and his officers were bowdlerized. The Currier and Ives print of [George] Washington’s farewell toast to his officers that was published in 1848 showed a glass in his hand and a decanter on the table. By 1867, the glass had disappeared, leaving him with his hand on his chest in Nelsonian mode, and the decanter had been converted to a hat! Successive biographers of Patrick Henry turned him from a former tavern keeper to an occasional tavern visitor, before dropping the tavern entirely from his life story.

And then there is this gem:

On January 15, 1918, a 58-feet-high tank built by the Purity Distilling Company split open and disgorged its 2.3 million gallons — 14,000 tons — of molasses. Like some glutinous volcanic lava flow, it gurgled across the North End of the city in a flood 5 feet deep that ran at 35 miles an hour, taking over twenty people in its path to the stickiest of sticky ends.

Molasses drownings aside, maybe its time for a Rum Revival! Check out:

Peter’s Rum Labels

Wikipeda: Rum Running

Rum Across the Border The Prohibition Era In Northern New York

A Coast Guard History of Rum Interdiction

The Epic Story of the Drink That Conquered the World

Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

Rum, Romanism, & Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884

We like beer, though we’ve commented before on liquor in the North Country, and on Homeland Security and Prohibition. – in case you missed it.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

We like beer…

Especially good local beer. Lake Placid Pub and Brewery’s UBU (as in “sit Ubu sit”) is an extra special favorite. We’ve always been a fan of the Saranac Brewery, though we were terribly distressed when regional favorite Utica Club left the shelves in droves. Sure Saranac is keeping the old F. X. Matt / Utica brewery operating, but Utica Club was a classic! So it’s with great hopes and anticipation that we look forward to the return of the old greats in a retro beer revival.

We’re glad Yuengling is back, but we still fear for Genny, and the now lamented 12 Horse Ale.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Commentary: When We’ve Had Enough

Adirondackers have a strange relationship with alcohol, especially on campus. This fact really hit struck me after a local kid, just graduated from high school left for Iraq. He was 17 when he signed up – when he comes back, he’s still won’t be able to drink legally. Sure, kill a few Iraqis, get shot at (or killed), see your buddies blown to bits, clean up some blood and gore, meet people living in unimaginable suffering and poverty, but when you come home – don’t have a glass a wine – and don’t get into your car after you’ve had two.  Between March 19, 2003 and May 7, 2005 more than 480 of the 1,589 US military deaths have been young people under the age of 22 [statistics].

Standing outside the local Nice and Easy, Stewarts, or family grocery on a weekend sees a stream of locals, tourists, and summer residents getting their beer, and lots of it. When there isn’t much to do – only the biggest towns have a movie theater, bookstore, or coffee shop – hanging around the fire with friends and a bottle of wine or a few beers has its appeal. No fireplace? Then head out to the local tavern – towns that don’t have a single other open business after 7 or 8 pm, sometimes have two or three bars. During the week, some communities are deserted, especially in winter, except for the local pub.

So why is there a war on against bar owners and their patrons? Why do towns with few local business and few residents still have a county cop shop and/or state trooper station and constant patrols? Sure, like all the new roadblocks and firehouses built around the region after 9-11 we can point to the abuse of our irrational fears by institutions already tapped into a state and federal tax redistribution system – we pay it, they take it and use it against us.

So too with the newest attack on the DWI front. The Republicans in the NYS Senate passed legislation to once again increase the penalties for driving while intoxicated (as the Republicans in the Assembly demanded last year). Ask any tavern owner and they’ll tell you that the biggest drain on their business has been the onslaught of police overzealously enforcing the DWI laws. Even restaurants point to reduced business, dinner checks that are half what they used to be, bartenders making half the money they used to, all thanks to the fear of having half a drink (or inhale) to many (according to the law – some folks get one or two) and getting a d-we on the way home.

What about the dangers of drunk driving I hear some of you shouting… well we’ve had laws on the books since the eighteen nineties that require you to stay in your lane, require you to not drive recklessly, require you to drive within the bounds of road conditions and speed limits. In Saratoga County, about 1,100 of the 8,600 arrests police make annually are for DWI – and 25 percent of people under correctional supervision have been charged with drunk driving [source].

No doubt there are horrible and needless deaths from idiots who get outrageously drunk, climb behind the wheel, and then violate all civility by driving recklessly and killing someone in the process. But guess what? Senior citizens driving when they don’t have complete control of their vehicles, young drivers on joy rides, big rig drivers who’ve been on the road too long, idiots with a penchant for speed or aggressive driving, crazy border patrol who don’t use common sense in setting up roadblocks, cute girls putting on their make-up, and businessmen and women yapping on their cell phones are all killing themselves and others behind the wheel.

“When you have people getting in the car with that type of blood-alcohol content, it just proves that people aren’t thinking when they’re drinking,” Karen Pettigrew of the Saratoga County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving told the Saratogian, “Every person caught is a potential tragedy averted,” she said – well thank god we are imprisoning people at the highest rate in the world to avert potential tragedies – of course the Saratogian duly reported that statement without question.

We don’t ban cell phones, or make-up, so why do we hunt – and that’s what’s happening out there, police are hunting for these so-called criminals who would have, using all common sense and legitimate statistics, driven home perfectly safely, and who, if they knew the right person, would have continued on their way home no matter what their blood-alcohol level. They are also hunting, using children as bait, the low-wage workers who serve them – with corporate crime on the rise, don’t officials have better things to do than this? or this? or this?

I agree with Anna over at Bad Samaritan, the folks at Modern Drunkard Magazine and the DUI Blog – there are always going to be a few boneheads who don’t follow the rules and simply aren’t civil – it’s time we ended the hysteria and the attendant police state and took a more reasonable look at our relationship to alcohol.