Thursday, September 29, 2016

Passport Hell

This past April I sent in a form, photo and fee to renew my U.S. passport. My check was cashed in July. By the end of August I was living in a nightmare. I went to the passport office website to see about my status as I was due to receive it and saw that it was being processed. I also logged in to receive email messages. About a week more with no passport in my mailbox I started calling the number provided. They could not tell me anything more than what was on the website. When I thought it was long overdue I called a few more time with the same negative result. Once a man said he would request somebody call me about why I had not received it. To date no call. Finally after desperation set in and that it was not mid-September I called twice in one week. The call center could tell me nothing. Why am I calling them I wondered? It was time to speak with a supervisor. While on hold somebody pushed a button too quickly and I heard said supervisor say “Well, he is going to have to comply like everyone else”. Yes, I wanted to I thought.


I found that the call center is a third party and they have no information other that what you see on the site. I was told (in September) that I was sent a letter in April telling me my AAA photo was rejected. Thanks to the Post Office I never received it. The super did request somebody call me and the next day I finally found out the photo was rejected as it was grainy and not the right white background. It is now going on six months and still no passport. I sent in a new one taken at a post office.


Why have people take questions if they have no ability to give answers or direct you to people who can? The supervisors at the call center have no clue that people are calling for real answers. I sent is a new photo and have no confidence that I may get my passport in my lifetime. This is the third time in my life I have renewed and the first time I am living in hell.


In a merry-go-round system, the passport website says to call for more information but when you do they tell you to visit the site for more information. If you miss getting a letter you are out of luck as there is no other number to call. They are truly behind a wall. Mr. Trump, tear down this wall.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Octoberfest Bier English Style

As this is the Oktoberfest season I thought I would tell a short story on the origins of Oktoberfest. No, not the party but the beer.

Right to the point, English Pale Ale was the forerunner of Oktoberfest and Vienna (Austrian) bier. Yes, I said that and a sober man I be. In the 1830’s two continental brewers, Anton Dreher (from Vienna) and Gabriel Sedlmayer II (from Munich) visited England to learn brewing techniques. They were very good brewers but wanted to see and learn more. They knew something was brewing in England (sorry, I just had to use that line) so in the 1820’s and 30’s they went on a massive tour d’ brew. Beer was made using brown malt for centuries as that was pretty much it. Brewers knew of pale malt but it was hard to make and expensive. The first pale beers on the continent were Dreher’s Vienna and a Pilsner from Bohemia in 1842. English country gentlemen were making pale ale since the early 1700’s.

Sedlmayer continued to brew brown beer in Munich but he developed consistent brews by using bottom-settling yeast. His methods produced beers that allowed the malt to fully express itself as opposed to the top-floating yeast that gave fruity flavors. Dreher as well as the English were using “top-fermenting” yeast in their brewing but Sedlmayer was exploring the use of “bottom-fermenting” brewing. The brewers of Munich were using bottom yeast sine the 1400’s. But it was not known in Austria until much later.

In Vienna, Dreher attempted to brew English-style ale using the new pale-malt. It did not sell well but that was probably due to regional taste. He then made a lager (and history) when he combined pale-malt and Sedlmayer’s brewing method. This March beer had a good body and clean taste, but what made this different was the copper color. It took the name Vienna to distance it from all other German Märzenbiers that were still brown in color. Vienna malt takes its name from the city as that is where it was developed. Taken to the Munich Oktoberfest Dreher’s beer was excitedly received by the patrons who proclaimed it the official Oktoberfest bier. And that is why Oktoberfest beer is not (or was not) quite the same as Märzenbier.

In Pittsburgh one can enjoy a fine Vienna beer made by Penn Brewery in Deutschtown.

Rule Britannia,

Ed Vidunas