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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Home brewing is my new favorite hobby.
Home brewing is my new favorite hobby.

Update on my home brewery

A few months ago, I blogged about my first homebrewing experience. Since then, my husband and I drank the first batch and made a second, which we just sampled last night.

I am happy to report that both of our batches were very drinkable. However, the first, a light-bodied lager, had a slightly bitter smell to it. Not offensive, but definitely not right, either. We think it was from the sanitizer we were sold, which was a sulphite sanitizer that we later found out is better for sanitizing wine bottles. We did not use this sanitizer the second time, instead we used One Step, and it was much better.

Our first batch, named "Leap Year Beer" because it was brewed on Feb. 29, had a lightly hopped malt extract that gave the beer a clear, golden hue. We will definitely make this one again in the summer because it was a total thirst quencher.

Our second batch, called "Long Winter Brew," is a stout. Technically, it is still in the carbonation process, but we couldn’t wait any longer and cracked open a bottle last night. (We tried in about a week early.) It’s meant to be a Guinness rip-off, with a dark caramel color and rich -- yet surprisingly light -- taste.

I have not gone so far as to make labels for our beer, but I am considering it for the next batch. Then, they would make nice gifts. I would also like to bottle a few 40 ouncers, since our brewery is jokingly called "Jamol's Ghetto Brewery."

We are currently researching how and when to add fruit to beer, since in a couple of months we will have tons of raspberries in our backyard, just begging to get added to a batch of Weiss or Lambic.

I am leaning towards brewing a Lambic, especially after ordering one this weekend, not knowing it was a $12 bottle of beer. It tasted delicious, but I really can’t make a habit of buying such pricey brews. So, like so many things I want but can’t afford, I’ll just have to make it myself.

Can I read this entire book this weekend? We'll see ...
Can I read this entire book this weekend? We'll see ...

Mother's Day weekend sans kids

For the first time, my kids are spending the weekend with their grandparents in Green Bay. We’ll pick them up on Sunday so I can spend Mother’s Day with them, but I’ll have about 48 hours prior to that without them.

So far, it’s strange. Good strange, but strange. I had one split second of panic, where my mind yelped, "The kids!?!" as if I had accidentally left them at a shopping center. Also, I’ve (so far) had one moment of melancholy when I saw their tiny, identical sandals lined up next to the back door.

However, overall, I am really excited to have some "me" time.

Here are a few things I plan to do this weekend:

1.    Read an entire book. I’m a fast reader, so this isn’t a big deal, but I do plan to plow through "Water for Elephants" since my book club meets next weekend and I haven’t started it.
2.    Plan my garden. We share a garden with our neighbors, and meet with them this weekend to divvy up the beds and responsibilities. I can’t wait to get dirty.
3.    Go to a completely non-kid-friendly fish fry. Not sure where this will be, but I’ll track one down.
4.    Drink copious amounts of homebrew. We finished two batches of homebrew this winter and early spring: "Leap Year Lager" and "Long Winter Stout." Both have been ridiculously under consumed, but not for long.
5.    SLEEP IN. Sadly, it will be amazing if I can slumber past 9 a.m., but I am really going to try.

Anything else I have planned for this weekend I’ll keep to myself since it may or may not be suitable for a blog that’s owned by my employer. Wink.

Glen Hansard of The Swell Season.
Glen Hansard of The Swell Season. (Photo: Andy Stenz)
Hansard and Marketa Irglová are music and life partners.
Hansard and Marketa Irglová are music and life partners. (Photo: Andy Stenz)
The Swell Season was originally slated to appear at The Pabst, but moved to The Riverside to accommodate the demand for tickets.
The Swell Season was originally slated to appear at The Pabst, but moved to The Riverside to accommodate the demand for tickets. (Photo: Andy Stenz)

Slam-dunk for The Swell Season

Prior to last night’s sold-out performance at The Riverside, I expected to see The Swell Season play the songs from the film "Once" and be done with it.

Instead, romantically-linked musicians and stars of "Once," Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, delivered a three-hour show -- along with their band -- that waivered between an explosion of raw emotion and an Irish hootenanny.

Opening act Damien Dempsey -- reportedly found by Hansard busking on the back streets of Dublin -- promised The Swell Season would "knock your socks off," and if I had been wearing any, they would have unraveled into a heap of synthetic, argyle fibers. Maybe even started on fire.

Yes, it was that amazing. 

Hansard opened the show, without a mic, singing the beautiful "Say It To Me Now" from the "Once" soundtrack, and then introduced the Czech singer, songwriter and pianist, Irglová.

Both appeared almost identical to the characters they played in the film. Hansard, who wore jeans and a work shirt with a blazer over it, maintained an infectious smile for most of the show, whereas Irglová was gentle and more stoic, dressed in a long red skirt and black top.

She did, however, absolutely beam when Dempsey told a story during the encore about the first time he saw Hansard perform in Dublin and how his singing made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

Irglová, 20, and Hansard, 38, fell in love during the making of "Once," which adds a deeply intense dimension to the film and the music. The couple, who started The Swell Season the year before the film came out, wrote all but one song on the soundtrack.

Earlier this year, they won an Academy Award for the soundtrack’s big hit, "Falling Slowly."

Hansard -- who is every bit as much a storyteller as he is a musician -- said the unexpected popularity of "Falling Slowly" made him feel like a kid who kicks a ball, hoping to make it past the garden, but instead, slams it over the garden, over the…

Tegan and Sara performed a sold-out show Wednesday night at the Pabst Theater.
Tegan and Sara performed a sold-out show Wednesday night at the Pabst Theater. (Photo: CJ Foeckler)
Tegan and Sara played a three-song encore.
Tegan and Sara played a three-song encore. (Photo: CJ Foeckler)

All eyes were on Tegan and Sara

Last night's Tegan and Sara show was an absolute blast. The identical twin sisters from Canada were witty and energized, ripping through dozens of their punk-infused power poppy songs, mostly from their latest recording, "The Con."

Highlights of the evening included "Walking with a Ghost," "Like O, Like H," "I Bet It Stung," "So Jealous," "Back In Your Head" and a rippin' version of "Nineteen" that had fans spilling into the aisles only to be scolded by the super stern security. (The only song on my mental list but not on the set list was the melancholy "Soil, Soil.")

The sisters were backed by a trio of male musicians, all of who faded into the backdrop -- a massive line drawing of three tree stumps -- because of the girls' all-encompassing presence.

Both Tegan and Sara dressed in black, with similar a-symmetrical, quasi-mullet haircuts, and both took turns singing and playing keyboards. Even though they were born only eight minutes apart, Tegan has the air of a "big sister"  whereas Sara is the slightly more lighthearted little sis. Together, they create a complex dynamic that's rooted in love and rivalry.

I thought a lot about my sister during this show, mostly wondering why the hell we spent so much time hacking the hair off our Barbies and fighting over sweaters instead of jamming out with guitars.

Known for their witty banter,  the sisters Quin dished up cute quips for Milwaukee fans. "I would like to address how adorable it is when you talk," said Sara. "But I have a really hard time impersonating it -- not to your faces of course, that would be rude -- but your accent is really cute."

Later, she promised to return to Milwaukee someday, and when she did, to give everyone in attendance a unicorn. 

Also, they addressed a longstanding issue about whether or not it's OK to stand during a concert. Particularly at The Pabst, concertgoers quibble over this because some like to watch the show as if it were a movie whereas other…