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Theseus in a Bottle

May 31, 2011

Theseus (VII) is the second iteration of my cocoa-cinnamon mead, and last night, after a scant 13 days fermenting, I bottled it.

The reason I named it Theseus is because although I liked Mead II (my first Cocoa-cinnamon) mead enough to try to duplicate it (thus entitling the recipe a name) I wanted to make changes too. I realized that if I sought to only name the recipes that remained completely unchanged that I’d have lots of trial and errors to do before coming up with a mead worthy of a name.

I was faced with a dilemma – how worthy is worthy enough? What makes the word similar different from the word identical? Why must we face such ambiguities!?

For instance I knew that if one batch contained lemons and the other cinnamon the two are too dissimilar to be named the same. Likewise if one contains 5 lbs of honey and the other 15 lbs.

But what if one contains Cassia cinnamon and the other Ceylon? Or 100 grams of cocoa beans instead of 75?
Lets suppose as long as the difference is less than 10% they are the same. So 90 grams of cocoa beans and 100 grams of cocoa beans and the two may bear the same name.

But then one must qualify by saying only the original really counts otherwise you could easily descend from 90 grams to 81, and from 81 to 73, and so on and so forth until you have a product with as close to 0 cocoa beans as you wish and another with 100 grams and they could bear the same name.

So then the first recipe is truly the only recipe worthy of the name. All of the rest are mere shadows of the first as nothing can be named from them. This seems to be an affront to progress; eschewing change embracing tradition for the simple sake of tradition.

So, much like Theseus replacing parts of his ship as needed or desired, I decided I too can replace parts of a recipe, increasing or decreasing as I see fit and the name can flex with it. Ultimately ambiguities are something that we face every day, and the way we get around them is by ignoring that they exist and carrying on with our lives.

Now…for a word of advice for anyone planning on brewing.  Save yourself lots of swearing and unfathomable rage by purchasing what is known as an ‘auto-siphon’ rather than using what amounts to a hollow stick with a hose on the end and creating the siphon yourself.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with siphons, if you place a pipe from a higher water source to a lower point and then magically encourage the water to make that first journey to the lower level the water will continue to travel to the lower point until the top source is depleted or the two water levels reach an equilibrium.  For those of you who’ve ever tried to siphon gasoline, you use the hose like a straw, inhaling and wondering why it isn’t working until gasoline splashes all over you and it dawns on you that gasoline is one of the foulest tasting liquids you’ve ever tasted (to this day this remains true for me).  Aquarium enthusiasts also have their own tactic of starting a siphon, usually involving lots of swearing and pleading to the various deities that control such things as siphons and vacuum pressure and whatnot.

But the reality is: buy an auto-siphon*.  I had one…that I broke.  I decided that I’d save myself the $20 and do it the old-fashioned way and if I could ever bottle suffering and sell it (Mafia enforcer in a can?) I’d charge way more than $20 for the misery of siphoning.

*Alternatively non-siphon methods exist.  Since they don’t involve the word siphon you can basically rest at ease knowing that your vision won’t mist over with red and you’ll awake covered in blood with a pair of crimson kitchen shears still clutched in your hands.

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