So this priest walks into a hardware store…

So as you may recall my wife and I have gotten really into bourbon.  On our tour of the Bourbon Trail we tasted a lot of different bourbons and ryes and we saw a lot of different bottles.  The coolest bottle by far was from Willett.  Their flagship bourbon comes in a bottle shaped like their still.

My lovely wife and I at Willett


But what do you do with that very cool bottle once it’s empty?  Turns out they can be made into lamps.  While I’m not a very crafty person I figured it was worth a try.

So here’s how it’s done.

I started with a trip to the local hardware store,  You can get a basic lamp kit most anywhere but I did have to order the bit for drilling the glass.  Once that arrived I assembled all the parts and got to work.

Drilling a hole in the bottom of the bottle seemed tricky.  I practiced on an empty Four Roses bottle just to get the hang of it.  Turns out it’s fairly time consuming.  You have to constantly drip water where you’re drilling to keep things running smoothly.  But eventually the bit went through and the bottle was intact.

This meant it was time to try the Willett bottle.  The long, narrow neck made keeping things steady and level somewhat challenging but just ten minutes later it was all done.

Next came wiring the lamp.  I had spent some time trying to figure out what to do with the wire that would run up the middle of the lamp.  While a nice cloth covered cord wasn’t too unattractive if left exposed I really wanted something nicer.

Here’s a bare bones one I found online. Note the exposed cord- definitely not the effect I wanted!

Thankfully, there’s a whole lot of these lamps on Etsy and Pinterest.   After scrolling through the options I finally found a solution.  I could run the wire inside a slender copper pipe.

So, after drilling through the stopper I threaded the pipe and then the wire.  Wiring up the socket is very straight forward.  Once everything was made snug came the moment of truth.  Sure enough it lit up right away.

With lamp assembled and working, all I had to find a shade.  This was no simple matter.  After a lot of searching  I settled on a smaller shade made of copper colored silk.  A final tweak had to be made because the 10 inch harp that came with the kit was too tall .  One last quick trip to the hardware store and I had an 8 inch harp that worked perfectly.

While it took more than a month to go from the impetus to the final product, all in all it wasn’t that much work.  So next time the crafty urge strikes me I might just find myself walking into a hardware store again.

Show me the way to the next whiskey bar (or not)


Well, here we are, one week into Lent.  For the past several years my Lenten fast has been alcohol related. I have alternatively abstained from beer and from alcohol altogether.  As I considered my options I started taking stock of my life.  What habits were starting to trouble me?  What might God be calling me to change?

The answer didn’t take long.  Whiskey (usually bourbon or rye) had become a nightly ritual.  Just a few years ago it was a very occasional indulgence.  Beer was my undisputed drink of choice.  But since our trip down the Bourbon Trail in 2015 that after-dinner whiskey cemented its place in my nightly routine.

Unfortunately, along with that habit came a gradual increase in my consumption of alcohol. Especially when the whiskey isn’t getting measured out by the bartender it became all too easy to pour a double. Add high-proof varieties into the mix (one of my favorites, Old Weller Antique clocks in at 107 proof on up into barrel-strength whiskeys which tip the scales in the 130’s), and suddenly that “one” glass has the alcohol equivalent of one and half all the way up to three regular 80 proof drinks.

Just to keep things simple, I extended the fast to include all hard liquor, otherwise I’d be tempted to start substituting G&T’s or Armagnac which would defeat the whole purpose.

One week into Lent, I pleased to report that I’m doing OK. It’s been interesting to notice that when I am heading into the living room after cleaning up from dinner, my eyes are drawn inexorably upwards towards the liquor cabinet. While I miss it, the absence of whiskey isn’t causing me any existential crisis. And, as I hoped, it has cut down on my alcohol consumption. While I might choose to have a nice quad or Imperial Stout after dinner, I am certainly not temped to go back for seconds.

Of course I still have five more weeks to go and a lot can happen in that time. But I’m not losing any sleep over it. What will be really interesting is how I re-integrate whiskey back into my life once Christ is Risen. But for now, that’s a question for another day and another post.

What about you?  Do you fast for Lent?  If so, what do you give up?  Have you ever fasted from alcohol?  How did it go for you?

Recyling Beer

Its not what you think. In college I tried using beer to water a plant.  Apparently the plant did not appreciate the idea since it died.  And although I sometimes get desperate to find a topic to write about here there is just not much appeal in writing about recycling my beer into the toilet.  But it turns out there is another way to get the most out of beer that would otherwise go undrunk.

All whiskey starts its life as beer.  I knew it in a academic sense.  This past summer in Kentucky I got have close up encounters with huge cypress wood tanks of fermenting “distiller’s beer” which is a higher gravity, unclarified beer made without any hops or other additions that then gets distilled into white dog whiskey.   But until a couple of weeks ago, it never occurred to me that you could take an actual commercial beer and make whiskey with it.

Then I got a call to stop by and see Walt Palmer.  Walt, along with his wife, runs WP Palmer Distilling just a few blocks away from my house.  Although Liberty Gin is their flagship, Walt had started to dabble with making whiskey and plans to market Manayunk Moonshine.

Then he was given 10 kegs of coffee kolsch beer by a local brewery, St Benjamin.  WaltIMAG00741 was planning to make whiskey with it but needed some help in figuring out how to move the beer from the keg up ten feet in the air to fill his still.  With the help of a CO2 tank and a long piece of rubber tubing the problem was solved.

The process of making it was actually rather straight forward.  Once we pumped all the beer up and in it was then just a matter of time until the foam, which was taking up twice as much space as the liquid, could settle.



The next day, after taking a while to bring to a boil, the still started do its work.  The resulting first running clocked in at about 25% alcohol (the original beer was 4.8%).  After another run Walt hopes to wind up with a final product that is about double that strength which will then be aged with oak.  Look for an update in a future post.

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I have no idea what really to expect but look forward to seeing if any of the original coffee flavors make it through. A huge thank you to Walt for expanding my education!