My Dark Side
Just when you think things can’t get any goofier, Texas comes through. Generous people, great food, a dynamite music culture, but the institutions of government beggar belief—and this is according to my Texas friends. The recent Texas Bored of Education’s rulings on science and history curricula win its majority members coveted spots in my personal Flat Earthers’ Hall of Fame.
And now the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has made my day, reviving my hopes that I can carve out a reputation as mad, bad and dangerous to know. They have banned the magazine I edit from all their prison systems.
This is not a first, and, frankly, Texas has a lot to live up to. Five years ago, an unfortunate subscriber to All About Beer Magazine got locked up in Florida. The laser-sharp team from the Florida Department of Corrections swooped on the poor fellow’s mail and barred the magazine on two grounds: “(2)(c) It depicts or describes procedures for the brewing of alcoholic beverages, or the manufacture of drugs or other intoxicants,” and “(2)(k) It otherwise presents a threat to the security, good order, or discipline of the correctional system or the safety of any person.”
The Department’s Literature Committee reviewed the magazine—possibly the only literary body that has ever done so—and gave their verdict in all caps: SECURITY THREAT.
And the letter was signed by Jeb Bush. Beat that, Texas!
The Lone Star State banned the mag for similar reasons, although without the benefit of a literature committee. An ‘x’ in a box identified our offense: “Publication contains information regarding the manufacture of explosives, weapons or drugs.” Yes, there we are, a magazine on beer, with our close pals: bombs, guns and crack.
Then, in the Remarks section, the specific concern read: “Page 82 contains detailed information on the manufacturing of alcohol.” Here is an excerpt from the incriminating page, written by our rabble-rousing homebrewer, K. Florian Klemp:
Steep 0.5# black patent or carafa I and 1.0# 60L or caramunich® III malt as you would for any extract brew, add water and 5.0# of Munich or amber malt extract to get 3.5 gallons of wort. Bring to a boil and add 1 oz of East Kent Goldings hops, boil for 20 minutes and add Irish moss. Boil for another 20 minutes and add 0.5 oz of Willamette hops and turn off the heat. Add 2 lbs of buckwheat honey and steep for 5 minutes. Chill, add to your fermenter and pitch English or American ale yeast.
If an inmate has never brewed beer, he will be no closer to doing so after reading this paragraph. And if he already understands brewing fundamentals, this will only make him long for a good supply of East Kent Goldings to spice up the little Cheerio-fueled fermentation project he already has going under his bunk.
Beer is not an explosive, a weapon or a drug. It’s just one of many things that inmates are not allowed to experience while they are guests of the state. It may cause the subscriber some sadness to read about something he cannot have behind bars, but I can’t help but suspect that beer gets singled out for special treatment. An understanding of aeronautics might conceivably contribute to a prison break, but I’ll bet you the powers that be don’t ban Hang Gliding Magazine.