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About Us

Welcome to the Brookston family blog. We'll post updates here on what's going on in our part of the world, and especially with our son, Porter, who has been diagnosed with some form of autism. Our hope is that this blog will help us deal with all the issues we'll be facing and keep our friends and family informed as well.

Jay B.

Sarah J.

Porter Brookston
born September 10, 2001

Alice Brookston
born July 7, 2004

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January 28, 2007

Last Day in London

Categories: Photos, J, Friends, Beer, Trips — J @ 12:52 pm

We had nothing planned for Sunday so we all wen our separate ways on our own adventures. I did some shopping for gifts for the kids and Sarah and then met Keith near Piccadilly in the afternoon. We spent a nice day catching up and sightseeing.

I took the tube to Piccadilly Circus to shop for the kids at Hamley’s toy store.

The Crown on Brewer Street.


Trafalgar Square at night.

Keith trying to take a night photo, too. We’re standing on the front porch, so to speak, of the National Gallery.They were getting ready to close, but we did get to see a new exhibition, Manet to Picasso, which featured some great pieces like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Renoir’s The Umbrellas, among much else.

Then we strolled down to the Houses of Parliament to see Big Ben.

Looking up at Big Ben from the Westminster Bridge.

The giant London Eye ferris wheel across the Thames.

That night Keith and I had dinner at the Seven Stars pub.

The Seven Stars in Holborn is an ancient pub that celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2002.

Keith and me before I dropped him off at the tube station and walked back to my hotel, stopping at the Queen’s Larder for a last pint.

• • •

January 26, 2007

The Brewery Museum at Cantillon

Categories: Photos, J, Friends, Beer, Trips — J @ 10:41 pm

Our first stop upon arriving in Brussels on Friday was a tour of the Brasserie Cantillon.

Brasserie Cantillon, the last remaining brewery in Brussels proper, is located in a dicey area of town, in the southern part near the Midi train station. It’s an unassuming building that belies the treasures that await the visitor inside.

Inside is the tasting area and the brewery offices, in, of course, the same building since 1900.

Where we enjoyed our first Cantillon of the day. From left: Thomas, Christian, Motor and Shaun.

Cantillon owner Jean-Pierre Van Roy with Shaun Christian and our tour guide, Yvan De Baets.

An old, no-longer used bottler is on display in the tasting area.

This old, still-used contraption looks like it could fly away.

The styles of beer Cantillon makes use old hops to keep their bittering qualities restrained, usually around three years old.

The mash tun on the second floor.

Inside the kettle.

The grain mill.

The grain itself is stored one floor up, in the dry attic.

Where there’s also an old hand bottling machine.

Another half floor above the attic is where all the magic happens, in the shallow square copper cooling tun.

Where slatted windows are adjusted to allow spontaneous fermentation.

Then the beer is stored in wooden casks of oak or chestnut for up to three years.

Where individual codes are put on each barrel to indicate what and when is inside.

A sign in one of the barrel rooms reads “Le temps ne respecte pas ce qui se fait sans lui,” which translates as “time does not respect what is done without him.”

This barrel, for example, is a Lambic (L), and was part of the 13th batch (13) done during the brewing season over years 2005-06 (I).

Inside one of the barrels that’s been aging over a year.

After bottling, they are racked tightly against the wall for further aging.

Yvan pours Thomas the Rose de Gambrinus.

Jean, the heir apparent, will apparently succeed his father Jean-Pierre in running the brewery as of this March.

Cantillon owner Jean-Pierre Van Roy and me after our tour.

• • •

Chunneling to Brussels

Categories: Photos, J, Friends, Beer, Trips — J @ 8:34 pm

On Friday, we left England and took the Chunnel train under the English Channel to Brussels for a quick day trip.

The Eurostar train in Brussels.

Where you can get a Duvel to enjoy on board.

Downtown Brussels near the Midi train station.

Where even their beer trash is better.

That’s a discarded bottle of Westmalle Tripel.

First stop was a tour of Brasserie Cantillon, the last remaining brewery in Brussels.

For the full brewery tour, see the next post.

Cantillon owner Jean-Pierre Van Roy and me after our tour.

After our tour, we did some quick sightseeing. This, of course, is the famous Manneken-Pis.

Across the street from which was the Poechenellekelder, a bit touristy but with a decent beer selection.

The nearby Grand Place.

Including the Brewers Union building.

And, of course, the Delirium Cafe, also packed with tourists.

With a spiral staircase lined with Delirium Tremens bottles.

The Floris Absinthe bar across the alley was closed until eight, by the Delirium Cafe had one type of absinthe so I could try some with my beer.

Afterwards, we had a quick dinner at Bier Circus. Here Shaun shows off his steak and the ubiquitous plate of frittes.

And our beer selection with dinner.

Back at the train station to return to London there was an interesting selection of canned beer in the vending machines. All in all, the trip was too quick to do anything but scratch the surface of the city, but at least we had a chance to do that. I’m certainly looking forward to returning and spending a little more time there.

• • •

January 25, 2007

Dinner with the Gibbons Family

Categories: Photos, Friends, Trips, Food — J @ 5:09 pm

On Thursday after the tour of Fuller’s Brewery, I left the group and headed out to Lewisham, near Greenwich, to have dinner with my friends Keith, Alex and the girls. It had been a few years since I lst saw them and I was looking very forward to getting together with them at their home.

Casa Gibbons in Lewisham, London.

Alex, Ailsa and Tabitha.

Keith cooked us a yummy carribean dish with plantains.

The Gibbons family on the sofa. This is what happens if you tell everyone to say “broccoli.”

Whereas, “cheese” gets you a different response.

• • •

Fuller’s Brewery Tour

Categories: Photos, Friends, Beer, Trips — J @ 12:56 pm

On Thursday we had a private tour of Fuller’s Brewery in London, England.

The Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, London

The Fuller’s pub attached to the grewery is known as the Fox & Hounds on one side.

And the Mawson Arms on the other.

Our group: Tour guide Derek Prentice, Chris, Shaun, Thomas, Motor and Christian.

Our tour began in the Hock Cellar.

Then preceded back toward the brewery proper.

The Fuller’s smokestack.

The tour began with the old part of the brewery, such as this view of the old malthouse.

And other now unused parts of the brewery have been left intact and incoroporated into the tour.

Such as the “Old Copper,” which hasn’t been used since 1984.

Inside the “Old Copper.”

The “Old Mash Tun,” similarly unused since 1993.

A better view of the “Old Mash Tun.”

Then it was on to the more modern portion of the brewery.

Our tour guide, Derek Prentice was, until quite recently, at Young’s Ram Brewery. He’s now in charge of production brewery for the next year at Fullers.

Since the early 1990s, the brewery has been fully modernized.

Though remanants of the old ways still remain, such as this old square fermenter.

And old wooden casks that line hallways and open floor space.

Though the majority of draught beer is packaged in modern kegs.

Which are also filled in a modern facility.

At the exit, a large sign spays homage to Fuller’s most popular beer, their ESB.

Outside, beer is stack on the docks waiting for delivery to pubs and retail stores.

For us, it was back to the Hock Cellar where this animated sign shows the brewing process at the Griffin.

Inside the Hock Cellar, the walls were lined cases filled with breweriana from throughout Fuller’s history.

Of course, there was a bar where we sampled beer made at the brewery. Here brewers Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment Brewery and Christian Kazakoff from Triple Rock Brewery pose behind the bar with our tour guide Derek Prentice.

• • •

January 24, 2007

London in January

Categories: Photos, J, Friends, Beer, Trips — J @ 8:53 pm

I had a chance to take advantage of cheap fares and Tuesday I left for a short trip to London along with brewers Shaun O’Sullivan (21st Amendment) and Christian Kazakoff (Triple Rock) and beer fans Motor and Thomas. Because of the time change, our flight was effectively a red eye and we arrived in the U.K. the following morning around seven in the morning. We had no specific plans for the day, apart from some drinking and trying to stay awake as long as possible in order to fight our jet lag.

London had received a rare bit of snow and our tube ride in from the airport was a winter wonderland.

The snow was so unexpected, there were still flowers in the parks.

Christian, Shaun, me and Motor in the lobby of our hotel in Russell Square.

We went for a walk down to the Borough Market and tried a brewpib there, the Brew Wharf Yard. They only had one house beer on, the Wharf Rebel, which was, I’m sorry to say, very dissapointing. But they did have all of the Meantime beers and a good selection of imported Belgian and American beers.

The Anchor pub next to the Thames was a bit of a tourist bar but in a great location and with a decent selection.

By far the best pub in the area was the Market Porter, which had great atmosphere and an even better beer selection.

Though ridicuously the Market Porter also carried Guinness Extra Cold, whatever that means. Actually, according to the Guinness website:

Using the same classic recipe as Guinness Draught, Guinness Draught Extra Cold passes through our Coldflow supercooler en route to the bar. The result is a GUINNESS® Draught that’s served 3°C cooler. With an initial malt and caramel flavour, cooler Guinness Draught Extra Cold finishes with less bitterness than classic Guinness Draught beer. Chilly, isn’t it?

Guinness Draught Extra Cold is best served at around 3.5°C (38.3°F) — that’s 2.5°C (4.5°F) or so colder than Guinness Draught.

We did our own taste test of Guinness vs. Guinness Extra Cold — GEC is in the foreground. Not surprisingly, there was absolutely no difference. As suspected, it was merely a marketing gimmick.

Next, it was off to the Tate Modern, which was only a short walk away.

The highlight was probably the The Unilever Series by Carsten Höller. It was a series of amazing slides that you take from the second, third and even the fifth floor.

The slides wind around a central pole.

There’s solid on the bottom half but glass on the upper half so you can see where you’re going.

You sit on and put your feet into a canvas towel to ride down the tube. Here Shaun O’Sullivan enters the fifth floor slide.

Shaun crosses his arms and lets go.

Here Christian Kazakoff somes out at the bottom after his five-story ride.

A better look at the canvas towel as Christian dismounts the slide.

Afterwards, we went to the Blackfriar, an absolutely beautiful pub steeped in ornate details and history.

An old sign out front.

Unfortunately, inside — though also quite ornate and stunningly beautiful — it smelled of sulfur and sewage, as if the pipes had recently backed up. The people inside either didn’t seem to notice or had grown used to it. But none of us could stay inside for very long and so we kept moving.

We had a late lunch at the Lamb, near our hotel. The beer was decent, but the food could have been better. Overall, it was a little disappointing to see that most pubs looked great outside and in, but carried a somewhat narrow range of beers that differed only according to what pub company owned them. There were very few true free houses. And while I might argue that their beers, and especially the popular ones, were still real ales and much better overall then the beers that dominate our bars, there was still a lack of diversity found in many average Bay Area bars.

For the rest of the evening, we walked from pub to pub in an effort to stay up as long as possible. We had a pint at the Lamb & Flag and Ye Grapes before ending up at the White Horse for the rest of the evening.

• • •

September 25, 2006

Cannon Fodder

Categories: Photos, Porter, J, Sarah, Trips — J @ 11:48 am

After our pamcake breakfast, we packed up the car and headed for home. On the way we stopped at Fort Ross, a Russian settlement that lasted from 1812 to 1841. At first, Porter was very resistent about stopping at the old fort, but once he discovered a cannon, he was much more enthuiastic.

Porter in front of Fort Ross, with the Russian chapel in the background.

The Russian orthodox chapel.

Porter looking out a second-story window.

Hey look, a cannon!

So when they asked for volunteers to shoot off the cannon, Porter became one of them.

Porter and his cannon tool, to twist insude the barrel.

First the barrel is cleared out.

Then Porter twists in his tool to insure no embers or other material remains in the barrel.

He had a little trouble reaching, so he stood on me so that he could get a better angle into the cannon.

Afterwards, he wanted to critique his performance with the cannon experts.

Here’s a Quicktime movie of the Cannon firing. But be warned, this is a BIG file. You can either download the movie to your desktop or just click on the link to play it in your web browser (assuming your web browser has the quicktime plug-in installed).

• • •

September 24, 2006

Sea Ranching, Day 3

Categories: Photos, Porter, Alice, Family, Trips — J @ 5:19 pm

Saturday evening, Sarah’s Mom and her sister Margaret joined us at the cabin for the remainder of the weekend. Sunday morning, Sarah went out and brought back breakfast for everybody while the rest of us walked down for an early morning stroll along the beach. Afterwards, we drove around to look at some artist’s studios (it was an open studio weekend) and stopped at several beaches to let the kids frolic in the sand.

Porter insisted on spreading jelly on his pancakes.

He ate quite a number of pancake triangles slathered with strawberry jelly.

The kids climbing on Mommy at Pebble Peach (no, not that one).

Later, we went back to the cabin, with Porter running ahead.

The kids then spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the bunk beds.

I even joined in the fun as Alice tried to crush my lungs.

Porter delighted in climbing up to the top bunk.

Where his room had not bee redecorated since the 1980s.

Alice wanted desperately to climb up on top, but she was too little to manage it.

At dusk we went for a stroll to watch the sunset. Porter was amused by a green fire hydrant.

Sunset at Sea Ranch.

• • •

September 23, 2006

Sea Ranching, Day 2

Categories: Photos, Porter, Alice, Trips — J @ 10:08 am

Day two of our Sea Ranch Sojourn had the kids up early — what a surprise — and outside playing long before we managed to get ourselves in the road for a long, long drive to Fort Bragg and Paul Bunyan Days.

There was a large dirt mound in front of our cabin the kids found irresitable, especially since Porter had brought along some construction trucks.

And Alice managed to get herself dirty in record time. I think “Pig Pen” may be a fitting nickname for her.

Later Porter practiced hitting baseballs on his t-ball set.

He actually got a hold of quite a few of them.

But for Porter, the lure of playing on the bunk beds proved to be too great and he spent considerable time either playing on them or whining about wanting to.

• • •

September 22, 2006

Sea Ranch Sand Bucket

Categories: Photos, Alice, Trips — J @ 6:58 pm

After unpacking and just before dark, we took a walk down to the beach closest to our cabin, only a fifteen minute walk away. The color of the sand was unusual, a blackish green with very fine grains. Alice really seemed to enjoy running her hands and toes through it.

Alice at Black Beach.

• • •

Sea Ranching

Categories: Photos, Porter, Alice, Trips — J @ 5:03 pm

Labor Day weekend, we rented a cabin at Sea Ranch along the north coast. The place had bunk beds, which I’d been talking to Porter about and I was keen to see how he’d react to them. We thought it would be fun to get away since we had such a good time over Memorial Day weekend at Lake Tahoe.

Shortly after we arrived and unpacked, the kids explored the cabin and Alice was drawn to a green stone frog.

An accidental photo: I caught the split-second before the impact of Porter hitting an unsuspecting Alice in the head.

Porter was very excited about being able to sleep in the top bunk of the bunk beds.

Though I don’t think Alice was as happy she couldn’t climb to the top.

Porter relaxing and looing through one of the books in the cabin, I believe this one was 101 Dalmations.

Alice enjoying her dinner of pizza before bedtime.

• • •

September 4, 2006

S.F. Zoo Visit with T.J.

Categories: Photos, Porter, Alice, Friends, Trips — J @ 3:14 pm

Last week (or was it the week before?) on Wednesday we went to the San Franciso Zoo as a guest of Porter’s friend T.J. The boys — and Alice — had a great time running around and I don’t think they stopped at all, except to ride the train.

Happy to see one another, Porter and T.J. held hands as they entered the zoo.

Later, Alice held hands with T.J.

A rare moment of calm, as Porter rests at the fountain.

But soon the chase is on again.

At the zoo’s playground, naturally Alice played in the sand.

While the boys went down the slide.

And slid down the pole.

Later Porter pretended to fly like Superman on the swings.

Though getting him to look up was difficult.

• • •

August 28, 2006

California State Railroad Center

Categories: Photos, Porter, Alice, Trips — J @ 8:20 am

Technically, it’s the California State Railroad Museum, but for some reason Porter insists on caling a “Center.” He’d been watching this train video — what a surprise — that we’d picked up at the local library and it featured a trip to the museum … er, center, in Sacramento. Ever since he’s been asking to go again to visit the trains. Apparently he’d gone once before with his grandparents. When we arrived, he literally was jumping up and down and teling me how happy he was to be there.

Outside the Railroad museum.

In the driver’s seat of the big Southern Pacific steam engine.

Telling me to look down the side of the engine.

Then watched himself as he pretended we were speeding down the track.

Pulling the lever so we could go faster.

Alice joing him in the cab.

Outside by the river, something caught the kids’ attention. What could it be?

A Union Pacific train goes over a bridge.

• • •

August 3, 2006

On the Beach

Categories: Photos, Sarah, Trips — J @ 1:44 pm

After we were done with our Monday sightseeing, we still had a few hours before our plane was scheduled to take off. We had originally been planning on going to a restaurant for dinner, but at the last minute decided instead to get picnic fixings at the local grocer and sit on the beach and relax while the sun went down behind us. That was something we had managed not to do in our whirlwind four days on Kauai. So armed with bread, meat, cheese, champagne and some shaved ice, we settled into a pair of lounge chairs on the beach where we’d been staying in Lihue.

The ocean and sky as we picnicked on the beach.

Sarah with a mug of champagne and her shaved ice, which combined were fabulous.

An outrigger canoe passed us by.

While Sarah shows us what a berry-flavored shaved ice will do to one’s tongue.

Some casual surfers rode the waves down the beach a few hundred yards to our right.

BTW, we’re finally done with our Hawaiian vacation slide show and will now return you to our regularly scheduled blogcast.

• • •

August 2, 2006

Wailua Falls & River

Categories: Photos, Sarah, Trips — J @ 12:36 pm

After our visit to Gilligan’s beachm we were both starving and finally made it to our favorite Kauai food stop, Ono Char Burgers, a great hole-in-the-wall place with great food along the Coconut Coast. After a delicious lunch, we visited some falls around the area, including Wailua Falls.

The great Ono Char.

Wailua Falls.

And the Wailua River.

A boat coming up the river.

Sarah stares out across the view of the river.

This is what she saw.

Our last rooster before going home.

Opaekaa Falls.

• • •
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