Sunday, December 30, 2007

A chiller is a coming

One of the things that I asked for this Christmas was a wort chiller. It is a handy piece of equipment to have when brewing your own beer at home. It is one of those things that everybody says "you should definitely have!", but I didn't. I've been brewing for the better part of a decade now and after each batch, I waited patiently for the wort to cool down on its own before I pitched the yeast. Fortunately, I never had a batch become contaminated as I waited, but I figured perhaps it was time to add this little gem to my arsenal and further reduce that risk. The chiller will bring the wort temperature down from boiling to the low to mid 70's in about 10 or 15 minutes. This way I can pitch my yeast on brew day and be done with the whole process a little earlier.

So, back to my first statement. I asked for one for Christmas, however the one link that I provided on my list was out of stock at the one vendor. Dummy me, didn't provide alternatives and my loving relatives that attempted to make the purchase didn't know where else to look. So on Christmas day, after I learned from those who tried to by one for me that they were unavailable, I logged on from my in-laws house and found what I needed. I made the order post haste and according to the UPS shipping info, my new wort chiller should arrive on Jan. 2. I'm stoked, but am slightly bummed that I haven't made my ESB yet. Sure I could make it using the same tried and true methods that have served me well in the past, but I'm anxious to use my wort chiller so I'll hold off another week until it arrives and then use it right away to make my next batch. I can't wait!

A quick update on my Belgian Ale. It did turn out well. It isn't as fizzy as I like, but that is OK. It does have some carbonation, it has a really nice taste and the color is great. It packs a bit of a wallop too, however I didn't take the proper measurements to calculate ABV, so I don't know how strong it is. All I know is that it is pretty good after all. With this next batch, I will be sure to measure my O.G and F.G (original gravity and final gravity) to determine my alcohol content.

The family grows: my father-in-law received an American Pale Ale ingredients kit and my wife's uncle is getting into the brewing hobby as he received the starter home brew equipment kit for the holidays. He said he'd like to have a brew-off, family style some time in the next year after he learns a bit more about the hobby. I look forward to that.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Done for the year...

Today marks my first day of vacation. I don't have to return to the office until Jan 2. The kids are at a great age to actually start enjoying the time off. They are already abuzz with the excitement of the holidays. I'm looking forward to the chaos.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the progress of my Belgian Ale. I haven't said much about it since I bottled because I thought I had lost the whole batch. I was embarrassed. :) Anyways, it has taken much longer to carbonate for some reason. I can only think that I didn't add enough priming sugar when I went to bottle it. Whatever the reason, I have left them at a constant room temp in my basement. Slowly they have started coming around. I refrigerated one on Wednesday morning and tried it last night. When I popped the cap, I got that familiar sound you get when opening a beer. I poured it into a glass and while there wasn't any head to speak of, I could see some bubbles rising to the surface. The taste is great I think and it has a nice ruby-brown color. It is lightly carbonated at this point, but no longer flat like the first one I tested two weeks ago. I'm encouraged that with some more time to age in the bottles at room temperature, they will continue to improve.

I'm looking forward to brewing my ESB this vacation as well. Have a great Friday! Cheers!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fantasy Football is over...

Well, I didn't make the playoffs in my fantasy football league this year. However, since I whined about how horrible my team was earlier in the season, I reeled off 7 straight wins to finish the regular season at a respectable 8-6. I fell short of our league playoffs by one win. Oh well, finishing 5 out of 12 in the regular season isn't so bad after starting 1-6. Now we have a consolation bracket, but I could care less honestly. It was fun.

I never said another word about it after I won the first of 7 because I'm superstitious like that. What about you? Have any ridiculous superstitions?


I guess there is always next year!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My next brew...ESB!

I have decided that the next beer I brew will be an ESB. I was so inspired by the Clipper City Winter Storm, that I decided an Extra Special Bitter would be right up my alley. I'm hoping that my hops arrive today and the rest of the stuff gets here next week. Once I have finalized my recipe, I will post it here to share with the world. Ha ha ha, who cares right? Somebody out there might.

Head Shaving

So you want to shave your head huh? I know, most people don't, but there is a growing segment of the population who have embraced the hair(less) style. You may have noticed the link here on my blog on the left for SlyBaldGuys.com. It is an online forum where all matters of hair loss and head shaving are discussed. It is a great group of people who have plenty of interesting perspectives on head shaving as well as other things in life. The guy Tyler who runs the board is awesome and does a great job providing a voice for us baldies out there. If you are thinking of shaving your head or struggling with hair loss, or just plain curious, give us a look-see over at SBG.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Hops Shortage Hits

Well I went to order my ingredients tonight for my next batch of beer and lo and behold, I couldn't get all of the hops that I wanted/needed. I had to tweak my recipe and order from two different suppliers to get all of the ingredients, but oh well. I still think it will turn out alright. I'm bottling that Belgian Ale tomorrow night. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New brew

So I had the pleasure of discovering a new beer that I thought was great! I was at the beer store yesterday during my lunch break and I strolled down the aisle with all the varieties of beers that they sell. Now is the time of year when breweries put out their special seasonal beers or holiday brews. Many of them are "Winter Warmers" which often contain spices such as orange peel, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, etc. I'm not a fan of these styles, but I was intrigued by the different brews available. I found a winner!

If you are on the East Coast, I suggest that you give Clipper City Winter Storm a try. It is an Imperial ESB and it is awesome. ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter. The term "bitter" is used in England to describe the "hoppiness" of a beer. So it is not really bitter, it is hoppy. Extra Special, means extra hoppy. Yum. It also packs a punch at 7.5% abv. I was quite pleased with my purchase and wish that they made this beer year round. Perhaps the next beer I brew will be a bitter. I've been trying to decide what style to make next and I think that I found it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2007

We're not alone.....

We, being homebrewers. You thought I meant E.T. didn't you?

In the last few weeks it has become apparent that this homebrew movement is bigger than I thought. For the last 3 years, I've known two other guys at work who also enjoy brewing their own suds. Lately though, through casual conversation, we have discovered other brewers in the office. In fact, at last count there were 9 of us! It is pretty cool actually. We gather each other's cubes and swap brewing stories. Some guys are way into it. A few belong to clubs and are serious about their hobby. I enjoy it, but don't have the time to get involved in any brew clubs at this point. One guy was so intrigued that within the span of one week he joined a few guys in brewing a batch and then purchased his own equipment. He's all about brewing beer now and can't wait to bottle his first brown ale. Ahh, I remember my first time. Fortunately I've learned along the way and my batches have improved with practice. I just hope his turns out ok and he doesn't get discouraged if it doesn't. Homebrewers unite!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Retirement Education

I read this article on USAToday yesterday about early retirement scams. It really made me sort of sad that this kind of thing continues to go on every day. I feel so fortunate that my first job out of college was working for a financial services company and I was able to get an education on the various investment vehicles available to people. As a registered representative, Series 6, 7, and 63, it was my job each day to assist participants with any questions or issues they had with their company sponsored retirement plan. What I was not allowed to do was give advice and I certainly was not allowed to give any guarantee whatsoever about how much of a return a person could expect from ANY investment. Unfortunately, there are some bad eggs out there and a majority of people with retirement savings don't really know anything about their accounts or investments. So they put their trust in people that are supposed to know, the so-called professionals. A little education for the masses might reduce these occurrences. I think every student should have the opportunity to take a real Home Economics course, one that teaches personal finance and responsibility instead of just cooking and sewing.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What's your favorite beer style?

I'm not sure that I have a favorite, but I was pretty sure that I didn't care for beers that are known as Belgian Ales. So what is in my secondary fermenter downstairs right now? Yep, you guessed it, a Belgian Ale. I suppose that I sort of wrote off the style after trying Duvel one night at a local watering hole. I did not care for it's lightness or fruitiness at all. I couldn't understand the hype around it. Much to my chagrin when I asked my brother if he'd like to brew a batch of beer with me, he selected a Belgian Ale. Ha! I figured though, since I am trying to get him and my brother-in-law involved in brewing with me that I would just go with whatever style he chose. I must say though that when I racked over from primary to secondary fermenters, I did taste it and it isn't bad at all. It is much darker than I expected and I am excited to give it a try when it is ready. Perhaps my horizons will be expanded. I may even give Duvel another drink if I'm feeling adventurous. Maybe not.

So, in another few weeks, it will be time to bottle the suds and it should be fully ready to drink sometime after Turkey Day. Cheers!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A shortage of hops???

I received an email yesterday from one of my favorite vendors of brewing supplies that warned of a shortage in the 2007 hops crops as well as late shipment of said hops. While they were optimistic that they had ordered a plentiful supply to meet customer demand next year, they would be late in receiving them this year. They encouraged the use of many new varieties which I had never heard of, and were available for purchase. Perhaps this will spur new creativity in the brewing industry to use newer varieties of hops to create new fantastic beers. After nearly 10 years of brewing myself, I haven't taken that step to get creative with changing hops from what a recipe might call for. I'd hate to ruin 5 gallons of beer with a hop that doesn't meet the style I'm going after. Maybe one day I'll be so bold. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stupid Video Capture card

So I've spent the better part of Monday, when I stayed home with a sick kid, and last evening trying in vain to get my TV Tuner card to work with Windows Media Center on my PC. No luck. I've read several message boards describing how it can be done and that it works, but no luck here. At one point in time I had everything working beautifully and we were able to schedule recordings and so forth, but not now. The mistake I made was thinking it was a good idea to upgrade their software, TV Tuner card vendor, just because a newer version was out. Now, being in a position at work where we develop and test software you would think that I might have some trepidation about doing something like that, but I went ahead and did it anyway. That's just the problem, I figured everything had been tested thoroughly before releasing to the public,.....NOT! Now the problem is, I can't remember which version I had installed when everything was successful. Grrrr!

2-6

Well, well, well, the Fantasy Football gods smiled on me this past week. Not only did my team earn its second victory, but it also scored the most points in our league therefore I'm the big winner of the weekly prize. Congrats Hop Heads!

Monday, October 29, 2007

$10 for a six-pack?!?!

So I'm reading this article from USATODAY.com today, and almost spit out my coffee. Apparently the price of everything that goes into making beer is rising, from the hops and barley, to the aluminum and glass. For the small craft brewer like myself, this should make things interesting the next time I go to buy ingredients. I'm curious to see how much of an impact it will make when I decide to brew my next batch. Hopefully it will be small given the fact that I only make 5 gallons at a time. Usually a batch will run me anywhere from $25-$40 depending on the recipe, which yields around 2 cases of fine, homemade brew. I just hope it doesn't double! Cheers!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

They call him the Brees

Well, well, well, look who decided to show up to play today. Thank you Drew Brees. You got me 40 points today and I'm in position to actually win this week. Perhaps a weekly public flogging is all that you need to play a decent game.

Fantasy Football

$%^@#!. Why bother with Fantasy Football? It is enough to drive one mad, especially anyone who puts up real money for a team. My lineup has been decimated by injuries (hello Andre Johnson!), and underperfomers (Drew Brees and Marc Bulger thanks for wasting my high draft picks). Not to mention that week in and week out, I seem to draw the team with players that like to set NFL records and score crazy points against me (thanks Mr. Bironas, Kicker from the Tennessee Titans with his 8 field goals last week). You can probably guess that my record stands at 1-6 and I'm bringing up the rear in my 12 team league. We even award a weekly prize for most points scored by a team, but I've yet to come close to that. Maybe I'll just pack it in, and see if I can go win less the rest of the way. But you can bet that I'll be checking scores through out the day to make sure I don't climb out of the cellar anytime soon.