Sunday, December 28, 2008

HPB

My wife's uncle had my name in her family's Christmas Gift exchange this year. He certainly didn't disappoint as he gave me a nice little gift that lives up to its name. He lives in Kentucky and gave me a local brew for the holidays. A nice 4 pack of Horse Piss Beer. Let me tell you, it certainly lives up to its name. Quite funny indeed, but I think I'll be sharing the other three with some friends on Tuesday evening. Thanks DPC!

Has it been that long?

Wow, so my last post was Oct. 28 huh? Yes, I look at my bookmark to my blog everyday, but never feel compelled to write. Until now that is. A lot has happened in my world of beer, some good and some bad. First the bad.

I had to dump two batches of home brew in a row. First, my blueberry ale just didn't turn out like I expected. It had a tart, sour taste and I was not happy at all. So, I dumped nearly two cases worth. Before, I made that decision though, I kept trying one every few weeks hoping that it would improve with age in the bottle. No such luck, it just plain sucked. So then I set out to make a blond ale. In short, another disaster. The weird thing was each beer had a different base, yet had the same off taste. That sent me reeling, as I had never had a bad batch before, let alone two! So I dumped that one too (well not yet, but I think I am tomorrow, because I need the cooler that they are sitting in).

Further investigation revealed, a nice black fungus growing inside my tubing and also inside my bottling bucket spigot. So, I ordered up some acid based sanitizer and will thoroughly clean my equipment before my next batch. Speaking of next batches, I got a porter ingredient kit for Christmas and also ordered ingredients to make an IPA, so I'll be brewing before I know it. The beauty is, I have amassed enough equipment (carboys and such) over time, that I can have both fermenting at once. Now, I must start saving for that kegerator. Accepting donations!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sad but True

It has been a while since I've felt compelled to write anything.  Sadly, I must report that the Blueberry Ale that I brewed in June has been marked for deletion.  I have always been suspect of the taste/smell of this batch.  After some patient waiting and hoping that it would improve in the bottles over time, I have come to the conclusion that my batch became contaminated somewhere along the way in the process.  Initially, I thought it was sour/tart due to all of the fresh blueberries added during the secondary fermentation.  However, while re-reading a handy homebrewing book that I dusted off of my shelf, I revisited the chapter on Sanitation.  It seems that I became somewhat lax in my brewing.  I always thought "It would never happen to me!".  Foolish.  From here on out, I shall return to my vigilant ways of sanitizing everything properly to avoid such mishaps in the future.  So, within the next day or two, I shall be dumping the rest of that batch.  Lesson learned.  However, I have a blonde ale in the carboy just waiting to be bottled.  Here's hoping it turns out alright.  There's a story to that one too, but I'll save it for another time.  I'll leave you with a preview though: it involved an addition of a Craftsman Screwdriver during the boil.  

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Switching to Draft?

As I have mentioned/complained many times before, bottling my homebrew is probably my least favorite part of the whole hobby. I have often dreamed of having my own draft setup so that I can just transfer the beer from carboy to keg, chill, force carbonate, and enjoy. I sort of already have some of the necessary equipment, such as old used kegs but am lacking one big thing: a kegerator.

I have kicked around ideas in my head such as buying a new kegerator, or convert an old refrigerator or chest freezer. However, a guy at work sent me this link that has now piqued my interest. It looks like a fun project that in the end would allow me to transition into draft homebrew while providing the satisfaction of a 'DIY' accomplishment. If I play my cards right and ask for the necessary parts on lets say a Christmas wish list, I just might be on my way to enjoying a nice cold, homemade draft beer! I just checked and Best Buy still has the compact refrigerator and it is on sale! Maybe I should just buy it and tell my wife that Santa came early this year!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Am I finally a responsible adult?

Since the birth of my third child last month, I've been thinking a lot about how being a parent has changed me. My conclusion is that it is ALL for the better whether I realize it at times or not.

When my first daughter was born, I finally got what unconditional love is. I had experienced love of parents and love of siblings to that point and can see now how that differs in its own right. I have also had the fortune of loving a spouse which is special. I realize that to me those loves were and are selfish in many ways. Once you have a child though, you really get what "unconditional" love is. No matter the circumstance or how crazy they can make you, the smile or hug of a child is undeniable. I really feel fortunate to be able to experience that. I do think though that having only one kid still afforded me some of my own guilty pleasures. I was still able to escape some things and be me (or at least who I was at the time).

Once my son was born, some of that "me" time slipped away, but that is ok. When I had one kid, either for feeding, play, or bath time, my wife had the other for similar activities. But there were still occasions where she was putting them to bed and I could do whatever, especially when he was a baby and slept a lot. After having a daughter, having a son was special because it was like seeing little me. That hasn't changed at all. I also learned that you could love two people unconditionally at the same time, equally. That concept was hard to imagine when it was just the three of us, but once he arrived it quickly became a reality. That was really cool.

Which brings me to kid #3. All of the same emotions bubbled up when she was born. I knew going in I would be able to love her just as I do the other two because that was already proven. Finally, I came to realize what having children can teach you is, you really can become a 'self-less' person. Everything I do now I know is for them. Some people come to that conclusion much quicker, while some unfortunately never do. While I always "knew" that was the case, I finally "feel" it, if that makes sense. I know that there will be time down the road when I'll get to be more selfish and that can wait because these times when they are little are so short. Before I know it, they will be little adults themselves. Then I'll get to watch them go through these same things I have gone through, much like I'm sure my parents and in-laws are observing right now with me and my wife.

So for me, having children so far has taught me that I can love unconditionally and I can be a more self-less person. Maybe that means I finally am growing up huh?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Almost forgot....

It is with mixed emotions that I let the world know that I am no longer a season ticket holder for my beloved Maryland Terrapins football team. I had been one since 2001, but with the arrival of child #3, I decided that it is too much of a time commitment now to go to every home game. One day, down the road, I will get them again, but for now I'll be content to sit at home and watch them when they are on TV, instead of in the stands in the hot sun with a beer buzz. Did I mention the 46" LCD??? Now that I think of it, maybe it won't be such a bad thing watching the games at home on my couch. :)

Are you ready for some football????

It's that time of year again! Football camps all over the country are opening up and that can mean only one thing: Fantasy Football. This year, I'm doing something different. I've started a league consisting of only people related to me. So far I have 6 teams and am hoping for 8. A few people have declined the offer, but I think I can squeeze two more out. The party poopers may sit on the side and open our beers for us as we progress through the season. I decided to do it among family to make it more fun. I've been in leagues in the past where I didn't know everybody in the league and it didn't end up being as enjoyable as it could have been. In a league where everybody is related, the trash talking could get interesting. Then again, maybe it won't. I thought about asking my younger cousin, but didn't know if his parents would be cool with it since everybody is chipping in some real money to make the season all the more interesting.

To add to my excitement about the season, I'll be enjoying the games on my new 46" Sony LCD in my family room. Football in HD makes everything better. So hopefully the season will be fun and those that participate will have a good time. One thing I've learned about fantasy sports is you don't need to know jack to be successful and if you know everything it doesn't mean you'll win in the end. All it takes is for one or two of your best players to be injured and your season is adrift in hopelessness. So here's to a fun filled NFL season!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Who was Murphy anyway?

Murphy's law strikes again! Why is it that things only go wrong at work when you aren't there? I'm supposed to be enjoying the birth of my third child without work ever crossing my mind. But no, good old Mr. Murphy has to raise his head and bite me in the neck. Hopefully they'll get things back in order tomorrow, but I'm betting I'll be back on the phone at some point giving some support in some way. Yay! I should be paid more $$.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

When are you going to blog again?

That's the question I got. Truth be told, I often think about it, and there is plenty going on in my head, but to avoid controversy, I leave them right there. Being an introvert, I internalize damn near everything. I have always said it is much easier for me to write things than it is to say them. Starting this blog was supposed to help me get those things swirling around in my head out, but I just haven't had much latelty that was burning to get out. Most of my posts in the past have been beer related and there has been plenty of that going on. Brewing that is, but I felt like that was all that I ever wrote about and that can become boring unless you are a beer brewing nut too.

Politics is another arena that of late, I've had much to say, but I've kept that to myself as well. Most of my views are in contrast to people that are close to me, and rather than incite a riot, I just keep them inside. It is easier that way.

For those of you who have wondered what may be wrong with me, it is nothing more than an introvert thirsting for some time to be alone in my own head. I've had so very little opportunity for that recently that it has caught up with me, thus making me 'Oscar the Grouch'. Nothing more than that, I assure you.

Friday, April 11, 2008

You think gas prices are high?

For anyone who might wonder why gas prices have spun out of control read this. Its the same principle. Now if those uber socialists in California actually pass this proposal, you'll start to see the price of beer rise in California too. How can a company make a decent profit if their oh so compassionate government wants to take more of it away? Makes me ill. If this passes, I might have to boycott beer brewed in that socialist republic.


Friday, April 4, 2008

The Brewery Comes Together

It's getting there. My own homebrewery that is. Yesterday my lovely wife allowed me to open my birthday gift early since it arrived and I was the one who carried the heavy box in off of the porch. Reading the return label and judging by the weight, I could easily surmise what was in the box. So with the kids gathered around, I tore into the box to reveal just what I had asked for: a new Hurricane Burner to handle the new brew pot that I won. This thing is a beast! So, the homebrewery is coming together. There are still a few other things I need to collect yet, but I am getting closer to brewing those big 10+ gallon batches. This new burner though, will allow me to use the pot sooner since it doesn't fit on the kitchen stove. She is glad that I'll be moving the cooking portion outside since she doesn't care for the aroma left in the house on brew day. So, thanks doll and Happy Early Birthday to me!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Major Award

Well, I feel like the old man on A Christmas Story. Here's what happened. Back in December, I saw an ad in one of my beer magazines for online voting for LD Carlson's next beer ingredient kit. There was a chance to win a prize. So I went to their website and voted. With my vote, I also submitted my email address and then forgot about it.

In February, I received an email from the LD Carlson company informing that I had won the prize from their drawing relating to that online vote. I knew it was legit when I read it because I remembered submitting my name into the contest. I don't know about you but I've never really won anything of significant value before. All that their email stated was that I won a new S/S Brew Pot. All I had to do was reply to their email with the name of my favorite homebrew supply store and a number where I could be contacted. That was the last I heard from them until last Thursday. In my inbox was a shipping notification from my homebrew store of choice and that it was due to arrive yesterday.

So I felt like the old man from that holiday classic and couldn't wait to get home yesterday. And there she was on my porch as I pulled up: my major award. I quickly opened it when I got inside, although I was a bit neater with the packaging than Ralphie's Old Man, but I was excited nonetheless. To my surprise there was a 14 gallon Italian Stainless Steel brew kettle inside, complete with a chrome spigot. No more 5 gallon batches for me (the exception probably being my next batch since I already have the ingredients and there are some other things I'll need to procure before I can use this new beauty). So let the savings begin for the kegerator. Brewing larger volumes requires a draft system because I'm not keen on the idea of bottling over 4 cases of brew at a time.

Time to make my birthday list. Cheers!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Career Change?

Yes it has been a while, over a month to be exact, since I've felt inspired to write anything. Call it blogger's block if you will, but nothing has come to mind worth noting. I'm an empty-headed lummox! Ha! Sure there have been things I could have written about, such as politics, but that only incites minor riots among people I know so I'll avoid those discussions.

So, I'll tell you about my ESB. Again. The longer it ages in the bottle, the more I like it. In fact, I was courageous enough to take a few into work and share with some of my fellow home brew enthusiasts. Two of them have tried it and reported back that they "loved it!" One guy, whose opinion I especially respect due to his experience with brewing (he brews almost every weekend with some other guys and has been doing so for more than 15 years now), told me that he would buy the stuff if it were on the shelf. His lone criticism, would have been the lack of malt character that you might find in a more balanced beer, but that wasn't my goal so in the end it was fine. Now that is high praise and was good for my ego. I was anxious about opening myself up for critique especially this time because it was the first recipe that I concocted myself. Up until this point, I have always used a recipe devised by another brewer so I was merely replicating their style and could always blame the recipe if I didn't like it. But this time, it was all on me. Now, only two reviews aren't much to go by, but since they were both positive, it allows me to dream of brewing as a career. I'm too conservative to throw caution to the wind and leave my job to become a beer brewer full time, but it is fun to have a pipe dream. Now, if I do win millions of dollars in some lottery, I know what I can do with my time.

For now though, I'll stick to brewing my 5 gallons at a time in my kitchen and sharing the fruits of my labor with those near and dear to me. Next up is a Honey Brown Ale. It is a recipe/kit from Northern Brewer. It should be fun and is a contrast to the ESB in that it will be more malty and much less hoppy. A break from the norm for me as I tend to brew the higher hopped ales.

My next formulated beer shall be a Blueberry Amber Ale that my wife requested. The goal there is for it to be ready in August when she is allowed to imbibe again.

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Good reading!

I just received my first issue of Beer Advocate magazine today and I must say I love it! Great job by the founders & editors, Jason and Todd Alstrom. The magazine has great articles and insightful reviews. I already receive issues of Brew Your Own magazine and I am a huge fan of it. Both websites are great resources for all things beer. If you are looking for more info on beer, give these two periodicals a shot and support these great publications. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Primed and waiting

Before the big game yesterday, I decided to bottle my ESB! Yeah the one I was yapping about a month ago was finally ready to be bottled. I really hate cleaning bottles for this process, but it must be done. I can't wait to graduate to kegging.

Anyway, I did take a few sips of it as I was going and I must say, delicious. I was worried about the bitterness based on the calculated IBUs of 56 from my recipe generator, but I need not worry anymore. I think this one will be a keeper and one I'll make again in the future. So, she's primed and in the bottles. I must be patient now as I let the little yeast monsters do their job. Bottle conditioning is another reason to move to draft, because it takes too long! Sheesh! Now I must come up with a name for my brew. Hmmmmm......

What a game!

Yeah G-men! Finally a Super Bowl worth watching. Yesterday's game was the first in several years that held my attention to the very end. Congrats to the G-men for a huge win! And how about Belichick leaving the field with 1 second left? Sore loser.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The G-Men

Well my plan for watching football went off without a hitch, thanks to my cooperative family. Both games were great but didn't turn out as I had hoped. I was shocked that the Giants beat the Packers at Lambeau! It was great game and now I'm torn as to who to root for in the Super Bowl. Part of me wants to see an undefeated team pull off the impossible. So for that reason, I wouldn't mind seeing the Pats win. On the other hand, you have to like Eli Manning. How great is it that he's been in his brother's shadow his whole life and now he has a chance to stake his claim to fame? If he can pull off the impossible and beat the Pats, he'd be even with Peyton in Super Bowl wins. Either way, it should be a great game. Crazy that the Giants have won 10 road games in a row. Unheard of in pro football. Since my Ravens were counted out early on, I was pulling for Green Bay, but now it looks like I'm going to have to look to the NFC East and hope that Eli can make it happen. Go G-Men!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Sports Day

First I must say "Congrats" to the Terps Men's Basketball team for their stunning win over previously undefeated North Carolina. It was a great game and I'm glad I got to watch most of it. For all of their ups and downs this year, this certainly has to be the best so far. I love it when we beat UNC or Duke in basketball. It is such a great feeling for a short while and then it is back to real life. Hopefully these young Terps can use it to build on, because I still think this will be a long season for them and it should help them with their confidence.

Today is what I've been looking forward to all week. This appears to be two great football games today for the AFC and NFC championship games. Add to the matchups on each side, the blistering cold and it should make for a long afternoon in front of the television. I guess I'm with the majority of the country in thinking that it will be Green Bay and New England prevailing. I hope so, because how great would it be to see Brett Favre be the guy with the shot to end New England's perfect season? GO PACK GO!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale

Wow! I just poured a glass of Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale. Wow! Per the label on the bottle and the great website, RateBeer.com, this brew is 10.5% ABV and packs 85 IBUs. For anyone reading this who might not know, IBU are the bittering units a beer has. 85 is pretty high and this brew is certainly hop, hop, hoppy! I like it though. It is surprisingly good. I guess my tastes are evolving because a few years ago, I don't think I'd be able to tolerate this one.

I am encouraged though in that my ESB that I just racked over to my secondary fermenter was calculated at 56 IBUs. It should be hoppy, but not over the top. My only reference to an over-the-top hoppy ale was Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. That is apparently 90 IBUs and was too strong for my liking. But after trying this Double Dog, maybe I should give the 90 Minute IPA a try again. Dogfish Head also makes an insane IPA called the 120 Minute IPA. It apparently has 120 IBUs and is 21%!!! That will remove the enamel from your teeth!

If you get a chance and like a hoppy beer, give any one of the beers I mentioned here a try. I'd be curious if anybody else has an opinion on hoppy beers and would share any in particular that they like. Mmmmmm.....beer!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Fantasy Bug

The fantasy sports bug has bitten me again. Last week, I signed up to play the Fantasy Golf Best Ball Challenge on ESPN. It was free, so what the heck right? I don't know a whole lot about the PGA, but I do hit the links a few times a year, so what's the big deal? The idea is that given a $50 million play budget, you select 4 golfers each week for the scheduled tournament that is being played in reality. The team with the lowest overall scores among their foursome gets the most points that week. The best part is that you really only have to worry about setting your lineup once per week, much like Fantasy Football. So, I can enjoy another game that won't take up too much of my time. Since I haven't spent any real money on it, it should make for a much stressful game to participate in. So I raise my pint, and say Cheers to Fantasy Sports online!!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

What was I waiting for?

Yesterday, I was finally able to brew my ESB I've been going on and on about. I did learn a thing or two while I labored away, such as my dutch oven pot is not big enough to steep two grain bags with 2 lbs of grain in each. Next time I'll split that job into two pots, but I think the beer will still be ok.

The biggest thing was that I got to use my new wort chiller for the first time and I must say, "What was I waiting for?" In the past, after boiling the wort, I added it to my primary fermenter, topped off the concoction with cold water to get to my 5 gallons and then waited for 24 hours for the temperature to come down to a level that I could pitch my yeast. Not anymore! Yesterday within 10 minutes, that chiller took my 2.5 gallon batch of wort from boiling down to 68 F! Wow. I was always told that it is a handy piece of equipment for brewing, but I had no idea. I would definitely put it at the top of any homebrewer's wish list if they don't already have one! I was able to pitch my yeast without delay, further reducing the chance for contamination. Now, I wait and watch for the flurry of fermentation action to begin. I think I better go check it now for some action. Cheers!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Stuff

It is time to take down Christmas. Time to take down the decorations and the outside lights. I can't wait. I felt like Clark Griswold out there in December trying to get everything right. I really hate messing with Christmas lights. I only do it for the kids though. One day when I'm old, I'll either scale back or have my kids come over and decorate the outside of the house. Put them to work!

If all goes to plan, tomorrow will be brew day and I'll put that new chiller to work!