Friday, September 30, 2011

Grouplove - Colours

Back in your skull for some more music. I strongly recommend that you ignore the video entirely, it was a piss poor idea executed poorly. I still like the song, however I have a strong urge to beat the band/record exec that green lighted that video.

A La buggered by the Cable Co.

So one of the blogs I follow posted about the Cable Companies pondering a move to A la carte pricing (hi Rich) which on the surface sounds like it could be a deal for us customers. I say on the surface because if you have had to deal with a cable company you would know that they hate you and want to make you suffer. Gizmodo breaks down the maneuver pretty clearly here, but I can summarize for those not going to make the jump.  Their idea of "a la carte" is to take ESPN and other in demand channels out of bundles where they often have to pay $4 per subscriber and move them to the premium package model a la HBO and Showtime.  In short there will still be packages, just the good stuff will require upgrades.  Your base package will likely cost the same and include less shows.  But you will still be required to have the base package to get the "premium" packages.  In short:

Fuck you customers, we still hate you.
Cable Co's
You see what I did there I contextualized a quote that doesn't exist. I should work for Star magazine or something. Maybe Rupert Murdoch is hiring.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Indie to blow your mind

Slacker radio found this little gem for me, but man oh man it is now part of one of the workout sets in my spin class.  Its a standing climb to the beat, you get a break around 2 minutes in and have to get backup when the drums kick in again for a sprint to the finish.  Bonus points for singing along, those that have the lungs for it that is.


So the idea of Wikihouse is to help make the tools of home construction more readily available for people with access to feed-stock (plywood) and equipment (large cnc routers) to assemble by hand or with tools that can be routed out of the feed stock.  I like the idea of making sectional concepts to mix and match to assemble a house, and with an available cnc router be able to produce the components needed to make a house with out needing contractors.  So far the available designs are somewhat useless in my opinion, designed to make something akin to a cargo container.  A single story, box-like tube for a "studio."  It helps to start small and extend so while I'm not impressed by the starting work I am hopeful for extended building blocks.  Hopeful, but also a little nervous.

If you are in the US at least you will likely be aware of uniform building code and maybe you've heard of National Electrical Code, or Fire Code, Plumbing Code, Energy Code, Natural Gas code and if you are in my neck of the woods permeable surfaces is part of the permitting process.  To say the least, my first though on this whole project is it will never get forward progress with the moving target known as building code in the US.  There are so many moving pieces, I don't even know where to begin.

Roofing is some very advanced stuff, seriously look into what goes into the design of a truss any site that offers the service tells you to consult and engineer.  In Washington at least you cannot get your plans approved without getting them reviewed by and engineer.  If you hire an architect for your project generally they employ engineers that will review your plans before they are submitted for approval.  Fire code touches on lots of different aspects of home building and if you aren't careful Building code, Fire code and Electrical code can have conflicting proscriptions in them that you can avoid by changing room layouts slightly.  No examples jump to mind so I'll have to pester my old man about it, but I just cannot imagine this working well in the United States.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Holy crap, I'm going to have to try this one!  I cook with garlic all the time, but peeling is such a time consuming process.

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from on Vimeo.

Also, shake the dickens out of it? Really?  Oh you hipster bastard Imma gonna have to hit you with one of those bowls.  I bet you don't need 3 guesses to know which state this guy is making these shows in.

More Netflix thoughts

Netflix I just don't understand what planet you are on when you make decisions, but it felt like everyone but Hulu had thrown in the towel on competing (albeit indirectly) with you, and how Amazon is storming in to compete on streaming and Blockbuster is swooping in to offer a vertically integrated experience for the people baffled by your splitting in to a less convenient two websites for your product.

The degree to which this service decided to fuck itself just makes me sick.  I don't know that I can think of a worse handling of a strategy than oh I don't know say HP.  Netflix's stock is down around $127 from it's high of $295more than half of the market cap wiped out by arrogance and as near as I can tell abject stupidity.

Am I still a customer? For a little while, we just don't know what to do.  My wife is going to start the hulu plus trial on the xbox next week to see if it's got some entertainment for her.  She watches tv shows on streaming and has an iPad so this is a decent option for her, we are expecting parents so we will start our Amazon Mom trial here soon which is a free year of Amazon Prime and 30% off diapers (oh sweet jeebus the diapers are coming!)  But all of this comes back to these services where not on my radar before Netflix decided to tear itself apart.  Not even sort of worth overcoming the inertia to look, now they are.  That my friends is a far fall from grace for a company that hardly was on the radar in 2009 and had exploded since then.

I'll let you know where we end up if we end up anywhere, the dvd's by mail is way too convenient and way too many tv shows are only on DVD so we would drop the anemic streaming before the DVD's (especially with the Starz deal going away).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Healthy Stuff

So here is a link to a study on the effects of learning about gardening, cooking and nutrition course on a group of Latino students about 10 years of age.

The outcomes where pretty positive for the group that participated, less weight gain than their peers in the control group (they are young children so they are gaining mass regardless) and huge change in their intake of dietary fiber! The control group actually took in -12% from the over the course of the study from the groups baseline, and the participants in the other group took in +22%. That is a pretty impressive swing in the sample, so teaching them about veggies encouraged them to eat them. If this isn't an argument to start a garden with your kids and talk about vegetables I don't know what is.

Monday, September 26, 2011

This is getting real

We are about 3 weeks from having this kid, so like sensible people we toured the hospital we will be delivering in. We have a friend that is also going to be having their baby at the same hospital in December so we went on the tour together. I don't know how to explain this to people that aren't in the head space for having children, but we are very glad that most of our friends are also in the baby frame of mind. Knowing that your friends motivations and concerns are similar to the ones that you are having makes it easier to be candid about how this affects your life.

The wife's last day of work for a very long time is this Friday, the friends that went on the tour with us the wife is already on bed rest because of early contractions. In a few short weeks my life is going to be diapers and feedings, strangely none of this puts me off. I'm ready for the pregnancy stage of this process to be over, it's not hard for the men in the relationship because we cannot help all that much. Foot rubs, and cooking is all well and good but I cannot carry the little guy for her and let her get some uninterrupted sleep. Easing her discomfort is all well and good, but I cannot absorb any of that discomfort. Mostly I have to watch and respond.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Clay animation for the win

Sauerkraut time

A few weeks ago I saw a post about sauerkraut on Lifehacker and decided that it was time to get add another skill to my robust post-apocalyptic skill set. I believe I saw the quote "I don't have hobbies, I'm developing a robust post-apocalyptic skill set" in the footer of a blog I follow called the Little House on the Sand Pit. This is growing to be one of my favorite quotes and a bit of a way of life.

My wife's parents being good traditional German descendants and ex-Minnesotans used to make sauerkraut at home, and I'm told my father parents used to as well. The wife's parents still have stoneware crocks and a family recipe from their grandparents, I am probably going to follow this recipe just because it sounds better and they aren't uppity about the salt having to be pickling salt. I had been planning on using Sea Salt, so someone that is more to my way of thinking seems like who I should follow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Making Apple Cider

Netflix thoughts

Someone shared the Dear Netflix page in my Facebook stream, and for those of you that cannot read it don't worry I'm going to summarize here shortly.  The gist of this open letter is that Netflix is changing their business model, and the changes themselves could have been swallowed (with one exception) had the company been earnest with what they are doing and upfront about why they where doing it.  This is a company that has enjoyed enormous goodwill from its customers, their growth over the last few years is a testament to how much it users told their friends about how great Netflix was.  You simply cannot buy that mind-share and marketing.  Users loved that it was affordable, and easy to use.  We felt like it was good bang for our buck and we used it, oh did we use it.  When it was just a DVD by mail service it was still miles ahead of Blockbuster.  I basically stopped going there because Netflix was so convenient, you can see the affect that had on Blockbuster in the real world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Whiteboard presentations make me happy

It is the IT equivalent of a gang rape


There may have been some confusion here I think that the article is full of shit. To try and claim that Google is a monopoly in search is Prima facie full of shit. Dominant option? Yes absolutely, I don't use any other service because the results tend to be awful seriously try it. The switching costs to set Google as you default search provider are still high enough that most people have Bing as their default and have to install the Google Search bar (which they do willingly) to get the better more relevant results. Google is killing it in search and has been for a long fucking time, anyone that has anything else to say is in blanket fashion someone that is being paid to say otherwise. Period.

Microsoft has, and continues to pay shills (ie the sleazy fuck that wrote the article that I'm pointing to) and will continue to do so into the future until they can cajole and bribe the DOJ into anti-trust proceedings to break up a competitor they cannot beat.

I was saying that the patent litigation that is underway in the smartphone arena, is like watching an IT gang rape, IE Microsoft and Apple and everyone else that is a fucking coward trying to pin Google in a corner.

Here's the thing no one puts the Big G in a corner.

And further more the champion of our Authors heart Microsoft has been doing the things that he takes offense to for 2 decades now. Xbox didn't just materialize and the 360 actively used the chips designed by Sony for the PS3 in a very shady deal with their long time partner in the sack IBM. No one's hands are clean here, and painting Google as some new cancer just pisses me off.


Recently I'm annoyed by everyone that is a shill for Microsoft and Apple

Wow these costumes are unreal


A little late for most but earlier in the summer I had some trouble with mushrooms in my planter box garden.  It was all related to too much moisture (Gasp in Seattle say it isn't so!)  Any how I was looking for ways to deal with mushrooms and thought I would share what I found.  Short story is reduce the moisture!  Next up is remove the "infected" soil because the mushrooms are just going to keep coming as moisture and food make themselves available.

One suggestion was for a baking soda/water solution to spray the affected area to try to change the PH and prevent them from growing.  I think the raised bed I made doesn't have enough drainage and the heavy rain we get in the winter soaked the bed and it has just never gotten dry enough to prevent the mushrooms from growing.

some random source links
Helpful Gardener

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rugby Primer?

God bless the Germans

I knew it was too late to start brewing an Oktoberfest beer, but I didn't realize how late it was!  Any culture that can conceive the dirndl cannot be all bad in my book, for more pictures of the glory of my favorite thing the Germans have to offer check this link (marginally NSFW).

Blackberry Cider

So I think that free sugar is the best sugar so I went picking blackberries on Sunday afternoon.  I'm curious if devils fruit was already taken when they decided to name Blackberries,  because I think they have some serious contention to the title.  I bleed from my legs mostly, but my hands are a little scrapped up as well.  In three hours on my own I got about 2 gallons of berries that are now vacuum sealed bags in the freezer.  I haven't seen the cider I like to use for sale yet, but I figured having the berries ready to go will make it easier to get a small side batch of blackberry hard cider when the time comes.  If the kiddo doesn't kick my ass to much I'll try for a 5 gallon main batch and a 3 gallon blackberry version.  I've been hiding away a few of the second batch of hard cider from last year, that I am curious to see how they have aged after close to a year.  Maybe I'll get a few people together for a vertical tasting of the Cider with last year, this year and the blackberry.  I've read about cellaring for a year, but I don't know that it would be a good idea for the cider to do a multi-year cellar.   (oh Jebus, I looks a little bit just after writing that and I'm terrified of the amount of work people are talking about!)  SO2 schedules and ph monitoring for keeping still cider at the optimal sulfite levels as it ages!!! I don't even own at least two of the pieces of equipment mentioned, and I haven't done a ph test since High School chemistry.  Did I accidentally backdoor myself into wine production here?  I don't own any oak barrels and if I did I would be doing weird beer not cider in them.  I need a bigger basement damn it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

President Obama brews beer

This probably shouldn't make me as happy as it does, but man there are days I really like this guy.

Between this and his fly kung fu, there are days where I almost forgive him for choosing Biden as Vice PRES.

IPA into the keg

So the Rainy Day IPA is finished and was ready to go into the keg. I bottled a 6 pack for sharing with my other homebrewers (woohoo, I know 2), but the rest went into the keg. I snapped a picture for sharing as I randomly remembered how much better pictures make a story. It looks dark copper, but that is what you get for talking pictures at night on a dark ass countertop. The color as it ran through the racking cane was more a light gold. It's bitter and hoppy to my taste buds, but I think it will be more floral in the glass than bitter. 5.1%ABV and not to shabby for $26 worth of grain, I count the hops as free (as their cost had already been factored into other beers) but in honesty this beer would have been $50-60 if I didn't already have all the hops.

If I am able to keep this efficiency and only use a single type of hops in a beer I could pull off a $30 batch if I where just brewing a pure efficiency minded beer. That would be in the neighborhood of $.97  a 22oz beer in direct costs. I'm not sure how to cost the indirect costs of water, and propane electricity and my time, but from a no overhead perspective that's pretty sweet. Most of the craft beers sell for $3-6 for a 22oz bottle so if I bottled and sold at that rate I would be about $174 for a batch of 5 gallons, trouble is I would have to sell wholesale price to the distributor to get it to a grocer to sell at retail price. Assume total markup from the two hands to only be 100% I would sell for $1.50-3 for a more meager $43-87. Pretty interesting metal exercise, but just to give you an idea of what breweries have to work on for averages and efficiencies. I would wager that most breweries aim for north of 80% efficiency, and that Budweiser is closer to 90%+.

Friday, September 16, 2011

On the health of your digestive tract

On of the followers of this blog made an observation in a previous post that got me more worked up than it should have and I posted a comment on my own blog (gasp!), but the point bears repeating in a longer thought.

Badscribbler said that he wouldn't drink something that had been sitting out for 2 months as a matter of principle. It got me thinking about our distance from food production and how little most people know about how food is made. Salami for instance is dried and aged in a cool, but not cold environment 50-60°F, an aged steak is in a similar environment and that white stuff on the outside of your salami (actual artisan stuff not the shit you buy in your local grocer) is a healthy kind of mold, Yogurt is filled with probiotics but ultimately these are bacteria. Cheese is made with Renet(stomach acid) and and active culture (more bacteria). The manufacture of food, and USDA's insistence that food last for an eon has lead to the introduction of preservatives or chemical additives that kill the healthy cultures that make up and make our food. Ever stop to wonder the reason blue cheese stinks? These are living pieces, and they help us digest and are vital to healthy systems. We used to eat much more fermented foods, but the funk fell out of favor for sweetened and murdered by processing food.

Now you will have to pardon me, because I am a tiny bit passionate about these types of things and they are a very big part of my hobbies. I haven't made cheese in a while because it really is pretty expensive and the preggo shouldn't eat it(listeria will kill the baby, even if it just makes her sick). But when compared to buying living and beautiful artisan cheese some of the amazing cured artisan meats around here the cost of my hobbies is surprisingly less than it seems like it would be. The reason it is less is they mostly take time, so if it is time you are willing to spend, then they are not as costly if you value your time in different ways then producing your own food is incredibly expensive. We have a immersion bath for making yogurt, and are waiting for my wife to not be pregnant to use it, I am saving to buy the meat grinder for the kitchenaide and will produce sausages in due time. My wife is disgusted by it, but I plan on making sauerkraut this winter in a Red Wing crock no less!

In short I think knowing where your food comes from is important, and I am working on being a locovore (eating food that is from near me) and for the things it doesn't make sense to make I buy and try to buy it from producers in my state. I cannot buy a Pineapple from Washington obviously, but temperature/climate sensitive items aside with a little work you can find things produced near you, and the premium is relatively modest now but as gas prices continue to go up I think you will start to see parity and even declining prices for locally produced foods.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nostalgia for things I never had

To counter the endless drum and bass/house/noise posted I thought I'd share some indie.

Youth Lagoon - Montana from Tyler T Williams on Vimeo.


Either you all just jumped to the bottom or are really dedicated readers that last post was long.

Any how the sanitation for fermenting in a container that already contained the juice you are going to ferment means you are sanitizing the things that are not already inside the juice container so settle down people.

I've talked about Star San before, but if you don't buy that at a brew store or online there are other options that require you to be mindful of and are readily available at most drug stores.  I am talking of course about Iodine solutions,  or bleach solutions.  John Palmer has a great page on what and when to clean and sanitize as well as all the solution guidelines on his How to Brew site.

The things you need to clean and or sanitize for the Brain Dead simple recipe posted are the bottles, and the aluminum foil that you cover the juice container with.  Right that is all.  Less important that a few little Richards made it sound huh?  In most cases when you are actually brewing you sanitize everything you put into or but your beer into.  For this case you are trying to not put anything into your vessel, no utensils and especially keep your filthy hands out of it.

Now when you try to bottle, not having a racking cane or bottle wand is doing to make this task challenging and you are going to have to take some precautions here because what I'm outlining has all sorts of opportunity to be a mess, but with care I think could actually turn out fine.  After the Apfelwein is done fermenting you will want to wash and sanitize your the bottles you plan on using. Removing the labels is going to be all on you, I use PBW as a cleaning agent as it makes the labels just fall off, and quickly removes the glue as well. You have to get PBW at a brew store or online, and I use gloves but it works faster than anything else I know of. The directions for the size my brewstore sells it in is for a 5 gallon batch of pbw which is murderously overkill for 10 or so bottles. I've done 48x12oz and 24x22oz of bottles in a 5 gallon batch, so this stuff is pretty potent and a waste on just few bottles to plan ahead and clean a few cases of empties for use later.

If you don't want to mess with sanitizer and washing solutions you can run bottles that don't have any crud in the bottom of them through the dishwasher on a full cycle with no detergent and no rinse aid. If you don't know how to disable the jet dry part of your dishwashers cycle don't use your dishwasher. I only suggest it because you get your cleaning and sanitizing done in one step, and most people can accomplish this. If you don't use the dishwasher, you will need to make a bleach or Iodophor solution and follow the John Palmer's guide for how long it takes the solution you choose to sanitize. Iodophor takes 10 minutes to sanitize and bleach takes 20 minutes. For reference Star San does the same in 30 seconds! Have I mentioned how amazing Star San is?

Once the bottles are clean you should prime them with corn sugar. I Figured that about 1/2 a teaspoon of dextrose per 12oz bottle for priming, so use a funnel to get that in the bottom of the bottle to start with. Then we need to sanitize the funnel and reasonable size piece of cheese cloth. Once sanitized you will take the cheese cloth and make a well in the funnel to catch particles as you pour from your juice container into the bottles. You are aiming for just filling the fat part of the neck on your bottle. Use any bottle conditioned beer for reference on how full to fill the bottles (Sierra Nevada brand does bottle conditioning) when it gets to be the point of only pouring trub (the crud that is at the bottom) it is up to you, but I would choose to abandon the liquid that is with the trub, it just won't taste as good.

Cap those bottles and keep them at room temperature to allow them to carbonate for about 2 weeks and then you can put them in the fridge to drink. People that are really into this say that it only gets better with time so 3 months is good, 6 months is great, 9 months will blow your mind. Your first batch I doubt you will be able to resist jumping in to drink them, but if you have a few of these going at any given time you will have a steady stream of them ready to drink. Good luck, and let me know if anyone gives this a try.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The most simple, brain dead recipe I can think of

Okay I've been working on this thought for a while now here is the most basic recipe I can think of.  It is for Apfelwein, a German Hard Cider.  The post show how to go full bore for 5 gallons, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this recipe.  You will notice that in his post he uses TreeTop Apple Juice.  I know that it is available in Seattle, and I believe it is distributed nationwide.  For you international folks you may have to improvise as an American brand.  The reason that they choose TreeTop is there are no preservatives added, these preservatives will kill your yeast.  You can buy it in 64oz (1/2 gallon) bottles and I believe that some places sell it in 128oz (1 gallon) containers.  I think for your time it is worth finding the 1 gallon as this is only ~10 bottles of Apfelwein.

Go look for a local homebrew store, the things you will be getting here depend on how much time and money you want to spend.  The most basic trip will be to get Dexterose (corn sugar) and a champagne yeast.  Tell them what you are doing, and if it is anything like my homebrew store the staff will be very helpful.  Ask if they have brewed with the yeast that they are directing you to, and find out about the type of Kräusen it makes. Because our vessel is very limited in size we want little to no Kräusen. The champagne yeast I used I believe did, but yeast mentioned in the recipe I linked to allegedly does not. For bonus points you can also get an airlock and stopper while at the homebrew store. I believe they run about $3 or so and are really pretty handy. If you are so inclined you could get the swing top bottles here I believe they where around $2 dollars each or $25 for a case of 12-16oz bottles. If you choose to drink your way through bottles to reuse you will need to buy a capper and spare caps. The capper runs ~$20 and a bag of 144 caps (I have no idea why 144) is ~$4. If you plan on making more than 1 gallon of Apfelwein at a time you might consider some of the other equipment I outlined in the previous post (carboy, racking cane ect.) otherwise you are done here.

Now purists will get on me for this but the point of this post is to be as basic as you can manage to be so here goes, we are going to ferment in the container that the juice comes in unless you bought more equipment. We are starting at room temperature 60-80 degrees, too hot and too cold stress the yeast out so really you should aim for these temps if you can and for the love of god don't just use baking yeast. Go buy actual yeast otherwise your results will not be worth the time and modest money you invested. The most basic way to proceed is remove 1/2 cup of juice from the 64oz container or 1 cup of juice from the 128oz container, and replace that with and equal amount of corn sugar (dextrose) replace the cap and shake it well to get the sugar mixed up. You may be able to remove less juice after you determine how much head space you need for fermentation, but to be safe try the numbers I used. After that you will add a fraction of the yeast packet, for the most part there is no real way to screw this up with over pitch so if you are too lazy to figure out 1/4 or so of the packet just dump the majority of it in.

Now to keep other junk out of the Apfelwein we need some aluminium foil to make a loose, but not too loose fitting cap. The yeast will produce CO2 so it needs to get out and not create pressure in your vessel.

Now here comes the hard part:

Leave it alone for the next month or preferably 2 months.  Yes you read that right, it takes forever.  This is why it is worth the time to make bigger batches.

Once you have waited for it to clarify for about 2 months you can bottle with a 1/2 teaspoon of dextrose per 12oz bottle and cap them.  Now you get to wait another 2 weeks at least before you put them in the fridge to drink.

Extra bonus points that where not covered here:

I read the steps and realized I never talked about sanitation, but this post is already ridiculously long so that will have to wait.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CNC build

So beer nerd aside I also have wanted to make a CNC router for quite some time now.  When I saw the Mantis cnc router and like the overall simplicity of the build and thought that the small size might corrolate to a lower overall cost.  I wanted to get into this for not much more than $100 just to see if I could make something fun and not drop a lot of cash.

I'm at about $50 worth of hardware between the wood and all the guides and lead screws that have to be cut by hand, bolts screws and anti-lashing nuts.  I have not bought a single electronic component (the expensive part of the build) and I've already blown half of my self imposed budget on parts.  The trouble is, I lack the expertise to design and build a driver board and the ones that I have seen on various sites all run about $50 bucks.  I would still need a power supply and stepper motors.  I believe that the build could be low power enough to just use a spare PC power supply, but then I need to source stepper motors that run on 12vdc.  I have seen a few relatively simple driver boards that I could build, but again I'm in the position of not having the knowledge to troubleshoot the electronics if my build goes wrong.

Anybody have any experience with this stuff or think it is interesting?  It took me just shy of forever to get a true 1:1 print of the part for templating  on the wood, and then I realized that as long as they all where printed on the same printer that they should have come out on the same scale and fit because of everything being the same scale.  So far all I have accomplished is buying parts and getting the wood parts cut.  I did the drilling that would allow me to assemble the outside stage, but didn't drill any of the motor mounts or slides.  I didn't want to put holes in the wood before I got the parts that I would be using.  Since then I have bought the hardware, but the electronics roadblock has left we wondering if it is best to just walk away from the project $50 dollars poorer, or press on and buy about another $150 worth of motors and electronics.

I need to work on being more social and getting to a hackerspace and see if there is someone with some freaking clue to help me out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I've got a fever

And the only prescription is more brewing.

I think there may be something wrong with me.  Anybody talks about anything anymore and I think about a beer or wine in relation to it.  My mom went to pick blackberries and I started thinking about a tart dry blackberry wine.  I wondered how many pounds of berries I would have to pick to get my food grade bucket full of berries and how long it would take me to press them for juice.  I would use a champagne yeast I think to give it tiny bubbles and a like the cider I've made thus far a nice dryness.  We where talking about how we where going to miss harvest this year because of the baby (it's a family thing where we go make salsa and harvest my Uncle's garden in eastern Oregon) and the pumpkins that we where going to get from the garden.  I thought about a pumpkin spiced ale, and how I could get the flavor of pumpkin pie in a bottle.

It's funny really that I don't drink that much, in a given week I may only have 4 or 5 beers total! Most weeks I don't have anything to drink, but I really enjoy making beer.  The science and labor needed to get more sugar out of the grains, or what fruits and how to pair them to make a nice fruit beer.

This summer I found Bridgeport's Stumptown Tart and have been eager to try a fruit laced beer.  My trouble is that beers with tricky additives also have precise timings related to not letting the additive (fruit) spoil on top of your lovely beer.  One way around it is to just add the juice rather than the berries, but I think that takes away from the romance a little and I am unwilling to compromise on that.  I seem to be better at murky or deep colored beers at the moment (though I haven't tried a pilsner yet) I have yet to make a clean or crisp enough ale for me to feel comfortable just dropping fruit in on top.  I don't want the fruit to get lost to the maltyness, and I also don't want the beer to get turned into a Mike's style beverage.  The Stumptown Tart has just a hint of fruit at the end of the beer that makes it nice.  Not everyone will like this beer mind you, but it made for a lovely summer ale for me.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Beer Brewing Reprise

A couple of people asked for a simple recipe for beer with household items.

I wrote a post on how I got started not that long ago, but I will reprise and expand on it here. Also for a more thorough and well thought out introduction to brewing Check out John Palmers How to brew.

Here's the deal, you need some equipment.  Period.

At the very (very very least) you want a pot big enough to boil whatever size batch you are going to be making, keep in mind that when you add hops (unless you buy pre-hopped extract) this boil with get a crazy kick of head coming at you.  You will need a vessel that you can attach an airlock to for fermenting into, and you will need something to put the final beer into when you are done.

Most homebrew stores sell for 5 gallon batches, most recipes you read are divisible by 5 gallons.  5 gallons gives you +/- 50 beers or just more than 2x24 packs.  Normal people use bottles that are cappable, so you will need caps and a capper.  When you do an extract brew you normally get 6lbs(or so) of LME(liquid Malt Extract) 1-2lbs of specialty grains (this give you mouth feel and color) and 2-4oz of hops for boiling and some yeast (normally one package of whatever they recommend).  When you go to bottle you need to add (approximately) 3/4 of extra sugar (normally corn sugar because it is flavorless) to your beer before you bottle it to give the yeast something to eat so your beer will be carbonated.  Are you getting all of this?

Sadly you need equipment for 5 gallons it is bigger than almost any normal person's biggest pot (I used a 7.5 gallon pot for my extract brews) My LHBS sells them for $40ish for acceptable pots.  Some hombrew stores sell intro kits that comes with everything you need (except a pot) and mine included a free recipe of your choice. My kit was $100 came with one food grade bucket that is about 7 gallons and has a spigot.  The value of this spigot cannot be overstated, I use this bucket every time I brew and bottle it is that useful.  It also came with a 5 gallon glass carboy (the glass portion of this is somewhat rare as the carboys can be pretty expensive on their own) and airlock.  The kit also came with a racking cane (that I wish was an auto-siphon but beggars cannot be choosers) a clamping hose for racking, a bottle wand and shorter hose for bottling and lastly an Red Barron capper.  I think it came with a Hydrometer (for measuring your ABV% but it did not come with a beaker (tall skinny lab tool for samples).

Every piece of equipment listed has a use, and is part of the brewing process.

So come brew day you follow the same basic idea you start with 3-5 gallons of water and add your specialty grains normally in a muslin bag and cook them at whatever the temperature your recipie calls for (normally the a 154°F aka Saccharification temperatures for about 10-30 minutes). At this stage I call it making tea, you are getting the grains to the temperature that they give you the best and easiest sugar they have. After you're done making tea you kick up your temperatures rinse the grains and add your extract and bring you kettle to a boil. Once you see what is known as the hot break (when the little foamy head on your boil parts) and you start seeing a "rolling boil" you start your timer for 60 minutes and follow the recipe for hop additions. Normally you have a 60 minute and a 10 minute addition for simple recipes. When you add your hops watch out, this is when you are most likely to have boil overs, the hops piss off your boil and I don't know why.

At the end of the boil you wait for the temperature to drop to around 180°F naturally (you don't have to but it's kind of like letting meat rest before you cut it). I do this by putting the kettle on the floor of my garage and the cement acts as an immense heat sink but you have to move it round a bit. From here on out everything you do is basically trying to not fuck up the work you just did, if your beer is going to get infected it will happen during this stage. Now depending on how much water you have left in your kettle you add cold (like in your fridge overnight cold) water or ice to get your wort (the stuff you just boiled is now known as wort) down to yeast pitching temperatures. If your city has chlorine in the water you probably want to use bottled or filtered water (you probably want to any way) but getting your wort chilled quickly is the name of the game. You are trying to get from 180°F to ~80°F in about 15 minutes, this is known as the cold break. The point of this is to keep your beer from getting chill haze (cloudy when it is cold). There are some smart people that will tell you about the protein in your beer and how slow cooling affects the way that it coils, but you just need to know your beer will look cloudy if you don't chill it fast enough. Once it's cold enough you dump it into your primary fermenter (for me the food grade bucket) trying to splash it in there to get a lot of oxygen in it for the yeast to proigate. If you boil pot isn't big enough to boil the whole 5+ gallons you will do this first and then add cold water and ice to get to your 5 gallons total batch.

Now you pitch your yeast. Some yeast calls for you to re-hydrate them in warm water other people do fancy things with stir plates and yeast nutrient, for you if you ask the brewstore they have some yeast that comes in a smack pack (yeast in a pouch that has nutrients surrounding it) that will get you up and running very fast or there are yeasts that you can just pitch without re-hydrating. Whatever yeast you pick make sure you follow the package directions not what is written in your recipe, the people that packed your yeast know more about yeast than the people writing recipes on the internet. From there you attach your airlock and try to maintain the temperatures that are recommended on your yeast pack for several days until vigorous fermentation has completed (trust me you will know the difference). At that point some people choose to rack off (transfer from one vessel to another) so your beer isn't sitting on the trub (deflocculated yeast, proteins, and if you used hop pellets hops too). The trub is believed to cause off flavors in your beer, but you can and some brewers do leave it in one vessel for the duration of the fermentation. Temperature is important for your beer as too hot and you stress the yeast out (really really to hot and you could kill it) and too cold you cause it to go dormant. Some yeast does better in hotter environments and some does better in cold environments (lager yeasts) so if you cannot regulate your temperatures you should consider brewing for the season and use yeast to match the temps you can achieve. There is a whole lot to be said for yeast and keeping it happy, I'm reading a book that is dedicated to how to use and cultivate yeast Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation[?]. This is probably overkill for most everybody but the most interested in brewing.

Other things I use but there are alternatives for Star San and PBW (powdered brewery wash). Both are chemicals, my LHBS(local home brew store) sells the PBW in a measured for 5 gallon size that is great for cleaning bottles. You can use your primary fermenter if you are supper cheap, but I worry about all the gunk that comes from the bottle affecting my flavors so I use a cheapo home depot bucket for my cleaning. PBW cannot be understated as the coolest stuff, use gloves as it hurts my hands to use, but that could also be the hot as fuck water I use. You put the bottles in and the labels basically fall off no scrubbing needed (except for Deschutes stupid bottles the glue they use is awful). This stuff kills like everything including leftover yeasties from the beer you drank out of those bottles. You will need to rinse these bottles after you get the gunk off of them caution and time are well spent here getting clean bottles to put that beer you have worked so hard on. As a side note I've heard anecdotal evidence that the twist off style caps are prone to breaking if you plan on re-using bottles stick to the type you have to use a bottle opener on. After you are done I mix up a batch of Star San (this also is measured as a 5 gallon batch, but a little goes a very long way so I make it and put it into clean 1 gallon plastic jugs. You can try to eyeball the mix down to a more reasonable size batch but because I brew often the 5 gallons is handy to have around. I didn't mention it above but Star San is a part of basically every stage of my brewing process. It is a no-rinse sanitizer and I rinse every vessel and every instrument that touches my beer with it prior to use. It does not kill your yeast, won't add flavor to your beer, and is safe for consumption so don't be afraid of it, and use it everywhere. I have thus far not gotten an infected batch (even when my hands where in the chilled wort) and I attribute this to a liberal use of Star San.

After you have cleaned and sanitized your beer bottles (pro-tip if you clean them in your kitchen sink use your dishwasher as a drying rack for your beer bottles. Don't run them in the dishwasher if you have jet dry as it will leave a film on your bottles, but I use the washer as a drying rack.) Now that you have clean bottles you can transfer it into the bottles, cap and wait for them to carbonate. If you want to know your ABV% you take a hydrometer reader before you pitch your yeast, and before you put it in your bottles. The difference between your original gravity and your final gravity gives you the % of alcohol in the beer.

Hope this was helpful and not overly redundant, but if you want to work with household items I will try to think up the barest of minimum things you need. The trouble is you are going to be doing half or less batches and you have to scale them manually and this is a huge pain in the ass. Also if you don't have equipment to measure you don't know if it is pansy or good beer, and you won't know what to tweak for the next batch. In short I think bucking up and getting the starter kit I outlined in the previous post and doing 5 gallon batches. I know someone that has a lot less equipment then I do and he brews more often, and drinks more so it can be done with less equipment than I use, but the equipment I use has purpose and I use it to make the best beer I can. That said the beer that I am the most proud of and I though tasted the best was an extract beer so it can be done (it was a $75 5 gallon batch of beer so you know it was expensive).

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Monday Brew night

So after I got the porter put to bed and since I now have a small surplus of hops (natch) I headed down to the Brewstore to get some grain and to make an IPA.  After my big beer disaster I retreated to safer low sugar targets and thought I would focus on getting the hop character just right.  In spite of trying for me I ended up with too little water in the kettle again and at the end of the boil I found only 3.5 gallon in my fermenter.  Luckily given how inefficient the last few rounds have been with just simple infusion brew in a bag mashing I keep the grains around and put them in my smaller pot on medium heat and about 5 more gallons of water while I boiled the first runnings with the hops.  At the end of the boil I was pretty sure that there wasn't enough water, so I went and got the other kettle and brought it down to drain the grains and boil.

The hop sock with the leaf hops came undone in the first boil so I used the paint strainer to filter the first runnings when I put it into the fermenter so I dabbed all the hops in the second runnings while they boiled to get every last bit of hoppy goodness out of them, and since it was getting late and the pot had been sitting for so long with already rinsed grains at about 155°F for more than an hour I only did a 30 minute boil on the second runnings.  taken together I managed to get 73% efficiency this time around so I may take to having a second pot with a large amount of boiling liquid to dunk the grains into for better extraction.  I managed to get another 6% efficiency and had a larger batch to boot.

I realize all of this probably would make more sense with pictures, but I was busy trying to watch Game of Thrones while I was brewing so I didn't take any pictures.  I have one more beer I want to try and sneak in brewing before the wife pops.  I though having an Oktoberfest beer would be a fun middle distance beer and great way to celebrate the little one.  I suppose if my brain is still with me in November it probably will be cider and winter ale time.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bottling and Brewing

So I got the Vanilla Bourbon Porter in bottles over the on Sunday and got to scheming on what to brew next.  I ended up with about 4 gallons total for the Porter, and now the next 3 months will determine how the flavor comes out.  One thing I noticed right away from my test before bottling is that oak has a very prominent part in the flavor right now.  Not surprising as I left the oak in for 6 or 7 days and beer is really sensitive to flavors like oak.  I'm hopping in time the vanilla and smokey malt flavor will come out a little more, but it felt like a porter to my tongue and I didn't get any off flavors so I may have just managed to not ruin the beer in spite of my best efforts.  With so much sugar still left in the beer I added less than 3/4 cup for priming, and I'm still concerned I'll end up with bottle bombs.  To counter this I put a large part of this batch into swingtop style 16oz bottles, but come time to drink it I may regret putting such a big in your face beer into 16oz bottles.

Anyhow here is a link to the Vanilla Bourbon Porter for those that are ever interested in getting into this.

I get the bottling done relatively early so I headed off to the Homebrew store to see what trouble I could get into for Labor Day.  Trouble indeed I did try to get into, the owner was at the store and he had a stainless false bottom that he said he would give me at 50% off and would charge me nominally for installing a ball lock on my keggle.  I came back the next day and much to my dismay that false bottom just doesn't fit, and no amount of wishing is going to fix that.  I probably will still get the ball lock and a mesh screen installed and end up buying another keg to convert so I can have a keggle and mash turn.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Crisis averted

Alright it was less terrible than I originally thought and it goes to show it's not what happens to you but how you react.  I didn't get much sleep last night so encountering a problem right away in the day I wasn't ready to deal with something that was broken.

Turns out the transaction logs on the SQL server had grown quite large and filled the volume.  Treesize and a few 20gigs deleted later, life is better and no one needs to know that the reboot wasn't exactly what fixed the server.  The server most definitely needed to be rebooted, I had a new version of anti-virus that was waiting to finish installing.

I'm just paranoid about this server it failed on me before, and I was stressed when I saw that the monthly full backup had failed to complete (the password reset from the co-worker leaving pissed off the backup service).  In the end it all worked out fine.  The monthly full this month is going to be a little spotty in terms of restoring, it is currently running and only about 20% after 5 hours.  1 terabyte of data to backup FTW?  We normally let it run from on Friday night and it goes all day Saturday.  The backup averages 22 hours and only a few things have been locked at the exact moment someone was trying to use them today so for the most part most people won't even notice.

I just got *ucked by Tuesday

It's 8:30 am and already this is starting to get ugly, I got a notice from a VP that we have been put on notice for e-discovery in relation to a Tort Claim that is being reviewed.  This is sort of my worst nightmare, e-discovery for email will literally be the worst thing to ever happen here, I have some users that literally delete every message that they get after they have read them.  I have no way to produce those records.   I've known about this issue for a few months, and have exchange 2010 purchased I just need to get it installed and setup the legal-hold mail store.

Next up the worthless accounting software won't launch.  The server needs to be rebooted I'm certain, but I haven't rebooted any servers since that fateful day about a year ago when we discovered a bad array controller and the accounting server couldn't see any of its disks.  Talk about panic, I found the same server model on craigslist drove out after work, came back on a Saturday to get this beast working.  Now I staring at the screen afraid of lighting striking twice as I hit reboot.

Same time frame my boss doesn't know the new WIFI password and has a contractor my coworker setup on the wireless trying to lead a class for our new ERP software.  Also I have people that need signage, and I'm quite literally the only one that knows how to run the software so, guess who is on the hook to do signage right now.  I'm in need of emergency Bourbon at this point.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A cloud has lifted

Yesterday was the last day for my co-worker and the only sensation I have is one of relief.  He has had such a negative attitude for such a long time that in spite of possibly gaining a lot of work, I cannot say I'll strictly speaking miss him.

I like to celebrate leavings by cleaning, so I've spent a chunk of the day loading junk onto a pallet to send off for recycling.  Yeah IT junk.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Holy hops batman

My wife's co-worker came through for me and not only grew hops for me, but delivered them to her work! Can you imagine this bag if you where sitting next to him on the bus? These are partially dried and weighed about 12oz in total.  In all that is about $40 or $50 worth of hops I don't have to buy.

I bagged them up in these Ziploc Vacuum seal bags and tossed them in the freezer for use later. Once the air is sucked out they are good for about 6 months in the freezer. That entire bag is Cascade hops, and they tend to range in Alpha Acid content from 4.5% up to 8%.  I have no way of knowing what the AA% as far as I can tell, so I'm going to assume rather bottom of the chart 4.5 or 5%.