Wednesday, June 09, 2010

HefferBison? (orange honey hefe)

Poured from a 12oz grolsch bottle to a plain pint glass.
Appearance: It's on the orange side of amber and cloudy in the way you expect a weat beer to be. A slightly off white one finger head of little bitty champagne sized bubbles forms and doesn't quite dissapate all the way as you drink.
Aroma: Very orangey, informed by flowery hops smell, but orange deffinately steals the show. Unfortunately missing is the banana and clove smells that you expect from a hefeweizen.
Taste: This is certainly a fruit beer. Orange is the main note along with an herby hop flavor and a subtle wheatyness. Again missing are the banana and clove flavors you expect in a hefe, but i can't say they are necessarilly "missed." The beer is wonderful and bright, delicious and refreshing.
Mouthfeel: Medium/light bodied, and very smooth. Nice and bubbly the way I like a summer beer, but it could be argued that it's overcarbonated.
Drinkability: This brew is entirely quaffable, especially after a day mowing the yard or playing hard. It's good alone and good with desserts.

Notes: Indeed my best beer to date. I like it better that Shocktop, but others don't. You may have noticed that I called it orange honey hefe, but never mentioned honey; if it's there, I can't detect it. I have some ideas about how to rectify that. Also I'll try to get more of the banana/clove taste that is halmark of hefe next time, but all it all this is a great brew. Recipe is a definite keeper with some room for improvement, just the way I like it.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Wheel of Time: Part 2

Ok I just finished up Lord of Chaos, and it hasn't scared me off yet. I was VERY upset that my favorite character was COMPLETELY omitted from book 5, in fact I almost decided to take a break from the series, but people said that LoC was one of the best in the series. They were mostly right about that. My main complaint was the major break in the falling action after Rand's capture by the Tower Aes Sedai. I had to go back and read the tangential tale of Elayne and Nynaeve in the city of Ebou Dar, because I was flipping so fast I was missing a lot. my claim is not that this piece of their story was unimportant, just that as the interlude between Rand's capture and the ensuing rescue attempt served only to break up the flow and frustrate me.

Favorite Character: Still Perrin by far. I love his begrudged acceptance of the things he has to do, and the celebrity he has become. Leading the Two Rivers against the trollocs was just the right place for him.

Favorite other guy: Rand has really come into his own, though it sort of happened over night. Each character seems to undergo major growth spurts between books, and we are left to fill in the blanks of how and why. Book 3 has Rand still a scared sheepherder fighting against his thread, but book for has a Rand cool and calm, almost resigned, full of secretive plans and intent on success. I had to double take and make sure I didn't miss something. That said I like the new Rand. I like the amnesty though the Asha'man are surely brutal. I like the Sammael must see the hammer, but not knowing what exactly Rand has planned. He seems to finally be getting a grip on what's going on, rather than just being caught up in it.

Favorite Girl: Elayne is letting her royalty show more and more, and has thus unseated her as my favorite Female. I was surprised to see Moiraine in her new light of self sacrifice, and sad to see her die, though it's a hard buy that she is actually dead. As far as I can tell she just went through the same gateway that Mat did, and I expect she and Lanfear will come out each in their own version of what that gateway does. So, it wasn't until Egwene was made Amyrlin that I had my new favorite girl. Pulling the strings deftly, she is. Her time with the Wise Ones made her into something new as well. She's more rounded now, more intense. Much less whiny.

Favorite Faction: The Aiel have won me over with their weird customs and violent reactions and strict honor system. Especially with the Warders becoming for me less of a faction. Each are individual in that they exist to protect one woman. What ever she wants is his interest whether he agrees or not.

Hated Faction: I still hate the Seanchan even with the revelations in Tanchico, but they have been almost nonexistent in theses 3 books. But over the last 3 books I've become less and less fond of the Aes Sedai. I don't hate them all, but most of them seem to think they know exactly what's what, and most of the time they haven't the slightest idea. Couple that with their self important attitude and there isn't much left to like. I like the current state of the Aes Sedai, 9 from the Little Tower forced into fealty, the White Tower now in open conflict with Rand. I like seeing those ladies who are always so sure that they have it all under control forced to squirm.

Pacing: The pacing has cleared up a bit for me. I think I came around on it when I could recall who I was reading about freely, instead of struggling to remember what person x looked like or where he came from. There is still a slight problem that I mentioned before of characters having spontaneous growth spurts between books, but I can live with it.

Magic: I only mention this again to say that I'm satisfied with the amount of information I've received on this front. I figured this would be fleshed out more fully while learning about the Male half of the source, and I was right.

Things I'm looking forward to: When I thought about writing this part, the girls had not become Aes Sedai yet, and I was HATING them being tied down by the whims of those women. But now they are Aes Sedai and there isn't much to look forward to in that regard any more. So other than that I'd like to see Nynaeve get rid of her block. I think it will take some event that she has no where left to turn but she can't be angry for some reason. Maybe something near death, but it would have to be something that wouldn't necessarily make her angry, caught in a fire, or maybe drowning, something that was no ones fault she could be angry with. I'd also like to see Lan get to her at some point.
I await the return of Mioraine I find it hard to believe her dead at all. I kept expecting to read about her experience inside that gateway.
Very curious about what is going to happen with Allana and Rand. I assume eventually Elayne will be warding him, and maybe Aviendha, I'm curios to see if Allana will pass him easily or put up a fight.
I'm also baited over Rand's designs against Sammael.
Rand mentioned that he has a notion to cleanse saidin of the taint, and I know a later book is called The Cleansing of Saidin. Looking forward to that.

So there we are through 6 books. I'm still burning through though not as fast as the first 3.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tasting Notes: Rosemary IPA

I poured the Rosemary IPA from my 12oz. Grolsch bottle to a pint mug.

Deep amber in color, if not dark, with a full 3 fingers of slightly off white head (guess we solved that problem). Cloudy all the way through even when held to the light.

Aroma: The smell of rosemary leaps out of the glass. The addition of the herb to the second fermentation could be cut by 75%. There is a spicy hops smell, but the Herb steals the show. After 10 minutes in the glass the rosemary mellows out, and the head dissipates but laces the glass all the way down.

Taste: Again the main mark is the rosemary. The hops taste is pleasantly bitter, spicy and a bit flowery, and the beer itself has a toasted note. It's hard to discern the other flavors that are being masked by the rosemary. Though the ABV is up around 7.5% it isn't boozy at all.

Mouthfeel: Medium/full bodied and perhaps a bit over carbonated (trying to hard to make up for the last one), but it isn't a really big gripe.

Drinkability: This is not a session-er, the Rosemary makes it a GREAT beer with food. But by itself can be daunting, unless you like rosemary as much as me.

Notes: This was, to say the least, an experimental beer. I had never heard of Rosemary in beer before I set out to make it and I have to say that even though it's a bit overpowering I'm considering this a complete success. Next batch will be spot on. The biscuit malt played exactly the way I imagined with the herb, like a little rosemary cracker. I think I need to add a fining agent or learn how to deal with the solids better, I'd like the beer to be clearer. I think it will hang out in my Fridge for a while though, it's not an everyday kind of beer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wheel of Time

I'm reading through the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, good stuff so far, very entertaining and at times mesmerizing. I've just finished up the 3rd book in the series, The Dragon Reborn, and I thought I'd share some thoughts about what I've read so far. Bullet point style. The following contains spoilers from the first 3 instalments in the series, you are warned.

  • Favorite Character thus far: Perrin Aybara - I usually like the hulking character in fantasy stories, dwarfs being the exception, and I always like blacksmithing stuff. He's also the "think first" guy, which I lean to, but, I really started liking his thread when he found his ability to communicate with wolves. The wolfbrother angle has got me hooked, and if he ever smiths a weapon of some sort he'll cement himself as my favorite. He has also drawn an interesting character, Zarine Bashere, into the story. I hope their thread continues to provide what it has so far.
  • Favorite Male Character besides Perrin: Lan Mandragoran - The stone faced and fearless, deadly in a fight and utterly devoted to an oath to protect the Aes Sedai caster Moiraine. I really like these archetypes, sword in hand since childhood, fiercely loyal to a single concrete ideal. He's probably more of a badass than Aragorn, but I'd still prolly lay money on Drizzt Do'Urden in a fight.
  • Favorite Female Character: Elayne Trakand - I'm a sucker for a redhead. In seriousness though this is more a process of elimination for me. Egwene is too whiny, Nynaeve is too headstrong, Min seems to just be caught up in things, and Moiraine is too dedicated to a cause that's too too fluid to predict what she will do. Elayne seems the balance of all that. She may be royal, but it doesn't show, she's vocal at just the right times and says the things I would say. The less developed Zarine is giving her a run for her money, we'll see in the next few books how that goes.
  • Favorite Faction: Warders - Even though I don't necessarily like the Aes Sedai at all times the Warders who protect them are really cool to me. Through all the Aes Sedai scheming and politics the Warders ideals are simple, Protect the one he is bonded to. To these guys there really is no gray. Plus I gotta get me one of those color shifting cloaks.
  • Most Hated Faction: Seanchan - Even before the Whitecloaks and the Shadow itself, I've had the most hate for the Seanchan. I've read some good black mail and betrayal stories, but nothing as treacherous as what Liandrin does with Egwene and the others by delivering them into the collars and leashes of the Seanchan. Besides the whole slavery thing, these folks seem heartless at best, bent on power and control. The higher up you go the worse it gets, utterly self serving and completely devoid of any compassion. Even the forsaken seem to have chosen vileness over the light, but for the Seanchan what they do is right.
  • Faction on Which the Jury is Still Out: Aiel - Fearsome and fearless, as deadly without a weapon as with, and can apparently out run horses. I'd like to see their aversion to swords fleshed out a bit more, and I'm sure it will be, but on the face of it I like their approach to things.
  • Refreshing Lack of Mythical Creatures - I've really like that there aren't any of the standard elves or dwarfs, every major faction is a faction of men. There are fantastic creatures, but they are used sparingly. For me it makes the threat a more real. Orcs are nameless and faceless, but men and women fallen to evil hits home for me. There are the trollocs (every fantasy story needs fodder too), but fallen men are pulling the strings.
  • Balance - Every good fantasy story needs to have a good balance of lore versus action, and I think Jordan does a really good job on this front. The world is expansive to say the least, but it isn't overbearing, and the action sequences come in the right places for me.
  • Pacing - I will say that the pacing can get a bit strange for me, but it's mostly because I've divided the amount of attention I'm willing to give certain characters. If Perrin rides off by himself you can bet I'm reading every word, but when Mat ends up alone, I'm markedly less interested. I'm sure as I go on I'll develop more affinity for each character, but as of now I haven't.
  • Magic System - In the fantasy genre the writer usually either exhaustively explains in detail what it is a magician is doing when he accesses the fabled power, or the writer tells you it's "insert name for magic here" and expects that to be enough. I have seen both work well. In this series so far I've been disappointed with how much I know about the system. I think the problem is that Jordan himself didn't really have an idea of how it worked, and my problem with that is that he let's us in on it as it comes to him, which has left me really confused about what it is those women are doing when they touch Saidar.

So that's my impression thus far, I am pretty engrossed and plan on seeing it through over this year, although at my current pace it won't take that long.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tasting Notes: Irish Red

I poured my Irish Red from it's 12oz. bottle to a Pint Glass.

Appearance: Very Dark, the only way I know it's red is holding it up to bright light. Less than a finger of tan colored head, which dissipates very quickly, but does lace the glass well on it's way to empty.

Aroma: A distinct fruity aroma, and an herbal mark.

Taste: Light Hopps flavor, followed by malty caramel sweetness, finishes with a roasted bite that goes a bit overboard, far enough to say burned. A slightly too bitter aftertaste from the burned flavor.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, but under carbonated.

Drinkability: Though the finish is bitter the beer is still very drinkable. It' s been really good with food and for cooking though certainly not quaffable .

Notes: It tastes like a red but looks like a brown lest held up to the light, where you can see its red tint. Entirely too dark to fit the style and the head retention is nothing short of failure, though the way it laces a glass is nice. Also disappointed in the markedly burnt taste, otherwise it would be right on.
I believe I have diagnosed the two major issues with the beer and will correct them in future brews. First the burnt taste comes from adding my extract while my brewpot is still on the heat. The syrup falls straight to the bottom and scorches, easily correctable and won't be a problem again. Second the carbonation and head retention problem. I sterilize my bottles in the dishwasher and as we know dish detergents contain surfactants so that water doesn't spot. This chemical works in direct opposition to head formation and retention. So in the future I will run the dishwasher empty to make sure none of the detergent is left behind, then sterilize the bottles.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ghost Busters (The Game)

If you are a fan of the Ghostbusters series of films in a holistic sense of the word, if you are a consumer of them in the truest sense, if you bought the Limited Edition Gift Set with Collectible Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Ghoulish Trading Cards, Goofy Slime, Filmmakers’ Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Behind the Scenes Featurettes, Storyboards, and 2 Animated Episodes, then this game is for you. If you are one of the rest of us, it's probably not.

The game is a trudge to say the least. You are the nameless new GB recruit and that's about as deep as your character will get. Playing the game is more like watching a new GB movie, that happens to be a really weak rehash of the older flicks, except intermittently you take stop watch and play a really bad third person shooter that also has ghosts in it, as if to supplicate the film watching experience.

The one thing the game has going for it is a nerdgasm of voice acting, virtually every role is voiced by the actor that originally played the character. After that the list of things this game has to offer evaporates. Starting with gameplay, the control scheme is confusing and movement is clunky. The tasks set before you are repetitive at best. The game will tell you that there are lots of enemy types and you need to scan them in order to know what to do. Really there are 3 enemy types, ghosts that you can damage enough to disperse, ghosts you must trap, hulking boss types that are basically one of the other types but you must do something to them first to make them killable, you know break a crystal or something. The environment looks good, but you will see two identical doors, one you will be able to open and one you will not. Sometimes you can open the door, but only if one of your cohorts comes over and kicks it. The entire game is plagued by loading times. When you die, and you will die, a lot, mostly because your AI buddies are akin to mentally challenged toddlers with no eyes, you will be treated to at least a 20 second loading screen.

All of that I could forgive for the entertainment value of the game, except that the game fails to deliver on the level that you expect out of a game. As I said before the game is a trudge, and I've trudged through game before for the sake of being part of the story. The biggest problem with GB is that your character isn't even relevant in the smallest way. You are expected to be the medic for the group, and to find the secret path every time there is a dead end. and to kill every enemy, and to trap every ghost, and to break the boss ghost's defense (whatever task that may entail), all so that in the end Peter Venkman get's the girl, the rest of the GB's get the recognition and you get, well I don't know what the hell I got. It was like I was the Red Uniform on the away team, except that when I died the entire universe ceased to be.

The game is completely without any story element that makes the horrid gameplay you endured with the effort. It's like a big practical joke, and your the one with egg on your face.

Overall: D-, it was playable but not enjoyable. Oh oops, I meant to say, in a land where toasters are kings and pigeons are pawns, this game is a - look just don't play this game, for your own wellness, don't play it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Naming the Home Brewery

I've all but decided to name the brewery One Stalk, as in "Danger and delight grow on one stalk." But, I need help with the attached generic term for brewery so I'm making a poll to help me decided. Tell me which one you think sounds best. The Formation will be likt this:

One Stalk Brewery

Thanks everyone!!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Brütal Legend

I finished up Brütal Legend yesterday before I went to work and now I'm scurrying around trying to grab a few more achievements before I drop it back in the mail. BL is a Drama Comedy Parody Open World Action/Adventure Hack and Slash Racer Shooter RTS with RPG elements. At least I think it is. It's sort of like being in control of a more story driven version of This is Spinal Tap but in a medieval fantasy world. You might be thinking that if the game is going to try to be all these things then it can't deliver quality on all fronts. You'd be right, sort of.

It's not that the game can't deliver, it just doesn't really try to. The Hack and Slash parts of the game are VERY simple two button mashing combos, the world is open in conception, but linear in execution, the RTS is in real time but not strategic. The story is hokey, though comically entertaining and for a game that seems to have the main objective of not taking itself too seriously it succeeds quite well. The main character, Eddie Riggs (Voiced by Jack Black), is a old school roadie stuck working for a band of prima donnas, longing to have lived earlier when Metal meant something. What like the 70's? No earlier, like the early 70's. The whole experience has the feel of the Rock Metal movement: Why does that guy have a spiky wrist band? Because he thinks it's badass. Take that same template and apply it to an entire medieval world and you get pine trees that grow beer, woolly mammoths with stainless steel tusks, tree trunks made of rock stage scaffolding, shrubbery that sprout car parts, huge stone obelisks of outstretched "rock hands," and an entire race headbangers that have been headbanging for so many generations that they have evolved over developed neck muscles. Why? Because they thought it would be badass, or at least they thought they could bank on that idea being comical enough to carry they entire effort. In my opinion they were right.

Listen you won't walk away feeling like you just played through some one's creative master stroke, but if you play games to be entertained, then here friends is some quality entertainment. BL is sort of like getting a quarter pounder with cheese. Sure it isn't a bone in rib-eye, but a quarter pounder with cheese sure is good sometimes. It's not trying to take itself to seriously, and I suggest that if you play it you don't either, just sit back and enjoy.

Overall: B+, err, I mean, on a scale from Goodyear Tires to Hot Air Balloons, its better than Two Stray Dogs, but it's obviously not on par with a Trip to the Circus.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Blessed are the Beermakers pt. 3 - Fermentation and Bottling

So 5 days in the bucket and I measure the Gravity (very simply put, the amount of sugar in a solution) of the beer. By measuring the wort when I pitch yeast and measuring again after a few days I can tell how much sugar is gone therefore how much alcohol is in my beer, and there fore when the Primary Fermentation is finished. I should have taken a picture of my Hydrometer, the tool that measure such things, but I didn't think of it. Any way we measured 1.058 degrees Plato at the start and 1.017 degrees at the end, I was shooting for 1.015 so this was pretty close and gave me about 5.3% ABV. Time to start the secondary fermentation.
See during Primary (read: when most of the alcohol is made) the yeast flocculate and fall out of suspension and make a 1.5 inch thick cake at the bottom of your ferment-er. This is called the "trub," and it can produce some off flavors if you let the beer set atop it too long. So, most brewers run the Secondary Fermentation in a secondary container. In my case a 6 gallon Carboy (one of those bottles you turn upside down on top of a water dispenser.) So I racked it over and it looks like this:

So this is secondary fermentation. During the week or so that the beer is in this container it will be conditioning. That is to say developing flavor while the yeasts clean op some of the waste products that they left behind when they were swimming in sugar water. This part of the process is a tasters game that I don't fully understand yet. The length of time that it takes is not only as varied as the types of beer that you can make, but as numerous as the amount of brewers making those beers. At any rate I left it be for a week and moved on to the bottling phase.
To sanitize I wash my bottles in the dishwasher on hot wash/hot dry, and am ready to bottle the second they come out. So after I get them started I have a few things to do. After the secondary fermentation there isn't much left for the yeast to eat, but I need them to keep working because I want another one of the products they produce. CO2. To get CO2 I have to give them more to eat. I, and most homebrewers, give them Corn Sugar. Why not Table Sugar? Brewers use corn sugar for its non-effect on taste. Table Sugar can leave cider-y tastes in the beer because it is not 100% ferment-able, corn sugar is. So I dump about a cup of corn sugar in the original plastic bucket, which I have cleaned and sanitized, and rack the beer over to it in preparation for bottling. I dump the sugar in first so that the beer mixes while it racks over rather than mixing with a utensil and adding a bunch of oxygen to the mix. Oxygen is bad.

After it's in the bucket it goes into the bottles with a bottling wand. Which is a plastic tube with a spring-loaded stopper at the end, as you push it down on the bottom of the bottle it opens and allows the bottle to fill without adding oxygen. Oxygen is bad. Then after all my bottles are full I start capping. Which looks like this:

Then we get everything cleaned up and put it all back in the tub so we can wait for that wonderful carbonation. Now that the solution is under pressure, as the CO2 produced increases the pressure even more it squeezes itself into the solution. After a about 10 days I'll open one to see how well carbonated it is. If it's good they go into the fridge where the cold temp stops the yeasts from working. I bottled em up a couple of days ago, I should be popping the top on the First Cold Irish Red on St. Patty's day. Poetic, don't you think?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Ice Cream Beer Float

Last night we went to the Flying Saucer and had a few beers with Russ, my brother-in-law. Kayla started off with the European flight, a collection of 5 euro-beers in 50z glasses, I had a Murphy's red since I'm currently making one and Russ had, well I can't recall. Second round russ like my Red so much he went with it and I wanted Kayla to try a the Young's Double Chocolate Stout, so I ordered one since she was still working on the flight. About half way through the Stout I started contemplating out loud whether or not we should try the Ice Cream Beer Float that the saucer offers with the Stout. Well, Kayla said she could see how it would taste good so she called our waitress and we ordered one.

Formerly I had not been able to wrap my mind around what this might be like. I mean I've had the stout before, and I've had vanilla ice cream before, but combining the two was giving my imagination nothing but brick walls. Kayla started in on it by getting a big spoon full of ice cream and sort of dipping it down in the beer. I followed her lead making sure to grab a bit more of the beer part of the equation. I thought, if this is gonna work it has to work on it's own merits, not because I drowned one taste with the other. I could immediately tell that my tasted didn't have enough beer. I could hardly taste it, but I think this might be the best way for a first timer to ease into this particular concoction, also I was intrigued. Since I wasn't disgusted by the combo I started drinking from the straw while Kayla kept eating the ice cream. My theory was that since this was a float it would do that thing that all floats do when the Ice Cream to Root Beer ratio hits a magical number and the drink transcends to a place of joy and merriment. And, to my immense surprise, I. Was. Right. About half way down on the glass there were 3 or 4 drinks that were little gulps of taste heaven. After those swigs the ratio tipped to much toward the Ice Cream for me, as all floats do, and I watched for Kayla to get to her own heavenly ratio. She like the scale tipped much further to ice cream than me, but the little gulps of taste heaven were there for her too.

So, if you find yourself close to a Flying Saucer of have so Young's Double Chocolate around, give this a try. I was skeptical, but we were bold, and fortune favors that I hear.

RKW out

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blessed are the Beermakers pt. 2 - Brew Day

Most of the beer brewing process is a passive experience, but the first day, dubbed "Brew Day," requires constant activity for the better part of 5 hours. This is how my Brew Day went:

Got home with the supplies (Honey Nut Scooters are not part of this particular brewing session) and started a couple of gallons of water heating up. I would heat that water to 150-155 degrees in order to steep my specialty grains into what brewers call a "Grain Tea." So I dumped all of my milled grain into a grain sock, turned the heat down, and let my grain steep for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile I filled my 7 Gallon Brewer's Bucket with water and sterilization chemical, and put every thing that would eventually touch my beer in that water. Bacterial infection is a big deal in beer making; present and active bacteria make bad tastes and can completely spoil a wort. After 30 minutes I grabbed up my grain sock and let it drain as much as possible. This is what the spent grain looks like.

So now I had a couple of gallons of grain tea to add my extract to. Remember I said it was like really thick syrup, well that syrup has to be diluted down to less viscous consistency so that it can be boiled. I got the syrup diluted down and added enough water to get me up to 6.5 gallons in the biol pot, brought it up to a boil and sat back for a bit. After 30 minutes of boiling it was time to add the Hops. I'm sure you heard of these in a Sam Adam's commercial, but mine are a bit different. Some home brewers opt for the whole hops that you see in beer commercials but the more cost effective version of hops look like this:

Those little pellets break up inside a cheese cloth sock and impart the same sort of bitterness that you would get from whole hops. Now as with almost anything the more fresh and unprocessed your ingredients are the better, and any brewer will tell you to move to whole hops when you can, but for me the cheapness wins for now. So I add those hops with an hour left in the total boil time that is required by my recipe and I wait for that hour to pass. When it's done boiling, I have a true blue Wort, just waiting for a bit of yeast to turn this into a party.

But before pitching yeast I need to do two things. First the wort is much to hot for yeast to survive so I must bring the temp down to an acceptable level for them to live, and the goal is to hit a level at which they do their work the best (more on this later). Second, is to activate the yeast, as my yeast comes dry, like baker's yeast. So a get a bit of warm water and mix in the dry yeast which makes a smelly little paste and I dump about a pound of sterile ice into my wort. I tried power cooling in my fridge and also ice bathing my bucket but nothing was getting the temp down fast enough so I resorted to diluting my wort a bit for the sake of shortening the amount of time the Wort would be in the "Danger Zone." Once it was in the correct range I transferred it over to my Brewer's Bucket and shook the heck out of it to aerate it. The purpose behind aeration is that yeast will reproduce when Oxygen is available, and since I don't necessarily have enough yeast to ferment the entire wort I want some reproduction to happen right off the bat. Also this process allows the Yeast to overrun and rogue bacteria or wild yeast that may have floated in. So after aeration I pitch the yeast in and slosh it around to disperse and clap on the lid and affix my CO2 lock. Which looks like this:

This device is a vertical tube with another bigger tube around it and another around the whole thing. When filled with water, or in my case Vodka because it's sterile, It allows gasses to escape a closed system with out letting gasses back in. But, didn't I just say that we need oxygen? For the very beginning of the fermentation this is true, but after there are enough yeast cells present you want them to stop reproducing and start eating sugars. As long as Oxygen is present they will continue to reproduce and break down the sugars way farther that the alcohol we are looking for. So as their CO2 pushes the oxygen out we want to keep it out. This valve also prevents pressure build up, since yeast make a LOT of CO2 when they are fermenting. At this point the passive part of the brewing process begins. Depending on the Beer the fermentation can take from a few days up to a week. We'll be checking on this one in 5 days.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Blessed are the Beermakers pt. 1 - The Recipe

This is the first part of a several part series covering my second attempt at home-brewing beer. Not that my first attempt was unsuccessful, it was quite successful in my mind, as I made a serviceable Brown Ale. I didn't document my first go and regretted that. From now on I'll be documenting each subsequent attempt.

Preface -
My first batch of beer was made from a canned extract, which means that I opened a can of a concentrated wort syrup (very simply, a wort is the solution of grain, hops and water that is the basis for the future beer, companies concentrate them into syrups for the homebrewer's market) and boiled it with a few gallons of water to make my own wort. I then cooled that wort and moved it to a special fermentation bucket and added yeast for fermentation.

After my first go I do not consider myself by any means an expert in the field, or even all that proficient, but I did feel like I was ready to up the challenge ante a bit. So I moved from the full extract "wort in a can" approach to what is called the "Extract with Grains" method. The "Extract with Grains" method means that I would be using a Malt Extract base and choosing a few grains of my own choosing to build the flavor profile.I think of it like this: if you are building a house you have a few options for foundation. You can have concrete, pier and beam, stilted, etc. Less than 10 choices total, let's say. Virtually every house on the planet is built on one of these types of foundations, and beers are very similar to that. The "Malt" is the foundational base of the beer and what ever kind of beer you are making starts with one of a few types of Malt bases. Many homebrewers buy the malt in extract form because it's difficult to make and doesn't offer a whole lot of customization options, a concrete foundation is a concrete foundation. "Real" beermakers will make their own malt so that they are in control of the flavor profile from start to finish. So I'm not making my own malt, I trust the malt extract available to me and add my own profile of grains. Which brings us to...

Step 1: The Recipe -

As I stated, while I feel comfortable with the process, I'm not by any means expert, so I did not write a recipe for the beer I would make. I went to the homebrew store with two goals in mind: 1. Up the ante with the "Extract with Grains" method 2. Move to a "Two Stage Fermentation Process (more detail later)" The only thing I knew about the recipe was that I wanted to make an Irish Red Ale. So Kayla and I drove down to Homebrew Headquarters in Richardson, propped my elbows up on the counter and told the Shopkeep about my plan for my second go at the process. I told him I did not however have a recipe in mind and that I would trust his judgment for a good recipe for Irish Red. He pulled the following for me:

6.25 lbs Pale Ale Malt extract
3oz. Crystal Malt Grain
7oz. Roasted Barley
1lb 6oz. Pail Ale Malt Grain
8 AAU (Acid Alpha Units) of UK Target Hop Pellets
11g. Nottingham Brewer's Yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae)
1 cup Corn Sugar for Priming

He also milled the grain for me and grabbed me some new equipment (Grain Sock, Glass Carboy, and Hop Sock ) for the more complicated process. With my bucket of syrup and bag of milled grain, and new hardware, I headed home to start the fun.

Part 2 Coming Soon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bioshock 2

The following contains major plot spoilers, read at your own risk. I finished up BioShock 2 last night and I feel pretty good about the overall experience. I will say though, that out of the gate I had to overcome a bit of disappointment. The game tells you from the that you are one of the first Big Daddies, dubbed "Delta," which means that you aren't regulated to carrying one weapon and you can also use the same plasmids that are available to the rest of the Rapture world. I read that to say that I would be much more powerful this time through Rapture, and much harder to kill. Alas, I was not. Somewhere between the second and third train stop I got the notion that my character was not unlike the frail protagonist from the BioShock Sr., and there fore my gameplay should perhaps mirror that style. When I made that decision the game immediately became immensely more enjoyable. Now, I may be splitting hairs to be complaining about this learning curve, but I guess I just don't like being lied to when it's unnecessary. As you play through the game, and specifically, as you listen to the diary records, you find out in a round about way why it is that everything can still beat the crap out of you as if you were an ant among gods. I really don't mind that the random Leadhead Splicer can drop me in 3 shots, as long the game didn't tell me that I'd be a Juggernaut, it could have just told me I'd be an ant.

Okay that's out of the way. After I made the realization that I would have to start playing this iteration much more like I played its predecessor, I was able to get into the groove of the game and start experiencing the rich world and deep story arc it offers. I'll say first that I wish I had already been a father before playing this game, because the story affected me at the emotional core that I have already built for my future children. My assumption is that it hit much harder for those who are already fathers. This is the game's real value in my opinion. Most efforts in this industry seek to entertain your mind; distract you. Bioshock 2 seeks to engage you on a more human emotional level. When I walked up to the quarantine room before the final act of the game, the plot twist that I expected right down to the ground, was that the next set of circumstances would force me fight my daughter. But, as it turns out, I had already had my fight with my daughter, and it was a fight that rang much more real to me than I have seen in this media. She had been watching me, and learning, you know, like children do. My actions had shaped her, my decisions had informed her conscience. When the game revealed this to me, I had that panicked moment that you get when you think someone has found you out. I frantically inventoried the decisions I had made, wondering if I was the right kind of example, or if I had steered her wrongly, and all the while knowing that whatever I had done it was too late to change it. I wonder what it would have been like if I actually had a daughter and this game I was playing held that mirror up to my face....

The game also made for me an, I think, inadvertent comment about what it might take to create a Utopian society. Lamb is the perfect example of that old proverb, "The path to Hell is paved in the best intentions." She believes that in order to achieve utopia, that one must sacrifice not only self but sense of self and with it conscience. "Conscience is a curse," she says to Delta. I disagree with her, and since she is the antagonist, the game seems to disagree as well. She is proposing to create and individual with not even the slightest propensity toward evil. I would argue that good must be chosen of free will. I think that the greatest gift that God ever gave humanity was the freedom to choose. Humans have in them a great potential for good, and in order for that to have any value they must also have in them a great potential for evil. The power that we have to choose gives good its value, it can only be defined in reference to its opposite, other wise it is neither good nor evil it just is.

So, that's my piece on Bioshock 2. Overall I give it an A-.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dusting Off the Old Blog

Sometimes you have a little time on your hands and all you wanna do is dust off the old blog. So here I am. I don't really know where this is gonna go, but I'm gonna start with something short and simple.

We just got back from Angelfire, where there was a bit of snowfall over the weekend. I noticed something that had me thinking several times during ski lift rides. When snow is falling and its very cold, and all that you would expect a tree to do is lay in calm silence waiting for spring, they do something quite different. They shudder. When they are weighed down from catching snow they grow weary and they shudder, letting their load fall to the ground. Now I know that there is a better explanation for this phenomenon, but I'm sticking with the personified trees on this one; they shudder.