Lazy Friday

Fuz alerted me to this slideshow and article at the New York Times about this year’s hop harvest. It’s a cool collection of ideas and images for the beer lover.

One thing I got from the article that I think is very interesting is that some breweries have started planting their own hops. I like this for a few reasons; the entrepreneurship and the connection to growing food being the two biggest ones. People need to know how much effort goes into making the food they love and what steps might need to be taken to keep the people making that food paid well enough to continue with their efforts. If beer can provide an avenue for more people to realize how important it is to pay farmers well and take care of the land so the substances grown are tasty and good for us, then all the better.

But if you don’t care about any of those things, you can just say ‘Neat!’ and be done with it too.

As an interesting coincidence, the local paper had an article on what’s now become a glut of hops being harvested and in some cases unused. A glut that won’t even lower the price of beer! In a larger sense, I think this helps illustrate how complicated and interrelated the world can be.

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Measure twice, cut once

As I went to bottle my beer last Wednesday, my racking wand broke.

This is the magic wand that I use to transfer beer from the carboy into bottles; if it’s broken, then I can’t bottle and I think the problem can be easily deducted from there. The obvious solution is to go get a new wand but when I arrive at the store there isn’t one that matchs mine. So I need to buy a new syphon.

After looking at the syphons I buy the one that I swear looks exactly like the one I own. My first mistake; not bringing the original syphon down  to compare, just getting one that ‘looks’ the same. I figure; hey, if the wand is broken, who cares? I can still use the other parts of the syphon including the hose and save myself some money (which is just a wee bit important these days.)

I get the parts home and I cannot fit the racking cane tube into the hose that I have. The hose is too small.

Now; here’s where I make my second mistake. Instead of thinking: ‘You know, I bet I should’ve gotten the smaller syphon. Maybe I should go and exchange this one for that one,’ I think: ‘Well, I guess I need a new hose.’ So it’s back to the store to get a new hose. And crimp for the hose so I can control the flow of beer.

However, the hose is too big now! The beer is coming out of the carboy too fast and the bottles are filling up with foam instead of beer. Even when I crimp it, the beer is mixing with so much air and coming out so quickly that I’m getting bottles half-full of froth. That just can’t be good. Now I’ve used the damn thing though so I can’t return it. It’s not broken-I just flat out screwed up. In addition, I’ve made a huge mess, spilling beer everywhere trying to fill bottles to the appropriate level. Some bottles are too full. Most aren’t full enough. I have no idea what will happen to my brew as a result of this.

So it’s off to the hardware store! There, a very patient and kind woman helped me sift through components that could be used to attach my large hose to the small one. After a solid  fifteen minutes of searching we finally found a brass piece that would work.

The whole thing ran me a little over twenty bucks and ate about a third of my day and it should’ve cost me closer to ten and taken up a tenth of my time. And I still don’t know if it will work out; I am going to be using the new syphon tomorrow, so we shall see, yes? If it works then that’s great. I now have a cool cyborg-esque looking syphon and beer to boot. Sure, I’m out at least two pints of beer, but that’s better than the mess of being out an entire batch of beer because the filling process went all kittywampus on me.

I offer this tale as a warning to my readers; when something goes wrong with your equipment, bring everything you think you’ll need in order to fix the problem and don’t make assumptions.

52 Weeks 49: Leavenworth Nosferatu

Lompoc Nosferatu redI pretty much had to get this beer because of the name. Next week it just wouldn’t be as much fun to drink.

Tho’ honestly, it’s not that much fun to drink right now. For a red ale it feels a little thin in the body and has quite the bitter punctuation afterward. I can’t help but think that I’m just missing something with this beer, though. Maybe it’s intentionally tilted towards IPAs? But neglecting the body of a red ale-that just seems out of whack, you know? I realize the name is something to live up to, but I’d rather sink my teeth into this beer than have it the other way around.

I’m drinking it in a hurry, so I can have another. I don’t feel I can be blamed for this.

Reflecting generally makes me pensive. Birthdays, New Year’s Eve, anniversaries; I tend to look at  things in such a way that tilts toward the grim. I’m going to try and change this for the coming event. I can’t say that things have turned out the way I thought they would when I started this project but I’d like to try and frame my viewpoint in a way that lets me see the benefits this time.

If change is a constant in the Universe (and let’s just say that it is) then that makes the rough times easier to endure, the better days sweeter to enjoy, and maybe the ability to let it all be what it is and let it go when things are said and done. I don’t mean to get too metaphysical; some of the hard truths of my unemployment are there right in front of my audience. But it isn’t all bad and I would like to approach the next three weeks with that in mind. 

A man just walked into the joint, navy blue fleece with a white logo on the back and a baseball cap, unhappily demanding a shot with a $100 bill. When he found out there was no liquor to have, he bought someone at the bar a drink in an exasperated way, tipped five bucks, and left. Outside the bar he had what appeared to be a fruitless discussion with another man in a white jacket and baseball cap (but no blue logo, which would’ve been delicious) and disappeared. 

In comparison, I’m having a pretty good night as I happened to be at the bar when this gentleman ordered his drink, so I got the beer. A Hale’s fresh hop ale, which is smooth and biscuity. His loss is certainly my gain, so I’m giving a little ‘thanks, man’ to that random stranger. Someday I’ll have $100 to break and by god I’ll buy someone a beer with it. 

And finally, a brief apology to my readers; I had Friday’s post all set up and I just forgot to publish it. Of course, this comes right after I have a conversation with Jim about respecting your audience. The timing is perfect, right? Just like when the color announcer in a football game tells you that the Seahawks haven’t thrown an interception all game, you just know that the next play Hass is tossing it to someone he shouldn’t. 

Ah well. I’ll post it soon.

IPA 4

So the fourth IPA of the year has been brewed and sometimes it looks just fine…but sometimes it looks like this:

I wish I knew why my beers were becoming so carbonated! Granted, it’s better than the last beer, which was flat. And there’s no way the nose can be missed, the spicy Amarillo hops coming right on up and saying hello. In addition, the head of the beer deflates very quickly so the brew is drinkable in a short time, just not right out of the bottle. If there’s any consolation it would be that the beer tastes pretty good, despite having a very, very bitter back end. I realized afterward that I shorted the malts in the wort by nearly two pounds. That’s the kind of thing that makes a difference.

I guess I’m getting to the point as a homebrewer where I want to get it right. Maybe not perfect, but right at least. I’m not sure what I’ll have to do to step things up though, at this point. My first thought is; submit my beers to be judged in some competitions. If nothing else, the OBC has monthly competitions and I think my project for 2010 will be to produce beers for them to get some feedback. In the meantime, here’s the recipe I used.

Steeping grains:
1 lb Caramel 120
.5 lb Munich

Fermenting sugars:
7 lb LME

Hops:
5 oz Liberty hop pellets @60
1 oz Galena @ 30
1oz Amarillo @15
1/4 tsp Irish Moss @ 5

Wyeast 1728, reused from the Scottish Ale I made earlier.

Approximately 1 oz of Amarillo hops was also used in secondary as a dry hop

OG: 1.069

FG: 1.017
1.026 apparent final

6.78% ABV

52 Weeks 48: Hopworks Diabilto

In a rare moment, I have deliberately chosen a photo. Or perhaps better said; deliberately set up my photo. I didn’t quite get the star shaped light coming from behind my hat that I was hoping for but it still seemed more interesting than my typical photos. 

Fuz has come down to visit, and he’s reading a play by a man I’ve never heard of while I write. There’s a man behind him saying that he ought to take it easy tonight, because he has a presentation to give tomorrow but when his companion suggests no more drinks, he says “Are you kidding? I’m a fuckin’ professor of this shit. Another beer.”

Then he starts to sing Puff the Magic Dragon. 

Over my shoulder is a man in solid neu-hiking regalia; beaten baseball cap, REI raincoat, backpack, glasses. He’s all set for a hike in the woods. And he’s sleeping, chin to breast, slumped over crashed out. At 9 p.m. 

So it’s one of those nights. The day sucked in beer-related ways and I’ll be detailing that for everyone on Wednesday, but for now I have company and so things aren’t so bad.

The Diabilto (which I’ll just confess I got because of two parts name, one part lineage) is a bit doughy on the nose and then a thin, sweeter beer after that. It’s not bad but it’s very far away from the beer I feel like having. This is too fizzy, it’s thin in a way that I am not approving of. I’m wanting to act like Pac-Man, wakka-wakka-wakka-ing through my ales and this beer is not a power pellet. No monsters to turn blue here, just an ale I’m trying to drink to get through to the next one. 

Again; it’s not a bad beer but it has met me on the wrong night. 

Last week, I mentioned to Sparky that the end of this project was coming up. He and I began to talk about about going to pubs and our particular motivation to do so. He suggested that I should write about why I drink and while I’ll admit that it’s a tempting topic I’m wary of making some kind of definitive statement about such a topic. 

Humanity has been drinking for a long, long time and the subject is one that invites big, sweeping statements that should have wedges of human insight. Or are just the ramblings of a drunk and I don’t feel like doing either, so perhaps this is the kind of subject that requires a bit of pondering. 

Instead, I think I’m going to finish up this post and play some cards with my friend. While I’m all for asking questions, I am almost old enough to understand that questions don’t always need answers.

Dear cheapskate hipsters

Ha. Ha.

No really.

I have no issue with people drinking what they can afford. Certainly my own purchases have taken a turn for the cheaper in the past few months. But I wasn’t out there pretending that the beer I was drinking made me part of some kind of inner group; PBR, yeah, {and now we give the headshake}.

No. I like things that taste good and I’m willing to pony up an extra two quarters to get less beer if it tastes better.

Some people actually like PBR. I don’t know them but I am consistently told that they exist. Fine; your favorite beer has gone up in price because a bunch of idiots who want to be cool like your beer and the makers of PBR have decided it’s worth bilking them for it. Now you know how the rest of us feel when the really good beer we drink and want to share with our friends is shanghaied by people who are just drinking it ’cause it’s cool.

Rainmaker

Once again, my friend Ed has alerted me to a news story, this one about a microbrewery in Atlanta that collects rainwater to make beer out of. Yes, there’s CNN drivel that you have to wade through and the story isn’t all that deep but it’s still interesting to me. In addition, given the presence of Hopworks and Roots I question the claim that the Atlanta brewery is the only ‘green’ one. But that aside it’s still an interesting practice that I wonder how many other breweries use.

Considering how precious water is and how much of it I use to make my own beer, water usage is something that’s on my mind quite often. I need it not just to make beer but to clean all my equipment and cool the wort to a temperature I can pitch yeast to. The quality of water matters; it is the main ingredient in beer, after all, and having clean water makes a difference. That’s not even discussing how water from different areas can affect the style of beer one makes. Being in Portland I’m lucky; our water quality is excellent but I use a fair share of it. It adds up; this is potable water I’m using and while I understand it’s a recyclable resource, it isn’t infinite.

I’ve been doing things like trying to re-use my cooling water for washing clothes but collecting rainwater is taking it to the next level, to be certain. In Portland that might even be a reasonable source of water for more than a few batches of beer as it rains here often enough during the winter and spring. Maybe when I have my own house I’ll be able to set something like that up. I like the idea quite a bit.