Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Off for Parts North

Well, I'm just about ready to head north to my parents' place for the balance of the Thanksgiving holiday. They do have web access there, so I may get some blogging in, but no guarantees!

Everyone have a wonderful holiday!


Sunday, November 24, 2002

So how'd the date go?

This pretty much sums it up.

I am a polite, passionate, intelligent, occasionally genteel, cultured and even sophisticated guy. This has got me nowhere fast. Makes a fella want to don chains and denim, attain a smoking habit, a police record and a 'tat,' and use the word 'bitch' sneeringly in casual conversation. At least those guys get attention from women. Hell, frequently they're fending them off with a shovel.

Instead I end up with this a lot of the time. Well, maybe not that bad, but sometimes. I am currently relegated to the "but I just enjoy talking to you" realm by two really wonderful women, and the fact that out of pure marital self-defense, once upon a time, I had to learn a dozen-plus different ways of bringing an indifferent female to her own personal peak experience never gets a chance to enter the conversation.

I can cook, know hammers from drills, have copious chest hair and love to cuddle. I brew my own beer, can structure a campfire five different ways, and look great in a tux. My dogs love me, and my cat frequently sleeps on my chest.

Dating is beginning to look a lot like bunk.


Friday, November 22, 2002

I'm in Love...

I have had my first taste of Rich's 2Red Richmond Ale. It's wonderful. It may be because of its young age, or because of something I did during the brew, but the cidery aroma is still there. The cool thing is that it doesn't carry over into the taste of the beer - the beer has that dark, throaty red-ale taste I was hoping for, with a stronger hop bitterness than I predicted (bingo, Acidman), and surprisingly good clarity considering I didn't go for the Irish Moss to clarify it specifically. I love the crispness that carbonation gives it, too - and it's not done carbonating yet!

Deeper color without all that stuff floating in it...

I daresay I've got a longterm hobby here.

Oh, yum.

Shame Gabby "doesn't like beer."


[UPDATE, 11:41 pm: Am chilling two more 12-ouncers. Damn but that was good. Good thing there's five gallons of the stuff, or I might need to be careful to actually save enough 2Red to take north with me. ;-) ]

Thursday, November 21, 2002


Well, "Gabby" was glad to hear from me, and we're meeting Saturday evening for coffee, catch-up and possibly dinner. Pretty cool. Nice to be welcomed. :-)

sugarmama has asked for advice on how to be unambiguous:
how does a woman withdraw from the running "politely and clearly"? i would like to learn how to be better at dissing someone. seriously.
I'm glad you asked. It's a simple answer, but one that seldom comes to mind, if my own experience passes as any indicator. Here's how.

Honestly. Respectfully.

Don't hide behind a fear of conflict, don't expect him to "get the message" through hints and half-truths. He's fixated on you, more than likely, and may honestly be surprised that you don't think he's the successor to sliced bread; don't look down on his cluelessness--it's probably a great compliment to you. Have the respect for him as a human being (and for your own reputation as a considerate person) to meet him in person or call him on the phone and have the following conversation:
Him: Hi, sugarmama, it's great to see you again. Did you get the tokens of housepet-like infatuation that I left?

You: Yes, I did, and they were sweet, but here's the thing. I like and respect you enough to let you know that I don't think we should see one another any more.

Him: (Pause to react.) Oh, well, that hurts. I'm very hurt by that. Yep, that really stings, and I want you to know that I'm hurting from that.

You: I know and I'm sorry, but I don't want to lead you on, and like I said I respect you-the-person enough to give it to you straight.

Him: Oh. Hurt. Owwie. Ouch. Whine. Complain. Well, thanks, I guess. You know, I'm not used to a woman honestly giving a crap what I feel in a breakup.

You: Well, you're a human being too, and if you're good enough to date you're good enough for a firm, considerate break. Thanks again for the tokens, but if it's OK I'll be going now.
This isn't really how Gabby and I worked (the option was open for the future, for one; more of a see-you-later-tiger than a good-bye, and it was actually a nice little farewell, with no sniveling and lots of wellwishing), but mark my words, unless he's a complete nimrod he'll remember you fondly for caring enough to tell him and not drag things out or just disappear. But he will get the point.


Wednesday, November 20, 2002


I don't know if it's the coming holidays, the change of season or just me, but I've got a real case of the gotta-do-somethin's without too many suitable places to lay the focus. Work's pace has slowed for a few days as I catch up on documentation work, the beer is aging (with the first bottle scheduled to be chilled and tasted this Friday, Acidman) but really not anything I can fiddle with, and with the coming holidays I'm trying to keep my personal expenditures down.

So of course my thoughts turn to dating. Sure, great way to save money. ;-) But yeah, autumn (and to an extent, winter) works that way for me, in some ways even moreso than spring. That sharing-body-heat, snuggling instinct.

Hmf. I can think of one woman I might call ("Gabby," for longtime readers of this blog and the dormant "Mad Method"). Things were actually getting interesting, before life turned upside down on her and she withdrew from the running, but she had the class to do it politely and clearly and not simply stop returning calls. Things change, so what the heck. :-)


Monday, November 18, 2002

How the hell can he type?

Well, I think it's confirmed. I'm a severe hophead. Came home after the Impromptu CD launch party (music, y'know) and decided to have a beer while watching the Eagles kick the Cardinals' collective ass.

The first beer was a Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, again a sterling example of the style, but I've discovered that I've come to disappreciate the style (is 'disappreciate' a word? Depreciate? Deprecate? Detest.) Anyway, I've discovered that Hefe-Weizen wheat beers are fruity things, not suited for the beer palate. Phooey.

Then I tried a Stone Ruination India Pale Ale (from the same people as gave us the Arrogant Bastard mentioned before). Manly hops. 100+ International Bitterness Units, and a 7.7% alcohol content. Given that I've barely eaten anything today, Ruination IPA has kicked my posterior, one cheek at a time, back to both Prussia and Finland. I'm three sheets to the winds right now (in case it wasn't obvious), and the wind in those sails is beautiful hoppish bitterness. I'm about three swallows from the end of my Ruination, and in utter bitter bliss.

Booyah, baby. I can't think of a better followup to a fruity pansy excuse for a Hefe-Weizen beer than an invasion of Hunnishly-clad hops, smelling of horse-sweat and gall, riding in from the sunset at the command of such a doughty IPA.

Damn, yo. I may start a garden of hop trellises in memoriam.

Must sleep now. Prost!

-Rich, very inebriated.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Educating the palate

I'm really surprised. I've been trying single bottles of many different types of beer, to try and see what makes certain types of beer tick, and learn what good and bad are in the world of beer.

Tonight I tried a Pilsner Urquell, the quintessential example of the Pilsener style. The first time I had a Pilsener-style beer, I hated it; I thought it was too bitter, too harsh on the palate. Tonight's was the first true Pilsener I'd had in years.

I loved it. There was a sweetness from the barley I'd never tasted before, and the bitterness that had so offended me years back is nothing compared to an Arrogant Bastard Ale, or even a decent India Pale Ale, both of which I've come to love for their hoppy character.

But back to Pilsner Urquell. Evidently the pungent aroma that I remembered and dreaded, but was pleasantly surprised by this time around, comes from Urquell's reliance on Saaz hops, and the particular lager yeast and extremely soft water native to the Pilsen region of what used to be Czechoslavakia. How cool is that?

I also (finally) tried a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and now I see what everyone's been raving about. Surprisingly mild, with a lot of complexity nonetheless, a wonderfully lingering head of foam and a smooth, smooth finish. And bottle-conditioned, just like my 2Red will be.

I'm sure by now people are going to wonder exactly who I think I'm kidding, talking about beer as if it had the refinement and complexity of wine.

Guess what? Beer requires more care and different ingredients than wine, and can absorb just as much personality from the region where it originates as wine can, and from more different directions - hops, water, yeast and grains. Wines only really have yeast and grapes, and from what I understand it's mainly about getting out of the grapes' way. It's even customary to age some beers (India Pale Ales, for example) in oaken barrels, and some barleywine-style ales can age for years before truly coming into their own.

So anyway, I'm fast becoming a beer nerd, and loving every minute of it. :-)

Some additional reading, for those interested. This too.


Friday, November 15, 2002

Label Idea



And that's a wrap!

First things first: I'm taking a holiday today, so I'm at home. I got a nice little note from HR telling me that I'd lose 32 hours of "personal time" if I didn't use them by January 9th, so booyah!

Well, I was a good little brewer and waited until this morning to bottle, because the literature says to wait a full 24 hours after moving the fermenter. Bubbling was at 3 minutes 40 seconds this morning, so so much the better. :-)

I wound up with slightly more beer than bottles, so - darn the bad luck - I'm getting to drink two glasses' worth after bottling. %-D Not bad for 11 AM on a Friday.

The priming, racking and bottling process went well, though not flawlessly. I got all the equipment, caps and bottles sanitized with no hitches. A nice little plastic "bottle tree" did a great job holding the bottles while I boiled the priming sugar solution. Note to self: priming solution (especially when combined with a bit of the beer) foams like a beast! No boilovers this time, but several close calls, and many times blowing down the foam. When it came time to rack the beer from the fermenter via siphon, that went well, but there was a fair bit of bubbling at the end of the bucket that I wasn't ready for, and I probably aerated the stuff more than I should have. Oh well. "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew," as the HB gurus say. :-)

Stirred in the priming mix (crash-cooled; getting better at this) gently, so the solution was evenly distributed but not aerated any more than it had to be, and began to bottle. I filled about a dozen bottles at a time, then capped them with my shiny red capper, boxed them, and proceeded to the next dozen. Twenty-four 12-ouncers and twelve 22-ouncers total. It went more quickly than I expected.

I'm sitting, equipment washed and yeast sediment waiting for feeding to the dogs tonight, and looking at one of my leftover glasses of 2Red - the other's in the fridge, chilling. It's a very deep red, nearly brown, actually, and cloudy, though it will clarify a great deal during bottle aging. When you hold it up to the light, though, it's a deep red-brown; a beautiful autumn color, not unlike (nonalcoholic) apple cider.

Ain't she purty? Click for bigger pic!

The taste, though, is another thing altogether. That cidery sweetness from a few days ago is diminished, and the hops' bitterness is beginning to come out, though I can certainly do with more, and will do, in future batches. :-D It's my beer, and it's gorgeous.


Thursday, November 14, 2002

An Expectant Hush Fell Over the Crowd...

Two minutes ten seconds this morning. The fermenter has been moved back to the kitchen where it will sit until tonight, allowing its yeast sediment to settle from the slight movement. Assuming I get home from work at any kind of reasonable hour, "racking" (transferring to a bottling bucket, in order to leave the sediment behind), "priming" (adding a small bit of sugar solution for the remaining yeast to eat while they carbonate the beer in the bottle) and bottling of "Rich's 2Red Richmond Ale" will occur! Thanks to Mary (whose blog has gone MIA - no link, sorry), by the by, for the naming help!

This way I'll get a good two weeks of aging in before Thanksgiving. If this winds up palatable, I'm gonna need to pick up some labels and come up with a design - there's been a fair amount of interest from people around my humble "blogosphere" in having a taste.

Does anyone have a clue as to what's involved in shipping perishables around the country? I don't want to make too many promises if each one's gonna run me fifty bucks or something, because charging for homebrews is a great way to draw the ire of the ATF Bureau. :-)

OTOH, there are several people in the DC, MD, PA and/or NJ areas who'd be within driving distance over the Thanksgiving holiday if they were interested in a visit and a bottle or two...


Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Progress at Last

A minute fifteen seconds between bubbles, finally. Must be getting down to the last few percent of fermentables by now.

The pessimist and precautionary within me doesn't want to get too excited (all in its own time, of course), but it'd certainly be nice to go north of two minutes between pops and get this batch bottled and ready for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I'm just sayin'. :-)

And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have anything better to occupy my time. :-)


Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Ho Hum

Fermenter's bubbling at 23ish seconds, am back at work, day is rainy and am serene.

Busy, but serene.


Saturday, November 09, 2002

Instruction Manual for Yeast?

I'm betting there is one somewhere. When I spoke to the people at Weekend Brewer, the nice lady there recommended I gently agitate the fermenter if I wanted things to speed up at all. Just slosh the bucket around a bit.

Well, bubblings are back up to one every 15 seconds or so now. Who knew?


Seek and Ye Shall Find

Ah, yes. It's good to have access to expertise.

Called up Weekend Brewer, the shop where I picked up my brewing equipment, and asked whether six days was a long time for the particular recipe I was given to undergo primary fermentation. Turns out that yes, my process is going a tad slowly, but they reminded me of a way to check to see how far along I'd gotten.

First, a lesson in the chemistry of fermentation. Wort (the goop to which I added my yeast) is a sugar solution created by soaking malted barley grains and then adding prepackaged barley-malt extract to water. Water has a specific gravity (a measurement of density) of 1.000 at 60° F. Adding stuff to water, as I did in making my wort, increases its specific gravity. Mine was measured (with a little floating gauge called a hydrometer) at 1.050, which is on target according to the recipe, when I dumped it into the fermenting bucket at 78° F.

During the process of fermentation, yeast converts the sugars in the wort to alcohol and CO2, and the lion's share of the CO2 is vented via the airlock during primary fermentation. This reduces the fledgling beer's specific gravity again, and the recipe for my ale calls for a finishing room-temperature gravity of approximately 1.010 (because, of course, we still have lots of malt proteins and hop oils and other stuff in there that won't ferment but will taste great).

So, using the fermenter's spigot, I poured about a quarter cup of my beer and performed a hydrometer reading: 1.020. So it looks like the fermentation process is only about 75% done. Well, that would certainly explain the lack of dropoff in bubble times; there's still work to do!

Oh, and I tasted a bit. Sort of sweet and slightly cidery (and flat, of course - carbonation doesn't come until it's bottled), but since there's still a decent amount of malt sugar left to convert I imagine that's normal.


PS. Caveat: as I'm sure Matt will point out, specific gravity is very dependent upon temperature and altitude, and none of my readings were done at exactly sea level, or 60° F. So take the readings with a grain of salt, but the range of readings looks good.

Friday, November 08, 2002

How Annoying

Well, here it is practically Saturday, and my fermenter's still going at a bubble every 30 seconds or so. No slowing since Thursday morning.

Maybe Mary's right and I 've accidentally bred super-yeasts that are even now manufacturing plutonium via some room-temperature fusion process. Notify NORAD.

In other news, I'm sitting here wondering where all my introspection went. I think the problem is that too many people whose opinions I value read regularly. Yes, I care what you all think, so I'm no longer completely open or honest.

Hmf. I'm so restrained I ought to be British:

What, that? Pish tosh, I always did fancy an easier job donning my shirt mornings; I think the loss of a right arm will jolly well simplify my A.M. routine. Oh, and do mind the blood; it's an absolute horror getting that out of herringbone tweed. And besides, I'll either bleed out or clot up soon enough.

...Spot of tea? I hope you won't mind if I make a second trip for the sugar...


Thursday, November 07, 2002

The Waiting Game

Seems the fermentation process is taking longer to finish than expected. Per Joanie's and Acidman's fervent urging I'm waiting until pops are two minutes apart, and as of this morning the interval was only 25 seconds or so. Ah well... Patience.

Patience is definitely the word of the day. Waiting on a client, waiting on my next paycheck, waiting for any number of seeds out in the world to sprout...

But I can't wait properly, because for several reasons I've got to multitask. Feh.

This is one reason I doubt strongly I'm gonna have time to read Don Quixote for BookBlog. Shoot.


Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Kicking off a Wednesday

Looks like the beer is getting close to done. The bubbler is down to about one pop every 12 seconds now, and according to the literature, when it goes more than a minute or two between pops it's supposedly ready for bottling. Acidman is understandably cautious about bottling too early; this is a prefabbed recipe, though, so I'm not too worried.

Go Buush... Go Buush... It's your birthday... It's your birthday...



Monday, November 04, 2002

Kicking Monosaccharides, Taking Names

Woo! The fermenter's bubbler is up to two "burps" a second, even and steady. I'm surprised by how evenly the fermentation process is proceeding - I would have thought that, being a biological process, it'd have been more herky-jerky (as, for example, my wort-stirring rhythm was), but the bubbler is popping with the regularity of a ticking clock. Very, very cool.

My Equipment

Please excuse the muddy quality of the pictures. I'll try and lighten them up eventually, but for now, enjoy them (click for larger versions). The detail pic on the right is a closeup of the bubbler. You can kind of see that it's half-full of water. The dark strip on the bucket is a stuck-on liquid crystal thermometer.

I'm currently enjoying a glass of Thoroughbred Red poured from a 44-oz. "growler" bottle I collected from the Hops brew pub across the street from my apartment. I hope my red ale is anywhere near as good. Lots of excellent bitterness here - I appear to be turning into a "hophead."

I am brewing this ale from a recipe, but it occurs to me that since I did prepare it myself (and wound up departing from the recipe in one or two small ways), a nice inagurual name for the beer might be in order. The name of the recipe is "Red Red Ale" (a la the reggae "Red Red Wine," no doubt), so perhaps something like "Rich's Red Red Richmond" or "Rich's Red-Squared Richmond Ale."

"Rich's Second-Power Red?" Dunno. Will mull.

(Second power - squared - get it? Hmm.)


Go, Yeast, Go

Bubbling of the fermenter's airlock started (one bubble every ten seconds or so) about five hours after pitching the yeast, so I'm guessing this is going to be a good ferment. When I woke up this morning it was bubbling better than once a second, so my fungoid pals appear to be working their little fannies off. The smell of fresh (thank God not stale) beer is hanging around the fermenter too - if it gets too strong I may have to buy off the upstairs neighbors with a bottle or two. :-)

Here's hoping the smell and bubbling don't get the dogs too excited - if I come home to a five-gallon puddle of fermenting malt sugar in my bathroom I shall be quite put out.


Sunday, November 03, 2002

Gentleman Brewer

Well, the deed is done. My hopped and boiled pre-beer ("wort"), which wound up being a very well-dissolved amalgam of sugars from A) a malted-barley mixture (several specialty grains) that I "mashed" (soaked) in 155-degree water for 30 minutes, and then "sparged" or washed with 170-degree water for 15 more minutes, so as to activate and then extract all the sugars, and B) two cans of unhopped malt extract syrup (one "plain" and one "amber") for the easier but more bland bulk of the fermentables. The apartment smells like sugary bread is baking. :-) Mmmm.

Add the "bittering" hops for bitterness of taste, boil for 55 minutes, add the "finishing" hops for aromatic effects, steep for five more minutes, then crash-cool the boiling mixture to 100 degrees in a sinkful of ice water (for which I really need a bigger sink, and more ice), then add to chilled water in the 6.5-gallon fermenting bucket to finish out at around 80 degrees. Pitch in the yeast (activated beforehand in 2 cups of water boiled with a tablespoon of the plain extract, again crash-cooled to 80° F), and you're done.

Fermenting should be an interesting process. If all is well the bubble-airlock in the top of the fermenting bucket ought to begin bubbling (releasing CO2) sometime over the next 18 to 24 hours, and from there the process should get to the bottling stage (wherein the bouncing baby beer is naturally carbonated and allowed to mature) around this coming Friday or Saturday.

Give it two weeks or so, and with any luck I'll have some great home-brewed red ale to take home for Thanksgiving. (And before you ask, it's legal to take up to five gallons of beer [and I'm only making five] across state lines, so Thanksgiving won't be a problem.)

Heh. One or two things didn't go exactly as planned. For one, screwing the damn spigots into the holes drilled into the buckets was a chore, and they leaked at first despite their gasketing, but then I discovered that some flanges on the fitting allowed tightening with my big ol' wrench. Problem solved.

Handling the syrup really required a spatula. Since my 2-cup measure was activating the yeast, I wound up with no vessel suitable to pour sparging water through the grain, so I sanitized a small dessert bowl as a ladle and it did fine. I did have one small boilover because I was reading the recipe while the boil was just starting up. Not too big a mess, but still a pain.

As mentioned, cooling the wort was a PITA: I ran through my full icemaker, all my cold-packs and five sinkfuls of cool water. Still, from boiling to 100° in 25 minutes ain't too bad.

I am severely stoked. This has been a blast so far. :-)


Friday, November 01, 2002

C'mon, Baby, Let's Be Responsible Citizens

Help Beat the Drought - Shower Together

Stranger than fiction, those Aussies...

But if it truly does save water then people can't be doing it properly.


The Little Things

The little diner attached to our building has finally acquired some Diet Vanilla Coke. Mmmm. Vanilla-y bliss.

Caffeine is good for headaches, by the way. Vanilla's just good. Kudos to Coca-Cola for getting it right.

Tomorrow is the American Homebrewers' Association's "Teach a Friend to Brew Day," evidently, and I'm going to visit The Weekend Brewer, which is 20 or 30 miles south of Richmond, to get myself started brewin'. Should be a blast. Meeting new people, playing with new toys, and probably sampling some really nifty beer to boot.

Oh yeah, gotta get that tire replaced, too, before I do anywhere near that much driving. Probably both rears. Pity my bank account. :-p