Friday, March 30, 2007

Beer Myths

I was particularly interested in the following myths:
  • The darker the beer, the more alcohol it contains.
    • This one seems quite odd, as I can think of no reason people would believe this. All of the higher alcohol content beers I have had were lighter beers, but I just don't see what color would have to do with alcohol content.
  • Beer is ruined if warmed and then refrigerated.
    • This one I believed, but it is at least somewhat true so I can't really buy it being a true myth. Some quality reductions happen over time from this practice, but nothing too harmful.
  • The Guinness they sell in Ireland is better.
    • I fully believe that drinking locally accurate beer improves the experience. When I am in Mexico, I want a Mexican beer even if it is not the best beer. I understand that the beer in Ireland is the same as the beer sold here in the States, but locale does have some impact.
  • Beer shouldn't be bitter.
    • It can be harder to learn to love an IPA vs. an Oatmeal Stout, but the journey is well worth it. A good high IBU ale can be very tasty, and I will be brewing one before the end of summer, but bittering is a necessary step in brewing any beer.
  • Corona is Mexican piss, and Singha has formaldehyde in it.
    • WTF? It sounds like drunk talk to me.


Star Wars Stamps

Most people don't know this, but I was once an aspiring stamp collector. My Dad bought me the annual sets for years. My father-in-law is an avid stamp collector. I have kept a passing interest in stamps over the years, but I haven't been actively involved for years. These Star Wars stamps will definitely be a purchase of mine. I think I'll buy quite a few sheets of these. I need one for display in my cube at work and one for each of my girls when they grow up.

It reminded me of the fact that there is a type of stamp collecting that I would love to get involved in, and that is duck stamps. These stamps are quite beautiful, and when framed along with a lithograph of the artwork carried on the stamp, it makes a great piece of art that you can hang on the wall. It looks quite elegant and even passes the wife test as she will allow me decorate at least some of the house with these. My Great Aunt Rae (Rachel's namesake) bought quite a few of these for my Dad and Uncles, and I have one that my Dad gave to me, but I wouldn't mind dipping a toe into the collecting pool on these.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ASU 2007 Season Tickets

I ran into an issue when I went to renew my season tickets for the upcoming 2007 ASU football season. Here is the complaint I sent to the ticket office that details the issue:

"I just wanted to submit a formal complaint about what now appears to be my former seats. I have been a season ticket holder since 1994, and have sat in the same place for the past 6 seasons, section 24 row 50 seats 11-14. Apparently these seats were given to the visiting team this year. No notification was made that this was being done until I called to find out why my seats couldn't be renewed online. No action was taken on the part of the school to proactively find replacement seats for me. We hold seats next to friends and family and now have to go through a massive effort to make sure that we can still be near each other. My oldest child turned 3 in December and I was looking to try and acquire the seats immediately in front of me which went unoccupied for much of last season, in an attempt to instill a love for the school in another generation. I am now thrown into chaos, as I don't get 2 more seats and actually loose the ones I had.

What makes me angriest about this is that no effort to find an alternative was made, let alone was I contacted about this change. In the future I can only hope that your season ticket holders are treated better."

In the end, my new seats are now in Section 12, Row 42 Seats 5-8.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

2007 Southwest Salsa Challenge

This is the ninth year that my wife and I have gone to the salsa challenge. This is also the second year that they have held it at Tempe Beach Park rather than the Scottsdale Stadium. It is nice that they are able to hold it a month earlier, and it even paid off as the temps were in the 70's, but the location has some problems. They failed to learn from last year's set up and the experience of the other events held at the location and thy still have an overfilled corridor of salsas right at the opening, coupled with nothing in the central large grass area. 2 weeks ago, at the beer festival, almost all of the beers were served in the central area and it worked quite well. There was also an issue about seating. There are a large number of seats right next to the "lake," but they actually blocked them off with a fence, and those seats not on the wrong side of the fence were restricted for vendors only. There weren't actually any signs or any noticeable reasons for restricting these seats other than the angry, fat security guy who kicked us out. Some great salsas, and as always some horrible salsas as well. Sharon tried one with cantaloupe in it which was, obviously, disgusting. Once more the Burdette salsa was the most popular booth, with salsa I wouldn't feed to my dog. Actually some of the greatest salsas were at the back and not heavily visited, and it seems to work this way each year, so that is always a bonus.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Dry Irish Stout Update #2

It has been 5 days, so I checked the gravity and it read 1.018, which is right in range for this batch. I went ahead and racked it to my new glass 5 gallon carboy secondary. I needed another as my cider is still in the first. The hops appear to have floated to the top and were set aside as part of the krausen, so this didn't appear to be a problem. I should be bottling next Sunday. Too late for Easter consumption, but I should be able to send a bomber back to Oregon with Lee and Kyle.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dry Irish Stout Notes

Here is the ingredients list for my brew:

1 3.3 lb can of Dark Unhopped Munton's Malt Syrup
2 lbs of Dark Dried Malt Extract
6 oz of Crystal Grain
4 oz Roast Barley Grain
2 oz of Cascade Hop Pellets
Brewers Salts
Irish Moss
1 Package Munton's Ale Yeast

I brought 1.5 gallons of water to 165 degrees, adding my salts just before it peaked, and started my 30 minute steep. I let the temp continue to rise to 170 and tried to maintain that temp. The temp spiked up to around 180 before I was able to stabilize it. I pulled the grains and let them drain for just a bit. Not a whole lot came out of the bag. Dumped in the malt syrup and then the dry DME (Dark Malt Extract) stirring and moving it on and off the heat to keep it from boiling over. I tossed in all 2 oz of hops and started my 40 minute boil (The instructions suggest 20-30 minutes but I saw recipies that go as high as 60), dumping in the Irish Moss in the last 10 minutes. I dumped this hot wort over 3 gallons of RO filtered water and then topped it off to the 5 gallon mark. The temp of this mess was just a bit over 100 degrees. I gave it some time to cool, grew impatient after 15 minuted and placed the whole bucket in an ice bath. Once the temp dropped below 100, I checked the OG and found it to be 1.040 and pitched the yeast (I bloomed the yeast in warm water earlier, I can't just toss dry yeast on anything). This is just below the noted starting gravity that the kit notes. Last night I checked and there was plenty of krausen on top. The odor was perfect, with a slight alcohol note confirming the fermentation. I plan to rack it to secondary this Friday after checking the gravity. The expectation is for a gravity of around 1.010. I took the temp of the brew last night, and found it to be almost exactly 70 so I think I can say that my cooling technique is working.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dry Irish Stout Update #1

A quick update on the brew status. I called home yesterday afternoon at 3 and my fridge/cardboard box solution for regulating my primary's temp appears to be working at least somewhat. The temp was 72, up from 66 that morning. The actual high outside was 88 yesterday. This seems like it will work well enough for now, but I am not sure if this will work when the temps peak up over 100 this summer. This morning the temp had dropped to 64. This week looks like it will be OK with the huge drop of over 30 degrees between last Saturday and this Friday.

I think I am going to try to brew a Saison next. The fermentation temp on a Saison can be up around 85 to 90, so I am thinking that my set up might work fine for that style this summer. Plus I really like the style, with its wine-like complexity. If you have had the New Belgium take on this style, I am sorry. What you want is a quality Sasion like Dupont out of Belgium. The only problem I have is that I feel that this style has to be bottled Champagne style with a cork, but I can't see myself buying a corker.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Dry Irish Stout

I started my first beer on Sunday. I ran up to Brewers Connection and settled on a kit for an "Irish Stout." I'll follow up with my notes tomorrow, so today I will just talk about the experience.

I grabbed a 12 quart pot enameled pot from Wal-Mart for about $10. This was a much better deal than the LHBS (Local Home Brew Store) was offering. This will let me do a 2 gallon boil. The process wasn't too difficult. It was a bit of a problem steeping the grains at 170 degrees, at least it was difficult keeping the temp. The boil went well and I had no boil overs, I credit my cooking experience for this.

The first major difficulty came when I needed to cool the wort to 90 degrees. I think I am going to need to invest a wort chiller. It took way too long. Then came the move to the garage for fermenting. I took a mini fridge and made a cooling box for keeping the temps down. It started at around 90 degrees and I figured it would take a while for the temp to get down. After some work I was able to get it down to 83 degrees by the time I went to bed. When I got up it was 66 degrees and I will check it when I get home to see how well it is working.

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Cider Update #2

It has been 3 weeks since I started my cider and I wanted to post a quick update. I pulled out a taste a week ago and this last weekend. Last week it was very tart. This past weekend I took a taste and most of the tartness is gone. I have a bottle carbing away in the closet, so I was thinking of popping that open and testing some sweetening options. I still think I am wanting to wait until this summer before bottling, but I am a bit concerned about the heat. More about that in an upcoming post.

But first, a picture of my newly decorated brewing corner.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Monkey House

Check out my new ringtone. One of the best bits from the Ron and Fez show, and the coolest ringtone on the block. Check out their FreeFM show form NYC here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Local Pro Sports

My uncle and his partner are going to be in town for Easter, so I decided to look for a professional sporting event we could go to if they wished. For the days April 6-7 (no Easter, the family would frown on that) I found that the valley has the following pro teams with a game:


Arena Football

All 5 teams play a game over this 2 day period and none of them are in town. It must be statistically impossible to replicate over any given Friday and Saturday, so I had to make note of it.

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AZ Beer Festival

This past Sunday I went to the AZ beer fest with Matt Perrius. It was a bit hot and a little too sunny, leaving me with a bit of a sunburn. Had a bunch of really good beer. The Rouge Chocolate Stout was amazing. I can't wait to try it with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Dog Fish Head had a pretty nice selection, and in what is becoming my favorite brewery Unibroue was fantastic. The Unibroue 16 was great, and quite unique at the fest. I was also very impressed with Old Chub from the Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery. A very good Scottish Ale and remarkable for the fact that it comes in a can. I know I have seen it at Sunflower and I will have to pick some up soon.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sam Adams Black Lager

More than a review I wanted to talk about tasting flavors in beer or any drink. I had one of these beers while The Sopranos was on and I noticed a very a very distinctive tobacco finish with this beer. The funny thing is, that after reviewing several hundred reviews of this beer on I didn't find a single reference to this flavor. I would guess that no one else who reviewed this beer was watching a show that prominently features cigar smoking in nearly every scene. I really believe that much of these flavors are highly suggestible.

Other than this, I found the beer to be quite enjoyable, and it has set me to thinking about brewing a lager at some point in the future.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bottles for the Brew

So before I know it, I am going to have 5 gallons of beer and 5 gallons of cider that I need to bottle it all. That means that I am going to need around 96 bottles for this stuff. I have been keeping my empties for a bit, but it isn't easy. I need bottles without twist top, which I have learned is becoming somewhat rare even with the craft brewers. I am focusing on Sam Adams bottles for the bulk of my supply. In part this is because I love their spring seasonal: a White Ale. Plus my wife will drink their White Ale and that means more empties. I was also able to find a Sam Adams 24 mix pack at Costco. This mix pack included their Scotch Ale and Honey Porter (2 upcoming reviews) and that was just what I was looking for. I found the best way to remove the labels while also cleaning them. I took an empty kitty litter bucket and rinsed it out. I filled it full of water and added 2 scoops of OxiClean Free and let my bottles soak for 24 hours. I pulled the bottles out, rinsed them off and was done with it. I also got a hold of some 22 oz swing top bottles from Sunflower market for 2 bucks each. My current empty and cleaned count is 32, so I have a bit of a way to go.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Cider Continues

7 days after pitching yeast, there was no more visible fermentation. I checked the gravity and it came in at 1.01. This was low enough for me to move it to second fermentation.

I pulled out a taste and it was dry and tart, but had apple flavor and a slight sparkle to it. Overall it would be drinkable, but not pleasantly so. I grabbed a 22oz swing top bottle, dropped a priming tablet in and it is now sitting in my closet. I took the rest and racked it to my 5 gallon glass carboy. I am going to keep it in the secondary for 2 more weeks, take a taste and think about adding 2 pounds of lactose to it. In the meantime I am thinking of doing an Irish Dry Stout next. The BeerAdvocate magazine for March had a recipe for this and suggested it as a first attempt. The dark roasts of the malt help cover up any problems that might occur. The only thing I am planning to change on their instructions is that I will rack to secondary for a week. They suggest that you bottle after a week and just get to the beer, but I have enough patience, plus there is no way to get this done in time for St. Patty's Day so there is no rush. Plus I really need around 100 bottles for these 2 batches and I am just short of 40 right now.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Too Much Wallet Crap

I have a bad back. Because of this, I try to look for ways to avoid unnecessary back pain. One of the things that I have found to be helpful is not sit on my wallet as often. When I get to work, before I sit down I take my wallet out of my back pocket and set it on my desk. When I walk through the door at home, I walk over to the counter and take my wallet out. But when I am driving I generally keep my wallet in my back pocket. Because of this I am very vigilant to the size of my wallet. I have come to the conclusion that there is way too much crap in my wallet, specifically way too many cards. A big cause of this has been the reward card fad. I too a peek and found that I was carrying 5 reward cards with me at all times. A month ago I sat down and created copies of just the bar codes from these cards and consolidated them on one card that I taped to a business card to give it some substance with out adding a lot of bulk. I just discovered the Just One Card website and I think this is a great idea. I modified my printout because I still like to attach mine to a business card, and the business card is jut big enough to expand to 5 bar codes per side rather than the printed 4. I also went in and created a photocopy of my heath insurance card and AAA card. I realized that wile I wanted to have my health card with me at all times, a photocopy is actually more valuable than the original as when you go to the doctor the first thing they do is take a copy of our card. Now they can just keep my "card." Thanks to these steps I have greatly reduced the size of my wallet. Now if I can just get the bank to consolidate my Credit, Debit and Corporate Credit cards I will be set.