Friday, February 14, 2014

State of the Homebrew Pipeline Address

Four different homebrewed beers are now making their way through my pipleline, the most I've had going at any one time. Here is the roster, from most recently to least recently brewed:

Racked to secondary this week: Pale Ale with Rye
I hesitate to call this beer a "Rye Pale Ale" or a  "Rye IPA"; I used rye more as an accent than as a main part of the grist, and though I aimed for malt balance, I'm not sure this one quite qualifies as an IPA of any sort. That said, I really wanted to see how the rye combined with Maris Otter malt, which calls more attention to itself with its bready, almost nutty flavor than either 2-row or Pilsner malt, and the piney and slightly spicy flavor of Chinook hops (which I combined with the citrusy Cascade for flavor and aroma). On my first taste at transfer time, I definitely caught a little (though not a ton of) rye flavor and could really taste the Maris Otter in the finish; the hops hit first and were sufficiently prominent to make me consider scaling back the amount of dry hops I plan to add in a week or so--I'd like the finished beer to be fairly balanced, with no one flavor masking the others. This one should be about 6.5% ABV and should be ready to keg by next weekend.

Racked to secondary last week and currently cold conditioning: California Common
I love this style. I made only minor tweaks to a recipe I've been working on for awhile, adding a little carapils for better mouthfeel and dry hopping with a small amount of Cascade hops (which I'll add in a week or two) to add a citrus roundness to the more earthy Northern Brewer hops that help define the style; pre-Cascade, it was already in good shape, with a good smoothness from the cooler fermentation. I'll let this one condition for a total of 3 or 4 weeks (so another 2 weeks at least) before kegging it; it should be about 5% ABV--a good session beer.

Kegged this week: Oatmeal Sweet Stout
I came up with my first oatmeal stout recipe last fall for my friend Billy to brew for a party; the flavor was good, but the finished beer was a little thin in the mouthfeel for my preference (I like the creaminess of stouts on nitro tap and from the cans with the "widget"--again, just a personal preference). I thus added lactose (milk sugar) to the boil to give it a fuller, creamier mouthfeel. I just kegged it Tuesday and tried a sip yesterday: it's not fully carbonated yet, but WOOOOO I'm really happy with the mouthfeel and flavor. My goal is to let this one sit till Pacha (ie, late April) and then bring it out for Bright Week. It'll be an easy drinker at about 4.5% ABV.

Kegged and ready to serve: Belgian Blonde with Mosaic Hops
This one, which I brewed for the MS Brew Movement Event (next Thursday), is the oddball of the group. My original intention was to simply add American citrusy hops to my basic Belgian Blonde recipe; I started it that way, keeping the overall bitterness low and then dry-hopping with a little Cascade, but since the Cascade did not cut through the way I'd hoped it would and because I had a bunch of Mosaic hops left over from a previous brew, I just chunked them into the carboy to see what they'd taste like. The result? Now the imbalance is on the hop side, with the Mosaic hops (which are fruity but also kind of dank) dominating the flavor, pushing the spicy, delicate Belgian yeast flavors way into the background--they're still there, but the hops are mainly what I taste first, second, and last. Fortunately, I like Mosaic hops, and I think it's a pretty tasty beer and should go over well at the event--but it's not exactly the beer I'd planned to brew.

Next Up: Sticke Alt (stronger version of an Altbier) for the AutoZone Brew Fest and maybe a Maibock for my own enjoyment.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 365 of 365

I had intentions of posting some sort of sprawling reflection on the past year today. I may or may not get to that this (New Year's Eve) evening, which promises to be a wild party of running the Wolf River trails, walking Cy (see below), washing at least three loads of laundry, watching the Tigers basketball game, and, eventually, grilling burgers stuffed with blue cheese for a late night supper with Cindy, who will work till at least 9:00 and probably much later as folks try to fill all the 2013 prescriptions they can.

Cindy worked late the first New Year's Eve we spent together, too; we ended that night an actual couple, so I'm pretty much OK with a reprise nine years later. Overall, though, my New Year's Eve history had been pretty uniformly poor, including the following highlights:
  • Staying home, along with my brother, while not being allowed to spend New Year's Eve with our favorite cousin because the (illegal thus immoral) shooting of fireworks within the city limits would be involved
  • Being stood up for a date when I was 16
  • Watching the Tigers lose on television while I was home with a cold when I was 20
  • Pining for some (other) girl and drinking to the point of falling asleep under a tree in a friend's front yard during a party when I was 22
  • Making my one and only foray into the world of drugs harder than alcohol or pot at the same house the next year
  • Arguing with my (then) girlfriend because I didn't want to take her to a party (which was at the house in front of which I'd passed out two years earlier and at which I'd snorted the cocaine the year before)
  • While we were dating, talking to Cindy on the phone while each of us was lying on our respective sofas with the stomach flu, unable to move and hardly able to talk.
It's a sorry history, for sure, and it'd be a depressing list except for the fact that each of the events described was pretty much the low point of each preceding year; the high points were, no doubt, on days on which I did not feel social or other pressure to celebrate only for celebrating's sake.

*****

For now, I see 2013 as, among other things, the Year of Separate Travels for Cindy and me. The two of us did enjoy our semi-annual visit to the San Francisco area in May and were able to sneak away for a couple of longish weekends to the Mississippi Delta and Hot Springs, but otherwise most of our travels were done without the other. Cindy's trip to Alaska with her childhood best friend was long overdue, and I definitely had no place to complain about her being away, as I took five trips without her this year. Sadly, that number doesn't differ too much from those from previous years, but, maybe because I was on the left-at-home end for once, I felt the weight of the days spent apart more acutely this time. More than once, I thought to myself, "I miss Cindy in my bones"; it was not lust or even missed affection, just a feeling of emptiness, way deep down.

Cindy rarely complains about my being away, though I know it bothers her. It doesn't help that my absences seem to coincide with unfortunate occurrences at home. In 2012, Mr. B locked himself in and pretty much destroyed our bedroom during one of my trips; Cindy had to have him put down--in my absence--during a second 2012 trip. This past year, Cindy had to deal with a backed-up sewer line while I was away for Thanksgiving. In each case, she gave me her blessing to travel, but I still kick myself for not being home when she needed me there.

These separate trips will most likely still be necessary at times, a consequence of Cindy's rigid work/vacation schedule and my desire to visit family and friends when I can. But I'll do my darnedest to make sure 2014 is a Year of Shared Travels. Or at least the Year of Shared Time at Home.

*****

On the plus side, this guy joined our family in October:


Even though I accidentally refer to him as "Mr. B" or "Bubba" now and again through old habit, Cy is decidedly his own man. The best leash-walking dog I've known, Cy will walk at my pace without my needing to tighten the leash, even walking alongside me when I simply place the handle end of the leash in my right coat pocket. He also knows how to work his way out of his kennel, which led to a problem-solving session similar to the one I needed back when I learned that Bubba could open an unlocked refrigerator. He's already pleasantly clingy and, like B, seems to prefer Cindy (though he wants to be near both of us). I suppose it's a luxury of childless folk to talk about the pleasantness of once again having a feeding and potty schedule give shape to one's day in reference to a four-legged companion, but it has been a surprisingly easy transition after a dogless year.

He'll be my companion for most of my activities this evening. I could not ask for better company.





Thursday, February 07, 2013

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

November Nashville Beer Tour

So it's been a couple of months since our beer tour of Nashville (technically, it was the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives Plus Brewery Tour, since we also ate at several restaurants we saw profiled on DD&D). Life and general busy-ness blocked my original intent to blog, but I'll post just a few pics and thoughts here. 

Just for starters, Nashville seems to have a vibrant, if fledgling, craft beer scene. We visited three breweries (see below), but a separate trip could've taken us to at least three other brewpubs (Blackstone, Boscos, and Big River), and at least two more production breweries are either off the ground (Little Harpeth) or getting there (Broadcast). We started our tour with the Elder Brother of Nashville Breweries, Yazoo.


Doubling up on Dos Perros



Our tour guide, Seth Green (actual name!)

We enjoyed our ($7) tour, which included 3 fairly generous samples (even more generous for those of us accompanied by a spouse who doesn't drink!). The on-site tap room was a happening place, with a line of folks looking for late Saturday growler fills extending nearly out the door; I left with a growler of Rye Saison, maybe my favorite of their beers.

After dinner at a Greek diner (Athens Family Restaurant, which was fantastic), we headed to our favorite part of town, East Nashville, where we stopped by Fat Bottom Brewing.



Fat Bottom's branding has rounded into shape



The Fat Bottom sampler

The Fat Bottom sampler boasted several styles, and thus nice eye appeal. My favorite was the seasonal Rye Pale Ale, though the Black IPA was super tasty as well (all others were solid). Unlike Yazoo (and Jackalope, although food trucks service both of them fairly regularly), Fat Bottom boasts a full-service restaurant on-site. We were full from dinner, but decided that we'd try something from the menu the next time we're in town. (I took home a growler of the Rye Pale.)

On the way out of town the next day, we tried Jackalope, which is located in the Gulch District within site of Yazoo.


The Jackalope sampler

When I received the Jackalope sampler, I was initially worried that I'd received four pours of the same beer, since the four I'd ordered (Rompo Red Rye Ale, Bear Walker Maple Brown, Thunder Ann American Pale Ale, and a seasonal IPA) were similar in hue. Fortunately, the beers ended up being very distinctive and probably were my favorite overall from the weekend, the Rompo being especially good (enough so to take home a growler of it; I must've really been in the mood for rye those two days!).

The tap room at Jackalope was super laid back; my wife and I played Scrabble and munched on sticky buns (made locally and offered for sale at the counter) while I lingered over my beer. Jackalope is also in the process of expanding to include a coffee bar, which makes me like them even more (and makes it likely that we'll stop by there more than once next time we're in town).

Friday, October 19, 2012

3-Hour Beer Run...

The Prettier Half and I are planning to make a quick quick trip to Nashville this weekend. I hope to visit at least three breweries while there: the biggish one (Yazoo), the medium-to-small newish one (Jackalope), and the brand-new one (Fat Bottom). If I'm on my game, I'll try to snap a few pics and then write a small piece about each of them once we return.

It's worth mentioning that Fat Bottom Brewing is located in East Nashville, which is also the part of town in which Todd Snider, my favorite songwriter and composer of "Beer Run," makes his home.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Brewer-in-Training


Joseph Labonte [while looking through his family's refrigerator]: "Bee-ah".

"Bee-ah."

"Mo bee-ah."

"Daddy."

"Dabe."

Friday, July 06, 2012

Cider



My evening board meeting having been postponed, I'm making a night of doing my wife's laundry, watching the Cardinals game, eating Fourth of July leftovers, and drinking cider.

I can't drink cider without thinking about the five weeks I spent in London in the summer of 1995. Ostensibly, I was there taking a Shakespeare class--and I did see several productions of Shakespeare's plays, some of which were unforgettable. But, mainly, I spent the time learning to use and really enjoying public transportation, falling in love and having my heart broken, and drinking a bit more than I should have. And though I eventually embraced beer, especially the lovely British bitters, I found hard cider after only a couple of days there and just kept on finding it from then on.

With my first cider sip tonight, I was immediately transported back there, especially back to the earlier part of my trip before I lost my mind over the girl, back to the time when I made fast friends with several fellow Memphians whom I did not know till we sat at the airport gate, waiting to board our plane. Those first few days in London were a blitz: my first outing was to a chemist's shop to replace the deodorant and shampoo that I had somehow forgotten to pack, but I followed that with my first of many trips to The Ferret and Firkin, where I had a pint of beer brewed on premises and worked up the nerve to ask what a "bap" was (it's a roll, turns out). The next few days saw us being bolder and bolder with our trips on the buses and the Tube, and on our first Saturday there a group of five us took a train to Liverpool to see Beatles-related sites (and ended up at a pub where I tried actual draught Guinness for the first time, albeit only a half pint of it).

Over the next few weeks, I explored centuries-old cemetaries, ate lovely (and cheap) Greek and Italian food, shared a hit off a joint with one of the local actors who gave a workshop for our class, took a weekend trip to Dublin, generally made all sorts of poor decisions--and continued to enjoy myself and my cider, first at the Ferret and Firkin and then at innumerable pubs across London.

I saw lovely churches, worshiping at both St. Paul's in London and St. Patrick's in Dublin, even though I was spiritually in a pretty dark place (and was probably a little hungover both days, too).

And a little darkness found me at other times as well: I was chided (justifiably) by a Tube official for dangling my legs off the edge of the platform just over the tracks; I was spit upon and called "Bastard!" (also justifiably, maybe) by a drunk fellow in Trafalgar Square; I witnessed the gap that would bar intimate contact between professor and pupil skipped and tripped over multiple times.

My main memories, though, are washed with sunshine literal and figurative. And there were moments, especially in the first few years immediately following that summer, when I wished I could return to London. More than London, though, I think I wanted to return to that careless and seemingly carefree summer.

Of course, I was living on borrowed time and money there. I didn't completely pay off the loan from that trip till the late 2000s.

And I let the broken heart wreck my emotional health, not learning its lessons for several years; probably not till I met Cindy nine years later, in fact.

I think back on that trip now with a bit of regret and a lot of gratitude. And, as I enjoy my cider, I'm thinking of those friends I made the first few days there, smiling to myself a little.

But I never again want to be myself at twenty-three. Tonight, drinking cider and washing Cindy's clothes, I'm home.