Sunday, August 28, 2011

Too Early to Plan Ahead for 2012?

I have visions of a train ride, multiple deep dish outings, a return sampling of Goose Island favorites, and a nice little run around the city as an element in my year-long celebration of my 40th birthday. I'm still a long way from being able to run anything like 26.2 miles again yet, but I've always found concrete goals to be great motivators.

We'll see.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Frozen Hat

If I had no responsibilities to myself or others, I'd do all of my summer running early in the morning, during the coolest part of the day. Since sleeping at my desk is not an option, though, it's better that I get that extra hour or two of sleep before going into work. Running, therefore, is relegated to immediately after work, during the hot part of the day.

One of my heat-beating schemes is shown above. It works great for the first 10 minutes or so, which is a lot better than not at all.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One and One and One is Three

Labonte-Twombly is now Labonte-Twombly-Harlow. Our buddy Keith joined the crew for our first all-grain brew Monday evening.

Going all grain meant, first of all, that we had to replace our balky mash tun that had failed during partial mashes. Seeing the wobbly false bottom as the culprit behind our clogged mashes, we opted for a stainless steel mesh filter. Billy, who is much more mechanically inclined than I am, fashioned Mash Tun 2.0.

"No leaks!"

The second great innovation for our brew team was the addition of a propane burner that would provide the oomph needed to boil 7+ gallons of liquid. Enter Keith, who already owned one for the purposes of outdoor cooking (ps: something at which he's really, really good):

The beer itself is an oatmeal stout. The moment of truth--transferring the wort from the mash tun to the brew pot--revealed the success of Billy's construction work:

 Wort, conveniently not stuck in the mash tun this time!

Spent grains

Other than the spilling of a little bit of boiling water (from the brew-pot priming) onto my big toe, the night was a complete success. We'll transfer to secondary next week, rack to bottles two weeks later, and start enjoying this batch for real sometime in October.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Gettin' Down With the Brown

Hair of the Dog India Brown Ale, the first beer brewed start to finish at the new Labonte-Twombly Brew Works (ie, Billy and Marjo's new house), is now conditioning in bottles and is a mere six weeks away from being enjoyed.

Start of the (patrtial) mash. Everything looks fine here, but the end result was a clogged spigot and our realizing that we needed to redesign our mash tun. We were glad that we had a large strainer standing by as Plan B! 

The problems with the mash tun were forgotten, though, as we commenced the boil.

After the wort spent a week in primary fermentation and two weeks in secondary, we racked it to the bottling bucket and bottled the batch. The racking and bottling marked our first use of the main brewery space--Billy's basement.

  Joseph, overseeing the proceedings, gave his smile of approval.

We think this will be the best beer we've ever brewed--that is, we like it better than the first one so far; we like the taste so much, in fact, that we deemed it worth drinking even in its not-yet-carbonated state. And it's a doozy...given the objective measure of hydrometer readings and the subjective measure of post-beer wobbliness, I'm pretty sure we hit our target ABV of 7.2%.

In one of my other avocations as a musician, I like to play solo shows (just me, guitar, and harmonica), and I also sometimes like to "hide in the back" as a drummer in a band. But my favorite gigs are the two-man partnerships that I occasionally have with my cousin David, in which we work as equals in singing and songwriting even as we bring different colors to the instrumental palatte--skilled guitar playing from him, percussion and harmonica playing from me. That partnership makes me try harder and open my mind to ideas I might not come up with by myself. I'm confident in David's playing, singing, and overall musical instincts, and I trust him enough to let go of the control over songs that I have written for his reshaping; I think the converse is the same for him.

Similarly, working in partnership with Billy has increased my enjoyment of the brewing process exponentially. His general handiness far exceeds mine, and I think that the two of us click in not only our love of beer but also our willingness to push ourselves to try styles and techniques that might initially be out of our comfort zone and experience. And, frankly, since much of brewing is sitting around waiting for water to boil or for grains to soak, I find it much more fun to do all of that sitting around with a good friend over beers than by myself.