Sunday, April 24, 2005

April Showers?

It is April 24. Last week I decided to have a few friends over for a BBQ this afternoon. I also decided to brew a beer for a party this summer. The party will be doubly special because one son is graduating high school and another is defeating Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

When I made this decision a week ago, spring had sprung all around me here in mid-Michigan. Daffodils and hyacinths were blooming, buds were popping on the trees and the temperatures were hovering in the sixties and seventies. Now I am struggling with a strong wind and temps in the thirties, while carting all my brewing equipment around like a pack horse.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love winter. I like the cold, crisp temperatures, the way the snow blankets everything and the still that comes only with winter's chill throttling it all down to a near crawl. There's nothing like skiing down a fresh slope, hunting in the cool quiet winter forest or fishing through two feet of ice. But it's April 24, for cryin' out loud!

The brew day and BBQ will go on, though! I brew all-grain, homemade beer. This one is called Andrew's Red Ass Irish Ale. The malt bill looks like this:

17 Lbs. Briess Pale Malted Barley
2 Lbs. Briess 10L Crystal Malt
.5 Lb. Dingeman's Special B Malt
4 oz. Briess Roasted Barley
1 Lb. Honey
3 oz. East Kent Goldings Whole Leaf Hops (60 minutes)
1 oz. East Kent Goldings Whole Leaf Hops (15 minutes)
2 half gallon starters of White Labs Irish Ale Yeast 004

It makes a fine red ale, easy drinker with a crisp almost-lager mouthfeel. I will keg it up and lager it until July.

Snow is falling heavily as I write this. The mash is resting at 151 F and I am waiting for mashout when I will raise the temperature to 160 F. I took a couple of pictures of the backyard when I set up my brewing appratus. If they come out I will scan them and post them here. The snow is several inches deep, so it will make for an unusual Spring brew day! One picture is a shot of some grape hyaciths in the background, in full bloom, with snow crusted all over them. Another shows the swamp behind my house, with my hop trellis in the foreground, again, all covered in white stuff.

This won't even come close to being the coldest or snowiest day I've brewed in. Several times I brewed in winter with temperatures under zero. Some of these times were a real workout for the propane cooker to get the wort to a boil. Wort is the liquor that makes beer, before it is fermented.

Well I am going to be quite busy for the next few hours, so I will end this. Enjoy your day everyone, and if you're in the neighborhood, stop by for a beer. I'm buying (or brewing)!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Mi casa, su casa

I saw the guy walking towards us along the water's edge. He was a piece of work: long stringy, wet hair, a bathrobe and slippers. He approcahed a young couple who were lounging on a beach blanket, sunning themselves quietly and talking.

It was a typical sunny Malibu day, with a gentle breeze blowing across the beach. A couple dozen people were enjoying Mother Nature's bounty. Some kids were throwing a frisbee, while a small dog played "monkey in the middle" trying his darndest to chase the object down. Music wafted out of several different boomboxes as a diverse crowd tried to listen to what each decided everyone should be listening to.

The bathrobed gent seemed to be acting as though he owned the place. He spoke briefly to the couple on the blanket and then, reached down and picked up a towel off the blanket. He towelled off his wet hair and tossed the blanket back to the beach blanket like a used kleenex. Well, of course the young man took offense to this, but thought better of a confrontation, as the robed one just glared at him with hands on hips, like some bullying UN ambassador wannabe.

He strolled on, pausing at the camps of several other beachgoers, stopping briefly to speak to and take advantage of some small piece of each party's property. I mean he seemed to be deliberately trying to piss somebody off and cause a scene. At one spot, he'd grab a tube of sunscreen and slather it on his face, at another, he'd reach down and change the radio station or choose a different CD for the boombox, causing consternation and excited utterances from the stunned sunworshippers.

Well, sure enough, he finally ambled over to my perch, near the high tide line on the east end of the beachfront between two magnificent homes. One was the biggest Cape Cod style development I'd ever seen. The other, the one on the right, was a Spanish-style hacienda of gargantuan proportions. He walked up to me, and with a matter of fact stare, stated, "Hi, I'm David Geffen. Welcome to my Malibu estate. Since I have been forced to allow you to use my property. I believe I am entitled to use some of yours." He then reached down and grabbed the book I'd been reading, The Grapes of Wrath. "I think I'll read this. I'll get it back to you when I'm done". And off he went, just like that!

I thought to myself, "Isn't that a crime"? He just stole my book, and I wasn't even done reading it, yet! There ought to be a law against this type of thing, don't you think?

I packed up my CDs and blanket and walked the few hundred yards to my car, parked on the highway. I popped a new CD I had just burned from a P2P file sharing site: a mix of different songs from performers who had great hits but from albums that I hadn't purchased because I didn't like the other songs. I tooled off down the coastal highway, as John Lennon sang, "Imagine no possessions", and pondered a visit to my attorney's office.

Friday, April 15, 2005

First Posting

This first post will serve as my entry into bloggerdom. I intend to post on whatever the hell suits me, so if that bothers anyone, well...don't read it! As the title suggests, I am a beer lover. I think the greatest achievement of mankind in the past twenty years is the rise of the craft brewer. Hey, I know some pretty spectacular medicines may have been invented and there is this computer thingy that has certainly become ubiquitous (hence the very blog I'm writing on-wow! That's kinda Escher-like isn't it?), but we write about what we know, OK? Besides, I will relinquish the award whenever someone develops cold fusion or something like that.

I also have been brewing my own beer for five years, now. I brew all-grain beer on a homemade three tier setup. I bottle it and keg it and drink it. I have recently begun to experiment with wines and meads, as well. I suspect much of my writing will come to be about this great hobby and my experiences with it. My latest beer was a belgian pale ale, with a decidedly un-belgian hop character. I like it, but it doesn't know what it is supposed to be...

I also tend to talk and write alot about politics. Now, some of you may think politics and beer don't go together(and I'm not talking about Hitler's Beerhall Putsch, here), but think again. I'm told the framers were completely tanked when they wrote the constitution. Beer hall across the street, long lunches, bad water, you know. Anyway, I am what you might consider a conservative, but with a strongly libertarian streak. I am not fond of government or people who are. I try to and can get along with everyone, though and enjoy good arguments and conversation. As long as I am always right : )

I am a midwesterner, who was raised by southerners and I even lived for a time in the south. This makes me what you might call cantankerous. That's alright. I accept it. It also makes me a good ol' boy. I have worked in prisons for over twenty years, so that topic may come up once or twice (as long as I and my prison remain anonymous).

A warning: I am not exactly the most consistent writer on the planet. So, I may post few and far between, but ya never know, I might get into this with a passion, so come along and enjoy the ride!