Sunday, January 15, 2006

I thought this was Sunday the Fifteenth...

I made two batches of beer today and they were both fraught with difficulties. The main job was an Irish Red Ale with 30 % rye in the grist. This was an all grain beer and I made 10 gallons of it. The second beer was a kit beer that my friend and frequent brewing partner, Jeff, got for a present and wanted to make. It was an extract kit for an amber ale. We made five gallons of that.

The day started off well, as I had made two half-gallon yeast starters the day before and they were both bubbling away when I started heated the strike water for the mash. I doughed in and hit my target temperature right on the money! I pulled the mash tun off the burner and started the sparge water to heating. As anyone familiar with the term SNAFU knows, the best time for an equipment failure to occur is right when it will do the most damage. When I placed the hose o the hose barb of the sparge water tank, the bulkhead fitting began wobbling. As I watched the water dribbling out of areas that water shouldn't dribble, I wondered what could have happened. It turns out that an o-ring had failed and the bulkhead fitting was loose because the o-ring had fallen off the fitting.

I ran in and got a ten gallon cooler and poured the sparge water into it, while Jeff held off the deluge as best he could. Luckily, I had spare parts and tools handy and we had the fitting repaired before the water cooled appreciably. We were back in business. The sparge went well and I collected almost ten gallons of wort which was then set to boil for an hour.

Seeing that there would be a lull in the action for awhile, I went in to sanitize our three fermenters. I siphoned an iodophor solution into the 6.5 gallon carboy and let it sit awhile before transferring that solution, in turn, into the other two fermenters. After awhile, I started the siphon into the next fermenter and, while it was filling did some other odd job. You guessed it, I forgot about it and had about a gallon of sanitizer solution on the floor before I noticed it.

Long story short, a couple of other problems during the day led to a scorched and stained enamel stovetop and a VERY long boil in the kit beer to get the volume down to five gallons (which worked so well we got it down to four gallons). These in turn led to a very long cleanup and an amber ale on steroids (O.G. 1.072).

Well, the good news is I now have nearly fifteen gallons of good-looking beer fermenting away in my dining room! One is an Irish Red Ale with a fair amount of rye in it, for a special spicy extra kick. The other is an Amber ale that was boiled down to a very concentrated (and dark) four gallons. It will probably more closely resemble a Strong Ale.

Grain bill for the Rye-rish Red Ale

11 Lbs. Briess two-row Malt
6 Lbs. Weyermans Rye Malt
2 Lbs. Briess Crystal 10L
.5 Lbs. Dingemans Special "B"
.25Lbs. Briess Roasted Barley
1 Lb. Honey

3 Oz. E.K. Goldings (60 min.)
1 Oz. E.K. Goldings (20 min.)

Mashed at 151 for 90 minutes
Boiled for 60 minutes

O.G. 1.050
Yield about ten gallons

February, 7th update:

I have now bottled all the beer and it all came out just great! Half of the Rye-rish Red Ale was kegged and I've been drinking it for a week. It is fabulous! The taste is slightly hoppy, with an accompanying tang associated with the rye, yet the malt profile is evident, with a toasty caramel flavor that shows up distictly in the aftertaste. The Amber Ale/Strong Ale is distinctly vinous in character, with rasins and currants dominant, though a hint of English hops presents itself to balance the brew.

Looks like we've got two winners, here!

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Campaign Starts

If you watched last night's episode of CBS's popular TV show, Sixty Minutes, you saw what I think is the opening salvo in the Hillary Clinton campaign for president. I have predicted that we will see alot more of Bill in the news and on television in the coming year or two, as Hillary's campaign heats up and this softball treatment of Bill Clinton by the now infamous Dan Rather was a perfect example of what I was predicting. I will be watching this drama unfold over the next two years and will report on it periodically, as I think these people, and the media whores they attract, are fascinating.


In case you missed it, here is my take on the segment entitled, "Mr. Clinton's Mission":

The piece was a fluffy treatment of the post-presidential Clinton. Dan Rather's over-fawning treatment of Bill's humanitarian position was almost homo-erotic. The purpose of the segment was to showcase Clinton's humanitarian efforts to solve the third-world AIDs crisis. It purported to explain Clinton's "efforts to stop the pandemic, his relationship with the Bushes, and Hillary's political future". I submit to you all that it was little more than a sorry attempt to use the suffering of worldwide AIDs victims to fuel a commercial for the Hillary for President campaign.

Bill was interviewed by the extremely sympathetic Rather while engaging in his efforts to help the poor in third world countries, especially China, to overcome the disease and the prejudice of the populace to the victims.

Clinton talks to, shakes hands with and (though the commentary says he embraced them, oddly there was no actual footage of this purported embracing), "embraced" the AIDs sufferers in the footage shown. He talks about one particular AIDS sufferer in China who maintains that she was not a drug-user nor a sex-trade worker, having had sex only with her husband. He wonders that this woman is his daughter's age (I suppose he could have said Monica's age...) and feels so bad for her plight. The woman states, sadly, that the people in her village don't understand and that some even stopped talking to her when they found out she was infected. They don't understand? I don't either. AIDs doesn't infect people from sitting on toilet seats and such, so where is the incredulity to this woman's statement of innocence? Nowhere on the face of Bill or Dan, that's for sure.

Of course the segment included the obligatory villain, the US drug companies. Clinton states that he negotiated a very cheap price for AIDS medicines for third world sufferers from a company in India. The price was $230 dollars a year per child (of course this part of the segment focused on the children that were suffering). Clinton contrasted this with the cost at a local Harlem AIDs clinic, to Medicaid, at $10,000 per year. Asked if the drug companies were gouging these people, Clinton said, "Well, in my mind, I think they could sell them for alot less without losing money". No mention of the fact that these poor AIDs sufferers in Harlem weren't paying one cent for this treatment they were receiving, just a diatribe against the companies that spent enormous capital in R&D and have a responsibility to their stockholders to make a profit, when across the world, many countries cap the prices these companies can charge for their products, unfairly raising the prices they must charge here at home.

When, in the beginning of the program, Rather states that as an ex-president, Clinton admittedly couldn't "do" the AIDs crisis as well as his successor and offers this as one of the things that may have prompted him to take on this challenge as an ex-president, one expects to hear Clinton actually admit this in the coming interview. One would have been disappointed. When asked about his inability to do more on the crisis while in office, Clinton blames the congress for the lack of progress:
"Well, I don't think I could have done more. It was like pulling teeth to get any foreign money out of congress when I was there. And when they had a president of their own party and they had their core Christian conservative constituents saying, 'Okay, we want to fight this', then it became much easier. I wish I could have gotten more, but I don't believe I could have." Well, I guess that's Clinton-speak for "I couldn't do this as well as President Bush did after me" but my head is spinning so much after hearing it that I'm not sure what the definition of "is" is. It sounds alot more like Clinton is saying that he wanted to do more for AIDs sufferers but the evil, Christian conservative-oriented Republican congress wouldn't let him.

There really is so much to deconstruct in this "interview" that is interesting and revealing about this important Democrat, but it would take more time than I am willing to devote. The entire text of the segment can be read by clicking the above link, though you will not see the lip-biting and care-worn Clinton nor the worshipful face of Rather by simply reading it. I will skip to the crux of the piece; the afterthought question that Rather throws out after the humanitarian profile of this great man and his heroic and selfless deeds: Does Clinton ever think about flying on Air Force One as the First Husband? This was a nice segway from the discussion about the comforts of the plane itself (Rather asks the tough stuff, ya know).

Clinton's laughing answer is "no". He explains it by saying that a person who is campaigning for office can only be focused on that campaign. In this case he is talking about Hillary's campaign for re-election as Senator of New York. Asked if the country is ready for a woman president, he says, "I don't know. My gut is, yes, that if a woman came across as strong and seasoned and well-prepared, if you said the right things in the right way and you had a good record to back it up, my gut is, yes. But the hard truth is we won't know until it happens."

Now isn't that description exactly what we all want in a good candidate for president? "Strong and seasoned and well-prepared" (sounds like a good description of Thai food), saying "the right things in the right way" and having "a good record to back it up". Personally, I think it sounds more like the recipe for a good actress, than one for a good president but maybe they are one and the same for the Clintons...