December 26, 2008
As promised, we have some daytime pictures now that the weather has cleared. We decided to take Wyatt for a little ride in a sled… He wasn’t happy about that! This is him shortly thereafter.
It didn’t last long, though because he got happy once he was back in the warmth of the cabin. Here he is with his cousin Patrick, happy because he’s playing with Patrick’s iPhone. Like his father, he tends towards electronics, even at this young age:
And I promised pictures of the view… I think this will cover it:
A short time ago, my brother-in-law Dustin and my wife’s sister Tara headed down the mountain, as Dustin’s sister is about to give birth to a little girl…
…but not all has been happiness this weekend. Some colossal bag of douche with the audacity to call himself a human being broke into my cousin’s car and lifted a lot of valuable snowboarding equipment from his back seat. Some people in this world deserve nothing more than a fair beating, and I think a few of us here today wish that we could find the culprit and administer such.
Other than that, though, we’re having a hell of a time. And the nice thing about being a Midwesterner amongst a family full of Southern Californians is that if I grow tired of this, I can always retire to the outdoors, as I’m more willing to deal with sub-freezing temperatures than these softies!
December 25, 2008
Hey all… For Christmas day, my wife and 25 of her closest relatives rented a cabin up in Lake Arrowhead, CA. We battled rain, sleet, and eventually snow to get here and settled, and now we’re kicking back watching the tube.
Surprisingly, I had no control over the camera (Joanna was taking care of it), but the below photo is the one that really gives the weekend the proper tone.
More to come when the weather subsides, as the view from this place is amazing.
December 16, 2008
Sometimes travel can be fun…
…today is not one of those times.
Traveling into Milwaukee, I had a connecting flight in Chicago. Granted, connecting flights in Chicago are usually not a good idea, as a gnat’s sneeze is enough to get O’Hare into a 2 hour delay — and it was snowing today.
But hey, these things happen. Unfortunately, in this case it meant that my first flight got cancelled, and my second flight delayed almost 4 hours, and so I walked into my hotel room at 1 AM (should have landed in Milwaukee at 5:45 PM).
On top of that, American Airlines lost my bag. I’m not sure how, considering they had about 6 hours from the time I landed in Chicago to the time I left Chicago to figure out where it was going, but still they lost it, along with quite a few other folks on the flight. So it went from bad to worse, because not only were my work clothes in that bag, so was my coat. Did I mention that it was snowing?
Luckily I dressed in a sweater, and while I wasn’t in work clothes, I’m a little bit more presentable for my meetings tomorrow than I normally travel in summertime — shorts, a t-shirt, and flipflops.
But why do I have a problem with Milwaukee? I’m not sure how it happened, but three of the last four times I’ve been here I’ve had horrendous luck.
The first time, back in about June, I came here and had a night with nothing planned. Our rep suggested I join his sand-court volleyball league team for the evening, which sounded like a lot more fun that sitting alone in a hotel room. So I played. And I proceded to hit the land wrong while diving to dig a ball out, causing damage to my shoulder that still hasn’t 100% healed.
The second time, I was on a monumental driving tour of the midwest (Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, Madison, and Milwaukee), and the final day, my rental car was broken into during lunchtime. I ended up having my work laptop. a fair number of work items, my GPS, iPod Touch, and sunglasses stolen. I was able to get everything but the iPod and sunglasses replaced by my employer, since all the other things were business-related, but it rather sucked.
And now this. I don’t think I want to come back to Milwaukee.
December 15, 2008
Got a “Secret Santa” gift need for a party? Still trying to figure out what to get for your boss, or your mail carrier, or anyone else in your life that’s difficult to buy for? Want to get a taste of the next big thing?
Now would be a good time to order some Krispy Dips! Joanna & Tara are nearing crunch time for the holidays, as time-in-transit on shipments will make it difficult to get anything delivered by Christmas unless it’s ordered soon or expedited shipping is requested.
So if you’re interested, stop by the site. If you want to order but have special instructions or need to make sure it gets shipped by a certain time, you can always try them at 1-866-9-GET-DIPS, and [during business hours] you’ll hear from one of the founders themselves.
December 13, 2008
So, being the parent of a 16-month old extremely active boy can be a bit difficult. I always said that I wouldn’t use TV as a babysitter, but to some extent the new shows are a lot better than the old Tom & Jerry and Mighty Mouse I grew up with. Given how much Wyatt loves us reading to him, I’m not worried about him watching a lot of TV.
The Wiggles has been a godsend. It’s musical, it’s fun, and sometimes Joanna and I find ourselves getting sucked into it. But it recently had a change. A while back, the main guy who started it, Greg Page, had health problems and had to turn over his spot to a new person. The new episodes have just started showing up on Disney. And they suck!
Not only is it so hokey that Joanna and I can’t watch it any more, Wyatt doesn’t care about it any longer. It has completely jumped the shark…
So now it’s Higglytown Heroes, Baby Einstein, etc.
And yes, for those of you who know me personally — this really is what my life has become!
December 9, 2008
Not much going on here except getting ready for the holidays, but there was definite fun along the way.
Here is Wyatt having his first haircut. He seemed happy until they pulled out the clippers… I think having a buzzing scratchy thing on your neck is probably a bit traumatic to a 16-month old. Below is Wyatt looking very forlorn.
We had a large family event at Thanksgiving… Here’s Wyatt playing in the grass (& mud, as it had rained).
And his new car!
Wyatt got to visit Santa… Again, not his happiest moment, but we got one picture where he wasn’t crying!
December 4, 2008
The hop shortage must have ended, because I just got a nice deal on some hops. Over at HopsDirect, the 2008 harvest hops are now available in both whole leaf and pellet form, by the pound.
I picked up a pound of Columbus, a pound of Cascade, and a pound of Magnum. That’s a LOT of hops.
The pound of Columbus will be used for a single 15-gallon batch of my IPA. But that’s a hop-centric beer, so it works out fine. The Magnum will be used for general-purpose bittering, and will probably be good for 5-8 different batches. And the Cascades will be used for flavor and aroma, which should get me through 3-5 different batches. I’m about to do an Amber Ale, and will be doing my Rye Pale Ale within a fair bit of time, and both use Cascade, so I’ll go through a fair bit on those beers.
It’s just nice to know that I’m pretty well stocked up on my hops and I’ve got about 125# of base malt sitting at home. That will really help with keeping the costs down on my next few batches.
December 1, 2008
So, I haven’t posted anything about brewing lately. Largely, that’s because there’s really been no news. I’ve mostly brewed the same beers I know and love, and haven’t changed much in how I’m doing it. I did toy with this method, which would have been pretty cool to show off if it had worked, but I wasn’t able to dial in the necessary efficiency.
But I’ve been having the itch to create a new recipe, and I stumbled into 150 lb of free grain. 50 of those lbs of grain were Belgian Pilsner, so I asked myself what I might brew that’s heavily-dominated with some pilsner malt… And I decided on a dark belgian ale.
The recipe is pretty simple. I was looking at doing something darker than a Belgian Dubbel, but not as strong as a Belgian Strong Dark. I just took a grouping of dark malt flavors that I thought would be very interesting, and came up with the below. This is for 15 gallons (or thereabouts, I think we slightly undershot volume):
28# Belgian Pilsner Malt
1# Special B
0.75# Carafa I
0.75# Chocolate Wheat Malt
2 oz Cluster (7.7% AA) @ 60 min
2 oz Santiam (4.4% AA) @ 5 min
1 big slurry of Belgian yeast from The Bruery — Thanks Pat & Tyler!
And the final touch?
5# Homemade Amber Belgian Candi Sugar
Belgian Candi Sugar is a staple in many Belgian beers. It’s extremely fermentable, so it helps to lighten the overall body and flavor of the beer while adding alcohol. It’s usually used in a caramelized form, and typically sold as “clear”, “amber”, or “dark” (with a variant of the dark also available as a syrup). For this recipe, I wanted to add a little flavor, but didn’t want to go to a truly deep dark color, so I chose Amber.
But how to get it? Belgian Candi Sugar, purchased from a store, tends to run $5-6 per pound. That might be okay for a 5 gallon batch of beer, but when I need 5 pounds of it for a 15-gallon batch, it doesn’t quite work. So I made my own.
It’s a pretty simple process, actually. The point is to “invert” sugar, breaking the complex molecules into their much simpler-to-ferment components. This is easily done with a combination of [citric] acid — thanks again to Pat & Tyler for the acid — and heat. So how do you do it? Take a 5# bag of table sugar, add just enough water to make it into a nice thick slurry, add a few pinches of citric acid, and put it on the stove.
Of course, “put it on the stove” is a recipe for a sugar burn, a burn that would make this look like fun. So one must be very careful. You raise the temperature slowly to the point between hard ball and soft crack, allowing the sugar to boil, holding it there until the desired color is reached (or slightly before, as it continues to darken). 5# of Amber sugar took about an hour for me. You then raise the temp all the way up to hard crack, and pour it into a pan to harden:
I made a slight mistake on the sugar, in that I either had too much water or didn’t leave the sugar at hard crack long enough. Thus, when I went to break the sugar up and put it into bags, it didn’t “shatter” the way I’d hoped. It was still partly pliable. That being said, it’s not intended to be eaten like hard candy, so I wasn’t worried.
Once I had it all done, brewing went well. Efficiency (due to a very fine crush) was quite high, and my target gravity was definitely much higher than expected (partly also due to low volume, I’m sure). That means we have a nice Belgian Dark Ale (which may be classified as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale) coming it at about 8% ABV.
It won’t be kegged until this coming weekend, so I’ll update with some tasting notes in about 2 weeks or so once it’s cold and carbonated.