Looking forward to Summer, 2014!

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted due to finding a new job, working massive hours, coming home too tired to blog, and getting busy with projects. I’m getting super sick of the cold weather and could use more of the sunshine and above 40’s warmth that has only flirted with us during midday hours. 

GO HOME WINTER! YOU’RE DRUNK! GO BACK TO YOUR HOME! ARE YOU TOO GOOD FOR YOUR HOME??!!

Ok, I’m better now.

So here’s a fun list of projects I’m tackling, planning, or just talking big about for the 2014 year (you know, now that I have a job, paying my bills consistently, being one of those responsible adult-types….yuck. Whatever, at least I’m making money, which everyone loves, right? ugh…I feel like we could get by with less of it, just saying.)

  • Clean the garage, organize my tools, paint the walls white, install exhaust system for painting bike frames (epic!)
  • Build electric brewing system so I can finally brew indoors again
  • Clean  basement, paint floors, fill cracks in walls (2 cracks, leak every spring with the melting snow)
  • Build an entertainment room in basement
  • Build a brewing room in basement with vent hood
  • Insulate the porch so it’s not an unbelievable hotbox in the summer or an unbearable freezer in the winter
  • Build a “car bed” for my son
  • Finish the cafe racer (Suzuki 1977 GS750)
  • Setup recording gear (..find some bands, record some demos, get back into music!)
  • Replace carpet in living room, refinish hardwood floor, replace window blinds
  • Build trellis system for my hops (15 varieties, around 30 plants)

So, it may look like a lot of work, and some of the projects are a lot of work, but these are the things that help men to stay men. Projects. Building. Using our hands to create something. Whether it’s art, a house, or a meal, we like to be the ones to craft and step back and say “look what I did”. It’s a skill we learn as children, and it’s funny to me how we never change, the medium just becomes more expensive. From crayons, playdough, and sand castles at the beach to motorcycles, houses, and landscaping. These are the things that make us men, and it’s these projects that keep us young at heart. 

~B

Review: DC Comics, Deck-Building game

At a comfortable apartment with a beer in hand, laughs seemingly flowing from the walls, and great company being enjoyed by all, I am introduced to a new style of gaming: the deck-building card game. Specifically DC Comics deck-builder. I was apprehensive at first, due to the initial comparison of it being similar to Magic: The Gathering, of which I’ve only heard negative reviews about simply because you win if you have enough money to buy really good cards. I don’t like the idea of a friendly competition based solely on money, as I have very little of it and would not be using any of my gas/food/internet/child support money for a few colorfully printed cards. It would seem ridiculously frivolous and irresponsible. And of course, I’m a responsible adult….

ummm…right… 

This game, however, is a much friendly version for those of us with light wallets. You start by randomly selecting a hero, all of which have bonuses of some sort. Then, you take 10 cards which reside between your hand and your pull-up deck, 5 of which start in your hand. There are 5 cards on the table, face up, which display other heroes, villains, equipment, locations, and powers. You can then buy these cards by discarding your from your hand, which are all assigned points to be used to purchase the face up cards on the table, and use these newly bought cards. The discarded cards are eventually shuffled back into your pull-up deck, which you can eventually use in your hand to again buy more cards. 

The object to the game is to collect points and have the most points by the time all the super-villains are bought.

Oh, did I forget to mention the super villains?

So, there is a pile of super villains which can be bought, one at a time, and they all contribute to your total score at the end of the game. Not only that, they also have attacks and they use these attacks every time a super-villain is purchased. This can be helpful, but most of the time it’s all around counter productive to everyone.

I felt very comfortable during my second game. I knew what to do, or at least the rules of game play, and was able to quickly develop a strategy. My first game I was Batman, my favorite comic book character. Ever. Sonic the Hedghog takes a close second. But being Batman in this game feels very much how I’d expect it to feel, and they emphasize on his use of gadgets rather brilliantly! I appreciated the designer’s attention to useful resources and how they incorporated particularly important items into the game, such as his cape and cowl, the bat signal, the utility belt, and etc. because it made me feel like I could visualize myself in character, which was a very nice escapism, and isn’t that what all games aim to provide? The next game was not as immersed, I must say, due to the fact that I was Cyborg, a character I literally know nothing about and felt very inadequate playing, but quickly realized my knowledge of the character meant absolutely nothing because the game was so well designed. So well, in fact, that I won the second game. I lost while playing as Batman, which felt rather embarrassing, to be honest. Almost like I let the Dark Knight down. Silly, perhaps, I know. It’s the kid inside of me that was screaming “Injustice!!!!”

It’s a relatively newer game, being unboxed in 2012, the same year as The Dark Knight Rises. Good year. Actually, I’m awfully biased to 2012, but that’s where I end.

All in all, I’d give this game a solid 8 out of 10. Though it was spectacularly easy to play, I did find that some of the characters were a little too weighted compared to others, particularly some of the super villains, which I guess is to be expected. Just be aware of Parallax!

~B

Finding the needle in the haystack

*I hope this is the only time happens, but I had to go through this thing and update a lot of it. Sorry about that. The pen is mightier than the sword, but in the hands of tired eyes the keyboard can seemingly run away with a bulldozer before you know what has happened.*

There’s only a few times in life that we actually find something worth holding on to, and rarely do we actually try hard to protect what we’ve found because we’ve become blind to how good life really is, especially when it’s good. You never know what you had until it’s gone. I agree with this, though I have learned that possess something that cannot be taken away because of a break-up: me. I will always have myself. Yes, I am talking about relationships, but don’t worry, it’s not all that bad. Yeah, breakups suck, especially when you’ve become fixated on being with one person and you’ve decided you’d do anything for them just to show how much you actually do care. You can’t stop other people from making their choices, but you can try to be better for yourself regardless of their choices. I disagree with people that tell me “I think you need to be ok being alone.” They usually tell me that in between their makeout sessions with their boyfriends. I find it ironic, really. I’d like to tell them to breakup with their boyfriends, be ok with it and after a year decide whether or not they want a relationship. Funny how people change their ideas when the boot is on the other foot. Of course, I wouldn’t tell them that, simply because I hate the idea of breakups and I think people should just work their issues out together, because in the long run that would make a much stronger bond in the relationship. Think of it this way: what would have happened had Peeta decided to throw in the towel when Katniss wasn’t very accepting of his kindnesses? I mean, Peeta could have just killed her, won the game and been done with it. Right? Or maybe an even better, would the ring had ever been destroyed if Samwise just told Frodo he was done with the drama and given up on him? I mean, Frodo was REALLY hard on Sam for a while there. In the end, the ring was destroyed not because of Frodo alone, but because of Samwise’s commitment to the journey, because he knew what the result of his perseverance would be, and it wasn’t to glorify himself either. Samwise stuck it out, and helped even when Frodo was anything but pleasant.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking “But you’ve been divorced, how can you be against breakups and be so strongly for people working through their issues together?”

Yeah, I know. Seems hypocritical. But it’s not, it’s actually the basis for my argument, and it’s a damn good argument, too. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? God made Adam. Adam was lonely (before there were women, so don’t give me the line “he was lonely because he saw Even and wanted to be with her.” Bologna!). God, seeing Adam was alone and that it was not good for him to be alone, made him a helpmate: a woman named Eve. Then they made some choices, got into trouble, were ashamed…the usual weekend stuff. Ok, even if you don’t believe the Bible, come on, are you going to argue the logic?
So to sum it up: God made Adam, God saw Adam needed a woman, Eve was created. Created because Adam had a need. Interesting that God would design us to be relationship creatures, yet so many of us decide that what’s more important is myself.

But that’s a whole different topic…me, me, me. Mine, mine, mine. I want, I want I want. It’s what all the cool kids are saying these days, aren’t they? Self glorification. Self idolization. Self salvation. It’s all rubbish.

From this we understand that God created relationships, in fact, He designed people to have a relationship with Him. Also, before the apple was consumed people (all 2 of them) were without sin, and even without sin Adam needed Eve. Adam….needed….Eve. Are you guys getting this???

This isn’t my argument for me being in a relationship, let’s just make this perfectly clear. This is an argument to those who tell you “you need to be ok with yourself alone” while they are in a relationship, which to me seems ultra-hypocritical. Just saying. Neither, however, am I saying “get in a relationship!” What I’m trying to say is, if you’re in a relationship, work on your issues. Bring them to God, together. Work them out, become the strong bond that most couples only hope to achieve.

Going back to the whole divorce thing…it takes two to tango, as my dad always said. Even though he doesn’t tango. Or dance at all.
It takes two people to work on their issues, their problems, their worries, their concerns, their relationship. Why? Because a relationship between two people goes deeper than the skin, it goes deeper than emotions, and it goes deeper than the memories. What you create together is a bond between the spirits. When that bond is broken there is a great loss, because we were designed to be in a relationship. It’s not terribly complicated. People say “oh, I didn’t work out with him because our personalities were conflicting” or “she just didn’t have that spark that she once had, it was like she just didn’t make me feel good anymore”. I call bullshit! Conflicting personalities? What were you attracted to in the beginning? That spark? Of course that goes away a little after a while, it’s called being an imperfect human and dealing with each other’s shit!

Ok, I’ll get off the soap box now. But just so you know, the next time someone confides to you “I think I want to breakup with her/him” don’t take advantage of the situation like many lazy, slack-jawed idiots. Just remind them that they were created for a relationship, that working it out has a much greater outcome than running away, and that it’s truly a blessing to realize what they have before it’s too late.
And the congregation said amen.

~B

Mmmmm! Humulus lupulus. Hops. I love them. They grow easily, they smell great, they are attractive without being showy, and they are great additions to beer! Not just beer, actually, but they can also be used for other things, but we won’t talk about that today. I just wanted to share this picture…Bag of Hops

This is a bag of Glacier hops from the 2013 harvest season.

Glacier is one of my favorite hops of all time, right next to Saaz, Mt. Hood, and Fuggle. I enjoy Glacier most in clean lagers, blond to amber ales and also nut-browns. But they are so versatile that I don’t think there’s a brew I wouldn’t use them in. Which is why I decided I needed to plant them in my yard. The original rhizome will be in my dirt for the past 4 years next month and I haven’t been happier about a single plant on the property. It has consistently given me about a pound and a half of hop cones (dried) and they have, respectably, kept well! This last year I had used a food dehydrator, otherwise I had been using my oven at a low temp, for only a few minutes, with the door propped open to allow for air flow, then allowed to cool before bagging and freezing. I would agree with the commercial information available regarding the stats and descriptions of the flavor and aroma. Most of all, though, this is my first hop plant and will always remain my first hop plant, so I am a little biased towards it. Even so, you can’t argue with a full bag of hops…

~B

40 original recipes, 47 batches total

Today I record my brewing experience with the 47th batch of beer. It is the 40th recipe and only my 2nd extract based recipe. It is a sorghum based, gluten free beer. I had hoped to make this to share with my friends and family who deal with Celiac disease so that they may have craft beer without worrying about symptoms. The brew day went as a typical brew day goes, but shorter due to the elimination of the mashing step. My friend Kody helped and got to learn more about the brewing process today. So with two guys brewing there should be no reason I can’t make a successful batch of beer today!

Recipe Creation

Aside from the obvious sorghum selection, I needed to decide on a style, water chemistry, yeast strain, and then hops. After about 45 minutes I had everything set. It would be an American Premium Lager (BJCP 1C) so I would be looking for the following numbers:

og: 1.046 – 1.056
fg: 1.008 – 1.012
ibu: 15 – 25
srm: 2 – 6
abv: 4.6 – 6.0

As far as water chemistry would go I would look for the following numbers:

calcium: 225
sulfate: 120
sodium: 60
chloride: 60
magnesium: 40

I got my water chemistry pretty close, just a little low on calcium and sodium, but I accepted and moved on. Then would be hops. Typically, for the style, there is a very low to medium-low aroma from the hops but floral or spicy. Hop flavor wouldn’t account for much, either: none to low. Bitterness gave me a little more room to play with: low to medium. So I read up a little more on hop profiles and alpha to beta acid ratios and decided on two hops. I would use Sterling for bitterness and also for a small amount of aroma, and also Saaz for a small amount of aroma. I know it would possibly end up with too much hop aroma, but it seems as though the rules on hop aroma are slightly bending to the favor of the hops being more acceptable, even in larger amounts. During the boil sanitized the fermenter and brought the yeast (smack pack from Wyeast) up to room temperature. Even though this was a lager, I had decided I wanted it to start fermenting warm and then I would cool it down so that I could build up a healthy yeast cake before fermenting at cooler temps which would slow the yeast down. This temperature schedule would also provide the healthy cells I needed to make sure there was no diacetyl before lagering. Everything went as planned, infact the numbers were really good:

og: 1.044
fg: ?
ibu: 17.9
srm: 4.7
abv: ?

I had assumed a yeast attenuation of about 80%, which is typical for my beers, so that would mean the finished gravity would sit at about 1.010, which would mean the assumed alcohol by volume would be 4.5%.
Perfect. My numbers were right on the mark, thanks to my spreadsheet full of calculations, formulas and data. My time building that beautiful piece of work had been paying off. Now it was up to the yeast to do it’s job, which I had full confidence it would do. had. That sentence doesn’t even deserve the proper capital “H” because I’m so annoyed with the yeast that never started!!!!

Well, let’s review: made the recipe, brewed the recipe, sanitized the fermenter, the yeast smack pack expanded, pitched the yeast at the correct temperature, but still no activity, 5 days after pitching.

*sigh….

Days like this just make me want to throw the towel in and forget the whole endeavor. Why keep trying when miscellaneous occurrences of evil brewing gnomes hijacking my yeast produces a flat, non-alcoholic, somewhat pungent mixture of water, hops, sorghum, and yeast? I could could choose Red Dog or Hamms if I had preferred swill. Why push myself to make more if it would fail, costing me my time and money, and the obvious discredit to my brewing experience.

Then I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, “Why do we fall? So as to learn to get back up.” Getting back up sometimes feels good; a return to the situation that originally caused the grief which sought us to our end can provide the possibility to become the victor over our failures and shortcomings and become triumphant in both body and mind. So even though there sits on my counter, a carboy full of wort that will not ferment to beer and continues to remind me daily that somewhere along the process I failed, I am reminded to get back up, dust myself off, and keep on keeping on.

~B

 

Homebrewing eBook on the way!

Lately I’ve been writing an eBook on the subject of homebrewing. I decided a few years ago that I needed to write my own spreadsheet (as I do for a lot of things because I love Excel….) that would act as a recipe generator/formulator. Knowing full well that others have written a few beautiful programs like BeerSmith, ProMash and others like them, I decided that I needed to do my own calculations because I wanted my beer to be calculated at my own hand. I did so with success, but it took years to get it to the point of actually being very usable. Years. I will spend more time perfecting it, I’m sure, but what I like about it is the amount of data that is collected in the spreadsheet. Based off the information I have available through various books, internet pages that I’ve favorited, magazine articles, and of course colleagues who have provided their experience over the years, I was able to compile an immense amount of calculations and formulas regarding every aspect of making beer at home. And then a little extra for good measure. What a spreadsheet! What an accomplishment! My magnum opus. My creme de la creme. I had finally done it. Something to be proud of, something I made with my own experiences and something I could share with everyone. 

Then it hit me, “What if someone else would like and all this data for their own calculations?” So I set out to write the biggest collection of brewing data, formulas and set of calculations I could imagine. I didn’t want to weigh it down with too much personal opinion, except where necessary, of course. Also, I’d want all that data sorted out by process step, so a chapter for mashing, one for boiling, another for fermenting, etc. And of course it would need a title. Something slightly tongue in cheek…

This is my shameless proclamation of the forthcoming title “The Grimoire of Homebrewing”. 

I’ve been writing it in my spare time and hope to have it finished before May 4th, National Homebrew Day. So please favorite this blog to keep up to date on it’s release. I guarantee you will be pleased with the amount of data, formulae, and calculations available.

~B

Image

I want you – original lyrics, work in progress

you came home last night again, smelling like another man’s world

I’ve been here waiting since you left, and it seems like I’m waiting still

you won’t look me in the eyes, guess i know the reason why

when you talk you talk small, but that isn’t the worse of it all

.

I want you, I want you

nothing more in this world, I want you

I want you deep in my arms with your beautiful smile

I want you

.

everything I held deep inside, all my fears and my pride

I gave to you in the light, in hopes that someone would understand

but I was wrong and now every night, I’ll be screaming your name on the inside

tearing me open, on the inside

.

I wanted you, I wanted you

nothing more in the world, I wanted you

I wanted you deep in my heart with your beautiful mind

I wanted you

but you decided you wouldn’t want me

.

these original lyrics by Brian G. Jacobs, 2013

no permission to reproduce these lyrics is expressed unless when allowed by Brian G. Jacobs