Nut Brown for LBFH

My brother keeps begging me to make a nut brown. So I did.

A beer-lover friend of mine wanted to start homebrewing again, so we decided to combine a brewing session with socializing. I packed my car and headed south to brew. We both chose 20-minute kits from my favorite supplier. The nut brown looked really easy! In fact, 20-minute kits are so horribly easy that everyone should brew. We brewed two batches in the amount of time it normally takes me to do a grain/extract batch.

One new thing to which he introduced me was the use of a hop bag- not only did it reduce the trub I had to keep out of the carboy, it allowed complete control over hop contact time; I could remove the hops all at once when the boil was over. Initial specific gravity: 1.046 (finally, a batch in the range!!) As always, I tasted the wort to see what the flavors were like before fermentation. Sweet, nutty, with a hoppiness that will balance perfectly with the alcohol to come.

I was totally exhausted from being on my feet to brew, even though I took breaks and sat on a stool. I’m going to the doctor this week to see what I can do to remedy the problem.

BTW, I racked and tested my Belgian earlier this week- SG is 1.018 already- that’s about 6.5% alcohol! Four months to go before it’s aged well enough for drinking. Uh oh…

10 Green Ideas

In homage to tomorrow’s Earth Day Indiana. Some of these I’m doing well, but most are aspirations for the future.

  1. Think of alternate transportation. Drive an alt fuel vehicle; look for a carpool; collate errands into one trip. For example, I always grocery-shop on my way home so that I don’t waste fuel on a separate trip.
  2. Think about what you eat. First: Is it overpackaged/overprocessed? Was it grown locally? Buy at farmer’s markets. Better yet, grow your own. Second: eat fast-food and quick food (I’m thinking of my work’s cafeteria as well as drive-throughs) less. Bring your own in a reusable container, especially beverages. Beverage containers are one of the worst offenders for waste. Make your own coffee in the morning instead of giving the coffee shop all your money, anyway.
  3. Think about what you toss. Can you recycle it? Try curbside if you’re too lazy to find a center (like I am). And if you think recycling is just a waste of energy in and of itself…
  4. Think about what you buy. How long will you use it? Is it an impulse that I don’t need at all? Can I buy a container that uses earth-friendly packaging?
  5. Think about containers. I use three canvas bags for my groceries each week to avoid using the petrochemical bags at the store. If I do need extra bags, I then reuse them at home for garbage or cat/bunny litter.
  6. Rethink your periodical intake. We used to receive 30 magazines monthly, then feel guilty about not reading them. We’e cut the list in half and now read the WSJ to replace almost all other news sources; the paper is reused as bunny litter liners/shredded litter.
  7. Be lazy with your lawncare. Less fertilizer = less mowing = fewer bags of grass to pitch.
  8. Turn down your HVAC use. Use shades to cut summer heat; open windows at night; use fans. In winter, put on a sweater and pile on the blankets! This tip saves money too.
  9. Become a vampire. OK, nobody does this as well as I, but… turn off some lights. Do you need to have every light used at all times? Do your cleaning/ironing activities while it’s still daylight (if possible), then read/use the computer with a small desklight.
  10. Stop killing things, if at all possible. Pesticides/herbicides have lots of negative effects. Keep your counters clean with water/low-impact cleaners to avoid bugs coming into your house. Weed the lawn by keeping the grass healthy and pulling weeds as needed.

I’m not perfect by any stretch. But I’m really trying to be conscientious. And for those who don’t care about being green: does it hurt anything if you try?

10 Pet Peeves

Because I’m sleep-deprived, that’s why.

  1. Mindless pop. Oh sure, give me fluffy pop songs, but at least make the lyrics semi-interesting.
  2. People who avoid eye contact instead of saying “hello.”
  3. The smell of laundry detergent and especially softener. It gives me migraines.
  4. Cat hair.
  5. Poorly designed web retail sites.
  6. A profound moment in a movie ruined by the characters stating the obvious, as the writers were worried we hoi polloi are too stupid to understand symbolism.
  7. People who are so caught up in their beliefs that they don’t see that other opinions may also be valid.
  8. Wasted energy (enormous trucks that never haul anything, house uplights all night)
  9. White Zinfandel’s very existence.
  10. Dirty shoes on clean floors.

Rites of Passage

On Saturday, my niece had her first communion.  It was her first opportunity to take the body and blood of Christ- amazing, profound, and spiritual all at once.  It’s one of our culture’s rites of passage, and she’s the first person I’ve known since birth to go through the ritual.

It was also fun to see the kids in all their best clothes- navy blazers and little ties on the boys; white dresses and veils on the girls.  Each child had their own unique style and it is very interesting to see how kids take a “dress code” and make it their own.  As I looked at the group, I noticed one little girl with snaggly teeth, glasses, and slightly unkempt hair.  I felt a surge of emotion: about 25 years ago, that kid was I.

I was horribly uncool, with big buck teeth, 1980s glasses, and hair that my mom and sister had feathered (they were trying to make me feel special- but I didn’t like it).  I was definitely not the in-crowd kid.  I was teased a lot and it was very hard.  It started when I was about eight and in tennis lessons.  I was shy because of my new glasses, plus uncoordinated and left-handed in a class of all right-handed kids.  One of the girls in my tennis class told everyone I was retarded and they believed her.  All different kinds of teasing lasted for years; I went through most of sixth grade crying myself to sleep.

I feel that those hard years have made me a nicer person.  I have compassion for lots of people, even those whom I don’t understand.  I developed lots of hobbies and my family let me blossom and encouraged me to be myself.  I also know that being a nerd led me to my career path which, as my faithful readers know, I love.

When I saw that little girl, tears came out of my eyes as I felt complete empathy for her.  I wanted to hug her and tell her she was beautiful and special in her own way, and that someday she’d be glad she was the smart, nerdy kid. 

Then the hormones totally hit.  I realized that I’m going to have one of those: my little girl will most certainly need glasses, and considering her dad’s an engineer and her mom’s a chemist, I’m guessing the Nerd potential is high too.  Suddenly, my face was covered in tears.  Being that kid- that shy, strange, nice little kid- is not easy, and there is no way to protect her from it.  I guess all I can do is love her.

Belgian Tripel- Kickin’ it Old School!

A couple of weeks ago, four of us went on a gustatory tour of the North Side. One of our stops was Kahn’s Fine Wines. True, visiting a wine store for me is leading a horse to water it can’t drink, but I was able to select a few bottles to cellar. But I digress…

During this stop, I bought not only a few bottles of wine but restocked our woefully low hard liquor selection (a pleasant, if not inexpensive, task). Then I see Carlton lug something huge into our rickety cart (note to Kahn’s: your food/wine is non pareil. Invest in some better carts): A KEG OF BEER.

That’s right. A KEG. The nerve of him! The nerve! I’m a BREWER!

…uh, a brewer that hasn’t brewed in, oh, over six months. So it’s been buying a bunch of bottles of beer. More packaging, more effort, more waste, less taste. I realized how valid his silent complaint was. So I’ve dusted off the beer kit and I brewed it last night: a Belgian Tripel from my favorite website, Midwest Supplies. I’ve been brewing Belgians since my very first beer kit. I tinker with other styles, but Belgians are a huge crowd-pleaser.

After a marathon 3-hour brewing session, I tested and tasted the wort. It was stickily sweet, thanks to four pounds of malt and 1.5 pounds of candi sugar. I could barely taste any other flavor through the cloying sweetness. I hope the beer isn’t too light once the alcohol content rises to 6%. The other problem is that my original gravity was only 1.070, with the kit’s target being 1.072-1.076. I have been dogged by low gravity before. It’s not my hydrometer- I usually end up right in the finished gravity target range. It’s as though I haven’t fully extracted the grains or I have over-diluted it somehow. However, I brought the wort to 155 degrees F for a full 30 minutes to extract the malt (this is NOT an all-grain kit). I also boil all five gallons, not just 2-3 gallons. I posted in my favorite brewing forum. Maybe I’ll hear an answer soon.

Who Am I?

No, not a semi-crummy Jackie Chan movie…

Hi.  I am the admin of this website, and I still exist!  Very busy, but still in existence.  Fear not, my adoring public: more posts to follow!