Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My long draw beer tower is complete!

check out the full post here:

I will post up more info later when I am not taking a telepresence course. Needless to say I love having beer on tap in my house.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

6 Tap Tower Build

the top part of the tower is done, mounted and the lines connected. The 6 line run has been insulated and wrapped and Rylan helped my run it through a hole in the floor behind the cabinet. Its ready, and I drilled a hole in the fridge downstairs to prepare for running all the lines tomorrow. Tomorrow night I should be pulling beer from three taps. Now I need to order 3 more taps!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

DIY Roof rack cross beams

So we have a honda pilot - that we just got back from the autobody shop after a run in with an out of bounds box truck - and while big it barely seats the 7 of us. It seats 8, so we have an empty seat but as the kids get bigger we find room more and more scarce. So when we planned a vacation with all of us we had to consider where we would put all of our junk.

Enter a Thule roof rack from craigslist I snagged for less than half price of retail. It requires crossbars to install- which we lacked until tonight.

Here is a parts list:

2x 1 inch wide by 4 feet wide steel square stock
4x 5/16 U bolts
8 - 5/16th acorn nuts/cap nuts
8 lock washers
3/8th inch vinyl tubing

Fit the bars across the top of the running bars, align the Ubolts and mark where you need to drill

drill holes and fit everything together.

I got the inspiration for this from an Instructables guide sheet, so the credit goes there:

We tested it out tonight with the roof rack on and there were no weird sounds or vibrations even at 80 miles an hour. I took off the empty Thule box and willow took it to a friends baby shower, she said there was a whooshing sound but nothing annoying - I think its the open ended tubing, something duct tape will fix.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Dangers of Pitching onto a recently active yeast Cake

I brewed up a honey belgian beer a little while ago, and being the thrifty brewer I am decided to pour it directly into a recently emptied carboy with a very healthy supply of yeast from the last brew. So I lifted the kettle, put the tubing on and let it run into the carboy, after it filled I realized I had no airlock so I scampered inside to find one. This is what I found when I returned.
I filled it to the 5.5 gallon mark, and the yeast did the rest...very quickly. A bung and a blow off tube solved this issue but I learned that I should just make a starter from a previous batch and be done with it instead of trying this kind of trick again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mead Clarification

I brewed up a batch of Mead about 8 months ago, its was a straight mead with just honey and water, I didn't boil the mead and since it was my first attempt I kept poor records. The only thing I have written down goes something like this:

15 pounds clover honey
fill carboy with tap water
add yeast nutrient
add yeast

I know the age is around 8 months and I know it has fermented out because i took a refracotmeter reading(not really accurate at the end of fermentation). But tasting it it was dried out and pretty good. It tastes like it needs some more time to age out but I will do that in the bottle.

The point of this post is that the mead never cleared out. Never. Its been in a 33 degree fridge in the basement for over a month and is as cloudy as it was three months ago. So tonight I started the clearing process with a chitin based clarifier called Super-Kleer KC. Its a chitin( a shellfish derivative)  based clarifier that binds to the gunk(technical term) in the solution and drops it into the bottom of the fermenter. The instructions claim 24 to 48 hours will give you crystal clear results so we will see. The picture below is of the mead when I added the first part of the combination.
I think I will be bottling this in wine bottles and corking them, I was tempted to keg it and have it on tap but I don't think it has aged out enough and I need the fermenter for cider. I want to be able to check the bottles every few months or so until I know I have great simple mead.

Update: around 14 hours or so later the mead is really starting to clear, I will grab some photos tonight around the 24 hour mark and see where it has gotten to. Very impressed with the clearing agent so far.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fall doldrums

As my school semester begins and Fall slowly carries away the hot days of summer I find myself in a bit of a blah period. I am up to date on my school work, we are planning a trip to Nags Head in a week or two and I have enough projects to keep me busy for about two months.

But here's the thing: I don't really have the motivation to do any of it. I could blame the constant rain or the beginning of another school year but honesty the truth is far more simple. I have been sitting on my ass far too much. It is hard, not impossible, to stay active when you have small children around. I haven't gone running any distance since our 5k with Coral, and I haven't lifted weights or done sprints in longer than that. Why? I put one foot in front of the other and - just in the wrong direction.

Willow and I went for a walk with Finn and Maelle tonight, Maelle lasted almost the entire time without getting upset: thanks to Finn singing and playing with her in our double stroller.

I suppose this means that i have to start running again. At one point I was up to 10 miles at a clip but I have fallen off the wagon. I don't really lose my distance abilities from what I have seen, I just get really slow. Time to start High intensity interval training otherwise known as run super fast for 1 minute jog for another minute repeat until near dead.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Ale with Whipped Cream Vodka

That's right, I am adding vodka to beer. So is Willow. The beer, an attempt at a Southern Tier Pum King Clone, clocked in at around 8% alcohol on its own, adding a shot of this makes it a powerhouse of a drink.

The taste is great, its like drinking a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream - I would like to say I came up with it myself but that distinction lies with someone who works at the Henlopin Oyster house in Rehoboth Beach. 

Give it a shot, there are some great pumpkin beers out there and its a great excuse to try them!

Po' Boys Creole & Fresh Catch - and some beer

On our way down to Rehoboth Deleware we stopped at the best Cajun place I have ever been. Po' Boys Creole & Fresh Catch - its in a little strip mall type place along the road with limited signage. Inside it smelled amazing - the food was fantastic and they had a wide variety of beers. I tried a Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager. 

Was it good?
yes, it was cold and the mug was frosty. But I expected a darker lager. I poured a bit on the light side and had a nice amount of head for a lager. The hops and malt were on the lower side of the flavor profile and there was an odd sweetness to it that while not bad would not make me buy a case of this beer. I could drink a few on a back porch on a summer night but I think I would prefer my own lagers to this one. Still good though.

True to form, I had a catfish Po boy. well worth the trip - best place we ate all weekend.

If you go down that way try to stop by.

Wednesday was Pizza Night

I gave up flour about 5 months ago, gave up beer and most rice, all sugars, and all things processed. No cheese, no pizza, no tacos, no tortillas.

I went Paleo- I felt great and I lost 25 pounds over a period of a few weeks. I slowy left 100% paleo and started putting other things back into my diet. Last night I made pizza for the family and I ate some. It was delicious despite me knowing what it is.

So now I eat sushi and of course I make and drink beer- even when I go back to paleo I won't give up my own beer.

Anyway enough of that crap. I mad amazing pizza last night. Simple margharita pizzas, 6 of them with home made crusts, sauce and garden basil.

Dough Recipe:

5 cups   or all-purpose flour
1 3/4  teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/3 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups very cold water( i put ice cubes in mine)
more flour for rolling and dusting

Combine dry ingredients in kitchen aid mixer bowl, then add wet ingredients and mix on medium-high until the dough pulls away from the sides.  
remove from bowl onto floured surface
cut into 6 equally sized sections
I form mine into nice little spheres and set them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and into the fridge for at least 4 hours - 24 hours is ideal!

take them out, flour a cutting board/ work area and roll them out. they make beautifully thin pizzas!

Will make six 12 inch pizzas.

The sauce was simple: I blended up some garlic a few roma tomatoes and a bunch of basil. It was amazingly good. 

These are best if allowed to work overnight in a fridge, ours only had a few hours to work but they were great . 

The Car Accident!

 So this happened last week, as a result we are driving a dodge caravan - hooray free rental!

The day was rainy and i was driving beneath an interstate underpass, a box truck pulled out a few yards in front of me and despite my turning away and braking we met and the result is the image below.
They other driver was completely at fault - I know this because our car is getting fixed by their insurance, our car seats are being replaced, and we got a free rental for two weeks( its a van, but its a brand new van)

Yes, even our car seats are being replaced - more precisely we are being reimbursed for whatever car seats we buy to replace the ones that were in our Pilot at the time of the accident.

I was the only one in the car, and I was fine. I was able to drive home and finally make breakfast- which was why I had gone to the store to begin with.

Drive safe everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Six tap glycol chilled stainless steel Perlick Draft Tower Squid Thing

It arrived in a box advertising diapers. Surrounded in newspapers and with its tentacles bent so it looked like a happy octopus mixed with the terminator.

It came from a Festhaus in Florida, as near as I can tell this was some kind of beer garden chain that went under a few years back. anyway, its awesome.

It will live on top of my keezer in the next few months and I hope to be using my new forward sealing perlick 525ss to pour by booze.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I can't take those beautiful food pictures yet, I am lazy and my camera kind of sucks. But this turkey was really good.


1 turkey- ours was around 15 pounds
Kosher Salt
Fresh Sage
Fresh Thyme
1 Head Garlic

Instructions for turkey:
1. Take your turkey, remove the giblets and set aside. dry turkey.
2. Rub the turkey with a generous amount of kosher salt( i used three tablespoons for the entire turkey)
3. Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge
4. Remove turkey from fridge, insert a bunch of fresh thyme and fresh sage into the turkeys ....cavity. Preheat oven to 450 F.
5. Take butter(1 stick) and rub all around between the breast and the skin, make a little pocket for it.
6. break up garlic cloves and place on the turkey breast.
7. Add turkey to roasting pan, to the pan add 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of wine
8. Drizzle olive oil over turkey to aid in browning and crisping.
9. Insert turkey into oven
10. cook until internal temperature is around 180( it took two and a half hours for us) in the thigh meat
11. remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before pouring off juices

Instructions for gravy:
After the bird is done cooking let it rest for 10 minutes
Pour off pan drippings.

Pan drippings are your gravy, no flour/cornstarch needed.

Fruit and Failure

That title is a bit misleading. Yes there was fruit and there has been a lot of failure, but in the end there has been success, of sorts.

The first build of my cider press did well for what it was; a somewhat poorly designed box frame with little structural support and a lack consideration of where the forces of a 4 ton bottle jack had to go. The lack of heavy lag bolts and strong supports led to cracking lumber and broken dreams.

The solution? Break it down and build it again.
Where is the failure in learning from your mistakes, what wrong is that?

The wrong in this case was not mine, at least not in the building or dismantling part.

Finn decided to help me as he often does when I venture outside to avoid schoolwork and house work. He was diligently picking up the discarded wood screws and placing them back into the screw box( often doing so quickly because the friction from removing them had caused them to glow with the heat of 2 suns). I paid him no mind when he started stacking lengths of lumber a few feet from me- just Finn being a kid and puttering about I thought.

Then  BAM! right in the brain box.
The sky grew brighter and pain welled up behind my eyes, I put my hand on my forehead to staunch what I thought was surely grey matter, set my jaw, and clenched my eyes tightly together to fend off the urge to tear up.

I want to say I was silent when this happened, stoic enough to take my punishment( for not wearing a helmet apparently), and simply walk it off. But I wasn't. I was weak, that or I hadn't been drinking enough to numb the pain. Bringing my hand down from my head I saw blood and the world heard my confused rage in the form of language that would make a sailor take notice.

Luckily I think Finn was shocked enough by what had happened that he didn't pick up anything,  or Willow would have keelhauled me.

After it was all over and I had an unnaturally blue icepack pushed against my forehead I could finally laugh about it, willow on the other hand had been laughing about it since I stumbled in to tell her what our little assault child had done to me. I guess I will be wearing my caving helmet whenever I work outside with Finn now.

so the failure here:
Finn cracked me in the head with a 2x4, there is a 1 inch gash in my forehead. I may have said something loudly that shouldn't be uttered in the presence of children and women.


Before the press gave up the ghost I managed to get 3 gallons of good grape juice out of it, I sulfited it and put it in a bucket and will be making wine from it today i hope. The skins also got some sulfite and will be used to make a table/cooking wine.

Finn and Willow helped me pick these earlier, it took only three hours to pick and destem 50 pounds of grapes- the picking i had help with( at times too much Finn help) - the destemming I had to do alone while I watched episodes of BrewingTV on my thinkpad.

Note: destemming grapes is a very boring and sticky business.

Success: The new press I build is one based heavily on things I found online. I should have just bought plans to build one, the videos i watched showed the press working great - mine required lots of tinkering and reinforcing as well as an entire day to complete. (the one I refer to is called a Whizbang Cider Press and is very well reviewed) I should have just bought the plans and saved myself lots of time and aggravation. In the end the press I ended up with( at least for now) seems to be able to take a lot of pressure and doesn't make too many unnerving creaking noises when I press stuff. I managed to do some apples from our trees last night and got a good 1/2 gallon of juice really quickly. I used an old pillowcase as a pressing bag- its a high thread count one from somewhere that we just didn't like. I worked really well - the juice was much clearer than the juice I made before, and despite the apples not being quite 100% ripe the juice was good and kid approved.

This might look like them getting home on the first day of school, but I assure you this is their "the cider meets our standards" dance celebration. really. Abrial is even so blinded by the deliciousness that she has to close her eyes.

Also: its painted the same color as our house - Thanks whoever left paint in our basement!

so to sum up:

It takes 80 pounds of grapes to get 5 gallons of juice - I had 50 and got 3.
A toddler armed with a 2x4 is bad news - wear a helmet.