Friday, April 28, 2006

My Own Private Beer Garden

My hops this year have really taken off. I have some planted on one side of my house, and I also have these planted on my deck in pots. They've already grown 9 or 10 feet, since April 1st. It makes for a nice little beer garden to complement my Nanobrewery. My son and I like to sit out here with the dog and have a couple of beers while we bullshit. (The dog abstains from drinking; he's more interested in chasing squirrels). My son and I built this pergola/arbor last Spring. We work well together; it only took us 6 hours to build it (while drinking some tasty Scottish Ale). We call it our "White Trash Tornado Shelter."

Nanobrewery update:
The Belgian Saison that I brewed last Sunday is still chugging-away in it's primary fermenter. It will need at least another 4 - 6 days there, before being transferred to the secondary. The American Brown that I brewed a month ago is delicious. It turned out to be a wonderful "session" beer. The Belgian Strong Dark Ale needs to be transferred to kegs and carbonated. I'll do that this weekend. The Oak-Aged Imperial Stout also needs to be transferred and carbonated. With the IPA and Imperial IPA, that will make for 5 decent beers on tap, (six, if I include my barleywine downstairs).

It's supposed to rain all of this weekend. If it does, I'm tempted to brew again. If I do, I will brew another Session Beer, since I'm top-heavy with heavy, heady beers. Next Saturday, May 8th, is the American Homebrewers Association's "Big Brew Day." I'm a registered Big Brew site. With my own equipment, I intend to brew two 10-gallon all-grain batches at the same time. I haven't done that before.

This week, I made reservations for our trip to Portland, Oregon in July. My wife and son will go with me, and our foster son will drive over from Spokane to meet us. We'll spend some time at the Oregon Brewer's Festival, which I haven't been to since year 2000. While I'm there, I'll also run in the the PCT50 trail race, on the Pacific Coast Trail. It includes the beautiful Mount Hood as part of it's 50-mile course. Check out some of the photos from the race web site.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Homebrewing (yesterday)

Well, I finally had a chance to homebrew yesderday. I've been really busy in all corners of my life, so I've been aching to homebrew a new batch of beer. I brew outside, (in my driveway and garage). It was fairly hot and humid on Sunday, but bearable.

This time, I brewed a Belgian Saison. I like this style of ale, because I can really go nuts with it. For the primary base malt, I used a German malt that I've never used before...Turbo Pils (from Durst). It's highly-modified and perfect for single-infusion mashing. It worked well with the other ingredients, and my final gravity came out just right, at 1.070. I ended up using a home-spun Belgian yeast starter from my "resident yeast collection." I also tried a dash of a new (to me) spice, Galanga (from Thailand). I adjusted the amounts of my other spice additions: Grains of Paridise, Indian Black Malabar pepper, fine Indian coriander, and a skosh of Indian fennel. I'm not a huge spiced beer fan, but in incremental amounts, spices can really complement many Belgian-style ales.

My son stayed for most of the brew and helped out. While brewing, I also did a lot of other stuff during the "down times" of mashing and brewing. So much for just relaxing! I racked 10-gallons of my brown ale (finally) from the tertiary fermenter to kegs. It will be fully carbonated and ready to try, by this evening. I also installed some new outdoor lighting, did 3 loads of laundry, and some other yard chores. So when my wife came out to nag me and to try to make me feel guilty for "loafing around" all afternoon, I had the moral high ground. I didn't argue, or even let her know what I had completed; (I let her figure that out later). Instead, I casually dispensed an IPA from a keg in my garage fridge, sat down, smiled, and lit a big Fonseca cigar. She disappeared in disgust. My son and I clinked glasses. Mission accomplished!

Hops update: My hop plants on the back deck have climbed to the top of my pergola, and are advancing over the top of it. In two weeks, they have grown over 9 feet!!! Last year, I ended up using them in 3 batches of beer, culminating with a really nice harvest Imperial IPA.