Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not Trying to Brag But...

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
I almost forgot to mention the Earthquake that we had last Saturday… well, there’s a few reasons for that… mostly because it was in Napa over an hour’s drive away… but also because the experience was me being lightly jostled awake at 3 AM just in time to catch like the last two seconds of a six-second shimmer… and then nothing. No damage, no injuries, nothing like that… which is great. We’re fine. Napa got hit pretty good with some power outages and piss poor planning by vineyards will probably cause to an “unexpected” rise in wine prices… but beer’s better anyway. Aside from that, no deaths, only a few injuries from falling bookshelves and stuff like that… I think some mobile homes burned because of a small fire & close proximity… I feel like most here in the area are pretty prepared for the inevitability of earthquakes… and this kinda served as a pleasant reminder to check your preparedness kits. That’s all I really got to say about it. My first time feeling one really in almost four years here.
Saturday night before the quake, we watched “Lego Movie” starring the voice talents of Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, Alison Brie, Will Arnett and… let’s face it, half of Hollywood seemed to be in the movie. Basically, this was the mega-release Lego movie after the success of all the straight-to-DVD releases they had before with Lego Batman, etc. It’s about an everyday schmoe construction guy (Pratt) who “isn’t special” so he’s apparently lonely… and then an amazing adventure ensues involving a missing piece and… you know, lots of kids stuff… but as lame as my plot summation is… I’d definitely recommend that you go check this movie out because it’s pretty hilarious for both kids & adults… and seriously, why the hell not? GO CHECK IT OUT!!! It’s LEGOS!!! See what they’re doing with all CGI movies nowadays… it’ll tickle your funny bone…
Over the weekend, Izzy & I found a little gem on Netflix called “Rocket City Rednecks” which is a TV show about a few rocket scientist rednecks in Huntsville, Alabama who spend their weekends doing projects to make complicated scientific discoveries… using mostly junk parts & ingenuity. Basically their weekend projects are things like… make a submarine out of a pesticide tank… or make an Iron Man suit out of junkyard parts… or turn a pickup truck into a tank… or try to make Batman-like gadgets out of household appliances… stuff like that… and it’s HELLA interesting. The best part about the show… is that while you’re watching these episodes that are like Mythbusters with a  draaaw… you start to realize that these good ol’ boys with a pretty typical slack-jawed yokel accent really are f**king geniuses… and they’re incredibly entertaining too. It’s like the Duke boys & Uncle Jesse deciding to turn the General Lee into a Rocket Car! Pure entertainment! I suggest you go check it out!
Tuesday night, we went out to Daly City to play some softball… and long story short, I didn’t play (because there was like 20 of us suited up) and we lost after a very poor start. I think the final was like 15-7. We NEVER let anybody score more than 10 before I don’t think. Hopefully this helps us to focus… and let’s face it, I don’t help THAT much when I do play… but here’s the thing, I don’t believe we’ve lost a game that I’ve played in the four seasons I’ve been playing… and we’re only like 4-3 when I’m not in… just something to think about. Maybe that’s like the “Bengals & Patriots are 43-2 when Benjarvis Green-Ellis scores a touchdown” or something… you know, those pointless factoids in sports. Well yeah, having a player score a touchdown really would improve your chances of winning… that’s just logic. Anyway, looking forward to next week to wash this feeling off…
Wednesday morning, I awoke to an email from the main promoter for the Napa Valley Expo after I had reached out to him trying to find the results from our entries early last month. Well, with the wine harvest & the earthquake, needless to say I wasn’t at the top of his priorities… but ugh… we actually did really well. How well you ask? Well, the results are below… and the rating are out of 50 and basically anything above 36 is considered EXCELLENT!!!
•             PentaceraHops Ale (Torpedo Clone) – 1st place Pale Ale (39.7 rating)
•             Oktoberfest – 1st place Light Lager (36 rating)
•             Winter Warmer – 2nd place Strong Ale
•             Honey Amber – 2nd place Brown Ale
•             ChocoNut Stout – 3rd place Stout (Too much coconut for style)
•             Blood Orange Hefeweizen – 3rd place Wheat Ale
I haven’t heard back on a few details like… how many entries there were, how our label placed in the label competition, or even the overall Best of Show winners (since I assume the two 1st places would’ve advanced?) but yeah, this is astounding to get SO MANY RIBBONS!!! I mean… everything placed?!? Congratulations Izzy! We’re now MULTI-AWARD-WINNING brewers!!!
Wednesday night was the SFHG Monthly Meeting and we announced the winners of the guild’s 3rd competition of the year… and unfortunately we didn’t win there… or even really score well, but we only had old beer to submit at the time, so kind of expected. Our bock wasn’t ready yet. Our Blood Orange Hef & Honey Amber weren’t eligible styles. Our Torpedo Clone is a Pale Ale… but where that was not a eligible style for this comp, we had to list it as an IPA (India Pale Ale) which is pretty different from its flavor characteristics… so basically the same beer that scored almost a 40 in the Napa Valley Expo as a Pale Ale, was about 25 as an India Pale Ale, which makes sense. Basically the only other one that we could submit was our Bourbon Barrel Porter, which isn’t really made to the BJCP Porter style because of the addition of Maker’s Mark… and it’s also reaching six months old so towards the end of its freshness cycle. We still got some good feedback (mostly great beer but not to style, might be old, etc) but our Competitions Chair also gave a quick talk about the BJCP scorecard and how the competitions work, which was very helpful.
While there, we also caught up with each other about the upcoming Northern California Homebrewers Festival and planning everything out for that. Basically it sounds like it’s going to be a LOT of fun with great people, great beer, and hopefully great weather in mid-September. We also tested out the four different keg samples from the large batch that we made at Motobrewer, and apparently we’re all pretty good with our sanitization and upkeep because they were all very similar. The verdict: Not sure who’s keg we’re going to submit to the competition portion of NCHF… but they’re all going to share with everybody afterwards, so 18-20 gallons of great Cali Common for everybody!
Anyway, that should do it for me this time… still kinda pumped about winning so many ribbons in Napa… but luckily I have my day job to keep me at an even keel by constantly reminding me how exploited I am. Have a great weekend everybody!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Going Experi-Mental

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Last Saturday night, Izzy & I watched “TMNT: Turtles Forever” which is an animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from 2007 that… basically crossed-over the series of the 2000’s with the series from the 1980’s via… wait for it… transporting through different dimensions. Now, the way it was cut & everything made me think that it was meant to be four TV episodes (there are “commercial break” wipes every 7-8 minutes) but it was actually surprisingly good. Basically the new Turtles who are serious & super secretive and… well, ninjas, are sitting at home in the sewer when there’s some news of video evidence of green do-gooders running around NYC. “It wasn’t us” so they go investigate… and find out that it’s the brash, smartass older Turtles from the 80’s complete with catchphrases… and basically they have no problem with just walking around town in their dimension. Well, there’s also both Shredders involved… and just check it out if you’re a fan. There are a few things you’d probably like about it. By the way, both April O’Neills are in it too and… okay, 80’s April somehow pulled off the yellow jumpsuit look… and the newer one… I think she’s 14 years old… or at least looks that way, but dating Casey Jones? Is that… is that just the way that things are nowadays? I feel sorry for kids nowadays… anyway, check it out. Lemme know what you think.
Sunday night, I watched “The Fisher King” starring Jeff Bridges & the late Robin Williams. It had been a LONG time since I’ve seen this movie… and I forgot how poignant& good it can be at times. From director Terry Gilliam (“Brazil”, “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas”, “12 Monkeys”, etc) comes the story  of a radio shock jock named Jack (Bridges) who spouts off his mouth… and incidentally causes one of his crazy listeners to shoot up a bar killing seven people & himself. Well, feeling responsible, Jack goes into a bit of a rut… drinks himself into a stupor for the better part of a few years… and then is mistaken for a homeless man by some young white assholes just looking for somebody to beat up on… and they’re just about ready to set him on fire (no joke) until he’s saved by a homeless man (Williams) and his friends. Well, when Jack comes to… he finds out the homeless guy is named Parry & he’s… well, mentally unstable. As he tries to leave though, he finds out that Parry was actually a college professor… until his wife was gunned down in front of him during the incident that Jack “incited”. So feeling a little responsible, he tries to get Parry back on his feet… sorta… really just make himself feel better… but then stuff happens as they search for the Holy Grail. That’s right. Terry Gilliam made another movie about the search for the Holy Grail I believe that you might have seen. I don’t want to give too much away because I want you all to go check it out. There’s also a REALLY good performance by Jack’s girlfriend (Mercedes Ruehl) throughout the movie… and Robin Williams is pretty fantastic… and yes, even the Dude does a pretty decent job… though there are some parts where he’s just being the Dude too cool for school… and really just a great ensemble cast & one of those weird twisted kinda love tales with some heart tugging moments. There’s a lot of concepts brought up like how homeless people are actual people with backstories, how people react to tragedies, relationship dynamics, and a couple crazy silly stuff to keep you entertained too.  Check it out.
Tuesday night was our company Softball opener… and I was actually a little ready this year. No, not really hitting the batting cages or fielding grounders a bunch or anything… but I have been running a bit… but most importantly, this year I’m dressing the part. That’s right… in previous years, I was my usual amazing self… wearing jeans and raggedy ass “everyday” sneakers. This year, I’ve got some actual baseball pants& some good running sneakers. Heck, even my socks are supported for betting play and match our colors of navy blue & silver. Yup, I’m lookin’ pretty fine this year. We even have new uniforms. Nothing too incredible, but definitely better than the ones we’ve used for the past decade or so. As for the actual game, both teams started out slow so it was tied 0-0 after the first three innings. I played the first two innings and… 0-for-2 with a ground out & a pop fly. Nothing in the field came my way either. Then I substituted out since we had about 16 players to work in. Over the next three innings though, we pulled out to a 15-1 lead… and after the last inning (and a few gimmes), we won 15-5. Afterwards a few of celebrated with pizza & beer… and I’m liking our chances to pull off a three-peat this year & win our 3rd consecutive championship… but I may be getting ahead of myself. I have to start playing better on a personal level before I can claim anything on that. Lots of fun though & a great way to hang with coworkers, especially since I’m too damn busy to do so when actually at work.
Thursday night, Izzy came over to my place and made me a wonderful dinner of Hunter’s Sausage in what basically because a Irish Red Ale reduction sauce… fresh sliced tomatoes from her garden with lemon pepper sprinkled on them… and some homemade garlic sourdough bread with a little cheese mixed in & garlic butter. Needless to say, it was pretty f**king fantastic… here are some pictures…

Also on the menu, was our Bock that is finally ready for consumption… and as you can see, it’s a beautiful color… a little darker than your typical Maibock… and the taste is pretty amazing as well. I’m a HUGE fan of Bock beers… and this is really good. If I had one lone criticism, it’s that it’s a little more bitter than a bock typically is… but I think that’s because we used the Chocolate Malt instead of the Black Prinz that was recommended to us by the Anchor Brewers a few months ago. You see, when we were making this, you had to know somebody who could get Black Prinz as it wasn’t a readily available malt, basically a priority malt to professional brewers as it provides the coloring and characteristics of a chocolate malt… but without the bitterness that usually comes with it. Of course, about two weeks after we started this Bock, we started seeing Black Prinz available in homebrew stores… so now we’re REALLY excited about this already delicious beer, now with Black Prinz instead of Chocolate malt. It’s one of my favorites already. BEHOLD!!!

Saturday, Izzy & I made another batch of the simple Pale Ale recipe that we made last week… but we have different plans for this batch. A month or so ago, I had purchased a Quad Core Kit, which is basically four one-gallon glass carboys as opposed to one five-gallon glass carboy. Last week’s batch’s plan is basically to ferment for 10-14 days and then we keg it so it’s ready to drink in about two weeks’ time. The plan for this 2nd batch is a little more experimental. We make the batch, set it up for primary fermentation for about a week, and then transfer into the four separate one-gallon carboys, each with a different ingredient to add in secondary fermentation… and any extra (that 5th gallon) to be bottled so it’s ready to drink in a week or so. As far as secondary ingredients, there are a lot of different options that you can do. Fruits & berries are also good for sweetness or tartness of just the hint of flavor, dry hopping is good for various bitternesses, you can even add things like liquor or wine to give it some of those characteristics. For this batch, using essentially the same base wort, the different ingredients in the containers will be:
1)      Dried Strawberries from our dehydrator
2)      Dried Kiwi from our dehydrator
3)      Dried Pineapple from our dehydrator
4)      Dry Hop - TBD
5)      Bottled with Izzy’s Jalapenos in each bottle
Then after about 7-10 days of secondary fermentation, they’ll be bottled & we’ll have five different Pale Ale varieties to contrast & compare… six if we still have some leftover from last week’s batch in the keg. True, we’ll only have about 10 bottles of each, but with those samples, we can see if there’s a particular kind that we REALLY want to make again for a full batch. It’s pretty exciting… but then again, I’m now kind of a beer nerd.

It was also time to bottle our second batch of ChocoNut Stout, so we added the coconut extract during the bottling process & they should be ready in about two weeks. Mmm… this is the version with the Black Prinz instead of Chocolate Malt (discussed earlier during the Bock) so it should be interesting. Upon taking the final gravity, we tried the amount that was in the hydrometer and… yeah, it was pretty f**king delicious... and only going to get more delicious when carbonated…

 By the way, this is how active our Pale Ale was this morning... we had to add the blowoff tube...

Anyway, that was the week that was… hope you all enjoyed reading about it… or learned something maybe, I don’t know. Not sure who all reads this thing anymore. I also wanted to do a special shout-out to my lovely ladyfriend Izzy for making me some wonderful meals & helping me start a mini garden in the backyard, both pictured below... and Big Ben for his magnificent Mead that he shared with us...

Have a great weekend everybody!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Pale Ale & Transferring Honey Amber

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Wow... just finished watching "Rocky III" again with Izzy and... you know I don't like to repeat myself (though I seem to a LOT on certain things) but... WHY IS CLUBBER LANG NEVER HEARD FROM AGAIN IN THE ROCKY FRANCHISE??? I would much rather watch Mr. T take on Sylvester Stallone... then say... I don't know... just pulling a few names at random like... Jean Claude Van Damme ("Expendables 2"), Robert DeNiro ("Grudge Match"), Antonio Tarver ("Rocky Balboa") or Burmese soldiers ("Rambo") that I've seen in the past few years... though there was some recent ridiculous matchups with the awesome likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin ("Expendables") & Jason Momoa ("Bullet to the Head") that were pretty brief... but yeah, maybe I'm getting a little off topic... that's my opinion... and everybody should agree with me... because Mr. T as Clubber Lang in "Rocky III" is... basically my perfect personification of a boxer. HE runs his own stuff... no manager, no hype man beside himself, he has a trainer but... I mean he really is just there for Clubber to say "Shut up foo' I'm gon kill'em!!!" Anyway, check it out again...

Saturday morning, we started our Pale Ale for the family reunion... and it was an incredibly easy malt extract recipe... basically just adding a few pounds of liquid extract into boiling water, add some hops during the boil... and then we add yeast & ferment... not a whole lot going on with this one... but yeah, good stuff allegedly via the internet. Here are some pictures...

We also transferred our Honey Amber to secondary fermentation...

Other than that, softball starts on Tuesday, more homebrew stuff this weekend, yeah, only a few weeks until the big reunion... more to come as we get closer... Have a great weekend everybody!!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guardians & Their Duties

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Saturday, Izzy & I went to El Cerrito Theatre for the first time & hit a matinee of “Guardians of the Galaxy” starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Benecio Del Toro and the voice talents of Bradley Cooper & Vin Diesel. It’s the story of a group of five space misfits who find themselves teaming up to not only escape prison but to save the universe from destruction. That’s about it… and if you want more specifics, I’m sure you can get them online. It’s through Marvel studios… and one of their less popular entries (for example, I didn’t know squat about it until they announced it a year or so ago) but let me tell you… this movie… was AMAZING!!! The effects are great… the characters are… well, some are kind of cliché but still very interesting, funny, exciting… the bad guys are badasses… it’s just an amazing time in the theatre to share with others… and the soundtrack is absolutely thrilling… but then again, I was kinda raising on the hits of the 70’s & 80’s rock. Not only do I recommend going to see it in the theatre… I’d probably go with you if you invited me. It’s worth the price of admission… and not too many movies out there can say that. GO SEE IT!!! Solid frontrunner for Movie of the Year in the $tevie Awards!!! The role that Vin Diesel was born to play… and he should be nominated for an award that Bradley Cooper wins!
After the movie, we made our way back across the bay to my place & we did a few homebrew related activities starting with transferring the ChocoNut Stout from the primary fermenter to secondary…
Then we kegged the Cali Common brewed at Motobrewer & prepared specifically for unveiling at the Northern California Homebrewers Festival in about a month…

Then we cold crashed the keg in the kegerator and took out the Bock to let it warm up slightly… so that Sunday morning, we could bottle it & get some great carbonation (and then some)…

We also got to taste test all three during the processes & checking the gravity, etc. The ChocoNut Stout tastes like an excellent chocolate stout (coconut added later), the Cali Common tastes like a strong Cali Common (which makes sense because it was 8 points high in brewing) and the Bock… is a little more bitter than I was expecting but still VERY good and that may mellow out a bit later on. We also used the Chocolate Malt instead of Black Prinz, which in future batches using the Black Prinz will reduce the bitterness. Either way though, we’ve been making some very good beer.
Izzy has also made some wonderful meals for me this weekend… including pineapple & kiwi (that we also dehydrated), turkey burgers, bagels with smoked salmon & capers, and boar burgers with bleu cheese slices… BEHOLD!!!

To work off some of those delicious meals (and beer) we hiked the Bay Area Ridge Trail of the Presidio… which was about a 4-5 mile hike… and gorgeous views along the way. Of course, my phone was dead so I didn’t have a camera to show you some pics… but I think Izzy will on her blog later… or maybe I will the next time we hike it which will probably be very soon as it’s pretty convenient to my house & a nice 90 minute or so walk.
Anyway, that'll do it for this entry... GO SEE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY!!! And most importantly, have a great day everybody!!!