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Writing a Short Story and/or Brewing Beer:

Books-BeerWriting and brewing beer are two of my favorite activities. I’d like to share these with you, but I simply do now have time to write two whole how-to guides. Therefore, I’ve decided to condense them into one simple list.

  1. Take some time to gather the various components. If you want your final product to be rich and complex, then this is the stage where you’re going to need to do some extra legwork. Research! Seriously, crack a book or two. Use the internet machine. There’s lots of fascinating stuff out there that others have used very successfully. There might even be some unique elements that nobody else has tried. Mix and match, but don’t go too crazy, okay? Take some time to think about what you’re doing and for God’s sake take notes.
  2. The next step is where everyone thinks the magic happens. It doesn’t. This is just the part where you mix it all together. Block off an afternoon, crack open a beverage, and get it done. Throw all those ingredients into the pot and boil them. Here’s the kicker. You gotta get them in there in the right order and in the correct proportions. This is when you get all that flavor, all that character, all that aroma in. When you’re done it’s going to be a gross, vile sludge that stinks like the bitter dregs of something gone horribly wrong. That’s ok. We call this either wort or a first draft, depending on what you’re hoping to get for a final product.
  3. Put that thing in a bucket. For a week. With yeast. Unless it’s a short story. Then yeast is optional.
  4. It’s had time to think about what it’s become. Now pick it up, get it into a new form, leaving behind the most vile non-poop substance you have ever witnessed. Never think of that stuff again. Just get it out of the final product. Don’t spend a ton of time here. Just get the nasty out and get the good stuff ready to sit.
  5. Let it sit. Magic. Like real magic, this can only happen in complete darkness. Don’t touch it. Don’t look at it. Try not to even think about it. I’m serious. This can take three to six weeks. I said don’t think about it.
  6. It’s time to look again and oh dear lord can it possibly be as bad as you remember? Likely not. You’ve probably got something good, but there’s more nastiness in there than you’d care to think about. Take only what is good and get it into a final format. A presentable format. Bottles, keg, standard manuscript format. You know, whatever’s appropriate.
  7. Drink heavily.

Congratulations. You’ve produced a beer and/or short story. Remember not to use either in conjunction with heavy machinery or motor vehicles.

Now do it again.

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Magic of Brewing Beer

Homebrewing is a wonderful hobby. Not only does it tend to yield good results at the entry level, but its complexity scales nicely to fit the hobbyist. A person can go from a simple kit brew all the way up to complex chemical equations, water analysis, and even growing a garden full of hops or hop substitutes. One of the great things I like about brewing beer is that there always seems to be something more to learn. Here I will share some of the secrets that I’ve learned over my many years in the hobby. Continue reading Magic of Brewing Beer

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Root Beer: The Eichenlaub Special, Dark

It’s always best to have a brewing buddy around. Your buddy can keep you from

My brewing helper and the mess we made
My brewing helper and the mess we made

getting bored, think of new ideas to tweak your brew, and help you double check measurements.

Gabe is my new brewing buddy. We ran out of root beer a couple weeks ago and he helped me brew up a new batch. It might be a while before I teach him how to brew a stiff IPA, but for root beer this kid is the best.

We use the kitchen scale for all of our measurements. Once everything is in a big bowl we dump it into hot but not boiling water and stir it until it’s dissolved. Then I put the mixture into the five gallon keg and fill the rest of the way with water. Once carbonated it makes a pretty decent root beer and a seriously excellent root beer float.

Here are the ingredients for the latest brew: Continue reading Root Beer: The Eichenlaub Special, Dark

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The Hobby Schedule

My schedule feels busy.

Gabe just being cool.

Unlike summer, winter has me working five whole days in a row pretty much every week. Insane, right? What’s more, I’ve been training for that half marathon. Running four times a week at three to five miles per run is taking up a pretty solid chunk of my time. It only grows from here until May.

Then there’s the boys’ schedules. Isaac is in tennis, getting better at it and enjoying it. Gabe is in a dance and tumble class, though he admits that the tumble half is really the better part. Twice a week I find myself sitting at the Rochester Athletic Club waiting for a class to finish. Often, I write during this time, but it’s a small piece of writing time and there are plenty of distractions.

Mondays and Wednesdays I write during my lunch break. Soon, Wednesdays will be consumed by the running schedule. Continue reading The Hobby Schedule

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White House Honey Porter

It’s ready just in time.

The White House Honey Porter has been brewing in the basement for the last month in anticipation for tomorrow’s epic showdown. I kegged it last week and it is now ready to be consumed in celebration or misery.

I had a little trouble finding some of the ingredients. I’m using a different yeast. I prefer the packages of wet yeast to the dry Nottingham yeast suggested in the recipe. I used an American Ale yeast, so I think it’s probably still fitting. Also, I was not able to obtain the White House Honey, made from the saccharine vomits of thousands upon thousands of swarming, vicious White House bees. I used regular honey. Vomited from regular bees.

It’s turned out pretty good. It’s a darker beer than I usually make, but doesn’t seem too heavy. The bitterness is detectable, but not terribly overpowering. The flavor of the honey is definitely there, but without the sweetness.

So, tomorrow I will cast my vote and come home for a few beers. I’ll hope that we Minnesotans fail to etch our silly trends into the stone of our constitution for all future generations to mock. I’ll hope that we Americans elect someone for President who isn’t going to give Jon Stewart too much low hanging fruit in the next four years (he’ll get lazy). Mostly, I’ll hope that whatever the outcome is we don’t completely tear each other apart about it.

One pound of honey to about 1 ounce of bitter.

That sounds like a pretty good ratio to me.

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The Drama

There is a tension slowly building.

Thirty-nine of my favorite dollars squandered on this fluid which now sits dormant in my basement.

This fluid which I so painstakingly infused with the very best sugars and made absolutely perfect for the growth of some random microbe. It does nothing.

It does not bubble or froth or stir.

Nothing.

If the brew shop were open all night I’d be there right now buying seven more dollars worth of yeast.  It’s not, so I sit.

It sits.

It waits only for that one microscopic particle to make its way to the mighty sugar shore – to drink of its delicious sustenance.

I pitched the yeast too early.  I’m sure I did.  Normally, a person would use a wort chiller to cool it off before sending in the microbes.  I didn’t, mainly because I’m lazy, but also because I’m not confident of my ability to keep the wort chiller clean.  So, really, it was caution that led me astray.

Still, there could be some still alive.  Some tough yeasties rapidly dividing in that sweet, sweet beer.

They’d better get to work if they do exist.

If they haven’t started by morning, I’ll be at the brew shop when it opens.

Oh, the drama!

How can I even sleep.

 

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Brewing in the Great Outdoors (almost)

We’ve had some great weather lately.  Really, it’s been nice.  I have almost wanted to spend time outside.

Almost.

But I don’t.

I’ve gotten close, lately, though.  I’ve adapted my beer brewing process to move the first phase outside.  I love a house smelling of hops and grains.  Not everyone does.

So, recently, I’ve been boiling great big pots of wort in my garage. It works well.  When it’s really cold it helps my wort cool quickly after boiling.  When it’s upper 40’s like it has been, well, I get to actually enjoy the sun a little.

A pleasant Saturday afternoon