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Wedding Beer

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Trying to maintain a constant temperature in the grain-steeping process.

Trying to maintain a constant temperature in the grain-steeping process.

We’ve been homebrewing for about three years now, with fairly few mistakes and many successes. Most of our beer is handed out to friends and family or consumed during parties. Either people have been nice, or it’s actually drinkable.

Awhile ago one of my oldest friends asked us a favor. He asked us to brew a beer for his upcoming wedding. This is a guy who would give you the shirt off his back, even if he didn’t have another. This was a must-do.

After discussing flavor options and timelines, and Ken’s request for a lighter beer than our normally huge stouts and porters, we decided on a California Common Ale.

If you’re not familiar with the beer, it’s actually a hybrid between an ale, fermented at room

Draining the steeped grains. After this you can let the toddler loose.

Draining the steeped grains. After this you can let the toddler loose.

temperature, and a lager, fermented at very cool temperatures. Ales are what we do; from IPA all the way to Stouts, the ale yeast ferments well at 55 to 75 degrees. Lagering requires a separate fridge rigged with an externally controlled thermostat,  and we sure didn’t feel confident trying that out for the first time. So California Common, or “steam beer” it would be.

Historically, the California Common was an

improvisation by the gold-seekers in California and Nevada during the 1860’s. Without refrigeration they were unable to make a true lager, but they were looking for a refreshing beer based on a lager yeast. You can read more about that here.

The most notable beer on the market of this type is Anchor Steam, brewed in San Francisco since the 1980’s. This was the beer we had to try and emulate.

Boiled, yeast-ed and ready to ferment.

Boiled, yeast-ed and ready to ferment.

Not only were we using a new yeast, we had the daunting task of brewing enough so that each guest could take home a big beer. It turned out that meant brewing three 5-gallon batches back to back. We intended to brew one for testing, then brew two more, but when we recalculated we figured out we’d have to use the test batch too. Nobody wants to be short on beer, especially when it’s a party favor!

With 18-month-old Baby M. milling around and gallons of boiling water being poured from here to there, timing was crucial. And the back-to-back brewing task really helped us refine our process. We would boil water in every available receptacle and wait…until morning naptime. Then it was a full-on race to steep the grain and make the necessary temperature adjustments in the brewing process before draining the wort. If we got

Yeasty-beasties doing their thing.

Yeasty-beasties doing their thing.

that far in the process with a sleeping baby we were good to go. Boiling and siphoning to a fermenter is safe enough with a toddler around and you don’t need four hands the whole time.

The first batch tasted right. We elected to go ahead and brew the second and third back to back in

a weekend. Aside from small temperature differences the beers came out reasonably similar; as well as can be expected for quality control in a home kitchen with a baby and a deadline.

As the beer sat bubbling in the basement, the second task was to make sure that it was well dressed for the event. That meant bottles and labels.

The label.

The label.

We are lucky enough to have a great friend in the restaurant business who saves us 22-ounce bottles. The Saporro Beer bottles are our favorites because the labels soak off so easily in a bin of Oxy Clean. (Pro tip for all you homebrewers out there). If you’re in Salt Lake, be sure to visit Yellowfinn for sushi and drinks (they have full strength beer, wine and sake). For months they collected brown bottles for us for this project, and we are forever grateful.

Next up was the label. Until now I had been printing black and white labels on our ancient laser printer. I would cut them on a paper cutter, wet with a sponge and stick them on the bottles. The paper, which can be bought at a brewing supply, does an ok job for a label here and there, but this project called for something a bit more professional.

I did a google search and the first company that appeared was

Comparing color between Batch 1 and a very young Batch 2.

Comparing color between Batch 1 and a very young Batch 2.

Grog Tags. That seemed right to the point. I read a little, downloaded advanced vector templates and went to work. I stole a picture from Ken’s lovely bride Wendy’s Facebook page and got to work with my limited Adobe Illustrator skills. Of course I consulted our friend Jessica of Petite Lemon along the way.

The result in one week’s processing time was far beyond my

expectations. The labels were very reasonably priced, professionally printed and made from a vinyl-like material that allows them to be peeled and re-stuck. Once people drink the beer they can easily peel and save the label without having to do anything special. Bonus!

Bottled, labeled, out the door.

Bottled, labeled, out the door.

When all three batches had been bottled and given their time to rest we had a little tasting with the bride and groom. The end product was about 4.5% ABV, illegal for a Utah grocery store, but slightly lower than the Anchor Steam. We tasted all three batches in addition to a bottle of Anchor. In all, the three tasted alike, which was our hope. They were not as effervescent as the Anchor, probably due to natural bottle conditioning rather than the forced-carbonation that beer manufacturers use. The style of beer is not my favorite, but it seems to have been successful as far as tasting like our example.

All that was left was to hand over the labeled bottles and attend the ceremony. The bride and her

The finished party favor. As beautiful as the wedding.

The finished party favor. As beautiful as the wedding.

friends really dressed up our beer, pairing it with a root beer and a beautiful Celtic bottle opener. They even called us up in front of the party to credit us with the beer, which was very sweet.

 

It was really satisfying to make a product, package it and send it out the door to such great people for a beautiful wedding. I know they think they got the great end of the deal, but the list of things learned and processes perfected is as endless as it is diverse. It was a win-win.

 

 

 

Stuff I Like (And Paid For*) Dryland Training Edition

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*but not necessarily full retail

Fall is in full swing in the Wasatch and I can smell ski season. In fact I woke up to about an inch of soggy graupel this morning and realized that these are the few days of the year when it is really hard to do anything. Not enough snow to ski, too much slop to ride bikes or rollerski. It was exactly freezing and we had exactly four intervals to do that really couldn’t be moved. So we went for an uphill trail run in the snow with our ski poles. It probably looked RIDIC, but it gave me a chance to solidly review a few products that I have been meaning to mention for awhile.

Booking it up to the tram at Snowbird.

Booking it up to the tram at Snowbird.

Salomon Crossmax XR Trail Shoes

I’ve had this pair for two seasons now and although I am not a runner and use them intermittently, they are my go-to trail shoe. I have terrible feet and orthotics for everything, so I choose a neutral shoe that has some cush and I still complain. But I complain less in these.

Fit The lacing system is their proprietary “Quicklace” system. It’s easy for me to use when I am half-asleep, jumping out of the car with freezing hands and looking to get moving ASAP. Although it might seem like it is harder to micro-adjust than laces, I actually think it’s sixes; I can adjust them to feel good even on my terrible low-volume, crooked, gnarly feet. So that’s a plus.  I tend to have a small ankle and larger forefoot and this shoe fits me well even with my orthotics. I could probably find a shoe that is a little tighter on the ankle, but that’s not a Salomon problem, it’s a me problem.

Boing These are trail shoes and I have used them on the road before too. They have plenty of cush for the push on dirt, snow, grass, even asphalt if that’s what you’re into. Actually, if you’re into that, get a road shoe. But for mixed media, these will do the trick. Think of them as a cross bike for your feet. It is not a minimalist shoe by any means (and that’s just fine).

Tread I ran uphill in wet snow today and didn’t slip once. I would call that a pass.

Weight My best time scaling Snowbird Summer Road on feets was about 1 hour and 5 minutes. That’s 3000 vertical feet in 7k. And I was wearing these, which is why I mentioned all that. They are nice and light.

Durability I have had them two summers and a winter. I might use them for running once or twice a month, but I also wear them around all over, hike in them sometimes, etc. Let’s face it. There are runners who are serious and keep two (or more) identical pairs and rotate them every day and never EVER wear them to the grocery store or anything, and then there are the rest of us. Running is something I do to train for Nordic skiing, but it is also something I tend to avoid. They were dirty today from my last time on the trail, but the snow made them look like new. No stitches are amiss, the tread looks good, the lacing system is fine and the foam is still squishy.

After two years they still look this good.

After two years they still look this good.

Overall When they started making shoes the Salomons were not my first choice. They have consistently improved this shoe to the point that now they are my number one choice for trail running and cross training for everything. And I have a newer, cleaner pair that I wear around because they are nice looking and easy to get on and off with a baby in one hand and all her crap in the other. I give them a five beer rating (out of five).

Bliz Pace Cross Country Glasses

These glasses are intended for cross country skiing, but I have been using them this summer for trail running.

Fit This model is designed for “small faces”. The “Pursuit XT” model is the larger equivalent. I chose the smaller of the two because I am small. Pretty simple. There are regular earpieces and a strap that attaches instead, and I have mostly used the adjustable elastic strap. It fits very well with a hat or headband since these were intended for skiing. The lenses provide full enough coverage for my eyes, and since I wear contacts it is important that they not be blown out. They also feature

So happy to be done running. But our eyes are happy in Bliz glasses!

So happy to be done running. But our eyes are happy in Bliz glasses!

a removable piece on the forehead that is padded. Again, it works well for its intended purpose with hats and headbands. You can even flip the glasses up on your head if you need to.

Performance They are very light and work exceptionally for trail running because of the elastic strap. Road running too, but I try and stay away from that.  I used them once with a helmet to rollerski and they didn’t mesh as well with a helmet. They still performed well, shielded the wind and resisted fogging. There is actually another model of Bliz called the Velo that are more suited to fit with a helmet. I can say with certainty after today’s snowy run that they will be great for cross country skiing, which is their aim. The only time I had any fogging was if I stopped, and it is easy to prop them up on your head for a second. As soon as I got moving they cleared.

Lenses Mine came with two pair; pink and smoke with mirror. The smoke are dark enough for our sunniest of days. I wore the pink on my run today because it

Mine came with two pairs of lenses, the solid earpiece and the elastic strap, which will be my go-to for cross country ski season.

Mine came with two pairs of lenses, the solid earpiece and the elastic strap, which will be my go-to for cross country ski season.

was overcast, and just as we left the car the sun came out. We were in snow in the woods, and the pink still reduced the glare, but I was happy to have them because it was still not full sun.

Overall I will race in these this season for sure. The elastic band is the selling point for me; it really works well for any hat-related activities. Good enough for some really fast Norwegians, good enough for me. Five beers.

An Open Letter to DOMA Supporters

 

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Facebook has turned red this week as people who I know all over the good old U. S. of A. stand up and ask the Supreme Court to do the right, no, the equal thing and give the same rights to everyone in the country. The right to be legally, civilly married.  To have and to hold, to fight and make up, to be shitty to each other, to be nice, to divorce, in some cases. But as always, opponents are up in arms, writing grammatically incorrect signs and holding them up all over the place opposing something that really has nothing to do with them.  In that spirit of “it’s not about you,” I have “penned” a letter.  An open letter to the opponents of marriage equality.  Here goes:

Dear Mr./Mrs./Miss and certainly not Ms.,

First off, congratulations on your choice to be straight!  I too am straight and I know what a hard choice that was that one day when you finally told the world that you choose to be with a member of the opposite sex.  Oh wait. You didn’t choose?  Right. Excellent.  Now that we have that hurdle out of the way we can move on to some of your real concerns.

It will erode the sanctity of my marriage.  Really?  Let me tell you a little story.  I am married.  I was married just over ten years ago in the county court in a small town in Maryland.  By a female judge. (That probably burns you a little, huh?) So when we said the “I do’s” we were presented with a fine certificate from the State of Maryland that said we were all legal-like. And with that we received all the benefits of a church-marriage through the government, because this was a legally recognized civil marriage.  And it was called a marriage. And we never set foot in a church.

About seven years later we packed up and moved our worldly possessions to the great state of Utah.  And when we got here our marriage certificate, from a court in the state of Maryland, was still good. Still haven’t gone into a church.

A few months ago, Maryland legalized same-sex marriage.  I waited on the edge of my seat for that official certificate to go up in flames. But you know what? It didn’t.  I’m still legally married to my husband, we still get along fine, and we even had a kid.

The divorce rate in this country is huge – upwards of 50%.  And since same-sex marriages aren’t allowed, those are your “marriage is between a man and a woman” marriages. And they aren’t doing well.  If same-sex couples are allowed to get married, they will certainly divorce. Maybe at the same rate, maybe not.  However, they won’t do anything to the sanctity of marriage that hasn’t already been done and done again by the existing “traditional” marriages. One needs to look no further than Hollywood or Vegas to see the mockery of the institution first-hand.  Again, those are opposite-gender unions.

It says so in the bible.  Hmm.  Well let’s start by remembering the Mayflower.  It was full of people who were really tired of being chased around by the various churches.  They came here to be able to worship as they pleased.  And in the true style of the bullied, they became the bullies.  About everything; land, skin color, people owning, even religion (remember, that’s why they left).  But then the colonies became a country and a document was written by a group of old white men. And they agreed that there would be no state-sponsored religion.

Now I know this is largely ignored on a daily basis in most of the South, Midwest and certain Western states like the one in which I reside.  Daily.  But just the same, it is a law, and “marriage is only between a man and a woman” is not written in that document.

Besides.  The bible says all kinds of things.  Crazy shit.  Like you can own slaves. No tattoos. You should not eat shrimp, lobster, shellfish etc.  But I’ll bet your ass LOVES Red Lobster… To read some other good points about what it says in the bible, click here. You need to stop selecting only the parts you like.

But I digress.  Same sex marriage has been legal in many countries and even in many states in the U.S. , and there hasn’t been an apocalypse, frogs, floods, (well I guess there were some floods), but for the most part we’re all still here.  I guess what I’m saying is, it really doesn’t matter what your religious text says, because by law, the country is not obligated to follow it.

It’s icky.  Ok, let’s just get rid of this one once and for all.  Picturing you and your opposite-gender partner doing the deed is icky too.  And I’ll bet you spend less than one percent of your time engaged in the, ahem, activity.  So what are you doing the rest of the time?  Probably chores, work, shopping, eating, sleeping, arguing, chasing your dogs, your kids, maybe just writing nasty bigoted comments at the end of internet articles supporting marriage equality.  Well guess what?  Same sex couples do all of those things.  (Except the bigoted comments about themselves). Really – do you want to believe they are more prolific in the bedroom than you?  Probably not.  They, like you, spend 99% of their time doing mundane life tasks and then do icky things, just like your icky things.  So once and for all, let’s not boil down a same-sex relationship to a sex act. That would be like saying that your marriage is all about that too, and I’ll bet one of you would say otherwise.

It will lead to other things like polygamy, polyamory, marrying your relatives, marrying pets etc.  I’m a live and let live kind of person.  If you want a bunch of wives, provided they are of age and consenting, have at it.  Just don’t scam the government by claiming three of you are “single moms”. Most men think you’re nuts for wanting to deal with more than one anyway.  But the thing is, in fairness (and that’s what we’re talking about here), two-person marriages are what are granted certain privileges in our country, but some two-person marriages are left out.  This legislation seeks to equalize that, not allow for larger marriages.

Relatives?  Well honestly there aren’t many people who want to do that.  There are scientific reasons why a person should not have children with their immediate relatives, and let’s face it; gay, straight, bi, transgendered, I have never met a person who wants to marry their relative. Or at least one who will admit it to me.

Pets.  Well, when Rover can speak his verbal consent I say go for it. Until then he falls into the same category as a child – not a consenting adult (human or otherwise).

Debating pro tip: avoid slippery slope arguments. They make you look desperate.

I just don’t believe in it.  Ok, ok, maybe one of the most honest and valid points out there.  Or honest at least.  Let’s investigate your rights.  You have the right to dislike gay marriage.  You also have a right not to have one, attend one, or even let one into your church. Because you see, your church is protected by law because it is a private institution. As a bonus, your church doesn’t even have to pay taxes like a same-sex couple does.

Maybe this isn’t about church (although I suspect there are scant few atheists out there who support DOMA).  It’s just “what you believe”.  There was a time in this country where we “believed” in owning people.  It was a law.  And eventually that law was overturned because the majority of people thought it was kind of mean and a bad idea.  Most of those people lived in the Northeast, where coincidentally (or not) marriage-equality already exists in most states.

For a long time it was illegal for women to vote.  That law was overturned.  With the exception of that psycho Ann Coulter I think most women, even the most conservative, enjoy their rights.

People of color were not given a vote, and when they were, they were still not allowed to use the same water fountain or bathroom as a white person.  I know there are still people who “believe” this should be true, but usually they are smart enough not to say it in public.  I guess they have a right to believe that, and if they live in the South, Midwest, Utah or Idaho it probably doesn’t come up much, since these places are either shockingly pale or still neatly and unofficially segregated.  But not by law.

So, friend, believe in what you want. It is your lawfully protected right. The bare fact of this matter is that by allowing same-sex couples to marry, your life does not change one bit.  But by allowing the law to follow what you believe there is a large group of tax-paying citizens in this country who are not allowed the same rights as you.  And that’s just unjust.

Sincerely,

One of many straight, married people who believes in their friends’ equality under the law.