Monday, July 30, 2012

Beereview: Rocket Dog Rye IPA

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of dogs.

Our dogs are part of our family. After a day or two vacation, we miss our dogs. They're allowed on our couch. They sleep in our bed. They eat with us at the dinner table.

OK, that last part isn't true. They eat on the floor.

But my love of dogs, especially our dogs, makes me a sucker for beer with dogs on them, or brewed by dog-friendly breweries.

Today's beer is technically a special request from the wifey. I've had some of these special beers sitting in the fridge for a while, and she got a hankerin' (that's right, I used the word hankerin') for a new IPA (she is a hophead after all). The beer comes from the Laughing Dog Brewery, which I've reviewed before. Another beer I got suckered into because of a dog on the label. I'm about to open the Rocket Dog Rye IPA. I have absolutely no idea why it's rocket dog, but really, who cares? I'm excited because this will be my first rye beer. Considering the love I have for rye bread (Jewish or not), I'm looking forward to this. Lets pop the top.

We've got a gusher here! As I cracked the top the foam started rushing out of the bottle so I went and finished opening it in the bathroom sink. First glass poured all head, and the head is still dying down (see picture). I poured a second glass while the first is settling, and that had a much nicer pour. The aroma is very faint and almost fleeting, but with some sweeter and not so citrus tones which makes me think that the hops used were mostly from across the ocean. The aroma doesn't have that biting citrus of our American hops like cascade. The color is almost a lager-like golden hue, with a rich white foam head that doesn't want to go away (much to the wife's dismay as the first poured glass is hers, heh).

First sips are surprisingly strong. I wasn't expecting such a bite from the hops because of the weak aroma. The beer is biting, and does have citrus notes, but not what I'm used to. I get a strong taste of grapefruit to this beer, which I've never experienced before! The drink is smooth and light body. I do get a small amount of rye-bread malt coming through under the hops, and I like it.

This is a great beer! It's unique, and peak's my interest to other rye beers. I'd like to hunt down a less hoppy one so I can experience the rye malt more. I really like the unique hop flavor to this beer. I attempted to do some research at their site, but it's site is broken. Looks like someone forgot to pay the domain provider the rent.

R2-DBREW update is at 20%. I welded the axles and mounted the wheels to the frame. I've got all most gas parts ordered, save a few fittings here and there, and temporarily screwed together. I've also gotten my hands on some expanded metal mesh for the bottom level of my rig to store stuff on. Next steps, putting the other feet on the rig, installing mesh, installing gas train. Rock and roll.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Great Way to Start a Week

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. What better way to start a week than to wake up to an email auto-generated from in my inbox.

A while back I posted about my homebrew tattoos. At the same time over on I found this thread about homebrewers posting tattoos. I figured why not! I love showing them off. Just this morning I got an email about this guy getting a tattoo done inspired by the pictures I posted! How friggin cool is that. Someone who liked the  idea so much he got it tattooed on his arm. I've been on cloud nine all day for that, and I gotta say I really appreciate him sharing that with me. Hopefully he doesn't mind but I'm going to post a picture of it below, and here it is! It's pretty awesome in it's own right. Thanks again, SingleaLeBrewing!

Progress update on R2-DBREW, the frame is now completely welded together. Next is to install the wheels and the gas system. Once I get my hands on a step bit again the wheels are as good as done. I've got a bunch of parts for my gas system in hand, but I have to start by securing the burners to the frame.  In this picture, the burners are just resting on the rails. We'll call it 15%. Also, when TIG welding, be careful where you swing your welding rod.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Malady Melody

My welding has been coming along at a fantastic pace. I think I'm really getting the hand of this TIG stuff. Next thing I know I'll be making motorcycles and arguing with my dad. No more sunburns, but I've must have lost 5 pounds to sweating alone. Working in pants and long sleeves in the garage when it's 95 and 70% humidity out is like trying to work inside of an easy bake oven.  Not ideal. What's even less ideal is getting sick right in the middle of the process. Tuesday night I decided to stay up late and do some welding. I wrapped that up around midnight.

Which actually brings me to a side note. I swear I could do anything in this neighborhood and nobody would notice. As long as I don't have music blaring at 2 am, or increasingly seedy vehicles coming to and from my house, I'm in the clear. I thought that boiling a pot of unknown substance in my back yard would at least raise an eyebrow. Now I've got butchered kegs, pumps, burners, and little boxes with flashing lights. I'm actually very surprised that no one has called in and said I'm operating a meth lab or an illegal still. When I was growing hops I thought for sure one of the neighborhood kids would steal a few cones and try to smoke it. Now I'm in my garage until the wee hours in the morning welding up a storm, all mad-scientist like, and I get nothing. Maybe I live in a better neighborhood than I give credit for. Or maybe that is how passive suburbia has gotten. I don't get a single question. Which is actually pretty sweet I guess if I ever get a still running...

I digress. I stayed up to midnight welding. Great. I wanted to keep the door closed so my dogs could check in on me from time to time. They stay a little bit more calm that way. I did think about how the Argon (used in welding) might affect me, but the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) didn't say anything except for it's not oxygen, so you'll suffocate if you breathe pure Argon. So I was in the clear. Went to bed that night not feeling great, so I double checked that MSDS in the morning. Started to feel progressively crappy throughout the day until it was a full fledged head cold. Well that killed my productivity for the week and the weekend. On top of that I'm competing this upcoming weekend, so I needed to kick this cold quick. So I was very careful not to overdo it. Oh, and I was going to do a beereview today, but I swore off beer and soda until my competition (llllaaaame).

So here's a picture of my progress! I'm going to say we're at 10%. Most of the welds are just tacks right now, I'm currently going through and finishing them off.

And here's a parting gift for you all. A coworker sent me this link about how a community came together to save a brewery, all thanks to social media. A storm wiped through northern Virginia and left a lot of people without power. Which really sucks if you're a brewery that has thousands of gallons of lager that has to ferment cold. Check out the link about how everything transpired.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Indoor Sunburns

Today I close down my current brewing implements for major overhaul! This will be my last brew before I roll out R2-DBrew my new brewing contraption. My final brew? ATOTB#010, a Mexican lager. Cerveza baby!

My brew day was damn hot. You can probably track back my summer brew days by doing a search of me complaining about the heat. But while I was sitting still, milling my beer, sweat was pouring off me like tequila on Mexican new year. That was early in the day too, we had yet to hit maximum heat. My rig was feeling the heat too. Today again I was having valve issues. I made sure to test them ahead of time, and they were firing fine. When it came for them to perform however I got nothing. I ripped open the box and started poking at it with my multi-meter like a kid playing a deranged game of Operation. I really couldn't figure it out. I was getting really erratic measurements. I ended up hard wiring my valves to the power source and it worked for a time. Time enough for me to get through the mash. At this point my only conclusion is that my transformer (120v AC to 12v DC) is overheating. I think that makes sense. I made the transformer by ripping up a old GameCube power cord. Maybe it's not meant to take the Florida heat. I'm going to attempt to get a replacement coil that will switch my current solenoid valves from a 12vDC operation to a 120v AC operation, eliminating the transformer altogether. 

We will still have beer in the end however. The lager is sitting in the garage lagerating as we speak.

Which brings me to the status of R2-DBREW. I've begun tacking and welding things together. I've got the taller half of the frame mostly complete, and the lower half is ready to have some legs put on it. Progress? Maybe 5%. 

Lower level prepared for legs

Upper level ready to be added on to

I learned a few lessons on TIG this past week that I'm going to share. First one:

Heat bends metal. This is pretty self explanatory. I had heard to do small tack welds before going full bore on the thing to avoid warping metal. Well after welding the top of my frame together I picked it up and realized the side pieces had bowed up where I had originally done my welds. I managed to fix it by jamming the entire thing in my vice and hanging my floor jack from it with a set of ratchet straps. From there I was able to get underneath the questionable structure and weld it overhead. The entire time I remembered why I don't do some projects with other people around. Other people would have convinced me that the entire thing was a bad idea. Well, maybe it was, but now it's fixed, and I've emerged unscathed. Secondly...

You can get a sunburn from welding. This one (I feel) is a little less obvious. Obviously you wear the big mad-scientist helmet to prevent the bright spark from damaging your eyes. And obviously you should wear long sleeves and pants to prevent sparks from burning you directly. Well, I was in a white t-shirt and gym shorts. Why? Cause I'm the man that's why. But my wife might argue that. Some might say its because I was an idiot. Well welding with such devices gives off a lot of UV light as well. Lots of UV light equals a sunburn.  Which sat uncomfortably on the inside of my elbows and on the tops of my knees. When I realized the cause I thought to take my shirt off entirely and work on my tan. My coworkers convinced me otherwise. So from here on out, while it's 95+ degrees and humidity in the 80%+, I'm wearing long sleeves and pants.

Any other tips? Let me know! We would like to hear from our readers!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heavy Metal

It's officially started.

My brew rig is currently under construction.

This weekend I picked up 48' of 2x2 11 gauge square stock steel, and 24' of 1x1 11 gauge square stock steel. I got as far as taking the big 2x2 pieces and cutting them into 24 smaller 2x2 pieces. Progress complete? Maybe 1%. Making all the cuts took about an hour and a half, and my miter saw, meant for wood, handled it pretty well.

There's a note in that. If you're going to use a wood chopping miter saw with a metal cutting disc in it instead of a blade, it will work. Be sure, however to cover anything in direct spray (within 4" of source 'ish) with aluminum foil. Most of my saw around the blade is metal, but the port where the wood would normally spray into the bag uses a plastic fitting. Part of this fitting is now a little bit melted, but no big deal though. And if it wasn't obvious, don't use the dust bag. I'll put a wager that that will catch fire.

It was a little awkward going to the metal yard. Mind you, picking up stuff these days is a lot easier now that I own the truck. I look at least slightly the part. However it was casual Friday at work, and I stopped by the yard on my way home. So there I am, waiting between Joe Schmo Welding truck in front of me, and Junior and Sons Fence Construction behind me. There I am, wearing a bright purple graphic 'dig-dug' t-shirt, shorts, and five-finger toe shoes. It didn't really occur to me until I was pulling up that I hadn't dressed the part. No matter, Junior and Sons behind me helped me securing the stuff to my truck despite my naive look.

Next step is welding everything together. I went to Aerogas (another place to not walk into with toe-shoes) to pick up some argon and welding rods to do some TIG welding. Have I TIG welded before? No. It should be easy right? I've MIG welded before, and it's easy enough. The catch is my MIG welder doesn't use gas, so the welds are really messy. My TIG uses gas, and my 220V outlet (now properly wired). I'm thinking by next weekend, after a half hour here and there, my stand should be, well, standing. We'll see how it goes.

At the same time my coworker Aaron is cutting the top out of a keg for me. He had a friend that had one, and I need a new boil kettle to do a double batch in. He said he'd get it for me, and he'd like to cut the top out because it sounds like fun. He said if he screwed it up, I wouldn't have to pay him for the keg. Didn't take me long to accept that offer. It probably wont take very long for him to realize it was a bad idea after he spends over an hour trying to get the stupid top out. Thanks Aaron!

I've been putting a lot of thought into my rig name. I figured it has to be sci-fi 'ish (only cause I'm a sci-fi buff), clever, and have the word 'brew' in it. One buddy came up with "Hoptimus Prime" which I actually really love. But I think I really want the word brew in the name. So far I'm leaning to "R2-DBREW." But I'm still open to ideas! Let me know! Post below!