Monday, May 27, 2013

Bottling Day: Brew Crew for the Save

Happy Memorial Day!

Today I'm going to give Brendan with our Brew Crew the limelight. This got crazy at work (again) and I wound up coming down hard with the Flu. It was an exciting way to spend my long weekend... So I'm taking the easy way out and using Brendan's post to fill up my time slot.

Things got busy and it’s been a while since my last post.  When I last left it, I was worried that a couple of my rookie brewing mistakes were going to cost me.  I’m happy to report that while I’m still a rookie, no major issues occurred.   The morning after my first brew session I was relieved to see the airlock bubbling away.  I had placed the carboy in the bathtub of the spare bathroom to provide a cool dark place with relatively stable temperature.  After two weeks, primary fermentation was over and I was ready to bottle.

Reading the online talk about bottling and going through all the steps sounded as difficult as the initial brew day, if not more so.  Besides all the homebrewers complaining about how crappy bottling is, and how much awesomer kegging is, bottle began to sound tedious.  Add that to the fact that it seems like there is so much more room for error in the sanitation department – checking the gravity for the last time, sanitizing the bucket, bottles, bottle caps, transferring from carboy to bucket, adding sugar, capping, I was a little hesitant to start.  All the potential sanitation breaches were building in my mind: are the counters clean? The tubing? The area I will be bottling?  My biggest worry was if my bottles were clean enough.  Did they have some organic matter or dirt in there that the sanitizer would not penetrate, allowing microbes to remain and ruin the beer?  I held each bottle up to the light and looked through the opening.  The purchased ones were a little dusty but looked new other than that.  The ones I saved (I found Lefthand’s milk stout to have some of the easiest labels to remove) also looked good.  The ones from my friend’s garage…lets just say I didn’t use the ones the family of silverfish moved into.

I filled up the bucket with sanitizer and began to dunk all the materials for the day.

In my day job I’m an environmental scientist, so to help keep things sanitized I stole a page from that playbook.  When taking soils samples, aluminum foil can be used as a sterile material to cover clean equipment to prevent cross contamination.  This is also used it labs too to cover jars and beakers.  So aluminum foil became my new friend as I used it to create sterile counter top space, temporarily cap buckets, and cover materials.

While it took over two hours start to finish, overall it wasn’t too bad.  I did have a few lapses of touching the dispenser against a non-sterile object.  My worst offense was with 4 bottles left, I brushed my leg with the nozzle.  I marked those caps with an X so I could track if they did indeed become contaminated.  So I had a little experiment on my hands. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ireland...

... was amazing.

Easily the best vacation I've taken. Of course the break from work was nice. The total disconnect from the electronic world of constant updates, emails, and alerts was incredible as well. The vacation itself was incredible.

The Irish really know where it's at. The pubs are amazing. The atmosphere in those joints was just perfect. I really wish we had more spaces like that around Orlando. Irish pubs are a perfect happy medium between a truly sketchy hole-in-the wall bar, and some awful trendy club downtown. Heck, even the draft towers are cooler then ours. Each tap handle is like its own mecca to all that is good in that brand. Being able to enjoy multiple beers during the daylight hours without being called an alcoholic is nice too.

The people are awesome, and the music, the live music, is great. The radio stations, however, struggled. I left the states with high expectations. Worst case, I figured, would be some crazy Euro-pop, let only American pop music. But it was worse. Every bar we went into, every restaurant, everywhere we went was playing 80's and 90's pop music. Naturally, Billy Joel and U2 were favorites. But the Pointer Sisters? I can't stand them. Typical mix of a radio station was 45 minutes of talk, one traditional song, one euro-pop song, then eight oldies hits. Many times we drove in the car with nothing but silence to entertain my ears.

The driving... The left side of the road thing wasn't that bad. Actually, it was a piece of cake. The roundabouts were easy as well. What was difficult was the roads. We ended up renting a little Ford Focus, which was disappointing in its' own right. We travel a few thousand miles, and I expect a Citroen, or a Peugeot, a Skoda. No. I get a Ford. Whatever. The point is even in my little Ford Focus, those roads are TIGHT. Many places have 1 lane, two way roads. Taking backcountry winding roads is part of getting there. There is no middle between the highway and the sketchy dirt road. It's either or. Sheep have the right of way. The movie stereotype is real, we had to wait for a big pickup (normal size I suppose but I spent a lot of time in that tiny Focus)  herding sheep.

Stay tuned. We ended up taking over 1400 photos, which we still haven't gone through on the computer. Once we do there will be an album posted on the internet. When it does. You'll find it here!