Monday, February 20, 2017

Frakenstein

(This is part 2 of a 2-part post. See last week's post Hourglass Brewery to see part 1!)

Well, I get home and "ohboyohboyohboy! Lemme get my books!" I proceed to grab Designing Great Beers, the Brewer's Publication tetralogy (yes, I looked it up) of Malt, Hops, Waterand YeastCharlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and a Midwest Supplies catalog and run outside ready to teach.

What I promised to be an hour ended up rivaling the length of a Harry Potter film (your pick). I talked until my throat was sore. And held her attention the entire time. Pictures were drawn. Questions were asked. Answers were given.

It was one of the coolest things ever.

Until about 2 hours later.

After doing some afternoon chores, we thought, "all this talk about beer, lets grab one!" Where to? Where else?

And at the back of my mind I was thinking, "how cool would it be to get a brewery tour today, and (hopefully) verify all the information I threw at her?" Nothing better than learning about something and then seeing it in the flesh.

The smooth, beautiful, stainless flesh...

And that's exactly what happened. We get to Hourglass and see one of the managers we know, Billy. I tell Billy of the verbal diarrhea I just dumped out on Jessica, and he proceeds to take us on the coolest tour of their brewery ever. Just the three of us. Peppering him with all sorts of questions about the brewing process. On top of all this he validated (almost) all the information I bestowed from my learning and readings. Just when we thought it couldn't get any better he says "want to see the sour room?" Jessica kept her cool, but I could see her mind blown in her eyes.

Of course, I may have created a monster. Now she's reading Malt, before bed, asking me why we use the Lovibond scale when the Standard Reference Method is more scientifically accurate. And what the accuracy of my HERMS temperature control is. And isn't it better to take more hydrometer readings then less?

Oh boy...

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Hourglass Brewery

I've known about the Hourglass Brewery for some time. Truth be told, it's a long-ish way from my house, and they specialize in some stranger beers. For some time it never really caught on for me. I never wanted to drive all the way out just to grab a couple beers...

And then things changed.

First, the girlfriend. Jessica, who will be the subject of her own post in time, loves the weird beers. Hourglass is her favorite spot. In one way, it's got all the weird and crazy beers she loves. In another, if she wasn't feeling a brewery beer, or maybe just feeling something even weirder, they always have an eclectic assortment of beers in the cooler. For her, it was Ripley's Believe it Or Not for beer.

Then we decided to get a climbing gym membership at the Aiguille Rock Climbing Center. And what do you know, Hourglass is a stone's throw away from there. So why not grab a beer? It's almost too convenient.

Right, like a beer can be too convenient.

That's when we met Merra and started to develop a relationship with some of the bartenders there. And to say they have a cool staff of bartenders is an understatement. First off, they all know there stuff. They have never responded to a question with anything less than an intelligent response. Feeling a beer with a little Oyster? They got it. Beers that taste like vinegar? Yep. Beer with some random fruit aged in barrels? No problem. The staff is some of the coolest, kindest, and friendliest bartenders out there.



I've been in love with a lot of there beers for the better part of a year now. Now they have a mature selection of killer beers in any style, color, flavor you want. And for the first time ever I have a favorite beer, the Dragon Paw. Now we regularly make the Hourglass trip every single time we get the hankerin' for a beer.

Not to mention they have some great food options in the neighboring spaces, sweet events, and awesome local art hanging all over the place.

But it all came to a point the other weekend in what was probably the coolest brewery experience I've ever had.

As you know, with my return to ATOTB, I've also been rebooting R2-DBREW. Jessica had always been into great beer, and what goes into it, but recently she's really caught the brewing bug. The other weekend, Jessica and I are on our way home from indoor snowboarding (yep), and she turns to me and says "you know, I'd really like to learn more about brewing and what goes into making beer."

I almost wet myself...

I may have actually wet myself.

After gasping like a little schoolgirl at a One Direction concert I managed to catch my breath and say "ohmygawd please let me sit you down with some of my books and tell you what I know about brewing!"

Now mind you, Jessica is the type of person that when she wants information, she wants to get it from the purest and strongest source possible. Which is typically a professional... That coupled with the fact that she has never tasted a decent, hell even mediocre beer, out of one of my kegs, I imagine she had her doubts.

But, maybe with a little bit of hesitation, she agrees.

To be continued next week! Stay tuned, and be sure to get the next post the second it drops by subscribing to ATOTB!

Monday, January 30, 2017

R2-DBREW Overhaul

Wow. Clicking the "new post" button is sure hitting me with some good ol' nostalgia. But I will fight the strong urge to write another typical "haven't posted in a while" page.

Here comes the honest truth. R2-DBREW has been a huge letdown.

R2-DBREW was a fantastic project. It was a lot of fun to build. Learned some things in the process. What to do (using circular switches vs. square), what not to do (#weldingnaked), and everything in between.

But ever since I flipped the first switch to start brewing, I have had difficulties. Mainly the fact that
my original gravities were never met. My sugar extraction from the grain was just not cutting it. My brewhouse efficiency had tanked SO BAD even fish at the bottom of the ocean look down and are like "damn, that's low." Now it's been years and years, but if my memory serves my right, prior to R2-DBREW I was getting ridiculously high efficiency. Upwards of high 80's low 90 percentages. Then R2-DBREW came into my life and I was having trouble getting above 60%.

I spent hours researching online. Talking to professionals. The local homebrew shop guy. But batch after batch, my efficiency just wasn't there.

Results? Shitty beer. How can alcoholic water be shitty? It certainly can. For you non-brewers out there. Imagine spending a whole day preparing the perfect pot of soup. But wait! You can't eat it for 3 or 4 weeks. And in that time, you have to baby it like a preemie with a cocaine addiction.

Then you finally spend hours kegging, carbonating, shaking (the keg, not the baby), only to take your first sip... and realize it sucks. Like really sucks. Like the only type of person that would drink this is a desperate, not yet of age college kid looking for a drink. I dumped out 6 or 7 kegs of beer like this. That's almost 30 weeks of wasted brew time. Not admittedly, I hung up my hat on R2-DBREW.

Then I met someone. An amazing someone. I will not digress here, but maybe on a future post. Someone with a high standard for beer. She asks "you brew beer?" I say, "you bet I do." And I proceed to brew a mediocre extract kit only for her to politely smile and say "not too bad."

Obnoxious? Not at all. For it's the truth. It was yet another shitty beer. I had just strutted my stuff to the now love of my life with a weak (at best) homebrew. I might as well have walked into Redlight-Redlight with a case of Coors Light and yelled "come get me ladies!"

Well god dammit it's time to make a difference. Last time I was working with R2-DBREW I noticed something. Despite a valve being closed, I was still getting back-flow through it. Turns out the solenoid valves I got are good at stopping water going one direction, but not coming back. I started thinking. All R2-DBREW has done is take a smorgasbord of home-made components and put them together on a handy all-in-one rack. Individually, all the components worked great. Now, together, they stink. What's the difference???

The plumbing.

So here we are today. I just put an order into Midwest Supplies for some tubing and valves and next weekend I am going to re-plumb R2-DBREW. No fancy switches. No fancy valves. Just good all plug and play like an old school telephone board operator. We'll see how it goes. To be continued...

And... it's good to be back.