Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hops in the ground!

        Last week Erin planted all three of our hop rhizomes at our neighbor's garden here in Burlington.  We selected Cascade, Centennial, and Golden hops for our very first hop experience!  Our neighbor Randy has let us use his garden for our seasonal session, and we couldn't be more appreciative of the space.  Erin has gone to the ground in efforts of cultivating several different plants.  The list is long of what she and I planted, but I'll be sure to post pictures on Facebook and my blog so you can see the process.
       My beer has exactly 8 more days until it is ready.  I am now starting to see just how hard it is not to tap one  open!  Julie and I bottled it last Wednesday, and yesterday I got the labels in the mail, we're calling it Burlington Brown Ale.  I still see some sediment in the bottles, but it's starting to look like real beer as the yeast eats away at my last addition of sugar for carbonation.  I am excited to share my first batch with everyone in the area, and also am hopeful it doesn't taste flat!
       The house hunt is coming to an end, we've narrowed it down to a couple houses close by that are real finds. The first is a house with about a half acre that's fenced in.  Though the home doesn't have much character, it is definitely nice to have some space to garden, play with dogs, and unwind after a long day of work.  The second is actually a duplex a bit closer to Erin and her family.  The house is probably a hundred years old, and the upstairs apartment is what's for rent.  This rental has SO much style, with built in cabinets and a fire place, along with a walk out patio that's shaded by huge oak trees.  It feels very safe, and even though there isn't much of a yard, it is close to dog parks, and also closer to my work.  I put in an application this morning for the second, and am hopeful it will pass all tests.  I chuckled while filling out information on past landlords.  For the last six years, I have lived in a tent on a glacier or in the woods in the summer time, and lived in handler cabins in the woods of Alaska training sled dogs in exchange for rent!  It's tough to convey this in a one page document, but I'm sure it will all work out!
       Red Oak is coming along, I just got done with a week waiting period to mull it all over in my head.  I know that we'll be here in Burlington for a long time, but it's tough for an employer to look at my resume and see that to be true.  My wings are tired, I tell them, and I've found a good perch to start a life from.  Though my hours are inconsistent right now, I'm hoping that once they get the ball rolling on my job, I'll have more kegs to lift and beers to bottle.  I'm super excited to build relationships with the folks I'll be selling beer to, but I'm not quite sure if Red Oak knows what kind of employee they hired.  Basically I have been doing this job for the last two years, except I've been on the consumer side of things, as well as trying to sell an idea of a book about beer!  Once I get working, I'm sure they'll see me in clear light and realize how lucky they are to have someone as dedicated as me in their system.
       SO as I wait for the owner to call me, I'm training Tut to do a couple new tricks.  This weekend, I tough him the "bang" trick.  I point a "hand" gun at him and he barks, then lays on his back, then flips over and gets back up!  It's pretty awesome to see your pup do new tricks.  The second is more time consuming, but with lots of work and practice, Tut will hopefully learn the famous back flip.  Usually I see border collies and small dogs do this trick, so in my mind it's hard to visualize Tut's long legs making a full rotation.  I am using, as suggested by YouTube, a Frisbee to train him.  I create an imaginary box over his head, and try different approaches to see where his body wants to go.  Then I throw...and throw...and throw... to get Tut practice in twisting his body.  After playing tug of war to get him stoked on the Frisbee, he pays for attention to it as it flies through the air.  Maybe in two weeks he'll have it down, but for now I'm just appreciative of all the time I get to spend with my favorite pooch.  Ketza could care less about all of this, she's just content laying down in the clovers chewing on her stuffed pig hoof.  She humbles all of us at times, knowing what she's accomplished in her life.  Her transition from husky to "houseky" is complete.  She doesn't stress out about hardly anything, and because of that her appetite has improved greatly.
       This week and last I have talked with publishers, and have dedicated myself to one in particular.  Though it will cost ME money, I think having this guy as an agent along the way is worth it.  I can slowly take things step by step to ensure the finished product is exactly what I want.  So until next time; keep your beer fresh, your dogs tired, and your future Mother-in-law happy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The First Batch


  Well it comes to no surprise that after visiting 100 breweries I'd try making the stuff myself.  My big brother bought me a full on beer kit last week, and the next day I brewed my very first batch.  It was what I'm sure is a very typical first timer beer recipe, and the kit came with my choice of several beer recipes.  I chose my favorite, brown ale, to kick off my new hobby.  I filled Erin's parents house with all kinds of malted goodness, and though the process took me well over two hours, I didn't hear any complaints of banging and splashing the next day.  I sanitized everything super good, like any Pawelek does, and put the wort into the fermenter for one week.  Yesterday marked the one week period, and on Wednesday I'll bottle it for four weeks until it's ready.  I'm kind of amazed I haven't brewed beer sooner, but really I haven't been in one spot long enough to enjoy the brewing process.
       Last week I started my training at Red Oak Brewery, in Whitsett, NC.  I drove around for three days with different drivers learning how they sold and distributed beer, and got to know them fairly well.  I was really happy with how they loved their jobs, I mean, selling quality and talking to customers about how unique the product is is something I'm used to, but I really think I found my new home here.  The guys are really nice, hard working, and fun to be around.  I didn't think in a million years I'd be slinging kegs in North Carolina, and I also didn't think I'd be so damn lucky to find such a cool place to work.  They are all about fresh.  The beer is not pasteurized or filtered, and according to a purity law in the early 1500's that they adhere to, no additives are allowed in the beer.  There are over 400 additives allowed in US beer, but they only use the four main ingredients in beer; water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. They self distribute, which is at times difficult when trying to expand, but they remain focused on their quality and it shows pint after pint...after pint :-)
       This week Bill the owner wants me to think long and hard if this is the job for me, and trust me I've thought about it.  Life has lead me all over creation, and for once I'd like to work on my life as a Fiancee, husband, and eventually Father.  I know I don't want to lift kegs for the rest of my life, but my story has so much to offer to a company like this that holds its employees up high.  They are growing and changing and I think starting out in this position will only give me more of an idea of  what this industry is about, and help me grow as a career oriented individual in one of the biggest and oldest industries around.  Red Oak is NC's second oldest brewery, and with the operation they have, will be around for a very long time.  I highly suggest checking out their website at www.redoakbrewery.com, and seeing the pics of the actual brewery.  It is nuts how high end everything is.  It is clean, fresh, and consistent.
       So as I wait till next week, I have a lot to get finished and even more to get started.  I have talked with a couple publishers, and will make my decision soon as to which one I'll go with so I can get started with the next phase of the book.  It's a lot to do, but most of the work on my end is done as far as writing goes.  I have about 20 more stories to write, and then I'm done.  I'm really happy with how it's all turned out, and am thankful for all of the support I've had while making this transition.
       The house hunt has been going, and right now Erin and I have our eye on a house in Gibsonville, only a few miles from our work.  There will be a lot of rentals opening up, but it's been tough choosing because I want the dogs to have a place that works for them too.  I also am hopeful that I can stay afloat with the money I have until I get rolling with work.  Luckily, I've been able to stay at my parents house, as well as Erin's, which is so nice until I choose a new home.  Tonight I'll stay with Jeremy and I look forward to winding up my nephews a little bit while I'm in Cary.  The weather is heating up, but we've been lucky with sunshine, and even more so the A/C.
       I got a check in the mail the other day from Mushing magazine for the story I wrote in the October issue, and to my surprise it was a good chunk of change!  It inspired me to send a couple more stories their way, as well as a couple other magazines.  I love writing, but sometimes it's tough to have everything align for the optimum writing session.  As is the life of an artist, we seek so much in hopes of tapping into our creative side, that we occasionally lose sight of the big picture.  I was in Nashville, TN for Easter and the house Erin's family rented was owned by a singer/songwriter who has had such a great ride writing songs for famous artists.  I thought about what it would be like to do that for a living.  Lots of highs and lows in the music industry, as I've seen, but she reminded me that you'll always have that passion, but it's up to you to stay sharp or become dull in an industry that's ever-changing.  We played songs of hers and mine, and shared our insights into the world of music, which always humbles me especially in the music capital.
       The biggest thing this week for Erin and me is setting a date for our wedding.  We are looking at March 2013, and have made the first steps into deciding location, guests, and food.  I know we are soul mates because we want the same things in life.  We get stressed out at the same stuff, and all around react to situations the same.  It's difficult for independent couples like us to plan out big things like our future and our wedding, and sometimes we forget there's another person in the relationship.  We are so eager to start the next chapter in our life that we let the short term get us down too much.  We have done so much together since we started dating, and that helps us remember how strong our love is, and that no matter how much we have done before committing to one another, our future is what we will both have forever.  We are both very lucky to have each other, and I'm so happy to be with her in North Carolina while we figure out what's next.  For now we will work on making save the dates and invitations, and start calling our culinary family members to plan cakes and pig roasts.  We are pretty sure Virginia is where the wedding and reception will be, on her families farm, and  that's a really good start.  So you will just have to get used to me talking like a adult, and occasionally clicking on wedding ideas I've pinned on Pinterest, because this the life of a man who walked out of the woods and into his life, ready to live it, with his two dogs and beautiful wife :-)