Monday, August 20, 2012

Hard Cider!!!

    The competition was a success!  The two beers I entered ranked between 21-27 out of 50.  Beers in between 20-30 are ranked as "good" but I knew that what I was going to get out of the competition was some advice.  Due to warm temperatures, I can keep my house at around 74F on a good day.  This is the higher end of fermenting temps for what I make, and after talking to some judges, I learned that a lower mash temp and fermenting temp will give my beer more body.  This was the case with some of the beers entered, so it was a great opportunity for me to learn something!  Like most things in life, you think you have figured it out, and then several doors open.  This is what the beer world is to me.
       I think back on my beerventures and wish that I had been brewing so that I could get more of the technical side out of the breweries.  I would be able to understand yeast strains, hop varieties, and malt combinations much more.  But that's the way it goes.  I guarantee I wouldn't have homebrewed like I do know had it not been for those travels.  I look at my brewing sessions very methodically.  I get excited to sterilize and control my experiment the best I can.  The power of my knowledge increases, but I want to remain a sponge as I interact with professional brewers and amateur brewers so that I can  have unbiased approach to learning.  Because it's beer, it generally is at least acceptable if it has alcohol content.  I mean, people drink Budweiser and Coors all day and I hesitate to have them try an Oberon or an Old Scratch Lager.  I want to appreciate the process in which these larger breweries brew.  I have to hand it to the big boys because they are consistent all across the country, and that's what the people want.  I know that I can't make the same batch twice with my current set up, there are too many variables like controlled temp and dog hair.  I strive for this though, I want to be able to work on a system that produces identical results time after time.  I am on the cusp of this however, but I'll remain cryptic until my next post, which should bring all of my blog posts together in harmony.
       Erin and I brewed hard cider yesterday.  We took the approach of bottled additive free apple juice, naturally it was organic.  We made two gallons, and heated it up to 155F and added 2lbs. of brown sugar to up the ABV.  We also added clove, star anise, and ginger to give it a nice fall feel.  Before adding sugar, the specific grvity was 1.04, and right before we sealed it up to ferment we got it up to a powerful 1.10!  This means that our final ABV will be between 10-12%.  This is the highest gravity blend I have made yet, but I'm hopeful it will be a nice sipping cider that we can have well into the holidays...if it lasts!
       SO the projected book release date will still be around Christmas, though I have vigorously been procrastinating the new direction I am taking with it.  I think that writing it travel log style will accent my personality much more, as well as make for a fun read to beer and travel enthusiasts.  I have really enjoyed recounting my past two years, it really makes me laugh when I put myself in that curious state of mind as I left Alaska and was yet to meet Erin and travel up the east coast.  I have been lucky, but I must admit it's really hard not having the money I made in Alaska.  I'm glad I learned how to be resourceful long ago, otherwise I'd be up a creek right now.  I have been very hard working and patient while I wait for the future to unfold.  I am in the midst of something great though, whatever it may lead to.  I have been writing, singing, canning lots of veggies, and brewing up a storm with the woman I love, and to me there is no greater feeling.
       My parents have settled into their new home south of Cary, NC, and it's only a matter of time until we all go down for a housewarming party.  My Aunt and Uncle will soon be visiting and I look forward to the company, as I'm sure my parents do too.  I'm glad I got to see y relatives while I was traveling across the United States, it'll be a shock to us all when they see me living a somewhat stationary lifestyle.  It has been six years since I've been in one place for this long, but I think I've done a pretty good job making Burlington my new home.  Erin and I have made a lot of new friends that are solid characters.  They have helped us network and find our groove in North Carolina, and for that we are grateful.
       I leave you today with the lyrics of my newest creation, the Homebrew Song, enjoy!

Grab the barley, grab the grains,
pick your hops and a good yeast strain.
Heat that mash, turn it into wort,
ferment that beer for a week or more.

Listen to the bubbles peculate,
it's time to bottle, let me demonstrate;
pour twelve ounces and cap it off tight,
hide it far away and outta the light cuz,

We're homebrewing tonight,
we're homebrewing tonight.

It can be light, bitter, dark, or sweet,
pilsner, porter, lager, brown ale, and wheat.
It comes from the fruits of the vines from across the country,
noble, nugget, fuggles, tomahawk, and victory.

yeah, we're homebrewing tonight,
we're homebrewing tonight!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grandpa Brown's Ale

       In preparation for my book, I have took the necessary steps to control as much in my life as possible, so that I might procure that certain spark that ignites my left.  I have focused so hard at work, genuinely making sense of new things and ideas, as well as establishing my skill sets to management.  I look at life simply, but for everyone that is a different notion.  My goals are giant, I set them up so that I dream big and keep the passion flower growing deep down inside.  I have switched gears several times in the last two years, driving trucks, driving dogs, and driving my dreams.
       The book has been fun, about as fun as fun can get.  I traveled so much and took in a lifetime's worth of experiences.  I feel as though I catapulted myself into the unknown on purpose.  I wasn't stuck, I loved my job in Alaska.  I knew I would return after that first winter traveling around the East coast, but I had no idea that I would meet my future Wife, move to the South, and completely change my thermostat.  I really can't function that well in the heat, so I've retreated to my produce cooler in hopes of daydreaming about Alaska while I organize the fruit shelf.  It was during one of these sessions that I came up with a new way to look at the book I am writing.  I have literally logged more hours than I care to think about because it was all out of love.  I never have recorded memories in time, only the emotional attachment associated with the experiences I've had.
       I have looked closely at the pages I've created on Photoshop and printed out at work for me to scan over every so often.  I think that what I'm trying to do is the wrong thing right now.  The book is never finished, no matter how I try to wrap it up in my mind.  I haven't found a publisher, I haven't had anyone give me lots of money to publish the book I want to see on a coffee table.  Why?  I wonder and wonder as I send another manuscript to another publisher why it hasn't caught on.  I grab the Avocados and open the fridge,  heading back onto the showroom floor, where life is once again happening.
       It's now day three after that particular event.  I am three days from my very first homebrew competition.  I have started on the second Chapter of my book.  I have decided that I won't go with the reference/travel angle I have pursued thus far.  I have great photos, great stories, and lots of beer knowledge.  But the one thing that the book is lacking is character.  I can tell lots of "remember when" stories, but that has been and always will be for campfire sessions.  My best friend told me when we were young that my music was best when written about the people around me in my circle.  So as I generally do in life, I take the leap of faith on a phrase Brad told me 12 years ago.  I have chosen to write out the book travel log style, documenting it from the moment I had the idea atop the Denver glacier in Skagway, Alaska.  It was in that cold canvas tent that one of the 200 howling dogs sang in such a tone that it clicked in my mind that I should travel and write a book about fifty States' breweries.
       It's so easy to me to write and write and write when I'm motivated.  I can go all day, like a sixty mile run across the swamps and hills of Willow, Alaska.  I will finish the book, the way it was intended to be written, the way I want it written.
       So as I go from beer enthusiast to beer competitor, I change hats focusing on what it will take to learn all I can from the upcoming event.  Though I don't have lots of experience racing sled dogs, I have helped countless teams cross the finish line in one way or another.  I was younger then, but I knew that with time I would understand a great deal more than when I had entered.  I am proud of me today, finally brewing good beer, and surrounded my people who respect my passion for living the life I set out to live when I was 19.
Just entering Mystery Brewing's beer comp. is a win in my book, for as they say in dog mushing, " getting the starting line is half the race."