Monday, October 31, 2011

Why Zombies?

It was pointed out on a program I was listening to that zombies are quickly becoming the scary icon of our time. They asked why and I wanted to answer, but of course radio is a 1-way medium so I couldn't. Instead I have a blog, so we'll take a break from the brew blog for something else for a minute. So why zombies? I think the bottom line is that they're safe.

We live in a word of intense motivations, whether religious, political, or financial. We see bad guys in the news every day, killing for power, exploiting for personal gain, or just so desperate/psychotic/greedy they turned to crime to get by. Around the world there are people who believe so deeply in their version of Truth and Right and Wrong and Justice that they feel justified committing all sorts of atrocities. These things are truly scary. But at the same time, there's a part of us that sympathizes, if only in a tiny way. Terrorists are evil, but what would you do if your homeland had been seized by outside forces? Religious extremists are nuts, but what is there that you believe that you would fight for? None of this is to say that there isn't plenty of truly mindless violence on the planet, but there's more grey area in the things we consider evil than we would like to admit.

But zombies are safe. They don't need a motivation, they're dead. They don't have a political agenda, they're driven only by a survival instinct. There's no question of "what would I do in that person's situation?" because the answer is always the same...I'd be a dead shambling zombie. Unlike bad people in the real world there's no moral ambiguity whatsoever in killing a zombie. Their moral compass and free will died the 1st time around, so slaughter away. If you survive the pang of guilt you might have felt with die quickly. It's escapism at its finest.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yes, but Tebow doesn't brew.

The Broncos pulled off a win today. Tebow is now the starter and there's been a lot of talk of the Magic and Intangibles he brings to the offense. For 3.5 quarters this was not visible at all. He sucked, the team sucked, nothing worked at all until the end of the 4th quarter when they got a touchdown, retrieved an on-side kick, got another touchdown, got a 2-point conversion to tie, then hit a field goal in OT for the win. So yeah, crazy ending to a crap game. Tebow Time has been declared loudly from every source that declares such things. All because our 1-4 team pulled out an improbable OT win against 1 of only 3 teams in the nation with a worse record going into the game. Oooooo.

During the Packer game and into the evening it was brewtime! #17- Liquid Cheer was brewed and the wort smells amazing. The last 15 minutes of the boil include vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, fresh ground nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and orange zest. It's definitely not an every-day beer, but oh-so-perfect for the holidays. The original gravity was at 1.066 when it went in the carboy. The spice mixture was added to #15- American Pie and we'll bottle that next weekend. We also managed to bottle #16- The Great Pumpkin before our Sunday evening TV watching commenced. We're now out of bottles. I think I'm going to have to build some new shelves or something...we're also running out of room to store things. 1st world problems. *sigh*

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fermentables ferment

Sitting in Dulles, on the way back from Auburn, ME. Boarding soon...just enough time for an update!

#13- Strawberry Fields is now bottled. We tried some as we were bottling and...we'll see. I think this is going to be a case where we set it aside and open one up every now and then. It had a very alcoholy aftertaste, which covered up the berry and basil flavors. Often (I'm told) with high alcohol contents the aftertaste mellows over time, so there's definitely some waiting to do before it's ready to introduce to the public.
#15- American Pie continues to ferment. We're giving it time. I made the rum concoction last weekend and it made the whole house smell amazing. It's sitting on top of the fridge right now, sealed tightly of course, and I'll add it next weekend.
#16- Name TBD was moved to secondary fermentation last weekend. There was a huge amount of crud caked to the bottom of the carboy and it took awhile to clean out, but it seems to be developing well. The pumpkin and spice flavors were perhaps more muted that expected, but it did have a definite Thanksgiving vibe. It's all a learning process, so we can always tweak next time if we need to!

And that's it for now. I think a batch of Liquid Cheer needs to be next. It's our spiced holiday brew we made last year when we were very new at this and it was a huge hit. The 2012 edition should be delicious as well!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Repurposing begins now!

Hi blog!
I think 6 months is long enough. It's a fresh start, for realsies this time. I think this is going to become my brewing blog. We're brewing more regularly and getting to where we're experimenting, and everybody says to keep a notebook or some such. My handwriting sucks and I type faster, so I'll blog it instead! If the ins and outs of home brewing bore you...sorry! There will probably be other posts as well, but obviously I haven't been updating much lately so this will get me back in front of the keyboard.

So we currently have fermenting:
#13- Strawberry Fields. A conversation at Hailey's work combined with a memory of a strawberry basil drink from her past inspired this concoction. This is a basic porter recipe, with basil and strawberries. We used probably 1/4+ cup basil...everything we could get off the plant without making it look sad. It soaked in vodka for 10 min or so to sterilize and then went into the primary. (On a friend's request we used a bucket for the primary for ease of cleaning. Good idea!) For the strawberries we got a big bag of frozen strawberries at Costco and threw 3 lbs into a food processor, then they went right in as well. The whole thing fermented 4 weeks in the primary, then last weekend I moved it to the small carboy for secondary. The plan is to bottle next weekend.

#15- American Pie.* Our 2nd attempt at a hard cider. The 1st attempt was a smashing success, so we're going to repeat it. The 1st time around we were under time pressure to have it ready for a party and it didn't get to ferment long enough. As a result it was delicious, but very low in actual alcohol content. This time we're going to give it time. The idea is simple: 5 gallons of store-bought apple cider. 1 gallon is boiled with a pound of brown sugar to sterilize, then mixed back in. Yeast pitched, then the whole thing ferments (we're giving it a month or so this time). We'll do a secondary fermentation, at which time we add a "rum tea" we'll cook up about a week in advance. Last time this was about 1.5 - 2 cups of rum boiled with vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and allspice. We let this work it's way through the wort for another week, then bottle. The result last time tasted very much like apple pie...we just want a slightly "harder" cider this time around.

And then today we added #16- an as-yet-unnamed Pumpkin Ale. We followed the recipe straight from the book on this one. Holiday beers can be tricky I'm told, with over- and under-spicing causing problems, and the book with the recipe hasn't led us wrong yet so why mess with it? 8 lbs of real pumpkin, roasted for 2 hours with pumpkin pie spices sprinkled on top, then added to the boil right along with the hops and more spices (cinnamon sticks, allspice, and whole nutmeg). It's in the primary and after a couple hours there's already a 2" layer of sediment on the bottom of the carboy. It tastes fantastic!

Next up: bottling #13, then the 2011 installment of Liquid Cheer.

*Where's #14 you ask? It was a 3rd batch of Zombie Cow, our Milk Stout recipe we love. It's a fast recipe...only 1 week in the primary, then into bottles, so it's already in the fridge to drink. Mmmmm.