Saturday, September 30, 2006

Brew 25 -- Irish Red Ale

This brew is dedicated to Hunahpu, the All Grain Evangelist, for encouraging me via his blog to start all-grain brewing.

Yes, this is my very first all-grain brew. I learned a lot from this; perhaps the most important thing I learned is that it's easier than it sounds from the instructions.

Special notes: I was unable to get the mash temperature to 150; I got it to 145F, but by then there was so much water that it was hard to get it to budge. So, I expect that this is why my original gravity is so low (1.042). I suspect this will result in a dry, perhaps cloudy (I didn't have any idodine to check for starches. I have no idea what happened in there....!) beer. But, the next batch will be a very high-gravity Christmas beer, so it's just fine by me that this one is more of a "session" beer. (I hope I'm using that term correctly. I *think* it means that the alcohol content is low, so it's fine to quaff a few in one go.)

Also, this is my first time using Wyeast. I have to say, I do like the "smack pack"... instead of a vial, the yeast comes in a mylar like package. Inside is a pack of nutrients. You smack the package, the nutrient pack busts open, and the yeast gets jumpstarted. You can then see from the package swelling that the yeast is alive and active. The last two yeast vials I got from White Labs/ morebeer were DOA. Not their fault really---I placed the order in the summertime, and during the 5 day trip from LA I'm sure they got baked. I'll have to be more careful next time. This batch came from Northern Brewer, located in Minnesota.

Date of Brew: September 30, 2006

  • Malt Extracts
    None! It's an all-grain!
  • Grains
    9lbs 2-Row
    1lb Crystal 120L
    8oz Aromatic
    8oz Caramunich
    2oz Black Roasted
    2oz Special B
  • Hops
    1oz Magnum Hops (60 min boil)
    2oz Willamette Hops (5 min boil)
  • Water Treatments
    1 tablet Whirfloc (20 min boil)
    Oxygen, after adding to carboy

Number of Gallons in Boil: 6.5
Boil Time: 60 mins
Original Specific Gravity: 1.042
Expected Final Specific Gravity: 1.02
Expected Alcohol Content: 2.8%
Gallons in Fermenter: 5
Temperature of Wort at Pitching of Yeast: 75F
Yeast: Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale (Pkg #1517256)
Quantity: 125mL, 100B cells
Time of Pitching: 17:50

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It got out....

From the title of the blog, you might suspect that this whole blog is about tarantulas. It is true, I do own five of them right now, but I haven't been writing much about them. I have had one of them for over 13 years now. The reason I haven't written more is, well, they're kind of boring. Don't get me wrong, I love looking at them and watching their individual behaviors, learning the nuances of each different species and each different animal. But it usually doesn't make good blogging material.

Until one gets loose.

About two weeks ago, right before my California trip, I went to add water to the cages, and noticed that one of the cages was empty. Uhoh.... This particular cage has a lid that's not immediately obvious when it hasn't been secured. But the spider (this was the Zebra Knee) occasionally tests the perimeter, much like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, and this time her persistence paid off.

I had no idea how long she had been gone.

I spent a few days looking in all the spots I could imagine going if I were a tarantula, and hoping that I found it before a neighbor or a visitor did. I wasn't too worried; they are scary looking if you're not used to them, but this particular one is quite unlikely to hurt someone... the bite does have venom, but nothing more serious than a bee sting, and it would not try to do that anyway unless someone cornered it and started poking at it to provoke it. But I was worried that I'd hear a scream from one of the other apartments, followed by a *whump* sound, and know that there was one less tarantula in the world and one more stained Chicago phone book to take its place.

It all ended well, though. Wednesday morning I got a call from my new neighbor across the hall. "I just found this huge tarantula in the hallway. Do you know anyone here who has one? I'm not sure what to do with it!" She had the presence of mind to get a shoe box, catch it, tape the box shut, and even added some air holes. I'm thankful to have friendly, understanding neighbors! :-) So, the spider is safely back home. Hopefully now we can go back to our normal boring routine!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Brew 24: Italian Piedmont Nebbiolo d"Alba

I wanted to do an all-grain brew today, but I think that will take six hours, and I have too much work to do, so I decided to do a wine instead. This batch, brew 24, is the Selection Limited Edition Italian Piedmont Nebbiolo d'Alba. The initial gravity was 1.094, at the high end of the acceptable range for this variety. There's only 5 bottles left of Brew 19, so I really need to get with it if I'm going to have that nice four batch queue like I wanted.

In other brewing news, Heidi and John's wedding was a blast! I had made some sparkling wine for the wedding, and the response was very favorable. I had pressurized it to 10psi, and that made it very subtly bubbly; I think next time I'll try 20 or 30psi. There are still four bottles left; we had just the right amount at the wedding itself.

Oh, yeah, the wedding itself was great, too! :-) The weather was perfect, the food was excellent, and I got to spend time with a lot of friends. It was great watching Heidi's younger relatives working the dance floor, too!