Well, I’ve been a bad blogger. I said I’d be blogging all the time now that I’m on winter break, but I just missed two days in a row!
I have done some writing during that time. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and changes, I wrote a Running Shorts piece about how I hate the idea of people thinking that buying a Wii Fit (or any piece of exercise equipment) is going to make all the difference to get them in shape. I didn’t realize it was anything special, but it got a huge response! Funny how that happens. It got picked up by rawstory.com, which sent tons of traffic, including a few haters, so that was fun. I’d be really interested to know how you guys feel about it.
A doomed batch of English strong ale
You might remember that a few weeks ago I brewed a batch of beer. It doesn’t really have much to do with running or being vegetarian, but I figured some of you might be interested anyway. Plus it’s the holidays, so who doesn’t like a post about drankin’?
At first, everything went according to plan. After sanitizing everything — an absolute must in homebrewing — I started off by steeping some specialty grains in hot water.
This adds some extra flavor and color to the beer. Then comes adding the malt extract — this provides most of the sugar that the yeast will eat and turn into alcohol and carbonation.
Serious homebrewers extract the sugars from the barley themselves; I choose to get mine canned, as do most beginner/intermediate homebrewers.
Then everything is boiled for a little while, with hops (my favorite part!) added intermitently. They’re just a type of flower, but for convenience they are crushed and formed into pellets. They smell awesome.
After everything is done, the brew (called the wort at this stage) is cooled down quickly in an ice bath, so that the fourth and final ingredient, the yeast, can be added and not die in the heat.
Then everything is poured back and forth to aerate it a bit then sealed off, and you’re done!
Everything is supposed to sit nicely like this for a week, at which point it’s transferred to another fermenter. But…
This disaster happened! (More details about what happened here.)
I was worried that the beer would be contaminated after having been exposed to air like this, but I tasted it again after a few days and everything seemed fine.
Fast forward three weeks to… bottling day!
I transferred the beer from the secondary fermenter to the bottling bucket, balancing the bottling bucket on 1000 Vegan Recipes because the spigot overhangs the bottom of the bucket. (This is no slight against the book — if anything it’s a testament to its thickness.)
But then Disaster #2 happened. The hose fell out of the bucket and beer poured all over the kitchen floor and the pages of 1000 Vegan Recipes.
Then I smelled something. Something warm and full of holiday goodness. Fudge! But why, I wondered, would I smell fudge? I was boiling some corn sugar in water to feed the yeast once more before I bottled them up (this provides extra carbonation in the bottle), so I figured perhaps the sugar was scorching. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I had turned on the wrong burner, and — Disaster #3 — the fudge that Erin had made and left to cool a few days ago was liquidfied!
(Erin, if you’re reading this at work, let’s try to keep that holiday cheer up and remember that we all make mistakes 🙂 )
And some mini-cupcakes that Christine (of Sweet-Tooth Friday fame) had made barely avoided a fiery death.
At last, normalcy resumed and Christine and I bottled the beer. I took a final hydrometer reading and have determined that the alcohol content in the beer is about 5.5%, right on target. And it actually tastes pretty good, considering the disasters and the fact that it hasn’t bottle-conditioned yet.
I should be able to start drinking it in a week or so (which puts me right in line for a New Year’s eve own-beer induced buzz). Is there a better way to start the New Year?
Don’t forget to check out my Running Shorts piece! And have a Merry Christmas!