On the Road Again

This time it’s Atlanta. With the two hour time differential between Denver and here, I got here too late to go exploring.  Yelp tells me there’s a highly rated barbeque joint not far from the hotel, perhaps tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, I’m sitting here enjoying a “local” IPA – Sweetwater Brewing, I think – and contemplating the soul-crushing inhumanity that travel in the United States has become.

We start with the post-911 security kabuki that is the TSA.  Every time I travel it seems the professional paranoids in Washington have come up with another indignity to foist on all travelers in the name of absolute security.  I reflect on TSA Pre, the program that apparently takes travelers at random and lets them go through a lower level of security, laptops in, shoes remain on, belts on, takes seconds.  Now understand, statistically Richard Ried, the “Shoe Bomber” is the most successful terrorist ever.  Through his hapless shoe bomb, he takes the equivalent of 29 lives per year at US security checkpoints just through the time people spend taking off and putting on their shoes.  I also travel in Europe and for some reason, they’ve figured out how to do security screenings without people taking off their shoes.  Clever, those Germans.  If some terroristic organization were taking 29 lives per year, we’d be incensed, wouldn’t we, demanding Somebody Do Something.  Yet we tolerate it from our own government in the name of security because it is taking those lives seconds at a time.

My Shrimp Po Boy has arrived and because of an ordering foul-up, I’m getting a Jekyl Brewing Amber on the house.  And Denver is beating up on San Francisco.  Digressions back to a happy place….

The wait time for security today was over 20 minutes while randomly-selected lucky travelers were spared the indignity of a full-body scan.  Sorry, I can’t wrap my brain around this:  Randomly selected individuals can go through the fast lane while the rest of us expose ourselves electronically to some Government functionary?  So why isn’t the fast lane the default?  Because the grand apparatus we call airport security looks like we’re doing something.  I watched two elderly passengers pulled from their wheelchairs to stumble into the scanner.  Why?

Enough.  This is supposed to be a happy place.  Tomorrow I’ll ask the office here where there’s good microbrew to be found, then report.

/* end rant */

Sangiovese Bottled

Our second wine is in the bottle. It’s a Sangiovese, also a kit. We made some modifications: First, we made it considerably stronger than the kit suggested, targeting 14.5% ABV. Our model was a Sangiovese made by Doug Vogtle at Reeder Mesa Winery and it was that strong. Beermaking experience, particularly knowing how to calculate gravity points and volumes, helped. Second, we let it ferment longer than the kit suggested. That’s a good idea anyway. You can make a drinkable wine in 28 days but a good one takes longer. Then, when we were ready to rack it, we tasted and decided there wasn’t enough oak. We added a light oak spiral and let it set another six weeks. Then fining and, two weeks later, bottling.

The wine is wonderful, fruity with enough oak notes and just enough tannin to make it stand up to a good meal. I can hardly wait to have this wine with lasagne or a nicely marinated steak. It’s also smooth enough to drink alone even now. With a year or two of age, it should be tremendous.

Next wine, a Riesling. We’re trading beer for the juice.


No time to brew and it doesn’t appear as if it will let up any time soon.  I’m working on an extract brew for our next Brew Club event, a ‘brew to style’.  I’m doing an American Brown.  My intent is to push the style both in malt and in hops and, due to the absolutely crazy schedule, do it extract style.  I’ll put the recipe together tonight and post it here for comment.

Meanwhile, I’ve taken my latest Schwarzbier out of the fridge to warm up to room temp.  I’ve found that when I bottle lagers cold, I get undercarbonated beers.  So this time I will let the beer warm up, driving off its dissolved carbon dioxide, then carbonate it using a priming sugar calculator.  The calculators available assume the carbon dioxide dissolved in the beer will be part of the end carbonation and it is, it’s just in solution and won’t escape once the pressure on the beer is released as long as the beer stays cold.  So I’ll carbonate it warm.  Later, when hopefully I have a chance to bottle it.


Palisade, Colorado

Wife and I have been in Palisade Colorado all weekend.  Here’s the aftermath of one tastings:


One advantage of coming out here frequently is we get to know people, not just as tourist-host but as people.  For example, I’ll be trading a case of homebrew for some grapes – Colorado-grown Rieslings – for SWAMBO to make wine from.  We shared beer and stories with the state viniculturalist, drank way too much wine with way too many vintners and made plans to comeback in October for ripe apples.  Tomorrow we’re homeward bound but not before capitalizing on Palisade’s first claim to fame, peaches.  I doubt that any of them will wind up in fermenters, more likely on the breakfast table and in bread.  Next trip is apples and likely, some more wine.

Time to buy that Speidel fermenter – will have grape juice to carry back next trip.

Still on the Menu

Stopped at the Dillon Dam Brewery today on the way to Palisade.  Koelle is still on the menu.


So She Who Must Always Be Obeyed and I enjoyed one:


Make that one each….

Anyway, we’re on our annual wine and peach trek to Palisade Colorado.  More to come on the wines….

Hitting the Numbers – Quality in Brewing

Interesting discussion over at Brewer’s Friend on hitting the numbers when brewing. The poster was talking about the OG being too high. Some were calling it luck. As a professional quality geek, I call it a problem.

Every brew is the test of several sets of hypotheses, one of which is your original gravity. No matter how you calculate it, you are predicting that when you mash using your equipment and process, you will hit that gravity reading. Toyota, the company most known among quality professionals for their process management, insists that better than expected performance deserves just as much attention as worse because it proves your prediction process doesn’t work correctly.

Your gravity is too high, or too low for that matter. Do you begin to ask yourself what you did differently this time. Was it different grain or extract? Was your boil rate sufficient? Was your extract efficiency different? Was your mash too warm or too cool? If you have had consistent results in the past, something changed in your process and the higher than expected gravity is an indicator of that change. Figure out what it is – this is where your records come in. Remember, change your process and you change your beer. Even if the mistake is “positive”, such as a higher than expected extract, you need to find out why.

Once you know, either correct the problem or adjust your prediction. That way you continue to brew consistent, good beer.

My Little Helper Redux

Pitched the starter of WLP 090 into my Saison on Tuesday.  The gravity then was 1.018.  Today it’s at 1.011 and still bubbling.  Despite being tossed rudely into a completely hostile environment, the WLP 090 is chewing through sugars still, still bubbling, still reducing the gravity.  It’s called “San Diego Super Yeast.”  The name fits.

The beer itself is citrusy despite having no citrus, peppery, dry and delicious.  I may be reluctant to share much of this beer!