Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cascades and Newport

Those of you who have followed my antics for the last couple of years (since before this blog) know that I include hops-growing in my hobbies, in the hopes of one day getting a harvest to use in a batch. I started out with two rhizomes of Mt Hood hops, but they mysteriously died shortly after putting out burrs. I replaced them with two Cascades rhizomes last year; I was able to harvest a few ounces from them.

One of the rhizomes sprouted this year, but it was nipped by birds (I'm assuming) before it could get more than a couple of inches long. The other one was dug up by the pup, as he went through that phase. Long story short, they both croaked. So, I ordered some more, rather late in the year (the order was placed in May, from Freshops). The rhizomes arrived on June the 12th. I ordered a new pair of Cascades, and inadvertently one Newport rhizome. They all got planted on June 13th.

The Newport was the first to sprout, but it withered and died within a week; I'm not sure what happened, exactly, but I don't think the rhizome was in the best of shape to begin with. No harm, no foul.

What follows are some photos of what the Cascades have been up to this month...

To the left, you will see the rhizomes, with the Cascades taking pride of place...

And to the right, the first shoot from the Cascades, 9 days after planting.

Here they are, four days later. These things grow like crazy!

And here they are, as photographed this morning (5 days after the last shot).

Watching them isn't quite as dull as watching grass grow; I've got nearly daily photos dating from their initial sprouting. I may be convinced to put up the series on the website (watching the daily change is interesting). Regardless, updates here in the blog will be forthcoming as the weeks go by.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Upcoming Brewing

My plans for the next few Brew Days are, admittedly, still somewhat nebulous, but I have some ideas. I have, of course, been 'challenged' by His Royal Highness of Atlantia to do a couple of brews; they will require the gathering of some additional ingredients, but nothing exotic. They should also take a bit more time than your average beer to produce, so doing them sooner rather than later is something of a must.

I have two large containers of varietal honey (1 gallon each raspberry and killer bee) that I need to do something with; they've been sitting around for over a year, and are quite likely crystallized. Larriland Farms (a local pick-your-own) has announced that they're in their black and red raspberry seasons; a melomel may well be in order for the raspberry honey. (I just picked up the latest WineMaker magazine, which has a lovely article on berry wines; that should help, as I've not had much luck doing the wine thing with fruit--although adding honey has always helped, it seems.)

Finally, on the 'plain beer' front, I'd like to do a relatively simple, nicely-hopped Amber Ale again. They're refreshing and tasty. I need to get through the current stuff on tap first, though, and I would like to see how the Memory Lapse came out finally; if I can taste it before my next Brew Day, I may want to do a repeat or a tweak of that.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Busy Week...

This week has been crazy--in a good way, I suppose, but it's kept me from updating either this blog or my website as quickly as I'd like.

I started the week going to Boston for some work-related training. A good time was had. I had anticipated being able to find lots of Sam Adams available everywhere, and was pleased to be right. My only wish would have been to have more than Boston Lager and the current seasonal (Summer Ale, right now) available on draft. A bit of a pleasant surprise was finding both Harpoon IPA *and* Bass widely available on draft.

That was followed up by my 20-year High School reunion last night; I re-met many old friends with whom I had fallen out-of-touch, and was able to catch up on the latest in their lives, while still being able to reminisce about old times. It was fun--a bit loud, but fun.

On the SCA front, my Lady Wife is planning a new feat of garb for me to wear to Atlantian Coronation in August. If she has her way, I'll out-shine Their Majesties, Their Highnesses, and everybody, in a set of full Russian-style court garb. I'll be hoping for cool weather... In the meantime, there are a few other events reasonably locally that I hope to be able to attend.

Brewing-wise, the batch from the last Brew Day was racked onto its fruit (it's a Peach Wheat Ale); the Blackberry Stout is progressing nicely--still purple, and with oddly little blackberry flavor; the SMaSH Ale "twins" are kegged & carbed, just waiting for their time to come. Other brews are planned, or have otherwise been planned for me. A full slate, indeed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Stir-Plate

As promised, here are some photos of my new stir plate:

This is it, in 90% of its glory. A few salient features to note: The knob on the far right controls the speed. The red switch in the center is power on/off (it lights up when on). The jack on the left-facing side is for the wall-jack.

Here, you see said wall-jack. I haven't yet firmed up the split in the cable with electrical tape, but that's not going to be either difficult or time-consuming.

Here it is, stirring away (at some water), full-bore. Note the nice whirlpool developed in the center. You can just make out the spinning white stir-bar at the bottom of the flask. Also, note the beautifully lit power switch. :)

All told, I don't think this even cost me $20 to make. The computer fan (the actual "driving force", if you will) was salvaged from a dead desktop computer. The enclosure I had purchased for my "greater" project, but subsequently realized was too small. I had the AC adapter from my other project (the HERMs Rig Controller), and only needed a female jack. The jack, switch, potentiometer, and knob I got at Radio Shack for under $10. Simplicity, itself.

I hope this has inspired you to make your own! I've certainly been bit with the do-it-yourself bug, after this. There's nothing like having a completed project, functional, made by your own hands, to make you want to create.

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