Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Summer 2006: the End

A few months back I reflected upon the summers of 1998 and 2002, and mused hopefully about the possibilities offered by this summer. Late this spring, as my first year of teaching wore me down, I longed for an amazing summer on par with those of 1998 and 2002 in order to replenish me. Right now, I am very near the end of my summer, due to return back to school on Monday, August 21st. Instead of traveling somewhere or doing something amazing during this last week, I'm just hanging out around my apartment because I'm on call this week for jury duty, and thus may be called into one of the local courts any morning or afternoon. I'm a little bitter about that, to say the least.

Now with most of this summer behind me, and the possibilities for the remaining days of my summer squelched by the looming threat of jury duty and necessary but minimal preparations for the school year, I think it's safe to refect upon the summer and begin to assess whether the Summer of 2006 was indeed a good summer, and if there is really a numerological significance to the four-year intervals...

Well, the past few months have certainly been significant, and eventful in a way... Though dozens to hundreds of miles separate me from my core group of friends, I did manage a few highly enjoyable outings with my friends. The spelunking trip was a definate success, with an afternoon crawling around underground followed by a long evening of mildly inebriated discussion of geo-politics and general catching-up. My friend's bachelor party set the bar high for the flurry of bachelor parties that are to follow over the next few years as my friends continue their respective journeys into matrimony. My two weeks in and around Siskiyou County were thoroughly relaxing and, in addition to allowing me to brew several batches of beer, also facillitated a sort of "re-set" in my habits and routines by way of placing me away from my usual surroundings. A trip back to Humboldt County with my counterpart brought with it cooler weather, positive reminiscing, and some damn good sushi. A recent weekend trip brought some blackberry-picking, more beer-making, some thoroughly enjoyable conversation with friends, and some damned-amusing people-watching at the county fair. Somewhere in there I also made my way to a concert festival, and I even seem to remember enjoying my one week of work obligations back in June. So overall, it seems like it was a good summer, right?

Well, I don't know...

You see, there have also been many days spent battling churning discontent. The freedom to live my life closer to how I wish to live it during this summer has, to a great degree, highlighted just how much I dislike my life as it is most of the time. Long story short, my desire to move away from Sacramento and back to a less urban, less expensive, less "California" setting, has only grown stronger. I've also spent a lot of time questioning my involvement in education, and I've become fairly convinced that I shall not stay on this course too much longer. In order to preserve my sanity and my health, I think I need to leave this city within the year, and the profession of education within a few more.

I've expressed my complaints regarding cities before, and regarding education, I just feel something's wrong there, that it's just not a right fit for me. I don't enjoy the work involved in education as much as I enjoy other lines of work, and I seem to enjoy it far less than my co-workers do. And yeah, helping disadvantaged urban youth can be "rewarding" and all, but that doesn't quite do it for me. I think I'd feel more "rewarded" by some higher pay and/or work that alligns more closely with my personal interests. I also feel that my potential for monetary success and/or personal happiness in other lines of work are so great that I'd be a fool to continue in education, that it'd be a waste of my life. Altruism be damned. I need to look out for myself...

Now, those two conclusions - that I need to get out of Sacramento, and that I need to get out of education - both came about when I was traveling away from Sacramento this summer. When I returned a few weeks ago to work on preparations for the school year, I found myself facing an enormous block as a result of those conclusions. Both my residence in the Sacramento area and my work in education were, within my own mind, finite. As I attempted to work, I kept thinking "I don't like this, and it will be over soon anyway." As you can imagine, not much quality work got done. Soon I started wondering how the heck I was going to get through the next nine months of my commitment to my school. It was a dismal scenario.

Thankfully, after some reflection and hours of conversation with those close to me, I've managed to arrive at some sort of resolution. By framing the work I do now as enabling positive changes at a later point in my life, I think I've given myself the fuel I need to make it through this ordeal.

So what's the plan? Work as much as I can and save as much as I can to increase my total net-worth and thus bring me closer to the dual goals of buying a house and having the capital to start a business. I also intend to educate myself as much as I can regarding my intented eventual pursuit, in particular making use of my summers to do so. And the end goal? Move away from here and start my own brewery within five years. In five years' time, I intend to be living elsewhere (though the moving elsewhere part can happen as early as next summer) and working seriously at starting a brewery.

Am I crazy? I don't think so. Craft brewing is a growing industry, I think I have a knack for it, and I spend so much time thinking about brewing and beer that I might as well be working in the industry anyway. I know that I am happiest when working in a creative capacity, and I think that, no matter how hard the work, I'd be well satisfied.

I've mulled the brewery idea over in my head for much of the past four years, and the farthest I've ever gotten is "I'll think about that later." It's damned scary to think about starting up a business, which is a damned expensive and risky proposition. But I'm tired of settling for the status quo and ignoring my dreams. I'm also thoroughly confident that, though fate may be fickle, and though the odds and chance may in fact not favor me, that I do possess an enormous degree of competence and capability. I should just go for it - it'll probably work, and I'll probably be happier.

Having come to this conclusion, I feel greatly relieved and reinvigorated. And the very fact that I came to this conclusion, I think, is reason enough to declare this summer a success. Leaving college, I was most definately uncertain regarding my career and general direction in life, and part of the reason I gravitated towards education was that I figured the summers off would give me an opportunity to "figure things out" a bit more while recieving a paycheck. Now I have things a bit more "figured out," and I'm growing emboldened to take the steps towards my desired future. As tumultuous as the road here was, this is a good place to be.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Brewlog: Bachelor Party Porter & Saison #3 Update

My recent excustion to Siskiyou County allowed me to tend to the Porter and Saison I'd brewed back in early June. Thankfully, I've ended up very pleased with both beers...

Bachelor Party Porter, brewed for a friends bachelor party, was kegged, force-carbonated, and chilled on Thursday, July 20, then tapped at approximately 6:00 PM on Friday, July 21, at our rented cabin on Elk Lake near Bend, Oregon. After a fierce battle against that and other forces, the keg was finally drained on the morning of Sunday, July 23rd, as we dined on a breakfast of bratwurst and attempted to figure out how the heck to make the cabin look like anything other than the warzone we had turned it into over the course of the weekend.

The beer had a finishing gravity of approximately 1.015, making for an abv of around 5.5%. The beer was exceedingly dark with a tan head. There was a bit of mint in the aroma and flavor due to the Eroica hops, and that was not unwelcome. There was an appropriately medium mouthfeel, and a considerable residual sweetness. The round, estery flavors of the London Ale yeast worked perfectly. The hopping was substantial, more so than I'd expected, making the overall impression of the beer similar to that of Rogue's Shakespeare Stout. Overall, I'd say I was damned pleased with it, and I'd say the rest of the folks at the festivites were too... I can't say that I'd make any tweaks to the recipe, I think it's damned-near perfect as is. The only concievable change I can see would be to up the gravity of the whole thing and turn it into a Baltic Porter. Mmmm....

As for Saison #3, that was bottled on Tuesday, July 25th. The final gravity was 1.012, which though higher than the WLP 565 has the potential to ferment to, is right where my Saison #1 settled out, and both batches were brewed & fermented under damn-near identical conditions. Whatever the case, the beer still yielded an abv of about 7.5%, though with a bit more substantial of a body than I'd find ideal. The spicing is perfectly subdued and just barely noticable. The hopping is mild - I'd still like to beef-up both the hop bitterness and hop flavor in future batches, though what I have here is certainly acceptable. The yeast didn't produce as much funkiness as it can yield at higher temperatures, but I still did get a moderate level of funk, a good level of fruit, and a nice spiciness out of it. Right now I'm still letting the bottles condition, though a bottle opened this Sunday did show a good level of carbonation.

Brewlog: India Brown Ale

One of the two batches of beer brewed recently...

Batch #25, 7/26/06: India Brown Ale

For several months I'd intended to brew a single-hop pale ale using Amarillo hops. Two weeks ago I set out to do just that, but somehow I veered off course, and ended up with something considerably different. Entranced by the assortment of dark and Belgian malts I had on hand, and inexplicably deviating from my hopping intentions, I ended up creating something moderately dark, substantially hoppy, and with some damned-weird malt character going on. Thus, I give you my "India Brown Ale..."


7 gallons Yreka tap water (tastes a little weird lately, but I was too lazy to buy water) treated with a pack of Burton Water Salts, the weight of which I neglected to write down...


4oz Belgian pale malt
2oz Belgian aromatic
1oz Roasted barley

10z Caramunich
4oz 40L Crystal
1oz Special B
.5 oz Black patent
2 oz Caramel wheat (again, 80-100L in color)


7 lbs pale malt extract


1oz 11.2% Chinook at 60 minutes
1oz 8.8% Amarillo at 30 minutes
2oz 8.8% Amarillo at 10 minutes


1/2 gallon starter of WLP 001, California Ale


"Mini-mash" the grains, steeping just below 150 for at least 30 minutes, then remove. Add the dried malt extracts and bring to boil. Commence 90 minute boil. Hop according to schedule. At 15 minutes, add two tsp Irish moss. Knock out and cool according to your preferred method. Final wort volume should be just at five gallons if your boil was sufficiently vigorous. Next, aerate, transfer, and pitch yeast.


Now, the O.G. I read was 1.050, and I'm certain that's wrong. I know I took the reading when warm, but I don't know how much that affected the reading. I was concerned solely because the hopping was rather substantial for such a low O.G... Nevertheless, a sample I tasted after four days, when the gravity had dropped to below 1.020, seemed just fine to me. But then, I'm a damned hophead...

Whatever the case, this is a weird one. But that's okay, 'cause it's homebrew. I have the freedom to make some weird beer if I want to...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

It really does live...

My old laptop is officially, completely recovered. I'm currently re-installing assorted software and copying back over my data, while concurrently making my rounds on the internet on my work computer as everything loads and installs... Having one computer at each hand makes me feel like I'm in some technophillic mid-90s thriller. I can almost hear the goa playing in the background...

Anyway, sometime today or
tomorrow I should post some brewblogs regarding the Bachelor Party Porter (which was consumed in it's entirety over the course of a weekend "fishing" near Mt. Bachelor) and Saison #3 (bottle-conditioning currently), as well as a big ol' "quadrupel" and something that started as a hoppy, citrusy, west-coast pale ale, but then got hit with a grain bill involving some dark and/or Belgian malts. It's really just a dark IPA, but there are some very a-typical malt flavors going on behind the west-coast hop assault...

Outside of the brewing stuff (which is an increasingly huge part of my life), I also hope to post some updates regarding my travels this summer, some photos, etc. In the meantime, check out
Mosier's blog - after a month and a half back in the States from his adventures in Japan, he finally posted again. Within his posts, you can find two pictures from our shared excursion to the Lava Beds National Monument.

More to come...

It Lives! (knock on wood)

After spending the better part of the last nine hours wrangling my computer, I think it's finally coming back. Right now it's restoring the factory image to the new hard drive that I installed (rather easily) and then struggled for hours to get the motherboard to actually recognize as existing. In the end, it was a simple and absurd solution. What can I say, I'm not 1337...

And thankfully, I was able to recover most of the data I'd thought I'd lost... When I returned from my two weeks in the wilderness (details on that later) I, on a whim, fired up the heap. Magically, it started. I grabbed my mp3 player and a USB cable and started pulling data off. I got the photos first, then my documents (school papers, notes, letters, writings, etc.), then the miscellania. Last came mp3s and videos. I got less than halfway through my backup of my illicit property when the computer started making that grinding noise again, and eventually went back to the same blue screen I'd gotten before. No huge loss, however - I'd procured the most recent versions of my writings and the photographs from all my travels for the year, and I can always re-download or otherwise obtain anything else I might've had on there. The salvaged data has since been backed up in an additional two sources - my external hard drive (bought for music storage) and my work laptop (without which I'd be crippled in this whole repair process).