Saturday, December 22, 2007

Brewmaster for a Day

Today I decided to play the part of brewmaster, and make a batch of beer. It's been around 2 years since I last brewed, and homebrew was sounding good to me. So I jotted down the ingredients for an IPA, and yesterday I stopped at a homebrew supply shop in Warren.

First I gathered up some necessary supplies.

I also arranged a few other items that I felt may come in handy.
Equipment was cleaned and sanitized. The sanitizing solution looks eerily similar in color to the beer I'd brew.
I make beer by using malt extracts (the cans and the bag of beige powder in a previous photo). This saves quite a bit of time over brewing all-malt. However, I do use some specialty grains in my brew. This gives beer some of it's flavor.

This particular recipe called for toasted malted barley, and crystal malt. The grains had to be cracked, and put into a cloth "sack" for use in steeping.
The "sack" of crushed grains, ready to go.
I filled the kettle with 6 gallons (5 gallon batch with allowance for some to boil off) of water, and turned on the heat.
The "sack" getting dropped in. This steeps for 15 minutes at 150 degrees F.
The spent "sack".

Bubble bubble toil and trouble...

Add the extract, boil for 50 minutes, adding hops at various points.

A shot of the "brewmaster". It's just about almost noonish... time for another beer!

After the boil, the wort needs to be brought down near room temperature. The faster the better, to avoid haze and lessen the risk of contamination. I use an immersion chiller, essentially 25' of copper tubing coiled up, with cold fresh water flowing through the tube. This will cool the wort in just under a half hour.
Usually I do this outside, but the ho's was froze, so I had to use the basement faucet.

Taking a reading of the initial gravity. This, combined with the final gravity after fermentation, can be used to estimate the alcohol content.

Racking the wort into the carboy for fermentation.
Pitching the yeast.

Airlock in place. The primary fermentation should be started by tomorrow mid morning, and finished in just under a week. Then will come a 1 week long secondary fermentation, then bottling. Stay tuned for progress updates.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Goals for Next Season, and Some Skiing

My goals for next season are as follows:
  1. Set up and follow a structured training plan
  2. Be between 145lbs and 150lbs by the Pontiac Lake TT
  3. Race in, and finish, the Lumberjack (under 10 hours would be nice)
  4. Top 15 in Singlespeed at Iceman (I'd need to finish in ~1:50 to acheive this)
  5. Top 2 in Sport/Beg Singlespeed - USAC XC series
  6. Enter a race in Expert by the end of the season, and finish in the top half
  7. Help TSB win the USAC team award!

To aid in meeting these goals, I have a "Hamster Cage" down in the basement. This consists of a set of rollers, a trainer, a treadmill, and a bench and weights. Of course, when the weather cooperates I'll take my training outside. I'm currently reading "The Mountain Biker's Training Bible", by Joe Friel. After only reading the first 4 chapters thus far, I can already see a number of things I've been doing wrong.


On Sunday, I took advantage of the new snowfall and waxed up the cross country skis. A slow drive later, I found myself at a familiar locale: the West Branch parking lot at Stony Creek. I had never skied Stony before, and was eager to give it a go. Last year, I skied 2 or 3 times on the Polly Ann trail (a rail-trail), and that was the first I had x-c skied since the winter of 1998-99. Because of this, my stride was... shall I say... less than graceful. Fortunately for the most part there were nice tracks cut in from earlier skiers.

I looped around the outer perimeter to start. This was the easier and flatter section of trail; the trails in the middle of the mountain bike/ski area tend to be hillier. This allowed my legs to get used to the motions, and for the body and muscles to warm up. The only real hiccup here was when I got to the golf course. Just past the starter building (which will also serve as the ski hut when the renovations are finished), the trail basically disappeared due to drifting. This forced me to break new trail for a bit over a mile. Not the easiest thing to do.

After finishing the "outer loop", about 6 miles, I found myself back at the parking lot. I ate a Cliff bar, and set out to do a loop of the more advanced and hillier trails in the middle of the ski/bike area. Surprisingly, I was quickly able to "re-learn" the herringbone technique for climbing hills. The downhills that followed added an adrenaline rush also. I finished the "inner loop", and estimate that I had put in roughly 11 miles. Legs were sore, especially my inner and outer thighs, and toes were on the verge of developing blisters. But, I had a great time, enjoyed seeing very familiar trails in a new way, and am now hoping for some good snow throughout the winter.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I'm a Dirty Boy

22 miles of dirt roads in northern Oakland County.