Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June QUAFF Meeting

At Callahan's for the monthly QUAFF meeting. Shared my German Pilsner. Harold gave a presentation on mead making. Reminded me that I have some honey from Costco that I need to get fermenting! QUAFF meetings are always fun, tasty, and educational!
Sent from my mobile phone.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hop Farm, June 22 2008

The back-flow preventer sprung a leak so we made a trip to the hop farm to replace it. I was also curious to see if the trimmings barrier strategy was effective.
Turns out that a number of chinook cones were ready for harvesting. A JUNE HARVEST! After dehydrating the picked cones, it will likely amount to 1.5 ounces or so.
The weather in southern California has been very warm. I bumped up the watering duration to 1 hour twice daily to ensure they are getting plenty.

Above is a good image to see the progress the bottom row has made in just a week. Even the far left of the bottom row is making progress (previously mauled by rabbits and squirrels). Looking to the middle row, there's more vegetation than last week. Again, I trimmed back but not too much. The main vines have got to be protected!

Here's a wider shot showing the growth during the past week. Established vines are all in cone production!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kegerator Rust Repair

Its time for a little DIY project. Actually, I spent the majority of the week doing several projects I have been wanting to do. The kegerator's interior needed some attention. Since the temperatures are above freezing, water condensation eventually breaks through the laminate and starts eating away at the sheet metal. Once oxidation takes over, the process accelerates.
After allowing the kegerator to warm, I thoroughly cleaned all of the interior surfaces. I then sanded all rusted surfaces and taped off the edges. Image below shows sanding about 1/2 way completed. There's no need to sand off the paint completely but you want to sand away as much of the rust as possible.
At most hardware stores, in the spray paint isle, you'll find Rust-Oleum Appliance Epoxy. I picked this up at Home Depot for $3.99. Its moisture resistant and dries to the refrigerator-like glossy finish. Spraying this stuff in the chest freezer created a think paint fog inside. I was only able to spray for about 10 seconds at a time before being overwhelmed by the fog. I would suggest wearing a long sleeve shirt and a rubber glove for your spraying hand. Also, wearing a face mask would have been helpful. Dipping my arm in the paint fog left my arm hairs white (washed up with soap and warm water).
Even with weather warm and dry, the paint took about 4-5 hours to be dry to the touch. I waited until the next day to fill it back with kegs, secondary fermentation tanks, and the CO2 system.
For about $4, the interior of the chest freezer kegerator is now looking sharp and clean. While painting, I also recharged the desiccators so the interior should remain dry at least until the end of the summer. I still want to install a single manifold gas system and send the CO2 tank to the outside. Since we are moving in the fall, I'll wait on this project.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Mai Tai

Everyone has a different cocktail recipe for a Mai Tai. We prefer it Hawaiian style with pineapple juice. For that, again, we turn to the Trader Joe's juice isle. TJ's pineapple juice is so much better than buying those tiny cans that Dole offers (I wonder if the origin is the same).

We've been making a few Mai Tais lately and have been experimenting with the formula. The base rum is typically white but last night we made two with spiced rum (one with Sailor Jerry and the other with Tortuga). The result was great. Here's what we have thus far:

My Mai Tai:

Fill glass with ice.
Fill to 2/5 glass with white or spiced rum.
Fill to 1/2 glass with equal parts Amaretto and Triple Sec.
Trader Joe's Pineapple Juice to nearly full, leaving room for the floater.
Mix by stirring.
Float dark rum on the top to taste.

Bars always use Myer's for their dark rum. We picked up some dark Big Black Dick when we visited Grand Cayman a few years back. I'm sure you're all laughing up some joke right now so I'll leave that for you to comment!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sunshine with Kurt

Hangin out with Kurt at a local pub, Sunshine, after a day's work on the motorcycle. Enjoying a Stone Pale Ale.
Sent from my mobile phone.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hop Farm, June 15 2008

WTF! I can't get the below space to go away! I've tried working in HTML and in Blogger's editor (both HTML and WYSIWYG). Looks like a blogger issue! I only wanted to format the post in tables so images at the left correspond with text on the right, this isn't too complicated!!! Somehow, the HTML conflicts with the blogger format.

As you can see, we're nearing our first harvest for chinook. In a week or two, the cones will feather out a bit more. When they are light and papper-like, they are ready for harvesting.
We typically get several harvests from the chinook. The cones are fairly dense as usually, and there are many more flowers coming in. This is chinook again, you can see how many new flowers are coming in.

This particular vine is looking for more vertical room so I trained several tops to start working horizontally. I could easily give the three plants on the far east chinook section 5-10 more feet of vertical growth! You can easily tell the growth strength is highly energetic. To the left is a look up the chinook central vine.

Though everything LOOKS healthy from these pics, we're under attack by squirrels and rabbits!

Along with routine weeding, the top row always needs trimming. It was out of control today. The eastern chinook mounds were shrub-like masses. Vines were crawling up the mulch mound for 5 feet or more and other were jumping to other trellis wires.

As you can see, only a small handful of plants have established themselves and found the trellis. They seem only more determined and I'm hoping they are adapting and will thrive.

The literature says to trim back to only a couple of vines, so that energy goes toward cone production. The chinook and even the centennial seem to not have limited cone production for leaf and vine growth. A key benefit to allowing build-up of vines to a shrub-like state is rodent deterrent. The abrasive texture of the stems and leaves provide an organic barrier from inevitable chewing residents such as gophers, squirrels, and rabbits.

Only one of the centennial hop plants has established itself this year (left). This is the one at the end of the row. It has begun cone production and will be ready for a first harvest in about 3 weeks.

When it comes to hops, the vine tip is critical to continued growth. Once the tip is chewed or damaged, the vine will not continue to grow. Occasionally a stem will branch off from a main vine and continue to grow. This only occurs when the main vine is well established.

To the left is magnum in the process of climbing. I just hope nothing chew off this main vine. I use magnum as the base hop for most of my lagers.

I haven't a clue why those little furry bastards chew the vines. Last year (and years past) when vines have been chewed and crop was lost, I initially thought someone came by with a weed-whacker and accidentally cut them. Near the base, about 5-6 inches off the ground, was a really clean cut. There was no extensive chew marks though in a couple of instances, the wire was cut too! Its like a squirrel or rabbit came by to drink from the drip, got pissed off when there wasn't any water, and chewed the vine to see what that would be like.

To the left is another magnum plant beginning its climb up the trellis.

Since the days grow long and the weather is warming, I increased the water delivery to every 12 hours for 45 minutes. Most are on 0.5 gph drippers. The bottom row is mostly 1gph. Mid-July, I'll switch to 1 hour twice a day until the end of the season in October. The summers are very warm in this area of San Diego.

To the left is the magnum hop plant at the west end of the second row. Though I trimmed most plants, I left a good perimeter in order to protect the central vines.

The hop farm is getting hit so hard this year by these herbaceous foes. I've got to do all I can to prevent them from chewing the main vines.

This year's strategy is to allow bushy growth at the base to deter chewing of the production vines. In the past, vines have matured with cones only to be chewed to oblivion.The chinook seems to have the advantage here over centennial, magnum, and vojvodina. The stems sprout thick, hardy, and abundant. Also, it grows quickly early in the season. Centennial follows most of the characteristics with the exception of growing quickly. Others peak through the soil slowly, their tips highly vulnerable to those furry herbivores coming by to chew curiously or casually while drinking water from the drip system.
To the left you can really see the damage on this vine, those furry bastards!
Though I should get some chicken wire to stake around each mound, I'm going to try natural protection first. I decided to take the trimmings and surround the more vulnerable vines. The density of the hardy vines works as a deterrent. Not sure if this will work but its worth a try. This is one of the new plants on the bottom row. It continues to break ground only to have its tips chewed off.

Rrr! Pirate Tap Handle

Yet another good find on eBay. This wooden pirate figure was about $6 with shipping. Another $1.25 buys a threaded insert sized to fit the tap. Other tap handles can be quite expensive and making your own can give any home tap/draft system its own custom character.

The best part about this scurvy dog is that it looks like a good friend I like to call, Captain Dennis. He's a huge fan of a yearly pirate festival at Two Harbors on Catalina Island called Buccaneer Days. The festival takes place at the start of October and draws a large crowd to the island. The little town of Two Harbors teems with dirty pirates and skanky wenches, perfect for a weekend of drunken debauchery.

Somewhere in the mix, you'll find Captain Dennis firing off his canon and toasting, "Here's to you, here's to me, and may we never disagree, but if we do, fuck you! ...here's to me!"

We keep a collection of rum on our "top shelf" behind the kegerator for sipping and making our favorite pirate drinks. We keep Mount Gay, Extra Old in the decanter. To the left is rum direct from the Caribbean. Hmm, looks like we're out of our staple spiced rum, Sailor Jerry. I'm also a big fan of Captain Morgan's Private Reserve.

The most consumed rum drink is, by far, the Skinny Pirate!

Skinny Pirate:

Fill glass with ice.
Mostly spiced rum.
Splash of Diet Coke.
Mix with hooked hand.
Pillage at will.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pale Ale, June 8 2008

You gotta brew what you like! I've been craving ales lately. I go through lots of brewing phases. Right now, I'm thirsty for quality ales.

Pale Ale
5 Gallons, All Grain, Single Infusion Mash, 90 Minute Boil

10lbs. Domestic Two-Row
1lb. Wiener Malz Vienna
1lb. Franco-Belges Munich
1/2lb. Carastan
1/4lb. Victory

1.5oz. Homegrown Chinook 60min.
1/4oz. Amarillo 20min.
1 Whirlfloc Tab 20min.
1/4oz. Amarillo 5min.

White Labs, California Ale Yeast