Monday, January 31, 2011

Theology on Tap or HomeBrew session number 1

So for the past year or more, I've started to get more and more interested by brewpubs, craftbrew, and homebrew. I'm not the only one because finally, two other guys from my church convinced me that it would be a good idea if all three of us brewed our own beers. Then we could invite some other guys over from the church to taste them and have a little discussion about a particular theological topic.This started early December. So we knew that we wanted to do the theology thing in January, and what little we knew about brewing beer was that it takes about 4 weeks to brew before it's really consumable. So, knowing that I would be gone for two weeks to England in the end of December, we rushed out and got our kits. So the night before Mandy and I flew out to England, Antonio and Andrew came over to start the brews.

The kits. Each one includes two 6.5gallon bucket and a load of tools and brewing book. We each decided on three 'basic' beers: pale ale, amber ale, and a wheat.
Andrew starts the boiling water and malt.
Then we sit down to start reading about just what exactly it is we are doing and some instructions that we might need at some point...
Skip forward two weeks, Mandy and I get back from England, the guys come over and we transfer our brews from the fermentation buckets into our bottles. At this point the yeast has begun working on the malt and hops (wort), so we can get a taste of what the final product is going to be like and can take our ABV (alchohol by volume) readings. Pale=5%, Amber=7%, Wheat=5%. So now we add a simple sugar compound that the yeast will use to create carbon dioxide (bubbles!!!) and bottle it all up. Each batch results in 24, 22oz bottles... except for the pale ale which was apparently sealed incorrectly and leaked a bit during the two-week fermentation period... foreshadowing....?
So the bottles go in boxes and the boxes go in a corner of the garage to sit for another 2 weeks.
FINALLY! The night we've been waiting for: the uncapping. We line up a few bottles and pop open those suckers.
We taste each of the beers and make our notes which we can use for future recipes and brews. The verdict/names we gave the beers that night:
Pale Ale: 'Nature's fruit' or 'Citris Pale Fail'. The leak must have let in some air during the fermentation period and created an unwanted 'cider-like' flavor.
Amber Ale: 'Belgium Amber'. tasted like an amber up front, but a bit less carbonation and almost an alcohol aftertaste, sort of like a belgium.
Wheat: 'Hoppy-Hef'. Tasted like a hefeweizen, but more hoppy like you would expect from an IPA... weird. This one was my personal favorite because it tasted so much like an IPA. I like those bitter hops!
So, about another week and a half after first opening them, we had our 'Theology on Tap'. The beers were tasted by our peers and enjoyed. There were some great discussions that came out of the theological topic of the night too: 'Can you love Jesus well and enjoy beer?' The verdict was very positive and our next TonT might include a few more guy's brews...
I think our next batch will include a pilsner, a dark lager, and a porter.

Our Really Red Kitchen Ceiling

The story of the Red Kitchen Ceiling:
Here's how it began. A boring old white kitchen ceiling. That brown rectangle you see is where there used to be an ugly florescent light fixture. It wasn't working, so we really wanted to replace it to add some more light to the kitchen. Once we pulled it off, it became obvious that the kitchen ceiling at one time must have been this ugly swamp-brown. Good call to paint it white. Our new fixture was going to be a little smaller than the florescent fixture, which meant we were going to need to paint the ceiling anyway. So what kind of paint do we have just laying around our garage? 'Exotic Red', of course... Here's what the kitchen looked like before, sans florescent fixture.
In Soviet Russia, ladder uses Seth to get taller.
Day one, first coat of paint done. A bit splotchy, but still is already managing to give the kitchen a warm, rosy tint.
Day two/three: Once the second coat of paint was done and dry, I installed the new fixtures. Electrical wiring from the 40's is scary...
But the house hasn't burnt down yet and the lights turn on, so I guess I did something right.
Basking in the success...

Monday, January 3, 2011

English Holiday 1/1/11 and 1/2/11

New Year's Day, we said our goodbyes to Rob and Natalie, who were headed home to Manchester, and we left for London. Hey look John, it's Harrogate! Once we checked-in to our hotel across the street from Heathrow, we headed back into the city for one final Arsenal match. We fought traffic all the way through London and ended up at another local Arsenal-fan pub, the Twelve Pins. Birmingham City 0 - 3 Arsenal. Fun way to end the trip!
1/2/11: Flat Stanley, who had been travelling w/ us the entire time (he'll probably have his own separate entry all together) helps us check in to our flight. We left London-Heathrow ~noon and landed at LAX ~3:30pm. We forced ourselves to stay up 'til at least 9pm in order to start getting back on the pacific time zone (an 8 hour difference). What an amazing trip! We already really miss all our new friends and want to thank all our gracious hosts who opened up their homes to us and shared the holidays w/ us. It's a holiday we'll never forget! Ta much!

English Holiday 12/31/10

A beautiful New Year's Eve day.
Moss was everywhere, especially on the stone walls.
Getting ready to do a little bit of rambling our own.
These stairways/doors in the stone walls allowed you to pass from one pasture to another. There were no 'No Trespassing' signs anywhere! Quite a shock, in a refreshing kind of way, for us Americans. The whole area was some sort of national park because of the glaciers that left such an interesting scar on the landscape.

Plenty of trails for the ramblers.
A cave! We climbed up to look in, but it didn't look like it went anywhere.
Looking out over the Dales.
Out of memory! Too many things to takes photos of.
The community billboard and bus stop.
An old Methodist church. Nobody was there, but we poked around anyway.
The Falcon in the village of Arncliff, where Emmerdale used to be filmed in the 70's. The place is the Woolpack Inn on the show. It wasn't very glamorous in real life, but the owner was quite a character. We didn't stay long.
6 people in what is probably most comfortably a 4-seater car.
Wensleydale Creamery! Made famous most recently by 'Wallace and Gromit'. Amazing cheese! They have a sample room where you can try a slice of every one of their cheeses. So we did.
The Dale's Viaduct.
We spent the rest of the evening at the B&B to quietly welcome in the 2011. We watched Jools Holand's music show and ate Wensleydale cheese on crackers w/ wine.

English Holiday 12/30/10

Leaving Manchester for the Yorkshire Dales. Goodbye Manchester, you were pretty awesome.
The Vauxhall was economical, but between the four of us, it just *barely* fit all the luggage.
The B&B we stayed at was in Malham, just east of Settle.
There were ramblers all over the place.
We had to wait two hours before the kitchen would open at this pub. Doesn't sound that long, but as we soon discovered, time has a way of stretching out in the Dales... Friendships and relationships were put to the test as we had nothing to hold us over but bags of crisps and pints.
I specifically told Kurt to hold still for this photo. :)