Batch #3: PSA IPA

New Category! I forget who came up with Abrewja in reference to the homebrewing going on here, so unfortunately I can’t give credit.

Today I brewed my 3rd batch of beer in as many weeks. The first two have been so far, so good. The American Pale Ale will get bottled next week and the English Brown the week after. Today I made a “PSA IPA”, a dry-hopped IPA produced in support of men’s health issues to raise awareness of prostate cancer. Proceeds from the sale went towards some foundation and there was a nice little card inside pointing out that prostate cancer is 3X likely for men as breast cancer is for women. Get checked!

I am excited about this one because of the dry-hopping, where hops are added into the fermenter rather than during the boil/brewing process. I’ve heard good things about that. I’m a little nervous overall for this batch though because the yeast didn’t seem to rehydrate as vigorously as the first two batches. I did shake it up better in the fermenter though, so hopefully that offsets it.

I missed my OG by 4 points as well, 1.50 instead of the 1.54-1.60 the kit indicated was the target. I think that’s partly due to using too much water. I’ve got a crude measurement system at best and need to recalibrate. 7 gallons of starting water is too much. I did boil down more this week than last though. I also forgot to measure my OG last time but had enough left over after filling the fermenter this time to measure. I will definitely use less water next time.

Today’s brew got disrupted by a powerful later afternoon thunderstorm, but thankfully it hit right after the initial partial mash/steeping of the special grains. It was easy to just cover up and shut down for a bit while it passed, then fire up the boil, add the extract and hops, and move on. I was able to get it down to below 70 degrees as well, so there shouldn’t be any reverse pressure on the airlock this time.

I’m so excited to see how these are going to turn out! I’m fairly confident that they’ll be drinkable and I’m getting comfortable enough with the process that moving on to making my own all-grain recipes is going to be FUN.

More bad things happened

16 killed in atrocious attack on university church service

They attacked an auditorium used for church services on a Sunday morning with hand-tossed bombs and were in position to shoot those who tried to escape. Makes me ill.

For those who aren’t yet familiar, Boko Haram is the name of an indigenous violent group who’s name means “western education is forbidden”. They’ve been active for years but have really ramped things up in the last 18 months or so. They’ve developed ties with Al Qaeda and are responsible for a huge variety of attacks including a fish bar/restaurant, National Police HQ, the UN, a bunch of churches over the Christmas/New Year holiday, a huge assault basically on the city of Kano that killed 185, simultaneous attacks on one of the largest national daily papers last week and now this.

I don’t really know a whole lot about the group. Their roots are in the basic (poor) (undeveloped) (Muslim) North vs (oil rich) (politically represented) (Christian) south. There is no reason to think that this kind of thing is going to end any time soon, alas.

Sympathies and encouragement to the people of Nigeria. Don’t give up hope and efforts to continue to improve this country, which has so much potential.

Bad things happened today

At least 6 dead in coordinated newspaper office attacks in Abuja and Kaduna.

We have the best security apparatus in the world and we are just fine. I’m not worried, at least not any more so than any other day. This doesn’t really change a whole lot, as this kind of attack is always expected. But don’t worry about me, seriously, I’m safe.

No one has claimed responsibility yet but it bears the hallmarks of Boko Haram and their suspected ties to Al Qaeda-inspired groups. It’s a complicated situation here, but we’ve seen BH improve its technical sophistication in recent months, moving up from machine gun drive-by attacks to the suicide car bomb attack on the UN to the horrific assault on Kano a few months ago. They are pretty active in many ways and have attacked a variety of targets, including national police headquarters, churches, Western Organizations, and restaurants and bars.

Again, don’t worry about me. Thanks for thinking of me though.

New look

Trying something new. The extra shades kind of fit with the title, I think.

The Last of Free Africa

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Uh-huh. 1st edition to boot.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Busy day at work today, final adjudications over 130, mostly interviews. I think I’m really hitting my stride as an interviewer and am more comfortable making the quick adjudications required when we are under the pressure that we are. It’s a real challenge here though because there is so much fraud and disingenuous self-representation. The key is experience, and the more time you spend on the line, the more you refine the decision making needed. I think that my head cold on the first day back helped quite a bit too as I didn’t have enough energy to overthink the process and just focused on the essential points I needed to make a decision. I was able to store that perspective and have been working on maintaining stamina through the day now. It’s not so hard to run 20, 30, or even 40 interviews at a high pace, but after about 2 hours, it’s easy to take your foot off the gas and suddenly find yourself spending too much time on non-essentials. It’s a good mental workout and I truly am grateful to have worked the line in Nigeria. It’s a blast.

I got home and was happy to find the English Brown burbling happily away. The American Pale Ale in the second fermenter seemed happy too. Because it was a smaller batch, there is a lot of headspace in the carboy which only serves to cause paranoia and suspicion. I’ve read that too much headspace and exposure to oxygen and air can tarnish a beer. It’s important to keep it out of sunlight too, but my room isn’t pitch black, it just has heavy opaque curtains. Plenty to worry about, I guess, which is as good excuse to keep drinking the brew and opening up new bottles.

I made a quick pizza today and finally was able to cook the bread I made up last week. The dough was still fine but had settled and was a higher density; cooking immediately (as I intended) is much more fluffy and good. I’ll freeze one of the loaves and eat the other with butter and honey. The ground beef didn’t taste very good when I first fried it up, even after seasoning it and mixing in some bacon. The first pizza on Saturday wasn’t even that good because of it, but a couple days sitting in the fridge seemed to mellow it and today’s pizza was perfect: beef, bacon, green pepper, onion, mozz and cheddar cheeses.

I also made a crockpot chili and wanted to mix up a basic pasta tomato sauce and some chicken curry. I ran out of onions though, so the sauce and curry will wait until tomorrow. I’ll put two of the chicken breasts in the curry and then season and pan fry the other to mix in the pasta. I might even make just a basic penne with butter, chicken, and parmesan.

Once I get all this stuff made I’ll have probably 10 or more frozen meals ready to go. If I remember to take it out in the morning, everything is ready to go in the evening. I have cooked rice frozen up and pasta is a cinch to prepare. Even if its frozen, it’s just a matter of nuking it for a minute to pre-thaw, then low heat on the stove top. I’ll be good to go for 2 or 3 weeks with that much stuff.

My frozen food order arrives tomorrow. I know I ordered more bacon and brats and I think I got some cheese and pizzas too, maybe some steaks. Speaking of steaks, I think I’ll thaw out a couple and invite a friend or two over this weekend, maybe for another brew session followed by steaks and garlic rice.

We shall see…..

Beer batch #2

A couple of Emminent colleagues came over today for the second session of the Abrewja Beverage Company’s efforts to raise post morale (not that it really needs it). We went with an English brown ale this time. The kit had some chocolate malted grains and both dry and liquid extract. It looked and smelled good but not quite as good as the American pale ale from last week. There’s just something awesome about the extra hops of the pale ale.

The kit class for about 2-3 gallons of wort with water added in the end but because my water isn’t so clean and I’ve got the equipment to do larger batches, I just go big from the beginning. Last week i started with about 6 gallons of water and ended up with about 4 of beer so I went with 7 gallons to start with today. Didn’t boil as much off so this is a much bigger batch.

My friend took a couple pictures of my set up:

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The Basics: Brewpot, Burner, immersion chiller. I tied the grain bag to my wooden stirring paddle during the grains mashing part of the process. They are just sitting there out of the way for now.

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The Maestro reflects.

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Adding the dry malt extract

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The Maestro inspects. The odd stance is due to the heat coming off the burner. Can’t really stand close to it in sandals without sacrificing some body hair.

Because I’m paranoid about infection, especially since this isn’t the most sanitary country, I wasn’t going to do a secondary fermentation on any of these. The plan was just to leave them in primary fermentation for 3 weeks, then bottle for about the same. But due to a lack of equipment (more is on the way), I only have one 6.5 gallon fermenter. The other is full of StarSan sanitizer. I do have a bottling bucket that I can ferment in but I need it for bottle soon than later.

So today I racked the American Pale Ale to a Better Bottle carboy where it will sit for a couple more weeks. I would have just put today’s brew in the carboy but I’m paranoid about blowouts; if I had 6 gallon carboys that would have worked.

The only mistake today was forgetting to get a specific gravity reading before pitching the yeast. This is needed as a baseline measure of the density of your beer before the yeast makes all the alcohol. By comparing before and after readings, you can measure alcohol content. Last week the OG (original gravity) reading was spot on for the kit, very reassuring considering that I was doing it all in one batch. I really did want to know what I got out of today but I’m not going to risk any infection by opening up the fermenter now. If I’d used a bottling bucket for fermentation, I could draw some out from the spigot on the bottom. Alas, this will have to be mystery, but if the final SG reading is in accordance with what the kit is expecting, I think I’ll be okay.

I still don’t fully comprehend the effect of volume on specific gravity and hops utilization. It is supposed to make a difference but last week I used over double the volume of water to make the wort and boil the hops and still landed exactly where I was supposed on the specific gravity side. I’m not really one to stress too much about these things. The ultimate issue is how drinkable it is. I’d be happy to miss my target gravity and alcohol content if it tastes great as opposed to a technically executed beer that just didn’t taste right. Yeah, I know a technically executed beer is pretty much guaranteed to taste good though, right?

I’m finally starting to get excited about having some of my own beer to drink. I’ve got plenty of bottles of my own that I’ve been saving and have acquired a few cases of liter bottles from other people. I hope they are clean, as I really don’t want to have to scrub them.

Sunday, April 22

Went to a going away party for a colleague Friday night. Great BBQ and good times. Met some of the same people on Saturday for softball. I had low expectations for my softball performance but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Good friends made for a good time and we’ll likely make it a more regular thing. There’s even talk of attempt to field a honest-to-goodness team in a Lagos tourney later this year, but we’ll see about that.

Going out now for some tennis practice before gearing up for another brew sessions this afternoon. Will be using a carboy instead of fermenter bucket this time. I did order a couple more buckets as I’m more comfortable with those. I’ll try to get my fancy pot with the thermometer and stuff put together but that might have to be a mid-week project for next week’s brew.

Cherry Blossom

Self-portrait of me and the Eminent Child by the sakura tree near our house.

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The Beloved Brits

I’ve been busy lately catching up on things that have piled up while I was away, so I have been ignoring some of the social events announced from time to time. I almost missed “International Night” at the British Village today; thankfully a few friends clued me in and I was able to make it. A good night just hanging out with a multi-mission group of people. I always kick myself later on for not making more of the opportunity to meet other people at these things though. It seems like I always end up with people I know. Obviously that’s because I enjoy my friends, but its a wasted opportunity to meet other folks.

The British Village has a nice setup, a covered outdoor seating area with a bar and TVs as well as an indoor area with some table games like foosball and maybe a pool table. I’ve been tempted to join but am not sure I’d get off my duff to go hang out down there. Perhaps if I was a bigger soccer fan. I know that they watch rugby but I don’t do a good enough job keeping up on the schedule.

Tonight a strong storm blew in just after I arrived. It was quite pleasing to sit out and feel the mist and wind and see the flashes of lightning and feel the peals of thunder. It had lifted and mostly dried by the time I got home.

I left around 9:30, early for me, as I tend to be one of the last to leave. I’m quite committed to getting good sleep, though, and headed home before the night had even peaked, I think. It was nice to get home and relax without thinking about how much coffee I needed to prep to make it through the day tomorrow.

Had a little chat with the family and a quick shower and now its off to sleep.