Abuja All-grain: Alright!!

I mentioned my frustration with the brewing process last weekend but climbed on that horse again yesterday. I was mostly nervous about using my non-self-priming pump to move the wort from the mash tun to the boil pot. I set it all up and just ran some water through it and it worked almost perfectly. I had to fiddle with it a little bit as it didn’t seem capable of recirculation unless I lifted the pump. That was easy to address and once I confirmed that, I was ready to go.

I got a cooler of ice that I run a preliminary copper immersion cooler in to chill the water before it runs through the copper coil in the beer. The last hurdle was to come up with a grain recipe. I went with something very simple to start with that I can use as a baseline for future recipes. I’m using a no-sparge method because its easier and I’ve got plenty of grain and don’t need to worry about efficiency. Sparging sure seems to be a complication process for what you get out of it, but maybe I just don’t understand it entirely.

  • 13 lbs of American 2-row
  • 1 lb of 60 Crystal
  • 1/2 lb of Munich
  • 1 oz Cascade for each of Bittering, Flavoring, and Aromatic hops
  • Safale S-04 yeast

I co-opted the no-sparge recipe provided in “Brewing Better Beer” and tweaked the hops and starting water. I’ve read about difference using more/less water for thicker/thinner wort but went with a huge 11 gallon start because of the no-sparge and also just because it was easier. I got 7 gallons of wort at the end, so I will use the same recipe but 8 gallons in the mash tun, hopefully producing 4 gallons of wort that I will add to 3 gallons of water pre-heated in the boil pot. I’ll actually make this batch tomorrow, using the Safale US-05 yeast and the lessor starting mash tun volume.

The first few batches will be pure blind experimentation since I can’t taste of the beers until they are done. I think I can get 2 more brews next week (another 3-day break) and I need to come up with some recipe ideas. I want to do some dry hopping (although the hops clogged my bottling spigot last time, i might attempt to use a bag. I’ve got most of my malt stored in airtight dog-food containers but I didn’t buy enough to hold everything. I’ve got chocolate malt still in the food-saver bag I brought it over in that I’m excited to use. I think I’m going to continue to use American 2-row base malt for the first batches. I’ll have to make one batch with 40 crystal for sure and probably other batches with 60 Crystal but using Biscuit or Carapils. I actually need to read up on my malts again to make sure I’m equating them correctly. In my mind I’ve got 3 classifications: base malt (i.e. American/British), Crystal Malt, other “normal” malts like Biscuit, Munich, and Carapils, and the “extreme” malts like the Chocolate. I’m not sure that’s accurate though.

I think I’m going to buy a couple more Party Pigs. They are awfully convenient when bottling and its nice to be able to pull a draft home brew from the fridge.

Flight Fiasco

Last week I flew to Lagos a day before the rest of my colleagues so I could meet with people working in industries I cover, an initial face-to-face meeting with people that I'll be talking a lot to as part of the job. Everyone else was coming down for a weekend of meetings with our colleagues at the consulate, essentially the same purpose as I had with my industry contacts. We've got a number of new people in new jobs and it is an important opportunity for us to get to know the people that we constantly coordinate with via email.

Domestic air travel in Nigeria is notoriously unreliable (and expensive to boot), but I made it down with nary a hiccup. Thursday morning we got word that the first of our colleagues had arrived (he took the first flight of the day) and everyone else was planning to trickle in on the remaining flights throughout the day. But on my way to my first meeting, we got word that airport worker unions had occupied the terminal of the main carrier still operating (Air Nigeria collapsed a couple weeks ago under apparent mismanagement and Dana was grounded between June and September due to the crash of their plane. They've been reinstated to fly but haven't launched flights yet). Arik is by far the biggest remaining carrier (even before Air Nigeria went under) but now we discovered that all but 2 of us were not going to be able to fly down for the combined section meetings. Even though I got out, my return ticket was on Arik, so I was stuck in Lagos.

We tried getting seats on one of the smaller remaining carriers but the was a mob rush for seats during boarding on the last flight out of the capital. Apparently it was a free for all with both ticketed and unticketed passengers making it onto the planes. I didn't witness it, but I can imagine the chaos that would emerge from desperate Nigerians at the end of a long frustrating day.

In the end, I was able to get scheduled on a different carrier without too much hassle and made it back on Friday. Had I been stuck in Lagos, I was looking forward to helping out on the visa line but that was not to be, alas.

I returned to discover that the band is all in town and they want to have practice on Sunday. I've got a real dilemma developing on weekends as I want to watch football, do the band thing, go to workouts, and brew beer. Once I get the beer thing down, I'll be able to do a whole grain batch in under 8 hours I think, but that means either I start early on Sundays in order to watch football (but can't do the band then) or I skip the workouts to do it on Saturdays (or start it in the afternoon and brew until after dark). If only I could work 4 days a week!

I'm still having issues with the brewing process. I was highly motivated to take advantage of the Saturday opportunity now that I returned from Lagos earlier than planned. It's a bit more complicated in theory but the real challenge is that I'm using a non-self-priming pump that I'm just not sure how to use and there are more parts involved in the brewing itself. I'll be using a dual-burner process and thus have to rig a way to switch fuel from one burner to the other.

As I set up the equipment I realized that in spite of my best efforts, I'm STILL short a barbed hose adapter for the pump. I forced the tubing over a non-adapter piece and was going to brew no matter what but then ran into issues getting ice. I usually can get ice from the Marine's but there's been a bunch of turnover and I now only know 2 of them and only have 1 phone number. I think they had a Marine House party last night as well so they may have been sleeping late and even running low on ice. I didn't want to just roll over there without checking in but the guy I texted about it never got back to me. So I fell into a funk and spent the day in my pajamas, catching up on Daily Show and Louie episodes while playing Minecraft. The newest Survivor has started (I made an application video while I was home but couldn't submit it, even though the website said they were still taking applications). It was a sad day for beer and now I'm doubting whether I'll be able to get it down. I've heard of a second option for ice that i need to follow up. I ordered the final (I hope!) piece for the bigger setup, so if I can get good ice options, I'll be ready to rock.


Back in the saddle

No, I haven't shuttered this place. I have finished my summer R&R coupled with some training for my new position. I had hoped to continue to post updates about those adventures too but it didn't work out that way. I've got some good pictures of my time camping that I'll get up at some point. There is a video of the Eminent Child's piano recital and pictures of ballet on Facebook.

Now that I'm back I'm adjusting to the new pace of work in the Economic section. Consular work is busy but it is all immediate and not very deep. Economic work doesn't have that immediacy and requires better organization to keep track of the different projects and tasks. Consular work can mostly be done by yourself but Econ work requires more engagement with people, talking about what is happening locally or delivering information on behalf of the government. And the writing! There is so much more email and then of course cable writing. Organization is key to avoid losing track of something and having it fall through the cracks.

So I'm very busy but busy is good. I've been back for 2 weeks already but it barely feels like it. Thankfully time here seems to move faster than my time at home did. I'm getting back into our regular workouts. I'm committed to doing a ToughMudder with my brother and maybe some of out friends next fall. It's a long road for me from here to there and there isn't much time. But if I don't do it now, I never will.

I will be in Lagos this weekend for work meetings. I am a little nervous, I admit, about flying domestic airlines but it probably isn't any worse than traffic here and I'm in that all the time.