You can contact me at jmlabeckjr@optimum.net - Please support this blog, either by visiting the ads, or making a donation. Thank you.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

DIY Chocolate Milk

This isn't about beer, but it is about doing things for yourself. A few weeks ago, I wanted some chocolate milk, but we were out of syrup, and my wife was out with the car. I found out you can make your own chocolate syrup with cocoa powder. This is all it takes.

==================================
Chocolate Syrup

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup(rounded) sugar
1/2 cup water
2 dashes vanilla extract

Mix the cocoa and sugar well. Add the water and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until a thin syrup forms. Continue to heat until it boils and begins to thicken. Take off heat and add vanilla. Allow to cool, and pour into bottle of your choice.
==================================

Once I realized how easy this is, and how good it tastes, I decided I'm never buying chocolate syrup again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Next Couple Of Days

I'm starting my podcast back up on Sunday, at http://blogtalkradio.com/youmakewhat. I plan to talk about this blog, and how I hope I can get my different online efforts in sync.

I've also downloaded several free editions of brewing software, which I intend to evaluate and review. :) They have to be free, because I can't afford to buy anything.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Adventure In Cooking


This doesn't really have anything to do with beer (except that I poured a beer when I was done), but I was so proud of how it came out, I had to share it.

I like to cook. I especially like to create meals out of what I already have, instead of going out and buying things for a recipe.

Last night, for supper, I decided to make some pasta. I found a jar of sauce, but decided instead to try and make a sauce. One of my favorite things to do is make a basic white sauce and add some kind of flavoring to it. Here's a recipe;

=======================================================================================
BASIC WHITE SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt
  • white or black pepper

Preparation:

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in flour. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Do not brown. Gradually stir in milk and continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper.
For a richer sauce, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream.

When I opened the fridge, I noticed two things. We had no butter or margarine. No problem, vegetable oil works fine. I also saw some leftover mashed potatoes, and had a flash of inspiration. Could I substitute the potatoes for the flour? Only one way to find out.

So, this is what I slapped together;

3 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup leftover mashed potatoes
¼ cup leftover sauteed onions
½ tsp seasoned salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

It did take a bit longer to thicken, but it was delicious!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homebrew Training Video

Click Here!
Homebrew Recipe Book

Click Here!

All-Grain Brewing With No Equipment


Since I started brewing back in 1989, I had brewed exclusively by extract. I always appreciated the technical aspects of all-grain brewing, as well as the additional control you get over your ingredients. But, I simply didn't have the additional funds to shell out for two additional containers (mash tun and lauter tun).

One of my online brewing friends has been after me for some time to try all-grain brewing. I had several reasons not to. I liked my beer, I didn't have the money, and, since I live in a small apartment, I didn't have the space to either store additional equipment or do a full-volume boil.

Then, everything changed. Listening to my favorite podcast, Basic Brewing, I heard about a new brewing technique called Brew-in-a-bag. It apparently solved all the problems that had stopped me. The only thing I had to buy (and store) was a large nylon bag, 5 bucks. I could do that.


This picture shows my brewpot, with the bag lining the inside. All I have to do is heat my water to 165°, dump in the grain, cover the pot, and wait.


The grain is in the pot, inside the bag. After the hour is up, all I do is pull out the bag, and got onto the rest of my process.

By using the bag, I can use partial grains for any recipe, or I can do a small-batch all-grain beer. I would recommend this method for any brewer.

Check out http://basicbrewing.com for the details, and give it a try.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making Labels


One thing I've always liked about the homebrewing hobby is the range of different people it's open to. Everything from a Mr. Beer from your local Target, to a 15-barrel conical fermenter in your garage.

I like bottling. I've mentioned that before. One thing I like is making labels for my beer. Not everyone does, which I understand. Many people put a code on the cap with a Sharpie. Hey, whatever works.

But, even if you do that, there may come a time when you are giving away some of your precious brew as a gift. A nice label will make that gift much more impressive.

Here are three sites I've used, along with examples of what can be done. The samples were each done in about a minute, so there is more you can do, if you want.

First is The Beer Labelizer, found at http://www.beerlabelizer.com/ . This site has 12 different label designs, and you just type in your information into text boxes. After you finish typing, you can print out a sheet, or save the design to your computer to use with your own label software.

With only 12 designs to choose from, it's the least flexible. But, if you want a nice-looking label, fast, it can't be beat.


Next is labely.com http://labeley.com/beer . Using this site is a bit more involved, but you get a LOT more control. You choose the shape, border, background color, graphics, and text style from a series of menus.

Because of the amount of choice you have the ability to produce something really beautiful (or really UGLY).






This last site isn't really a label site, but I've used it the longest. At Says-It.com http://www.says-it.com/ , you have the ability to insert your own text into several graphic images. One of the choices is a seal, which works well as a simple beer label.

You could include the beer name as part of the seal, or use the seal as a generic logo, and use the image in your label along with your other text.

If you have a few minutes to spare, try out these sites. You may find a label you like, either for everyday use or for your next gift.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Plea

I apologize for the nature of this post. I promise I won't repeat it. I started this blog, and the podcast that goes with it, in the hope of generating income. Like anything on the 'net, to make money you need traffic. That's where I need your help. My audience has grown slowly, but I need a lot more eyeballs, and soon. So, please read over my posts, and click "share" on something interesting.

And, ask the others in your network to share with their friends, as well. I'm depending on you, as well as the electric company and the phone company. We'd all appreciate it. :)

How Much Money Do You REALLY Need?


I have to admit, I don't know if I'm right. But, I don't think you should start a hobby specifically to save money. If you do, great, but the first idea should be personal satisfaction. On the other hand, lack of money shouldn't stop you from taking up a hobby.

Starting any hobby needs a cash outlay of some sort. Homebrewing costs less than some other pursuits. At most homebrewing websites, you can get a starter equipment kit, including ingredients for a first brew, for about $60-$90. Mr. Beer has a starter kit for under $40.

Not everyone has extra money lying around, waiting for something to spend it on. Back in 1989, when I started, a kit cost $45, which I didn't have. For over three years, I only could think of what it must be like to have your own homebrew. Then, one year, my father surprised us all by giving us each $50 cash for Christmas. As soon as I opened the envelope, I knew where it was going.

I wouldn't count on that happening. I decided one day to try an experiment. I knew what you needed to make beer. If you gathered your equipment yourself, could you do it more cheaply?

First, I had to determine what you really needed. To make beer, you need something to boil the unfermented beer (called wort), a container to allow the beer to ferment and keep out unwanted microbes, something to store the finished product, and a way to move your beer from one container to the other.

With this list in mind, I set about putting together a homebrew kit, always with the intent of spending as little as possible, without compromising the quality of the beer.

First, the boilpot. A larger pot will cost more (Duh!), so what's the smallest pot I can reasonably use? In brewing, especially starting out, you don't boil the full volume. About a gallon of water along with any malt extract will be enough. So, a pot of at least 2 gallons would be sufficient. I found a 2-gal stainless steel stockpot at my local Sears for $7.

By the way, a smaller pot also means you can do your boil on the stovetop. Boiling a larger volume requires more heat, more than you can get from your stove's burners. You would have to purchase a separate, high-output burner; another expense.

Next, the fermenter. I went to my local fast-food joint, and asked them to let me have one of the plastic jugs their fry oil is delivered in. I got a 5-gallon plastic jug for nothing. I had to wash it several times to get the oil residue out, but it wasn't hard.

For storing the beer, I used the easiest, and most time-consuming, method. We saved our soda bottles and caps. I did ask my wife to stick with 1-liter bottles for awhile. I don't drink enough to empty a bigger bottle before it goes flat. After a couple of weeks, I had 16 bottles.

Now things got a bit more difficult. To move things around, I decided on vinyl tubing, 3/8” inside diameter. But, I immediately had two problems. Can you siphon hot wort from the boilpot to the fermenter? How do you start and stop the flow to fill your bottles?

On the siphoning, I decided to just take a chance and try it. After all, it's an experiment. For filling the bottles, I first looked for a clamp of some kind that I could use on the tubing. I couldn't find anything (maybe it was just me). I decided to take the easy way out, and bought a bottle filler from my local homebrew shop. It cost $3.

Finally, I got seven feet of vinyl tubing from my local hardware store, at $1 a foot. So, how much did I spend, and should have I gotten anything else?

I spent $7 for the pot, another $7 for the vinyl tubing, $3 for the bottle filler, and nothing for the bottles and fermenter. My total was $17.

I picked up a simple canned kit at my local homebrew shop for about 10 bucks, and used the 4 lb. can to make 4 gallons of beer. Everything worked perfectly. I was surprised to find that I could use the vinyl tubing to siphon the hot wort into the fermenter. If I do this again, I will get a funnel, though. Even though it worked, I wasn't comfortable with the hot solution moving through vinyl.

So, at the end, my total cost was $27, which is less than any other kit. The biggest advantage is that it doesn't have to be bought at once. Instead of buying a kit for $40-$90, you can put together your kit a piece at a time, as you have funds.

If you've been thinking of making your own beer, but are short on cash, don't wait for my father. Start planning, and start putting your kit together.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What To Name Your Beer


First of all, I know this isn't for everyone. One of my favorite things about brewing is thinking up names for my beers. I call my mild ale “Born To Be Mild”, and my blond ale is “Dotted Line Ale” (the punch line to a blond joke).

One brewer who I know and respect says he prefers to drink his beer, rather than name it, which is fine. But, coming up with different names is fun for me.

I get help in this from my wife and two children, who are intelligent, well-read, and witty. Not everyone has this advantage.

If you like to name your beers, and need help, here are links to a couple of random beer name generators. Copy the names, or use them as inspiration.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Beer And -um- What?


The other night, I was thinking of having a beer, when I realized I wanted something with it, and we had no snacks. I couldn't go get anything, because my wife had the car. I decided to make something, but what?

I love the internet. After surfing around for a few minutes, I decided on soft pretzels. However, all the recipes I found seemed more work than I wanted to invest. Apparently, classic pretzels are dipped in a boiling lye solution. First of all, I don't have lye. Second, that seems a little risky for a mere snack.

Someone else suggested using a strong baking soda solution. You get a similar flavor, without the danger. OK, better, but still more work than I wanted to do. A compromise seemed in order.

So, I decided to just add a bit of baking soda to my dough. Alkali flavor, no additional work, problem solved. Here's what I decided on for a recipe;

2 cups flour
1 cup sourdough starter
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar

I mixed all this together. Oh, if you don't have any starter, I'm sure a cup of water and a packet of yeast will be fine. The dough came out a little dry, so I added water, by the drop, until I got a nice workable dough. After kneading it a bit, I put it aside to rise for about an hour.


After the hour (or so) was up, I rolled them into ¾ inch logs. If I felt more ambitious, I might have tried a pretzel shape, but I was more interested in just getting done.

The recipes I had seen called for brushing them with an egg wash. When I opened the fridge to get an egg I found...nothing. Ooh, what now? I decided to try brushing them with milk. Then I sprinkled kosher salt on each, and put them in a 400° oven.

I had no idea how long this would take, so I just checked them every 5 minutes. After 15, they looked almost done. At 18, I pulled them out, and let them cool.

Poured myself a beer, grabbed a couple of homemade pretzels, and sat down to watch some stupid TV.



Father's Day With My Son


For Father's Day, my son, Joe, took me out to a local firing range. We always have fun. Here's a short video of me firing an AK-47.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Should I Make Next?


One day, I was sitting, trying to decide what beer to make next. I had made all my old stand-bys, and was in the mood for something different, but I didn’t know what.

I surfed around for a bit, and found something called a random beer generator.

Here are a couple of links.



I used one, and ended up making a vanilla oatmeal blond ale. It was one of the neatest beers I ever made, almost like an alcoholic cream soda.

If you're stuck for ideas, and need to jump start your creativity, I think these just might do the trick,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Budweiser Is Not Bad


Okay, if any of you reading this has experience as a homebrewer, you're going to regard this as heresy. Um, I like Budweiser. I also like Coor's, Schaefer, and Miller. Wait! Before you throw something at the screen, hear me out.

First of all, American Pilsener is a legitimate beer style. It's a light, refreshing beer, perfect for a hot day. It takes a great deal of skill to produce so much beer, at so many different locations, that taste the same. My beer doesn't even taste the same from one batch to the next.

The fault with American beer was not that Bud is a bad beer, it's not. It's that for decades, it was the only beer. When we were growing up, we didn't know there were other choices.

Bud, and Coor's, and the others, have their place. It's all about choice.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What To Make?


One question that often gets asked is, “What should I make?” In my podcast, I often say, “Make the beer you want to drink.” It sounds simplistic, but that's it, in a nutshell.

You know what flavors you like. Make your beer taste that way. Strong,alcoholic beers, malty beers, hoppy beers, beers with fruit flavors,or spices, herbs, or other additives; all are viable options. You're only limited by your own imagination, and wallet.

Which brings me to one of my favorite practices from my own experience. When I found myself short on cash (all too often), I would pick up a cheap can of malt extract, an ounce of hops, throw open the kitchen cabinets, and grab whatever I thought would ferment; brown sugar, molasses, instant oatmeal, fruit preserve. I called it Kitchen Cabinet Ale. It was always different, and always good.

Why Make Beer?


As I opened a homebrew the other day, a thought crossed my mind. Why do I do this?

For anyone doing any hobby, the answer will be different. Back when I first started brewing, it was a fascination with the process. Think of a high school science project.

Then, as I developed my skills and honed my technique, I realized I was also saving money. Finances have always been something of a struggle for us, so that was a major motivation.

Besides the cost factor, something else popped up. I really enjoyed recipe formulation. If you brew, you already know this. By using different base malts, extracts, specialty grains, and hops, there are and unbelievable variety of beers you can make. Then, add to that the other things you can add; different sources of sugar, different spices and herbs. There is no limit to what can be done.

I've noticed one change in our national beer scene. For some time, one of the appeals was that I could make beer I couldn't buy. That is, well, less true than it once was. The beer renaissance we're currently in means that whatever beer you can conceive of, somebody is probably making, somewhere. Beers with citrus, pepper, jalapeno, hazelnut, raspberry, almost anything, are all on the shelves and a store near you. You don't have to brew to find something different.

There are still exceptions. Earlier, I had mentioned my breakfast cereal experiment. I know no brewer is likely to try that any time soon. With all the licensing and copyright issues, it's unlikely we'll see Cap'n Crunch Porter anytime soon. On the other hand, I have no such restrictions. At some point in the future, I will have that, as well as a beer with Lucky Charms, and one with Cocoa Krispies.

Where am I going with this? Well, at the heart, it's a hobby, and the answer is the same as for any hobby. You get satisfaction of some kind from it. It doesn't necessarily have to be completely logical.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Bar Jokes



Honestly, the connection between a brewing blog and bar jokes is, well, a bit of a stretch. But, two things come to mind right away.

Laughing is always good. And it's my blog, so I can do what I want.

So anyway, here are a few of my favorite bar jokes.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says,
"I'll Serve you, but don't start anything."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Two termites walk into a bar. One asks, "Is the bar tender here?
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his
arm and says: "A beer please, and one for the road. “
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
A sandwich walks into a bar.
The bartender says, "Sorry we don't serve food in here."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
A man walked into a bar,sat down, and ordered a beer. As he sipped his drink, he heard a voice say, "My, that's a nice tie you're wearing." Looking around, he saw no one but himself, and the bartender at the end of the bar. He just shrugged and continued with his beer.
After a minute, the voice came again, "That tie goes really well with your shirt, too." Still not seeing anyone, he started to get a little nervous.
Then he heard, "That's a nice jacket, too." He couldn't take it, anymore, and called the bartender.
"Do you hear voices in here?", he asked.
"What kind of voices?", asked the barkeep.
"Y'know your quite good looking, too."
"There! That! Did you hear that?"
"Oh, that!", said the bartender. "Those are the peanuts. They're complimentary!"
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bottling Beer

This is a short video from my son, Joe, showing me bottling a batch of beer and, at the end, sampling the fruits of my labors.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Failure Is Always An Option


Homebrewing isn't always about the beer. For me, anyways, it's sometimes about the process, the learning from failures and mistakes. There's an old quote I remember, I think from Henry Ford; “Every failure is just one step closer to success.”

When something goes wrong, it's an opportunity to learn something new.

I've been conducting an ongoing experiment in my brewing, which serves as a perfect example. Some time ago, I was eating some breakfast cereal. As I often do, I was reading the box, when I noticed the ingredient list. Two of the first three ingredients were sugars. “Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder if you could include this in beer?” That started an interesting journey, which is still going on.

First, I tried the simplest method. I made an extract beer, and just dumped some cereal into the boilpot. It wasn't a complete failure, but it wasn't a success, either. The beer was delicious, with good flavor from the cereal (Cocoa Krispies, by the way). However, there was a LOT of sediment in each bottle, nearly an inch.

So, we try again. To eliminate the sediment, I decided to use raw grain, and add the cereal to the grain during the mash. So, I would extract the sugars and flavors, but leave behind the “yuk”.

Again, the beer was yummy. BUT, we're sitting watching TV one evening when we hear BLAM! And see a stream of beer-colored liquid coming from the cabinet. Oops. Over the next few days, almost every bottle exploded.

Time to re-examine my process again. As I looked things over, I thought that I may have overprimed the bottles. So, I cut back my priming sugar by 50%, and tried again.

The beer was delicious (At least that part worked.), and, after a week, everything seemed fine. However, several weeks later, we heard that BLAM! Again. This time, I got all the bottles out of the cabinet before they could explode, so I only lost one.

That's where I am now. I'm re-examining my process, again. As I think about it, I see two possibilities. First, I may not be converting all the starch to sugar, leaving some starch in the beer to be eaten by bacteria and wild yeast. Second, I may not be fermenting it long enough. One week is usually fine for any beer I had made in the past, and the process does seem to stop.

I think my next step will be to extend the mash time, to ensure complete conversion, and extend fermentation, to ensure all the sugar has been eaten. In any event, once I've nailed down the process, I intend to make a beer with Lucky Charms, my favorite cereal growing up.

Learn To Brew In Two Minutes

 
A short video by my daughter-in-law, Tanya, starring her husband, Joe, showing how to make a batch of beer using the Mr. Beer system. Does it make world-class beer? Well, no. But, it does make good, drinkable beer, and it teaches the basics of the brewing process. I would consider it a very good way to get started in the hobby.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bottle, or Keg?


To bottle or to keg?

Probably every homebrewer since the hobby began has faced this question at one point or another. I've witnessed some rather heated arguments from both sides.

I am not anti-keg. There are reasons to use the system, good reasons. And since it's a hobby, if you want to, well, that's reason enough. There are, however, reasons why it's not for me. And that's what this post is about.

One point often made by homebrewers is time and convenience. When you bottle, it adds about two hours to the process. Each individual bottle must be filled, primed and capped, whereas filling, priming and sealing one keg, is -well- easier.

But, (and I'm only speaking for myself) I really don't find it that inconvenient or tedious. I really enjoy beer, almost every style, but I don't drink a lot. I average about 8 bottles a week. That comes to 96 ounces of beer a week. I brew in 4-gallon batches, which comes to 512 ounces. To finish each batch takes 5 1/3 weeks. Let's say I give away a few from each brew (Who doesn't?). That means I spend an extra two hours bottling every 5 weeks. That isn't too intrusive.

Um, and I like bottling. I enjoy the filling and capping. I like designing and printing labels for each beer. I especially like that when someone asks me to try my brew, I can bring him a bottle.

There's cost. Bottles are free. Either my wife or I will find a commercial beer we want to try, or friends or relatives save their bottles to give me. Caps are around 3 dollars a gross. So, I'm spending about 3 bucks every other month, plus the $35 I spent for a capper.

On the other hand, to start kegging, it would take a somewhat larger investment. Checking the online supplier I usually use, a complete kegging system would cost $155 or more. Um, I don't have $155. Oh, and that's for one keg. If you want to brew another beer, either wait for that keg to empty out, or buy another keg. If someone asks you to try one of your beers, your options are as follows, invite him over (I kinda like that one), carry your keg around town, buy something to allow you to fill a bottle. (Did I mention I already have bottles?)

Now, in looking back at what I've just written, I notice I seem to come across as anti-keg, so let me say a few words in defense of kegging. If you have the funds, and storage space, it is really nice to have several beers on tap in your own home. There is a substantial “wow” factor in saying “You want a beer?”, and pulling one right there. It's not a great inconvenience to fill a few bottles to bring with you.
It just isn't for me.

Summer Beers




As the warmer weather starts, the temperatures go up, you think about something to quench your thirst. This is not the time to sip a barleywine or imperial stout. You want something tasty that you can really chug.

These are two of my favorite choices: ordinary bitters and mild ale. They're both easy-drinking and low in alcohol, so you won't have to concern yourself so much with how much you've had. Also, both are full of flavor.

Lastly, both are very easy to make, and inexpensive.





Once you've tried a glass of bitters, you'll see why it's a mainstay in English pubs. Light and flavorful, it's the type of beer that, in my opinion, goes well with almost any meal.

Ordinary Bitters
-------------------------------

Style: Standard/Ordinary Bitter
Batch: 4.00 gal

Characteristics
---------------
Recipe Gravity: 1.034 OG
Recipe Bitterness: 26 IBU
Recipe Color: 5° SRM
Estimated FG: 1.008
Alcohol by Volume: 3.3%
Alcohol by Weight: 2.6%

Ingredients
-----------
Crystal 10L 0.50 lb, Grain, Mashed
Light malt extract 3.30 lb, Extract, Extract

Generic (4% AA) 1.00 oz, Pellet, 60 minutes
Willamette 1.00 oz, Pellet, 0 minutes

Dry English Ale yeast 1.00 unit, Yeast

This is an extract recipe, because we're concentrating on something that's easy and quick to produce. By using malt extract, we cut over two hours out of our brew session.

The bittering hops are listed as generic, because I usually buy whatever is cheapest that has the right concentration of alpha acids. The Willamette hops are added at the very end of the boil (or in the fermenter) for flavor and aroma.



Mild ale really, I feel, should be much more popular than it is. It's similar in alcohol content and body to bitters. But, with the addition of the darker malts, you get a much different taste, with faint overtones of toast and caramel.

Mild Ale
-------------------
Style: Mild
Batch: 4.00 gal

Characteristics
---------------
Recipe Gravity: 1.036 OG
Recipe Bitterness: 21 IBU
Recipe Color: 21° SRM
Estimated FG: 1.009
Alcohol by Volume: 3.5%
Alcohol by Weight: 2.8%

Ingredients
-----------
American chocolate malt 0.50 lb, Grain, Mashed
Crystal 120L 0.50 lb, Grain, Mashed
Light malt extract 3.30 lb, Extract, Extract

Generic (4% AA) 1.00 oz, Pellet, 60 minutes

Ale yeast 1.00 unit, Yeast

The recipe is almost the same as for bitters, with two differences. As you can see, we use dark crystal instead of light, and we've added chocolate malt, for a darker color and a roasty, toasty flavor.

Mild ale, traditionally, doesn't use any type of flavor or aroma hops. I don't always follow tradition. A little extra flavor is never a bad thing.

These two recipes work well on their own, with no changes. But, it wouldn't be a hobby if it wasn't fun. There are many thing you can do to make these different. Try a different type of hops for flavor. Or, as I've done in the past, replace some of the water with a fruit juice.

Well, as I write this, it's already June, so get brewing!

I'm a brewer, You're a brewer


Over the years, one thing I've always loved about the homebrewing hobby is the range of skill levels it's open to. If you bought a Mr. Beer kit, and make a couple of gallons every few weeks, you're a homebrewer. I f you've set a miniature version of a commercial brewery in your garage, and make 25 gallons of beer a week, you're a homebrewer.
Anyone at these two extremes, and everyone in between, can make good, drinkable beer. As I've said in my podcast, you should make the beer you want to drink. The biggest advantage to brewing with all grain is that fact that you have absolute control over your ingredients. There is no limit to the variety of different types of grain you can use to develop your beer.
If that's important to you. But, you can make really good, even world-class beer, using malt extract. You can make good, drinkable beer using a canned kit. What you use to make beer is determined by what you're capable of, what you can afford, what you have space for, not what some “expert” says you need to use.
I have also seen that homebrewers at either end of the spectrum say bad things about brewers at the other end. Stop it!
If you have the money and time to set up a 25-gallon system in your garage, with a gas-jet fired brew kettle, and a temperature-controlled fermentation tank, well, great! If you have a salvaged 1-gallon jug tucked in the corner of you 3-room apartment, good for you!
Making beer is done by making a sweet solution, and then adding yeast. The yeast eat the sugar, and produce alcohol and CO2 as waste. I read an old saying years ago. It said, “Yeast make beer. Brewers make wort.” The differences in different brewing styles, techniques, is where we get the food for the yeast, that's all.
Everyone, make the beer you want to drink, enjoy your hobby. Just allow others to do the same.

American Politics


I hope you don't mind, but for this first post, I'm going to ignore everything I have in my subject line.

This has been on my mind for a very long time. I am sick and tired of politicians who “hone” or “adjust” their “message”. What I want to hear is what they believe, not what they think we want to hear.

Here is a list of people in politics I've admired: Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Jodi Rell (former CT governor), George W. Bush, Barack Obama.

And here's a list of those I don't especially care for: Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton, John Rowland (former CT governor)

Now, I understand this is all just my own perception, but, that's all I've got. The first list are people who seemed to me to have principles and convictions, and acted on them. The second group all seemed to change their actions and words to accommodate the prevailing opinions of the day.

My own political bent is very much conservative. However, as it stands right now, I'm probably going to vote for Obama. In my opinion, he is a good and decent man, doing what he believes is best. I rarely agree with him, but I like and admire him.

Mr. Romney, on the other hand, appears to say and do whatever he thinks will get him elected. I want someone with something inside, not just someone who will reflect what we say.

There, I've said it. I feel much better, now.