Monday, December 9, 2013

Job at Schooner Exact!

After two weeks of full-time work/on-the-job training, I can honestly say that I love my job at Schooner Exact.

The kitchen is small, so small that when we have four or five people working in there together, it can feel pretty crowded, especially when everyone needs counter space for prep. But most of the time, we only have two or three people working at a time, and space is less of an issue. The kitchen is also terribly under-equipped. We have no hood, and our hot line consists of one residential stove with four electrical (Not gas. Electrical!) burners, and the oven underneath, which is usually set to broil. We do have the advantage of having access to a HUGE walk-in fridge. Most of it is occupied with kegs, bottles, and other brewing-related things, but we are not lacking in refrigerator space. Despite some of our limitations, we manage to put out some kick-ass food. Definitely a step above the kitchens I've worked in in the past.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New city, new job!

About a month ago,  Sara and I took a minivan, packed a much of our belongings as we could safely squeeze into/on top of the van, and drove across the country. It was a beautiful five day drive. We saw old friends, beautiful views, took a detour to Yellowstone, and pretty much just had an awesome road trip. Sara had just got a new camera, and we took literally thousands of photos along the drive. At the end of it all? We arrived at our new home:


That's right. I moved from a tiny village of 600 people to a city of 3.5 million. It's a bit of a shock, realizing just how many people live here. But I'm getting used to it, and Sara and I are starting to get our bearings and learn our way around the city. After allowing myself a few weeks of lazy, restful unemployment, I started the job hunt. And after two weeks of applications, cover letters, and resume updates, I finally found a job that looked nice, and seemed to like me. As of Monday, I start as a full-time cook at Schooner Exact Brewing Co.

So, that's the life update in a nutshell. New job in a new city.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

You know you're a brewer when...

Hah! I found this in my drafts folder, and thought I would share:

"The furnace at my house broke the other day. I noticed the house seemed colder than usual Monday morning, but didn't really think much of it.  I left for work and the house was still cold, but not that cold.  But that evening I received a text from my mother: Furnace broken. Sleeping at Nonnie's. "

The furnace was dead in the middle of January. We were staying in my grandparent's house to keep warm. And I had cider fermenting. I don't remember all the details, but by the time I got home from work, the house was in the 50's. I packed some clothes and toiletries for the night, grabbed the carboy of cider, and headed to a warmer house.

You see, my first thought when I got the text was not to worry about pipes bursting or houseplants dying or trying to sleep in a cold house. It was concern that the yeast I was using in the cider would not be happy fermenting below 65 degrees.

In the end, things worked out just dandy. The cider survived, fermented out completely, and is waiting to be bottled (probably this weekend).

10,000 Hours

I've been listening to Macklemore's Ten Thousand Hours (google it if you want to listen...), and it's got me thinking. The general theme of the song and Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-Hour rule is this: to become truly great in your field, you should amass over 10,000 hours of experience. And while there are some that discredit this idea, arguing that lucky breaks and natural talent are just as important, the basic idea still remains.

If you want to be the best at something, spend time doing it.

Which is a problem for me. While I may not want to the the best brewer in the world, I sure as hell want to be a good one. And yet, I am not brewing (or studying brewing) often enough.  If you assume about 5 hours per batch of beer (brewing, racking, bottling, etc) and look at the number of batches I've made (around 30), I haven't even broken 4 digits. Even if we include time spent studying brewing techniques and related information  I'm still not sure I'm at 1000 hours. While I'm not hung up on the exact number of hours, the number is a quantitative answer to otherwise binary or qualitative questions (am I a good brewer/have I become a better brewer?).

And am I a good brewer? Given the feedback I've gotten from friends and family, I'd say yes. Most of the beer drinkers I know who have tried my brews have only (or at lest mostly) favorable things to say about my beers. One went as far as to tell me I consistently make the best home-brew he's tried (this might be partly due to the fact that I don't share the bad beers. I make myself drink them as punishment). However, I finally entered my first beer into a home-brew competition (hosted by Right Brain Brewery) and the results were not great. I had a average score of 33 out of 50.

Now there are several qualifiers I should through in. I don't know the number of entrants (though it was at least around 50. My beer was #47), I don't know the average score, and not every beer was reviewed by every judge. However, I can say that I did not win the overall competition, I did not win any of the style categories, and my beer only got a 30 from the Cicerone who judged. I'll post more about that beer and the feedback I got later.

The point is, there is definitely room for improvement. And how will I improve? By brewing over and over and over, learning from (and drinking) my mistakes, and celebrating my successes by repeating them (so I can understand what did work).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The New Project

So, in my last post, I hinted at a new brewing project. And I realize I've kept all of my loyal readers (all three? five? of you) waiting for too long. So here it is, my new goal:

Brew every BJCP beer style.
23 categories.
80 styles of beer.
And I want to do it in under a year.

Some clarifications:
I'm going by the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines, 2008 revision. I'm only attempting the beers in this goal. I might brew a few ciders and meads, but they are not part of this goal. I made my first batch on February 1, 2013 (13C, Oatmeal Stout). I want to have everything fermented and bottled by the 31st of January, 2014. The bottle conditioning/aging doesn't need to be finished, as long as it's in a bottle (or keg, if I get into kegging by then.

So, what have I done since I started a month ago?

Not much. The afformentioned Oatmeal Stout (13C), and today I am brewing a Guinness clone (13A, Dry Stout). I had originally planned to go crazy and do all 5 stout styles, and then realized that the weather is getting warmer, and stouts aren't exactly a spring beer... so I'll shelve the other three stouts till the fall.

What's next?

I'm not really sure. I do know I want to do some lighter beers (Light lagers, Pilsners, Wheat beers), and I have some Belgian Ale yeast in my fridge, so I'll prob do some Belgians at some point soon, too. I don't have an exact plan on how to pick what to brew..., so I'll probably just brew whatever I feel like, while trying to keep the beers seasonally appropriate. Given that I have 78 styles to get through in 46 weeks... it'll be a fun year, with lots of brewing.

Also: while 80 batches sounds like a LOT of beer, I'm only doing 1 gallon batches. While I may upgrade to a 3-gallon system in the future, I prefer brewing small batches frequently to larger batches infrequently. 1-gallon batches means I won't get stuck with way too much beer (like that has ever been a problem), and will stay within the legal limit. (200 gal/household...)

Monday, January 21, 2013


So, I haven't posted in a while. This is not just because I'm lazy (though that is part of it). I've been dealing with depression that slowly became more and more debilitating, until it was finally diagnosed as the psychological manifestation of Lyme disease. As treatment, I had a tube stuck in my arm for a month so I could shoot antibiotics directly into my veins every day (yay PICC line!). But now that's all done and over with, I can go back to being my usual crazy self, rather than the weirdly emotional and depressed former self.

So, what have I been up to? All sorts of fun stuff. I just bottled three different beers, and I can't wait to crack them open.
From left to right:
Soulless Stout: A malty stout I've made before. Forgot to take an OG reading this time, so I'm not sure of the alcohol. Also, I bottled it at 1.020, so I might have a few bottle bombs on my hands.
Mt. Hood SMaSH Lager: The name says it all. A pale lager made with 2-row barley and Mt. Hood hops. It's like a long-lost, forgotten beer to me. I left it in the basement and forgot about it for a few months.
? IPA: It literally is a question. I have no written record ANYWHERE of what this actually is. I think it's an IPA I made back in November, but I'm not really sure.

I was also looking back at some other posts on my blog, and I came across the post about my Brewing Project List. So I decided to see what I've taken care of, and what still might happen in the future.
 - SMaSH Lagers. Done. See above.
 -  Free Beer. Not yet.
 - Courthouse Ale. Never got around to making more. I still might, but I have other beers I want to do first.
 - Soulless Stout. Done. See above (though I haven't used it for any variations yet).
 - A proper IPA. Done. More than once, if the ? IPA turns out to be an IPA.
 - A proper Dopplebock. Not yet.
 - Meade. Haven't made any more yet.
 - Hard Cider. Made some, and have more fermenting,
 - Sake. Soon. I'm ordering ingredients for it this week.
 - Pumpkin Ales. Done. One was tasty, one had to be tossed.
 - Gruit Ales. Not yet.
 - Gluten Free Beer. Not yet.

Overall, I'd say I hit quite a bit of the list, considering I didn't really consult it after I made it. There are still things to keep me busy on it, but I'm actually shelving all of this for a new brewing plan. I'll post more about that in the near-ish future.