Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Potato Project


How about another garden post? This year we're growing potatoes for the first time, but I'm trying something a little different. One of the problems of growing potatoes in a bed is that potatoes are subject to a wide and interesting variety of diseases and over time your bed will probably develop blight. So you'll need to rotate beds at least every three years. On top of that, potatoes need to be mounded, so they also take up a lot of space.

Or do they? One solution is to grow them in containers. As the plant grows, you 'mound' by raising the dirt level in the container. Every time it is about 4" above the soil you add 3" of new dirt. The plant responds by growing taller, and will start to shoot off future potatoes from the newly buried stalk. When the season is over you can just dump the whole container out on a tarp and sift through it to find the taters. If it looks like there's a disease afflicting one container, it is isolated to that container's soil, which can be disposed of.

I've seen people grow them in a variety of things. Garbage cans, old oil drums, packed earth columns. A stack of old tires is interesting: as the plant grows you just stack on tires and fill with more dirt. So I decided to try a few different things, with the goal of finding something cheap or recycled that works well. At the end of the season I'll weigh the potatoes harvested from each container and compare.

First up are two big storage lugs that I got at Home Depot for about $4 each. They're 18 gallon capacity. I took a 3/8" spade bit and drilled drainage holes all around the bottom. Then put in about 3" of moisture control potting soil. (Potatoes do not like wet toes.) Then put four little Certified Seed Potatoes in and covered them with about an inch of soil. Pros: cheap, easy, big, reusable. Cons: cost $ (though not much), not recycled, possible chemical transfer from cheap-ass plastic?

Second, a cardboard box. I know this seems crazy, and it might be, but hear me out. It only has to last for one season, and if you've ever left cardboard outside for a while it holds up better than you'd think. And at the end of the season I can just toss the whole thing in the compost bin. This one was a leftover box from a 6-gallon carboy, and my only concern is that it may be too small. Poked some holes in the bottom and planted as above, but only three seed potatoes. Pros: free, recycled, compostable. Cons: chance it will completely fall apart on me. But I can always use duct-tape to reinforce it.

Third, a malt bag. A leftover Maris Otter bag to be precise. Took the plastic inside-liner out and rolled the bag down the sides. The plastic mesh should drain well. Filled and planted as above, again only three potatoes. My favorite part: as the plants grow I can just unroll the bag up as it fills, meaning the plants will probably get more light in the early stages (not being shaded by the walls of the container). Pros: free, possibly reusable(?), recyclable, quite large, and the whole-roll-up-thing is neat. Cons: a bit floppy, I'll have to lean it against something as it gets more full.

So now we let them grow. I'm planting "All Blue" purple potatoes and Yukon Golds. All the purples are in, and soon as I get another malt bag and reasonably same size cardboard box I'll get the last of the Yukons in. I'm hoping to end up with 30-40 lbs of each by the end of the season. We'll see.

UPDATE 9/17/10

The Final Results
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let the turnip feast commence!

This Hakurei Turnip was the first non-herb thing harvested from our garden this year!
It was crowding out the others, who are all still a few more days from harvest. It's cute!
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Brewday: Get It Right IPA

I have a confession to make. Two of my most favorite beer styles are IPAs and American Pale Ales, and I haven't ever made a good one. I don't know what it is, but I just never end up making one that I like. Perhaps I'm a bit hyper-critical of my efforts, or perhaps I was getting sub-par hops in Florida. Either way I've got a bit of a New Year's Resolution going... make a good IPA and an APA this year.

Here's the first try. I tend to follow Vinny of Russian River when it comes to IPA theory. Make it light, keep the caramel malts down under 5%, ferment it dry, let the hops speak. It is India Pale Ale, after all. I'm giving Wyeast's Northwest Ale strain a try too, it's the Hale's Ales house strain. I'm using Columbus for bittering because I've got a gallon bag of them from Fremont Brewing in the freezer. Centennials for flavor and aroma, and some Amarillo for aroma too. It will be dryhopped with Cascade and Amarillo, because I've got those in pellet form. Here the conical will shine, I think. Finally, taking a page from the Big Book of British Brewing I'm adding a pound of invert sugar. This should ferment out completely, adding alcohol without boosting body and residual sweetness.

Brewday went well enough, but disaster soon struck. The new conical has a long dial thermometer, which goes down from the lid into the beer. On pitching it said the beer was at 50 degrees, so I got the electric blanket going on full blast to pull it back up. The next day the beer was at 65 on the dial, when I touched the side and noticed that it was markedly warmer than the room. Some swearing commenced and I yanked the thermometer. Some testing with boiling and near freezing water showed that it was off by nearly 20 degrees, and that the beer had been heated to 84 degrees. $#%&*$#@$%^%$##!!!!!!! The cloud of profanity rose into the atmosphere, where it then came down like acid rain all over the city. So if your plants die or your clothes bleach, sorry. Anyhow, the beer was rocking by that point and there was no realistic way to cool it without crashing the yeast. So I had to relax, have a homebrew, and just let it go. We'll see if it's undrinkably full of weird horrible fusel alcohols and phenolics, or whether it survived relatively unscathed. A local brewery, which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, recently had their glycol system go down and an IPA go that hot in one of their fermenters. They couldn't distribute it, for quality control reasons, but I got to try it at the brewery. It was fine. So there's hope. It calmed down to 67 within a couple days. Ugh.

Funny thing about progress: ever notice that when you introduce something new into an established system, something inevitably goes horribly, horribly wrong, causing you to doubt the usefulness of your supposed 'improvement'? The conical has some serious growing pains going on right now.

IPA version 1.0

6 gal., All Grain
OG: 1.065 / FG: 1.014ish
SRM: 7.5
IBU: 65
ABV: 6.5%
  • 11 lbs Pale Malt
  • 1 lb Munich
  • 4 oz Carapils
  • 4 oz Crystal 40
  • 1 oz Chocolate Malt
  • 1 lb Invert Sugar (add in the last few minutes of the boil)
Mash at 154, Mash out at 168. Water Mods: 2 gm Chalk, 4 gm Gypsum, 1 gm Epsom Salts, 1 gm Kosher Salt.

90 min boil:
  • 1.25 oz Columbus (aka Zeus, Tomahawk) leaf at 14.4% AA, First Wort Hop
  • Whirlfloc at 15 minutes left.
  • 1 oz Centennial, leaf, @ 9.5% AA @ 15 min
  • 1 oz Centennial @ 2 min
  • 1/2 oz Amarillo pellets at flameout
  • 1/2 oz Cascade pellets at flameout
  • 1/2 oz Amarillo pellets, dry hop 3 days
  • 1/2 oz Cascade pellets, dry hop 3 days
Yeast is Wyeast Northwest Ale, 1 L starter on the stir-plate. Ferment as I say, 68-70, not as I do, 80-66.

To Make Invert Sugar:

Known as Lyle's Golden Syrup in the UK, invert sugar is just normal table sugar that's been boiled in the presence of an acid. This breaks the sucrose down into glucose and fructose, and sets it as a syrup. Yeast have an easier time eating the simpler sugars, so it ferments out almost completely. This boosts the alcohol, without upping the residual sweetness, resulting in a dryer, lighter tasting beer and upping the yeast's possible attenuation level. And it's easy and cheap to make.
  • 1 lb white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 t Cream of Tartar (tartaric acid. You could also use lemon juice, lactic or phosphoric acid, etc.)
Bring to a boil on the stove for at least 5 minutes or so. The longer you cook it the more it will caramelize. If you want funky, complex caramel flavors cook it somewhere between light amber and black. If you just want it to ferment, without adding color or much flavor, just boil a few minutes until it's clear or light yellow. It'll keep in a jar for months, or you can add it to the last few minutes of the boil, or into the fermenter as high krausen starts to ebb.
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This Sunday the first tomato starts appeared in the Farmer's Market. We had a 2x6 bed all ready to go, but I was concerned about the cold and wet stunting them. We're past any frost danger, but it's still going to be cold and rainy for another month or so. A brilliant solution was arrived at by my lovely wife: use the plastic tarp I'd bought to cover the mound of dirt as a penny-conscious cloche for the bed.

So there it is. Stapled to the back of the bed, suspended over some of last year's tomato cages, and held down in front with some radish pots. It's easily 5-10 degrees warmer in there, and with the ends open it gets good airflow to keep the humidity down. The tarp and cages were technically being reused, and all in all this cost about $1.50. Hopefully, the added warmth of the cloche will let us start harvesting tomatoes in mid-late June, easily a month earlier than normal.

Unfortunately rain is pooling in areas on the top. I go out and knock the puddles off once a day or so, but if this becomes bad I'll go get some PVC and make a more rain-friendly frame.

There are four tomato plants. The first is Sun Gold, cherry tomatoes grow amazingly well in Seattle. Second, Black Prince - a black tomato variety from Siberia, well suited to Northern climates. Third is a variety called Prudence, which I believe is a big ol' beefsteaky heirloom type. Finally, San Marzano Romas, so we can sauce and can some for Fall and Winter. All of these are indeterminate varieties so I'll have to rig a trellising system when they get a bit bigger. I'm done with tomato cages.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brewday: Jasmine IPA

A while back I got my grubby mitts on a recipe for Elysian's Avatar Jasmine IPA. We were living in Miami at the time, seriously missing it; it's one of my wife's faves. Fortunately, I was able to brew a reasonable facsimile. And since I bought jasmine on the internet, it was... in bulk. Nearly a pound of it to be exact. Time to use some more of it.

You may notice that it's a bit low on the IBU side for an IPA. But if you've ever had over-steeped jasmine tea, you know it can get a bit bitter. The problem is how bitter? So err on the light side and let the jasmine do the rest. Also I change the hops in this thing pretty much every time I brew it. This time I had Columbus and Amarillos around, so there you go. I've used Magnum and Horizon to good effect. Any 'clean' flavor and aroma hop will work. In the past I have also noted that the jasmine really doesn't come out until it's finished, cold, and carbonated. So have faith.

Speaking of faith, it was the brewday from hell. Scale decided to freak out, wouldn't measure small amounts. (Turned out the batteries were dying.) Mash-in was off by 15 degrees due to computer error. (I'd changed some of the mash settings in BeerSmith and it didn't adjust for the new hot liquor volume) Then the valve on my Hot Liquor Tank gave out and sprayed my hand with 170 degree water. (Ow ow ow.) I was running out of propane, it started to rain on me, my lighter got wet, and so I had to light the burner with a match, resulting in more burns. (Ow.) But eventually the sun came out and I think the beer will be great. Of course the repitched yeast from the conical took over 24 hours to get going, during which time I'd bought more yeast as a CYA, which I smacked at the store so it would be ready to pitch after we ran some errands downtown. But the car got locked-in overnight in a parking garage with inadequate signage, so the yeast didn't get pitched until another day later. The pack was so swollen, I was afraid it was going to pop in the trunk.

This batch is, apparently, cursed.

JASMINE IPA (*cursed)

5.25 gallons, All Grain
OG: 1.064 / FG: 1.014
SRM: 6
IBU 43
ABV: 6.4%
  • 11 lbs Pale Malt
  • 1 lb Munich
  • 4 oz Crystal 40
  • 4 oz Carahell
Mash at 154. Mash Water Mods: 1 gm Chalk, 3 gm Gypsum, 1 gm Epsom Salts, 1 gm Kosher Salt.

90 minute boil.
  • 3/4 oz Columbus (leaf) @ 14% AA for 90 min
  • Whirlfloc tab at 15 min
  • 1.5 oz Dried Jasmine Flowers @ 10 min
  • 1.5 oz Amarillo (pellet) @ 8% AA for 5 min
  • 1 oz Dried Jasmine at flameout
  • 1 oz Amarillo at flameout
Using Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast. Fermenting in the mid-high 60's.

UPDATE: It bubbled along happily for 8 days, and at transfer to the Secondary it was just fine. Whew.
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Goose Egg


Last Week Seabreeze had goose eggs! Having never had a goose egg, we picked one up. I then carried it around in the padded protection of the pocket of my down vest for an hour while we finished up shopping; all the while envisioning disaster, wherein some lady would push a stroller into me or my seat-belt would crush the egg. Safely home, we poached it, the biggest damn poached egg I've ever seen, and served it on top of a large chef's salad. Excellent.
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Sake Update IV: Racking

After about two weeks in the lager fridge the sake had settled nicely and it was time to rack it off the remaining kasu.

I used two 1-gallon jugs to contain it, which was just about the perfect volume. The jugs went into a hot water bath until they hit an internal temp of 140. Then on went a growler lid.

This should pasteurize them, remove excess co2, and help them keep a lot longer while they mellow a bit. I figure two months should do it. Right now it's technically muroka, or unfiltered sake. But I want it to be seishu, clear sake. So I'll hit them with some bentonite about a week before I run them through my wine filter. Then it's into bottles, re-pasteurize, and drink!

So far taste tests of the muroka have led to a verdict of: delicious. I'm very optimistic about the final product. Just have to wait two months...
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Garden 2010


Check out that gorgeous day in Seattle! The new raised beds are in and the garden is prepped for 2010. We moved right around the beginning of June last year, which sortof cut the preparation/harvest cycle in half. As a result, we grew a few things in pots but it wasn't really on a big scale.

So this year around we decided to do it right. I built three 6' x 2' raised beds in the back, up against the garage and the back fence. The fences in the yard block the sun during part of the day, but the house also blocks afternoon sun in the back, so I decided that this was probably the ideal place. Even this early in Spring it gets sun from about Noon to maybe 5:30, though it's getting dark about 7:30 right now. Oh sweet June ... dark at 10:00. As the sun gets higher in the sky it will get even more sun too. So I think this will work.

Each bed is made from two 8' x 2"x 12"s, and about half a 4' x 4'. Not pressure treated because of poison and not cedar because I'm not made of airports. So it won't last more than a couple years, but hey, we rent. I had trouble organizing the topsoil to fill it. I only needed about a cubic yard, but I also knew I'd need compost. So I settled on a yard of premium garden topsoil from Sky Nursury and a half-yard of compost. Had a local 'man with a van' deliver the small mountain, which cost as much as the soil did. Ugh. But I don't know anyone in town with a pickup, and the hassle of U-haul was worth the $10 savings to have this guy pick it up for me. And he was quick and relatively cheap. Anyhow, last weekend we got to work with shovels and now the beds are in.

All told the garden now has:
  • Snap Peas
  • Ruby Spinach
  • Various Lettuces
  • Purple Mustard Greens
  • Green Onions
  • Shallots
  • Leeks
  • White (Hakurei) Turnips
  • Mizuna
  • Thyme, Parsley, Chives, Rosemary
I'm gearing up to plant some Yukon Gold potatoes soon as my seed potatoes start to sprout. This will be its own weird post. Some radishes will go in one of the beds to kill the time until tomatoes are in season. Yard Long beans will go up against the trellising in the middle bed next month.
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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Razor Clams

A week ago we went out for one of the Northwest's favorite foraging edibles: Razor Clams. It's been a week and I've been trying to figure out the best way to write about it. Ultimately, I think the photos probably tell most of the story.

None of us had ever gone Razor Clamming before, so we had only a vague idea about what was involved. The WA State Dept of Fish and Wildlife has a comprehensive and helpful website, so we began there. Digs are strictly regulated, and often the beaches are only open for a couple tides at a stretch. We chose Saturday the 27th, which had an evening tide and coincided with the Ocean Shores Razor Clam festival, so we figured it would be a popular day to go. The State divides the major clamming areas into five management zones: Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis Beach, Mocrocks, and Kalaloch. Having never been to most of the beaches we just headed for the coast and figured we'd play it by ear.

Of course, there's really no quick way to get to the coast from Seattle. Puget Sound and the Olympics are in the way, after all. So we left Seattle about 10 AM. A brief stop at the Cabela's in Lacey scored us a new PC clam gun for $12, and one day razor clamming licenses ($7) for those who needed them. By noon we were at Fish Brewing in Olympia for a tasty lunch and beer procurement. Then another two and a half hours or so to get to the beach. We decided to avoid Ocean Shores, due to the festival, and instead headed up Copalis Beach, ultimately parking at Griffiths-Priday State Park.

There is not a whole lot there, but free parking, beach access, and a bathroom counts for a lot. So we unloaded gear, strapped on waders, grabbed shovels and clam gun, and set off toward the beach. Of course, the roadway to the beach had washed out, and with dunes, cars and many people in sight on the beach, we still had to walk along the Copalis River for about a quarter mile to reach a footbridge. Fortunately, for March, it couldn't have been a nicer day.

Next time we're definitely going to just drive on the beach though. It's legally a state highway after all.

There were already dozens of people pulled up there, busily clamming away as the tide retreated. We got to work.

We weren't having a lot of luck. In fact, the only razor we bagged in the first hour and a half was one that I found at the tideline. Presumably it fell out of someone's bag, but it was still alive and fine. Finders keepers.

We then tried an area where no one else was and, surprise, had no luck there. Turns out that the Copalis River went into the ocean there, so we assume the freshwater was too much for little clam tolerances. So we went a bit further up the beach, and after some helpful conversations with people toting full catch-bags we started to get the hang of it.

Basically you're looking for tiny, nickle-sized indents in the sand, which take some time to recognize but eventually become easy to spot. Then you start digging, trying hard not to damage the clam's brittle shell. They're usually about 4-5 inches long, and can dig nearly a foot a minute, so you need to chase the little buggers up to your elbow, sometimes further. I had good luck using my clam shovel to dig most of the dirt away, then reaching in and feeling around until I could pull out the clam.

Meredith's weapon of choice was the Clam Gun. Basically, it's a sharpened 4" PVC tube, with a handle attached on top and a small hole drilled in the endcap. You work the tube down around the clam, put your thumb over the hole (creating suction) and (bend with the knees!) you pull out a tube of sand. Two or three times doing this and if you're lucky there will be a nice intact clam in the last shot of sand. No fuss, no muss.

In theory, anyway. Apparently I suck at the Clam Gun. I had one major success with it, and a whole lot of failures.

Meredith seemed to get the hang of it though, and was the first to catch her limit: 15 clams. Queen of the Razor Clams that day, who'd have thought a marine biologist would be good at this kind of thing?

As the light dimmed and the tide turned, the remaining three of us only had 1/2-3/4 of our limits. We'd just decided to call the day a partial loss and head home, when we picked up the backpack we'd brought along. There, underneath, was a clam hole! And near it, another! As the tide had gone further out, apparently the beach had drained and now the holes were easy to spot. A half hour of running around "Look, there's one! There's one! There's three!" and we all had our limits. 60 razors in total. Sweet...

Victory. Cold, wet, tired, sore and sandy victory.

We headed home as the sun set. Three and a half hours later we were back in Seattle, almost 12 hours to the minute after leaving it. The clams were kept alive overnight on trays in the fridge, covered in layers of wet paper towels. The next day everyone got back together to clean, cook, and divvy up the spoils.

Unlike Atlantic Razors, the big Pacific ones need to be shelled, gutted and cleaned before cooking. And after an hour or two of cleaning the clams, an unpleasant business, we ended up with about eight pounds of ready to go clam steaks. Not too shabby, considering they sell for $15 a pound.

For dinner we cooked them three ways. I took some of the more abused ones and chopped them up for a Razor Clam chowder. Wine, leeks, potatoes, cream, homemade bacon, razors. Excellent. Just made it up as I went along, no recipe.

Next I made a sortof pseudo-Spanish thing, using some of my chorizo, a shallot, some garlic, bay and thyme, and roughly chopped razors. Good, but went really excellently on toast the next day!

Finally, ask most razor clam fans and they'll tell you: fried is best. So I panko-ed up some strips and fried them until crispy and delicious, about a minute a side. I made up a cocktail sauce using ketchup, Worcestershire, lemon, Sriracha and wasabi. It was outstanding.

So we divvied them up into 1/2 pound containers and stashed them in the freezer. I'll bring them out from time to time.

Last night, for example, I made a sortof Northwest Springtime Paella using stuff from my fridge. Razor clams, chicken, pork, chorizo, mussels, fiddleheads, peas, bell pepper, leek, onion, garlic, olives, risotto rice.

And I managed not to light the pan on fire too! Though it still bears the scars.

There's three more Razor Clam tides scheduled two weeks from now. But they are all morning tides, which means we'd have to camp overnight. Think I'll pass, and maybe go for some littlenecks instead. Though there is talk of another tide in May...
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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Brewday: All Blacks IPA

Black IPA. Legitimate beer style or marketing gimmick? A lot of breweries out there are marketing Black IPAs to legions of weary West Coast palates right now. There's also a fair amount of derision regarding these beers. Are the breweries brewing it because it's actually good, or just because it's different? Does it really matter?

Blackening beers is a bit of a cliche in craft brewing. Oooh you added some Black Patent or Roasted Barley to a Wit. You rebel you. But I think that, done properly, it actually creates a different olfactory experience and thus, a different beer. I've been playing with Blackening things for a bit and here's a bit of somewhat uppity theory I've come to follow.

There's a French saying in cooking: "First the eyes, then the nose, then the taste." Your first impression of something you're going to eat or drink comes from its visual appeal, so first and foremost it should look good on the plate or in the glass. This is where Black IPAs show their legitimacy as a style. The visual shock of a dark, near black, beer stands in contrast to the expected straw to amber of a normal IPA, creating a sense of delight in the unfamiliar. Next, it should smell good. Complex, intense hoppiness confirming that yes, this is indeed an IPA. Finally the taste. It should taste like an IPA, and only an IPA. Similar to a Schwarzbier, the predominate flavors should not be in any way bitter, astringent, or roasted. You want all the color of a stout with none of the flavor. Perhaps a bit of roast is unavoidable, so if there is any it should be mellow and compliment the overarching style. If there's too much, congrats if it's still good, but you've made a Robust Porter or an American Stout. So with this in mind I set out to craft a recipe.

Recipe: All Blacks IPA 1

Naming a beer can be a bit tricky sometimes. The working title for this beer was The Black Sun IPA, named after the virtual hacker nightclub in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. But that term also has weird esoteric Nazi-SS significance, and as a general rule you never want to cause confusion when it comes to Nazis. So instead I decided to dedicate it to my favorite rugby team, the New Zealand All Blacks.

The All Blacks are best known for their performance of the Haka, a traditional Maori dance, before each game. It's outstanding.

All grain, 5.25 gallons
O.G. Est 1.063. F.G. Est 1.015
Act O.G. 1.068, Est FG 1.017
SRM: 28-30ish
IBU: 64
Est ABV 6.3%, Act closer to 6.6%
  • 10 lbs US 2-Row (Great Western)
  • 1 lb Munich
  • 1 lb Carahell
  • 4 oz Crystal 40
Mashed at 149. Mash Water Treatment: 2 gm Chalk, 2 gm Gypsum, 1 gm Calcium Chloride, 1 gm Epsom Salts, 1 gm Kosher Salt. Knock out at 168.

The Blackening. You'll notice that there is no dark malt in the grain bill. To keep the astringency and roastiness down, we're taking a page out of coffee brewing: the cold brew method. By soaking your ground coffee in the fridge overnight before pressing, you can create a very flavorful cup of coffee with none of the bitterness caused by the hot brew methods. So to blacken the beer, I started with 1 lb of Carafa II Special, a dark roasted and dehusked malt from Weyermann. Ground it up in a food processor, the finer the better. Put it in a pyrex bowl and added about 1.25 pounds of cold water. Stirred it around until it there were no dry pockets. Then into the fridge overnight.

At Sparging, I drew off about three gallons, then strained the Carafa and added the black liquid to the top of the mash tun and sparged the rest as normal. In retrospect I would add the carafa extract right after the grain bed is set, I lost a fair bit of color by waiting that long. Next time I may also just add the Carafa grinds to the top as well, rather than straining them out. I'm going to have to ponder that one.

90 minute boil.
  • 1 oz Centennial (10% AA) as First Wort Hop
  • .5 oz Columbus (14.4%) at 60 minutes. (I'm an idiot and added 1 oz without thinking, so this batch is probably closer to 85 IBUs. D'oh!)
  • Whirlfloc at 15 min.
  • 1 oz Centennial at 5 min.
  • 1 oz Cascade at 0 min.
  • 1 oz Cascade as Dry Hop, 5 days.
Pitched a packet of Saf-05 American Ale yeast that I'd made a starter of the night before.

This seemed like a great opportunity to try out my new toy, a 15 gallon Mini Brew conical fermenter. This was the Best-In-Show Prize for the Cascade Brewers Cup, as well as some other great prizes including De Clerck's A Textbook of Brewing. Time to try it out!

Things were chugging along swimmingly but after 10 days it does seem like it's stalled out at 1.020. The thermometer on top showed why, it was down to 62. It was going along fine at about 67-68 while fermentation was active, but cooled as fermentation slowed. My house is 65 in the day and 58 at night, so it's been dropping temp and that's caused the yeast to drop out. Also, it wasn't as black as I wanted it to be, thanks to my adding the carafa too late to the sparge. So my two-fold solution was to take my last half-pound of Carafa II Special, grind it, place it in a grain bag, steep it in a quart of water on the stove at 150 for 20 minutes, then drain and add the hot black liquid on top. This upped the temp to 66 and stirred things up a bit, while adding color and hopefully not too much dissolved oxygen. I moved the whole thing closer to a heating register and it seems to have maintained that temp. We'll see. Before I brew another beer in it I'm going to go get a small, cheap electric blanket for the conical. Otherwise I'm fairly happy with it so far.
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