Beer ingredients purchased

Just got back from Maryland Homebrew, and I think we’ve got everything we need to brew. OK, we might need a bag of ice for cooling the wort. I will check on our ice situation tonight. As noted earlier, I’m straying a bit from the original recipe. Here’s my list of substitutions:

  • Substituted Cooper’s amber malt extract for Munton’s
  • Substituted Munton’s dark plain malt extract for Munton’s stout kit
  • Substituted White Labs 011 “European Ale” yeast for Wyeast #1007 German Ale yeast
  • Substituted Breiss amber dry malt extract for Munton’s light/amber

The biggest change was using the plain dark extract in place of the stout kit. MDHB does not stock the Munton’s stout kit, but it presumably uses hopped malt extract. Hopefully the use of unhopped extract will not affect the balance of the finished product too much. We’ll find out.. that’s the fun of homebrewing. I may have skipped the stout kit even if it was in stock — the kits run $5 more than the plain extracts, and include extra yeast that I don’t need.

Everything I read about the White Labs yeasts says that they work best with a starter culture, so I will prepare one tomorrow night. I’ve used the White Labs stuff at least once before (since MDHB stopped carrying Wyeast) and I believe I used a starter culture then, too.

Big Dig, brewing update, etc

Today was the Big Dig at our house, where we had our old, leaky water line replaced with a brand, shiny new one. The new line is polyethylene. It has the advantage of being lots cheaper than copper, and it’s a single, continuous run of approximately 250′ from the house to the meter. We got a new shutoff valve as part of the deal, replacing our old gate valve that I never completely trusted. And of course, as with everything in this house, there’s a catch that I didn’t realize until a few minutes ago. Our electrical service was grounded to the old copper water service, so we’ve effectively just cut off our house ground. Lovely, huh? Looks like I’m going to be driving a ground rod or two in the near future. Got to do it soon, before the ground freezes. Sigh..

Tomorrow I’m off to the homebrew supply place to pick up ingredients for the beer we’re brewing this weekend. I did a little web shopping there last night, and it looks like I’m going to need to make a couple of substitutions, in particular a different kind of yeast. I think the beer will still turn out fine, and of course I’ll document the final recipe we follow here.

Leaf removal began in earnest today, much later than most years because the leaves stayed on the trees so late into November. As with past years, I’ll be mulching a bunch with the chipper shredder, and frantically trying to get the rest out for yard waste pickup before the county stops the service for the winter.

I also ordered a new, kinda pricey hard top cover for our pool table today. The hope is that it’ll protect the table as it gets used for laundry sorting, gift wrapping, crafts, etc. And at some point in the future, when we have massive, wild parties in the basement, we can use it as a buffet table. Hope it works as advertised. I did get a pretty good price on it.


Here we are in lovely Ocean City, MD for Thanksgiving.  You know you’re getting older when it becomes more appealing to go to O.C. this time of year than in the summer.  It’s nice and laid-back here, although not surprisingly, a lot of the seasonal places are closed.  Can’t wait to see what Avon, N.C. is like in March.

Finished winterizing the pool the other day, just before we left for the beach.  As I had hoped, I was able to nurse the air compressor through it and get the lines blown out.  The compressor seems to be fine as long as I manually shut it off at around 100-110psi of tank pressure.  For some reason it doesn’t properly shut off on its own any more.  It just keeps going until the safety valve pops.  I thought replacing the pressure switch would fix it, but no luck there.  So I’m not sure what the problem is.

When we get back from our beach getaway, I’ll need to get busy clearing leaves and winterizing the tractor.  I’ll be happy when all the fall outdoor chores are done with.

Saturday update

Got a start on winterizing the pool today, with occasional breaks to shoo Andrew off the pool cover.  I drained the water down below the tile line and added chlorine and algaecide.  The water was nice and clean even after a month of neglect.  Wonder if the algaecide I added last month helped.  Anyways, tomorrow I hope to get out earlier and get the bulk of the work done.  Not sure if I’ll get to blowing out the return lines.  We’ll see.

On the calendar front…  turns out Sunbird is not buggy after all as I had assumed yesterday.  Apple’s iCal exhibits similar behavior.  It appears that if I have events with RECURRENCE-ID properties, somewhere there needs to be an event that “defines” the recurrence with an RRULE or RDATE property.  Oracle Calendar’s output is missing this “defining” event.  I thought briefly about trying to “fix” the recurrences by adding RDATEs, etc. to the iCalendar output, but I think that’s more trouble than it’s worth.  I’m just going to try rewriting the recurring events as separate events, giving them unique IDs based on the start date of the event.  I’ll try it out Monday and see how it goes.

Time to brew!

It’s been a long time since we’ve brewed a beer. Going by my financial software (which is going to be indispensable when I write my memoirs), the last time I bought homebrew ingredients was June 21, 2000, and according to Oracle Calendar, we brewed an Amber Ale on the following Saturday, the 24th. That’s practically a lifetime ago. If I recall, we picked an Amber Ale in honor of Alaskan Amber, which we had consumed large quantities of during our recent trip to Alaska. By 2000, I had brewed several batches of beer and was just starting to perfect my routine. Now I’m going to have to see how much of that I can remember. I also need to dig through my brewing stuff to see if I need any new equipment, supplies etc. I know I need a new bucket or carboy for primary fermentation, plus some plastic siphon tubing and possibly bottle caps. We’ll see what else, I guess.

Here’s the recipe we’ve chosen. It’s very seasonably apropos. Cathy sent it to me in November 2000, and it’s sat in my inbox ever since.

Anne’s Choice Christmas Ale

Contributed By: Mare
Ingredients for 5 gallons:

  • 3 1/3 pounds Munton and Fison Stout Kit
  • 3 1/3 pounds Munton and Fison amber malt extract
  • 3 pounds Munton and Fison light/amber dry malt extract
  • 1/2 ounce Hallertauer hops (55 minutes)
  • 3/4 pound honey (simmer 45 minutes)
  • 5 three-inch cinnamon sticks (simmer 45 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons allspice (simmer 45 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 6 ounces ginger root
  • 6 rinds from medium-sized oranges (simmer 45 minutes)
  • 1/2 ounce Hallertauer hops (five minutes)
  • Wyeast No. 1007 German ale liquid yeast
  • 7 ounces corn sugar to prime

Original specific gravity: 1.069
Final specific gravity: 1.030
Primary fermentation: 14 days at 61 degrees F (16 degrees C) in glass
Age when judged (since bottling): six months

Brewer’s specifics: Simmer spices and honey for 45 minutes. Boil malt and hops 50 minutes. Add finishing hops and boil five minutes. Cool, strain, and pitch yeast. (Note: Honey/spice mix is added to the wort just before cooling. They are not boiled together.)

I think I’ll throw a page up on my wiki to document my brewing procedure, as I recall it in bits and pieces.

On a totally unrelated note, I can’t believe that it’s mid November and most of the leaves are still up on the trees. By this time last year, the yard was knee-deep in them. So far this year, I haven’t even touched a rake yet. I’m sure the extremely warm October had something to do with it, or maybe it just hasn’t been windy enough yet, but whatever, it’s really strange.

Bedroom wiring finished

Finished up the master bedroom fan switch wiring this weekend. It turns out that after I removed the downstream wiring from the box, I was able to fit the switch in the box just fine. No need to muck around in the attic pulling new wire. Five years ago, when I had more time on my hands, I probably would have pulled that wire. But now, if there’s a shortcut to be taken, I’m taking it.

I also replaced the rest of the outlets in the room. On the last outlet I replaced (the outlet to the left of the closets, behind Cathy’s dresser) the outlet box was a little screwed up… kind of hard to describe, but it’s one of those boxes that can be expanded by removing the side and ganging it together with another box. And anyhow, the removable side, which was attached to the adjacent stud, was loose, and the rest of the box was a little loose and crooked. I fixed it up the best I could, but in a perfect world, the box should really be replaced. Again though, that’s one to put on the list for some mythical time in the future when I have lots of spare time.

I also winterized the pressure washer and finished hooking up the unloader line on the air compressor. As of today, I haven’t yet managed to psyche myself up enough to turn it on and see if it works.

So all in all, not a bad weekend around the house.

Calendaring revisited

It’s been a year or so since I gave up on my home-grown calendar sync setup.  It was nice for awhile, then we upgraded our Oracle Calendar server, it broke, I tried to fix it and didn’t get very far, and that was the end of that.  Well, as it happens, there’s been some recent interest in an Oracle-calendar-to-iCalendar gateway at work, so I decided to drag my old stuff out and try again.  And it turns out, things have improved in a year’s time.  First off, the Oracle Calendar SDK seems to be more reliable.  I used to get lots of internal library errors, particularly when trying to download large chunks of calendar data.  But that doesn’t seem to be happening now (I know, famous last words).  And on top of that, the iCalendar output is much cleaner.  For example, recurring events are now properly tagged with RECURRENCE-ID properties, so recurrences “just work” now without any extra work on my part.  There are still a few little quirky things, but by and large, it’s a huge improvement.

Also improved is Sunbird, Mozilla’s standalone calendar app.  It’s still a little rough around the edges, but it seems much more robust than previous versions.  I’d eventually like to use Sunbird as my main calendaring app everywhere, because it’s cross-platform and it allows interactive editing of subscribed WebDAV calendars (unlike Apple’s iCal).  The only stumbling block is my old, crusty Palm PDA, which only syncs with iCal.  Much as I’ve liked the Palm PDAs I’ve used over the years, I’m wondering if it isn’t time to start thinking about something different.  It’d be great to have something with functionality similar to Sunbird’s, in a PDA form factor.  Never going to get that with something that relies on desktop sync.