BLOGGING UNDER the INFLUENCE

This is a Blog. Posts are subject to personal influences including, but not limited to:
Home-brewed and Craft beer. Being a Stay at home Dad. Motorcycling. Fitness, in the relm of triathlon, cycling and mountain biking. Basically, anything that I deem blogworthy, or just decide to post.
Cheers!

Monday, January 27, 2014

If the shoe doesn't fit....

A year ago, I bought one of my dream bikes. A Ducati Monster. Ever since I saw one for the first time in a motorcycle magazine, when I was in High School, I always wanted one. "Naked bikes" don't get any better looking that the Monster! Since those days, I have spent ten's of thousands of miles on an Adventure Touring bike, the Suzuki V-strom 650. That bike really fit me well, ergonomically, as well as my motorcycling personality.

It didn't take long for me to both fall in love with the Monster, as well as have some buyer's remorse. As a guy that is 6ft tall, and well over 200lbs, the Monster is a small bike for me. Great for around town, and the short 30min run to our monthly breakfast meet-up. The problems start at about 45min in the saddle, and/or on a long straight road. The combination of sporty ergo's and total lack of wind protection, made me miss my trusty old Strom, even though the sound, looks and power of the Duc were quite visceral.

I started looking at the newest crop of ADV bikes, and had several that I thought I would thoroughly enjoy for years to come. The short list was:
2010+ Triumph Tiger 800xc
2014 Suzuki Vstrom 1000
2008+ BMW GS/GSA
2014 KTM Adventure/Adventure R

Talked it over with my most trusted motorcycling advisors. I also had to clear this new possible motorcycle switch with the boss. After much debate, I ended up trading in the Monster on a 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure R. I have only ridden it twice, but so far, it is overwhelmingly great!! Street, gravel, dirt and on the open highway, it's good. Nearly perfect! I can see wanting a tad more wind protection on long trips, but that isn't anything that a larger windscreen won't fix.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Helluva Christmas!

Can I even say that? Sorta sacrilegious isn't it.

Well, we here at BUI had a wonderful holiday. Kids got tons of gifts. Wife like most of her stuff. She was not too thrilled with the cool vintage looking handbag I got her from Lux de Ville. It's rad, but not really her style. I told her it's just for fun, and going to Reverend Horton Heat shows, and stuff. I'm hoping we can find her a dress to go with it for Rock and Roll Prom in Kansas City this spring. Yeah, you heard me!

After Christmas, myself and my son caught some nasty stomach bug. He was only sick overnight, thank God! On the other hand, I was sick all night, and all the next day. Finally feeling a little better before bed, and pretty good the next day. Tough stuff, this getting old is. On top of that, I had a head cold, and have seemed to pass it on to my wife and daughter. She slept horribly last night. If only you could see the bags under my eyes.

This is all really boring though, isn't it!

PLANNING A BREW DAY WITH ZOID

My good buddy, and fellow homebrewer Dan (aka: zoid) are going to brew up an Oatmeal Stout, and split the batch. I'm sure we will use different yeasts, and I may do some fun stuff with mine. Oak? Bourbon? Cherries? Vanilla beans? Not sure yet. We are still in the base recipe stage, but I think we're close. Just need to find the time to brew it. Hopefully within the next three weeks!

THE IPA

A few weeks back, I brewed the recipe that won the National Homebrew Competition Gold Medal. It's now in the keg, and it's really good. I've really got to be in the mood for that hop monster!! I think I would change the recipe a tad, for my taste. It's more of a double IPA, without enough malt backbone. Maybe my fault, but I brewed it per the recipe, so I'm not sure about that.

Here's the Recipe:

NHC GOLD! IPA - Greg Ulans V2.0

American IPA (14 B)



Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 8.24 gal
Boil Time: 120 min
End of Boil Vol: 6.24 gal
Final Bottling Vol: 5.05 gal
Fermentation: Basement During Winter


Date: 26 Sep 2013
Brewer: Kurt - Recipe from Gregory Ulans
Asst Brewer:
Equipment: Blichmann
Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 79.4 %

11 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 82.1 %
1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 2 7.1 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3 3.6 %
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Mash 60.0 min Hop 4 3.4 IBUs
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - First Wort 120.0 min Hop 5 20.7 IBUs
1 lbs Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM) Sugar 6 7.1 %
2.00 oz Magnum [14.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 87.7 IBUs
0.50 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 45.0 min Hop 8 18.7 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 9 6.6 IBUs
1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 10 -
2.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 11 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 12 0.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) [50.28 ml] Yeast 13 -
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Primary 7.0 days) Other 14 -
2.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days Hop 15 0.0 IBUs
1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days Hop 16 0.0 IBUs



Cheers!
Kurt

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dennis "Anti Hero" Matson

The man. The myth. The legend.


Never heard of him? That doesn't surprise me.
Here is the story in a nutshell:
A guy about 40 has had a tough go of it for the last couple years. Health problems, and what not. Then his girlfriend calls it quits on him. What's a guy to do? Well. This particular guy, Dennis, went out and bought the motorcycle that he has always wanted. A brand spankin' new Ducati 1199 Panigale. He then throws on a backpack with some essentials, and starts riding. California to the East coast, and then back. In 6 months, his put on almost 16,000mi, and saw 38 states. ON A SPORTBIKE....an ITALIAN sportbike!

After writing about his trip, with an ongoing 'Ride Report' posted on ADVrider.com, people were taking notice. Ton's of regular Joe's, and some important people too. Like the folks at Ducati. His name was "sent upstairs" at Ducati, and he got an invitation to go to the 1199R launch in Austin, TX.

Video:



After all that, and a nice break for the better part of a year, he is back to it. Riding, and writing. This time, though he is on the same bike, he is in the Pacific North West. The experience so far has been even better, at least from my end of just following along, than the first time. He truly is one of the better writers out there. The way he writes is a modern version of Robert Persig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The best parts of that book, to me, are the riding and people along the way. Persig goes pretty deep into the philosophical realm, and looses my attention quite often. Matson keeps me entertained in the digital age, with stunning pictures, and personal experiences from current situations, and his past. He is a philosophical sorta guy, but much less clinical about it.


Links to the FIRST RIDE REPORT, and the CURRENT RIDE REPORT.


If you can find the time, try looking through his ride reports. It can be a little confusing, with all of the other posts from fellow readers, but it is worth it.

I just pray that he publishes a novel based on these travels!!!

He does have a book of mostly photography, that I have not bought yet.... HERE.

Ride safe Dennis!
-Kurt

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blichmann. A quick review of the Top Tier stand, burners, mash tun, and kettle...as a whole.


In my previous post, I mentioned new brewing equipment. I went almost all Blichmann! Top Tier stand, kettle/mash tun and burners. So far, I think it was worth it, and that's only after one brew session....

(If you just want the summary, skip to the end of this post...)

Let's start with the stand itself.
The stand is really easy to assemble. It's basically a center post, with four legs. In shipping, the post and legs come in two different boxes, and the post had been banged around a bit. On one end, there was a pretty decent ding, pinching closed one of the openings where you slide in the mounting hardware for the burners (or shelves, or pump mounts, etc.). I just took a pair of channel lock pliers and bent it back. I wasn't about to go through the hassle of return shipping just to get another one that could be damaged the same or worse a week later. Once the stands legs are on, and the leveling feet are adjusted, it's really sturdy. Actually, it was much more sturdy that I thought it was going to be!

Before going any further, you need to envision where all of your equipment will be during a brew session. If you are like me, you had that figured out before you even ordered this kit. I spent several weeks looking at different setups, from three tier DIY to full custom built single tier automated electric systems. I finally decided that the ease and adjust-ability of the Blichmann Propane fired system was the way to go, for me, for now. ;)

The burners.
I have been brewing with a 10gal "heavy duty" pot from Midwest Supplies, on a Blichmann floor standing burner for the last year. This is part of the reason that I went with the Blichmann setup. I really like the burner. Quiet, and very adjustable from just a little flame, to so much fire that the flames are coming half way up the pot sides. (Don't do that. It's a total waste of propane, unless you are just trying to heat the garage...)
So, with three burners to install, this took the bulk of the assembly time. It's not difficult, it just takes time to install the two brackets, and then the two support arms. Then, you need to lift the whole burner assy. up and slide it onto the stand. If you are under 6' tall, and the burner feels too heavy to have over your head, get a friend to help! I didn't have a problem with them, but it wasn't easy.

Gas Manifold.
So now I have my pump and all three burners installed on the stand. I measure where I need to have my black pipe for the gas manifold, and swing by Home Depot, and grab the correct length, and some yellow pipe tape. I slap all that together, and leak check it. I did have one small leak, and it was just because I forgot to tighten a fitting for the top burner. No other issues at all. Do NOT be intimidated by this step. Once you get the equipment all in place, and you have the black pipe T fittings that are supplied, it all makes sense, and is a piece of cake!

Mash Tun and Boil Kettle.
These are the items that were the most hard for me to justify the price of. I am a real sucker for shiny things! I think this was the whole reason I went with Blichmann for both of these items. I wanted it to look like a big boy brewing system, not just a bunch of pots and stuff bolted to a post.... you know what I'm talking about! I also don't really like the converted keg versions. even when they are polished up, it still looks like a junkyard system to me. I have problems... LOL!!!

So, are they worth it?
The short answer is no.

The Three Reasons are, 1) Price 2) Thermometer placement 3) No Tri-clad Bottom

If I could do it over, I would most likely buy the new MegaPot 1.2 pots from Northern Brewer. This would take care of the two first problems, Price and Thermometer placement. I would get THREE of them, so that the whole system matched. I would get a 15gal HLT, 15gal MLT and a 20gal Boil Kettle. I would also drill my own holes for the ball valves and thermometer(HLT & MLT only, no need on the BK). The Blichmann Thermometers are installed at the 6.5gal mark. This means that when I brew a 5 or 6 gallon batch of beer, that is not a high gravity, the mash will be below the thermometer. I could drill a new hole, and plug the stock hole, but why the hell does Blichmann do this anyway? Oh well. Live and learn...and advise others!

The third and final problem I have is not really an issue for me, but it is still fixed by buying the other MegaPot 1.2's. The bottoms of the Blichmann's are the same thickness as the rest of the kettle. The 15gal Mash Tun, with the false bottom in it, is still not as heavy as the 10gal Heavy Duty pot that I had been using. Why are they lighter? A big thick tri-clad bottom of the other pots. This would be REALLY nice on the Mash Tun, and good on the Boil Kettle. Much less risk of scorching the Wort at all times. Just keep that in mind, and you won't have any issues though. Keep the wort moving (RIMS), and stir until boiling.

Am I still happy with the purchase? YES!!!
With those minor flaws, I still really like the pots. The false bottom is really nice. They look great. Everything works well, and I even added on the Blichmann Auto-Sparge. It's a really simple concept, and it makes the sparging process much easier, as I just set the float and open the HLT ball valve. No worries of how fast to add the sparge water, or if there is too much, or too little.

There are little things that I will address for my second brew on the system. Mash temp is on the top of the list. My plan is to install a T with a thermometer in line, on the return from the pump to the auto-sparge. This way, I will be measuring the temp. the same way that most automated systems do. I cheated on that first brew, by directing the flow from the auto-sparge hose directly onto the MLT thermometer, and being careful not to overheat. It worked ok, but I was watching it like a hawk. I might end up getting the Blichmann Controller.... there goes another $500! YIKES!!!! Again, price out the system with MegaPot 1.2's (or other pots), and you could have the controller at the same price I paid for no control and Blichmann pots!

IN SUMMARY:

Blichmann Stand is nice. Burners are great. Pots are nice, but have a couple flaws that require a workaround.
Overall, I'm happy, but would have saved money on different pots vs. Blichmann Boilermakers.

Cheers,
Kurt

P.S. - Once Blichmann comes out with the Boil Coil and RIMS Rocket, I may be done with propane. This is one reason I have not bought the controller for the gas burner!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blogging, about beer....

It's hard man! I mean, I like beer. No...I LOVE beer!! I like all different beers at different times for different reasons. Sometimes I would rather have an iced tea, or a glass of milk. Here's the thing though. Beer is so marvelously complex when you really get down to the nitty gritty of making it. Sure, you can go get a "Mr. Beer Kit", and make some stuff that is technically "beer", and drink it. That's not really brewing a beer though. When you are crushing the grains, figuring out what temperature to mash them at, and choosing hops, and yeast that complement each other; THAT is when brewing get's both interesting and complicated. Then, you start adding in the really technical stuff, like water profiles, PH levels and yeast pitching rates, and it's enough to make a guys head spin!

The dilemma I am currently having with myself, is what I really want to do with my brewing.
I just talked The Wife into letting me spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY on a nice brewing system. Search for Blichmann Engineering, and you will pretty much get what I have. Now, I can just keep brewing the beers I mostly like to drink. Experiment a bit here and there with tweaking recipes and adding flavorings (my Strawberry Blonde and Blackberry Wheat were both quite good). OR, I can really get into figuring out my stuff. Brewing some classic beer styles. Getting all my processes truly polished, and then creating my own recipes that would be worthy of telling the world about.

I am about 1/3 of the way through the book "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels. It has quite a bit of really good information in it, and I am just getting to the recipe chapters. I am contemplating brewing my way through the book. Now, here's the thing. I won't be doing Lagers yet, since I don't have good fermentation temp control (YET!). I don't necessarily enjoy some of the styles a whole lot. And I will still want to make "MY" beers, to drink for a good portion of the time. This book is also getting up there in age, as it was written about 20yrs ago. In the scheme of things, that is not old at all. Beer has been around about as long as harvesting grain has been around! So, the real classic styles that are talked about are, and most likely will always be, relevant.

I guess I had better get to it....

Not the beer brewing. I hear the little girl waking up. Duty calls.

-Kurt