Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ring in the new year with your pants on, for once

Like a karaoke singing elephant, with its lipstick smeared and tits hanging out, the new year approaches.

Every year, New Year's Eve produces two things.  There will be neo-prohibitionist jerks treating every responsible adult like a child by trying to convince the world that having a drink is the exact same as committing the crime of drinking and driving. 

Then there will be the small minority of drunk assholes proving the neo-prohibitionist correct.

If you brew you love beer.  You may like the chemistry of the brew, you may dig building cool gadgets to make brewing easier or you get off on the artistry of building the perfect recipe.

However, let's not kid ourselves, hand in hand with the love of making beer is the love of drinking beer.  On an intellectual level we enjoy the taste of beer and appreciate the play of malt and hops across our tongue like rollicking fawns on a spring day.  To love beer is to appreciate the mastery of a well made beer.


Beer contains alcohol, which is one of the reasons we like it.  Alcohol stimulates the pleasure sensors of the brain and makes us feel good, it relaxes us and makes for better dancers.
We have a very peculiar relationship with alcohol in this country.  As an adult, it is perfectly acceptable to drink socially, in designated places, and even go out and drink yourself blind on approved holidays like New Years Eve, St. Patty's Day and Halloween.  Even while this behavior is accepted it is also demonized because of the lack of control.  But if your homebrew club were to meet in a local park on a spring day and trade 2 oz. tasters of beer the party would be shut down fast by jackboot wearing thugs terrified everyone involved would soon lose control and start pooping in the dog run.

There is a very vocal segment of the population who believe, and want everyone to believe, people do not have the ability for self control.  No one has ever been harmed from responsible drinking.  However, every time some drunk gets behind the wheel or makes and ass out of themselves they hand the neo-prohibitionist crusader the ammo to chip away at the rights of responsible adults.

This year lets all make the same resolution:  Don't be a douche bag.

Here are some possible situations from reader questions:

1.  Should I drink and drive?  Is there an exception for a clown car full of jello?
    -Tempting but no.  It would be acceptable to sit in the clown car full of jello and pretend you are driving.

2.  Can I get drunk in front of my disapproving in-laws and piss on their dog?
    -No.  Your in-laws think you are a loser already.  Try not to prove them right.

3.  That girl in the corner, the one sitting on that guys lap, keeps making eyes at me.  Can I send her a drink?
    -Unless you want to guarantee a stranger is going to get laid then probably not.

4.  I keep having the nagging suspicion everyone wants to see my junk and hairy man ass.  Should I lose my pants?
     -No.  No one wants to see that.  The people who would like to see it is probably not the ones you want looking at it.

The bottom line is; have a good time, drink a homebrew, have a happy new year and don't be an asshole.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Once again, I try to kill everyone by brewing.

The wind came screaming out of the west.  It was dirty and bitter, like a truck stop prostitute, and it carried ice and a hard fine snow.  The snow was needle-sharp and could easily pass through the pores of human skin into the soul.
I pressed my nose to the window pane.  The weather mocked me and I could hear an evil cackle on the wind.  It was brew day and the week before Christmas.  My wife and I would be gone for the holidays and I needed to brew while my yeast starter was still worth a shit.
The outside thermometer registered five degrees below zero.  Much to cold for wind or snow, but this was Wyoming, where the laws of God and nature hold no sway.
I was brewing an extract batch of stout so I just set up my camp chef burner in the basement and started brewing.  On some level I knew I should be venting the dangerous gasses generated from burning propane but when I tried opening a basement window the cold wind froze me out.  As with most worries, the concern for proper ventilation eased with the amount of beer I drank.
The brew day went well.  There was no major train wrecks to piss me off and I was able to get my equipment cleaned up and the yeast pitched.  I staggered upstairs, propositioned my wife, and when that failed, I passed out.
The horror began with the sweats.  A sticky ooze drenching the bed and pillow.  My eyes couldn't seem to focus but it was different than normal booze fueled mayhem.  My breathing was shaky.
I had a headache on a biblical scale.  An artillery battery of fighting aneurysms.  A bus full of drummers driving off of a cliff.   A throbbing cacophony of hellish fire exploding right behind my eyeballs.
 I staggered to the bathroom.  My beer buzz had been replaced with a mustard yellow nausea.  My stomach had decided everything was being evicted but was in a serious argument about which was it was heading.  It turned out, up was the winner.
My wife knocked on the door.  "Are you OK?"  I moaned but a few seconds later she said, "You need to get out of there, NOW!"
I crawled into the hallway, getting lightly trampled by my wife, who had not been drinking at all, as she had her own bathroom disaster.
The sickness lasted all night and most of the next day.  At first I thought it was some sort of food poisoning but that didn't explain our headaches.
The sickness turned out to be a case of CO2 poisoning caused from the burning propane.  It wasn't a really bad, but enough to make us sick as shit.  Be warned, improper ventilation is not something to screw around with.  You will regret it seriously if you do.  Be a man and brew outside or, if you have to brew inside, use electric elements or a hood.  I would rather freeze my ass off than puke any day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Flex your Keggles

There is a tendency to push this brewing shit as far as it will go. From spaghetti pot to kettle to fridges to draft system homebrewers get drawn in. They buy a gadget here and there. Then they start looking through catalogs of brew systems and diddle themselves at the idea of having a Brutus 10 or a tippy dump.
I admire some brewers who have, with Amish resolve, decided, "Piss on it, I stop here with partial mash. No need to go on." Don't they wonder what lies on the next horizon? Don't they realize in some garage out there is a pasty and chubby beer dork, who has dialed a recipe to the single ounce of grain, mashing in an old cooler?
So with willpower common to brew geeks and meth whores I have decided to build a brew system. Regular readers know right now I brew like a common hobo. I use an old coffee pot, a cooler and a kettle on a turkey burner. It turns out pretty good beer but I want more. With a frothy, aching need I want something which will accomplish two things. It needs to heat, boil and move wort with NASA precision and it needs to be easy to clean, store and move. Of course, since I have little disposable income, it has to be obtained a piece at a time.
Last week I took the first steps on this harrowing journey. I had been perusing Craigslist and in two weeks found two different guys unloading tap systems cheap, complete with a few kegs, CO2 tank, regulators, and taps. Suddenly, I had seven stainless steel kegs.
The thing with kegs, is it is illegal to take one from behind a bar or just pay a deposit, drink the beer and keep the keg to make a 15 gallon kettle out of. The brewery still owns the kegs and destroying their property is stealing.
So I loaded up four of the kegs and took them to the local distributor for a multi-national brewing conglomerate. I anticipated turning them in for the deposit, taking the cash and buying a couple of kettles. Just like a damn boy scout.
Upon arrival the employees seemed surprised. Apparently, it is relatively rare someone returns a keg, let along four. They weren't even sure if they wanted them. A couple of the guys from the warehouse acted like total bitches about it. "These kegs are really old," they whined like a 16-year-old.
"Has the structure of kegs changed some way in the last 5 years that I am not aware of?" I asked. It has been awhile since I have purchased a keg of commercial beer. Were they square now?
"No," the warehouse guys said with pouty lower lips. "But they are too old to get a full deposit. Did you know you can make bookshelves out of them?"
I considered for a moment. My wife is very understanding of my brewing/beer drinking hobby/obsession but would she allow a bookcase made of old kegs to become a central keystone of our decor? Could a self-respecting homebrewer even allow a bookshelf made from macro-brew kegs in his house?
The simple truth is I just didn't need these kegs. Even if the distributor for the major beer company was acting like a total bitch I would rather have the 12 bucks a piece than a buttload of old kegs lying around.
Bottom line, don't steal a keg from behind a bar or jack one after paying a deposit. Go your local distributor and ask if they have any old ones because they are, apparently, worth less than ball cheese.
In further episodes, I will cut the kegs apart and install spouts. We will see if this can be accomplished without ruining them.