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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bottling Day

My diabetes has shut down, mostly, consumption of some of my favorite libations (what makes craft beer awesome is mostly carbs). For that matter, the last mead I kegged up finished with enough residual sugar that I've had to be very judicious about when to have a glass. That keg lasted longer than any batch I've ever made. I love to sparkle the stuff, force carbonation in the keg kicks ass, and the raspberry melomel I bottled today would have been awesome as a sparkling wine, but I bottled it still. In wine bottles. With corks. I have a morat that also needs packaged, and a pear-autumn olive melomel if I can ever get it to freaking clear. Rather than having just one or two meads on tap at a time, bottling gives me some flexibility in terms of spreading out and having some variety in what I drink. Also, if a batch turns out too sweet for my diabetes, I can spread out its consumption (and make occasional gifts of a bottle or two), so there's that.


I've been saving wine bottles. Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's (which is really Three Buck Chuck if you get right down to it, but it's the best cheap wine there is). I can buy empty, brand new bottles for like $17 a case, but Charles Shaw is only $32 a case filled with wine. Not great wine, but their Shiraz is pleasant enough, see also Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, etc. I stay away from their Merlot and Cab Sauv, two varieties I generally like, but those are two rough around the edges for me.

Then there's upscale Trader Joe's wines. Old Moon makes some good stuff, I'd had their old vine zin and their Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon. Delightful wines for the price, about half what such wines run in a regular liquor store. But the labels could withstand a nuclear blast, I'll never buy it again if I think there's even a chance I'd want to reuse the bottles.

I only ended up bottling five 750s of pear-autumn olive melomel. 23 bottles of raspberry melomel.

I bottled five bottles of pear and autumn olive (an earlier batch than the one I'm trying to clear, one that I'd kegged and then racked back into a small carboy to see if I could get it to fall clear). It's not really my cuppa mead, honestly, something about either the pear or the autumn olive annoys me. Everyone else seems to like it, but I'm going to pass on doing another batch of that. The raspberry melomel, though, That's What I'm Talking About.

Corinna was processing nuts while I did this project, another high value added deal. Run over the walnnuts with your car to bust the hulls, then crack the nuts and dig the meat out. Mo does a fair bit of walnut processing when she's here on the weekend, it's a task she seems to enjoy, both the crushing of the walnuts and the cutting/digging the meat out. For that matter, she thinks it's hilarious to go get in Corinna's car while Corinna runs over the black walnuts in the driveway. After the first time, Corinna went to do it without her, and Mo put her tablet down and went running out in the driveway to get in the car, didn't want to miss out.

1993 walnut hulling machine

Posted by Rod McBride on Sunday, October 15, 2017

I had some corks that didn't seat flush initially, but I redid them (with fresh corks of course) and a faster motion turned out to be key.

I'm not nuts about the dent my Dad's old corker leaves in the top of the corks. For many reasons, a floor corker is in the future plans. I think I can get Bacchus & Barleycorn to order me a corker that's bisexual, can cork traditional still wine bottles or champagne bottles. Obviously, based on these links I could order the sucker from Midwest, but I try to shop local. Been a loyal B&B customer since 1995. I can count on one finger the number of times they haven't either had what I wanted or got it for me and I can't remember what that one thing was.

So I've got my bottles sitting upright for three days to allow the air pressure trapped by the corking process out and get the cork properly seated. Then the trick is going to be keeping myself out of that raspberry melomel, it really is delicious.

Monday, November 06, 2017


So my local NPR affiliate was having their begathon, and they were offering a pint sleeve as an incentive.

I called in because I'm already donating, but can I get a glass? I've been on an auto-deduct thing for a couple of years, and the person I got on the phone didn't seem sure whether that would qualify me. But I figured they had a few cases of them lying around the station so why not ask?

The person said someone would call me back, which didn't happen. And then I forgot about it. And then the glass came in the mail as a happy surprise.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Topeka Hall of Foamers Competition

I don't get to drink beer like I used to. I'm down about 30 pounds since being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, but damn I miss bread and beer.

To make matters worse, I'm a National rank BJCP beer judge (with enough experience points I really need to study up on the new guidelines and retest to get Master rank). And on top of the beer, at homebrew competitions, they feed you like hobbits. First breakfast, second breakfast, elevensees, etc.

But while I've largely cut out the carbs in my diet (which means drinking shitty beer when I drink beer because aside from hops, the defining characteristic of good beer is goddamn carbs), I do allow myself a splurge maybe once a week. And this week's splurge was judging the Topeka Hall of Foamer's Brew Bash. It's a small competition, almost 200 entries, which when you consider there's over 30 categories means some creative combining of categories to make flights work out. I hadn't judged in a small competition for a while, and I screwed up just a little.

In my first flight, it was all self-contained. There was no mini-BOS (a best of show for the flight, like when you have 30 IPAs, split it up between three panels of judges, then have the senior judge from each panel sit down and figure out first-second-third). This is the norm for a lot of categories in competitions with 600+ entries.

So after a pizza lunch (talk about off my diabetic menu, I hadn't had a slice since RAGBRAI in July), the second flight gets going and I had a really nice raspberry Berlinerweiss in a 29A. I think I scored it a 47, which is damn near perfect. We're not there to consume, mind you, we're evaluating. But rather than let a half bottle of heaven go down the sink, I poured the remainder of the bottle into a cup to have after the flight.

Then a couple of entries later I realized they had split this category into two sub-flights. Which usually means a mini-BOS, and if we had to pull the second bottle for a mini-BOS, there wouldn't be a bottle for the overall Best of Show judging. I felt like a heel. When I told the organizer, though, he didn't seem to see the problem.

He wasn't planning on a mini-BOS, the size of the competition and number of judges, he was ready to just take the top three assigned scores without one, which is logical, just not what I was used to.

And best of show judging being what it is (and I did judge best of show), the raspberry Berlinerweiss din't really go anywhere anyway.

It's a testament to the overall quality of homebrew competition entries. When I got into this scene over 20 years ago, entries were poison until proved otherwise. Here's a 197 entry competition with an upper 40s beer that doesn't make the Best of Show podium. There's a lot of homebrewers out there with amazing amounts of game.


I've got an old OnGuard U-lock I use to keep my Tall Pale Hooker from getting boosted. If a thief comes with tools like a cordless angle grinder, power hacksaw, etc., the bike is gone, but a U-lock prevents casual thievery.

So anyway, it came with a mount for hanging it on the bike frame. It fit nicely in the forward part of the frame. Here's a pic of the arrangement before the plastic parts on the crossbar. That's a part of a U-Lock, according to Kryptonite, and they should know since they make the most expensive lock you can get for your bicycle.

I don't buy the Kryptonite New York lock because like I said, power tools will defeat anything. The difference between some goombah with a Milwaukee power hacksaw cutting my $40 OnGuard lock in 90 seconds and cutting a $100 Kryptonite in 90 seconds is I'm out $60 more on top of missing my daily driver.

So on the shackle of the lock there's a part called the spline. On my lock it's metal, which is a good idea. The hardware to mount it to my bike is plastic, which makes about as much sense as anyone who still supports Donald Trump. Plastic is great for shit that doesn't need to survive wear, and after the second time my 2-1/2 pound U-lock fell on one of my feet this summer (in sandals), I impeached that mounting hardware.

Don't want to buy a new lock to replace a cheap plastic POS part, and when I tried to order a replacement part I learned that OnGuard has since changed their mounts. So I've been sticking the lock in my pannier, which means it falls to the bottom and has to be dug out and it's just generally not as convenient. So gifted by a local bike shop with a newer OnGuard abandoned by a customer (for which there is no key available), I tried to salvage the mounting hardware.

My friend F.C. cut the shank so I could get the spline off the salvage lock, and it fit around the shackle of my lock just fine, but it was a half inch or so too long, so it would mount as long as I didn't want to mount the whole lock, including the crossbar (without which, it's no longer a lock, just a U.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Mass

I really wasn't on my A game this Critical Mass, photographically speaking. I had my trusty D7000 and an SB800 speed light. Light is always an issue by this time of year, as contrasted with summer Masses when the tailgating portion of the festivities is right smack in the magic hour. And while the turnout was lower than I'd have expected, there plenty of Halloween fun I didn't get documented.

Including a tandem with a skeletal stoker, didn't get a clear photo of that at all. Got a nice one of Jacinta's crow costume, but not really one that gets the whole effect. And you can't take a bad picture of her, I've tried, she's just too darn photogenic.

It was cold out. Well, it felt cold out. It was in the 40s when we met up, might have dipped to the upper 30s by the time I got home. But owing to that Chinese hoax Climate Change, my body's carburetor hasn't had a chance to adjust to these temperatures. Come February, 45º, I start riding bare arms. Friday night I got home in a long sleeve t-shirt, Hawaiian shirt and cycling jacket (and once I'm acclimatized, it has to be below freezing before I want the whole jacket, as opposed to just the sleeves. I also had on flannel lined jersey gloves and a balaclava.

And with all that, what in a month or so will seem like appropriate gear for a ride 20º colder, wasn't enough to keep me from shivering as I rode.

Maybe if I hadn't been so cold I could have done more damage with the camera.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Anniversary Shoot

So I guess Em was asking her husband for a photo shoot for their first wedding anniversary. So he asked me to surprise her with one and, of course, I obliged.

I got a few good ones. And as usual quite a few where the focus was wrong, white balance was whack, etc. You can fix the latter in Photoshop but IMHO a good photographer gets it at the camera.

Had fun with my wide angle lens, an 11-16mm Tokina.