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Saturday, December 09, 2017

From the Meadery





So I tortured myself over the bottle labels for my Morat, Raspberry Melomel and Pear-Autumn Olive Melomel. But I was making the perfect the enemy of the good, I realized, and I also realized that if I kept putting it off, I was going to end up getting bottles mixed up. Especially the raspberry and mulberry, the color of the wine is so similar.



And it's not like I'm a huge commercial winery with thousands of bottles to label. My morat yielded 20 bottles, I think the raspberry 23 bottles, a couple of which have already been consumed. The pear & autumn olive one, I kegged part of it and started with five bottles, three of which are extant.

The photography here, well, I have two SB-800 speed lights for my Nikon D7000. But my house is a terrible environment to shoot in, and so far my skills with the speed lights, the soft boxes and reflectors, are just not quite up to the task of taking good photos of these wine bottles. So much to learn about photography. And meadmaking.

And like Mr. Carlson after the turkey drop, God as my witness, I thought Mulberry had two L's in it.



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Cranksgiving/Thanksgiving







I love Cranksgiving. It's a food-raiser for want of a better term, for a local church's food bank. You can compete in a few ways: be the fastest to get one item from ten different stores, or bring in the heaviest load, or bring in the heaviest load for a team of eight. Oh, and for the individual, there's gender specific prizes, fastest man, fastest woman, heaviest load dude, etc.

My old friend Eric won heaviest load individual with a Y Chromosome.











But it's a fun deal and a good cause. I felt kinda of embarrassed only bringing in 28 lbs. I didn't even try for fastest rider, I got no chance at that. And heaviest load? I've ridden upwards of 100 lbs in this event and that's not enough to be competitive. Financially, I wasn't really in good shape to play heaviest load anyway this year, plus you really need to be towing a trailer to realistically compete in this category. Or like Eric, a trailer towed behind a Big Dummy cargo bike.





So this was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and it was a really uplifting experience other than my getting another confirmation that my blood sugar gets out of hand when I drink good beer and eat the sort of food that was on offer at the after party (chili, sweets, breads). As much as I love Boulevard Pale Ale, of which I drank several, the feeling shitty and lethargic for a few hours after kinda makes it less tempting. I allow myself one indulgence a week, a meal or dessert or beverage that's just completely out of bounds for trying to manage my diabetes with diet. I still take the Metformin, I still try to stay active on the bike (though I've been missing a lot of rides lately).





So then several factors including my freelance work, transportation arrangements for the holiday with Mo, a nasty cold, I hadn't been back on the bike since Saturday's Cranksgiving when Thanksgiving Day proper came around. Temps in the upper sixties and no plans on the actual day (my family is doing tons of stuff this weekend, just on on Thursday: I think everyone is so afraid to set up something that would conflict with someone else's plans that nobody ends up doing turkey on Turkey Day). So I put on my cycling shorts and sandals and went for a ride.





Sandals. Shorts. Bare arms. On November 23. Climate change is, as we know because or Maximum Leader said it, is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Quite the elaborate hoax.





Anyway, I realized I was out of test strips for my blood glucose monitor. These things are proprietary, Walgreens, CVS, WalMart, they all have their own monitors and the supplies aren't interchangeable. Bastards. Mine happens to be the Walmart brand.





So I pedaled my way to the Walmart in Argentine hoping they'd be closed. It's Thanksgiving Day for crying out loud. But nope, they were open, as was the Dollar General and Sav-A-Lot next to it.





I asked a worker if she was at least being paid time and a half for working on Thanksgiving. Nope. I'm like, are you fucking kidding me?



If there's a perfect opposite to the warm feelings Cranksgiving inspires in me, it's seeing that WalMart not only doesn't respect families, it doesn't even think it should have to give a little extra for taking one of the last family holidays away from its employees. I think I might switch to a different glucose tester just so I can shop there even less often. Talk about a work force that needs an effective union.





Cranksgiving set a new record, by the way. I believe it was over 10,000 lbs of food (up from 8,000 lbs last year, which led the nation in Cranksgiving events) plus $1000 in cash raised for St. Peter's social services/food bank.



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.

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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

Glassware





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.