Monday, October 7, 2013

Free Agent Fan part 2

Well, it's October. The NFL season is well under way and the NHL season is a couple of weeks old.

As anyone who read my first free agent fan post knows, this past offseason I declared myself a free agent fan.
The video taping scandal still hangs like a dark cloud over the Patriots for me, and the drafting of a player, who eventually became the main suspect in a murder investigation, even though it was well known he had attitude and social issues during or before his college career, only added to the foul stench I sense every time I think of the Pats.
Five games into the season and I will admit, I have probably watched more football at this time of the season than I have in a long time. I used to just watch the Pats games and then either turn the TV off, switch it to the NFL Network for highlights, or just have the next game on the same channel playing for background noise while I did other things. This year though, I've actually been watching several games every Sunday, as well as the Thursday and Monday night games, no matter who is playing. I've watched the Pats play, amongst the other games.... and I always have the same feeling in my gut.... the one that says "I can not support this team anymore". Heck, the only reason I started following this team was because of their logo in SuperBowl XX. Yep, that's right, I started following football when my dad turned on SuperBowl XX, and I knew nothing about football at that time, so I chose based on the cool looking Patriot Pat logo on the side of the helmet. Pretty weak decision making skills, I know.

As for the NHL.... well, the Kevin Lowe comments still reverberate through my head whenever discussions lead to the Edmonton Oilers. For those that don't know, Mr Lowe basically said he didn't give a crap what the fans who didn't attend games thought, because they're not important to the Oilers, only the fans in the seats matter... I'm paraphrasing of course. That pissed me off, while also making me question why I am a fan of teams I have little to no chance of ever seeing at their home stadiums arenas.
Add to that, the fact that the Oilers have changed their coaches and GM's umpteen times in the last decade, which makes it look like there is no real direction for this team.

So, I've decided to pick a new team for all of the major league sports, even baseball and soccer, and I'll even throw in a basketball team.
My criteria for choosing new teams is simple...

First, what ever teams I choose, they have to be from the same city. I'm tired of having teams from different cities, and different parts of the continents, especially when one team is in the playoffs in one sport playing against a team from a city which has a team in another sport I support.

Second, the team/city has to be within a reasonable driving distance from where I live... let's say 8 hours. I can sit in a car for 8 hours and not feel like I need to go for a walk for an hour afterwards.

Third, the city has to have a team in at least 3 major leagues (I'm not that devoted to MLS and NBA).

Fourth, there must be some legitimate culture and history of at least 2 of the franchises... I don't want teams that are new to the area because they got relocated. I want a history that actually becomes part of the history of the city itself.

Fifth, a passionate fan base. I don't want to be a fan of a team nobody talks about if they're not winning. I want to hear the groaning and moaning about how bad our team is and what the franchise should be doing differently when we're losing.

Sixth, at least one of the teams can't have won their sports championship within the last ten years. I'll even throw in I'd like a team that is on a losing streak the past few years... I need to feel the suffering to be able to feel like I am a real fan.

And finally, Seventh, I'd like a city that some resemblance to the area I grew up in... a city with an industrial history, surrounded by proud, hard working farms/farmers. So basically a mid-west city.

That's it. Not hard right? Well.... looking at a map, my choices are pretty limited, especially when you factor in the above criteria. I'm looking at choosing between Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Upon seeing those names I have to admit, Detroit and Chicago are the front runners.

I'll let you know what I decide.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


2 Posts, in 2 days? Unheard of, I know. Especially since I went almost a year without posting anything before. However, with my renewed interest and passion for home brewing, I have a feeling I will be posting more frequently than before. Having said that...

As you know from my last post, I made a beer that I am quite proud of and I called it 'the best beer I have ever made'. While it may have been as simple as just mixing two cans of extract together, I am quite sure it is what sparked my renewed passion for brew making. It was after first tasting this batch that my mind started to run, not only with ideas, but also with an eagerness to learn more about the processes of making different types of beer. I've picked up more literature to read, I watch more videos, and I scan the different forums for tips and ideas that may help me on my way. I can see myself becoming an all grain brewer within the next year. For now though, I am quite content to take the baby steps necessary in the learning process, and "enjoy the fruits of my labour" as they say.

So, after making the CanAm, I knew this was a brew I needed to have on hand at all times. This is a brew I can enjoy year round, and also a beer that I think can be enjoyed by friends and family with differing taste preferences.

The problem was, the batch I made was only 8 litres, and while that does translate to 23 regular big brand type bottles, it's also $40 for the ingredients. Which is a lot, to me, for home brew. I don't like paying 40 bucks for 24 major brand brews, never mind 40 bucks to make my own.

As most of us extract brewers know, Coopers of Australia bought out Mr Beer about a year ago, maybe more. So with that in mind, I knew the extracts that made my CanAm ale were made by the same company which sells extracts in 1.7kg cans instead of the Mr Beer sized 850g cans, and the larger cans sell for less than two dollars more. So for about the same price of what my CanAm would cost me for to make an 8 litre batch, I can make a 24 litre batch. Crazy right? Well.... the crazy part is, not all of the Coopers extracts are named exactly the same as the Mr Beer extracts. Sure, both brands have a Canadian Blonde, and a Mexican Cerveza and an Irish Stout. What both brands don't have however, is a Classic American Light. Why? I have no idea. The only reason I can come up with is that they brand the Mr Beer extracts for styles familiar to Americans, and the Coopers brands are more for Australians and/or Europeans.

So, I hit the internet. There are a few home brew forums that I visit on a daily basis (sometimes hourly), and two of these are the BeerBorg and the Coopers forums. The borg is made up of a lot of intelligent and experienced home brewers who are familiar with the Mr Beer kits and recipes, while the Coopers forums are, as you would guess, made up of people experienced in the Coopers kits and recipes.
I posted questions about how to best make Mr Beer recipes with Coopers ingredients. The answers I got were quite helpful, and some people even posted things I hadn't even thought to ask... like what UME is best used in place of another ingredient. There was no consensus on the Classic American Light though, so I had to do more digging. I visited the sites of both companies and tried to decipher which large can best matched the smaller can in style, IBU's and SRM's. I finally came up with one of two possibilities, either a can of Coopers Light LME, or a can of Coopers Pilsener. The Pilsener option I was less in favour of.

Off to my LHBS I went. I was 99% sure I was going in for a can of the Blonde and the Light LME. My only nagging thought was, what do I do about the hops I would lose by using the Light, unhopped, LME instead of the Mr Beer American Light HME? Only thing I could think of would be to add hops after primary fermentation, so I was going to pick up a couple of ounces of hops and maybe ask for a suggestion from the LHBS owner or employee.

--side note-- I love my Local Home Brew Store! They have everything a home brewer could want or need. The owner has been brewing for over 20 years. His employee is also a home brewer, although I don't know for how long, but she seems to know her stuff. With that being said... I do not trust these people with my extract recipes. I have come in with questions a few times and every time I come away with an answer that the guys on the forums all say is WRONG! example.... lhbs people say to boil my HME. It is CLEARLY written in the extract instructions NOT to boil HME, because you will lose the hop additions already in the extract, and maybe something else (I don't remember), the guys on the forums also all agree on this. That being said....

I walked into my lhbs and grabbed the Coopers Blonde, and then took a minute to find and grab the Light LME. By the time I had the two cans, the employee had come around asking if I needed help. I explained my predicament of wanting to make a larger version of my CanAm and that I was going to use the two cans I had in my hands, but I wasn't sure about the hops. First, she said the Light LME was the wrong way to go, and that I should go with the Lager..... my brain went "huh?". At no point had I used a Lager type extract in my CanAm, but okay, let's continue this train of thought/advice... So I said, okay a can of Blonde and a can of Lager, I can try that. Then she caught me completely off guard when she asked if I was making a ten gallon batch. My brain went into self doubt mode. "No", I said, "I'm making it all in my Coopers fermenter". She said that was too much extract for one 5 gallon batch. Again... self doubt.... Her explanation was that I shouldn't use more than one can of extract per batch, I don't remember her reasoning because by this time I had fallen into the -I'll do whatever the person selling the stuff tells me- mode. Instead, she suggested a pound of Light Dried Malt Extract. Why? I  remember asking what the difference between adding Liquid Malt Extract and Dried Malt Extract was and she explained that the DME would add more body without taking up as much volume. And I would only be using a pound of DME as opposed to 1.7kg of LME. Again, confusion. But I went with it, because of my own self doubt. I then went on to ask about hop additions and she sold me some Chinook hops and agreed with my dry hopping idea. Finally, I was right about something. I took my can of Blonde, my 3 pound bag of light dme (which they kindly separated into 3-1 pound bags) and my Chinook hops, and went home, happy that I had spent less than I expected and that maybe I had been turned in the right direction of replicating my CanAm in a 23 litre version.

I got home, still unsure about what I had just been told at the lhbs and, again, hit the internet forums. I posted the results of my recent shopping trip and asked if I had just been mislead. The answer? A resounding YES! There was no reason to think that I could not mix two cans of extract in my 5 gallon fermenter, in fact most brewers had done this multiple times, and still do it... and after thinking about it, I realized I had already mixed two cans of extract in a single fermenter to make the original CanAm! ARRRRRGH!!!!!

I resolved to use the ingredients I had anyways. After all, what else was I going to use it for?

Step one... clean and sanitize everything my beer was going to come in contact with. Done.
Step two... boil water. Done.
Step three... add DME to boil. I decided to use 2 pounds of DME instead of the suggested 1 because I was ready to use 1.7kg of LME in my original idea. Something I wasn't aware of.... when adding dried malt extract to boiling water, be ready to lift the pot off the heat while waiting for the stove top to drop in temp a little to create a rolling boil. If you're not ready for this, your brand new stove will suddenly be covered in a sticky mess. Luckily The Planner heard me cursing and came to the rescue of cleaning the still wet stove top while I tried to concentrate on not losing too much of my boiling malt. Eventually, the boil levelled off and I was able to stir the mixture until it was satisfactory.
Step four... remove boiling water/wort from heat and stir in Blonde extract. Done.
Step five... pour wort mixture into waiting fermenter that already had a few litres of cold spring water in it. Done.
Step six... add more cold spring water to fermenter until it reaches 23 litres. Done.
Step seven... check temperature to make sure it is cool enough for yeast addition. Add yeast. Done.
Take gravity reading... OG 1.032

That's it. the brew is made. I put the lid on the fermenter, put water in my airlock and moved the fermenter to the brew closet to sit for a week or two (until the airlock stops bubbling) and then I'll add my hops for the dry hop process and let it sit for another week.

I don't know how this brew will turn out, but I am doubtful it will be a replica of my CanAm. I can only wait and see. I can tell you that I plan to go back to the lhbs and purchase the ingredients I had originally intended on and brew what I want as soon as this batch is in the bottles.

Until then....


Saturday, October 5, 2013

The ah-ha moment

Well... It's been an interesting month (or two), in regards to the brewing.

First, as anyone who has read this blog before will notice (and by the counter, apparently I do get a few visitors), I changed the name of my blog.  As much as Hyper-Adrenalin kind of described me (or at least it used to), it never described my brews, or my brewing.
I have to admit as a hyperactive person all my life, the one thing that I slow down for, and am meticulous in each step of... it's my brewing. I think I'm probably border line OCD about it actually. When there's a recipe to follow, I follow every step to the letter. A friend who also likes to home brew laughed at me because of how intense I would get about following each step. Then he tells me my brews (usually) turn out better than his.
I love to home brew! It's not just a hobby for me, it's a passion. And I'm not even that good at it yet. I'm still an extract brewer. I can only imagine how much more passionate I will be when I get to the stage of All Grain like ESheppy, a man who started out with a simple Mr Beer kit and has probably forgotten more than I have learned on his way to becoming a brewing genius and the guy I turn to for help and advice on a regular basis.

So, I figured changing the name of this blog was appropriate. I couldn't think of something witty (because I'm not that witty), and using my last name didn't look right. I decided to use something based on the name of my home town, Mount Forest. Mostly because I've been getting sentimental the last few months, due to my grandfather passing away a few years ago and my grandmother living with lung cancer in her winter years, and also because I miss the quiet and the friendliness of my small home town. Hence the new blog name.... Mountain Forest Brew. I like it so much, I may have to copyright it, because if I ever get to that dream day where I open my own microbrewery I'll either name it after my grandparents, or my home town.

So... my brews....
As I posted in the last blog, I had a bit of a scare with my first 'big' brew, the Gigantor Quad. It's in the bottles, conditioning now. Hopefully it will turn out alright when it comes time to drink it in a few months.

I am proud to say, I brewed the BEST batch of beer I have brewed to date! I am ashamed to say, I have no idea what the numbers are on this brew.
I bought a second MrBeer kit a few months back, that came with a can of Classic American Light. I'm not a fan of American light beers, never have been. So I purchased a can of Canadian Blonde at the same time. Why? Honestly.... because I thought it was amusing to mix two cans called American and Canadian.
At first I had plans for this brew... I bought Citra hops and Safale US-05 yeast. The problem is, I'm not great at time management, just ask my wife (the planner). So I forgot or put off (take your pick) making the brew for a few weeks. Then I finally said 'screw it' and decided, one Sunday, to just grab my LBK and the ingredients and mix it all. Mostly because I was out of beer, and also because I was bored. I did not, however, remember that I had bought the hops and the yeast.
This was as simple a brew as I could make, right in line with all the other MrBeer batches I have made, that I have not tried to tweak. I sanitized the equipment. Boiled the water, removed the water from the heat, poured in the can of Classic American Light and the can of Canadian Blonde, added more cold water, opened and pitched the two packets of yeast included with the cans, stirred, put the lid on, and put in the closet for 3 weeks. Three weeks went by, I sanitized 8 one litre bottles, put the appropriate amount of sugar in each bottle, filled each bottle with the brew from the fermenter, and put the bottles away in the closet for another three weeks.
The weekend of the third week of conditioning The Planner and I had decided to take up the offer from her niece and niece's husband to visit on a Saturday night and play cards/chit chat. The niece's husband, a guy I gladly call my friend, had given me the guilty feeling for never bringing over a bottle of home brew for him to try. So this time I thought I would bring over the CanAm that was just reaching the right time to open, and let him try that. Even though I had no idea how it had turned out yet.
Well.... it turns out I made the BEST brew I have ever made!!! Will (niece's husband/my friend), looked at me and said "this is really good beer", I had to agree with him.... it surprised even me!

The sad part is... because I rushed through the brewing of this batch, I never took the gravity readings, so I have no idea what the ABV is. ESheppy  asked if I knew what the SRM and IBU numbers were, I don't know that either (although I don't know how to figure those ones out yet).
So.... for now, I will enjoy the last couple of bottles of this CanAm I made, while I watch the Leafs game on TV tonight at Wills. In a couple of weeks I will purchase the same two cans of extract and make an exact replica of this batch, only this time I will take the gravity readings and possibly find one of the trusted brew calculators online and figure out exactly what I am making.

Until next time...


edit note...... There are a couple of other brewing geniuses I would like to mention here, whom I turn to almost as much as ESheppy.... Tim and Clyde. Cheers, fellas. I didn't link them in this post earlier because, well, they don't blog. But that doesn't mean they aren't a HUGE help in my learning process.