My brewing equipment has been sitting on Marketplace for almost a year now with few bites, and I’ve reduced the price several times to try to gin up some interest. As with some other things I probably should have sold this stuff at the beginning of the lockdown, but hindsight is blah blah whatever. Yesterday someone pinged me about buying the kegs and siphon, and I figured I’d rather sell it piecemeal than not at all. I took the kegs out back, hosed the dust off, and let them dry in the sun before loading them in the back of the truck. On my way back from picking up Finn from school I met the buyer downtown and made the exchange. I’d love to sell of the rest of this stuff to make room in the basement, so I updated the listing and lowered the price. We’ll see if I can get some more interest.
Well, fuck. Anchor Steam, the great California brewery and maker of one of my favorite summertime beers, is closing, because…reasons? According to the article, the spokesman claims, “The inflationary impact of product costs in San Francisco is one factor… Couple that with a highly competitive craft beer market and a historically costly steam brewing technique.” A comment thread on Metafilter, where I found this news, says something different:
Company unionizes. (Yay!)
Sapporo purchases company.
Sapporo undergoes automation effort to undermine the Anchor union; automation dramatically damages productivity in the factory.
Sapporo ends production of the annual Christmas beer.
Sapporo ruins Anchor’s once-beautiful logo.
Sapporo shutters company.
I haven’t had an Anchor Steam in years; they’re impossible to find in bottles around here and the bars I frequented where it was available on tap are all in my old neighborhood in the city. I’ve seen the Christmas beer occasionally but haven’t had any in a long while. I’ll have to run out to the larger of the liquor stores around here and see if I can get a last six-pack.
Update: here’s a clearer picture of the whole situation, reported by someone who didn’t just rewrite the PR flack’s talking points.
I haven’t brewed beer in at least two years. I was originally introduced to brewing by Brian, who got me hooked and then moved to the Eastern Shore, but I got a couple of my neighbors interested and we had a good time with it for about ten years. When COVID shut everything down, it became impossible to get a group of guys together for a brew day, which is half the fun of brewing beer.
Then, there’s the other half. Homebrewing was popularized partially for making small batches of powerful beer that isn’t commercially available; the vast majority of recipes available yield beer that’s 6-8% ABV on average, which is higher than I prefer at this point in my life. I’ve tried most of the session recipes (4.5% ABV) from my go-to vendors, but something in the yeast or the brew tends to leave me with a headache before I’ve finished my glass, and that’s not enjoyable. And then I’ve got 5 gallons of it left to finish.
Since December, I’ve scaled back on my intake of beer. At first it was to help my body recover from having a cold (and then COVID). But I’m also less tolerant of alcohol these days. I’ve long been favoring session IPA’s or summer lagers, but I hate waking up with a headache, and it seems like even the lighter beers I prefer have been biting back lately. I also have a kegerator full of single cans of heavier beers that I just don’t want to crack; a double IPA on a Wednesday with an ABV of 9.5 is guaranteed to make Thursday morning feel like hammers are falling on my head.
So I’ve been looking at the brewing equipment stacked in the corner of the basement and thinking more and more about selling it off, given that I haven’t touched it in over two years. I’ve got a kettle, a burner, three kegs, four carboys and a bin full of equipment that’s taking up space, and I think maybe the time has come to move it along to someone who can use it. I think I’d keep the kegerator setup if only to have a secondary fridge for beer, but if the IH fridge comes on line in the spring I may move beer into that and convert the kegerator back into a chest freezer.
I’m officially registered for the welding class mentioned earlier this month; from the second half of April to the end of May I’ll be running into Baltimore twice weekly to learn welding hands-on. Then I might actually feel like I know what I’m doing.
I haven’t been brewing much for the last couple of years, but one thing I’ve found is that using the aluminum pots I got from my Dad to brew wort does not work: the beer comes out tasting like molasses each time. Having switched back to the big stainless pot I had at the beginning, I accepted the fact that I’ll just never use the big professional pot Brian was able to find for me years ago. It’s beautiful but it’s made for 5-gallon brews. I brew 2.5 gallons and add water at the end—and when I used it, the liquid didn’t even reach the thermometer inlet. I put it up on Craigslist and after a couple of months of quiet, a man contacted me and bought it this morning for $10 more than I paid for it.
We are one episode away from the end of the Mandalorian, and it’s been really good this season. Disney just announced a billion new movies and shows in the Star Wars universe, some of which sound interesting (Obi Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka, hell yes) and some sound unnecessary (A Droid Story, Lando—unless Donald Glover is starring—and anything animated) so it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep the quality high or if they all wind up like Muppet Babies and dilute the franchise into pudding. My hope is that they’ve learned the right lessons from the series, they keep JJ fucking Abrams away from it all, and they double down on the things that make it all work: character development, tight storytelling, clear motivations, and grounding in the world they’ve built without all the fan service. Nevertheless, my inner 11-year-old nerd is thrilled.
On Sunday the heat finally broke and we were blessed with cooler weather and lower humidity, so Finn and I picked up five sheets of T-11 for the walls of her fort. While we were at Lowe’s I looked at cordless drills and impulsively threw one on the cart. I’ve had the same DeWalt 12V cordless since I bought my first house, and it’s been through about six batteries in the span of its lifetime. It still works, it’s powerful, but it’s heavy. I bought an off-brand battery last year to save a little money, and found that off-brand means it’s 70% as good as the name brand, it’s cheaply made, and thus has the annoying tendency to fall out of the bottom of the drill and directly on to my foot. The new one is probably half the size and weight and came with two batteries, Finn and I can work simultaneously and I can throw my corded Ryobi drill with no clutch into the woods, which is where it belongs.
While we were out I stopped in at the Harbor Freight and picked up a $15 angle grinder, as well as a $25 pneumatic DA sander. If I’m going to prep the Scout for a paint job sometime in the spring, I’ve got to get the tools together and start making some progress.
Sunday was, unfortunately, not my best day as a Dad. I was grumpy when I woke up and my attitude got progressively worse until about 3PM, when I dropped something on my foot for the fifth time and had to tell Finn we were packing things in for the day. I recognized that I was getting shorter and shorter with her, and I didn’t want to take my bad mood out on her any more than I already had. I was disappointed in myself because the last couple of weekends I felt like she and I were making awesome progress, she was engaged in what we were doing, and I was doing a decent job of teaching her basic carpentry and building.
Every day is a challenge, especially when we’re closed in together, and I’m vacillating between being outgoing and misanthropic for reasons I can’t pin down yet. I’ve explained this part of my personality to Finn in that I’m like a battery that gets run down, and there are some days when I just need to recharge away from everyone and everything. A modern workday filled with Zoom calls and bouncing from project to project seems to be draining me more that it would at the office, and some days I’m just a blank screen by dinnertime. I look forward to weekends because we get outside and work with our hands, and on days when I’m not being the best Dad I can be, I get very depressed.
To her credit, she is understanding, but she’s also eleven and I want to be the on my A game with her whenever we’re together. Especially when she’s having fun seeing her new fort come together.
We did get the back wall cut down and in place, and it’s actually looking pretty good. Once the walls are all in, we’re going to head down to Second Chance and see if we can’t find some inexpensive used windows to install, as well as a door of some kind—if we can find one that fits.
There’s five gallons of session IPA sitting in the kegerator, slowly carbing until next Saturday, when it should be ready for a first pour. I’m hopeful this will be the first truly good batch I’ve made this year, as the last couple have been disappointments due to brewing methods. In cleaning up the brew stand, basement, and kegerator on Saturday, I was looking askance at the cabinet filled with empty bottles and wondering if I should just recycle them all to clear out space. I’ve kept them with the idea that I’ll eventually brew another Irish Stout or something worth bottling, but in reality I hate bottling and don’t drink stouts enough to be motivated to bother.
The family and I drove into D.C. today so that I could visit the office for the first time since March 9th and pick up a trunkful of technology. The building was dark and silent. The automatic lights came on as I walked through, and I began sweating because the A/C was turned off. So, I got to work.
My tower workstation has been sitting idle under the desk for 164 days, as well as a RAID array with our design archives, so I grabbed those. While I was at it I took my desk monitor, all the cables, and the keyboard and mouse. I packed a bunch of spare drives including my offsite photo backup so that I can dupe the drive on the home server. I stuck a bunch of reference books in my backpack along with the 360˚ camera, the Canon 5D and two workhorse lenses, a 24-105 f/4 and 16-35 f/2.8. And I packed a bunch of small stuff, like spare thumb drives, batteries, and cords. Carrying it out to the car, I stopped and chatted with J., the front desk security guard and asked after her family.
The girls had taken Hazel for a walk up past the Capitol and onto the Mall, so Jen texted me their location and I followed Siri to go pick them up. It was definitely strange to be down there, and as much as I was glad to get out from behind my desk for a few hours, I was also glad to leave D.C.
Now my desk is surrounded by tech gear and I have to find a place to store most of it. The home server is waiting on a bootable thumb drive with a hacked El Capitan installer—I’ve got an SSD plugged in to the spare slot over the CD burner waiting on a fresh install, which will free up the fourth bay for a data drive. I’ll tackle that task tomorrow.
I dry-hopped the beer this evening, about four days late, but that shouldn’t make a difference in flavor. Two ounces of hops go in for a week, and then I rack it into the kegerator. Here’s to hoping this batch is a keeper.
It was too damn hot to do anything serious outside over the weekend, but I thought I’d get Finn out to the junkyard for a mission. We’ve got a flip-up mirror on the visor in the CR-V that I repaired once last year (a hinge pin fell out, making the door useless) and recently the entire edge of the plastic door decided to break off to spite me. I packed a bag of metric and SAE tools, put on my boots, and took Finn down to Jessup in the Scout. I figured they would be cagey about letting kids in the yard, but she’s tall for her age, and everything about the yard is shifty, so I figured we’d act like we did this every day and walk right through. I paid my $4, wrote my name on their sign in sheet, and was almost at the door to the yard when Finley, who normally doesn’t notice her own shoes when she’s wearing them, stopped me in my tracks. “Daddy, the sign says no kids under 16 years of age,” she practically shouted, standing directly in front of the counter lady. Startled out of her waking slumber, the counter lady said, “How old are you?” and before I could reply, Finley practically shouted, “Eleven!”
After I dropped her off back at the house, I paid my $2 and walked through the yard. They had two CR-V’s, one green over tan version and one silver over black that was the spitting image of ours, minus catastrophic front-end damage. There’s a weird phenomenon with junkyard CR-V’s I’ve noticed: usually they’re missing both visors. The last time I found one for the part I needed someone had already hacked it off the mount, realized it was bent, and threw it under the seat. The Silver CR-V was wrapped liberally with plastic and sported two BIOHAZARD stickers on the back windows, which meant something unspeakable and messy had happened during the crash. Peeking inside, I found that someone had braved disease and pulled the visors off. The green CR-V was less picked over and still had its visor, but because the interior was tan, I decided not to pay $10 for mismatched plastic.
The rest of the yard was pretty boring; the oldest and most interesting vehicle was a mid-70’s Ford wagon the size of a small container ship. Kids, I’m old enough to remember when the roads were covered with these barges.
There was also this red MR2 beached on blocks minus its 4A-GE engine; I wondered how anyone would donate such a rare and valuable beast until I saw the rust around the rockers and rear quarters. It was sprinkled inside and out with a decade’s worth of pine needles, and those tires haven’t held air since the first Bush administration. Still, as a cheap-ass trackday car, I was surprised someone wasn’t dragging it out by the bumper.
I racked the beer into the secondary carboy on Sunday, and it smells really good. About three inches of hops were at the bottom by the time I was done, so I threw those in the composter with our coffee grounds and eggshells. Now I wait two weeks before dry-hopping the batch, and then there’s another week before it goes into the keg. It would be great to have something I like on tap because I’m probably spending too much on six-packs of craft beer.
I set up a table and a stove in the shady part of the backyard to brew a new batch of beer on Sunday, knowing it was going to get hot out there. The brew went smoothly, and because I was using the original stainless kettle I’d started with 15+ years ago, the batch smelled and tasted better than the last two I’d cooked in aluminum pots. This one is called Kama Citra, and it took a metric ton of hops during the boil—it smelled so good—and after it gets racked into the secondary fermenter it will get another two ounces of hops to finish.
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’ll have to dump the bock in the kegerator out, as I just can’t bring myself to drink it due to the taste.
The new washer in the basement is happily cranking away on our clothes. There was a frightening couple of days where it was looking like we weren’t going to get something delivered until the middle of August, but I got lucky with a Lowe’s CSR who absolutely worked the system, found me a washer available locally, and had it delivered the next day. Jen says it’s much larger than our HE front-loader and seems to be washing clothes better.
I poured a glass of homebrew last night and sipped it as I was downloading some photos on my laptop, and I was disappointed. I brewed it following the recipe—a recipe I’ve brewed before, with success—and I had no problems with it during the brew or the fermentation period. This is a Shiner Bock knockoff recipe, something that’s supposed to be adjacent to a lager, with some caramel undertones, slightly sweeter and with a touch of hops. What I got is a very molasses-y ale, heavy on the sweet with little to no hops at all. It’s reminiscent of the bad hefeweizen batch I brewed years ago that just turned out wrong.
The only thing different between the first Bock knockoff batch and this one is the kettle I used to brew in. I brought two of Dad’s aluminum pots home last April and thought I might make one of them my dedicated brewing kettle. It’s taller and narrower than the stainless kettle I’ve been using since I started, so I thought it would be a fine replacement. This is the second batch I’ve brewed in the same kettle, and both flavors are off. So, it’s back to the stainless pot for the next batch in line, a session IPA I’ve not tried yet.
This is a cover of an Interpol song that, in my opinion, improves upon the original. And everything on that Interpol album is pretty fucking tight to begin with. You may have issues with Hazel English’s voice but I dig it.
I’ve got a batch of Shiner Bnock-Off in the fermenter waiting to be kegged this weekend, but both my kegs still contain the remainders of the last two batches I brewed. This means I need to drink through the rest of them in a hurry—Darn. They feel empty but I’m still able to pull beer out of them. I ordered a session IPA kit from Northern Brewer on Monday but with the delays in fulfillment and shipping I don’t know when that will get here.
Yesterday I put the seedlings outside for a couple of hours in the shade to start hardening. They got very leggy until I adjusted the lighting, so some of them are taller than I’d like; when I went out to check on them there were several that had blown over in the breeze. It’s overcast today so hopefully they’ll do a little better and stay upright. The goal is to get the soil bins prepped over the weekend and have the seedlings ready to go by late next week. I’m also thinking they need to be transplanted into bigger starter pots so they get more nutrients while they’re hardening—some of them are a little wilty, which is concerning me.
The front porch continues moving slowly forward. The patch next to the front door is 90% complete and the hole that claimed my thumb has its second skim coat of mud. Jen and I tried to hang one of the headboard panels last night but we could not find a way to get it to stay up without flopping out of place almost immediately. I’d built an 8′ brace for Jen to hold, but what I realize now is that we need three of them about six inches longer so that they’ll snug the panel up against the ceiling until I can tack them in place. The big thing right now is to get everything cleared out of there so that we can work without tripping over furniture or air conditioners or other junk.