Monday, March 13, 2006

Hey! I type fast, so sue me.

Jiggy is a woman possessed. When last we brewed we had discussed “getting together in a couple of weeks” to rack the porter and maybe throw together a quick IPA. I got a phone call Saturday morning at 11:00 that sounded something like this “Wannabrew? Huh? Wanna? It’s a beautiful day out, and everyone’s brewing, comeon comeone comeon, let’s brew! Youwanna? Huh? What? You’re still in your pajamas? Well how about in five minutes? Ten? Half an hour?” How can a pirate stand against a broadside like that? So we brewed. This is for Larakatya, who says I’m neglecting my duties by not providing the homebrew how to, so if you could all care less about the holy elixir then skip down to the knitting part of the blog.

Brew mania: So here’s the basics of brewing. You need something sugary and some yeast, that will give you alcohol as anyone who’s drunk the 2 month old orange juice that got pushed to the back of the fridge can tell you. For wine you want fruit, and for beer you want grain. Most beer is made with barley that has been sprouted (to convert the starch in the grain to sugar) and then dried, also known as malting. So you buy a big bag of malted barley and you run it through a mill to crack the outer husks of the grain, then you soak it in water for awhile (the mash) so that the sugar is extracted from the grain, and run more water over it (the sparge) so that all the possible sugar is rinsed out, because that’s what’s going to become your alcohol. The resulting liquid is called “wort.” You boil the wort for awhile (an hour or more) to kill any nasty wee buggies that might be living in it and then you cool it down as quickly as possible, run it into sterilized glass jugs (carboys) and throw some yeast in. You seal up the carboys in a way that allows the carbon dioxide that’s given off by the yeast to escape, but doesn’t allow any funkiness in. A week or so later you will have a thick layer of yeast that’s settled on the bottom of the carboy and the sugar will have been converted into alcohol…’cause that’s what yeast does you know, it eats sugar and excretes alcohol. Then you siphon off the beer and let it sit in another carboy for awhile (there’s a wee bit of sugar left in it, and the secondary fermentation will give it a chance to allow more of the yeast and other junk to settle out so that you’re beer is more tasty and attractive). Then you can either run it into a keg and pump carbon dioxide into it to carbonate it (the lazy way), or you can put it in bottles with a little extra sugar, and seal it up so that the carbon dioxide from the fermentation of the additional sugar can’t escape and gets forced into the liquid, thus naturally carbonating your beer. Voila! You’ve got beer.

And why would you want to waste your Saturdays doing this Ragnar? Well because it’s sorta fun, first of all. You can make good beer more cheaply than you can buy it, second of all. And because Jiggy made me do it, the woman is mad I tell you! Plus, hello, we’re making beer.

So this being our second run through on the equipment we cut our total time down by about 3 hours. Our mash temperature was perfect, the sparge went like a dream and although the wort was lighter in color than we were expecting the sugar content ended up being pretty high (potential alcohol content of 7%, not too shabby). We also racked (fancy brewing word for siphon) the porter so that we could reuse the yeast (thus eliminating the need to clean two carboys…cleaning carboys is my second least favorite thing about brewing, cleaning the boil kettle is the first). Last weekend’s Porter tastes surprisingly good considering the problems we had with temperature and the fact that the airlocks blew off leaving it open to the elements for awhile. Actually the porter tastes damn good, full bodied with a note of burnt chocolate and espresso.

So now there are 10 more gallons of beer bubbling merrily away in Jiggy’s basement. Overall I think this will be a good partnership (if she can restrain from calling me every freakin’ weekend, how much beer do you need woman?) since I can lift 50 pound sacks of grain, and she doesn’t seem to mind cleaning boil kettles.

We will now return you to the knitting protion of the blog.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m all bloggity and feel somewhat accountable to you bleaders, or if it’s the fact that Mercury is in retrograde (as implied by Yarnpirate a week or so ago), but for some reason I am a finishing Queen! (imagine me standing on my desk arms raised over my head, a completed knitting project in both hands)

As I was throwing things in my knitting satchel in a rush to get out the door and start brewing so that we wouldn’t be finishing up in the dark like we were last time, I looked at “pink and skull” and decided that it looked boring. So in a fit of passion, or rage or whatever I grabbed my drop spindle.

A tangent to explain the magnitude of this decision: a couple of years ago a spinning friend of mine got a line of some “free wool.” After an initial inspection the wool was proclaimed to be “worth picking tons of sheep shit out of.” I met up with this spinning friend in the parking lot of her apartment complex where she and some other crazy people…er…avid spinners, were skirting (see also: picking shit out of) 10 garbage bags full of shit incrusted fleece. And where does one begin? How does one decide which poo shall stay and which shall go into the dumpster? “Pick out as much straw as you can,” the spinning friend informed us, “the shit will wash out but the straw is almost impossible to remove.” Ah…well there’s at least as much straw as shit, but hey, whatever, this fleece is “free.”

After that much fun and excitement I could have gone on to wash and card it myself, but having spent one day up to my armpits in sheep doo, I figured I’d let the mill take care of it. So we sent our garbage bags off to the mill, where they washed and carded it and returned it to me as a big bag of roving (complete with some nearly impossible to remove bits of hay in it). Not having a spinning wheel at this point, I started out on a drop spindle, and since I tend to spin very finely I made it a three ply. I have been spinning this very sporadically over the last year and a half or so, stopping entirely when a spinning wheel entered my life, because, dude, I’m not going to spend hours fucking around with a drop spindle when I could spend…uhm…hours fucking around with a spinning wheel.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I threw my spindle and the rest of this “free” wool into my satchel on my way out the door on Saturday morning…and by Saturday night I was plying. Yes! Plying, the last of the “free” fleece. That’s so very exciting. I will hopefully finish plying it tonight and then I will commence to wash, and attempt to estimate how much I actually ended up with. My hope is that I will have enough for some sort of cardigan like thing. There is also the question of dye, since right now it’s a nice creamy “unbleached” sort of color, which would remain nice and creamy for approximately 30 seconds after it became one of my garments. Black? Red? The choices are so overwhelming. Whatever this yarn ends up being, it better be flippin' phenominal because I've invested a signifigant protion of my life into the spinning of it.

My finishing binge continued on Sunday when I spent two hours that I should have been spending on quilting finising the “mega noodle” hat. I had hit a snag with this one last weekend when I started decreasing too soon. I tried to convince myself that it would be okay, for about 10 seconds, before I realized that with the immense weight of the foot long, multi colored dread locks it would fall right off the wearer’s head if it wasn’t at least two inches longer….which necessitated the ripping out of the entire crown of the hat, including several long dreadlocks. It was all very discouraging and I was quite grumpy about the whole thing. Nothing makes you question your decision to knit a ridiculous looking and unwearable hat like having to reknit half of it. But for better or worse, it’s done now.

And! I only have two more skull and crossbone repeats on pink and skull. Hurrah! Really must get over to Dready’s and borrow her digital camera in order to get some photographs posted. Perhaps if the cable guys manage to get her hooked up to the internet I will do a special weekend edition of Domestic Piracy, with pictures! Of course the cable guys were supposed to hook her up to the internet 3 weeks ago, so the holding of the breathe? I wouldn’t recommend it.

Ragnar…finishing Queen!!!


celticjig said...

Ach, I have a digital camera and we should have documented our brewing adventure so you can post a picture.
Almost finished with the green poncho, will have finished by this eve, yippeee!

Am putting ferm locks on the IPA today.
Still need a name.......

Ragnar said...

Ah...I was actually going to ask the bleaders for their suggestions.

So, any suggestions for a name for a beer that has seafaring overtones (India Pale Ale, so named for the extra hops added so that it wouldn't spoil on the long sea voyage to India), which is deceptively pale in color, and packs a 7% alcohol punch...oh yeah, and was brewed by pirates.


Imbrium said...

Oooh...congratulations on your productive weekend?

Would this be the porter that blew off the airlock? How about "Thar She Blows!" *snicker*

Atla said...

Huzzah! (It's my new word.. shuddup.) I demand to see photos of whatever the "free" fleece ends up being.