Thursday, December 16, 2010

Beer Update!

Just a quick beer update:

The first thing is that we had a very active fermentation of our wheat beer, which resulted in some yeast in our airlock, as can be seen in the following two pictures. This happened on Sunday, or at least that is when I noticed it.

For the last week I have been shaking the bottles of our brown to try and get it carbonated and so today I tried our beer. As the picture below shows, our beer is no longer flat! I have been shaking it up everyday for the past week and today I tried it.. and... bam! Overflowing beer! lol... That can be seen in the last picture.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Flat Beer and Dry Malt

Yesterday we made our third batch of beer, as well as did a long awaited taste test of our second batch, which was a brown.

Sadly, it seems like we did not quite get the process totally down, and we aren't naturals as we thought after our first batch that turned out amazing. So the beer itself tastes pretty good, however, it is kind of rare that we get a bottle that actually has good carbonation. It seems like most of the bottles we have tried have ended up flat, which was disappointing. So I have begun the process of shaking bottles every day to hopefully agitate the yeast and get a little bit of carbonation. It is like my own version of the shake weight.... only slightly less suggestive. :p

For our third brew we decided to make a wheat. Mainly because Eric wanted to try a beer that used only one kind of malt. This way, we will know how the malt affects the beer and thus will be able to make our own recipies. I am skeptical of this, but wheat beer is fine with me, so I went along with it.

Mainly I am skeptical because there are so many different variables in the recipies, sice as different kinds of yeast and different kinds or hops and then the extract, so I am not sure that we will be able to tell... but its a nice thought.

For this brew, we had a guest brewer, Rob Hess. We told him about our brewing after one of our basketball games and he was pretty interested and wanted to see what it took, so we invited him to brew with us, and see how easy it was.

As always we started slowly, we tried our beer and cleaned the stuff and then put the malt on the burner. Unfortunately, we forgot to .... actually turn the burner on. But once we got that going, everything went well.

This beer is much lighter than what we have made in the first two brews. We can even see the bottom of the pot!

The beer eventually darkened up as it got hotter and closer to boiling.

We took the malt out and then brought it back to a boil. And then it was time to add the extract. Unlike the last two beers that we made, this recipe called for a dry malt extract, which wasn't quite as fun as the syrupy extract, but it was certainly interesting.

It also made the beer really foamy....

The rest of the process was pretty similar and hopefully it will turn out well. Rob seemed to enjoy the process and said he made get a kit of his own. So more beer makers! Woo hoo... we are slowly making the world a beerier place!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sheng's Game 9 Review

Since our brewery has taken off we have been able to bring it a beat writer to follow our awesome basketball team, and also to practice his written english.

His review of our latest game is below: (Note the pictures are from a previous game)


It was a wonderful win for the team!

Our team did pretty well at the beginning of the game. The other team got the ball to start, but Eric stole the ball and passed the ball to Jun. I wished that he had taken the shot. In the next minute, Eric again passed the ball to Jun, who made a shot. After that, Chris shot successfully, with an assist from Jun. In the first two minutes, we scored 4 points.

In the following minutes, we were stuck on 4 for quite a while. We shot several times, but we missed all of them. In addition, we had many turnovers and fouls. The other team got several points during this time, especially the big fat guy, who may be the best player on the other team. After eight minutes, the scores was 4 to 7. In another following three minutes, we still didn't score a basket.

This is maybe one of the patterns about how our team performs. In the last game, we scored the first 9 points of the game and then we were stuck for a long time, while the other team scored 19. I should check whether our performance follows the 80/20 rule, which is very common in computer science. Newton's law has taught us that objects at rest remain at rest unless acted upon by external force, which implies that one needs more effort to get points when the team is in a stuck state than when it is in a regular state.

Back to the game, we recovered thanks to Travis's successful shot at the 11th minute. After that, we got many good passes and shots. For example, Travis passed the ball to David who made a shot, Alan made one of two free throws, and Eric had a nice shot, which must have been too nice since it caused an argument between our team and the score keeper who didn’t record Eric’s shot.

This momentum was kept for the remainder of the first half. Eric got another basket in the following minutes, followed by Jun making another field goal and one of two free throws. Jun then had a nice drive and pass to Rob, who made our first three-pointer of the game. The other team was lucky and did well too. In the last 25 seconds, they got a three-point from way behind the arc. At the end of the first half, the score was 19 to 24.

During the break, Duc and I had an interesting talk with the score keeper. He though that we were from KFC and were selling fast-foods. In fact, we are doing (E)lectronic things rather than (F)ood things and we are the KEC team.

In the first several minutes of the second half, we did OK but they did really well. We got two two-pointers during this time: David got a nice offensive rebound and put back, and Chris made a good pass to Jun and Jun made a layup. Meanwhile, the other team scored about 11 points, I guess. The big fat guy made several three-pointers and the black guy (maybe I should not say this, but how else should I describe that guy?) made both his free throws.

In the fourth minute of the second half, there was a huge mess. We had the ball, tried to shoot but missed, got the rebound, and then tried and missed again. This process was repeated several times, finally Chris passed the ball out to Travis but he missed it.. The whole mess ended when one guy on the other team hurt himself accidentally. The injury was so serious that he had to lie on the ground for several minutes before he was able to be helped off the court.

The next following minutes were the golden time for our team., Eric passed the ball to Jun, who made a three-pointer. Travis made another one shortly after that. Eric passed the ball to Alan twice and he made one two-pointer. On the next possession Alan passed the ball to David, who made a layup. After these baskets the score was 33 to 39. Eric made two straight three pointers which brought loud cheers from our team and the score was tied 39-39.

The next several minutes were close. Although they scored four points, we got five. Travis hit a three-pointer with the assist from Jun and Alan made a two-pointer with an assist from Chris. We were ahead 44 to 43.

Our lead was expanded in the following minutes. Chris stole the ball and made a layup. Then Jun passed the ball to Alan for a layup. On the next possession Travis made another three-pointer. After this the other team seemed to lose its morale. They did not score in that time, even missing their free throws. The game ended with several fouls from which we got another three points. Jun made one of two and Travis made both of his free throws. The final score was 54 to

Besides our shooting, our performance for the overall game was good. It was quite impressive that Alan got 5 rebounds in the first several minutes and that pace was kept for the whole game. David also got some nice rebounds. Eric's defense, Jun's passes and the others’ perfect cooperation all contributed a lot to the success of the game.

Thanks for your guys' playing. You all as a whole made the game interesting, exciting, impressive and successful.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sprinkles takes a trip

So the Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone, and with it came my typical trip to my parents house. This trip marked the first time that Sprinkles would:
1) Go on a long car ride
2) Interact with other cats for a long period of time.

The car rides themselves were.... a bit loud. Sprinkles meowed a lot from her cage, but we made it safely, and I suppose that is the main point. I tried telling her everything would be all right, she just meowed a little louder. I almost let her out of her cage, but the one time I had let her do that before on the way home from the vet she managed to squeeze between my steering wheel, so I felt it would be safer to leave her in her cage.

So we got to my parents house and Sprinkles immediately set up shop on one of their chairs. At this point their cats are not inside the house, so everything is safe, and Sprinkles explores around and then lays down:
She basically stayed in that chair for the entire day. Broken only by her interaction with one of my parents cats, who came in and whom Sprinkles followed around the house hissing at until she confused/scared him enough to make him leave. At first he was interested in her because she was different, but it seemed after being hissed at he just sort of lost it and left. So Sprinkles controlled the house.

During the party, she was set up on the chair for the entire night, and everyone talked about her, but whenever anyone would go up to try and pet her she would either hiss or nip at them or hit them with her paws. It was kind of funny, people still thought she was cute though.

Sprinkles during Thanksgiving dinner:

Sprinkles looking at the leftovers:

The next day Sprinkles met the other cat, who was too scared of me to come in the house, but they had fun watching each other through the window. They are very similar in marking, so it was almost like they were looking in the mirror. It was odd since she seemed to like this cat, but whenever the other cat would come by she would hiss and growl.

However, her dominance of the house continued and she reigned supreme on her "throne".
Whenever the other cat would come in, she would follow him around and make sure that he wouldn't get too comfortable. Here she has followed him to the door and he is now begging to get out.
Here she corned him under the bar:

Here she stalked him while he was sitting on the scratching post.
In general he didn't seem to worried about it, but he did tend to back off, by the last day, he was hissing back a little.

During my trip we also went and got our family Christmas Tree. Once we brought it inside, Sprinkles was interested and walked around in and sniffed it

And of course... played with the water and the branches:

Once all the ornaments were up, she even jumped and played with them(sorry for the unnecessary tilt.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The great tasting

So we weren't really sure if our beer was totally ready, but it had been a week and it was recommended to wait about a week and then maybe wait a little longer, but we were really excited about trying it and there was a blazers game on, so we combined the game with our first tasting.

We stored the beer in the fridge had a beer to whet our palette. Then an hour later it was time to try it. Here we are pouring ourselves our first glasses. Pictures courtesy of Chris B, who is not pictured.

I was a bit nervous about it, I was worried that it was going to not be all that good. I was pretty sure that I would still drink it, since we had went through a lot of work to make it and I had sat with it as it burbled and carefully counted each burble as it happened... well not each one, but pretty close.

Anyway, .... It was great! I am not sure how to describe it, but it is beer and very drinkable and I found myself saying that I would maybe even buy it from the store. I still don't know how alcoholic it is, based on the hydrometer, I think it is probably about 4.5% or 5% maybe? Andrew was the one who thought that it tasted the worst when we first tried it and he was impressed by how much better it was and how much it changed.

I have handed out some of the beers already and we have gotten a few reviews back, which are below. If I have given you one of our beers and you would like to share a review you can leave a comment or email it to me and I will add it below:

Eric's Video Review:

My Dad:
"It was good. It was malty. Excellent chocolate stout. Good buzz, alcoholic content must be higher than advertised."

Anonymous Review 1:
"It was good. It was pretty good. It was a little bitter towards the end."

Anonymous Review 2:
"It is good.. it's not easy. I do not really know how to describe it..well the only thing I am pretty sure is that I would definitely be willing to pay to get this beer.. I think it tastes a little chocolaty and a little sweet."

Anonymous Review 3:
"I would definitely buy it in a store! It was rich and creamy, with a hint of coffee and chocolately taste to it, not hit you over the head chocolately like at Block 15, but a subtle natural hint of chocolate that I really liked. The aftertaste was a little bitter and lasting, but not bad at all, while the middle and end notes were fantastic"

We still have a few beers left for sharing so if you would like to try one let me know and we will see if we can work something out.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beer Bottling and Brewing

Yesterday was the third step in the brewing process. Bottling! Our beer has been fermenting for slightly more than 2 weeks and despite the fact that we didn't actually do any measuring to ensure that it was ready, we decided to bottle it! To be fair, it is only suppose to ferment for 2 weeks, so we figured that it was probably good. I suppose that the end results will determine this though. :)

In addition to bottling we decided to brew another batch of beer at the same time, so it was going to be a busy evening.

The first step was to clean and delabel the bottles. To do this we used Katie and Will's dishwasher, since mine doesn't really work. This process actually took a lot longer than I had expected. Specifically taking the labels off. We loaded all the bottles in the dishwasher and then had some dinner.

Since we had a lot to do we had to start the process of brewing and bottling while the bottles were being cleaned. So we went back to my place and started that.

We started the water boiling and then began the sanitation process. We had to sanitize a lot of stuff. Below we are starting the process and sanitizing the bucket so that we can add the sugar to our first batch of beer. The sugar will be eaten by the yeast and will help to carbonate the beer, at least that is the hope :p.

Once everything was sanitized and we boiled the sugar mixture up we began the process of mixing the beer. This required us to create a siphon and to suck the beer out of the carboy and into the bucket, which would then slowly mix with the sugar and stir it around. Chris B. who we determined was the least sick did the siphoning. This went well, although at several times during the process the tube curled up and got a little messed up. Thus we determined that we probably needed a little tube at the end to have better precision.

Here is a picture of the siphoning in action:

At the same time we started our next batch of beer. This time we are making a the Best Brown Ale. Which is... supposed to be brown. This one used a lot fewer malts but it still seemed almost as dark as our first batch, although it did lighten up after a while.

Once we mixed the sugar it was time to actually bottle. The two pictures below show us in the bottling process. It was actually pretty easy since the tube had the automatic thing that would only dispense if it was pressed down.

It was still a little bit messy, mostly because I wasn't as careful as I could have been. We also ran out of bottles and so we had to run over to Katie and Will's and get a growler for the last 1/2 gallon or so. We aren't sure if it is going to carbonate as well as the bottles, but we figured it was better than nothing.

I didn't actually do any of the capping, but Eric and Chris B. both did and it seemed to go smoothly, they both were a little nervous about the whole thing at first and were worried that they were going to break the bottles, but it was easy and once they got over that worry things seemed to go smoothly.

We loaded the beer up, which Sprinkles quite enjoyed.

We then stored the bottles and finished our next batch. It seemed to go much faster this time, but was actually only about 20 minutes faster. However, since we were doing bottling and stuff the whole time, it just seemed to go much faster.

Our first bottles of beer could be done in about a week and then we will be able to taste it!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Secondary Fermentation

So our beer has stopped bubbling a lot and so it was time to transfer our beer from our bucket to the glass carboy, which will house our beer for the next couple of days. We had been planning on making another batch of beer, but due to Eric coming down with the plague we were unable to do that. So I simply transferred the beer and we are holding off until later this week.

Anyway, here is the setup of the transfer:

This is what the inside of the bucket looked like:

The first step is to start the siphon, which basically just means that I suck on the tube and start the beer coming out the tube, and I used that to fill up our test tube so that we could take a hydrometer reading. And then I attached the tube to the little filler thing and stuck it in the bucket. The siphon looks like this:

The whole process took about 20 minutes and the end result of the bucket was... this:

It looks a bit.... uh... well it looks just a tad gross. But I am glad that the beer is no longer in that junk. Look at the nice clean carboy of beer! I managed to get a little bit of the gunk in there, but hardly any.... which is good.

So I moved the carboy into the closet and Sprinkles checked out the new addition. I wrapped it with a blanket, cleaned the other stuff and tidied up from the process.

The hydrometer reading was a lot lower than before and I am not sure exactly what that means. After we were done boiling the max alcohol % that we could get was 7.5% and now it is about 3.5%. But the taste that I had was actually pretty good which was encouraging. It just might not be very alcoholic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pick a Photo, any Photo

So today marks the first game of the Portland Trail Blazers season. The Blazer's have this contest where fans can send in photos of themselves in exotic locations wearing blazer gear and try and get their picture on a broadcast.

Since Eric and I both failed last year, (Note: I don't see how Eric failed, he took his picture at Stonehenge!!!!) we decided that we would coordinate and take pictures with our blazer shirts on in Spain. We didn't coordinate that well and only did it on one day, but it was the visit to the Alhambra, so we got a lot of pretty good pictures.

Now you, my loyal readers (all... 14 of you?), can help us pick the photo to send in to the contest. The photos are below and there is a poll on the left hand side of the blog. Please vote for your favorite and help us pick the best photo!

1. Generalife Fountain Photo - A picture a a fountain in the Generalife palace.

2. Crystal Palace Doorway Photo - A picture near a highly decorated doorway in the Crystal Palace.

3. Crystal Palace Pool - The pool in the middle of the Crystal Palace.

4. Crystal Palace Pool Take 2 - A different angle of the pool and Crystal Palace

5. Upper Ramparts of the Palace of Carlos V Take 1 -
6. Upper Ramparts of the Palace of Carlos V Take 2 - The second angle at the palace of Carlos V

7. The middle of the Palace of Carlos V - Showing both the upper and lower stories of the Palace.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

KEC Krew makes beer

Eric and I have been talking about brewing beer for a long time and so when I moved into a bigger place that had room for storage we decided that we would finally go for it. On Thursday we started our first batch of beer.
(Note: if we ever come up with a name for our brewery I will probably make a blog specific to that, but for now, it will just be updates on this blog)

So the whole process took quite a while, since we were a little nervous about actually buying the stuff. We first looked online at the prices, and found quite a few cheap options, so we were conflicted. We went into the brewing supply place in Corvallis to check it out and we looked at the prices and they told us that their list of kits were on the website so we decided to go back and compare the stuff online with the stuff at the store.

First, the website didn't work, but eventually we got it sorted out and we determined that the store was a little more expensive. But we decided that we would probably get better help there if we built a rapport with the guys who worked there in case we had any problems later on.

So the guys there are really cool, and I highly recommend them if anyone in Corvallis is looking to start brewing. Anyway, enough about that, on to the .... "exciting" part. The brewing of our first batch of beer!!!

We decided to go with a stout since then we don't have to be careful about it being clear since it is already dark.

So the first step of the process is that we had to take the yeast out of the fridge. And we had to do this at least an hour ahead of the start of the rest of the process. We did this as soon as we got to my place, and then we had some supper. Beer soaked brats! We watched the baseball game while we ate. And we ended up starting a bit later then we anticipated, but ... we were hungry! Also, Eric eats slow :p.

So Chris B and Andrew, who were going to show up sometime in the middle of the process, ended up showing up before we even started.... lol, I am not sure if the were disappointed or not, but it worked out, and I am glad they were there for the whole process.

So then we actually started. The first step was to fill our bucket with about 3 gallons of water. We did not plan well and my biggest measuring cup was 2 cups... :p We needed to fill it with 48 cups! So we took the two cup thing and filled up a pitcher until we knew were 10 cups was. This was a little bit better. And the bucket soon contained 3 gallons.

Eric fills the pitcher with water!

Next we had to add the specialty grains or malts to the water and raise it to a certain temperature. The grains for our beer were:
  • 1/2 pound Crystal Malt
  • 3/4 pound Roasted Barley
  • 1/4 pound Chocolate Malt
Luckily, the brewery place ground them up for us, which was great. So we added those to our little mesh steeping back, shown below, and then we added it to the pot. We had to add a little bit of water so that most of the grains were under the water, so we ended up with 4 additional cups of water.

Pretty soon the water was dark, it happened so quickly, as you can see below. We also added a thermometer, as we had to heat the water to 170 degrees. The thermometer was deftly tied on by Chris B.

The next step was to wait for quite a long time. We had to wait for the water to heat up to 170, which ended up taking about an hour, so I think that next time we are probably going to turn the heat up a little bit. So that meant we had time to dink around.

Sprinkles got to play in the box that the pot came in.

And then she watched us play a board game. She was good and didn't run across it much... only once or twice :)

So once the water finally got to 170 degrees we had to turn the heat off and let the grains steep for 10 minutes to get the flavor out as much as we could. After we did this, Eric squeezed the bag to get even more out. This wasn't in the instructions... so if the beer is horrible.... we can blame this ... or many other things we probably did wrong :)

So then we had to add the Malt Extract, which is shown below. This stuff was very very thick, it was sort of like molasses a little bit. We all tasted it and... it was ok I guess... lol, but anyway, into the mix it went! We had to get as much out of it as we could, so we ladled water into it and mixed it around and Chris B managed to get most of it.

Then we had to bring the mixture to a boil. So we stirred the extract very well to avoid it burning and sticking to the bottom and brought it to a boil. We then had to add the hops to the beer. In our case we were adding 1.5 ounces for the whole 60 minute boil and then adding .5 ounces for the last 10 minutes.

Just a note about hops. The hops adds the flavor and the aroma and the bitterness. So the longer hops are in the boil the fewer aroma and flavor it will add since the heat degrades it. So hops added for 60 minutes adds only bitterness, hops added for the last 15-5 minutes will add a little bitterness and lots of hoppy flavor and a little aroma. Hops added for the last 10 minutes adds mostly just lots of aroma.

So our hops looked like this.

And then dumped into the mix they looked like this.

We had to stir them around and fully saturate the hops so that there wouldnt be any thermal blanket that kept the heat in and messed things up.

So then we had to watch it carefully since we didn't want it to boil over, but either my stove isn't powerful enough, or our pot was too large, or.. something, but basically we our just natural beer brewers and so we just didn't ruin it! Woo hoo!

So halfway through, after 30 minutes we added Irish Moss, which is neither Irish, nor Moss, but seaweed. It helps to clarify the beer by coagulating the proteins. We also added gypsum which will harden the water. I already have pretty hard water so we didn't add as much as the beer called for. er... the recipe called for.

With 10 minutes left we added the last of the hops. And then I went to get the ice bath ready so we could cool the beer. I dumped 2 bags of ice into tub and then filled it up with water. Sprinkles was, as you can see, very interested in the water. I had to pick her up and move her so that we could put the pot in.

We had to add it carefully so that none of the water splashed into the mixture since now we need to be extra sanitary and careful. Here Eric is cooling the pot and mixture by rubbing ice against it.

And here he takes the temperature. We had to cool it off to about 75 or 80 degrees so that could add the wort. We managed to make it to about 85 or so and we called it good since we knew that we had to add cold water to it before it was done.

Here, Eric takes the temperature of the mixture.

Sprinkles really wanted to get in and play with the water.... a lot.

So once it was cooled, we had to filter the hops out, so we bore the mix out and filter the hops and then poured water threw the hops to get more of the flavor out.... we had a very small filter. We might need to get a bigger one next time. I used a spoon to scoop the hops out and a few got into the beer... another potential reason our beer could taste bad.
So then we had to aerate the beer, which basically just meant that we would be shaking it and getting it all frothy. And then we tossed the yeast in and sealed it up and we were done!!!

Oh, we also took a hydrometer reading. Which consisted of using a turkey baster to get some of the mixture out of the fermenter (the bucket). This tells us exactly what the potential alcohol volume of our beer is. It will probably fall a bit, but this is the max that it could be. At the time our max is about 7.5%

And then we sealed the beer and we were done!

Our beer all shaken and sealed!

Our first beer all nestled into the closet!
The beer has begun fermenting, which is great news and we are getting some bubbles. We should get a lot at first and then it will decrease until it is only bubbling once a minute and then we will be onto the next step.

Stay tuned!