Archive for the ‘Beer’ Category

The brewing cycle – another battle with choice

It seems that the battle with choice is a recurring theme for me. When it comes to my home brewing I have a similar battle. WHAT should I brew this time? Even without some of the currently trendy home brewing accoutrements (pressure fermentation, anyone? Oxygen-free transfer?), the range of beers available to the homebrewer is great. In a slightly smug way I’d say that none of the all-grain brews I’ve done have been undrinkable, and some I’ve been very sad to finish the last bottle.

In fact I’ve moved to smaller batches typically around 10 litres instead of nearly 20. There were two principal reasons, firstly simply trying to consume up to 40 bottles of the SAME beer became a bit “challenging” during the period when we were self-isolating. Secondly my brewing machine routinely overflowed during the boil phase and while this wasn’t a particular problem, it did mean I had to pay more attention during the brewing process.

The reduction to smaller batches has given the opportunity to try a few more different styles and recipes. This has meant the paralysis of choice while I try to decide just what I’d fancy. I’ve also turned out to be poor at planning sufficiently far ahead to have seasonally-appropriate beers to hand. Trying to remember to brew something lighter in March or April for consumption in June and July should be simple, but for some reason I struggle. Part of the reason for this is that from time to time we are seduced by offers from our favourite commercial brewers and suddenly we have a stock of delicious other beers that need drinking and my plans to produce some batches of my own take a back seat.

I’ve also been trying to do a brewing/bottling combo day (bottling a previous brew while the next brewing is being processed by my brilliant Brewie machine). This has felt like a very efficient use of time, though it does mean I get into a cycle where I produce more beer than I’m drinking and I have to break that cycle! I’ve been considering my beer choices in batches of three lately, using a combination of “using up” to use whatever ingredients I have “lying around”, spotting interesting beers in YouTube videos I watch, responding to friends’ requests, and even repeating previous recipes that I’ve particularly enjoyed. The next three in the pipe are looking like a porter to use up some smoked malt (“Smoke On The Porter”), a Dark Mild (my first foray into brown malt), and a clone of Leffe Blonde (friend’s preference).


Maybe I have some time now – hah!

After a break of a smidgen over two years, I’ve reached a point where I may have some more time, and could possibly start putting some thoughts down again. I’ve retired from the “day job” at IBM, and am starting to fill the yawning chasm(!) of time with other things – mostly at this stage spending some more time on what I used to do outside of work anyway. Bassoon playing is top of that list, and I’ve already relaxed into playing during the day more regularly – I’d hesitate to call it practise – and responding to the periodic notes from Tom Hardy’s London bassoon list requesting fillers-in and deps. The last couple of weeks has seen rehearsals for Beethoven 9th Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Dvorak’s “The Golden Spinning Wheel” and the 7th Symphony of Prokofiev in addition to my regular playing at the Bushey Symphony Orchestra.

I’m also planning the next two or three brews in my re-found brewing hobby, I expect there’ll be more of that to come. I’m using an automated machine to produce the fermentable wort from the base grains and hops – frowned on by some, again I’ll talk about that later too. So far I’m happy to say I haven’t brewed anything I couldn’t drink (that’s 10 batches of “all-grain” beer as well as some kits to get me started), and some have actually been rather good (IMHO, of course).

On the photography side, it looks like I’ll be starting a little project close to home, as part of the Gravestone Photographic Resource, which looks like a worthwhile endeavour. We’re just checking whether our local churchyard has already been documented elsewhere before spending hours poring over the stones and getting images of them for posterity.

Finally, for now, a slightly longer term project as part of my UK Amateur Orchestras website. One of the features of the site is a mapping of the amateur ensembles listed on the site, which is currently built using Google Fusion Tables. Google have announced the “turn down” (i.e. termination) of this feature for later in the year, so I have to work on an alternative. I’ve mostly avoided the more complex mapping API in Google up to now, so I’m looking for alternatives. Since all of the entries have data for location (both UK postcode and lat/long) I’m hoping this won’t be too onerous, but I’m contemplating that a bit of coding might be necessary. Which brings us back to the SOFTWARE! I have no excuses left now to learn a rather more web-facing language than my trusty REXX, which carried me through 35 years of work. Python seems to be the least onerous alternative, so time to get learning…