Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011


When it comes to subscribing via email to various newsletters, I probably sign up for more than I should. I end up with lots of regular emails that I often delete without even opening, based on the subject line. But my slothful unsubscribing ways finally paid off! Case in point, I get a semi-regular email from Bicycling Magazine that I largely ignore. But when I saw the headline "11 Cold Beers For Hot Rides" I had to click. I was even more excited when I learned that any of these 11 could be considered "recovery beers". It's almost like drinking Gatorade!

11 Tasty Summer Beers For Post-Ride Recovery

In related news, one of our biking bretheren has some fresh salsa. We were conspiring via Google+ to see if maybe we could set up a combination Beer for Bloggers and Salsa Distribution event next Wednesday or Thursday. Any interest or availability? Anyone? Bueller?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sea Salt - tonight!

I thought I would throw this out. It's the lovely Saucy Wench's birthday today, and we're headed to Sea Salt via bike to celebrate. We'll be there around 5pm Sunday the 7th. Feel free to swing by!

Thursday, July 07, 2011


The kids were invited to a friend's house for dinner tonight. The Mrs. Was writing, so I was on my own. I biked up to the Subway and grabbed my favorite footlong (spicy Italian) and ate it in the park. Not a bad way to spend a beautiful July evening.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bike bag

I've been very remiss in posting about this beauty of a bike bag that Bill made for me. Though the entire project was comically slow, so this is fitting. Bill and I got together in February of 2010 for a beer and to discuss bike bags. He offered to make one, and I gave him some basic requirements and desires. A few months later he sent some pictures of the finished product, which looked great. But somehow we never got together to make the handoff. Bill came over to my place in February 2011 for a brew day, and dropped off the bag.

I didn't put it on my commuter bike, because I have a large box on the rear rack and the box interfered with the bag. So I put it on my "racing" bike. It took almost two months before I took that bike for a ride with the bag on it, sometime in mid April. So again, it's kind of fitting that I wouldn't actually post until mid June.

The bag seems to work great, and looks pretty fantastic on the bike. I'm looking at maybe rearranging my box set up so I can use this on a more regular basis. Thanks for the bag, Bill, it's awesome!

Side view of the bag.

Perfect mounting points for my 3 Speed Tour bag tags. The straps are wide enough that the tags slide on easily, but don't fall off easily. Almost like they were made for the bag.

Looks nice with the Brooks.

Rear view.

Nice view of the longflap-style flap with the interior elastic still cinched.

The interior. It has my tool kit and a spare tube, with plenty of space for a lunch and other stuff.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Beer On!

I left the poll open until tomorrow, but the results seem to be a landslide. I'm going to go ahead and prognosticate a winner: Thursday, June 9.
June 9: 9 votes (90%)
June 23: 1 vote (10%)

I would say let's keep things simple. Sea Salt, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5pm?

The beauty of this date is that it happens to be Minneapolis Bike to Work Day. So ride your bike, attend a bike to work celebration in the morning and then another in the evening. The weather forecast is even looking promising. Cooler and partly sunny. Perfect for enjoying a cool beverage on the patio.

Really, you haven't got a good enough excuse to avoid this. If you've never met any of the locals before, just look for the group with questionable fashion/grooming habits and bike helmets on the table.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Beer for Bloggers?

The sun has been shining more than it was last time Snak Shak proposed a meetup, and it's now officially June. I also saw Wheel Dancer on my way to work this morning. All of which made me think, maybe it's time for another BFB attempt. So, I decided to get funky with some of the newer Blogger features and added a poll. You should be able to see it on the main page (RSS/Facebook readers need to actually visit the site) and vote! Give it a try, and I'll post the results.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Pub Crawl

Minnesota Craft Beer Week kicks off next year. I've been getting most of my updates from but I haven't seen much about this pub crawl coming through. I did see the notice on the organizer's blog. The important details are:

The ride is on May 21st and starts at 10 am at Cafe 28 where Surly’s own Todd Haug will have a special beer for us while his wife, who owns the place, will have breakfast. From there we will travel to Busters on 28 then up to the Nomad World Pub on the West Bank, from there we will go north across the Stone Arch Bridge and on to Pracna on Main where lunch will be had and finally the last stop will Stanley’s where the fine folks there have sectioned off their parking lot and made it a bike corral for us and all the bikers in town who will be enjoying the Schell’s beer tent and Art-A-Whirl which is happening the same day.

They were going to test ride the route this weekend, so there could be changes as a result. I don't know that I'll be allowed to go to this event, as I have myriad bathroom duties to perform, but it looks like fun.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Last year I was shanghaied into participating in a Duathlon. Before I knew what was happening, I was registered and expected to participate. And participate I did. And it was one of my favorite running events that I participated in during the 2010 season. Probably because a good 50% of it was not running. So when we signed up for events this year I did so with full consent.

Last year, the weather was beautiful. Sunny and bordering on warm, a lovely late April day. The down side was a ferocious headwind for the second half of the bike. We started looking at weather reports for this year's event, and it didn't look good:

Saturday...Cloudy and breezy with rain tapering off. High 60 F. Winds WSW at 16 mph, gusting to 30mph.

Yes, WSW is the direction that we bike to get back to town. It's a 14 mile out and back. And while having a tailwind can be fun, that headwind sucked. And apparently it made an impression. Our friend Val said she wouldn't do the event again unless they changed the course. Her husband Eric was game, but earlier this week wasn't feeling well and begged off. My wife told me for 3 days straight how awful it would be. And then the morning of the event decided she wasn't going. I also got a text from a coworker who was signed up saying he also was going to call it. I decided to go solo, with Jim's useful catch phrase running through my head. "What's the worst that could happen?"

It rained, hard, the whole time I was driving south to Cannon Falls. But somewhat miraculously, the rain tapered to almost nothing as I pulled into the parking lot. I got my bike to the stuff storage area, took off my raincoat and felt pretty smart for deciding to go. I ran the first two miles without a lot of issues and I was happy with my performance. I transitioned onto the bike and felt pretty good. The wind was more of a cross wind, and I was anticipating a better second half on the bike than last year. Not long after I passed the marker for 6 miles on the bike, I noticed a strange sort of shimmy from the back end. Soon I could see the 7 mile turn around point for the bike portion. About that same time, I realized I was getting a flat rear tire.

After 10+ years of being a cautious, prepared cycle commuter I found myself up the creek without a paddle. Or more accurately, 7 miles out of town without a pump or spare tube. I tried to remember if anybody had mentioned a sag wagon for the event and decided I couldn't. So I started walking.

I walked about 2 miles when I heard a car slow down behind me. It was the Dakota County Sheriff who had been directing traffic at the turnaround. He offered me a ride and I gratefully accepted. What would probably have taken me another 2 hours turned into a 10-15 minute ride in the back of the squad. Once I was back at the transition I didn't even consider doing the remaining run portion. I grabbed my stuff along with a hot dog and hit the road. The spirit was willing, but the equipment was weak. But, DNF is better than DNS.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Resurrection Ale

We were fortunate enough here in MN to have not only a 3 day weekend, but some beautiful spring weather as well. I actually got a minor sunburn while hunting for Easter eggs with my niece. I am in the midst of a bathroom remodel, but I did manage to squeeze in a brew session on the morning of Good Friday. I brewed with a mug of coffee in hand instead of a beer, due to the hour, but it was still enjoyable. The downside is that if this batch doesn't turn out, and I have some concerns that I'll mention later, I can't blame it on having a couple of beers influencing my actions.

In retrospect, my main flaw in my approach to the brew day was trying to change too many variables at once. I bought a basic pale ale kit from Northern Brewer to brew for my second all grain batch. I plan to spend the summer refining recipes and creating a pale ale that I can call my own. I figured that the NB kit was a perfect jumping off point. I also have a few variations on clones of Summit Extra Pale Ale, which is probably my very favorite beer.

My thinking went off track before brew day even began. I decided to skip the yeast I bought with the kit and re-pitch some yeast that I harvested from my previous batch. I have never harvested yeast before, and never repitched, so not only do I have the uncertainty of being new to all grain brewing, but I also have an unproven yeast process. I'm learning more and more that having a repeatable process is key, especially in all grain.

The brew day itself was pretty much according to plan. But I missed a couple of numbers. I wanted to mash in at 152, but was a little low. A couple quarts of boiling water brought me up to where I needed to be. I also lost more heat during the mash this time, so I again added more water at the 30 minute mark. I'm not sure if this had any impact on my extraction rate or not. But my extraction rate was lower than I wanted it. If I calculated correctly, it was about 65%. Not horrible, but I'd like to get into the 70s. My pre-boil gravity was also lower than I expected, and right now I don't really have any explanation for that.

Toward the end of the boil, the neighbor across the street came over to check out the operation and we gabbed for 15 minutes or so. Normally, I would have been getting my fermenter ready to go during this time, so I was rushed. I went in to grab it, and realized I am missing the rubber gasket for my spout (plastic bucket fermenter). I have some cider in my big carboy, and I didn't want to ferment in my small carboy for fear of overflow. I only have airlocks, and probably would need a blowoff tube for the smaller one. So I kept the wort boiling much longer as I cleaned and sanitized a different bucket. The other bucket has a different spigot system, so I couldn't just use the gasket from that one, naturally.

While I'm sure that the longer boil had something to do with it, I can't believe the extra 10-15 minutes would account for the next issue. Once I ended the boil and ran my wort through the chiller, I only ended up with 4 gallons. So I lost 2.5 gallons during the boil instead of the approximately 1 gallon loss I expected. However, in this case things worked out well. Since my gravity was low to begin with, the additional evaporation brought my Original Gravity right in line with what my expected OG was.

So I was finally into the fermenter, and I pitched my yeast slurry. Fermentation started almost immediately, and was very vigorous. And it was done 3 days later, at least visibly. I haven't taken a reading yet. A fast fermentation is often a sign of infection, but I've heard that repitched yeast starts faster. I'm not confident of which is the explanation at this point.

So if this thing turns out, it will be nothing short of a miracle. Since I was reviving previously used yeast and brewing on Good Friday I am referring to this batch as Resurrection Pale Ale. Jesus turned water into wine, so I'm sure he won't mind me turning water and barley into beer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring is here

Spring is here, but I'm still slow to rejoin the biking community. This is somewhat problematic, because I am registered to do the Cannon Falls Duathlon in only a few short weeks. I've done some running so far this year, but the bulk of my energy has been going into our bathroom. After a couple of dumpsters full, it's down to the subfloor and studs. Also known as "blank slate" mode. Now comes the real work of putting it all back together.

My friend Joel came over on Sunday and we put together 3/4 of a stir plate project, something I'll post more about once it's complete. And I also managed to steal away 30-45 minutes in the afternoon to put together a batch of hard cider. It's my first attempt at a cider, and I'm finding it is very easy to make. The only difficulty comes if you want to get fresh apples and juice them yourself. I was content to just buy 5 gallons of juice at the grocery story and throw in a couple pounds of honey. I wanted to make this an SCD friendly batch of cider, so I used honey for my yeast starter instead of DME. I didn't realize my yeast had been in the fridge quite as long as it had been (November date on the smack pack) so I stepped the starter up once also. Making the two starters was the majority of the work. Sunday I just sanitized, poured the juice into the carboy and aerated for 30 minutes while I pulled nails out of the wall studs. After aeration, I pitched my yeast. I've got a good steady fermentation going after less than 24 hours.

If I hadn't been in a hurry to get back to the bathroom, I would have remembered to take a hydrometer reading. I plan to make another batch using yeast that I harvest from this one, and I'll use the same approach with the honey and juice, so I should be able to back into an approximate gravity reading for both batches that way. It won't be exact, but it will be better than nothing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bell's vs Northern Brewer

There was a bit of a kerfluffle this week between two companies I like. I am a customer of both, and it left me feeling somewhat conflicted. At the heart of the matter was trademark infringement. sums it up nicely:

Bell’s Brewery sent our friends at Northern Brewer a cease and desist letter regarding the their Three Hearted Ale kit, a recipe kit styled after Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.

Bell’s owns the trademark for Two Hearted Ale and as such is charged with protecting that mark from others that might dilute or tarnish that name. Most of the time, trademark issues aren’t purely black and white, as is the case with the Three Hearted Ale kit. Bell’s (or rather their lawyer(s)) decide what they see as a threat to the mark and what they see as something that they can let slide. As The Gambler once said, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, [and]] know when to fold ‘em…”

I understand Bell's point on this, and their need to protect their trademark. But really? Bell's put the following excerpts of the letter on their website:

Here is a partial extract of the letter we sent: "As a result of the extensive business investment by Bell's Brewery, significant goodwill has inured in the TWO HEARTED trademark." "While Bell's Brewery encourage the development of independent brewers and homebrewing, Bell's Brewery are concerned with your use of THREE HEARTED ALE Extract kit." "Bell's Brewery are of the opinion that there is a likelihood of confusion between your mark and the trademarks for TWO HEARTED owned by Bell's Brewery. The marks create the same overall commercial impression. Furthermore, the goods associated with your mark and the trademark for Two Hearted are identical." "Consequently, your use of THREE HEARTED is likely to create confusion, deception, or mistake among purchasers as to the origin or source of the goods/services, or convey to the purchasing public that the goods/services are approved by Bell's Brewery or that there is an affiliation or connection between you and Bell's Brewery."

It seems highly unlikely that anybody would confuse a box of syrup, hop pellets and yeast for a tasty 6 pack of beer. The end result is the same, but the route to get there couldn't be much different. They go on to say that clones are not even the issue. And they love homebrewers!

Northern Brewer, after an initial shocked post on Facebook, took the high road in their response:

But this morning I'd like to take a moment to spread some calm:

The fact that a homebrew recipe kit became noteworthy enough to draw legal attention is a powerful statement of the love for brewing that made this kit one of our best sellers in the first place. Your choice in purchasing this kit, and likely your attraction to it via your enjoyment of its commercially-brewed muse, is the real story here.


You may very well have come to love this recipe kit because of your experience with the Bell's brew that it emulates. So please don't find yourself at odds with Bell's for protecting what they have, in kind, created. Bell's Brewing is amongst the finest producers of microbrewed ales, the world over. Their business obligations and the craft of the people who brew their great beers are separate entities, as any pro brewer can attest. I ask of you, our loyal homebrewers, not to call out or boycott Bell's for fulfilling their legal obligations. Remember, the people who acted on behalf of Bell's in instigating this change did so because of their commitment to their product, just as you choose NB because of your commitment to your product.

Let's be happy that we live in a nation that not only allows for such creativity to produce a beer that catches the tastes of brewers and beer lovers like ourselves, but a nation that gave us the freedom merely thirty years prior to have a hobby that so benefits our creativity and subsistence.

Cheers to our fine customers AND the fine people who make Bell's beer!

Now I'm feeling the love, not the lawyer.

Pity they couldn't have agreed to co-exist, much as Surly Brewing and Surly Bikes have for the past 5 years.

There is absolutely no affiliation between Surly Bikes and Surly Brewing, except for the fact that they like bikes and we like beer. After the initial shock of finding out another company in town shared our name, our eyes lit up with cross-promotional ideas, errr, free beer. Either way, Kenny Bloggins, Sovern, pal Mike and I rolled the party bike up to north Minneapolis. As we were locking up our bikes, the door swung open and a girl wearing a "Surly Girl" t-shirt said, "Are you the guys from Surly Bikes? Come on in and have some beers". She was the wife of the owner and she made us feel like rockstars. The brewery was packed and the beer was flowing. They currently have two beers, but unveiled a third just for the open house. They even had special editions of their beers, one brewed with coffee and the other was aged in a bourbon barrel. Oh my god, they were both excellent. I told myself, I'm going to stay here and drink until they cut me off. They tapped a dry hopped beer with Amarillo hops later, but we'd gotten on our bikes by then because we'd had our share of free beer. The brewery was beyond impressive and it left me with the feeling that I'm happy to share the Surly name with a company like that.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Hop to it

I finally pulled the trigger and ordered 4 hop rhizomes.

Your Order (placed on March 7, 2011)

Item Sku Qty Subtotal
Fuggle Hop Rhizome HR01 1 $4.99
Horizon Hop Rhizome HR67 1 $4.99
Cascade Hop Rhizome HR13 1 $4.99
Centennial Hop Rhizome HR35 1 $4.99

Not that I think this will help me avoid any upcoming hop shortages, but it can't hurt. And truthfully, I've been meaning to plant hops at my house for 6 years. I have had a hop plant growing at my in-laws' farm for quite some time, and have even harvested some fresh hops from it. But they live 150 miles southwest of here, so the odds of me being at their place when it's time to harvest are slim.

I ordered 4 different varieties because last fall I started a fencing project around our garden. I plan to plant one on each of the four fence corners and let them grow out along the fence. This should help hide any flaws in my fence building and motivate me to complete the project this spring. I'll try to update my progress here as I remember or as events dictate.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Time to stock up

I was catching up on some beer related reading tonight, and found a somewhat unnerving juxtaposition. I clicked on the most recent entry in the Beer Diary blog and found that the world was about to end. The brewing world, anyhow:

Now, I don't harbor a lot of American dreams, just the right to brew my own beer and I'm getting this horrific feeling that the economy may impede my efforts to have my dream and drink it too. Every day I listen to the news of the economy and my mind jumps from the current fiscal meltdown to the inevitable related consequences which then leads me to fear this will end up limiting my access to homebrewing.

Mark goes on to talk about a world where the economy falls so completely apart that he's reduced to living in his van and brewing over a fire fueled by his own feces. OK, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but only a bit. But hey, the pioneers burned buffalo chips when nothing else was available, so who knows?

I sort of wrote this off as unwarranted rambling, but then I went to visit my friends at Northern Brewer, where I find a similar thread:

Now comes the looming specter of the global economy ... shortages in the worldwide barley crop. A viciously scorching Siberian summer drove wheat prices to historic highs. And, now the hop harvest pits the incoming crop's lethargic yield, against the unwavering demand for more citrusy IPAs and amped-up pale ales.

You know, if one person, just one person says it I may think he's really sick and won't listen to him. And if two people, two people do it, well you know how the song goes. Remember the hop shortage of '09? This will probably prompt me to pre-order some hop rhizomes. It's that time of year. That way, I'll at least have something to barter when the beer shortage comes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dundalk Irish Heavy

I brewed my first all grain batch of beer today, with the help of a cast of several. We started things up around 12:30 by heating the strike water to 161 and mashing in at 150 degrees. Things went well in that regard from all appearances. While we tended to the mash indoors, Gabe and others brewed a batch of Scottish 80 Shilling in the garage. Timed it really well, as by the time we were moving Gabe’s beer to the primary fermenter the Irish Heavy was going through its sparge and was ready for the burner.

The color was extremely dark, much darker than I expected. More of an Old Ale or almost a barley wine coloration. The description for this recipe says it was often referred to as a barley wine, but the gravity seemed light to me. The pre-boil was only 1.040, however the post boil skyrocketed to 1.072, thanks to evaporation and the addition of a pound of pure sugar at the end of the boil. I collected approximately 4.5 gallons of wort, so when I pitched the yeast I topped it up to around 5.5 gallons, by adding an additional gallon of purified water. I felt I was safe to do this with the O.G. being significantly higher than planned. I probably should have taken another hydrometer reading after topping up, but I didn’t.

Finally pitched the yeast around 7:00 after waiting for the temp to rise up enough. The temp was reading around 60 degrees at pitching time, which is a little cool for this one, but I have a heating pat strapped to the fermenter so that should come up a few degrees. I was getting super hungry and tired at this point, as I’d been brewing for most of the day and hadn’t eaten since mid-morning. The low temp was a combination of the 25 degree temps today and an overly aggressive wort chiller. I found a used homemade wort chiller on craigslist, but it seems a little too efficient. We chilled Gabe’s batch down into the mid 40s, and mine went down into the low 50s. The only reason mine did not go lower was that we only opened the tap on the hose an eighth of a turn. Might be good for summer brewing, or lagers, but was a little much this time of year for an ale.

In two weeks I’ll bottle and the in a few more weeks we’ll see how the final gravity looks, along with the taste. Should be interesting.

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 11
Anticipated OG: 1.062
Anticipated SRM: 16.3
Anticipated IBU: 52
Brewhouse Efficiency: xx %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

75.0% - 9.25 lbs. Maris Otter
25.0% - 0.50 lbs. CaraPils
xx.x% - 0.25 lbs. Roasted Barley

Water Profile
Profile: Eagan, MN, diluted by ¼ with purified bottled water

Mash Schedule
Sacch 60 min @ 150


Wyeast British Cask Ale 1026

Brewed 2/27/11
Pre-boil gravity 1.040
O.G. 1.072

Collected 5 gallons of wort

Pitched 1000 ml of yeast starter. Yeast starter was created on Friday, 2/25/2011. Used 200 ml honey with 800 ml distilled water and ½ tps of yeast nutrient, as I was out of DME. Yeast was highly flocculent and formed interesting clumps. No stir plate, so that could have had an impact.