Tuesday, September 18, 2012

HGTV! My BFF, Sarah, shares her tv experience!

My First Place: Fact or Fiction?

If you watched our episode debut Sunday on HGTV you may be wanting to know just how much of it really happened and what was scripted. In all fairness, there's no way you can accurately sum up a first time home buyer's experience in a 30 minute television show and I understand the network's reasoning for doing some of the things they had to do. With that being said there was definitely a skewed portrayal of what really went down...
First and foremost, the hardest part of the whole thing was going on the show and having to say negative things about someone's home. Some of the houses we looked at weren't right for us but it doesn't mean they weren't right for someone else. For example, we toured one house where the kitchen was next to the laundry room and I made a comment about "our clothes smelling like grease." What? That doesn't even make sense or accurately reflect how I felt about that, I think these soundbites are just added for extra affect. I also felt horribly when the comment about all of the kitchens and bathrooms looking like they were built in "1973 or something" was made. Some of the kitchens and bathrooms needed updating but I didn't think they were as bad as we had to make them out to be. On top of all of that the owners graciously gave up their home for most of the day so we could film there and we really didn't want to say anything negative about their house. 
Believe it or not, we were not concerned with finding a home that would be close to the Navy Stadium for tailgates, had large closets for my shoe "collection" or in Admiral Heights in general. Don't get me wrong, Admiral Heights is a lovely community and a place where we could definitely be happy to live but it wasn't a must have neighborhood that the show made it out to be. HGTV loved the military aspect and wanted that to be a huge part of our story so they really scripted that whole we want to live in Admiral Heights part "we wouldn't need a designated driver" or "I can practically see our stadium seats from this house" isn't how we all. We knew what our budget was and we were only comfortable spending so much money therefore our wish list was small, we wanted 3 to 4 bedrooms, a basement or a garage and a fence if we were really lucky! That was it, we knew the challenges we'd face with trying to find a single family home in Annapolis with a small budget and we were open minded to any neighborhood, not just Admiral Heights. I think the part of the show that bothered me the most was that Matthew appeared to be the one making all of the decisions about the home buying process and I'm just over here making comments about shoe closets. In reality, Matthew and I were a team and we made decisions together that we felt made the most sense.
You also may have noticed that throughout the show we wore solid and bright colors. We were given a strict dress code which was difficult to follow, especially because they didn't want you to accessorize and really preferred very basic outfits. It was difficult to find so many brightly colored shirts that didn't have a pattern on them-and then to not be allowed to add a necklace or something (I did sneak one in for a scene though). Some days we would shoot multiple scenes and just have a change of clothes that we could quickly throw on so it would look like it was a different day. I felt like I was running out of clothes, one day I was completely ill prepared when I found out last minute we needed three outfit changes! I quickly rummaged through my closet in desperate search of anything that was brightly colored without a pattern! That was hard! Especially, since we filmed during winter where the majority of your closet contains darker colored clothes! And we couldn't wear black clothes, my favorite! They're so slimming which is great, especially since the camera definitely makes you look bigger than you are...or maybe we're just fat, ha!
All and all, I think this was an exciting opportunity and it gave us more of an insight as to how these "reality" shows are created. It's definitely weird watching yourself on television and over analyzing the comments you make...comments that may or may not have been scripted. I've been asked by a few people if we would do it again and I'm not really sure, Matthew on the other hand says yes, as long as we're paid, ha! It was a huge undertaking, months and months of filming (since we pretty much only filmed on the weekends) and it was definitely more work than we imagined! We have a newfound appreciation for the entertainment industry...although it sure would have been nice to have a hair dresser, makeup artist and someone to pick out our wardrobe on set :)
What did you all think about our show?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Long Hiatus

Hey loyal followers,

It's been too long since I have graced you with my presence, and for that I apologize.  I have been distracted by other troublesome hobbies, vacations, yard work, additions to the family etc...  Enough is enough.  It's time I put the nose to the proverbial grindstone and cranked out a blog entry.  My last post was March 21st, over two months ago.  Unfortunately I haven't brewed any beer since then, but I have certainly drank my fair share.  Let me catch you guys up on my first magnificent brews.

First up was the Amber.  My first born.  My pride and joy.  Heir to my debt... It came out more like an amber-headed step child.  Not quite what I wanted, and if reported lost in Macy's I may not claim him, but tolerable behind closed doors.  I actually got a little impatient and cracked one open before it was completely primed in the bottle.  It tasted like ass... at least what I imagine ass would taste like.  The "beer" had a buttery/butterscotchy taste to it, and after reading around I found out this was due to some chemical reaction blah blah.  I was a little worried, but I gave the rest of the batch another week or so. 

Alright, now for the actual first tasting of the finished beer.  As I cracked open the first bottle and poured the beer into my glass, the color was a nice dark amber (shocker); almost opaque (that means you can't see through it).  Clarity issues are usually caused by a slow cold break, which I could understand since I cooled this guy in the kitchen sink with ice water.  It smelled OK I guess.  This amber didn't have any aroma hops so I wasn't expecting too much in the scent department.  But who cares about that crap.  What about the taste?  It tasted... underwhelming.  Boo!!!  Four weeks for this?  Don't get me wrong, it was drinkable.  They disappeared rather quickly, but that's more of a reflection upon your esteemed author than the taste of the beer.  The taste just seemed impotent, lacking, incomplete, far short of its potential, light in the loafers.  Need I go on?  I think one of the problems was my steeping method.  I basically just dropped the grain bag in the water and left it.  I'm supposed to dip it like a tea bag.  Perhaps the spillage of yeast detracted from the flavor.  Who is to say?  Whatever, I have moved on.

 Next was my IPA.  I was very excited to brew this beer because I am a self proclaimed hop-head.  This guy loves the bitter.  Since this batch had such a high starting gravity I had to make a starter wort.  See my previous post if interested in that debacle.  Anyway, as I was going through the ingredients I found the extra packet of dried yeast I bought to prevent the requirement of a yeast starter.  Oops.  Oh well, since I spilled most of my yeast while making the starter I was happy to see this.  It all works out in the end.

On to the tasting.  I had to let this beer sit in the fermenter for 3 weeks, then prime in the bottles for 3 more!  When the day finally arrived to open one up, I could barely contain myself.  I almost called out of work, but thought it better to save the day for one of recovery rather than one of debauchery.  As I sat in my cubicle, watching the minutes tick by I could almost feel the ice cold brew flowing down into my gullet.  Minutes felt like hours, hours felt like an eternity.  "What a cruel existence this is!" I screamed in my head.   3:30 came at last and I bolted from my ergonomic chair and ran to my car, ready to face my God-awful commute.  Traffic was heavy, but by now my mind was laser focused on one thing...homebrew.  I dodged and weaved, passed on the shoulder, drove in the HOV lane without a passenger; I didn't care.  If a cop tried to pull me over, it may have resulted in a high speed chase.  I cannot say for sure.  When I finally got home I burst through the door, opened the refrigerator, grabbed my beer and went for the bottle opener.  As I opened the drawer I noticed my hands were visibly shaking.  Six weeks of anticipation were coming to a head and the moment was nearly upon me.  I took a deep breath, steadied my hand, placed my large mouth bass shaped bottle opener under the cap, and pried with all my might.  "Sppprtt."  Oh what a beautiful sound that beer made.  I honestly believe it whispered to me in some carbonated beverage dialect foreign to my ears.  I will never truly know what it said, but I like to believe that in our language it would roughly translate to "soul mate."

Oh, sorry.  I got a little descriptive.  My first pour of Imperial IPA was rather impressive.  The color was dark but clear.  The smell was pungent and hoppy.  And the taste.  Oh the taste.  This is by far the best beer I have ever brewed.  Bitter yet sweet.  Complex yet simple.  I am completely happy with this beer, and if it was sold in a store I would certainly buy it.  Salty Rick makes one hell of an IPA.

Well, there it is.  You are all caught up on the goings on of your favorite home brewer.  What prompted me to write this entry is a sale I saw on Austin Home Brew Supply.  This Saturday, all orders over $50 get free shipping.  I'm all over this bad boy.  I'm picking up an American Pale Ale and a British IPA for $30 each (usually $42).  Add yeast and thats 10 gallons of beer for $75 bucks.  Sign me up.

Sorry for the long post.  I will try to keep the updates a little more regular to cut down on the wall of text.

Peace out,


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Melting Pot Beer Dinner

I'm back.   Its been quite a busy couple of weeks.   And when I say busy I mean lazy; really, really lazy.   I did have a rather entertaining ordeal involving a rabid fan and a hacked brewing blog, but I survived.   Security levels have been raised and restraining orders have been filed.   Let's talk about beer.

Last night I was cordially invited to attend my first beer dinner.   For those of you who do not know, a beer dinner is when somebody tells you to eat their food while drinking their beer.   Then they charge you a lot of money.   Last night's event was held at The Melting Pot restaurant in naptown.   Now I am not a huge fan of fondue.   I'm somewhat of an aggressive eater, and I tend to leave fondue restaurants with some rather serious burns in my mouth.   But my love of beer trumped any medical concerns, so I packed my aloe vera gel and prepared myself for a wonderful night.   I was not disappointed.  

The hosting brewery was Brooklyn Brewery.   I am not very familiar with their products.   In fact, even though I have read (partially) a book about the founding of the brewery (Beer School) I am not sure if I have ever even tried their signature Brooklyn Lager.  I was looking forward to sampling some of the best craft brewed beers in the world.  I'll stop boring you now and give my super expert professional review.

Course 1: 
Brooklyn Cheddar Cheese Fondue: Brooklyn Pennant Ale, cheddar and Emmenthaler cheeses accented with Nueske's (who?) Applewood-Smoked Bacon, onion, dijon mustard, Tabasco and scallions.       
Paired With: Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 (apparently 1955 was the last year the Brooklyn Dodgers won the pennant, or maybe it was 1855.  Who knows?)
Professional Review: Bangin'.  That Nueske is ok in my book.  He sure knows how to smoke a hog.  The bacon made the cheese taste all appley and woody.  This was probably favorite dish of the night.  The Pennant Ale was good too.  It had a reddish color and a refreshing quality.  Somewhat dry but sweet at the same time, if that makes any sense.  This was my second favorite beer of the night.  I lucked out too cause the guy next to us won a free pint but wasn't much of a fan so he passed it off to my wifey.  Since we are married and required by law to share everything 50/50 I begrudgingly commandeered my half and stowed it away for safe keeping in my rapidly expanding gut.  It's the law. 

Course 2:
Wisconsin Wedge Salad: Iceberg wedge with Roma tomatoes, Emmi Roth Kase Gorgonzola, Nueske's Applewood-Smoked Bacon and Peppercorn Ranch Dressing.
Paired With: Brooklyn Brown Ale.
 Professional Review: BORING!  What can I say?  Its lettuce.  I absolutely despise Gorgonzola (and bleu cheese, what's the difference?) and for some weird reason I can only eat tomatoes if they are on a sandwich.  The bacon was delicious of course.  The brown ale was good.  Not great.  I'm not a giant fan of brown ales.  I have never had a non-skunk New Castle and always wondered why they use clear bottles.  But this is Brooklyn Brewery, and this brown was fresh.  It had a nice crispness to it which went well with the salad.  Overall I'm afraid this course fell short based on personal preferences.  If my buddy had a fresh case of Brooklyn Brown chilling I would certainly help him finish them off.  Would I buy it in the store?  Probably not.  It's just not my preferred style.  This was my least favorite course.

Course 3:
Entree: Buffalo Chicken, Memphis-Style BBQ Pork Tenderloin, Teriyaki-Marinated Sirloin and Cajun-Style White Shrimp.
Paired With: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace.
Professional Review: My first reaction when I saw the selection of meats was sheer joy.  The kind of emotion that only the chubbiest 10% of the population are capable of feeling.  I freaking love shrimp!!!  I consider myself to be an honorary Beaver Boy (warning: extremely immature content.)  Off the chain.  I also really enjoyed the teriyaki sirloin and buffalo chicken.  The fondue dippin' sauce reminded me of chicken flavored ramen.  I have a refined palate.  The Sorachi Ace is probably the most unique beer I have ever tasted.  After my first sip I found myself thinking "WTF this tastes like Bazooka Joe."  I also really enjoyed the carbonation.  It gave the beer a very clean and enjoyable finish.  Sorachi Ace was my favorite beer of the night and I can't wait to get my hands on some more. 

Course 4:  
Dark Chocolate Fondue: Dark Chocolate Fondue with Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka.
Paired With: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Chocolate Stout Ice Cream Floats
Professional Review: Whoever had the idea to make ice cream floats with beer deserves a pat on the back (if it was Nueske I'm facebook friending this guy.)  I am not a huge dessert guy so I only dipped one or two pieces into the fondue.  It tasted like... dark chocolate.  I am also not a huge stout fan.  I always feel like I just gave birth and am ready for a 3 hour nap after I drink one (is that normal?)  I was very impressed with this beer however.  I have tried chocolate stouts before but have never really tasted the chocolate.  In this beer the chocolate flavor was very noticeable.  It was very good paired with the vanilla ice cream.  It also packed quite a wallop at 10% alc.  I was very impressed with this beer and have to say it is my favorite stout that I have tasted so far. 

Well there you have it.  Delicious food.  Delicious beer.  Wonderful atmosphere and a designated driver to boot.  Does life get any better?  We met some cool people and learned a lot about beer.  I had an absolute blast at this beer dinner and cannot wait for the next time.  Have fun.  If you have any good beer pairings leave me a comment.  I will start you off with one of my college favorites. 

Beer: Bud Light
Food: Doritos

This combo is an all-time favorite of mine.  The delicious saltiness of the processed cheese complements the watery flavor of the Bud perfectly.  Enjoy! 


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yeast Starter

Sunday arrived and for the first time in recent memory, I was not hung over.  I decided to make it a productive day and pick up some stuff for my next brew.  I plan on one day being able to brew completely outside so I picked up a propane tank.  I hooked it up to my sweet burner I got for Christmas and gave it a test run.  It makes my garage smell like chemicals but it lights stuff on fire so thats always good.  I'll have to rig up some kind of ventilation system in the near future.  Alcohol, fire and flammable gas make for an interesting night.

I also decided that if I ever wanted to brew up my IPA I would have to learn how to make a yeast starter.  So I hit up google and after reading a few differing opinions I had a rough plan.

Now before I get into my awesome plan I should maybe explain what a yeast starter is and why it is recommended for a beer with a high specific gravity...or at least the 6 years in college for a 4 year degree version.  Yeast is alive and its hungry.  When it eats it has babies.  Its favorite food is sugar.  Beers with a high specific gravity have a lot of sugar in them.  Too much for the little yeast guys to eat before passing out in a food coma.  So the idea behind a yeast starter is to give them an appetizer to start having babies but not enough to fill their tiny bellies.  It is basically making a little bit of wort to feed your yeast.  So now after the starter they are all hungry and there are a lot more of them.  You dump them in the fermenter with the high specific gravity wort and let them eat into a comatos state.  I envy them.  Questions?  I have one.  Why dont you just add more yeast at the beginning?  Answer:  Stupid question, Next.  Real Answer:  I don't know, back off.  I'm still learning.  Maybe because it's expensive.

Okay moving on.  My awesome plan.  For this plan to work I will need the following:  Dry malt extract, water, pot (kitchen style), yeast, funnel and a container.  I had all of the above except...dry malt extract (DME).  Luckily for me, the liquor store down the street just started selling homebrew supplies a few months ago.  A quick trip down the road and I was ready to roll.  Pro Brew Tip 1- Do Not buy Amber extract for an IPA.  That's right, I bought amber extract.  Why?  Because I have the brain of an ADHD addled 4 year old.  Get this kid some Aderol.  I was stuck on brew #1, which was an amber.  Too late now.  Let's get started. 

I followed instructions from John Palmer's website.  Boil a pint of water, add a 1/2cup DME.  Boil 10 minutes.  BORING.  For the last 3 minutes I was supposed to put the lid on the pot.  After that I wasn't so sure so I went to check the directions.  Pro Brew Tip 2- Do Not leave your boil pot unattended in the house. 15 seconds later I hear a sizzling coming from the kitchen.  Ugh why me?  My pot overflowed.  Imagine turning your burner on high for 10 mins and squirting maple syrup on it.  Not pretty.  I scrubbed the sh*t out of it for 15 mins but it wouldn't come up.  Oh well, live and learn.  At least I now have my yeast starter.  I just have to cool it to 80 degrees, pour into my container and add the yeast.  Simple.  Pro Brew Tip 3- Do Not shake your yeast vial vigorously before opening.  It will explode.  Everywhere.  If you would like to see this effect recreated go to the store, buy a 20 oz Mountain Dew, shake it for 30 seconds, and open.  Very similar.  I lost about 1/3 of my yeast.  Will it still work?  I don't know.  You will have to stay tuned to find out.  (The suspense is killing you)

BTW, that guy John Palmer has a book.  It's what got me started in this messy hobby.  Check it out if you want to learn more.       

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First Brew Check In

So it has been 10 days or so since my first brew.  I thought I would give an update on how things are progressing.  I took a hydrometer reading today and it looks like we are sitting right around 1.03.  We started around 1.06 or so, which means we are progressing nicely...I guess.  I really dont know.  The directions say let the beer ferment for 7-10 days and then siphon to the secondary fermenter.  I am not using a secondary fermenter because I have heard they are unnecessary.  So I will give it another week or so and take another  reading.  If we are still around 1.03 the fermentation is complete and we can move on to the priming phase.  Nice.

Now I'd like to discuss the newest additions to my brewing toolset:

First is my racking cane siphon.  I actually had this piece before I brewed my first batch, but had not bothered to learn how to use it.  So instead I used a cut up milk jug and a plastic cup as my funnel.  A quick search on youtube told me everything I could ever want to know.  Here is the vid if interested.

Now we have the funnel.  I picked one up for a dollar at Giant.  If you don't know how to use a funnel please send me an email.  A friend of mine is a Nigerian prince with a great investment opportunity.  I would love to send him your info.

And to finish it up, we have my thermometer.  You probably remember this guy.  I had to leave my house with the stove on high to pick up this one.  It was like $6 at Giant.  Ideally I would have bought a floating thermometer like this one but I was kind of desparate at the time.

Thats it for now.  I'll give another update when I'm ready to bottle.

Sincerely yours,
Salty Rick

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Brew!

I finally did it.  After months of procrastination and laziness, I brewed my first batch.  I was intitially planning on brewing the Austin Homebrew Supply Imperial IPA, but the instructions recommended a yeast starter.  I was ready to roll and did not have the patience (or knowledge) to make a yeast starter so I opted for the AHS Anniversary Amber.  This choice turns out to be smarter for a beginner because it has less ingredients and steps to completion. 

Enough about the beer.  Let's talk brewing.  The process started off very smoothly.  I prepped all equipment by washing and sanitizing, let everything air dry, and started heating 2 gallons of water as the directions called out.  My confidence was growing.  "You got this dawg," I said to myself.  "All I have to do is keep an eye on the temperature of the water.  Its been on the stove for a few minutes now, let me check the temperature with my... where the frick is my thermometer?"  What kind of an idiot tries to heat water to 155 degrees without a thermometer?  *raises hand*.  Luckily I realize the missing equipment early enough to run  to the piggly wiggly and pick one up.  I get back from the grocery, rip off the packaging, give the thermo a quick dip in the sanitizer and plop it in the water... 150.  Perfect!  Disaster averted.  A few more minutes on the burner and this bad boy is ready to rock.

Ok, the water is heated.  Next step is to steep the grain that AHS was nice enough to crush and put in a nylon bag.  Just like making a large pot of awesome tea.  This step goes smoothly.  Any moron can make tea.

After a long tea-bagging session, I bring the liquid to a boil then remove from heat and add 7lbs of the malt extract.  This stuff was very thick and syrupy.  Spilled a good bit on the hot burner which produced a rather unpleasant smell in the house.  Wife not happy.

Ok, so now I boil, add hops, keep boiling, add more hops, disconnect fire alarm cause its gettin steamy in this piece, keep boiling and then...

Chill B.  Remember the picture of the wort chiller I posted a few weeks back?  Well, I didn't use it cause I didn't want to go outside and hook it up to a hose.  So I opted for the old fashioned put the pot in the sink and run cold water method.  It worked ok.  I managed to splash a good bit of dirty sink water into the wort.  Sanitation is for p*ssies.  Random strains of bacteria add flavor.  Once the wort is chilled to 80, I added clean water to make 5 1/4 gallons.  I eyeballed it.  Close enough.  Now you may notice that my attention to detail is waning a bit.  The answer why is two-fold.  The first reason is... I'm gettin a lil crunk.  I am about 2-3 hours in at this point, and everybody in this club is getting tipsy.  The second, and more prominent, reason is that the kitchen looks like ground zero and my wife is lightly sleeping in the bedroom.  If she witnesses what I have done to the kitchen I will be banished from the house.  So I made an executive decision that some slight off-flavors in my beer is a better alternative than divorce, and cut a few corners. 

All right!  Specific gravity time.  For all you brewing nubs out there, measuring the gravity of the wort tells you how dense the liquid is.  Sugar and other stuff in the water raises density.  To measure this we professionals use what is called a hydrometer.  I'll touch on this in more detail at a later date.  So I add some wort to my little cylinder.  Ideally I would have preferred to use a sanitized turkey baster, but since I didnt even think to have a thermometer on hand the turkey baster was a no go.  I used the next best thing, my hand.  I was careful not to touch the wort, but I may have scraped a knuckle or two.  So I drop in my hydrometer and my reading the hell do u read this thing.  Oh wait, its upside down.  1.072??? WTF I'm shooting for 1.051.  I add some water and measure around 1.06.  Its getting late at this point and I need to transfer to the fermenter and start cleaning.  I splash in some more water, give it a stir and don't even bother to take a third reading.  Close enough. 

Here is where it gets fun.  The wort is already sitting in my plastic bucket fermenter.  I want it in my glass carboy so I can watch all the action.  I have a siphon kit but I dont know how to use it yet so I devise a genius plan to transfer the wort.  I make a homemade funnel out of a plastic cup.  The bottom of the cup was flat and I drilled a hole in it.  Mensa.  I cut the top off a gallon milk jug and proceed to fill up the jug and pour it into my precariously perched homemade funnel... disaster.  I just spilled about a pint of delicious unfermented beer on the floor.  If my wife sees this I'm finished.  My life would be forfeit.  You would learn of my fate on the next episode of Snapped! (her favorite show...yikes!)  Panic stricken, I search the kitchen for an alternative plan.  Bingo!  An empty Fresca 2 liter.  I grab the bottle and begin frantically cutting it in half, all while thinking "Who the hell drinks Fresca?"  I jam the top half of the bottle into the mouth of the carboy and it's a perfect fit.  At this point I am racing to finish.  I am filling the jug as fast as I can, wrist deep in the wort.  I don't care if it tastes as bad as, well Fresca, I need to start cleaning.  Once as much liquid has been transferred as possible, I shake up the yeast and add it to the carboy, shake it around, and carry it to my fermentation room.  And that, my friends, is where it currently sits.  I took some pics.   
24 Hours in.  Look at that kraeusen.  Yum

Sideways view.  What the heck's goin' on in there?

Ok.  If you made it through the wall of text I appreciate it.  And for the record my wife is an angel.  She would not really do any of the things I mentioned earlier (although Snapped! really is her favorite show.  Love you Boogie). 

I'll add some updates in a few days.
             Over and Out,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brew 101: Equipment: Fermenter

Hello everyone,

Whilst I'm waiting for my newest shipment like a fat kid loves cake (wait...), I thought I would discuss some of my equipment and give a brief explanation of what each piece does. 

First up is my fermenter.  The big coin jar pictured below is called a carboy.  The carboy is where all the magic happens.  I like to think of it as a giant glass Bunny Ranch where the yeast is free to impregnate all the sugar molecules, which later pop out tiny alcohol and CO2 babies.  Does that make sense to anyone else?  Cause that's what happens.  It's science.  Anywho, this is a 6.5 gallon carboy which is perfect for 5 gallon batches.  It is important to leave space at the top because fermentation can get hot and heavy and will leave a creamy residue behind.  Don't worry, its just yeast, exhausted from a long day of babymaking.  If the budget is tight you can even scoop up some of this cream (called kraeusen) and nurse it back to health for future batches.  Be careful not to introduce any foreign bacteria to the fermenter, or you could ruin your beer.

6.5 Gallon Glass Carboy
OK, that is enough Brew 101 for today.  Tomorrow I shall discuss what we use to release all the heat that is built up from the fermentation process.  Steamy! 
                                                  Peace and Love,