The Spoils of Wort: Pumpkin Ale Update

After a good bit of deliberation, I decided to try the mini-mash version of this recipe. The author was kind enough to point me to it and suggest using very soft water. I completed it with WLP565: Saison 1 yeast. But that’s not all! Using sugar-water, I cloned the yeast from a bottle of Saison Dupont, and added that along with the “test tube” yeast. The fun part about yeast cloning is that the water not saturated with yeast has to be poured off. Might as well drink it! The water tastes exactly like Woodchuck hard cider, and if it were more concentrated, it would probably taste spot on. Cloning was done by putting as much sugar into water as it would hold and replacing the contents of the bottle. Every week (it was three weeks) – I would dump out half as the top half of the bottle had no yeast in suspension – and replace this with sugar water. The cloned yeast I dumped in were put in the fridge briefly to try to get a compact yeast bed as possible then after I poured off the liquor I shook the bottle to get everything floating once again and poured it right on in.

Brewing went according to the recipe and I cooked the pumpkin as advertised, which darked it considerably and almost burnt it. The minimash is where things started to come apart. For one, my pot seems to cool incredibly rapidly. Much moreso than I think it should. I started at 155F and by the time I checked on it again it was down to 140F. From 14.1 of the Palmer book entitled How the Mash Works, we can see that the goal is to convert almost all the grain into maltose. This wouldn’t be a very complex beer if it were unspiced, but that’s not the case. Since the mash target temperature was 150F and no more the author is trying to ungel the sugars while getting as much fermentables out of them as possible. Thankfully for this batch this means not having good control over the temperature is OK and more gelled sugars means a bit more body and a bit sweeter beer. The pumpkin, similarly, isn’t going to be hurt by being cooler than it should be since there’s almost nothing convertible in pumpkin.

Where I was victim of my equipment was in the mash-out. I normally put cheesecloth twice across the mouth of a bucket and zip tie it down. Mashing out is accomplished by dumping the pot on top of the bucket and then rinsing the grain mess with hotter (168F) water. I did this and promptly clogged the mesh with the pumpkin, which had become glue to the grains. Figuring I could get away with simply spooning off the pumpkin and squeezing the grains out, I began to push the grains against the cloth. The cloth gave a bit and I got more wort out of the grain filler, but it wasn’t fantastic. Thankfully I have bumped the caramel malt to twice what it was in the recipe figuring I would screw it up. And screw it up I did. After doing this to the majority of the malt – which took quite awhile – I was ready for the last bit. Rather then keep it up, I decided to pour the grain into a largish pile and pick up the cheese cloth. I undid the sides and balled it up just in time to have a corner give up and drop all the remaining grain into the bucket. I ended up pouring it through a metal strainer again and pushing the wort out one last time and I still think it’s going to be starchy.

Finally the last problem was I didn’t realize it was an all-grain recipe when I was at the homebrew store and threw 9.9lbs of dry malt extract into there when it really should have been 6.6lbs. I failed the conversion quite badly and said to my wife “man, why didn’t I get that last bag?” I didn’t get that last bag because I was doing it right the first time through. We’ll see where this goes, it’s going to be some really interesting stuff. It might just be the Halloween version of the Mad Elf clone.

Army of TWO Review

If you liked Gears of War, check out Army of Two.

It’s basically Gears without the scifi angle, but the gameplay is exactly the same.

The only addition is the “AGGROMETER”. How distracted the bad guys are from the other player. If you shoot at them (miss, hit, or HEADSHOT) the badguys start paying attention to you. There’s some crazy bullettime maneuver that works entirely like Max Pain – whoever activates OVERKILL either goes crazy with bullettime and shooting while the other guy remains invisible.

The only gripe I have it that I constantly try to slide into cover only to have my guy climb over whatever I’m trying to hide behind. Unlike gears, there’s no separate button for melee attacks, and ammo seems scarcer. It’s not uncommon to exhaust your primary and be low on your secondary before finding either a place to stock up or killing someone who has some ammo left that works in your weapon. Unlike gears, you can’t grab weapons off the ground, but you wouldn’t want to.

Army of Two has the ammo shop you’ll either love or hate, which lets you buy weapons and upgrade. Primaries are all assault rifles or squad automatic weapons. Secondaries are all sub machine guns or pistols. Special weapons are fun – they’re sniper rifles or miniguns or other stupidity like an RPG. Upgrades are barrels, clip size, whatever but it’s mostly cosmetic representations of damage, accuracy, recoil, clip size, and arrgo (how much attention it attracts to use that weapon). Upgrades can be exclusive – the G36 with the pistol grip improves accuracy and recoil, but the shotgun will hurt accuracy and recoil while improving the damage greatly. Basically, figure out how you want to play the game and upgrade from there. It feels like it’s going to make a tactical difference but really the 50 cal sniper rifle does the same damage as the fully upgraded G36 but it zooms in much further. Buy something which suits your play style and work from there – there’s no surprises. Weapons which dish out damage can be upgraded to dish out more damage, but they don’t get much more accurate. Weapons which are accurate can be made more accurate. Weapons which are well rounded do everything decently without being stellar at any one thing. The only extra factor is “aggro”, which “pimped” upgrades (think: golden AK47). But again, if the G36 does 80% of the damage of the 50 cal fully upgraded, there’s no reason to buy the 50 – just shoot everyone twice.

This is where the game falls flat – you can’t buy ammo. You start with a full primary, generic grenades and secondary and that’s it. They don’t fill the special weapon unless you’re on a mission that needs it (parachute insertion). This is intentional since there’s plenty of situations someone hanging back and sniping would work swimmingly well while the other guy collects the aggro. If you said “that’s how I beat Gears of War!” you’re right. They don’t let you do that however. The emphasis is on keeping the game and you and your teammate close together. This is also where ass-to-ass mode comes in, it’s basically double bullet time where you and your buddy do twice the damage in slow motion at the risk of someone tossing a grenade or blowing themselves up and killing you both. Later missions this becomes vogue, if you don’t kill the explosives guys you end up getting knocked out of ass-to-ass mode.

The last deviation from Gears is the addition of the GPS. This is what pissed me off about Gears – it was pretty easy to get turned around since all the indoor stuff looked generic. Army fixes this by having a GPS with a path on it you can activate and it also has locations of observed traps and such. It still suffers from Gears “rail shooter” feel sometimes but the areas feel bigger which makes it a bit less hokey. Exploration is encouraged in the form of extra objectives and briefcases filled with money people leave laying around. Unlike gears, you can’t just leave your buddies to go exploring and “get around to” reviving them. Your buddies will eventually bleed out or get executed if left on their own (a lot like Gears online). Unlike Gears, downed buddies can shoot (not well) and you can drag them while shooting. The shooting-while-down leads to Blackhawk Down-esque moments but it’s really only good at bringing down people right on top of your position trying to execute you. Otherwise you end up simply drawing fire to an already bad position. This does occasionally lend itself to some unintentionally hilarious moments. Since grenades are “true” (they hurt everyone in the radius, friend or foe), there’s been times I’ve run behind the “bosses” (guys wearing superior body armor which don’t take damage from the front) only to catch a grenade tossed by the cannon-fodder which severely damaged the boss while also knocking my player down. With the “shoot while down” addition, this makes it a good strategy to suicide-squeeze the boss and then empty the clip into him from the back once he turns towards your buddy. Since most of the levels end shortly after killing the boss (or when you kill him), you go down and all your aggro is transferred to your buddy – just in time for you to kill the boss and end the level before you bleed out.

Duchesse De Bourgogne

Almost a home run for the style. If you like flemish reds, this is a must have in your collection.

Serving type was a “1 pint 9.4 fl oz” bottle with cork. The cork needs a review by itself. There’s just enough pressure there to keep the cork pushing out, and the cage seems to be of stouter stuff than you generally expect. The cork has a box printed on it to tell you when the beer is “expiring”. Mine was almost there at 12/08, so I had to drink it. The box distorts according to the cork shape and it’s sort of neat to watch it expand. The cork smelled exactly like wine.

Appearance – Good, but there was no head, and no head retention. Little lace on the glass. Not a downer, but a bit of carbonation might have helped the odor a bit. Crystal clear red though. I had to check to make sure I didn’t open a wine. The second glass improved on this vastly – once the glass gets a coating of the stuff the head is much bigger and there’s a good variety of bubbles within it. Lace is still absent, as is retention, which is average on the second glass.

Smell – I gave it a 5 for “unique”. Eggs, mayo, cherries up front. This goes to strawberries but it doesn’t quite kick the oily smell. If you do dispel the smell with a bit of swirling you’re left with nothing. Everything is layered in there together and unfortunately there’s not a whole lot else. There might be some plum hiding in the back. I found it by forcing myself to smell it quite a bit past the initial two. It’s not bad, it’s just absolutely not what you expect in this style of beer. There might even be some peanut butter in there after a good swirl, but this is just hints after driving off the eggs/mayo smell. My initial impression was also towards vinegar.

Taste – This is where there’s a win. It’s tart, sweet, and there’s cherry in there along with some strawberry. This gives way to a bit of sharp tangyness on the sides of the tongue and leather if you hold into it (the flavor, not the texture). It’s earthy in the back. Driving off the smell leaves tart notes but greatly diminishes the fruityness. This is sort of a shame, since if you let this breathe for 15 minutes, the odor is vastly improved at the expense of taste. If you can’t get your head around the smell, let it breathe or give it a good swirl, but the malt isn’t the driving force in this style, it’s the funk.

Mouthfeel – Home run, easy. Thin, no carbonation to lift it off the tongue, but most importantly it does get the flavors without the syrup. There’s not a trace of soda pop in here.

Drinkability – Really good, but palate fatigue sets in quickly. Once you lose the funk, you lose a good portion of the flavor here, and that hurts the drinkability since the flavor is so damn good from a fresh bottle.

Serving type: bottle

Bizarre Hunting Stuff

There’s a class of hunter, and it’s probably present everywhere, that is so obsessed with shooting that trophy whatever that he or she will do anything to get to it. Sometimes this is good – they strive to be masters of their art and go on hunting trips at ranches and crap like that. Sometimes this is not so good and their efforts to improve their land boarder on witchcraft. Case in point, I knew someone years ago who didn’t have salt licks, but they were pouring baby formula into these troughs he set out for the deer.

This wasn’t baiting since bait is legally defined as “salt” or “feed” (don’t quote me on this, the laws have changed). The distinction is important because you’re allowed to use scents and calls to lure deer in. I don’t think anyone envisioned baby formula as something anyone would give a deer.

But, it turns out that not only is this idea popular, but they’ve taken it one step further.

Introducing: THE TROPHY ROCK.

Plant one of these and apparently those really big bucks, which eat rocks, will camp out your property.

In other game news, Searching for Bigfoot claims to have found just that. More from cryptomundo and more from Scientific American and even Yahoo gets in on it. The Grain Of Salt warning here is that no-one has ever done DNA testing on a body, and all the bodies seem to vanish before any critical examination can occur. Don’t be surprised if this one grows legs and walks away or is “lost”.

Thawed Creature

Thawed Creature


God, did VMWare screw the pooch.

ESXi is released, and they announce that they’re ending the server virtualization product (GSX) and freezing it at 1.0.6, which is just peechy since it doesn’t support OES2 (SuSE) or Redhat’s latest enterprise linux offering. Basically, they got it to a level where they were one version behind “enterprise” and decided to railroad you into ESX.

ESX doesn’t suck, and they’ve given it away free thus far and gone for a “pay for features” model.


So here I am in a state where I can’t power on two server VMs I built. These are both migrations from the free one to the ESXi (the I means free, but sometimes it’s an O, but sometimes O means offline, just bear with me). There’s a fix for logging into the VM host itself and running some commands to change the time. You can also accomplish this through the interface itself if you don’t have login.

Oh did I mention that logging into the VM host through SSH is a licensed feature you have to pay for?

So there’s another option – RCLI. RCLI is something available to you through the client if you pay for VMWare Infrastructure. Also big bucks.

Option 3? Use the VMWare Update Manager. What? It’s not installed on VMWare ESXi’s client? You can download it from our website and we’re giving everyone a 60 day eval until you have to pay for it!

At this rate, we’re dumping VMWare for the same reason we dumped Solaris. It’s got a lot of nifty features and it works really well when it works – but between shoddy patching and “every time we fuck up you need to spend money to upgrade” style support, it’s not worth it to me to keep messing with. Considering that SuSE’s XEN virtualization offerings are quickly overtaking VMWare’s feature set, in six months I’m not re-upping the contracts with these clowns.

Hunter Safety and Arms Dealing


I’ve possibly taken it beyond general interest and approached rampant fetishism.

Part of this is because my wife is interested in hunting. She’s also decided that she wants to make wine, which on some level overlaps the brewing hobby. However unlike beer, winemaking is a lot less involved. So as a “together” hobby, that one doesn’t really pan out since there’s a surprisingly minimal time investment for something that is going to age for six months plus.

On the other hand, it’s really nice that she’s interested in hunting, which is a fantastic “together” activity. Men who read this blog – take your wives hunting.

She wants a bow, but they’re marginally expensive ($300 buys you a midrange compound) and the accessories can be insane ($100 for expanding tip graphite arrows, twelve of them). There’s cheaper alternatives, but like bullets it doesn’t behoove you to hunt with match bullets nor does it work to shoot targets with expensive hunting bullets. But, bows are on sale right now, and if she catches the hunting tradition, then maybe that’ll be for next year. I would like to know where people go to dump their used bows – there’s nothing like (gunbroker, but for bows). To further complicate things, we’re both left handed, and not a lot of second-hand lefty stuff is floating around out there. Unlike guns which are generally ambi-, bows are almost entirely single-handed.

Anyway, the point is that it’s just nice to have my wife involved in something I’m interested in. It certainly means that our family will continue the hunting tradition. I’m also dragging my friends into it – both Travis and Jon are taking or will have taken their hunter safety courses, so now you guys need to get your women into it also. Women don’t seem nearly as turned on as men are at the prospects of DIY BBQ potential though.

Everything is cyclical – one family enters the tradition as one family leaves it. A guy here at work hadn’t hunted since 1991 and was a fairly typical “drop out” of the hunting scene. He hunted with his father and went through the motions when his dad stopped hunting and never seriously pursued it past a “together” activity. His Remington 700 in the popular caliber of 270 hadn’t seen the sotto light of the woods since then, and he was looking to sell it. A hunter safety instructor is interested in buying it where once again it will be reborn into it’s purpose.

Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend (Quadrupel) Review

If my previous touch with Ommegang was bad, this more than made up for it…

Appearance – A bit less carbonated than I expected, there wasn’t even a pop from the bottle. The pour revealed a bit of a head, which seemed to lay low and stick around. There was a good, but not spectacular bit of lace. If you sat around in a cave for three years, you might not be terribly exciting either.

Smell – Really good. Dark fruit, toffee (but not butter), coffee, vanilla, but not roasty despite what you would expect given the flavor profile. No astringency, hops, tannins. Reminds me of dark port wine. Cherries and dark malts, but nothing that screams syrup or otherwise artificial flavors and colors. Does not contain MSG.

Taste – Ah, the big one. Whereas the other Ommegang seemed like it was all hands with dark malt syrup and cherry soda, this one had hit it’s stride. The cherry note is still there, but no longer soda syrup. The dark malts are there. You can even find some hops in there. But I do think there’s oak in the back, maybe some dryness on the sides and combined with the nose, that seems to indicate coffee and port wine. The effect is spectacular, and there’s absolutely no alcohol taste to be found. This is good – it’s aged spectacularly well.

Mouthfeel – About right. A bit heavy, but this is required. More carbonation would be nice but I do understand the corks can be iffy. I sort of wish it did have more carbonation though, either the blending got it or the corks don’t hold enough pressure for me.

Drinkability – Very drinkable for a quad. Drink responsibly, this one absolutely will sneak up on you.

Serving type: bottle

The Spoils of Wort: Aged Beer

Cellaring beer has been around since the invention of beer. Storing it for the year was a requirement, with no refrigeration and a growing season that wasn’t all-year-round for most of the places beer as we know it was brewed, cellaring beer was the norm. It had to taste good now, and it had to taste good later when it was pulled. Belgians are the undisputed King of making this work – the Belgian monks continue this tradition and their system of casking beers or bottle and wire cages is still in use today on almost everything worth drinking. I personally have a growler brewed last year of my Mad Elf clone, and I plan on brewing it again this year and drinking it at exactly the one year mark.

Some beers are only sold aged. Orval is at minimum one year old, most belgians have yeast which makes crazy tastes and if you drank them fresh, it would melt your face (or at least not be delicious). Some people cellar these more to further change the flavor profiles, and some beers just die when you do this. Dogfish, for instance, isn’t supposed to be aged. It’s a really good beer, but it falls apart if you cellar it. It comes out of the fermenter ready to drink.

Stone, on the other hand, makes beers which stick to tradition. Not only are they supposed to be aged, but they also should be served from the cask with a beer engine. IF anyone knows how to build one, I want to know. I love stone.