Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


Brewing Journal: Batch #14 Super Alt

Batch #14 Super Alt. I have had this kit for way too long, and the viability of the yeast was a question in my mind. I made a 1-Liter 1.040 starter wort and allowed it to work for five days before brewing. I had a pretty good yeast sediment in the flask after that and decided to go for it.

I went with a 5 gallon instead of a six gallon boil this time, but it seemed like it took even longer to get up to temperature. I may try a 4-gallon partial boil with make-up water next time instead. Anyway, I steeped my grains and then boiled the three pounds of Munich malt syrup in five gallons of faucet water with 1.5 ounces of “German Tradition” hops at 60 minutes, 1 ounce Hersbrucker at 30 minutes, .5oz Hersbrucker at 15 minutes. .5 ounces at 5 minutes. There is another ounce of Hersbrucker that will be used to dry-hop.  Also at the 15 minute mark, I added two pounds of DME (Wheat and Pale Malt) and another 3lbs of Munich malt syrup. The chiller worked wonders, chilling to 75 degrees in just under 10 minutes. I added about ahalf gallon of water to get the volume just over five gallons, then pitched the entire liter of starter wort. I observed slight fermentation within a few hours and more vigorous fermentation at the 8 hour mark. Hooray yeast! Starting gravity was 1.06

I’m going to have to move to smaller partial boils until I can get this rig outside. It’s just too much for the stovetop to handle, and I’m not getting a very vigorous boil. I also managed to break the end off of my autosiphon this time when I took it apart for cleaning and will have to do some repair work to make it functional again.


The British Bitter...

...just keeps pouring better and better!

Austen's First Skiing Adventure

Austen did a little skiing with us in the back yard last weekend. We were mostly hampered by the fact that they don't make snow boots small enough for his feet! Austen didn't seem annoyed at all to have these long slippery things underneath him:


The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Goin' Down

Winter bicycle season is truly upon us. It hasn't been a very consistent winter for snow. As the northern and southern systems continue to fight it out for primacy in Vermont the roller coaster of temperatures has resulted in "variable" snow conditions. Wet snow from last week frozen hard, then melted and rained on and frozen hard again this morning means that where the roads and paths are not clear, they are covered in a glaze of sun-pitted ice. The single-digit temperatures this morning didn't offer a lot of reassurance that the roads would get any better any time soon.

At the bottom of the first big downhill of my commute, there is a roundabout/cul-de-sac thing with a path exiting from it. You have to enter the roundabout on a right turn, transition to a left turn to follow it, then make a right turn to exit onto the path. I often overcook that turn as I carry speed from my downhill, ending up on the far left margin of the path as I get the bike back under me and straighten out to continue on my way.

I overcooked it just a wee bit this morning, in fact. It wouldn't have been a big deal except that there was some ice on the path. The bike slid off the path and down the grade next to it, with me in tow (and toe-clipped in, I might add). I felt my elbow hit first, and heard the loud smack as my helmet made contact. The aforementioned sun-pitted ice was like a big cheese grater underneath me.

I got up right away and got on the bike, cursing. I could feel a bruise ripening on my butt and a scrape on my knee as well as the pulse of pain on my elbow. At least my head felt OK. I had been riding "like a bag of wrenches" already, that sort of muddy, cruddy feeling  you get  that is the opposite of cruising down the road in full fitness with a tailwind. Now I was muddy and cruddy and in pain and nervous about falling again. If there is a way to tiptoe on a bike, I did it all the way to the office. In a quiet moment on the road, I noticed the tell tale ting-ting-ting sound of a derailer touching spokes on the rear wheel. Looking down, a yellow flag of fabric, the lining of my winter tights exposed by a big three-corner tear was evident as well.

Surprisingly, the indexing was still working just fine- but I must have bent something down there. A post-ride inspection showed a crack in the road crud and underlying paint on the derailer hanger, confirming my suspicions. I'll have to see if I can bend it back. The tights can be sewed back together. I'm bruised and scraped, but functional.

Still, an experience like this continues to lead me, Mr. Bike Commuter himself, to wonder aloud about the hopes and aspirations of bicycle advocacy here in Vermont. We want to get people on bikes, we want to get people out of their cars. People want to get to and from work, safely, consistently, efficiently. I live six miles from my office, living in and working in two of the most developed cities and towns in the state. And yet, the barriers to consistently getting to and from work car-free are considerable. If I can't bike, I default to the car. There's a bus, but its schedule gets me to work late and would force me to wait about 45 minutes after work to get a ride home. The objective is for Kate and I to continue to live "car-light," the dream would be to live "car-free." But in the depths of winter, I just don't see it, and I sometimes yearn for a car of my own.

I think about taking the average adult in my position, who maybe hasn't ridden a bike since they were 13 and hasn't ridden on the road ever. Winter clothes? the ability to diagnose and fix a bent derailer hanger? The ability to put together a bike suitable for riding in the winter? What about overcoming a lifetime of being taught that "bikes belong on the sidewalk?" What about not wanting to be that weird person at the office who rides their bike to work? What about picking up the kids on the way home? What about getting yelled at by drivers?

I'm prepared to soldier on, and I have the goal of commuting by bike as consistently as I can through the winter. So far, of 12 working days in 2012, I have commuted 10.5 times. That's a pretty good record. For all the pain and inconvenience of this morning, it felt pretty good to be on the bike when I saw one of my fellow cyclists headed the other way and we gave each other a hearty, knowing wave.


Brewing journal: Batch 13: Greenbelt DIPA

Brewed batch #13 Greenbelt Double IPA. First time with the big kettle and the chiller. I started with 6 gallons of spring water in the pot and it took well over an hour on the stove to reach anything even approximating a boil. 2.5 pounds of various steeping grains at 155 for 25 minutes, then the “boil-” 11 pounds of light malt syrup. bittering hops, flavor hops at 15 minutes. I messed up and missed a half ounce that were supposed to go in for aroma at 5 minutes, too excited about the chiller.  I’ll put them in for the dry hop at the end. The chiller worked very well, through in my excitement I forgot to turn off the burner for the first few minutes of chilling. I had the wort down to a temperature of 75 degrees in 15 minutes. I was able to move the chiller around and get a whirlpool going, which made siphoning easier without getting too much hop gunk. Nevertheless, moving chunky wort through the siphon was not ideal and it makes me nervous about infection issues.

I ended up with a little over 5.5 gallons in the fermeter, which is what the kit instructions said I should have. Gravity was 1.075, close to the target of 1.077 called out by the kit. It smelled wonderful. I made a one-quart starter with a 1.040 wort and a smack pack of Wyeast “Greenbelt” and pitched that starter after 30 hours, not really high krausen but with about a half inch of yeast sediment in the starter. I observed some signs of fermentation within an hour and moderate fermentation within 18 hours.  

I’ll put a hole in the kettle soon enough to do a spigot. I may also get a big tea ball so I can dry hop right in the keg. I’m planning on a 5-6 week primary for this beer with no secondary and two weeks in the keg for natural carbonation before the first taste. Realistically I won’t plan on drinking much of it until the beginning of April.

The first outing with the big kettle and full boil was an overall success, but I can tell I need to get this operation outside. The shopping list now includes a weldless bulkhead kit to make draining the kettle easier, an outdoor propane burner with a tank of gas to make the boil faster and more vigorous (and to get things out of the kitchen!) a big tea ball to dry-hop this beer in the keg, and a new piece of tubing for my autosiphon so I won’t stay up nights worrying about infections.



Thank You Mr. Erlenmeyer, Wherever You Are

It's a yeast starter for a batch of IPA I have planned: