Friday, September 17, 2010

Big brewin'

Here's a couple pics of me hanging out in the mashtun and boil kettle and stuff after joining my pal Timmay for a day of big boy brewing in a commercial environment. Timmay works at Cambridge Brew House, if you're not in the know, as the head brewer. He recently took over this joint from the last brewer and is already turning things around there. He took further steps to assure greatness in the finished beer by having me join him the other week, where we brewed up an Octoberfest for the upcoming Fall season. Check some of this out:

We did some milling of grains first, lofting up a few hundred lbs of grains on our shoulders and feeding them into a two stage, one pass, grain mill. That was easy enough.. went through right quick.

Here's me stirrin' the mash in the big tun after the grains were milled up. Yep, they still do it the old fashioned way here.. and that's pretty typical for a lot of brew pubs. Nothing fancy except some generally hard work with a big paddle for this step.

After that, we did some runoff of the wort into the kettle, and then it was time to clean out the spent grains from the mashtun. Dig it:

Me, just shoveling. All went into some big bins and then a farmer from New Hartford came to scoop it up from up to feed to some cows. Lucky cows.

Then, some interior detail work on the same tun:

This shot is taken from the side hatch, looking up out the top of the hatchway where in the first pic I was stirring. That thing I'm polishing there is the spray head thingy, where the hot water comes down out of to spray onto the grain bed to rinse the sugers down into the kettle.

And finally, me, peeking my head out the top of the boil kettle.. didn't get any shots of the interior of this while I was there, but I was able to crawl right in and check the thing out from the inside. Interesting, and slightly claustrophobic experience!

I loved it. It was a great time and very enlightening. The equipment is interesting, configurable, and quite flexible in its operation. Really neat stuff.

Some day..

Till then, carry on..

Monday, September 13, 2010

Canning and Propagating..

Cool stuff this time around.. first, I did my first canning  operation at home here, with the help of my pal Crystal. She's a highly experienced canner, and really made pro work of the whole project. Well, except she stuck her hand in boiling water once.. oh, and goofed around with seriously hot peppers and wasn't wearing gloves which caused her to cry most of the night because of burning fingers from the Jalapeno's and Habanero's capsaicin. But that's trivial stuff. Check these pics of the process:

Here's Crystal, smashing some Hab's into the jars.. what a pro!

..a pic of the whole operation..

..and a shot of the finished products.

All in all, we made a buch of these jars up and every one of them sealed up fine. Crystal made off with a few of 'em, and I've got 6 half pint jars and 9 whole pint jars to show for our 3.5-4 hour process. The process itself was pretty straight forward, but time consuming. We used the stove in the kitchen, as you can see from the pics, but I think next time we do this, I'll drag out the brewery equipment and we'll use that stuff to heat our water up. Most of the time wasting was due to poor heat up times for the boiling water, which a 55k brewery burner would make short work of. We'll keep that in mind for next time, like I said. 

In other news, I just got my Garland "Super 7" seedling propagator in the mail yesterday. Check this out:

This is the tiny 4x6 seeding propagator tray.. the holes in the bottom allow the water from the lower tray to be wicked up the, well, wicking material, and into the tray, so you never have to take off the top cover to water these. They always stay perfectly hydrated, just like a sub-irrigated planter would. That's pretty much what sold me on this thing, because of the promise I saw with my Earthbox and 'Global Bucket' projects.. 

Here's the water tray and the standoff I mentioned above, that keep the little propagators from sinking in the water.. 

And here's that funny water wicking material that goes on top of the standoff, and under the trays, to bring the water up to the soil. 

Here's an overall view of the contraption, and you can see that there's 7 trays with covers in total.

The other thing that really sold me was.. you get things that germinate at different rates, like at 68 degrees, our typical basement temp in the winter (coal stove power!), lettuce will come up in about 3 days, but peppers will take up to nearly 2 weeks.. if all the seedlings were in one large tray of some sort, you'd have some things out of the soil and some things still in the ground all going at different times. Ideally, you want to keep the clear tops on while things germinate to keep the moisture in, and then take the tops off after they break the surface, so you don't get mold growth. This setup allows that action, because everything can be kept individually growing in their own compartments. Nice idea. 

Also, these things are made from *thick*, reusable plastic. As long as I don't run these over with a car, they'll last a good long time. I'm not sure how long the thinner plastic kits will last. Still, I've never used this before, so we'll see how it goes. I do have some experience 'pricking out' seedlings and keeping them alive now, since I've been screwing with my planter box on the deck. I have at least some faith, because of that. :)

Anyhow, that's what I've got for the day.. so, get lost!