Thursday, April 7, 2016

Semi-lazy Update

I feel I need to explain why the quality and quantity of my posts have dropped off lately. I may or may not have mentioned before, but I am a Civil Engineer by trade. I mainly design residential and commercial developments (think neighborhoods and businesses) and I also work with floodplain remapping. I know you're all riveted and can't wait to hear more about storm drainage and sewer lines, but unfortunately that's not really what this blog is about.

I said all that to say that while I can legally refer to myself as an engineer, I am only certified by the state of Texas as an Engineer-In-Training, or EIT. There is one more certification that is much more legitimate and much harder for an engineer to obtain: Professional Engineer, or PE. There are all kinds of documentation and hoops to jump through in order to become licensed as a PE, but the final determination comes in the form of an 8-hour long, comprehensive, big, hairy, ugly, and quite frankly rude-ass exam.

I will be taking this test in a couple weeks, so in between home and work I have been devoting "every" unoccupied moment to preparing for the exam. I put "every" in quotes because, let's face it, I'm no machine. I require study breaks filled with internet memes, podcasting with my friends, the occasional novel or two, and other such respites from equations and proofs. Hell, I didn't even have enough time to mow the back yard, allowing it to resemble a dark, mysterious rainforest-like setting that threatened to swallow our poor, unsuspecting dogs whole!

"Don't go into the long grass!" (Lost World, Jurassic Park)

This all means that the time I would normally spend typing away about how great beer is and how good we are at doing beer is now spent buried under a small traveling library of reference manuals, an arsenal of number two pencils in various stages of sharpness, a previously-small-and-charming-forest-worth of graph paper etched with the frantic scribblings of a mad man, all covered in a fresh dusting of eraser rubbings, pencil shavings, and coffee stains. (can you tell I need a creative outlet?)

All embellishment aside, I have managed to keep my brewing pipeline stocked with the third incarnation of our rosemary and sage belgian wheat ale, Palo Alto Wit. This time around we brewed a little more than 8 gallons with a smaller amount of spices so that we could "dry-hop" the beer with the spices after fermentation and get a much more dialed-in flavor profile. After primary, the samples tasted pleasant and showed that we were at about 5.5% ABV. We will make a tea with some sage and perhaps even some basil to dose into the beer for just the right aroma to complement the flavor.

We have also accidentally created an excellent stout recipe while preparing for Martin House's Riverside Shootout Homebrew Competition happening the weekend after my PE exam. I teased last post about a new style category that was recently added to the BJCP Style Guidelines. I now realize I have no control over other people's recipes or fermentation, so secrecy is kind of a moot point. The best brewer will execute the best beer he or she can, and that's really what competition is about. We are attempting to create a Tropical Stout, category 16C, to be named Parrot Metal after my pathetic effort to imitate a metal singer's growl on our podcast at Dr. Jeckyll's several months ago (check the 30:00 mark).

Various weird tropical fruits soaked in vodka to bring out
the "essence" of tropicality
The base recipe (before adding anything to make it "tropical") is actually everything we love about stout. It has excellent roast flavor, bitterness is balanced but present, alcohol is a manageable 7%, and it looks great in the glass. The style guideline actually calls for a much sweeter stout with low bitterness, but I think once we add some tropical fruit tinctures to the beer, the bitterness will balance out against the sugary juices. Regardless of how this performs at the competition, you can count on us brewing this one again.

We have also found a new homebrewing competition while out cruising the breweries in DFW. Backcountry Brewing from Colorado recently bought the recently-out-of-business Firewheel brewery as a satellite to brew and distribute to Texas, so we thought we'd go check them out. I was in a Belgian beer mood, so I sampled their Belgian Pale and a Red Saison, which were both pleasant and enjoyable. While tossing back these fine ales, I noticed a sign on the wall that urged homebrewers to inquire about a homebrewing competition.

Upon investigation, not only do the winners get to brew their beer Pro-Am style with Backcountry, but a portion of the pint sales come back to the hombrewer as a cash prize! I think our Palo Alto Wit will have the opportunity to shine bright in this type of competition that is not so heavily dependent on guideline interpretations. We shall see! (Sign up at the brewery, and deadline for submission of 24 bottles of your 1 entry is May 14)

So there. I've put off studying long enough, and I must return to the world of conversion factors and interpolation. If I don't survive, tell my wife and dogs I love them, and drink our homebrew at my funeral.

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