Monday, September 29, 2014

Harvesting Beer

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
This weekend I got around to getting some new shoes for Gretchen… the old ones weren’t horrible but they weren’t getting any better either, so she should be good for at least another five years. Happy early anniversary, Gretchen! Now we just need to get you some new brakes & spend a small fortune so that I’m allowed to insure you & drive you on the streets of California so that bikers that don’t pay ANYTHING can get angry when I use the roads. YAY!!! And f**k you, bikers!!!
Saturday morning, Izzy & I went through her garden and… basically she’s got a bit of a green thumb. Apparently our Chinook hops popped up over the last few weeks & are now tangled in the nearby fence… and our Mt. Hood hops haven’t sprouted (probably started them late) but we have some good garlic growing in the barrel bucket for now… and she had a nice harvest of sweet potatoes & regular potatoes… and BEETS!!! Behold!!!

Next up, we headed back to my place to start our Pumpkin Ale #2, which was our 2nd batch ever made last September/October, and it was so damn good that we thought we’d do it again… and because it’s Pumpkin Beer Season! This particular Here are some pictures…

We also kegged our Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Porter so it should be ready for drinking in a few days… and if the test sample is any indication… it’s gonna be pretty good… but we shall see…

We also tasted our Experimental Batch of Pale Ales and... they're pretty fantastic. The strawberry & kiwi pale ales especially... like we may need to do a whole batch of combining those two. The jalapeno pale ale had a nice burn, but not too much. That was with two little chilis per 12 oz bottle. Even the pineapple was good, the dry hopped wasn't my bag, but still pretty good. Very similar to our Torpedo clone. Here are some pictures... but trust me, they're all good...

Well, that was this past weekend… and this next weekend is OAKTOBERFEST!!! It’s a celebration of German beer & the beer community in the heart of Oakland… and I’ve been excited about it for many months now. Can’t wait to show you all… have a great day everybody!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Alaska: Part Three - Oh Canada... Briefly

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentelmen,
Day 9 – May 31st - Day at Sea
This last day in May was a pretty relaxing day at sea… there was some Reindeer Chili & Rockfish Chowder for lunch… another Basketball Shootout where I took home another gold medal… and we watched Comedian Rollin Jay Moore who was pretty funny… but yeah, nothing really out of the ordinary.
Day 10 – June 1st - Victoria, Canada
Our morning in Victoria was spent out on a fully-packed boat for some Orca watching. The first hour or so was… frankly pretty cold, boring & uneventful… but that all changed once we got to where we found the family of ORCAS!!! Behold…

Then on the way back, we saw a few Harbor Seals… or Sea Sausages if you will…

Once we got back to the port, we only had about two hours until the ship’s last call (real quick teaser stop in Victoria on this cruise) so we hailed a cabbie named Doug, who was everything that you would want in a nice Canadian cabbie (short of wearing a mountie outfit) and we headed out to Vancouver Brewing Company to try some brews… but alas, it was a Sunday & they were closed. What to do? No problem, Doug suggested another place that was two blocks away called Moon Under Water Brewing… and the three of us enjoyed lunch and a few beverages there… and it was all pretty fantastic. After lunch, Doug then drove us back to the ship & we got there JUST as they were closing up the port… seriously, like we were probably the last two people to make it.
Back on the boat, there was Adult Basketball... which was basically another game of H-O-R-S-E and it turned into a nice 45-minute competition between me & one other guy who'd obviously been playing more recently than the past two years... like in the last week or so... but yeah, JUST missed on winning, so took home the silver.
There was also a "British Invasion" production show... and it was eh... that's all I've really got to say about that.
Day 11 – June 2nd - Day at Sea
The real highlight of this day was the final race of the Star Downs Horse Racing where our beautiful Robo-Pegasus named Harry Seaward was to compete against the other “owner” horses for a shot at the final pot. BEHOLD THE GLORY THAT IS HARRY SEAWARD!!!

So then it was time for the race… and we basically SMOKED everybody… like it wasn’t even close… and we walked away with about $250 in winnings, so that basically covered what I bid on the horse originally and most of the gratuities for the cruise. Not a bad chunk of change honestly. I wish that I could tell you that we burned the midnight oil our last day at sea but… really about the most exciting thing that we did was enjoy a nice warm Remy Martin before bedtime… and the hot tub… and that was about it. Boom!
Day 12 – June 3rd - Back to San Francisco
This Tuesday morning was our return to San Francisco… and essentially reality… but it was a fantastic vacation & I can’t thank my mom, stepdad & lovely ladyfriend enough for going with me. It was truly an incredible experience… that frankly, I can’t wait to experience again. I’d love to spend more time up in Alaska & Canada to get to hang out with the locals, see new incredible sights that I couldn’t manage in a scant few hours, and see how things happen on a regular basis. I know with cruise ships there’s a lot of fun activity for a few hours a few times a week for a few months & then the vendors disappear… but it really peaked my interest in these places& there’s really so much to see in the area. Heck, this was just the southeastern shoreline too… there’s literally about a MILLION TIMES what we say left to see in Alaska… and Canada? Please! Probably BILLIONS times more to see. Anyway, incredible experience… I highly recommend it… hope you enjoyed reading this little thing… and it was worth the wait to all of us. Have a great day everybody!!!

Alaska: Part Two - Juneau, Skagway & Tracy Arm Fjord

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Day 6 – May 28th - Juneau, Alaska
We arrived in Alaska’s Capital City of Juneau and started off by heading out on a magical journey with Gastineau Tours and our tour guide Toby (apparently also a lady’s name) and we first drove out to Mendenhall Glacier. Along the way, she told us a lot about the geography, demographics & ecology of the area… which as a couple of nerds, Izzy & I found absolutely fascinating. Whether it was how the glaciers carved out the landscape, the whale migrated through the channels, how the tide affects the daily commute, what plants are edible, acronyms for the local plant life & just little tidbits… it was pretty cool. After a little hike, we made it out to the glacier…

Next we hopped back on the bus, ate some lunch along the way, and then went on a boat with just the four of us, Toby & Captain Brock for some Whale watching. Again, while we were out on the boat, more fantastic information about the local wildlife… and we were blessed with actually seeing may 6-7 humpback whales and a few sea lions… one of which was even doing little flips or tricks or something. Maybe one of those released back into the wild or something. Okay, maybe not… but still… amazing. Here are some pictures…

We had some time after the tour, so while the old folks headed back to the boat, Izzy & I took a van out to Alaskan Brewing Company a few miles out of town for a tour of their facilities… which was really just a sampling of their craft beers and… you can kinda see some fermenters through the glass… but yeah, still pretty fantastic stuff they have out there. I had tried their Amber a few times here in the Bay Area at various bars… and apparently their White is the highest selling beer in Texas (which is surprising as hell) but the others were all brand new to me. Great stuff. I also made a bit of a splurge purchase for our new kegerator… and that was a tap handle for the Alaskan White… which is a POLAR BEAR!!!
After getting as many free samples as we could (cuz we weren’t driving), we headed back to the boat… but really nothing to say about the evening...
Day 7 – May 29th - Skagway, Alaska
Next stop was the sleepy town of Skagway which is probably most famous for its scenic White Pass & Yukon Railroad which takes you from the port through the Alaskan wilderness up some mountains and over into the Yukon Territory of Canada. My mom & stepdad say that it’s INCREDIBLE! Izzy & I decided to do something else however (train next time) and took a Helicopter ride to walk on top of a Glacier. Fun fact: Izzy found out that she was afraid of helicopters… but luckily she’s an Amazon, sucked it up & enjoyed this wonderful (and chilly) experience. BEHOLD GLACIAL GLORY!!!

Fun fact: I’m a large man. It’s true. I’m two meters tall… and fittingly over 100 kilos, more around 110 kilos nowadays. So… for the helicopter, they weigh you… and if you’re over 250 pounds with all of the gear on, they charge you 50% more of their already ridiculous price as you’re apparently 1.5 people at that point. Look… if that’s the rules, that’s the rules. I get it. However, as this was an American-based cruise, there were PLENTY of other people on those helicopters that were over that limit based on their width… but they didn’t get pulled aside. Why? BIGISTS!!! That’s why!!! Okay, it’s because I’m tall… young… and they could… because I’m lean. If I were a fat old c**t then they’d have a lawsuit on their hands for being sexist, fatist, bigoted, maybe even racist if they wanted to throw that in… but me, nope. I’m a tall good looking man… so I get preferential treatment in this manner. Just saying… the experience was great… except for that obviously moot point.
After the helicopter, my apparently fat ass needed to get some “shopping” done in downtown Skagway… but what that really meant was Izzy had discovered that she could get free jewelry trinkets for trying on things at a lot of those ridiculous shops that pop up on ports during cruise season… so we walked around to about a dozen of those places & got little souvenirs from our trip… and it saved me having to buy some real jewelry. Sigh… okay, I did get her a cool little necklace… but I didn’t pay a lot for it… because that’s how I am.
We had worked up a thirst and/or hunger so we then made our way to Skagway Brewing Company at the end of the main street. There we met a few other cruisers (one apparently was in a cabin only a few doors down from us) and we chatted over a few fantastic pints & a HUGE bowl of nachos… like HUGE!!! Again, we didn’t get a real tour of the brewing facilities… but we tried their selection of I think only five or six fairly standard beers… but I think both of our favorites was their Oosik Stout, which was a good full bodied malty stout. What’s an Oosik you ask? Well, that’s the penis bone of a walrus of course. Love it.
Next was a stop at yet another former bordello turned bar/tourist trap called the Red Onion Saloon. We took a tour of their facilities… and yeah, it was pretty cool to see a little about how things were back in the frontier days when it came to “cash for ass” transactions… so I’d recommend it. The tour is like $10 a pop… and we were pretty buzzed at that point (see Skagway Brewing).
Back to the boat…
Day 8 – May 30th - Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska
This “stop” on the cruise was more of an earlier morning drive through an impressively narrow strait caused by a glacier called Tracy Arm Fjord. Starting around 7 AM, the boat’s naturalist basically told us about the area’s exploration by the legendary John Muir, how glaciers carve out the landscape, and all about the workings of glaciers & any wildlife that she saw along the way (which there’s wasn’t much of). The real star of the show though… was just the landscape… and all of my “Chasing Ice” inspired pictures of ice while homebrewing came into full use on this stretch of the journey. EVERYBODY… CHILL!!!

Again, the fact that this epicly huge cruise ship was able to negotiate & maneuver through this narrow passage was pretty f**king impressive… so a big kudos to Captain John McBain (our captains had some epic names on this trip by the way, along with Captain Brock in Juneau) and all the crew for a safe journey. You ladies & gentlemen rock!!!
The afternoon was spent watching more horse races... and I won another gold medal at a Basketball Shootout where we played H-O-R-S-E and I pretty much won in a landslide. In the evening, there was the Yes/No Game Show... and we did pretty well... and I only lost because I got really cocky (and was about four drinks in at that point). Basically it's a game where the hosts try to trick you into saying Yes or No... and I was baiting the crowd into having a good time. They didn't even catch me, I caught me saying "Yeah? Yeah!!! Oh f**k..." Still... I'm pretty f**king hilarious. That's my story & I'm sticking to it.
That’ll do it for this entry but there’s still one more to go… the final chapter of our Alaskan Adventure, where we got into the mysterious land to the Great White North known as… Canadia!!! Have a great day everybody!!!

Where Should I Go Next?