Fishing Trip

John Life

I am a big fishing fanatic and was more than happy to accept an invitation to practice our skills on a childhood friend’s boat. It is a bit of an old geezer but is just fine for our purposes. As long as the motor works, who cares about a bit of peeling paint. I looked forward to it for days and checked out my old gear, replacing things as needed. I would of course bring the beer—only the best for the two of us. It is always made in my brewpub. I love to share on special occasions. We would spend the day deep water fishing to get the best catch. No more small fries when dropping a line off the pier like when we were kids. We were big boys now.

We have the best memories and are always happy to make more. We have a photo album showing us fishing through the years. He selected some music to inspire us which he blasted from the best marine speakers I’ve ever heard. It was nice not to have absolute silence, although it is better for the fish. He swears that his selection of tunes will attract them in droves. I don’t believe it for a minute. Well, whatever works is fine with me. I will withhold judgement until the end of our cruise.

I love being out to sea on a nice day when I don’t have to fend off the wind. I wore sunscreen and a hat to make sure I didn’t suffer from sun exposure either. I didn’t want to go home as red as a beet. We like to help each other reel in the big one although it doesn’t happen that often. We also like to tell fish stories to our relatives friends. They know us by now and seldom listen. Today, however was a bit different. We had something impressive to show. We both caught larger than average fish, the kind you want to mount over your fireplace. Instead, however, we planned a post-trip fish fry when back on land.

We gutted the fish on board and wrapped our dinner in ice. After tossing the innards, we proceeded to a site nearby where you were allowed to cook over an open pit. There is nothing like fresh fish, my friend. We had enough to eat now and take some home. It was in the cooler in the van. As the fish cooked, I opened a few beers left over from the day. They were still cold and invigorating. Homemade brew and fresh fish is a winning combination. We didn’t need anything else. A real gourmet would have brought wedges of lemon, but my friend and I wanted to rough it. Ha! We simply forgot. It would have been easy enough to store in the cooler wrapped in foil. It was a delicious way to end a fabulous day of fishing and camaraderie, not to mention our favorite music. If there is such a thing as “fishing music,” then my friend has found it. We’ll send our playlist.

Brewing Your Individuality

John Life

People say I think outside the box. Who else would create a complete home brewery on their residential premises? I take it as a compliment. I pride myself on my free thinking and doing what is different and unique. I might be the only brewpub in the neighborhood, but there is more. I have a workbench in the garage where I fashion old barn wood into repurposed objects. You can see that these interests keep me preoccupied and at home.

The rest of the time I go to work like anyone else. However, it is not in the traditional way in keeping with my “image.” One sign of my independence is the backpack I tote, filled with my daily needs. No stuffy briefcase for me. The backpack can hold more items and is easy to stow under a desk. I always used to kick my briefcase accidentally until it showed significant wear and tear. The backpack is soft and resilient while it protects my laptop perfectly. It is a necessity of life. I know there is a style out there for just about anybody and there’s a guide on Business Bag Review that will help you find the right one for you. You can show your own originality by selecting something that screams “you.”

Women with children use them instead of baby bags because they can keep them after the child grows beyond diapers. They come in print designs and pretty colors. They do double duty as totes and handbags. Teens love their backpacks as much as I do. They can display patches of their favorite sports teams or cartoon characters. They like denim the best. When it is time for college, the patch gets replaced by the school logo. The bag gets stuffed when it is time to go home for the weekend. Even two or three textbooks can fit inside. And then there are “businessmen” like me. I don’t see many backpacks in corporate America, but they are de rigueur in the high-tech world.

What style backpack best suits you? It sounds like a question you would get on Facebook like the ones that ask “what color are you” or “what TV character is your alter ego.” Maybe you are trendy and chic and your backpack is leather with silver trim and rivets. You could be Mr. Conservative and have a heavy brown fabric with no frills. Fancy Dan loves leather inside and out. A practical Joe will choose a waterproof plastic “faux” look that can handle rain, sleet, or snow—and a ride on the bus every day. A weekend warrior loves an oversized model with extra compartments for a change of clothes and shoes.

When it comes time to select your backpack, take your special needs into consideration and the “look” you want to achieve. People will make assumptions about you based on your choice. They will dislike it and sneer, envy you, or just find it boring and run of the mill. Let your selection express your personality as an accessory for your busy life.

If You Build It, They Will Come

John Drinks

If you are lucky, you might just get invited over for some home brewed beer. Coming up with new tastes and flavors is my passion. I can’t drink it all, so I am open to friends, neighbors, and colleagues (no strangers please). I enter any contest I can and the word has gotten around that I am a real contender. I am also an amateur do-it-yourselfer and enjoy woodworking in my spare time. I recently helped a friend build a home bar since he has seen and admired mine. I got out all the tools and he bought the lumber and a special marble slab for the counter top. We set aside a week end afternoon for the project and decided to watch a movie and sip some suds that night. His wife was happy to cook a hot meal. It should have been an ideal day.

However….something went wrong. I was using a work bench and some woodworking clamps. Unfortunately, one of the clamps slipped and I got hurt, but luckily I’d read this guide and bought some personal protective gear. It wasn’t an emergency room situation, but there was some real pain involved. We had to halt the project for an hour. After a few aspirin, I was back at work. I was looking forward to the evening so I plugged away. With the two of us creating a construction team, the bar was assembled in no time flat. The finishing touches took longer. On a break, we talked about the parties and get-togethers he could have. He wanted to start entertaining and would offer some of my special brew to his fellow beer lovers.

Getting injured throws you. You don’t expect it to happen, and not with a woodworking clamp. At least it wasn’t a nail gun or electric saw. Now that would not be pretty. It would probably end my do-it-yourself career. I must regain my confidence with tools as these can be implements of torture. I am happy to have provided my friend with a focus for his man cave events. He has a nice space and I welcome an opportunity to share my brew. I am making more these days as I have him to consider. I like having a purpose for my special craft. He has even expressed interest in learning this trade. I would help him select a starter kit and the required supplies. I would give him some starter recipes and information on kegging. We are real birds of a feather. If he takes to this hobby, things can get more sophisticated.

I have put the woodworking clamps away for now and am spending time socializing over glasses of beer. It is a great way to build camaraderie and bond with new friends. Let me tell you that making home brew will open many doors for you. You will be particularly popular at the office and in your neighborhood. You never have to worry about gifts to give men.

The Things We Argue About

John Life

Okay, I admit it. I have spent more money on my home brewpub than I have spent on refurbishing the house. It indeed shows signs of wear as a result. My wife deserves better than this I tell myself, but I do love my hobby. It is one I can share with her, my family, and friends. It gets most of my attention. She doesn’t complain, but I see her reaction to worn out furniture and peeling paint. Finally, I decide that it is time to make some improvements and upgrades. We deliberate this and argue for and against what we each want. Her list is short and includes a new bedroom set, better linens, an area rug for the living room, and a new toilet. She wouldn’t mind a new coat of paint.

My list is even shorter. I am obsessed with the state of-the-art tankless water heater. It is small and so cool in appearance, occupying just a little space. All of a sudden, the old threatening bulky monster is gone. You can move it to a new location and use the old space for storage. I have some ideas about that and it all revolves around beer, beer, and more beer. Naturally, I think about my brewpub expansion. My wife isn’t so enthusiastic as our old water heater works just fine. She has seen the prices of the tankless units on line and mentally watches her bedroom set disappear from her list. What else will she have to scratch off?

I assured her that we would likely save oodles on our utility bills and this alone would get her the new stuff she wants in time. She wanted evidence, and I didn’t have any. I just know for a fact it was true from reading about tankless water heaters at https://www.waterheaterwatch.com/everything-ever-wanted-know-water-heaters/. I took her to the nearest hardware store so she could speak with a salesman. It still didn’t do the job. She hesitated to give her final okay. I went on and on about the space issue to justify the expense. When you are facing an objection, you must forget trying to make it go away (because you can’t) and focus on another more compelling benefit. She did like the idea of more space, even for beer, as it would relieve other areas of the house that were overloaded.

She also liked the idea of avoiding a flood in the house from a broken water heater. Ours works, but it is old and no one can predict what will happen. Broken units are common, according to the hardware store salesman. Why wouldn’t you want state of the art, he said, when it comes to your most basic appliances. He told us about customers who related horror stories about no hot water when they were about to take a bath. He went on and on and on. My wife was showing a glimmer of acceptance. The arguing stopped.

Tutoring the Tutor (About Beer)!

John Life

My kids are getting into my favorite hobby as they grow older; in fact, it is my only hobby. I game up everything else, including sports, movies, music, and reading (except how to start a brew pub) for beer. When I discovered that you could have your own setup, I was ecstatic and rushed out to buy all the required gear. I am still adding equipment. It takes up room in the house. So what if we don’t have any more closets. Forget the former work area in the garage. The wood bench has moved out back. Beer is everything and my children get it. They talk about it as much as I do.

For example, one of them was being tutored by a local college student as he was getting a little overwhelmed by the new math. He was a great guy who rocked up and pulled all sorts of items out of his modern college backpack as he tried to get my son to focus on the subject at hand so they could work problems. It was a new Backpack Style that I hadn’t seen before, and when I quizzed him on it, he said he’d found about the brand on Facebook. It took a while and I was tempted to move things along by offering a beer to get everyone relaxed. That would wait until later. I offer anyone in my home of sufficient age a homemade specialty.

Whatever kind you like, dark or light, I have it. Ale or lager your penchant? I have it. Meanwhile my son was droning on about fermenting and malt beverages. He explained clearly and correctly what they meant to the beer-making process. I was super proud of his acquired knowledge. He also talked about organic beer, barrel-aged and wood-aged varieties, not to forget gluten free and kosher types. I loved listening in to hear about the history of ales and lagers going back hundreds of years (ales back to antiquity). He must have looked it all up online, or maybe he was reading my books. He has redeemed himself for his failure in math – perhaps even enough for me to start to look into getting him a new .

The tutor started to ask specific questions about home brewing and what I fancied the most. Then I got into the conversation. I went into detail about pale and brown ales, pilsners and dark lagers. I spewed everything I knew. He lapped it up. I talked about techniques and the use of yeast—the difference between top and bottom fermenting. He picked it up fast being a smart guy. Then it came time for sampling my wares as I taught about hybrids (beers fermented at low temperatures using ale yeast or the converse) and specialty varieties (which are practically limitless).

I gave him several types in small steins not wanting to get him drunk. I assumed that he was driving. After some snacks to sober everyone up, I got up to bid him farewell. I grabbed a good book on brewing and handed it to him with a big smile. “It was great sharing,” I said as he slipped the tome into his backpack. “Next time I see you, I expect to encounter an expert,” I blurted to which he answered, “Of course.”

Together Again!

John Life

I want to have the guys over for some home brew and this time I will ask some of my old rugby teammates from college. We will have a casual match before socializing and catching up. For some of us it has been a long time and beer is a great way to bond after years of absence. I went to pull out my gear and was floored that I only had soccer shin guards. I had gotten rid of my old ones ages ago when cleaning out the garage storage area to make room for new stuff. We all have way too much “stuff.” I am going to have to buy new shin guards which will be adding more junk to the overloaded garage.

Soccer shin guards can be molded plastic or a man-made fabric. Like the rugby version, they protect shin and ankle from bruises and abrasions. If you have ever played without them, you know how valuable they are. No one likes injuries, aches, or pains after having so much fun. My new shin guards have built-in elastic that keeps the pad contoured comfortably to my leg. I found them here: https://www.topcornermag.com/best-shin-guards-soccer/ It is double stitched to prolong the life of the item.

Rugby shin guards are similar but not exactly the same. They are protective gear nonetheless that have been around as long as the game itself. You need them if you are exposed to the studs of an opposing hooker when he strikes the ball. You might even get injured by your own hooker when he sweeps his foot around to gather the ball in the scrum. In the really early days, shin guards were primitive in construction. Players would just put a resin-based product around the top of their boots. Eventually, this evolved into a kind of padding that was put into the socks. We have come a long way, baby in our modern molded plastic versions with special shock-absorbing qualities.

Okay, so much for the difference between soccer and rugby shin guards. You get the idea. When playing a given sport, you simply must have the right equipment. You can’t always interchange them. To end the blog and tell the tale, the game went off without a hitch. It was fun to play rugby for a change. These days it is all about soccer, even on Facebook. It has replaced the old favorite and is super popular with kids. I have made the switch myself; hence the shin guards in the garage. But I get nostalgic about rugby as do the other guys. Last, but not least, they enjoyed the homemade beer and drank for several hours into the night. I ran out to get food and left everyone to their own devices while I was gone. They were certainly happy to see me return with fortifications. Playing a game like rugby can develop a big appetite along with thirst. It was a great time for all and we planned to meet again in a few months to resume our reunion match.

Beer Making Kits

John Drinks

beer-making-kits

I know some people are very anti-beer making kits. They would rather buy all the equipment and ingredients on their ownin order to create a unique brew or follow a recipe. I certainly enjoy the hunt for that certain flavor of hops or a unique spice to add to my batch. I also like talking to other brewers about what they use and why. But I am not as hostile toward starter or recipe kits as some of my fellow homebrewers.

First of all, I think kits are a great place to start. Especially when you buy a kit with the equipment. Creating a beer is kind of like cooking—even if you follow the recipe to the best of your ability, there is still a huge margin of error. And when you are just starting out, you might not know the difference between the incredible variety of ingredients out there. You may accidentally get something wrong and make a terrible batch of beer. That is a crime in and of itself, but it also may discourage you from trying again.That would be an even bigger shame. Kits give you more of a direction and less margin for error. The science of beermaking can be tough to figure out, so a kit that has all the right ratios and ingredients that are going to taste good together can boost your confidence.

Secondly, sometimes kits are just easier if you want a specific flavor. Instead of hunting down everything you need, you can purchase a recipe kit with everything already measured out and good to go. Some companies offer advanced recipe kits that will challenge even the more experienced among us. It really depends on the level of effort you want to put in. I like to read about the different kit varieties and sometimes I’ll find one that sounds super intriguing. So then I’ll order it.

My third and final reason is a financial one: they can be cheaper. Let’s face it, this can be an expensive hobby. It can be overwhelming to try and figure out what you need to buy to get started or to make a batch of what you want. When you buy an equipment kit (usually a starter set), you already know you have the things that you need. The same goes for a recipe kit. You get what you need to make the batch, so you aren’t wasting money on unused ingredients or have anything leftover that ends up going to waste.

I just like to share my hobby with others. I don’t really care how any of us go about it. And if I’m tasting someone’s homemade beer, I really don’t care if the ingredients came from a kit or if they were purchased individually. I’m just happy to have a buddy to share a handcrafted beer with!

Beer is for Cooking, Too!

John Drinks

Because this blog is home to all things beer, I wanted to point out something you may not be aware of: you can actually cook with beer. Yes, really! I’ve done it a few times now and have really become a fan. I’ve even started brewing some beers specifically to cook with. Most of the alcohol burns off as you cook, which means that you don’t have to worry about getting drunk from your food. There really is no wrong way to cook with beer, but I will give you one easy rule to keep in mind. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. Simple, right? If you don’t like the flavor of a beer, trust me, it won’t appeal to you more when you have to eat it!

The light flavor in wheat beers are an excellent add to cheddar broccoli soup or paired with fish. Porters, lighter than a stout and lacking the bitterness of an ale, are excellent in a stew or dessert like brownies. Speaking of ales, pale ales are excellent when you want to beer-batter anything—homemade chicken strips anyone? If you ever want to make bread, throw in a lager. Beer bread is a thing, and you will want it all the time.If stout is your thing, I can’t even begin to tell you how many recipes there are out there that involve cooking with Guinness. I heard the click of the lightbulb over your head all of a sudden. I basically just planned your St. Patrick’s Day dinner menu just now, didn’t I? You’re welcome!

Even the cheap stuff can get in on the action. One of my favorites is beer can chicken. I’d rather have it for Thanksgiving than turkey, that’s how good it is. Want to know how to make it? Listen carefully: buy a whole chicken. Take off the neck and do whatever you want with the giblets as long as they are away from your bird. Rinse it because chickens are dirty. Dry it off, rub it with oil and salt/pepper (or whatever other herbs you want). Get a can of beer. Drink about half—maybe pour it into a glass first. Shove the can with the other half of the beer still inside into the butt of the bird and stand that on the grill (indirect heat, for sure. Nothing directly under the bird). Cover the grill and in about an hour and 15 minutes, you will have one amazing chicken. Seriously. So easy, and you get to have some beer, too!

You can also substitute beer in any recipe that calls for wine. Just be smart about it—think about the flavor you want to develop before you dump in whatever beer you have leftover. White wines are better swapped out for something lighter and crisp, while bolder and darker brews will hold up fine in red wine dishes. Beer adds a more toasty, earthy flavor, which makes any dish go from a fancy-pants restaurant quality plate that you’re afraid to touch to gourmet comfort food in a flash.

So what do you say? Potluck at my place soon?

It’s Finally Fall

John Drinks

I love the fall. First of all, I hate the heat of summer. I hate shorts and I hate sandals—at least on guys, I do. There just aren’t that many dudes that can pull that look off. In the summer, I also have to be careful how much I drink because it’s easy to dehydrate when you’re having abeer in the heat. I also hate winter. Mostly because I hate all of the stupid snow and the shoveling. Oh—the shoveling! I almost want to move somewhere warmer just so I won’t have to do that anymore. I cannot wait for the day when my son is old enough that I can turn over the dreaded task of snow removal to him and feed his probable eagerness to buy a car. And I’m allergic to spring, so that’s out. Every flower, every green spot on the trees and in the lawn make me sneeze.

But fall—I like fall. There’s leaf raking, sure, but at least the weather is tolerable when I am out there toiling away. The kids are back in school and stop driving my wife crazy with all their summertime demands for attention, which means she’s in a better mood—and that means the quality of life improves for every single person in the whole house, let me tell you. Fall is also time for football, which is my favorite of all sports. My weekends in the fall are totally set: Saturday college football and Sunday is the NFL game. Makes things easy. I am a guy of routine, after all.

Another thing I like about fall is the beer. That should have been obvious to you, right? There are lots of Oktoberfest type things that go on, which are “educational” for the kids. My kids are experts on stein designs and lederhosen by now, but also German history (minus, you know, the obviously bad parts; they can get that in school). Poor little devils can’t enjoy the good stuff, because as we all know there is really only one reason to attend any kind of German fall festival:these events are like heaven for any beer aficionado, like myself or you, blog reader. If somebody puts “Oktoberfest” on a bottle of beer, I am going to try it. That’s just the way I am. I just really like the flavors that come out this time of year. I don’t want a pumpkin spice latte but I’ll definitely take a pumpkin spice beer! You know the type: a spicy beer that warms you up on a chilly night with some brown sugar around the mouth of the glass. There’s nothing better after a long day of raking leaves, I promise you that. It takes me forever to rake the front yard, and we don’t even have all that many trees. My neighbor does, though, and we live downwind of him. That means his leaves are actually our leaves. So kind of him to share.

What about you? Anything specific you like about this time of year?

New Addition to the Man Cave

John Drinks

My man cave isn’t a misnomer: it really kind of a cave—it’s in the basement of our house and there is only one tiny window. I’ve got a nice sized tv in there, the lounge chair from my bachelor days, and the requisite sports décor. There was really only one thing missing: a bar.

Seems odd that someone who loves homebrewing and beer as much as I do would be lacking a bar, doesn’t it? Well—I remedied that this week, folks! And by remedied, I mean I spent a bunch of money on a truckload of wood, tools, stain, and hardware (literally. The bed of my truck was full) to build myself a custom bar. I figured a handcrafted beer deserves a handcrafted bar, right?

I am not what you would call incredibly gifted with tools, but between the plans I bought online and some handy dandy youtube videos, I was confident that I’d be able to figure the whole thing out. Measure twice, cut once and all that. The wife was doubtful as I sat and watched DIY videos one after the other. It took me about a week before I felt even remotely confident enough to go back to the hardware store and ask them to walk me through a few things, haha. Then I really looked at the plans, and I felt a lot better. Basically, I would be making a rectangular box with a top. No intricate designs, no curves anywhere. I could do most of it with a good saw, some nails, and a hammer.

That was all I needed to hear! Two weeks ago, I cut all the wood (after measuring twice, of course). I stained it all after the cutting was done because I wanted to be able to put it together as one big day long project.  I didn’t want the waiting for paint dry stuff to screw up my whole weekend. This worked out OK for me because I could paint a few pieces after work every night and let them dry as I went along. I wrapped up the painting and staining on a Thursday so that everything would be dry that coming Saturday for the big assembly day: my big plan was to get it all together in one day, and then be able to break in the new bar on Sunday in time for the big game.

I started assembly of the bar and the going was slow but it went. Staining it beforehand meant I needed to be a little more careful than I wanted to be so that I didn’t damage the finish of the bar. It happened a little anyway, especially on the top, which meant that I needed to do a little bit of touch up work with the stain. But my bar was done on Saturday, and I was able to add some (store bought) bar stools in time for the game.

Man cave: complete. It is officially the coolest room in the whole house.

Experimenting With my Latest Batch

John Drinks

This might not sound newsworthy to you, but I am conducting a bit of an experiment with my next batch of beer. I know, I know. The saying is that just about every homebrew batch is an experiment unless you only make the same thing using the same ingredients every time (and I’ve never met anybody who does that—it feels like it defeats the purpose of making your own beer to me.) But this is a little different. I am using the same beer making ingredients in each batch because they aren’t the part I am experimenting with.

I am trying to find out what kind of water makes the best beer. This could be a giant waste of my time, but I figured I would try. There are a couple of standing opinions on this, and of course they disagree. As a kid, I was always taught to form my own opinions, and that is what I am trying to do. First, I had to familiarize myself with the two most common camps of theory in the matter.

The first argument is that water doesn’t really matter in the long run. As long as it isn’t polluted or otherwise obviously bad, it will have no adverse effect on whatever you make. The logic behind this theory is that water doesn’t actually add flavor to the beer. That’s what the hops/malts/yeast do. And I agree with that, to an extent. For the most part, I can’t even taste the difference between water that comes out of a bottle and the water I get from the dispenser on my fridge. So I can see where this school of thought comes from.

However, I am starting to shift my opinion to the other theory in homebrewing. It states that because water is actually the largest component in the beer, it plays a vital role that should not be overlooked. Their theory is that the pH of the water can actually mess with the character of the ingredients that do give beer its taste.

My interest started after I had a long conversation with my brother in law, who just moved with my sister down south. They are having hard water problems and he was saying how it even changes the properties of the soap down there—it is hard to get soap to do anything. It made me wonder if the wrong type of water could affect the processes necessary to make beer and develop flavor. Because I can buy the finest ingredients in the world, but if that water is ruining the ingredients or hampering the yeast growth or something, it won’t matter.

So I decided to try some distilled water, two brands of bottled water, and then regular tap water that I put through a filter. I want to see which one ends up tasting the best. I’ll let you know if there is a significant difference between them once everything is ready!