Friday, March 19, 2010

Session Beer Series: Scottish 70-

I am continuing my Session Ale kick. I'll explain my recent obsession .

I think Session Ales are the next wave in Craft Brewing. Yes, craft beer has blown up in the past years and it will continue being a high growth business. But I personally think for craft beer to continue to grow it must be in a price range that more people can afford or at least be tempted to try. So by making a low gravity beer the customer can get the taste without the price tag. I also understand that beer ingredients are a low percentage of the actual cost to the consumer but it may help. The other issue with session beers is the shelf life because of the low alcohol level and sometimes hopping rate. So this will limit the range of the brewery to be more local or to brew smaller more frequent batches. Lastly, I am not convinced how many people are drinking beer just for the alcohol benefit, I would rather be able to taste and drink 10 session beers than 4-5 IPAs.

On to the beer style, this is my favorite because I am a fan malty, slightly sweet beer, not because of the reason my wife thinks which is I like everything Scottish. This is my second time brewing the beer and it is again a JZ recipe. It was my favorite beer of 2009. It did pretty well in competition but main complaint was the body is too low. So this year I will be mashing even higher around 158 but by using Cal Ale yeast this beer will still dry out. The thing I enjoyed in this beer last go around was it had a great sweet malt smell but was fairly dry tasting. I believe the honey malt in addition to the decent amount of crystal created this.

Recipe: Scottish Ale 70-
O.G.-1.035  F.G.-TBD   IBU-13  
SRM-15   ABV-TBD   Cal-TBD

Grain Bill (75% Efficiency):
2.5 lb Maris Otter (65.6%)
8 oz Crystal 40L (13.1%)
4 oz Crystal 120L (6.6%) 
4 oz Munich Malt (6.6%)
4 oz Honey Malt (6.6%) 
1 oz Chocolate(UK) (1.6%)

.25 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, 90 min 13 IBU (100%)

1 vial of White Labs WLP001

Brew Day:
Brewed: 03/21/10
Kegged: TBD

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1 campden tablet for 5 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.33 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 1.25 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 158F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 172F
Batch Sparge Volume: 4 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 4.5 gal
Pre Boil O.G.: TBD
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 3 gal

Ferment Details:
Ferment Temp: 64-68F
Length: 7 days
App Attenuation: TBD
Actual Efficiency: TBD

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Undercover San Diego: Cedar Creek Falls

This place is not the most secret place in San Diego but is worth listing because it is one of the better adventures in San Diego County. Cedar Creek Falls can get pretty crowded on holiday weekends and nice spring/summer weekends. If you hike during the week you have a chance at it being deserted. Remember you are going to a waterfall so "winter" or spring is the best time to see the falls flowing. Late spring and early summer are still nice to use a swimming hole because it is shallow and will warm up.
To get there you have 2 choices and each way is quite different:
Ramona Trailhead to get to the trailhead google map "15500 thornbush rd san diego ,ca". Elevation drop is about 900 ft in about 1.8 mi. Some sections are very steep and especially strenuous on the way out with no shade.
Julian Trailhead is located at the end of Eagle Peak Rd (google map "pine hills rd , Palomar-Julian, San Diego, California 92036")Eagle Peak Rd is dirt for about 10 miles until it dead ends at the trail head. This trail has about the same elevation drop (900ft) in 2.5 miles and is much more gradual but also doesn't have shade.

So take your pick Ramona - easy drive but harder hike or Julian - longer drive but easier hike

In the past, you have used the Ramona Trailhead because I don't like driving and I don't mind the hike (as long as its not 110 like it can be in the summer). The trail is obvious and has nice views of the canyon especially in spring with the wild flowers. When you reach the bottom of the canyon you will cross the San Diego River and continue straight. You then follow along Cedar Creek with a few crossings and some nice shade. You will soon see the falls and rather large swimming hole.
The rocks on the left as you face the falls are popular for jumping from. Caution should be taken because the water can be shallow especially after the recent fires. You can also swim up to the falls and slide down the lower portion. People have even jumped from the cliffs on the right but this is not recommended because of the recent shallow waters.

The hike out can be painful so make sure to stash some cold drinks in your car. And make sure you bring plenty of water on your hike because this area gets hot. Also you will need a Forest Adventure Pass to park by either trailhead (these are available at locally or on the internet)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ash's Azuki Bike Build / Restore: Frame

So I have started to make some progress. I completely take apart the bike. I mean everything down to the screws.

For the frame I decided I needed to start fresh since the paint is in horrible condition and there is a lot of rust. Normally with a restore you don't want to touch the paint or you lose value but for this project the original bike has no value and my wife cares more that it looks pretty than being authentic. So out comes the angle grinder with a wire brush attachment. (this is not the professional way, if you want to have a great paint job take it to a shop to get sand/bead blasted then powder coated cost $75 - $300 (my way about $12+labor)). This took me a couple hours and with the tight spots you will have sand by hand.
Now with a bare frame I wiped it down with degreaser and then soap and water. I stuffed newspaper into the openings and jammed coat hangers through the openings. Then hang up the frame and fork and surround yourself with plastic or sheets.

Now onto the paint, the best stuff to use is automotive paint. And you will need primer, base coat (color) and a clear coat. I could not find auto paint so I went with Krylon paint from HD. This is a $12 test and if it doesn't last then I'll redo with more expensive paint. But make sure that your paint is all the same brand. So on a very clean frame I sprayed 2 very light coats on the frame. Then within 10 minutes I added 2 thin layer of base coat (gloss white). And then again within 10 minutes, 2 more coats of glossy clear coat. With all this painting the quality all depends on the surface preparation. It must be clear of dirt, hand grease and old paint. And if you notice any drips (shouldn't since you are doing several light coats) then wait till it drys to the touch (30 min) and wet sand with 600 grit paper.
I like how the frame turned out and now I'll wait about a week for the paint to really cure, then onto to the components.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cooking with Beer: Beer Brined Chicken

I was inspired to brine a bird after my Dad brined his turkey for the past Thanksgiving. It is amazing the amount of flavor that can be absorbed, plus the moisture and extra salt is a bonus. I promise once you brine you won't go back. It really doesn't take much time but it does require planning.

The science behind brining is simple, you have two different solutions 1.water in bird and 2.brining solution. The 2 solutions have a difference in salt concentration so in order to equal out, osmosis (liquid transfer) must occur. So the boring moisture in the bird is replaced with the flavorful brine. Plus it increase tenderness by denaturing protein due to the salt and helps preserve the meat.

  • 1 chicken (size doesn't matter, but it does help if it can fit in a pot)
For Brine (Add to 2 qt pot, simmer for 10 minutes):
  • 2 beers (use what you would drink with chicken or that would go well with the spices used in the recipe, I used a wheat beer but anything that isn't too dark/roast or hoppy (if you experiment, leave a comment)
  • 1/2 cup fine grind sea salt (or 1 cup coarse grind Kosher salt)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP Thyme dried or 1 bunch/fistfull of fresh (easily foraged see post)
  • 4 bay leaves (foraged)
  • 2 twigs rosemary (or forage wild rosemary)
  • 4 garlic cloves that should be diced
  • 1 medium onion (choose your favorite type) also diced
  • 2 lemons zest goes into boil and slices go directly into pot

After the Brine has been simmered add ice to fill the rest of pot. And then place the pot in the refrigerator for an hour or until cool. Put you chicken and lemons in any pot or ziploc that can hold it. Then pour the brine over the chicken and make sure it covers the chicken. If you don't have enough brine then top off with water or beer.Let the bird brine anywhere from 12 hours to 48 hours. Anymore may make the chicken too salty.

After proper soaking time, remove the bird, rinse and then pat dry. Preheat the oven to 350F and follow the time guidelines based on the size of your bird. To check if the bird is done insert thermometer into the inner thigh (close to, but not touching the thigh bone) it should read at least 165 F. Now take the bird out and wrap in foil and let it rest for 10 min. (very important or all the juice you brined in there will just gush out). Plus the bird will continue cooking to the proper temperature.

Eat with your favorite side dish (check for roast potatoes post using the drippings) and beer.
Additional ideas are smoking the bird and deep frying the bird. Leave me comments if you try this.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Session Beer Series: Best Bitter (Haus Ale)

I have two friends that recently bought condos and are both having house warming parties in the near future. I wanted to help them celebrate so I thought I would bring a small (2.5g) keg of my beer to their parties. I was really struggling with what type of beer is the best for this type of situation. For this type of thing, I asked the wife because she isn't as "geeked out" (her words) as I am about beer. She suggested something light to appeal to more people. Well personally my taste is toward the malty and sweet and I like to brew beers that I like. Also most light beers are lagers but I don't have the capabilities (yet, stay tuned) or the time. Consequently, I had just kegged the JZ Ordinary Bitter so I had her taste it. She said, "sure".

I also like the opportunity to refine my last recipe. A Best Bitter is basically just a slightly scaled up Ordinary Bitter. In my Ordinary Bitter I enjoyed the hops/malt balance and flavor. But I do think that the beer could use more hop flavor and aroma. So for the Best Bitter I will adding a higher percentage of the IBUs at the end of the boil and dry hop in the keg (OB-Flavor(11%), Aroma(8%), BB-Flavor(24%), Aroma(4% + dry hop). By dry hopping in the keg I can keep tasting to know in the future when this beer will be at its prime.

Recipe: Haus Ale: Best Bitter (5 gal batch)
O.G.-1.044   F.G.-1.012   IBU-28  
SRM-12   ABV-4.12%  

Grain Bill (75% Efficiency):
7.25 lb Maris Otter (88.5%)
10 oz Crystal 120L (7.6%)
5 oz Special Roast (3.9%)

.75 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, 90 min 20 IBU (72%)
.75 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, 20 min 6.6 IBU (24%)
.25 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, 1 min 1.2 IBU (4%)
.25 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, Dry Hop in Keg

150 ml of White Labs WLP002
Fourth pitch, pitch amount calc'd @ Mr.Malty

Brew Day:
Brewed: 03/07/10
Kegged: 03/17/10

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1.5 campden tablet for 8 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 2.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 152F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 167
Batch Sparge Volume: 5.5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 6.5 gal
Pre Boil O.G.: TBD
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 5 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.044
Ferment Temp: 64-68F
Length: 7 days
F.G.: 1.012
App Attenuation: 72%

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Undercover San Diego: Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves

I chose to start my backlog of San Diego Adventures with the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves because they are one of my favorite places (I have been back several times) and there are not on any maps. They aren't even on the Anza Borrego State Park map. I found out about them on one of my favorite sites that I also contribute to, Hidden San Diego. If you live in San Diego and are looking for new adventures you will want to subscribe to this site.(cheap). Out of respect for that site, I will go into limited detail but feel free to ask questions through email for more details (description of each cave, map with every cave).

To get there if you are coming from the north part of San Diego then drive toward Borrego Springs before you get there turn right onto S2. If you are coming from the Southern part of San Diego use 8 East and exit on the S2 in Octillo. You can use this address to get directions in google "Stag Horn Rd, Julian, San Diego, California 92036", it will get you close enough. Once on the S2, look for the mile markers, the turnoff is located a Mile 43. You will turn east off S2 into a sandy wash you will see signs for Palm Springs and Vallecito Creek.

You do not need 4WD but it would make the drive more safe and fun. There are plenty of undiscovered caves and slot canyons in this area.(If you know of any please comment). You will want to stay on one of the compacted roads that travels through the wash. Reset your trip odometer as soon as you turn off S2. The turn to enter into the Arroyo Tapiado canyon is around 4.5 miles. About halfway along the wash you will see the mysterious "Hollywood and Vine" signpost on a hill on your left. In another couple miles you should see a sign for Arroyo Tapiado on your left and several roads leading that way. Shortly you will be in the winding former river bed.
Try to imagine this as a large flowing river (after a rain), most of caves were created as small spur springs off this river. You will notice how the caves serpentine and this is simply water trying to find the easy way out. By knowing how these caves were created it will be easier for you to find them. Larger caves are near the main road and smaller caves have openings in some of the side slot canyons.
There are around 30 discovered caves in this area, to find out details about all of them you will need to join Hidden San Diego. I will however describe how to get to some of the larger and more obvious ones. Refer to the map below.
Carey's Big Cave is the main attraction. It is named after the guy responsible for charting and studying the area. It is found off the main road about a mile from the start of the twists. You will see a large group of bushes on your left and several trails around the bushes. Behind the bushes will be the entrance to this large mud cave (about a 1/4 mile long). This cave has several off shoots and large rooms, have fun exploring. It ends at a small sky light that is at the bottom of a cave-in.
Chasm Cave is the next largest cave and is just around the corner. Once you exit Carey's Big Cave then walk north or to your left. Go around the corner and then walk another 20 or 30 ft and you will see a well used trail. This is also a very large cave and has several sky lights. It gets tight in sections but is still walkable.

My next favorite cave is hardly a cave but is very neat place to have lunch in the dark. Pool Plunge Cave is a bit more difficult to find. As you leave Chasm Cave follow the main road for another couple hundred feet. You will see the opening for a large slot canyon on your right with broken rock in front. Just before that you will see a slender opening in the wall of the wash. If you follow this skinny cave it will open into an amazingly large room with a skylight.

There is a lot more exploring to be done here and if you have any questions please let me know.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Session Beer Series: Ordinary Bitter

I am currently on a big Session Beer swing. I really like the idea of trying to capture all the flavor and mouthfeel of a normal strength beer but with less calories and alcohol (also cheap to brew).
This beer was inspired by my favorite internet Radio Station, The Brewing Network's Jamil Zainasheff. I like to use his recipes as a starting point for the style (since he is the style editor for BYO) and taste my way to any changes. He is very generous in sharing his award winning recipes (found here) and even giving you tips on the brewing process.

I must also explain that I am currently doing 3 gallon batches (explanation in a future post). So if you want to scale the recipe then use ratios (or a brewing program. I use an online tool called Brewtility because it does everything I need, its online, and FREE.

Recipe: JZ Ordinary Bitter
O.G.-1.040   F.G.-1.010   IBU-26   
SRM-12   ABV-3.9%   Cal-130/12oz

Grain Bill (75% Efficiency):
3.75 lb Maris Otter (88.2%) (changed from JZ recipe)
5 oz Crystal 120L (7.4%)
3 oz Special Roast (4.4%)

.5 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, 60 min
.25 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, 15 min
.25 oz East Kent Goldings, 5%, pellet, 1 min

100 ml of White Labs WLP002
Third pitch, pitch amount calc'd @ Mr.Malty

Brew Day:
Brewed: 02/21/10
Kegged: 02/28/10

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1 campden tablet for 5.5 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.4 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 1.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 154F @ 60min
Batch Sparge Volume: 4 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 4.33 gal
Pre Boil O.G.: 1.023
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 3 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.040
Ferment Temp: 64-68F
Length: 7 days
F.G.: 1.010
App Attenuation: 75%
Actual Efficiency: 75%

Monday, March 1, 2010

Adventure Race #1 : Mission Trails Park

I have been into triathlons for the last couple of years and I love the outdoors so I have been searching for a way to combine the both. I have found the answer, "Adventure Racing". This is a loose term and can apply to any race that has multiple legs in the outdoors. Different stages consist of Trail Running, Mountain Biking, Swimming, Kayaking, Climbing, Rappelling, Orienteering....

Anyone that does triathlons or have looked into Adventure Racing knows that they are not cheap to compete in. In San Diego there is a great group of guys that put on Adventure races for FREE. The group is called Equinox Adventure Racing , Barrie is the main contact and replied to me within minutes. Actually he was so nice he lent me a bike for the first race. Check out there website as to that is where they post all the events for the upcoming year and full race reports (Race Report for this race).

So I was able to talk a good friend, Jordan, to go out and suffer with me for over 10 hours. We ended up covering close to 30 miles by the time we got back to our car. And climb some serious vertical footage.
The race started out with a quick lesson on plotting check points (Future Post - How to). We did not know exact location or distance of the race. Beforehand they told us it would take most people 10 hours. That sounded good to us.
We started out racing our mountain bikes through some pretty fun single track. Most of our first check points were on the trail. The course took me through parts of Mission Trails that I didn't know about and are now sadly a housing development. And we had a few surprises on our way (Reptile Rangler handled it)
After the mountain bikes we transition to trail running for 6 or 7 miles then another leg of biking down back into the valley. The last leg of the race is my favorite, its the "O" or Orienteering course. You must map the check points and then find small flags with reflectors in bushes or behind rocks. This part really tests your map reading and route choosing skills. Plus for us it started to hail/rain.
We ended just after dark and are now hooked on Adventure Racing. Look for us at future Equinox Racing events, we'll be in the rear. That day we earned our team name and will forever be known as

last to every transition zone plus we pack a beer for the finish line

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