Saturday, February 27, 2010

ME for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois!

Illinois state politics is messed up. I mean, REALLY messed up. Seven of our 40 governors have been indicted. Our last one (Rod Blagojevich) is currently awaiting trial on corruption charges, and the one before that (George Ryan) is in jail. And, considering that Blago is a Democrat and Ryan a Republican, corruption isn't partisan around here.

The latest tragicomedy in Illinois politics came last month when a pawnbroker won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and shortly thereafter we learned that he had previously used steroids and beaten his prostitute ex-girlfriend. Oops. Well, the Dems convinced the Mark McGwire wanna-be to step down. But how are they going to find a replacement? Well, they're soliciting applications online. Seriously.

Now all this got me thinking... Maybe it's time to send a homebrewer down to Springfield to clean up this mess! I've never considered myself a Democrat (I guess I'd classify myself as an independent libertarian) but I'm not above whoring myself for political gain. I was born and raised in Chicago, after all. It turns out the application is only five questions long, so without further ado I present my application to be the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Illinois...

1. Why are you a Democrat?

Well, to be honest, I wasn't before just now. However, the Republicans already have a nominee and
Lyndon LaRouche won't return my calls, so I guess I'm a Democrat now. Free everything for everybody!

2. Have you previously held elected office? If so, which one(s)?

I have been legal affairs officer of
Homebrewer's Pride of the Southside since 2004. During my tenure, we have run a surplus budget and never been sued or indicted. Can the State of Illinois say the same thing? I was also elected president of the St. John Youth Forum (Darien, IL) from 1995-97, where I successfully avoided excommunication.

3. What do you believe are the greatest challenges facing the State of Illinois and areas of greatest opportunity?

Greatest challenges? Well,
we're broke. I'm talking California broke. That's gonna be a pain in the ass to fix. Also, we're really, really, really corrupt. (May be a connection there... I'm not sure.) Honestly, if you think the lieutenant governor is going to fix all that you're even more gullible than Illinois voters. However, until we can be annexed by Wisconsin I think we're going to have to deal with all this somehow.

Greatest opportunities? We've got some kick-ass breweries here in Illinois. Several have opened (or are about to) over the last two years. However, if we do away with the current three-tier distribution system and liberalize our business laws, we could rival California, Colorado and Michigan when it comes to brewing meccas. From there, turning around the rest of our economy will be a piece of cake!

4. What strengths would you bring to the ticket?

Well, I guess German beer is my specialty, but I like to dabble in all styles. As
President Obama has shown, people like to talk over a nice, cold beer. You think people are going to come out to a fundraiser to drink some downstate Chardonnay? Hell no! Democratic fundraisers are going to become the toast of the town when you've got six different homebrews/craft beers to choose from at each event. Plus the homebrewing/beer geek community includes people of every political persuasion... when given the choice between two bozos, they'll vote for the bozo who brews!

5. Please list any organizations or elected officials that have endorsed your candidacy for lieutenant governor.

Well, I haven't been endorsed by any elected officials, but isn't that a good thing? As for organizations, I just decided to run this morning so I haven't really had a chance to talk to anybody else yet. However, I invite homebrew clubs, beer appreciation clubs, and brewer's guilds to offer their support for my candidacy at my campaign homepage, Together we may not change Illinois, but we'll get it really, really drunk. Thank you, and God Bless America.

So there you go. I think the good people of Illinois are ready for a homebrewer in the Lieutenant Governor's Mansion*, don't you?

* I'm not sure there's actually a Lieutenant Governor's Mansion, but a fellow can dream, right?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Red Ale update and plans to come...

On Saturday I finally got around to kegging the Irish Red Ale. Unfortunately, it was right before Jonas's first birthday party (like, literally, fifteen minutes before the party... I had cleaned the basement and my two options were hide the carboy or rack it to a keg, and as it was two weeks since I brewed and the Kräusen had fallen I decided to go with the latter) and because I was in a hurry I didn't take a gravity reading. Eh, no biggie...

In the meantime, I have some plans a'brewin' (no pun intended--at least initially--but I'm not changing it now). First, next weekend our friends Mark and Marlowe of Zoo Brew fame (who co-brewed our Mr. Kim's Secret Microbrew) will be coming over to brew an Old Ale. We're calling it 1908, in honor of the year my beloved Chicago Cubs last won a World Series. We're planning on aging some of it on oak and we'll each stash a bottle away to save until the Cubs finally bring another championship to the North Side (well, all of us except Marlowe, who's a Sox fan).

Depending on how things work out this month, I may really get things cranking. I have a couple of other beers in the pipeline... I'd like to try brewing our 59° Fahrenheit Maibock again and I'm also itching to whip up another batch of our None More Buzzed coffee stout (though now that Jamie and Christine are in Minnesota I probably won't be able to score freshly-roasted espresso beans from them again).

Oh, and sooner or later I hope to head back up to Metropolitan Brewing to brew the first (non-test) batch of I-Beam Alt. I haven't tried the test batch myself yet, but I got some feedback from Tracy the other day and hopefully with some minor tweaking the good folks at Metro will actually bring a true Düsseldorf-style Alt to Chicago!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Brew day: Road House Red

St. Patrick's day is around the corner, and while I'm not really sure what will be going on around here this year (as the annual South Side Irish Parade is no more, though some are pledging to show up anyway) I figured just to be safe I should brew up a five-gallon batch of my Road House Red, an Irish red ale.

The day started out rather inauspiciously. When we got back from church I discovered our dog Ogie had knocked down the doggie gate and strewn garbage all over the kitchen. Then Leah took Jonas and headed to the store, leaving Dorrie to hang out with me while I got things started out in the garage. However, Dorrie's going through this separation anxiety phase where she freaks out if Leah's not around, so she wouldn't go out. As such I had to wait for Leah to get back to get my water heating.

Once Leah got back, I went outside only to discover that I couldn't find my sheet of paper with my keggle calibration (I keep track of how much water is in my keggle by measuring the depth of the wort). A long time ago I posted the calibration for my other keggle, but since that measurement was taken without a false bottom I didn't think it would be accurate. Anyway, I eventually figured out a way to estimate the volume, though I wasn't entirely confident in my accuracy. I guess I'd have to wait and see what I yield and what my gravity is to determine how close I was.

Last but not least, once I measured out the strike water and started heating it, I discovered my thermometer was being wonky (it was reading "HI" when I knew the temp was well under boiling). After changing the batteries and cleaning the wire well, I finally got it to work, though at times if I moved the probe a certain way it would go back to reading "HI." With that in mind, I'm not entirely sure what my mash-in temp was, though the last temp it showed before it crapped out again was 152°F--my target mash temp.

Fortunately, once I mashed in the rest of the day went really smoothly. I mashed in at 2pm, recirced from 2:40 to 2:50, sparged from 2:50 to 3:40, and boiled from 3:40 to 4:40 (with hop additions at 60 min. and 5 min.). I was chilled down to 75°F and pitched by 5pm; definitely my shortest all-grain brew day to date. I ended up with closer to 5 gallons than the 5.5 I was shooting for, but I overshot my target gravity by five points, ending up at 1056.

One quick note on the recipe... Last time I brewed this I wasn't too happy with it (I had both melanoidin and Caramunich as specialty malts as well as the requisite roasted barley and it just had this pungent maltiness to it that was offputting). This time I ditched both the melanoidin and Caramunich and instead went with a little Caravienne to give it a touch of maltiness and upped the roasted barley. I also went with an American yeast (SafAle US-05) instead of the English ale yeast I used last time. We'll see if that all makes a difference or not.

I have a few ideas up my sleeve that I hope to get to soon (including a barleywine and a Pilsner) but for now it was good to get back on the brewing horse.

Friday, February 05, 2010

FotoFriday #20

You can never train 'em too young...