Sunday, September 3, 2017


In this post I brew beer! Ok, well, I brewed the beer a few days ago, and wanted to discuss the process here, and then I will get back to talking about mead.

I had the opportunity to pick up a home brewing kit from my father not too long ago, he had purchased it and never got around to using it, but it had all the essentials, bottles, crowns, a capper, nutrient, etc. I even got another carboy and a bucket out of it. Now that I typically have 2-3 things fermenting, I jumped at the opportunity for another carboy. I use buckets for more fruity/ flowery brews and I don't have anything of that nature planned right now, but more on that later.

Also included in this kit was some hops and some grain, but no instructions. So I... OK, it was my Wife, she definitely did me a solid and went down to the homebrew store and got some information for me. She was in the area for something else without the kids, so I asked her to do me a favor. The grain was stale. Boo! The hops most likely was bad too. Boo! But I was going to be home for a while, and why not. Swe had the guys at Homebrew HQ hook us up with some grain, some hops and a recipe.

Got all of it home, read through the instructions and realized their were some terms that were unfamiliar to me. Sparge? WTF is that? Internet to the rescue, or so I thought. This is where I realized I should have gone vs having my Wife go. She did nothing wrong, she just didn't have all of the answers I needed.

All grain brew vs an extract brew... hmm, the recipe has both options listed, but I have no extract, so all grain it is!

Now I had to figure out if they had milled the grain. Hmm, I really didn't know what I was looking at/for, but the internet helped me out there! It was milled all ready.

Ok, sparging. Really, what the hell is that? And who came up with the term? Per Webster's: Etymologists think that "sparge" likely came to English by way of the Middle French word espargier, itself from Latin spargere, meaning "to scatter."

I watched a handful of videos from different master brewers and I think I figured it out. Essentially you add more water after you have drained off your original water from the grain that has been boiling for an hour or so (90 minutes for my recipe), and then drain that into the same kettle you had already drained into.

The next step was to boil your wort (the combination of all the liquid that your grain soaked in and the liquid from your sparging) for another hour or so (again, my recipe was for 90 minutes) and add different ingredients at different times. Luckily, all of mine, sugar, molasses and the hops I was using, went all in for the entire boil and I just kept an eye on it as it reduced. I ended up with maybe 2/3 of my original liquid, probably closer to 1/2 which I then added to a carboy and filled up to a gallon, checked the temperature and the gravity, or sugar content of the must (very important, because yeast devours sugar and turns it into alcohol - over simplification, but you get the point), and pitched (or added) the yeast. Now we're waiting.


These are terms I came across that you might not be familiar with.

1. Carboy - A type of vessel us to ferment your desired beverage. Comes in different sizes.
2. Hops - A bittering agent. The flowers of the hops, or Humulus Lupulus plant. Comes in many different varieties.
3. Mash - (or Mashing) is the process of, and result of combining the grains with water.
4. Mash-tun - A vessel, such as a bucket or a cooler, designed to hold the mash and keep it at a desired temperature. Also will have a spigot or way of straining out the liquid.
5. Pitch - To add yeast to a wort.
6. Sparge - To sprinkle or pour hot water over your grain bed to extract the wort.
7. Specific Gravity - The density of your liquid, namely, how much sugar is dissolved in it. Two measurements are usually taken, an Original Gravity, before fermentation, and the final gravity, which is taken after fermentation. These two numbers can be used to approximate an ABV.
8. Wort - The sugar-containing liquid created from your mash that will later be fermented.

If you have any comments, corrections, or points of discussion, leave them below!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Me(ad), a Primer

A bit about me

For anyone that knows me on social media (Google Plus) you'll know that I talk about mead (and beer and coffee liquor), and it has become, in the 5+ years that I have been making it, a passion of mine. Now that I have worked the bugs out of the process of making wine, I wanted to take some time to discuss mead and the process of making it, and possibly pass along my passion for this wonderful liquid to others.

I am a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen, with everything containing a "little of this" or a "little of that" and very few recipes actually followed directly. I see them as mostly guidelines. And, if I do say so myself, it works for me. The trick to any kind of cooking, in my opinion, is to know flavors and understand how they interact. A touch of Worcestershire sauce (go ahead, say it a few times, I'll wait) will add smokiness to a sauce. Molasses will add a touch of sweetness. That type thing. Something the average person can pick up if they spend enough time in one of my favorite rooms of the house. With all that being said, I also travel for a living, so being home for set times to bottle, or even spend an entire day brewing beer, is not always in my time-budget. But I wanted to make alcohol, so I got looking into what I could make that would not require a lot of time away from all of the other activities I do. 

First came a Kahlua clone that I then went mad scientist on. I think at one point in time I had ten bottles of Kahlua, with slight variations on the recipe written on the bottle, before we sat down and settled on what would become the final version. That recipe is now six or seven years old and has been stably producing bottle upon bottle with only one slight hiccup. The United States distributer of the Rum I used had some distribution problems so I had to find a suitable replacement. Fair enough, replacement found, and it is still just as good. The future for this may be bright as I have plans to reach out to a distillery currently under construction near me.

Then came Mead. To be honest, I did not know quite what mead was when I thought about making it either. After the research though, and trying it, I knew it was something I wanted to try.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Call it a re-focusing!

This blog started as a place to post my writing. Plain and simple, and as I find less time to write, I realize that I still enjoy sharing about the things I love doing. So I am going to add some sections to this site in the coming weeks/months and see what happens.

Namely, I am going to add sections on homebrewing (specifically meads and ciders) and probably some cooking, with some gaming definitely thrown in there.

So, with that being said, let's revisit who I am.

I am a father. Of four! I have 2 step daughters, one grown and out of the house, the other one almost gone. I also have two young boys of my own. The older of which loves science, the younger of which is obsessed with Little Einsteins and Scooby Doo right now.

I am a husband. She supports me, she helps me. She compliments me. She is really everything I need and more. Much more than I deserve on most days.

I am an IT Guy. I do IT work for Trade Shows and Conventions. Sometimes it is as glamorous as it sounds. Most of the time it is not.

I am a gamer. I play RPG and action games mostly when it comes to consoles. I also love board games and card games. Gets me away from a screen for a little while.

I am a fan. Whether it's good (or bad) sci-fi, or fantasy. Or good story-telling. Or Transformers. I will give it a shot.

In addition to all of this, I also enjoy woodworking, the outdoors, hockey, and a good book. Oh, and hats! How can I forget about hats!

All said and done, I am a man of many interests, and many talents if I do say so myself, and hopefully you will enjoy what I am able to highlight of them in the coming months and years.

I have recently come to the realization that my hobby may actually be having hobbies!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


He remembered hearing about some tribes where the old or the feeble would wander off into the ice and snow one night. Just say their goodbye's and leave, to be found days, weeks, maybe months later, dead. He was unfamiliar with snow, and when the storyteller had tried to describe it, he had just laughed. It never got cold enough for water to freeze. But regardless, that was not his tribe's way.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Funeral Dirge

"That's the last of them, sir!" The grey-uniformed man said as he tossed the acoustic guitar, a classic cherry red Washburn, onto the pile.

"Light it up." His name was Adam Smith, that was General Smith, or Sir, to everyone around him. He took a step back to avoid the splash of gasoline as it was poured onto the mound of peoples’s hopes and dreams. 

With a flip of a match, flames begin to spread, leaping first from the guitar to a record player, then to a baby grand piano, to a pile of sheet music, to records… 

On and on the flames spread, the instruments twanging and pinging their dying screams. And General Smith smiled. “Job well done lads,” he called out over the roar of the flames, “job well done. Don’t let the flames die until it’s nothing but ashes.” He added, before turning on his heels.

As he walked past his soldiers, they saluted him, and he nodded to them in turn, until a bulge in the grey pocket of the fourth man, the one who had thrown the guitar on the fire, stopped him.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Opening Exerpt

“Just watch,” Clacks said, pointing at a man in whiteface, making balloon animals beside a fountain. 

A group of children stood before him, watching in awe as the man blew up a long, blue balloon. “Ok, who wants a snake?”

A look of disappointment swept over the kids, as the painted man smiled. “Just kidding, I thought we’d start with a doggy. Who would like a doggy?”

Sarin watched as a young boy of about five years old raised his hand.

“Ah, and what is your name, little one?” The white-faced man asked.

“Tommy,” said the lad.  

“Ah Tom, that’s a strong name, and is your mom or dad here?”

“Yeah,” Tommy pointed at an auburn tressed woman, also wearing green.

“Ma’am, is it alright if I make Tommy here a doggy?”

She smiled and shrugged before reaching into her purse. She pulled out a dollar and dropped it into the top hat with a red scarf tied about it that sat on the edge of the fountain.

“Thank you much, miss,” the man said as he began to twist the blue snake into something that quickly resembled a dog.

“Seriously, a balloon artist?” Sarin asked of Clacks.

“First, they call him Loon, and he’s not just any ‘balloon artist.’ He’s a gifted Twister.”

“Twister?” Sarin asked, shifting his oft-patched backpack, the strap more duct-tape than fabric, from his right shoulder to his left.

“Like I said, watch,” he  said as he pulled a pair of scissors out of one of the deep pockets in his too-thick overcoat. He crept up behind the park bench where the old man was sitting with his granddaughter, feeding the pigeons. Slowly he extended his arm and snipped the red ribbon that tethered the mylar happy birthday balloon to the blonde, pig-tailed girl. 

“Papa!” She exclaimed as the balloon began to float away.

Loon looked up and saw the birthday balloon ascending into the clouds and handed the half finished blue dog to Tommy. “My balloons are needed elsewhere, buddy. I’ll finish yours in a minute.” With that, he pulled a pink balloon from a pocket of the tweed jacket he wore and blew it up. His hands a blur of movement, a butterfly swiftly took shape. “Now here’s where the real magic happens.” He pulled a roll of clear tape from his other pocket and quickly made a loop, sticking it to the head of the butterfly. With a tug, he reached out and untied the red scarf from his top hat. Walking over to the now-sobbing girl, he winked at the old man. “Sweetheart, will you hold out your hand?” Loon asked, holding out the butterfly.

Sniffling, the girl did as she was asked, taking the offered rubber creature into the palm of her hand. 

Loon draped the red scarf over the butterfly and leaned in close, whispering something so softly, that not even the girl could hear it. Smiling, he blew on the scarf, which began to twitch. With a flourish, the man pulled the scarf from atop the balloon butterfly, which sprang to life, it’s wings beating feverishly as it drifted higher into the air.

The girl gasped, and then despite her sniffles, giggled. The inflated insect climbed higher and higher, chasing the birthday balloon, which had already drifted out of sight. 

“Now, Tommy, where was I,” Loon turned back to the boy, who stood, mouth agape, holding the half finished dog. Loon took the balloon and after a few more twists, he pulled a black marker from a pocket and drew eyes and a nose upon the canine’s head. “Here you go Tommy,” Loon handed the animal back to the young boy. “Who’s next.”

He had almost finished a balloon sword when one of the other boys in the group shouted.

“Look,” he pointed into the sky.

“Shit,” Sarin followed the gaze of the rest of the crowd, and could not keep the exclamation to himself.

“I told you to watch,” Clacks said as the butterfly floated back down toward Loon, towing the birthday balloon. “Come on,” he motioned to Sarin to follow as he approached the Twister.

The Twister handed the sword to a young, curly haired child as the butterfly landed on Loons shoulder, he reached up a once white, now grey glove, and pulled the girls balloon from the piece of tape. “Here you go sweetheart,” he pulled a new ribbon from his pocket and tied it first about the balloon and then about the girls wrist. “Hope that’s not too tight.”

The girl shook her head and thanked Loon in a meek voice, before giving him a hug. “Papa, look!” she said, more excitedly to the man on the bench beside her.

“I see,” the old man said with a smile and a nod. “Thank you,” he said, turning from his granddaughter to Loon. “Thank you,” he said again as he pulled out his wallet. “Here,” he offered the balloon artist a five dollar bill. “I don’t know how you did that, but it was definitely worth at least this."

With a Cheshire-Cat grin, Loon took the money and stuck it in his pocket. “Thank you sir,” he said with a bow. “Ok kiddies, I’ll be back, looks like Ol’ Loon has some friends he needs to talk to.” 

“That was some- Well, that was something alright,” Sarin said as Loon walked over, “Care to tell me how it was done?”

The man in the white make-up looked at Clacks, who nodded.

“You must be Sarin,” Loon said, extending his hand and ignoring the question.

Sarin smirked as he shook the offered hand. “I wouldn’t tell either I suppose.” 

Loon chuckled, “there’s not much to tell, besides, have you figured out how Clacks here does his trick?”

“Touché. Care if we walk for a minute, I’m not a fan of all the young ears.”

“We can’t go far, I did tell them I’d come back.”

“Fine, once around the pond, then?”

“That’ll work, but first,” he runs over and grabs his top hat, tying the scarf about it as he walks back to join Sarin and Clacks. He pulls a few bills from within the hat, looks them over and shoves them into his pocket before donning the hat.

The three set out, Clacks falling in a step behind the other two as they began the short jaunt. 

“So, Clacks tells me you’re looking for a few additions for your crew.”

“You could say that.”

“Crew for what? I do pretty well for myself up here,” he pulls a worn leather wallet from beneath his jacket and then grabs all of the bills from his pocket. Counting them, he smooths each out against his chest before placing them in the wallet. “This alone,” he says as he stuffs the fiver into the billfold, “will cover all of my balloons for at least two weeks. And I’m not interested in any funny business.”

“Nope, no funny business, at least none planned-”

Clacks smacked Sarin on his shoulder.

“Hey, I’m just being honest.”

“Ok, I hear that, but you still haven’t told me what you need a crew for.”

Clacks stepped forward, shoving his way between the two men. “Sarin here has a boat on the Underground Sea, mainly running supplies between the Black Bazaar and The Outer Gate, sometimes more, sometimes less, if you catch my drift.”

Sarin started to groan at the apparent pun, to which Clacks apologized.

“Ah, and how am I supposed to help?” Loon said, look from one man to the other.

Sarin stepped in front of Clacks and slowed just long enough to fall back into step with Loon. “I’d be lying if I said I knew, but I was given your name and I’ll be damned if you didn’t just impress me back there.”

“I’ll need to think about it. What’s in it for me?” 

“I’d give you some bullshit about seeing the world, but- You’ve been down to the Black Bazaar?”

“A couple of times, I make a lot more up here, but I occasionally have need of some of the services they offer, if you know what I mean.”

“I do,” Sarin said as he lifted his loose t-shirt, showing a pair of six inch scars on his left side. “Martha can work miracles,” he added with a smile and a wink.

Loon winced, “what are you asking me to get into?”

Sarin’s smile widened, “Ha! This?” He laughed as he let his shirt drop, “I got asked to grab one of the sewer gators about three months ago. You should see what I did to it!” He pulled a thin silver necklace from within his shirt, a pair of pointy teeth dangling from it. “Your question, what’s in it for you, well,” he said with a chuckle, “if you run into any sewer crocs, I’ve got them.”

“Frankly, there’s not much chance of that up here.”

“Noted. The Underground Sea is not much for looks, but you’ll get an equal share of anything we bring in as a crew. Hell, here,” Sarin reached into his pocket and pulled an iridescent sphere from his pocket. “Pearl, probably worth enough to keep you in balloons for a year, you can keep it if you come along or not.”

Loon took the sphere, and closing one eye, held it up to the sun. “Thing’s got to be an inch across.”

“Yep,” Sarin said, pulling a drawstring pouch from his belt and opening it. “There’s more where that one came from,” he said, showing a pouch full of what looked like marbles to the painted man. 

“Color me impressed,” Loon said, slipping the pearl into a pocket inside of his jacket. “Clacks, what’s your take on this?”

“I’m the one that arranged this meeting, didn’t I?”

“Guess so. I’d still like to think about it. Oh, and next time you want a demonstration, you can find a better way to get my attention. The ribbon was cut” Loon chided as they arrived again at the fountain. With a slight frown, he added, “What do the tiles say about this?”

Clacks laughed, “see for yourself,” he said, pulling his own drawstring pouch from his belt.  He held it out, open, before the Twister.

Loon reached into the bag, his hand closing about a few tiles. He opened his had as he withdrew it and shook his head. “How do you do it?” The white-faced man asked Clacks as he looked at the word the tiles formed in his open palm. ‘JOIN’

Sarin smiled, “So?”

“I said I wanted to think about it, and I still do. I’ll be here tomorrow with your answer. I have one more question though.”

“Yeah?” Sarin said as Loon returned the tiles to Clacks’ pouch.

“Who told you about me?”

Sarin motioned for Clacks to hold the pouch out, and reached his own hand within, pulling out seven tiles. “Ask him,” he said, opening his hand and revealing the word 'BALLOON.'

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sarin - Backstory

“Excuse me sir, do -“

“Get lost.”

“Already am,” I mumble under my breath. I have my story, if anyone will stop long enough to listen to it. I’ve boiled it down to bullet points, I can get it out in less than a minute now.

But this is not that version.

“Are you coming or what?” The old man called to me.

I shrugged, the too big coat I wore almost falling from my shoulders with the motion, the duct taped together strap on my weathered backpack preventing it from sliding too far.

“Well, you better make up your mind fast kiddo, this train’s leaving, with or without you.”

I gave one last longing glance backwards, told myself that if dad was there, I’d go back with him.

“Suit yourself,” the old man said and stood.

“No wait,” I called to him, running and hurling my backpack into the moving freight car.

“Here,” I’d later learn his name was Tobias Shade, or ‘Lampman,’ held out his hand, which I grasped and held on tight as he pulled me into the boxcar.

As I knelt there on the hay strewn floor of the railcar, Lampman slid the door shut behind me, but not before a far off shout reached my ears, or was I imagining my father calling my name. I tried to look back, but the door had already slammed shut.

The old man held out his hand and introduced himself.

“Nice to meet you sir,” I shook his offered hand, feeling the calluses, “I’m Caesar Ingram.” I said with a smile.

“That won’t work, will it Hayseed?”

I looked around for the first time, light peeking its way into the car through the spaces in between the slats, illuminating nearly a dozen other people huddled in the darkness of the railway car as it chugged along.

“Don’t think so,” a man with a wispy beard the color of hay stepped forward, lighting a lantern that sat on an upturned crate. “Caesar Ingram you say?”

“Uh, yes sir.” I squirmed beneath his careful scrutiny, causing him to laugh.

“Whadoyoutinkof Sarin?” His breath reminded me of my father’s, after a beer or two, when he would get in my face to yell at me. I shrunk from the man known as Hayseed and glanced at the door again. 

“Give the lad some room.” Lampman pushed the blonde back into the corner he had come from.

“Ignore him, he’s harmless, but he has a way with names, don’t he.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“Then it’s settled, Sarin, let me introduce you to the rest of my family.”

“Your family sir?” I regarded him again, his ebony skin, his nearly bald pate.

“Bah, they’re who I spend my nights with, and they help me out when I need it, that’s what family is, right?”

“I uh, guess, sir.”

“If you ain’t going to call me Lampman, at least call me Tobias.”

“Why Lampman sir?”

“Cuz I didn’t like Lampshade,” he said with a chuckle that brought a laugh that turned into a hacking cough out of the dark corner Hayseed had disappeared into.