Hibiscus Mead

Great news. I started a batch of hibiscus mead, based off a recipe I tried last summer. That one turned out a bit too sweet, so I cut back on the honey this time around.

It’s had a nice, fast ferment so far. You can taste the hibiscus.  It’s not so overwhelmingly sweet you want to run for the hills.

The hard part is going to be letting it rest in secondary long enough to mellow out and really be drinkable.  It will be an exercise in patience!

Pet store shenanigans Part 1

I was talking to a friend on Skype and got reminded of this job I used to have, working at a pet store.

It was one of those family run pet shops that sold all sorts of animals, most of which were very poor choices for people to actually take home as a pet.  Being that I was in college and needed the cash, and had poor ethics about supporting certain aspects of the pet trade, I filled out an application.

The store sold fish, parrots, puppies (those stories about puppy mill dogs?  True.  100% true.  Don’t buy a dog from a pet store, people), small animals, lizards, snakes, and kittens.  We had a few animals that were store pets, either because they couldn’t be sold, they belonged to the owner, or they were too big or nasty for a rational person to want to take home.  Like Tokay geckos.  I worked in reptiles because I like them, and wound up with the friggin’ Tokay hanging off my hand on more than one occasion.

We had one pet store.  A bunch of college aged employees.  A manager who was sometimes drunk (that’s another story).  The general public. And this fish:

Four feet of DOOM
Four feet of DOOM

This, for anyone who’s not familiar with fish, is a Redtail Catfish.  They usually show up in the aquarium trade as adorable little six inch long baby fish.  If your local pet or fish store is clueless, you’ll be told they don’t get that big and you’ll be fine keeping them in a 20 gallon or whatever you’ve got at home.  Just hand over your Visa and we’ll send you on your way.

Well.  It just so happens that they do get big.

People fish for those things, and have caught ones that are over 70″ and 150lbs.  The one we had at the store wasn’t 150lbs yet, but still clocked in at about four feet.  He lived in a display tank and we fed him mice, fish pellets, and the occasional pepperoni slice.

We also had a sign that said ‘Do Not Stick Your Hands Into the Tank.”  The fish ate mice by sucking them into his mouth and drowning them.  It seems obvious that you’d not want to put your hands into the same tank as a giant catfish.  But hey, people did, so we had the signs.

hands off

Anyway, we’re at work one evening and we hear someone yelling.  ‘IT’S ON MY HAND GET IT OFF HELLLLLLLP.”

Everyone likes a good animal bite story, so off we went.  We all suspected what happened, because it wasn’t the first time.  Usually we’d just hear a scream and a lot of splashing as whoever it was dodged the catfish, but not this time.  We get to the fish section, and sure enough, there’s a guy with his hand in the catfish’s tank and the fish is hanging on for dear life.

We stood around and watched until the manager showed up to deal with things.  None of us wanted to stick our hands in the tank at that point.  Good boy, catfish.  The customer wasn’t hurt, but I bet he never did it again.

Still, a word of advice:  don’t buy a Redtail Catfish unless you have the Taj Mahal of aquariums and don’t mind a fish that thinks your hand might be dinner.

Jaws the Gecko
Assholius Geckoius

And remember, Tokay Geckos are usually assholes.

Almost solstice!

That time of the year when, where I live, we have less than 9 hours of daylight.  I actually don’t mind, although it’s harder to fit in snowshoeing with the puppy when I’m at work for most of it.

There’s something pretty darn nice about having more night than day.  It makes curling up with the dogs and a good book (or a movie) even better.  More time for walking at night, checking out stars… and the bears are all snoozing too.

I’ve got plans to get together with people, eat food, drink mulled wine, and have a good time.  A combination solstice, Christmas, holiday, festivus thing.  I wish some of the mead would have been ready, but the one batch of cyser I’d been counting on flopped big time.  I have a bottle of not-my-mead that I’ll probably bring instead.  Perhaps I’ll crack a bottle of the terrible buckwheat and see how that tastes mulled.

And I’ll make darn sure to put aside some of what’s brewing for next year’s solstice.

Back to the Future

Bonus post because today’s the day they traveled to in Back to the Future.

Holy shit 2015
Holy shit it’s really October 21, 2015 right now, you guys.

It’s very fucking strange to look at 2015 now, vs. when I first saw the movie.

Same deal with these two. It’s an experience watching a movie when you’re a kid and then living long enough to hit the year that it was supposed to take place.  I was a kid when Back to the Future and Escape from New York were released.  Now I realize we still don’t have flying cars and NYC/LA (thankfully) haven’t been walled off into prisons.

Call me Snake
Call me Snake
Keep calling me Snake.
Keep calling me Snake.

I still want a flying car, damnit.  And I still like Kurt Russel.

Don’t judge.

(Temporarily) Unemployed

Six weeks of unpaid furlough is one of the deals that came with my job.  It’s not terrible, because other than the not getting paid part, I can pretty much use the time to do whatever I want.  I do split the time up so I don’t have all six weeks at once.  It’s a nice break after what happens here in the summer, too.

The other downside is having all that work waiting for me when I get back.

Screw it, I’m on (unpaid) vacation.  Not thinking about work for 4 weeks, damnit.  Booze and being lazy.

Have some flowers.
Here, have a random picture of yellow flowers.

Another bonus to furloughs?  Road trips.  Griffin and I did around 5300 miles in 2014, before he retired.  We hit 17 states, both coasts, a bunch of National Parks, and got to hang with some cool people.  I also had to replace two windshields on the Jeep, but hey.  Thank you State Farm?  Yes.  Thank you, State Farm.

2015 was occupied with a new puppy.  This fall, I’m flying back east to visit family instead of driving because Griffin isn’t able to travel in my Jeep.  Old dogs don’t mix well with narrow spaces in cars.  I’m kicking around the idea of getting a beater van in the spring to head out to Olympic National Park and Highway 101.

A badass sunset
Oregon rules

That’s one of the reasons why.  Also, Oregon’s beaches are 100% public access.  None of that bullshit with the private beaches… you can go anywhere.  And you can drink on the beach.  There’s just no way this could go wrong.  I’d throw a futon mattress in the van, for Griffin to stretch out on, and hook Viking’s crate up too.  He’s a jerk, because 9 month old puppies tend to be jerks, and would probably see how car seats tasted if I left him loose.

If I can have Griffin be comfortable in the car, then another trip out to the coast might be possible.  It’s not as far as driving back east.  He wouldn’t have to jump into a van the way he would into the Jeep.  Still, he calls the shots.   If he can handle it and wants to go, then we’ll do it.  His unofficial birthday is April 14th and he’ll be 11+ at that point.  The 14th was his shelter intake date and 11 is his estimated age.  Old man dog gets to choose, though.  He loved the beach, as long as his feet didn’t get too close to the ocean.  I’d like to do one more trip for him to enjoy, if he’s up to it.

Shit I’m doing on furlough, other than crashing on my sister’s couch for a week-

I’m putting in 5 gallons of mead today and another 5 when I find more honey that I like.  Also doing a 1-2 gallon repeat batch of hibiscus mead and aging it.  We liked it this summer and it was drinkable after 8 weeks.  A bit on the sweet side and could probably use some aging, so I’m going to experiment.  Oh, and possibly have 1-2 gallons of mead to take on a road trip in the spring.

National Novel Writing Month.  One month, write 50,000 words.

Doctors.  Shopping for winter.  Errands.  All that jazz.  Since our roads close in about a month and my only way out during the winter is one of these:

 

Drive it like you stole it. (Kidding) (No really)
Drive it like you stole it. (Kidding) (Honest)

Assuming we get snow.  There would usually be snow on the ground by now, but a combo of climate change and a second El Nino year means we’re getting punched in the junk twice this year.  I kid you not, I live at 8,000 feet and it’s 55 degrees out today.  At the end of October.

WTF is this?  I like winter.

Anyway, time to go get started on 5 gallons of mead.  It should be ready to go by June.

 

October mead update

Going from a suggestion by a friend, I figure it’ll be a good idea to post monthly updates on what’s happening with the mead projects.

October 2015-

Still in primary:

  • The light honey mead, from local Montana honey purchased at Costco.  It’s still bubbling away, and I’ll probably put it in secondary next week.  Happy with the way it tastes and with the SG.

Moved to secondary:

  • Cyser-  honey, apple cider, spices (nutmeg and cinnamon).  It tastes great, but I honestly can’t taste the booze in it. That could be a very good thing or a very bad thing, depending.  I went light on the spices, which turned out to be a good decision.
  • Utah honey mead- turned into a gallon and 1/3, so I need to buy some marbles to raise the level in the second carboy.
  • 1 gallon using the same honey I made the 5 gallon batch out of.  So far, it’s very consistent in how it tastes.
  • 1 gallon of coffee mead.  Jury’s out on this one.  I can taste a little coffee, but overall it’s very, very harsh.  Going to leave it in secondary for a while.
  • 1 gallon from honey a co-worker found at a local farmer’s market.  Also a bit on the harsh side.

I’ve got plans to start two five gallon batches, so we have something to enjoy next summer.  I also found some culinary lavender at Pike Place Market and am curious to see what that will do with a mead.  Finally, the co-op had killer bee honey on sale, from Brazil.  I’ll use that for just a plain mead.  The honey’s got an interesting flavor that I don’t want to influence with spices.

So that’s what’s fermenting and in the works for this month.  I’m hoping the cyser will be ready to drink around New Year’s.  I’ll see how it goes.

The hounds

Eventually I needed to get around to introducing the dogs this blog is named for.  Here you go:

Griffin-  who a 10-11ish year old Doberman from the Baltimore SPCA.  His previous owners left him in the lobby overnight, with nothing but a collar with his name on it.  It took him all of two days (and one attempt to mark the couch) for him to settle in.  I got very lucky with this dog.  He’s been my road trip buddy for 7 years, and retired from that last fall.  He has Wobblers, and riding in a car for long distances is no longer comfortable for him.  It honestly broke my heart to make that call, especially since it happened right before Viking arrived.  I was hoping for a year or two of road trips with both dogs, but it wasn’t in the cards.  He’s a professional couch potato now.  He pretty much does whatever makes him happy, and that’s how it should be.

Cannon Beach, OR
Cannon Beach, OR, 2014

Viking- who is really, honestly 100% German Shepherd.  Or, depending on who you ask, a purebred Lab, a wolf hybrid, or a straight up wolf.  He’s from Blackthorn Kennel’s Z-litter.  He’s definitely a dog who needs a job, so we’re working on tracking and IPO.  I’m also teaching him some service dog tasks, just to see how he does.  He is still a puppy… but serious and thoughtful, and has loads of confidence.  I’m very happy with this boy!  He also worships the ground Griffin walks on, and he’s got some big paws to fill as a road trip dog.  More in the future about puppies, breeders, and two dogs living together.  Blackthorn matched Viking for me, and he’s a perfect fit.

9 months old
Hey.

 

Viking’s already got a start on homebrewing.

He's helping.
He’s helping.

Good dogs.

Caramel Apple Mead

I do think I need to try this:

Recipe Type: Extract
Yeast: Lalvin K1v1116
Yeast Starter: yes
Batch Size (Gallons): 5
Original Gravity: 1.120
Final Gravity: 1.010
IBU: n/a
Steep Time (Minutes): 45
Color: golden brown
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 15 days at 68F
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 35 days at 68F

4 Gallons apple juice
2 lbs DME
3 lbs 60L Crystal malt
7 lbs Orange blossom honey
2 lbs clover honey
2 lbs buckwheat honey
2 vanilla beans

Steep grains in 1.5 gallons of apple juice at 155F for 45 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in the DME and honey. Rinse grain sack with 1/2 gallon apple juice. Add the remainder of the apple juice. Aerate by vigorous stirring for at least five minutes. Aerate some more. I now use oxygen with a diffuser stone to aerate (better). Pitch yeast starter (hydrated with Go Ferm per container instructions) directly into the primary (plastic pail fitted with an air lock).

At about 1.075 add 5g Fermaid K
At about 1.035 add 5g Fermaid K
(Dissolve your nutrients in water before adding them to your must. This helps to minimize foam.)

Within about two weeks this should ferment out to 1.012 or so. Rack to secondary and add vanilla beans. Allow to remain in the secondary for about a month.

Rack again onto 1 lb of buckwheat honey and 1/4t potassium metabisuphite or 5 campden tabs and 2 1/2t potassium sorbate to stabilize. Add Super Kleer to clarify. Bulk age for six months to a year before bottling.

I adapted this recipe from one I saw on gotmead.com. Mine is about 14 months old and tastes just like caramel apples. It’s a medium sweet mead that’s very drinkable. At about 13.75% alcohol and no alcohol bite one should exercise caution since it goes down so smoothly.

((Credit goes to SummerSolstice on Homebrewtalk Mead Forums.

Original post (and 21 pages of comments with brewing tips) is here.))