Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homebrew - Episode 3

We are on the homestretch, people!

On Sunday, Mike bottled his beer.  This is really a couple weeks overdue, but he's been pretty busy.  It doesn't hurt the beer to sit longer; the important thing is to make sure it's stopped fermenting.

On Friday he prepared everything by cleaning and sterilizing the bottles.

For cleaning we have this handy thing that attaches to the faucet.  I didn't know we had this.  I think there could be a lot of uses for this contraption - which is probably why I didn't know we had it.


Sunday the actual bottling process began.

First he cleaned out his Ale Pails.  Then he "uncorked" the beer, gave it a whiff and said, "Wow.  That smells good!"  It smelled like beer throughout the process, but it definitely had a more sweet smell than previous recipes he's made.

Next he boiled the priming sugar. 

Here I have to pull out my notes; yes, I took notes.  I have to know what I'm doing next time I make beer on my own.

HA!  That'll be the day.

Anyway, the priming sugar will make Carbon Dioxide which will carbonize the beer while it sits in the bottles.

Next you transfer everything from the carboy to the bottling bucket.  Also known as "Ale Pail #1" today.

While that's transferring he put the sugar in the sink with a couple handfulls of ice surrounding it.  The sugar/water combo needs to cool down.  It should be somewhere around room temp when it's added to the beer.  There's a good chance his wasn't quite that cool, but don't tell anyone.

While that's cooling and the carboy is still emptying, take another measure just to be certain that the fermentation has stopped. 

When the carboy is mostly empty this is at the bottom:

That's gross.  Don't do anything with that except throw it away.

Now comes the fun part: bottling.  Get yourself a comfy chair and hook up the hose to Ale Pail #1.  Have the other end lead to Ale Pail #2 which is sitting at your feet.

Here I'm going to go out on a limb and say that any Home Depot 5-gallon bucket would do for Ale Pail #2.  But, I don't think the process would have felt as official.  All this second pail is doing is collecting the drips that happen between bottles.

And you don't want many drips...that's wasted beer.

Take out the first bottle, insert the end of the tube which has a special nozzle.  When pressed, this nozzle releases the beer from Ale Pail #1 into the bottle.  When not pressed, the beer stops flowing into the bottle.

That first bottle is kind of exciting...

Repeat.  Several times.

26 bottles of beer on the wall....26 bottles of beeeer....

While he was doing this, Maddie came in to see what was going on.

She really wanted to give this a try.

Soon she was on her own.

And if one monkey sees another monkey doing something...

Soon he is doing it too.

50 bottles of beer on the wall...50 bottles of beer...

Next comes capping.  This involves this contraption:

A note here:  In this entire process either the names or actual tools look or sound like torture.  This thing looks like it could cut someone's finger off.  It can't...I'm just saying.

Bottle caps are also required.  We collect them all through the year to use them for just this purpose.

Kidding.  You buy them.  Mike bought two sets originally and now that his kids were helping he thought he should maybe get rid of the black ones.

Insert the bottle cap onto the magnet in the red contraption...

Place over the bottle and pull down the side levers.

Ta-da!  This is not blurry because I had any beer [*hiccup*].  Mike moved too quickly to get on with the process.

Maddie came in to help for this round as well.

Apparently this is a difficult task and requires brute strength...

Monkey see...Monkey do...

Jake got done and said, "I have GOT to get to the gym!"

Once everything is capped, it all goes back into the cases to sit for another 2-4 weeks.  This is called torture. 

If we had a keg system than this beer would have actually been drinkable immediately.  This has been mentioned quite a number of times.  But without his bar we have nowhere to store it so the tap will have to wait.  But don't worry, it has definitely been included in the bar plans.  It was the first thing drawn in.

Conclusion in a month or so!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Break '10

For awhile Mike and I have talked about how we would like to start taking some road trips around Minnesota.  Nothing too elaborate, just a day's drive.  But we wanted  to start seeing more of our state than just the metropolis.  For Spring Break we decided that we would take a drive and head towards Hendricks, MN, just on the border of South Dakota.  At the last minute Mike was doing some research and offered that we should instead head to Redwood Falls.

My parents agreed to stop by and let Sadie out a couple times, so we checked that off the list.  We packed up the kids and said, "We are going on a day long road trip.  You can either get in the car with the attitude that 'this stinks and we'll have no fun' or you can get in the car thinking, 'Whoo-hoo!  An adventure!'  your choice."  Luckily they chose the latter...and brought a book along.

Along the way we kept our eyes peeled for anything interesting or even tacky that we might want to stop and see or take pictures of.  No luck.  Mostly farmland.  There was that one toilet leaning against a tree stump on the edge of one farmfield, but by the time we realized what it was, it was too late to turn back.

We passed through tons of small towns and finally stopped at Steve's bakery in Morton (?).  I think the town had around 600 people in it.  But the bakery items were delicious.  Unfortunately we didn't see Steve.  Mike and Jake were actually the only males in the storefront.  No picture here either.

The kids thought it was really interesting that a lot of these towns actually had fewer people than the number of kids that attend their school. 

We did arrive in Redwood Falls though.  Mike and I were ready to turn back and look for more small towns because it didn't look too promising.  We decided over 5,000 people is too populated for us on a day's drive.  But we stopped for lunch at the Pizza Ranch because Maddie was SO excited that they had one.  My outlook for this trip was dimming; but...we were on an adventure.

After lunch we headed toward a park we hoped would be worthwhile.  And the day started looking up.

We came to our first scenic overlook.  Both kids hopped out with cameras.  True tourists.

This was the view...

This is the Redwood River.  (Fun fact:  I cannot say "R" and "W" sounds together.  If I was to read this aloud to you it would most likely come out as "Wedwood Wiver".  Hours of entertainment for Mike.) 

Anyway, the wiver was weally waging.  Kidding...but it was high and we were guessing it had a much stronger current than normal.

There was a little bridge on the other side which Maddie wanted to check out so we headed down there.  We discovered a small "zoo".  There were three buffalo, a bunch of ducks/geese and some white animal we think could have been a goat.  None we could actually walk up to because there were two sets of fences protecting them.  Oddest little zoo ever.

But we stopped at a little stone bridge over the water.  The water was about 10 inches below the normal opening for this bridge.  The kayakers coming down river had to stop and get out because there was no way they were getting under it.


Just one fell in, but doesn't that spot just look like it?

We found the little bridge Maddie wanted to explore, except once we got there she didn't think it looked too safe.  She sent Mike across first and was not happy to see boards bend wherever he stepped.

Jake was next.  Boards bent for him too.  She was pretty sure she wasn't going over it.

I went over next.  Being a Smith means you're occasionally a bit of a turd.  I got half-way across and threw my arms up in the air, yelled "Aaugh!" and dropped down like I was falling through.  I heard a big gasp behind me and I turned around smiling.  Maddie didn't think it was as funny as I did. 

Doesn't she look excited to be on it?

Once we got to the other side, there was really nothing to do.  Maddie wanted to check out how cold the water was.

Jake can't leave well enough alone.  He kept inching forward until we thought he was going to just dive in.  He walked away with some wet toes.

Back across the bridge we all decided to go on a hike.

Jake took off. 

I yelled "Two roads diverged in a wood and I...I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."  No one seemed to care about the poetic appropriateness of it at that moment.

Jake chose left.  We'll never know what the right path would have held.  It doesn't seem to bother anyone else. 

"Don't worry about me guys...I'll be right there!"

At the top we found another scenic overlook.  This deck hung out over the the side of a hill.  The drop was steep.  Jake walked right up to the edge and started snapping pictures.  Maddie was a little more hesitant but wanted those pictures too.  The kicker here?  Jake does not like heights.  But, I think the idea of missing out on something is what propels him to forget that fear momentarily every time he's faced with it.  He usually walks away saying, "I am not a fan of heights."

We finally reached the top of the hill only to discover another park area.  The kids were pretty excited to try this ride out:

Doesn't it just make you want to throw up watching these pics?

We walked away - the kids in a drunken stagger - and came to another overlook that Mike had spotted from the first one.  It was a really neat picnic shell overlooking the bend in the river.

I mentioned more than once how this would have been so pretty if there had actually been some trees with leaves while we were visiting. 

As we walked back down to the car Mike said, "We did it!  We actually found something cool!"  We have tried shorter day-trips before and have had poor luck.  Then Jake said, "This WAS cool!  I can't wait to see the actual falls!"

And we knew we were in trouble.  Falls?  We never said there were falls.  As we drove away, both wondering how we were going to get out of this we passed a really faded painting of a waterfall that said, "Redwood Falls" and had an arrow pointing down a path. 

Mike hit the breaks, backed up and we got out.

And faced yet another bridge.  We actually all stopped here. 

So we sent Mike across.

"See? I'm okay. This isn't a fake smile plastered on my face.  I feel totally safe on this bridge that swings everytime I take a step so that I have to hold onto the edge."


The reason there's no picture of Jake is because I was trying to console Maddie who was not going across that bridge.  I finally told her if she wanted to see the waterfall there was no other way across (and "please, God, let there be a waterfall!").  She held my hand all the way across and about half-way it started swaying and creaking and I kept saying, "Just look at dad.  Don't look down."  Her death grip on my hand tightened.  I'm not sure how high this was to tell you the truth.  I didn't look down either.  But I'm pretty sure that if there hadn't been a waterfall waiting for him on the other side, Jake would have run the other way.

Then we heard and found this...

I was only slightly annoyed that there tree branches in the way.  So I moved over and got this picture...

I just had to console myself that at least we went when there weren't leaves on the trees.  We probably wouldn't have seen anything.

We decided to take a walk along a little paved path.  Mike and I got to one spot and he silently asked me if we should take the side path in the grass.  It was an adventure so we went for it!  Maddie found another path that led us right to the side of the waterfall.

Then another family passed us by to walk out onto the rocks and Mike told me to go back to the overlook and take pictures of him and the kids next to the waterfall.

And I watched as they started climbing down.  Look at that picture above.  See Jake?  He had just landed from a jump next to a waterfall.  I'm a pretty calm person in general but I swear - in my mind's eye I saw him sliding right off and I don't think I've actually felt my stomach go into my throat as quickly as it did at that moment.

And because they couldn't hear me yell Jake's name because that would have saved him, they all continued climbing.

All for this:

"Okay - that is pretty cool.  Please bring our children back to safety now."

We all got back into the safety of our Toyota (tee hee) and decided to head back home via a few more towns. 

I was very excited to drive through Sleepy Eye!  We actually veered a little off-course to go this way.  But Pa Ingalls was always going to Sleepy Eye to bring a load of lumber.  I really wanted to see Sleepy Eye!

We continued on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Freeway to New Ulm.  We walked around downtown and somehow were convinced by two older ladies in one shop to buy a pound of fudge.  We still aren't sure how they did that considering we were certain we only wanted a half-pound.  I guess we'll suffer through eating it though.

We drove around New Ulm looking for anything interesting.  Mike said, "There's a 30 foot statue of Hermann the German somewhere around here." 

I don't know who Hermann the German was but I was excited.  I pictured a super-tacky statue standing in the middle of somewhere.  Maybe he was wearing leiderhosen and a funny cap and doing a jig.  I envisioned something the size of the Jolly Green Giant statue thing that was as big as the building that used to be in Savage at the plant there.  It's how I knew where to turn to get to my grandparent's house when I was little. 

I drove around and finally Mike said, "There he is!"  Only I didn't see a tacky statue.  I actually didn't see a statue at all.  Mike couldn't believe that I couldn't see it and then he pointed it out to me:

It's not something you can exactly have your picture taken next to.  And it's not tacky.

And you know what?  I looked up something on Hermann the German to find out who he was.  What I discovered is that the above picture isn't Hermann the German.

This statue is:

I found this image on New Ulm's website.  We never saw this.  And it isn't tacky either, but it might have been a little easier to take a picture near.

[When I told Maddie just now she said, "Well who's the guy on the church?  It must have been one of Jesus' disciples.  He's on a church."  Duh.]

And then we headed home via St. Peter where we stopped for dinner, through Mankato. 

A very successful day-adventure.  We hope to go on a few more of these through the next few months.

I'm hoping one of them will be the "Tacky Statue Tour 2010".