Friday, December 31, 2010

Quick Update...

Oh yeah...that's right, I maintain a blog. No, I haven't forgotten about this beautiful piece of work, but I have certainly neglected it. I've been busy, what can I say? Well, so what's new? Hmmm...the maple/oak brown ale was a success (didn't win any medals at Sunshine Challenge, though...but my Serrapale Ale did!), the braggot overcarbed (dangerously), the dubbel finally carbed (needs some age, but very tasty), I helped one of our best friends brew a gluten-free hefeweizen for her stepfather with celiac disease (still waiting for that to finish conditioning), my wife and I made a spiced hard cider for family/friends this Christmas, and I'm sitting on a vanilla-cinnamon porter that is still fermenting away (taking its time...).

Next on the list is an overdue espresso stout my wife has been waiting to brew for a while (we're shooting for all organic again if we can secure the ingredients, which will be reminiscent of the organic honey blonde ale I made last summer), and a heather braggot with some all natural, organic honey I received from a beekeeper near Tampa, FL. After this...we'll see. I've been re-exploring the idea of something sour again, after having saved the Berliner Weisse for a later date. I'm thinking a Flanders Red this time, but the year it will need to fully ferment is definitely going to require patience!

On the sustainable front, nothing really new to report, as far as I can remember at least (much has certainly happened over the course of the past few months, but this was quite a busy semester for me, making it hard to keep up and report everything). New Belgium's Tour de Fat appears to have been a success, as always. There also seems to be some progress with the organic hop farmers and the American Organic Hop Grower Association: beginning in January 2013, organic beers must contain organic hops in order to be labeled as such (right now, they don't necessarily need to).

I'm presenting a paper at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion this coming March on the recent collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and the Trappist Abbey of New Clairvaux to produce a line of American Trappist ales. This will be the third paper addressing Trappist brewing in the contemporary world that I will have presented at an academic conference...perhaps it's time to work on another publication this summer...

More to come soon - I apologize to those of you reading for the hiatus!

Peace and Love!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Autumn Delight

A couple months ago, I was trying to think of a good beer to brew for the upcoming fall season (fall? Florida? Yeah...I know, but humor me). I didn't get much of a chance to brew last fall (the oatmeal stout was about it between August and November, I believe), and the fall before that I tried my hand in a "pumpkin" spiced brown ale ("A Holerin' Brown Ale").  Well, instead of trying another pumpkin beer (the previous one was a bit too heavy on the clove to really be much of a pumpkin beer), I figured it'd be nice to try some other Autumn-esque flavors.  Sticking with a brown ale base again, I planned to brew with maple syrup and oak chips.

While brainstorming some ideas, a homebrew buddy of mine from the club, Dave, mentioned he had used maple in the past and was never really satisfied.  He like my idea, though, so I asked him if he'd be interested in collaborating on a batch.  We planned on doing a 10-gallon batch, splitting it in half, and doing the maple/oak additions at different intervals.  This would allow us to see which one did better, in terms of the final flavor profile, and allow us to adjust as needed for future brews.

We arranged a day and time for the brew session (a few days before the semester was starting up again, so it was a great way to end the summer), and got to work on the ingredients and recipe.  Dave's setup is quite awesome (see pictures below), and brewing all-grain for once was a really nice treat.  From milling the grains to transferring the wort into two different fermenters, we spent the good portion of an entire afternoon and late morning brewing this bad boy.  Dave's 5-gallons were to see a maple and oak addition a few days after fermentation had started (to give the yeast some time to work on the more complex sugars), while mine was to wait until racking to the secondary.

Dave's setup
Chilling the wort
It's been just over a week since we brewed, and I actually just racked yesterday; fermentation had slowed down quite a bit, so this naturally kicked things up again (pure maple syrup is essentially the equivalent of a yeasty dose of steroids).  The plan is for me to bottle as I usually do, and for Dave to keg (with a possible mini-cask set aside as well).  We're both really looking forward to the final results.  Our taste tests from the gravity readings point towards a nice, malty English southern brown ale - I can only imagine how tasty the maple and french oak are going to make it!  Before my addition yesterday, my wife said it smelled like a fresh loaf of bread... Now, that's what I'm talking about! ;-)

Siphoning Dave's 5-gallons
Siphoning my 5-gallons
In other news, the saison is tasting great, the dubbel is currently bulk aging in the secondary, and the braggot is still fermenting.  My wife and I are going to be brewing an espresso stout later this fall - possibly in time for our club's competition (mentioned in previous posts) - and I'll be sure to post the outcome of our lovely little maple/oak in the near future.

Peace and Love!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sassy Saison, Wittlebit 'a' Braggot, and Dylan Dubbel!

Well, I've done it...I've managed to cram three carboys into our guest bathroom's shower. Actually, it's just two until tomorrow, so I'm a bit ahead of myself, but still. The saison I mentioned in the previous post is now drinkable, and, I feel, quite marvelous. It's got that "spritz" you look for in a saison, with a nice herbal/spicy flavor. I don't think I'm going to enter it into Commander SAAZ this October, but I'll make sure I save some of these for Sunshine Challenge. So here's what we're looking at:

OG: 1.008
ABV: 5%
HBUs/IBUs: 13.3/25.38
Calories: 150 per 12oz. bottle

All in all, a nice refreshing beverage to enjoy throughout the remainder of the summer.

I also recently brewed my first braggot (traditional mead made with grains). My base recipe was set up for a Belgian witbier. I figured orange blossom honey would go perfectly with this, along with a witbier yeast strain (kept warm enough to produce some interesting esters). It had been in the primary for two weeks until last night (I racked it to a secondary). Fermentation has been pretty slow, so I'm really not sure how long until I bottle it. I've sort of wanted to keep it "still," but my wife really likes her meads sparkling, so the plan is to carb half and leave the other half alone. This was my first mead, so I decided to keep it small and only do a 3 gallon batch. Of course, after tasting it last night, I wish I did the whole 5 gallons instead. This baby is nice and semi-sweet. The alcohol content is about 7% (ABV) right now. It started with an OG of 1.097, and as of last night it was down to 1.038, so I suspect this will dry out a bit more, raising that percentage along with it.

Now, the dubbel. I love abbey ales. I love Trappist ales even more. And you know what? La Trappe Quadrupel is borderline the best beer I've ever had (right up there with a 2008 Westvleteren 12). So, this winter, I felt, needed a nice little "nightcap" beer to accompany it - specifically, one of these complex, delightful brews. I brewed an abbey dubbel this past Saturday using Wyeast's 1214 (the "Chimay" strain from what I understand). I knew the gravity was going to be up there, so I prepared my first yeast starter for this batch too (essentially turning a 50ml pouch of liquid yeast into about 600ml of liquid yeast), and I must say...I'm doing that for every batch from now on. Fermentation visibly started in under 8 hours (compared to my typical 20 or so). I did hold off on adding the dark Belgian candi sugar, though. From what I had read, it's best to let the yeast work at the more complex sugars from the malt before giving them a large dose of simple sugars. I also used the syrup instead of the rocks; I discovered, through my research, that the syrup would add much more flavor. Fermentation had surprisingly slowed down a bit, but last night I added the candi sugar and it became pretty active again. I felt like I was filling the trough for a pen of hungry pigs. Don't you just love those little microorganisms?

But anyway, sorry to keep things brief, but work starts back up on Monday and I have much to do. I'm collaborating with a homebrew buddy of mine tomorrow afternoon to brew an English brown ale with maple syrup and oak chips. I'll try to find the time to post how it goes before the end of the weekend.

Oh, and by the way, how do you like the names for these three? I know. Genius.

Peace and Love!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saison And Spent Grains

Lately, I've been thinking and talking about (usually to myself) doing something much more productive with Wu Wei Brewing - and no, I'm not talking about actually opening a microbrewery or anything of that nature yet. I'm talking something non-profit...something in regard to sustainability and brewing. I mentioned a community-based brewery in a post a while back, but that isn't something very feasible for me to pursue right now - at least not directly. So, I figured I'd start with becoming a much more sustainable brewer on my own.

Now, all of you homebrewers out there certainly know the answer to this question: what is it that homebrewers accumulate the most on brew-day, in terms of waste? Grains. Well, arguably water as well (especially while sanitizing and cleaning)...and electricity, and perhaps some type of fuel source. But in terms of material waste, it is easily one's grains - no question about it.

The most efficient way to make use of spent brewing grains, from what I've read, is to toss them onto a compost pile, or spread them directly throughout a garden. Of course, one needs to have a compost pile or a garden to be able to do that...and I have neither. Another option is to make cookies or dog biscuits. This seemed like the way to go.

I found recipes, which I've included at the top of the page (near "Home" and "About"), and went to work with grains I had saved from brewing a saison the night before (I'll come back to that saison, don't worry). The cookies were marvelous; they were chocolate chip, peanut butter, and spent Cara-Pils cookies, to be exact. I also actually made dog biscuits later that day too (with the help of my wife). The biscuits were a bit of a chore, though. Following the recipe, but straying from it just a bit, we had to make them as almost a dog biscuit "brittle" of sorts, and then break them apart into smaller pieces after they were done cooking (which took 8 hours to completely dry them out). Our little guy, and every other dog who has gotten a chance to enjoy them, has completely loved them, so I think it was a win-win day of baking and eliminating the unneeded dumping of spent grains into our trash. This will definitely be something worth doing after every brew session, available time pending.

But back to this saison I so nonchalantly referenced. It's hot outside, let's face it, and I still don't have a spare fridge or chest freezer to maintain consistent, cool temperature ranges. These Belgian farmhouse ales ferment nicely well up to 78°F, so this (followed by a Belgian dubbel I mentioned in the previous post) seemed like it'd be a perfect batch to brew up during these hot summer months. I gradually increased the temperature on the saison using the "swamp cooling" method (otherwise known as evaporative cooling, where a wet towel, wicking up cold water from a shallow bath, draws off heat as it evaporates, either on its own or with help from a fan), from roughly the mid-60s to the mid-70s, and it's been about 3 weeks of active fermentation. It started with a gravity of 1.046, but based on the activity, it should be ready to bottle by the end of the coming week.

More on this batch later, but for the time being, scope out those recipes and try giving one (or both) of them a whirl next time you brew.

Peace and Love!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Trubble Clefe

I apologize for how late this post is, in regard to the actual batch of beer, but hey, what's a working man to do, eh? Well, so anyway, you may be asking yourself, what exactly is a Trubble Clefe, and how does this thing taste? Trubble Clefe, first and foremost, is a hefeweizen spiced with ground clove, and second, my attempt at a creative name; get it..."trub," "clove," and "hefe"...treble clef...trubble clefe? Clever, right?

The beer is superb! Very refreshing, delightful esters, not overpowering, in regard to the clove, and just all around an enjoyable beverage. The clove did, however, darken the appearance...obviously. The First Coast Cup in Jacksonville is being held at the end of the month, and I entered this bad boy as a spiced beer with the underlying style as a hefeweizen; at the last club meeting, a few of my fellow brewers suggested I classify the underlying style as a dunkelweizen, given the color. However, I really don't think it's malty enough, so I just let it ride with the hefe. I figured, if I closed my eyes, smelled, and tasted this, what would I think it is? We'll see what happens.

The clove was put into the boil during the last 8 minutes, and I only used 1 1/2 teaspoons; I thought I was playing it safe with only that amount, but it was actually perfect - I wouldn't change a thing. This truly is one of my most successful batches, and one of my favorites, so I really hope it does well in CASK's upcoming competition. I might even make it again to serve at this year's Sunshine Challenge...along with my Serrapale Ale.

That reminds me, though...Sunshine Challenge. My wife and I are actually in charge of organizing the beer festival associated with our club's homebrew competition this year (Sunshine Challenge). The links are embedded in the above text, so check it out and spread the word! There's an "event" for it on Facebook too, so look for it and toss out the invites! Email if you have any questions!

But back to the Clefe. Here's what we're looking at:

OG: 1.014
ABV: 4.1%
HBUs/IBUs: 3.9/3.5
Calories per 12oz. bottle: 150

I was all-talk, it seems, with the Berliner Weisse. I just can't afford to buy a whole set of equipment to dedicate to bacteria-infested batches yet. It'll happen one day, because I absolutely love sour beers, but just not yet. I just whipped up a saison, and have recipes for a braggot and abbey ale (dubbel) already formulated. This summer is going to end on quite the delicious note...but more on that later.

Peace and Love!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Solar Brewing!

So, I'm sitting here with a nice, refreshing glass of Hennepin, reading a brief article in the back of the July-August 2010 issue of Brew Your Own called "Beer From the Sun: A Solar Homebrewing Pioneer." It's about a homebrewer, and owner of Princeton Homebrew in New Jersey, named Joseph Blair.

Mr. Blair's recent endeavors are certainly notable, however. Good ol' Joe is brewing his beer using the sun instead of a propane burner or stove top (the typical alternatives). How is he doing this, you might ask? Well, it's all made possible with the help of a Fresnel lens - the type of lens one would encounter in a lighthouse or projection television.

The amount of light these bad boys collect can emit a focused beam capable of generating temperatures that can reach up to 800 °F (427 °C). Yeah, that's hot. To efficiently harness the amount of heat that is generated, Blair places his brewing kettle in an old refrigerated case (one with a glass front door). The beam is directed into the case, where there are mirrors transferring the heat around the kettle, effectively boiling the wort as usual.

Among the many benefits associated with this process are: the solar energy creates no pollution whatsoever, it does not generate any noise, and it can easily be used for other purposes (Blair also roasts grains and hops under the lens' beam, and this can clearly be used to "cook" much more - and can even be used for blow torch applications!). According to Blair, "This heating method is a free, clean, renewable and a wizard-like energy source...Using solar energy to brew will help slow down the mad rush to use up all the non-renewable fossil fuels which create carbon dioxide." So, next time you see an old projection television lens lying around (or find yourself in a lighthouse with no one looking...), recycle it and put it to good use! You may only be able to brew on clear, sunny days from then on, but hey, is that such a bad thing?

Peace and Love!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Interdependence and Mindful Brewing

In an effort to further elucidate what is truly meant by "interdependence" and the interconnectedness between the outside world and oneself, the venerable and prolific Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has - by now, famously - framed this understanding in the context of a wooden table. This is the same Thich Nhat Hanh, mind you, who founded the Order of Interbeing in 1966 and whom Martin Luther King Jr. nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize back in 1967 - and if the current Internet following holds any weight, we'll see him nominated again this year. But anyway, back to the table...

According to Thay ("teacher," as his students are apt to address him), a table's existence is only possible due to the existence of things in the "non-table world," i.e., the forest where the wood was grown and subsequently cut down, the carpenter responsible for crafting the actual work, and the iron ore utilized for nails and screws. Although, for Thay, it's much more than this: one mustn't forget the carpenter's parents and ancestors, as well as the natural elements - the sun and rain - that made it possible for the trees to even grow. The point of this clarification? Well, think about it like this: do these elements really still seem to occupy what we labeled as the "non-table world" in the preceding statements above? No - good, you noticed - and that's the point. When the actual reality of the table is grasped, one will see in the table itself all those things that would otherwise have been labeled as occupying the "non-table world." Take any one of these components out of the picture? You're eating on the dining room floor tonight, folks. The resulting understanding? Just as with the table in Thay's example, which is seen as being fundamentally interdependent and interconnected to the rest of the world, so are we - and everything, for that matter. In other words, the table is connected to everything seemingly outside itself and so are we.

So, what's this got to do with brewing beer? More importantly - for those of you considering the further implications of Thay's example - what am I getting at? Well, let's first tackle the latter real quick. The deeper message involved here is that one should contemplate the assembly of one's own person in the same manner as the table. Without going too far into an academic discourse, this assembly, in Buddhist thought, is understood as being that of the "five aggregates" - bodily/physical forms, feelings, perceptions, mental functionings, and consciousness - the "objects" constituting everything and everyone, in varying assemblies and corresponding combinations. At death, these are dispersed back into the cosmos of which they are and naturally remain a part, to only then be reassembled thereafter; everything is in a constant state of impermanence. This is why, for Thay, there is no cycle of birth-death-rebirth. What is being born? What is dying? Nothing that wasn't already in existence. Nothing dies or is ever born, in the traditional understandings and implications of these terms. An object/person/thing only changes form. There is no rebirth - there is only "continuation." The idea, then, is that one should meditate on oneself until one is able to see the presence of "one-ness" in his or her own self - when one sees that the universe and one's own life are actually one. Just like the table and the "non-table world."

Still with me?

Okay, back to beer - which you may feel the need to pop open right about now. To better suit us here, I'd like to frame this same understanding and example, that of the wooden table, in the context of brewing (that goes for drinking our beloved concoctions too). The next time you brew a batch of beer (or consume), reflect on those elements that we would typically categorize as occupying the "non-brewing world," without which we would be incapable of brewing: the ingredients (grains, hops, etc.) and natural elements responsible for their growth, as well as those individuals responsible for their cultivation; the clean water with which you brew; the steel or aluminum out of which the metal pots used are made; the plastic (and preceding polymers) used to construct your buckets and hoses; the sand, and thus glass, used to melt down into your bottles and carboys - and the list, quite simply, goes on indefinitely.

We cannot, of course, forget to extend this to the parents and ancestors of the brewer(s); the soil out of which the brewer's ingredients poked their little green heads into this world; the micro-organismic world of yeast and bacterial strains - which in and of themselves occupy quite the microcosmic universe - as well as those who procure them; and those primordial beings who first noticed something rather odd - yet tasty and sweet - but elating, albeit spiritual, about the elemental exposure of their sublunary gruel meals. Is there really such a thing, then, as the "non-brewing world?"

"To cultures that have felt the life force of plants or of brewing, who have felt themselves make a deep connection with that life force, brewing is not a science - it is an art filled with the actions of the sacred." - Stephen Harrod Buhner, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers

When we take these things into consideration, and contemplate on the nature of actions and objects that may seem, at first, to be so incredibly divorced from the world-at-large, we open ourselves up to be able to more fully understand and grasp the interdependence and interconnectedness of life on this planet. Now, more than ever, this is a crucial task. The recent events in the Gulf of Mexico, the devastation that tumulted Haiti and Chile at the onset of this decade, the global levels of poverty and overpopulation (thank you, various television shows and "specials" seemingly glorifying this, by the way...), the worldwide hop shortage (yes, and there are vast economic dimensions to this too, folks), and our depleting natural resources and clean water should all come to mind, among many (sadly) more. As we struggle with these kinds of so-called "global issues," we must bring our concerns and fears back into each moment and be mindful of our own present actions and existence - that they and we affect, and are necessarily affected by, more than we may otherwise choose to believe.

"To be in touch with the reality of the world means to be in touch with everything that is around us in the animal, vegetal, and mineral realms. If we want to be in touch, we have to get out of our shell and look clearly and deeply at the wonders of life - the snowflakes, the moonlight, the beautiful flowers - and also the suffering - hunger, disease, torture, and oppression. Overflowing with understanding and compassion, we can appreciate the wonders of life, and, at the same time, act with the firm resolve to alleviate the suffering. Too many people distinguish between the inner world of our mind and the world outside, but these worlds are not separate. They belong to the same reality. The ideas of inside and outside are helpful in everyday life, but they can become an obstacle that prevents us from experiencing ultimate reality. If we look deeply into our mind, we see the world deeply at the same time." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Interbeing

Brewing beer is no less viable an avenue for contemplation and mindfulness - nor should it be, given the heightened importance it has in our lives, specifically. Moreover, I'm particularly delighted by the efforts of commercial breweries in this direction (some of which I have previously discussed here); e.g., New Belgium Brewing, Wynkoop Brewery, Brooklyn Brewing, Ska Brewing, Saint Arnold Brewing, etc. These are commendable models, and serve not only the communities in which they are directly situated, but the rest of the world as well.

We can look to Thay's example of the table, or my appropriation of the same example to beer and brewing, but the point, however, is hopefully clear: only when we grasp the true nature of reality (that of interdependence and interconnectedness) can we truly live each moment and effectively enact change and understanding.

So, the next time you sit down and devour a nice Mexican dish, while imbibing in a refreshing pint of Serrano pepper pale ale, or sip at a glass of Weinhenstephaner Vitus weizenbock, while contemplating the bottling of your clove hefeweizen later this week, do so mindfully - and enjoyably so - as I know I will tonight ;-)

Peace and Love!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Serrapale Ale 2.0

Ahh...there's just something so delightful about the perfect combination of a good Mexican dish and a refreshing beverage. The beverage, of course, is what we're specifically concerned with here. Last year, I brewed an American Pale Ale with Serrano peppers for Cinco de Mayo. It turned out incredibly well too, and is probably, to this day, my favorite batch. It's the first beer I had some of the members over at CFHB try last summer too (you'll recall that from an earlier post), which they all loved and said would have won a medal if I had entered it into the most recent competition at the time. Well, I did it again...and there's no "ooops" involved (get it? yeah, I crack myself up) - I'd been looking forward to doing so for quite some time.

The recipe was followed as closely as possible this second time around (which is an original recipe, might I add). I had to use a different brand of LME, though (Breiss), and I added two extra peppers (although, the addition isn't really noticeable). I also had a higher/healthier yeast pitch rate too. For those of you who weren't filled in on this last year, I hadn't made a starter, pitched from a 25-million cell Wyeast "smack pack," with a gravity around 1.060. It took almost 48 hours to really get going (in other words, I really lucked out in terms of escaping a potential contamination/infection). Fermentation kicked off within only a few hours this time (those of you following the posts on my Tumblr page can view a fairly crude video I shot of the activity about 18 hours in). I'm in the market for a chest freezer to convert, so I can control my fermentation temperatures better, especially as the summer is officially approaching...but I really need to get that immersion chiller I've been talking about for months now built. Ice baths are getting old. Here's a shot of me sparging the partial mash:

Okay, so here's the scoop:

Original Gravity: 1.061
Final Gravity: 1.014
ABV: 6.3%
SRM: 15.5
Calories: 201

It's very tasty, just like last year; real smooth and silky, everything is perfectly balanced, with a strong pepper aroma (subtle taste, though). It pairs wonderfully with tacos (obviously), but we're thinking a couple of steaks with some sauteed peppers might do the trick as well. I, of course, already put some into a homebrew competition, which is actually taking place this weekend:
Hogtown Brew-Off. I tossed some of the Apfelwein and Cran-Apple cider in as well. I'll see how it does, but I'll probably save some to at least toss into CFHB's Sunshine Challenge later this year too.

Well, I'm going to get one more batch in before the summer semester starts up next week. Tonight, I'll be brewing a basic hefeweizen with a little bit of clove added; I used a very small amount in my Holerin' Brown Ale, and it really came through. I'm thinking it will be a great complement to the already "clove-y" character of the yeast strain I'm using as well...we'll see. Either way, should be a nice, refreshing brew for the hot summer months ahead., you all are probably wondering about the Berliner Weisse... Yeah, I was going to be brewing that next, but I really want to get that chest freezer, and want to make sure I have the proper time to dedicate to planning that recipe out and giving the fermentation the attention it'll need (the simpler recipe tonight is sort of a stand-in until the end of the summer semester, which will be in about six weeks). It's definitely still happening, though, and I can't wait!

I'll try to get something posted soon, regarding this next batch, and the results of the competition this weekend.

Peace and Love!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Goodbye Carbon Footprint, Hello Hoof Print!

Now this is what I'm talking about! Wynkoop Brewery in Denver, CO (Denver's first brewpub) is kicking things off this Friday (4/16) around 6pm with a new bi-monthly program: deliveries to the brewery's downtown retailers via horse-drawn wagon. This is set to take place on a regular basis now too - every second and fourth Friday of the month. D&D Featherfoot Clydesdales and Carriages will be providing the brewery with the wagons, along with two 2,000-pound Clydesdale horses.

"It's a great way for us to shrink our carbon footprint while expanding our hoof print."

Thanks for embracing such a marvelous idea and innovative step in sustainability practice (even though horse-drawn wagons are by no means anything new...but it's been at least 100 years since beer was delivered by them in Denver!)! Hopefully this model will help facilitate the development of even more ideas within the microbrewing world!

Peace and Love!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community-Based Brewery

Just recently, I presented my second paper at SECSOR (Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion). The subject-matter dealt with the remaining Trappist monasteries that still produce and sell beer (quite a difference in direction, in comparison to last year's work on the religious dimensions of the Rainbow Gatherings). It was received very well, and I sparked much discussion afterwards. For those of you who don't know, the revenue generated by the remnants of this medieval tradition is to be either used by the monastery itself, enabling it to remain relatively self-sufficient, or donated and redistributed to various charitable efforts in the surrounding community. One of the things I addressed, however, was the reconcilement of monastic vows/lifestyle with their entrance into contemporary market economy. I did this by analyzing a particular theory of economy - one in which the welfare of others is taken into consideration, instead of simply one's own personal achievement and success. The extent to which these monasteries are successful, in terms of their brewing endeavors, is directly related to the health and happiness of those within their community and outreach. Compassion is a major player in this understanding.

"A lifetime without Love is of no account.
Love is the Water of Life.
Drink it down with heart and soul!" - Rumi

I got to thinkin' the other night, though. Why can't domestic microbreweries do this as well? What I mean is, or what I want to express, rather, is that they should. Breweries have been jumping on the global-issues bandwagon over the past several years (addressing and embracing things such as environmental issues, sustainability, etc.), so a non-profit microbrewery doesn't really seem all that farfetched. The start-up would certainly be an issue, but there are certainly enough resources that could be harnessed to facilitate that process (I envision various "sponsorships," of some sort...unless, of course, money isn't particularly an issue for those contributing to the founding of the brewery). Perhaps, one day, we may see things like this popping up around the country; there are certainly many areas and people who would greatly benefit from something like this.

Real quick - not to shortchange anyone waiting to hear about it, though - but I know I've been slacking on this thing (it's been what, since December or something since the last post, right?), and I probably shouldn't even be doing this right now either, with my workload looming in the back of my mind. BUT, I have been brewing since the last post. I have tried my hand in two different ciders since the end of the year: an apfelwein (German hard cider), that my wife and I made with cinnamon sticks for our friends and family this Christmas (which is delicious!), and a cranberry-apple cider that is still...well...getting "untarted" as I type. Wait..."untarted?" Yeah, well, what I mean is that it's overly tart still (about a month in the bottle so far, I believe). I think I used too much cranberry juice. It's good, but better served as an aperitif than as a session-drinker. I'm going to leave the realm of ciders for a bit, though. Next weekend I'm re-brewing my Serrapale Ale from last Cinco de Mayo, which was a big hit. Shortly after that (probably the summer), I'm going to experiment with my first sour too (a Berliner Weisse). The apfelwein is almost gone (a couple 22 oz. bottles left that we want to try at different intervals as it ages, and then three 12 oz. bottles that I'm going to toss into the next competition), but that lip-smacking cranberry will be around for a while (might even need to blend it if it doesn't mellow enough on its own). Below is a picture from when we opened our first bottle of the apfelwein (our one-year anniversary!).

Until next time (hopefully shortly after the next brew session)! And keep an eye on my Tumblr page too (I've been tossing some pictures and brief little blurbs about things on there between posts lately).

Here's to the next batch!

Peace and Love!