Palmer suggests a 2-dimensional flavor spectrum of fruity/malty  bitter/sweet to characterize beer styles.  Eg pilsner is malty-bitter, while IPA is fruity bitter  Weisen is fruity-sweet and dark beers are malty-sweet.  Kolsch, he put right in the center.  Lots of this is from his gospel, too.

Hops: Certainly I associate hoppy with bitter, but cold hopping (eg after the fermentation break) is a favorite of mine because it gives fruity smell without as much bitterness.  This means in flavor space, the hop vector is a diagonal from [malty sweet] downward towards [fruity bitter] with some variation in proportion based on when you add the hops.  Boil the hops to extract bitterness but lose the aroma, & conversely. 

Tannins: astringent. come from hops, grain husks, wood.  High pH and high temp, canonically > 170 encourage them. They can precipitate out (hence the benefit of lagering).  In brewing pilseners and lagers, low buffering capability of the malt makes tannins a risk. Distilled water is recommended (but we have pretty good water here on the front range.)

Sweet: comes from high temperature mashing, when alpha enzymes randomly chop carbohydrates into indigestible lengths (& beta is deactivated), or especially from caramelized malts.  So for example, to avoid sweetness in pilseners, mash cool and don't use any caramel malts.

Fuseols: taste like "hot" alcohols or solvents.  I once had a beer that tasted like turpentine.  Further conditioning cleaned it up though, as the yeast digested the alcohols.  Caused by exuberant early fermentation, eg overly warm temperatures.

Body: comes from proteins.  Oatmeal (with a protein rest) or from most grains, keep the protein rest short so you don't break down what's left in the grain.

Fruity: comes from esters, from yeast. Ale yeast & warmer fermentation tends to fruity, lager yeast and cold fermentation leans  more to "clean"

Vinegar: Bacteria.

Energy to Burn

A coal train just went by. I've been wondering about some power factoids, so finally looked them up.

  • Boulder  consumed 1,160 million kWhr (in Y2k)
  • 91% from coal power.  I don't know if it's mostly all generated in that one plant or not. 
  • Coal -> steam turbines -> electric generation runs about 35% efficiency.
  • 42 million kWhr from hydro, by the way.
  • we pay $114 million/yr (that's 10c/kWhr? Sounds high...)
  • 100 tons of coal in a RR car, and 1 lb coal/kwHr (nice neat numbers, eh?)
Therefore, Boulder burns 1 RR Car of coal every 90 minutes.
   - various sources

Internet Manifesto

Some of my online goals are broad and socially oriented. That means I like to "discuss" things forcefully. By way of introduction, and admonition to myself, here are the principles behind all this arguing. there’s some righteously impossible stuff in here but hey, it’s a mission statement: you gotta aim high.

Mission: Change things for the better by winning people over to and through reason and empathy, and make life fun and interesting doing it.

  • Improve the quality of discourse here and in RL. Be sure to listen. Be welcoming to all but pay more attention to my friends. 
  • Try to address issues as they deserve, atomically vs as an indivisible federated system. (Plank by plank, not monolithic political platform.) A favorite tack is to introduce the schism between a Christian (or secular humanist, take your pick) approach to people, and Darwinistic economics.
  • Language is a tricky sword. We have to communicate in meaning, but we use words. Words carry context, deep and precise, but not the same ones for everyone. Further, you can assert one meaning and access another, sometimes invidiously. I aim to clarify these mistakes of argument, flush them out.
  • Understand confirmation bias and media and social “tribe” participation in that phenomenon. Watch for it in myself and proselytize against it.
  • Attempt to discover “righteous” economic policies, those being ones that are generally good for everyone, long term, and abusive to none.
  • Brew fine quality beers with minimal investment in ingredients, obscene devotion to equipment, slavish investment of time, and barely sufficient patience.
  • Productionize disruptive argumentative technique to improve the reasoning and decisionmaking of all my customers, with the effect of multiplying stockholder equity with justice and improved gas mileage for all.
  • Continually improve this mission statement until it stands as a shining paragon of truth and beauty, with rhetoric surpassing Newt Gingrich, poetry to shame Johnnie Cochran, principle outshining the Constitution, permanance outlasting the Hyundai warranty, moves like Jagger and acumen that breaks the very Speed of Light. Amen.

Some notes from the "all-grain" mash

I just made another beer, and it was a long-hard haul. Let's start with Cliff's notes for the ADD, regarding the mash:

  • Wait to let temp equalize before adjusting, 
  • stir lots (dough balls), 
  • Mash at LEAST an hour, 
  • have a good reserve of sparge water (mash calcs don't attempt to estimate the water absorbed by the mash).  

I'll clean up the post below later,( maybe.) It's pretty rough right now. I'm just trying to get it all down while fresh in my mind...

Why?  Haven't I got this process wired by now?  Well, yes & no.  Some things did go very well, most notably (since the last few) I didn't get tied up by any air lock problems or siphoning failures, or spill over the whole carboy or pop the hose out of a vessel it was trying to fill.

One problem was the temperature of the mash. With 12lb of grain, the cooler was more than half full!  How much water could it hold, could it get and stay hot enough?  It was a bitterly cold day outside, well 20, anyway. This was a big problem for my burner.  Fortunately I had another propane tank because I needed to swap them to get the wort boiling. The first tank wasn't empty just low enough to reduce the flame a little.  I had dressed the pot in aluminum drapes, but a lot more effort would be needed to really cut down the heat loss. I may just be unable to brew on colder days.

Before that though, the tun worked great. I needn't have worried about the cold weather, because it held temperature very well. Also, (this is a lesson I'm trying to archive) it's really important to stir the mash: I did an ok job of that but got some "dough balls" which I noticed later, when discarding the grain. The other thing I need to do is WAIT for the temperature to equalize, including some good stirring.  I ended up thinking it was too cold, too hot, adding snow and boiling water to fix it, and getting a totally full cooler along the way.  I wanted a three step mash (125, 150, 155) but who knows what I did really?  Quantitative planning went out the window. Sigh.

Later, lautering too was a small junk show with me playing musical pots. I had just the tun, the boil pot / hot liquor tank (double duty) and my old 4 gal boil pot. Surely enough? Yes, but only if used correctly. I got the 4 pot bucket 2/3 full before topping off the tun and then discarding the rest of the hot water (so I could move the wort to the boil pot and resume lautering). I should have really filled it because later I had to use perhaps 6L of hot tap water because I wanted to sparge more. My grain filled the tun about 2/3 up and it held a lot of water! So I may need a third pot or something to "gracefully" get all the sparging done.  At the end I squeezed the grainbed and got some more wort out, several cups. I wanted a lot because I figured I'd have to boil a lot & that was pretty true. After 1:30 of desultory boil (all I could manage) my OG was 40. A good outcome but not an efficient mash.

Still confused about Lovibond (darkness) and Lintner (diastatic power).  I used 10lb Colorado 2 row (Lovibond=2) and 2Lb CaraRed. Northern Brewer

Hoist with his own petard

What a great phrase. I've pretty much used it correctly, though I'll always wonder how one (i.e. me) absorbs such colloquialisms. Here's a good link to explication I hope you'll read but basically a petard's a bomb. And another, in redoubtable wikipedia.  It's so excellent an engineer's revenge; somehow playing my heartstrings today.

Cleopatra, a Life

CleopatraCleopatra by Stacy Schiff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eighty pages in, Cleopatra's secured Egypt's position as a protectorate of Rome. Perhaps not much else was possible, but who would rule Egypt was at issue, as she and her brother were fighting over it when Caesar arrived with an inadequate advance force and in need of an ally. That Cleopatra initiated negotiations by smuggling herself into the palace like Austin Powers to save the day is described as the masterstroke it was. Indeed, political dynamics dominate the book, and one is left only to imagine the daily ebb and flow of court intrigue. Schiff has "tried to pluck the gauze and melodrama" from the story, thusly: "In defiance of the male imagination, five centuries of art history, and two of the greatest plays in English literature, she would have been fully clothed, in a formfitting sleeveless long linen tunic."


Put away your libidos everybody, that's a different book. That Caesar got a child in her is mentioned once, about that abruptly, and all detail of the developing relationship is avoided, even deprecated. Oh, the stage is set well enough; with riotous skirmishes in the streets, the opulent barricaded palace sweltering with incense, ships afire in the docks, the brother and nominal consort walking the same halls playing a game of polite diplomacy while his engineers undermine the water supply, one can easily imagine a fantastic screenplay! But the script is absent and Schiff does not stoop to fabricate one. This is not historical fiction.

I sort of wish it were! Unfamiliar with the story, I'm finding enough drama in the bare historical facts to make up a pretty good soap opera in my head. There are vast differences between us and them. It's strange and wonderful to imagine a world so empty that a single city, Alexandria, held the keys to a nation. The Roman legions gouging the world, kings made before they're 20. This is Edgar Rice Burroughs steamy imagination, only for real. (...and you have to BYO lurid details. Maybe I should have another go at Salammb├┤?)

I think Schiff is working hard to overcome a stereogype of Cleopatra made of nothing BUT sex. Understandable but maybe unnecessary? I like to think that, with all the cultual, scientific & technological differences between us, history played out then with the same raw materials as now, and we are creatures of passion. If anything our modern world seems TOO sterile. On to act II we go!

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