Monthly Archives: March 2011

Adventures in wine education

I am on a constant quest to expand my general knowledge.  Everything from engineering to alcohol to gardening to history.  Though I do have this interest, in general I am not always good about motivating myself.  So when I got

The Everyday Guide to Wine

DVD course for Christmas and I was super excited.  I now have a good excuse to learn more about wine.  In true nerd sense, the first thing I did was rip all 4 DVDs to my computer so I don’t have to deal with them anymore, then I proceeded to leaf through the accompanying manual.  It turns out that there are specific types of wine that are suggested for each lecture, cool I thought, it is a hands on course.  However, in seeing that some of the 20 minute lessons included up to 6 different wines I quickly realized that it would be best do do this with friends.  With several friends, we could all have a tasting of the different wines (or more than just a tasting if we were to have a long evening) and we would make a substantial dent in the bottles that were opened.  I have learned from experience that corking a bottle and leaving it for even a couple days can severly affect the wine, and with my crazy schedule I would only be able to get through a total of a bottle a week myself.

Each episode lists several types of wines that it suggests for tasting during the epidsode.  For the most part it doesn’t say a particular winery, but more a region and type.  I leafed through the episodes in the book and saw that the first was just an intro, the second covered how to taste, and the third actually got into learning and tasting.  I figured doing all three the first night, then one per night for the duration.  The second episode requires a wine simply to help you learn the tasting process so I chose a recent favorite: the 2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages.  For the third episode it called for a Chibalis AC and an unoaked South Australian Chardonney.  Now, I don’t consider myself a complete n00b when it comes to wine, I am familiar with the common grapes and I know that there are a number of regions in France that are named and controlled, but I have never had to find specific types like this before.  So I did as any nerd would do: I went online and did some research.  I utelized BevMo’s website and to find some possibilities and did further research on google to make sure the vinters were from the appropriate region.  For this first one I chose the 2009 Razor’s Edge Chardonnay and the 2008 Simonnet-Febvre Chablis (these choices were mostly based on price, I was looking for ~$15 bottles).  I also found wines for part of the next two episodes, but I will address those later.

Now that I picked out the wines, I had to pick out a date.  I asked around for who might be interested and it turns out there were a decent number of people interested.  I asked around about availability and found a day that worked for most people.  I then set up a Facebook event page and we got ready for the first in what would hopefully be a series of wine tastings.

Getting started in Homebrew Beer

After showing interest in trying this out for some time I finally decided on going for it.  I decided on going half in with my friend Mike on the Starter Kit #2 from  Since we both live close by, we went to the retail location.  The added benefit of going there was that they have a Ballast Point tasting/growler fill-up in the store.  Nothing better than tasting some beer and filling up a half gallon of some local brew to assist in the brewing process!

To get started we chose the Pale Ale recipe that comes with the kit.  While some may consider a beer kit based on malt extract cheating, it is a good way to practice the brew process.  I suspect that the next couple batches are also malt extract kits so that we can get a feeling for the process and try out a couple different methods.

The accompanying photo album has comments on our steps, but in general we pretty much followed the Home Brew Mart guide to the T.   The only real difference that is worth pointing out is that we marked our glass carbouy every gallon as an indicator for adding water and so forth.

I am not going to explicitly cover the steps, but we started by sanitizing everything with both bleach and Iodine solution.  Since we heard that sanitization is king, we were extra careful about it.  We then measured 3 gallons of water* into Mike’s 5 gallon pot and brought it to a boil.  We then turned off the burner (stovetop) and added the dried malt extract and hop pellets to the water.  We then turned the burner back on and let it boil for about 58.5 minutes then added the rest of the hops for a minute of boiling.  We put the lid on and cooled it off in the sink by flowing some cold tapwater around the outside.  Once it stopped steaming we poured it into a gallon of room temperature water already in the carboy. We did not use the filter that came with the funnel since we just used the malt extract which had dissolved in the initial water, and 2oz of hop pellets. We filled up the carboy to the 5 gallon mark and set it by the open back door to cool off. Once it got down to the mid 70s we pulled out enough to do some measurements. I used the standard method of sticking the racking cane in, covering the end with my thumb and pulling out as much as I could at a time. We took a measurement (which, due to mutual brain farts, we forgot to take down) with the hydrometer. One of the reasons we might not have written it down was that it seemed abnormally high. I believe that there were several reasons for this. One, we did not filter out the hops so there were probably more particulate floating around than there should have been and two, in an effort to minimize my work I stuck the cane in all the way which probably picked up an unusually high amount of particulates which had settled towards the bottom. Either way, it was something to learn from. Finally, we added the yeast packet, swirled it around, and put in the airlock (filled with our choice filtered water).

Our final step was to put it in a cool dark place to ferment. It was suggested that we put the carboy in a small round trashcan to make it easier to move (handles are much better than a bare glass bottle). We slid it into a corner of Mike’s garage and waited.

Stay tuned for updates on this beer and further adventures in brewing.



*All water used for brewing was from the Clairemont Water Store.  They use a 5 step reverse osmosis process which produces some tasty (or less I should say) water.  It’s also the source for drinking water that I have been using for years, so why not stick to what I know.