Thursday, March 24, 2016

pink boots big boots brew day 2016

2016 has been a pretty badass year for me so far, but by far one of the best parts of it has been the benefits being a part of the Schoolcraft Brewing & Distillation Technology program, which resulted in getting involved with Fermenta, a non-profit initiated by Michigan women & committed to diversity, camaraderie, networking & education within the craft beverage industry – AKA a group of women who brew, work in the brewing industry, or just plain love beer & who coordinate some truly amazing events for members to learn about & experience all sorts of fabulous beer-related things.

This past month (as they did last year), Fermenta partnered with the Pink Boots Society to host multiple events across Michigan in honor of International Womens’ Day to raise the profile of & draw attention to women in the industry, and then opened the events to members who wanted to be a part of an actual brew day at participating brewery.  Pink Boots scheduled their “Big Boots Brew Day” for 2016 on March 5th & encouraged breweries to brew a Gose.  Here in Michigan, Griffin Claw Brewing Company opened their doors to a handful of us women on a sleety, gross winter morning & let us help out brewing a blood orange gose.

GCBC has only been open since 2013, but they have already expanded their biergarten, opened a retail show (formerly just a tiny corner of the brewery with a cash register and one showcase of merchandise), and is now in the process of opening a location in Rochester Hills that will serve as their think tank (for new experimental small batch, seasonal, and specialty beers) and test kitchen as well as production of all of their distilled spirits, and will also host a new “high gravity” system AND allow the brewery to up their output to 50,000 barrels per year – which is pretty damn cool.

Griffin Claw is already a giant, and in large part very mechanized, brewery – which mean the brew day itself didn’t involve a ton of hands-on physical work when it came to brewing the beer itself, but the staff on hand was SO knowledgeable and willing to share their experiences, knowledge, and even shortcomings & struggles with us that it was incredibly eye-opening & educational.

We started out the morning (after some brewery-supplied and much needed coffee & treats) with a trip out into the frigid March weather to mill some red wheat, which woke us up at least as much as the caffeine, then headed back inside to work our way through the large-scale brewing process, including the process of cleaning & sanitizing tanks, mashing & boiling, knock out, pitching yeast (or in this case, lactobacillus), utilizing and cleaning a mash filter (which was something I’d never been able to completely wrap my head around until it was physically in front of me), and learning about the process of propagating yeast & the lab processes that go along with it.

Grain mill so big it's in its own separate building...
With my brew ladies <3
Listening to some info on the brew kettle/mash filter process.
Santizing the bright tanks.
Scraping down the mash filter.
Followed by hosing down the mash filter.
Doing some yeast science!
Pitching lactobacillus into our gose.
What a beautiful view~
For a homebrewer, seeing the process of brewing on a 17 bbl system with so many things so automated was mind-blowing – it’s quite the step up from my little 15 gallon kettle & dark star burner bubbling away in my garage.

And of course afterwards we relaxed with some single hop (galaxy!) IPA & an ENORMOUS burger.

Look for the Pink Boots blood orange IPA on tap at Griffin Claw in ~3 months or so. Thanks Fermenta & GCBC!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

february aka the month of handstands

You guys, 2016 has been fabulous so far.  2016, the year of making shit happen, has been happening all the fuck over the place.  And thus, February: A Summary. I LOVE beer school.  I have learned so much, I have met so many people and networked with them and gossiped with them about the industry and I know so much SCIENCE.  My actual brewing is on a whole different level than it was even just last year.  I was never much of a science/chemistry/biology person before, but I am soaking this up and it’s fascinating.
  • I put beer in my barrel for the first time!  My lil’ eggnog porter child is soaking in those delicious charred bourbon flavors & coming along very nicely.  This weekend I’m going to give it another little boost of vanilla, and hopefully by April we can bottle.
  • I went, on a total whim, to a sour beer blending seminar in Westland on Valentine’s Day, sponsored by Fermenta (more on this later).  I was on my own because fuck it, I’m an independent adult and I can do things that interest me without needing someone to tag along, and I ended up seeing someone else who was alone and deciding we were going to be instant best friends AND THEN WE WERE, and by the end of the day we had drank all the Belgian beers, watched all the hockey, and then gone to another new-to-us brewery in Dearborn.  I’ve never in my life had a local, female friend as into beer (and hockey!) as I am, and I am over the moon about it.  We instantly decided that we were going to become immediately more active within Fermenta (okay, fine – Fermenta is a nonprofit Michigan-based society, basically, committed to camaraderie, networking, and education of women within the craft beer industry and it’s FABULOUS and full of so many awesome people & opportunities), which led to being involved in 2 brew days for the upcoming International Women’s Collaboration Day – so within the next week I’m going to have 2x actual large scale brewhouse experience (one of which we even got to be involved in planning the recipe for, and guys it sounds brilliant). Making shit happen!
Pretending like I didn't blend/drink two flights like this...

  • Also beer(ish) related – in lieu of Winter Beer Festival, said friend and I went on a mini beer tour (Griffin Claw, M-Brew, Michigan Growler Company, & then duck legs at The Bird & The Bread) which also included a stop at Valentine Vodka!  I’m much more of a beer girl, but first of all that place is amazing inside and second of all bourbon/brown sugar/cherry. And gin. All the gin.  Plus a complimentary tour and a little bit of knowledge about distilling?? Yes.
This weird yet badass thing at M-Brew.....okay sure??
Valentine Distillery old school looking bar.
The ambiance of this place was just fantastic.
Learning some distilling ;)
Gin/basil/cucumber + bourbon/brown sugar/cherry.
Nightcap Pine Drops IPA.
  •  In the gym, I’ve still been doing boot camp 3-4x a week and yoga 2x, which is phenomenal and I can actually feel myself getting stronger, using heavier weights, feeling better during workouts, nailing balancing postures better.  I did a one on one session with my boot camp trainer to get more comfortable with barbells (not the movements themselves so much, but more so how to structure a workout, how to check my form, when to go heavier and how much), and now I’ve added in 2x a week sessions with the bar, and I can’t even begin to explain how good it feels to have a barbell on my back. (My super tight hip flexors tend to disagree, though).  I have a couple new lifting buddies, and our boot camp group has really started to coalesce into the fit fam I’ve been craving so much that I don’t even mind how insanely expensive it is on top of my (already expensive) membership.
Bootcamp Fit Fam <3
What a good shot I am!
  • I also decided February was the month of handstands.  I’ve been wanting to do them for AGES now, and when I finally started being able to get them on a total fluke in late January, I instantly decided I was going to practice EVERY DAY in February in hopes of getting some more consistency.  I still struggle with pushing up into them without having momentum behind me, and it’s still a toss up as to how long I can hold them, but it’s progressing. I’ve even started trying without a wall behind me – but that hasn’t been so pretty.  It’s coming!
  • I’ve mentioned before but my mother is a CPA, so during the heavy tax season months I cook two meals a week for my parents so that they don’t starve – and this year’s have been SPECTACULAR as seen below: (Grilled Cuban wraps & curry cauliflower, honey sriracha IPA & lime ginger wings, some badass superbowl pizzas [shrimp/onion/bacon/garlic & chorizo/spinach/mushroom], chicken thigh & chickpea tagine cinnamon roasted carrots, Thai turkey/chorizo meatballs with peanut butter sauce over sautéed kale & brussels with coconut aminos, Mongolian beef with cauli rice mushrooms & broccoli, smoked paprika shrimp & andouille sausage kebabs with grilled baby bok choy, and tomatillo pork chili verde so far. I’ve never cooked this many things so consecutively delicious & I’m dying.

So that’s it! February, you were badass.  March, bring it on – heavy back squats, heavy deadlifts, handstand pushups, a trip to NYC & ALL the brewing experience <3

Sunday, January 24, 2016

some stuff i forgot...

I literally type this post two weekends ago and......never posted it. Please, explain how I survive daily.

ANYWAY I have things to talk about like school and malthouses & brewery tours but if I let this post never see the light of day I don't get to show off my barrel, SO.


After two straight holiday weeks and two straight 4-day holiday weekends, only having two days off last week was an incredibly cruel jolt back in to the reality of the 5-day work week.  Also for the first time in a while I didn’t have much in the way of actual plans, which meant almost the whole weekend was devoted to working out and brewing beer…….could be worse.

Friday night was the annual Men of Zumba event at CC+ - when I first started really hitting the gym hard about 5 years ago, after I made the switch from my small local gym with not much more than a smattering of cardio machines & a weight room to the grand (and pricey) wonderland of Life Time, it was dance cardio classes that really hooked me.  I still enjoy them (I’ve migrated from straight up ‘zumba’ style classes to more hip hop type classes, which if you would have told me I’d be doing about 10 years ago I would have laughed in your face), even though I’ve mostly moved on, but a lot of my favorite instructors participate in this every year, so it’s fun to support.  Unfortunately the more I get out of the scene, the less familiar I am with the local instructors, and the more time I spent desperately trying to catch on to their routines while only being able to see about 50% of what was going on on the stage…but it was still a good, sweaty time.  Props to CC+ for managing the insane amount of people, too – at one point I turned around and the place was packed to the gills, all the way back on to the carpet behind the dance floor!

I also got a surprise delivery from my friend Kirsten in Minnesota – fresh, pesticide-free black spruce tips to add to my next brew, and (almost even more exciting), some Caribou beans!

Saturday I crawled out of bed, hit a boot camp class at my gym, came home to shower & headed back out almost immediately to White Lotus Yoga Studio for their new location’s grand opening.  I was really hoping to check out an aerial yoga class, but unfortunately they were all full, so I popped in to a vinyasa flow since I was already there, & signed up to do some flying next Sunday.  I’d been to the studio for Friday community classes at the old location, but the new one is soooooooo nice and bright and airy!  Solid job, ladies.

Next up: barrel curing!  Back in November a friend picked up a discarded Journeyman Distillery whiskey barrel for me from his homebrew shop (after doing a little investigating – it used to house Silver Cross whiskey, which sounds delightful).  I’ve been scheming a brew to put in it for quite a while now, and finally settled on an eggnog porter that I’ll be brewing next weekend, but it’s been sitting empty for so long that I wanted to go through the curing/sanitizing process even though it’s only held liquor so far.  Luckily my parents’ house, with its much larger laundry room and unused bathtub, was on the way home.

My darling <3

Curing away in a strange environment...
I can’t believe how much char came out of this thing – or how good EVERYTHING smelled. Damn, son.  A week of curing + some sanitizing and she’ll be ready to go!

Prepping for a new batch meant I also had to move along some of my current fermentation projects, so Sunday was a beer transfer day – I have two batches going right now, a Belgian golden strong that I racked over a slurry of almond extract & brandy-soaked dried fruits (blueberries, apricots & golden raisins) to try and conjure up a stollen bread flavor (fruitcake beer is SO last Christmas!), and a standard American IPA that I wanted to pull off a couple gallons to play with (I ended up adding a juniper berry tea).  Both of them came along nicely throughout primary fermentation – the Belgian has a perfect yeasty golden ale flavor and it hit all my projected numbers almost perfectly.  I was shooting for an 8.4% ABV, nailed my original gravity, and after primary it was sitting around 8.9% - bonus!
Beer ingredients looking pretty vile.
Amidst all the transferring I also took down all my Christmas decorations and got in a little extra fitness aka, “I bet you I can totally squat this tree.” (Spoiler alert: it was actually really light and I was kind of disappointed by how easily the whole thing went down).  Apparently the fitness theme of the day was “cold,” though – I tried to meet some bootcamp friends for a nice hour of hot vinyasa in the morning, but the heat at the gym was busted so it was a little more like slightly chilly vinyasa. Still managed to work up a sweat by the end, but hooooooly wow was it hard to find some zen for those first few minutes.

Disappointingly easy, but don't ask me how the attempts at pistols went.

Luckily I warmed up with some Paleomg spaghetti squash pizza casserole once all was said and done – an extra big batch with heaps of ground beef, spinach and mushrooms.  It might only look pretty when it’s fresh out of the oven, but damn is it good (and thank god for that, because with this big of a batch I’m going to be eating it all week long).

Sunday, January 10, 2016

hello 2016

2016 started with epic shrimp tacos and about four days of binge-watching World Junior Hockey (RIP tiny Slovakian hopes and dreams), which was not at all a bad time (I also can’t stop playing Undertale either; RIP my productivity).

I did a resolutions/goals post last year, and it actually did a pretty good job of grounding me to a lot of habits & behaviors that made the year a pretty damn solid one.  I’m not sure I have quite as much of a list of specific goals going into 2016, because I’ve decided in lieu of setting goals, I’m just going to make some shit happen, and that shit is:
  • I’m going back to school!  I enrolled in a brewing & distillation technology program beginning Winter semester (next Wednesday!), and I’m mega stoked.  I hemmed and hawed about it for a while because while I’ve missed formal education terribly since I graduated from Western, really, am I positive I’m going to use a 24-credit certificate in brewing? Do I know for sure that I’m going to parlay that into a useful experience? Should I spend money on something so unrelated to the career I’m actually in?  But from the second I heard about it, a part of me strangely knew I was going to do it. I’ve seen a lot of brewing/fermentation programs pop up, but the thing I really like about this one is that it’s completely doable for someone in a position like mine (AKA not some full undergrad degree that requires selling my soul to a college), and it’s not JUST brewing – it touches on everything related to owning/operating a brewery, from the actual science behind beer, to brewhouse operations & equipment, to stuff like cellaring and marketing.  AND I’M STOKED, did I say that?
  • I’m doing some new programming at my gym – I’ve been involved in some small group boot camp training for a couple months now, which I LOVE (probably because it feeds in to both my love of competition & being held individually accountable), but I’ve started working a little harder on monitoring progress. One of my huge goals for 2016 is to be able to hit some benchmarks & track a LOT more about where I am vs where I’ve been.  We’re starting off the year with monthly fitness tests and a 90-day challenge that I’ve done a couple times, but haven’t taken REALLY seriously since I first joined Life Time.  This time around I’m throwing down for real. 20% body fat, huge lifts & lots of being upside-down, here I come.  (ALSO a thing I’m considering: yoga teacher training.)
  • I’m going to travel all the fuck over the place.  The only thing I really have set in stone right now is New York in March (Rangers game, arena #12, what what!), but I went on a slew of pretty big and totally amazing trips in 2015 and I’m going to be extremely disappointed if I don’t keep that up.  I forgot how much I love discovery.  At LEAST one other NHL arena & hopefully a whole shit ton of breweries.
I would also like to train myself to stop pretending to be too busy to do things like take the goddamn cats to the vet while somehow finding the time in between work and the gym to go to Target & buy eleven thousand pounds of unnecessary trail mix, but that’s another story.

AND ON THAT NOTE, happy 2016, babes!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

the rest of 2015: a hellacious summary

It’s 2016!  And here’s an exciting fact: 5 days in to 2016 I have already taken time to sit and write some fiction snippets one two separate occasions, which is probably more than I bothered to do in the entirety of 2015 – uh, oops.

So I did some pretty cool stuff in the last quarter of the year since the last time I ventured on to this corner of the internet (AKA September), including but not limited to:

Central/Western Day in Kzoo
I haven’t been to a WMU football game in probably 7 years (since I graduated), so this year we snagged some tickets & made a day out of it that included nitro coffee, breakfast beers, seeing some alum friends I haven’t visited in ages, and a mini-brewery tour of some local (but new to me!) breweries.

This is how to do a flight.
Toronto Cask Days 2015
Cask Days was one of my very favorite events of 2014, so I was more than stoked to go back in 2015, especially since we got early-in tickets, & I have, in the past year, learned to pace myself so that by 5 PM at a beer festival I am not a stumbling mess that can’t stay awake to meet for dinner later on.

Also involved in this trip was my very best Ottawa friends, my very best Toronto friends, a fancy ass whole wild boar dinner (listen: flaky pastry crust with an apple & bacon filling, cranberry coulis & vanilla ice cream), late night post-Jays game burritos, me spending $50+ at David’s Tea, and a few new delightful Toronto breweries.

Starting the trip off right in Sarnia at 11 am.
One of my all time favorite breweries (Bellwoods); ALL of my all time favorite people.

I thought I was completely stuffed until someone brought me this apple bacon wonder.

Red Wings Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Night #2
The auto industry came through for me again - I was hoping to get a handful of extra pucks signed for a giant display in my living room, but the entire arena was SOLD OUT??? Of pucks???  Regardless, it was a fun (free) night of skating on NHL arena ice, my girlfriend got a bunch of signatures on the onesie I gifted her at a baby shower & luckily my real goal was still accomplished:

I spent American Thanksgiving with my very favorite travel partner in Montreal accomplishing not only a new NHL arena (I’m at 11/30!), but also (among many others) getting to grab some evening beers at Dieu du Ciel!, which is a brewery responsible in large part for some of my deeper diving into craft beer styles & which I always swore I would make it to eventually, and doing forearm stands in front of a bizarre architectural anomaly that I inexplicably researched & wrote about back during my senior year of college.

Also, Montreal has some gorgeous architecture, bomb street art, solid breweries, and CAT CAFES.

(Also – this trip allowed for a brief little jaunt down to Ottawa to drink to excess & see some of my absolute favorite people.)

The original Montreal smoked meat. I desperately miss this.

My lil' babe Luna :)

Turkish brunch!
Christmas / New Years
I’d just like to show off that I made the actual most amazing gorgonzola, cranberry & walnut stuffed beef tenderloin with a molasses/bourbon glaze & I have perhaps never eaten something so delicious in all of my prior life.  And then when that was over, I made crème brulee cheesecake with an actual torch.

Also we went fowling, and to a whiskey distillery WITH DOGS!!!

Noble Fish forever.

Rye & Rue <3

Here’s this other thing that happened: I went to a semi-fancy NYE party that culminated in a wild(ly terrible) rendition of “I Think We’re Alone Now” sung in to a bottle of champagne at midnight, followed up with some wrestling. I’m an adult & you can’t prove otherwise.