Friday, December 31, 2010

Update on "My" List

Back in June (Best Beers in America) I shared  2010 Zymurgy Best Beers In America Poll.

At that time, I had never had numbers 1 through 4.  Out of the top 10, I had only had 2.  Out of the top 50, I'd only had 8.  That is pretty sad for a supposed craft beer drinker, so I had to get to work drinking more of these beers. 

While in Michigan this week for my grandma's 85th birthday party, I got my hand on #2:  Bell's Two Hearted Ale.  This is another IPA.  It seems like most of the list is some sort of IPA.  This one is just a regular old IPA as opposed to a double or an imperial IPA.  Personally, I would rank this above Pliny, but that's just me.  I actually think the Two Hearted Ale is better than most of those on the list, so I am pretty good with it being at number two.

Over the holidays I also got to taste (tied for) #7:  Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.  This is an interesting beer that uses all fresh hops from Sierra Nevada's own harvest.  It is another hoppy IPA, and it is probably deserving of the list.

I sort of wish the list was more representative of other beer styles.  I get Zymurgy now, so maybe I'll have to make sure I add my vote for the 2011 list.

So, now, I've had all of the top 5.  I've had 9 of the top 10.  I've had 25 on the list of 50 (actually there are more than 50 on the list due to ties at 49).  A large number of the beers were tasted at GABF , so it is a good thing that Mr. Beer invited me this year.

I'll probably be able to taste a few more before the 2011 lists comes out.  I'm sure several of the 2011 beers will be the same, so I will have a pretty good head-start on the 2011 list.

Happy New Year everyone.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sheppy's X-Mas Eve

I was up at 3:30 or so.

Worked a bit on http://www.sheppybrew.com . I added an email (contact us) form and did some work to prevent spamming in page comments. I kept an eye on Santa's progress on twitter (@noradsanta, @OfficialSanta, @XmasElf, @OfficialRudolph) and the NORAD tracking site http://www.noradsanta.org.

At 5:30 or so I went to the health club to work out and listen to brewing podcasts. I also kept an eye on Santa's progress on twitter and my mobile google map.

Back home at around 7:45. My wife made breakfast. I showed the kids how Santa was doing on the NORAD site.


Then, we went driving around taking random turns based on input from the people in the car.  We ended up in Evergreen and hiked a little bit.  Actually, it was more climbing up rock formations by the boys than hiking.

Up above Evergreen Lake.  Sorry the shot is into the sun.
A rock the boys played on.
The biggest rock the boys found.
We had lunch at the Bear Creek Grill.  Pretty good food.

Then, we made our way home.  Rested awhile and then got ready for church.

After church, we came home, ordered a pizza and watched a couple of Christmas movies.


The next day, the boys were up early for some reason.  Here are some Christmas pictures:



Santa was generous this year.

Tyler's new telescope.

Connor's gift to Mom

Connor's claw was a big hit.

It was a Harry Potter Christmas for Tyler.

a couple more gifts.

Mommy's new panini maker

Connor got cooking stuff.

Connor's big project for the day was a Lego Train.

Tyler's project for the day:  Hogwarts Castle.

Daddy tried Bluefield Chocolate Ale in a Beer Float.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black IPA / IDA

Remember back in July when I told you all about the new Black IPA (Cascadian Dark Ale) style?  Since then, it seems like everyone is making one.  Lots of breweries are still calling it Cascadian Dark Ale.  This name sort of annoys me, but certainly not enough to keep me from drinking it when I get a chance.  If I'm at a bar / brew pub / restaurant and they tell me they have a Black IPA (or even a Cascadian Dark Ale) on tap, you know for sure what I will be ordering first.

Recently, I have had one or more at Rock Bottom Brewery, TommyKnocker Brewery, and Dry Dock Brewing Company.  I tried a bunch at GABF.  I loved them all.  The good-old American hoppy goodness with the complexities of darker malts really blend together into a flavor that I completely enjoy.  And, every Black IPA that I've had has been awesomely made.

That being said, my favorite of this style is still SheppyBrew's Stone Soup IDA.  I know that makes me sound a bit (or maybe more than just a bit) of an Arrogant Bastard, but it really is true.  And, yes, there may be something to the fact that I made it and so of course I love it.  But, there is just something about the Stone Soup IDA that I think makes it better than all the rest.  It might be the dry-hopping.  It might be the slightly fuller body.  It could be the significant amount of wheat malt extract in the recipe.  It might be the brown sugar or the honey.  It could be that little bit of cinnamon in the brew.  It might be a combination of all-of-the-above.  But bottom line, I like my IDA better than all the other Black IPA and/or Cascadian Dark Ales I've tried.  It is, of course, one of the beers that I refuse to share with anyone, so I cannot get an impartial third party confirmation, so you'll have to trust me (would I lie to you?).  It's the best.

I drank my last Stone Soup quite awhile ago, and have not gotten it back into the brewing schedule.  Obviously, I need to make a another batch soon.  It should be a big batch so I won't run out.  Actually, recently, Connor (my 5 year old son) has requested that I brew it again.  He has actually requested and re-requested a few times.  I'm not sure if I should consider this cute or if I should be worried (I'm going to go with cute for now).  The reason he wants me to brew it is because he made a label design change he wants on the new bottles.  Both my boys helped me design the original label, but it was mostly Connor's idea.  Unfortunately, his design change is pretty specific to Christmas, so it might be inappropriate by the time I actually get it brewed, but we'll see.

Anyway,whether or not I use Connor's new label design, I need to get it brewed again.

great beer

GREAT, wonderful, fantastic, glorious, awesome,  beer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brewing Eric's Red

Tonight, I am brewing up Eric's Red Ale. I changed the recipe from the last few times to use up my Mr. Beer inventory. I did not feel like coming up with a new name or a new label, so I am just calling it Eric's Red. I have to formulate an all-grain version of the recipe, anyway, so none of the extract versions of the beer will be used again (probably).

For quite awhile, I considered Eric's Red my "flagship" beer, but I have not brewed it since January. After this batch it is still tied as the most often brewed beer in my lineup. I still enjoy red beers. Quarter Life Crisis has just sort of taken over as my red of choice. 



 

This brew day will be very quick and easy compared to anything I have done recently. Even the Wetta Blonde I did a few batches ago was slightly more complicated than this Eric's Red. I am just doing a 15 minute boil with one hop addition. Then, cool down the wort, transfer to a fermenter, and pitch the yeast. Simple quick and easy.


 

Should be drinking Eric's Red in a month and a half. Yum!



I snuck this video into the blog just for the fun of it (facebook readers will have to go http://blog.ericshepard.com/2010/12/brewing-erics-red.html to see the video)

Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 Calendar Photos: RETRACTION

When I wrote my blog post:  2011 Calendar Photos , I did not realize that my wife thought I was not going to do a calendar this year and so took it upon herself to do one.  Apparently, she thought she would surprise me with it, and put it all together and even got it all sent out.

So ... if you are one of those getting the calendar, the pictures posted on FaceBook will not match what you will see in the hard copy.  I'm sure some will be the same, but certainly not all.

----

In SheppyBrew news ...


The Beer Model on the taste panel
You probably know that the SheppyBrew Beer Model's favorite beer is Buckwheat's Belgium Pale Ale.  What you may or may not know about the beer is that it really isn't a Belgium pale ale.  The yeast I generally use just doesn't produce those funky Belgium flavors.  This is actually "by design" because I know from experience that Tracy doesn't usually care for those flavors.  To be honest, I'm not a big fan unless the "Belgium" flavor is pretty subtle.

The last time I brewed Buckwheat, I did a double batch and split it into two fermenters.  In one fermenter, I used the "standard" Fermentis S33 ale yeast.  In the other, I used a more "Belgiumy" strain, T58.  Yesterday, we had a two person tasting panel at the brewery.  No surprise, the S33 batch was the favorite.  I did do a good job keeping the "Belgium" flavor pretty restrained, so the T58 was still enjoyable for both of us, just not as awesome as the original recipe.

Visually, they were exactly the same.  S33 had a much thicker, nicer, longer lasting head and a fuller mouthfeel.  The beer did not attenuate as fully as the T58, so that makes sense.  Of course, the S33 aroma was more malty, and the T58 had that Belgium funk to it.  As the beers warmed up, the Beer Model made the comment that the difference was becoming more pronounced.  Obviously, I agreed, because it was a true statement.

One thing that I thought was very interesting was that the nice biscuity / grainy flavor that I think really makes Buckwheat awesome came through much more in the S33.  It blended into the background of the T58.  The T58 actually seemed a bit more balanced toward the hoppy / bitter side than the malty goodness of the S33.  That is interesting that simply a difference in yeast made such a huge difference above the flavors that came specifically from the yeast.

This is actually the first time I did a head-to-head comparison between the exact same beer with two different yeasts.  Of course, I knew "theoretically" and anecdotally that there would be differences, and generally speaking sort of had an idea what they would be.  But, this was the first time I actually got to experience the difference like this.  I might have to try more experiments like this.

Very cool.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Its Coming

Facebook readers, this is another one where you'll have to go to the blog to see the videos.  Go here:  http://blog.ericshepard.com/2010/12/its-comming.html

We went to our church's Christmas celebration thing today.  Tyler and Connor decorated (and devoured) cookies.  They also did other craft type things including making magic reindeer food.



Connor and Tyler assumed themselves before the service. I honestly don't know what they are doing here.

video

or here:

video
Not far from our house there are a couple of houses together that go way overboard with decorations on ALL the major holidays.  I think maybe one couple owns both houses.  They need two to store all their decorations during the year.  What you are about to see below doesn't even give justice to the situation.  I actually think they go even crazier on Halloween than they do Christmas.


video
video

I apologize for the crappy quality of my cell phone videos, but I think you can get the idea here.

2011 Calendar Photos

I am working on finishing up our 2011 calendar.  I posted all the pictures in a facebook album.  Even if you don't have a facebook account, you can see them here:  2011 Calendar Pictures .  Of course, if you are a recipient of the calendar, and don't want ruin the surprise, don't look.  But, there are a few pictures that didn't make the cut for the final version, so you might want to keep it bookmarked to go look at after the year is up.  Who, you may ask, are getting these calendars?  Well, if you got one last year, chances are good you will get one this year.  If you didn't get one last year, chances are good you won't get one this year.

I had forgotten about this picture:
This was my attempt to make it look like Connor was holding Tyler in his hand.  I probably could have done an even better job if I had more cooperation, but I think it actually turned out pretty good.  The boys both think it does look as intended.  They think it looks cool.  I suppose now that they see the result, they'll want to do this a bunch.  Probably it will get to the point that I get sick of one son in another's hand.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

news.ericshepard.com

Ok ... perhaps there is something to this whole twitter movement.

Thanks to twitter (specifically The Beer Wench ), I found out about http://paper.li/ .

If you go to http://news.ericshepard.com, you'll see "The ESheppy Daily".  Take a look at it.  Go ahead, look.  This free service went through my tweets and tweets of those that I follow to put together a newspaper looking thing.  Apparently, it generates a new online "newspaper" every day.

It also put together SheppyBrew Weekly (http://news.sheppybrew.com), which is basically the same thing except its compiled weekly on a subset (a list) of tweeters.


Apparently, if I want to, I can create one based on my facebook account.  I might try that sometime just to see how it compares.  As a general rule, I hate giving applications access to my facebook account.

It actually does a pretty decent job of organizing Twitter into something relevant and useful.  Or at least I think so after looking through it today.  It is pretty cool. 





Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Loser

I've been blogging since June 27th, 2005 (http://blog.ericshepard.com/2005/06/blogging.html).  My sister has been blogging since September 19, 2008 (http://bluefield5.blogspot.com/2008/09/to-blog-or-not-to-blog.html).  Since she started her blog , we've had an unofficial "competition" on who has the greatest number of blog posts each month.  I put "competition" in quotes, because there really is no comparison.  She had almost as many posts in the last 4 months of 2008 (83) than I had all year (87).  She has beaten me a couple months by 21 posts.  I've never even gotten close to 21 blog posts in a month.  That is a worse blow-out than when the Broncos played the Raiders this year.


Of course, she started out at an insane pace, and has been a bit more reasonable since that first 12 months or so.  In March of 2009, I even beat her by 1.  (I won't mention that she gave up the internet for lent that year).  In August of 2009, I also beat her 5 to 4 (I'm sure there was some reason she could not get to her computer that month too, although, I don't remember for sure).

This year, I've actually beaten her 3 whole months:  June (11 to 7), September (12 to 1), and November (8 to 5).  You might think that means I am getting more competitive, but she actually let me win in September, which hurts even more than getting blown out.  With all those GABF posts, I might have even had a legitimate chance to win that month (probably not if she really tried, but if she had a slightly less-than-average-posting-month for whatever reason, I might have had a chance).

By my count, all time, my win/loss record is 5 and 23.  She posts an average of over 14.3 posts a month, whereas I average 7.4 .  Yes, her average margin of victory is almost as big as my average total score.  She doesn't even have a smart phone to help her out.  Gosh!  She doesn't even have high-speed-internet service at her home (yes, I am getting dominated by someone working at dial-up speed).

So, as you can tell, I am a pathetic loser.  I thought maybe I'd try to give her a run-for-her-money this month.  In fact, I did.  I had her "worried", but it is painfully obvious that if she puts forth any kind of effort, I just cannot keep up.  I'm going to lose this month, too.  I just give up.

Tweeting on Twitter

I have to admit that I don't "get" Twitter

I have a twitter account.  Sometimes I tweet.  Sometimes I look and see what other people are tweeting.  Sometimes some of the tweets even seem to be somewhat interesting to me.  But, it just seems to be too much work to get what you want.  It seems to me to just be a subset of Facebook .  I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but Twitter is basically just the update status part of Facebook. 

Anyway, I know lots of people use it.  Active tweeters seem to just love it.  A lot of the Beer Bloggers that I read tweet a bunch.  If you have a bunch of followers, I guess it is a good way to let people know that you've posted a new blog entry.  Unfortunately, I don't have very many followers, so it doesn't really give me much value.  Or at least, I cannot figure out how to extract value from it.

So, let me know if you have some insight on what I am missing about Twitter (leave a comment or two).  If it can be a useful informational tool, I do want to figure it out.  You might have noticed I added some twitter widgets to the blog, and some on the Sheppy Brew website.

And, if you have a twitter account, go ahead and follow me on twitter:

Follow esheppy on Twitter

Actually, I will share that Twitter pointed me to a new beer blog that looks really cool:  http://billybrew.com/ . Maybe I am starting to "get it".

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arizona

The company I am working for is flying us to a resort / spa for the weekend. This is the company holiday party. We will be back before I publish this, so don't get any ideas about breaking in and stealing our stuff. Our neighbors have permission to shoot their very big guns at any intruders. We do not have anything worth stealing anyway.


On the bus going to the airport
I have never been to a spa. Quite frankly, being "pampered" does not seem like something I'd enjoy. But as I have to tell my kids over and over (and over), you do not know if you like it until you try it. And if I have to try it I might as well do it on someone else's dime (hundreds of dollars actually). I am scheduled for a 50 minute massage on Saturday at 1. Honestly, laying there for an hour seems to me as excruciatingly boring. I hope I am wrong. Is it ok to bring a book or my MP3 player ... Or is that bad etiquette?

----

Ok ... Currently I am on united airlines 329 with non stop service to Phoenix International Airport. Does it bug anyone else that MP3 players are potentially dangerous during takeoff? If the electronic systems on airplanes are in danger of being disrupted be my tiny little music player, I don't think we should be allowed to fly. Just my humble opinion.


In case you are wondering, I am listening to Pretty Persuasion by REM. Don't tell anyone but I started listening before they told us it was ok. Thank God we didn't crash! Now I'm listening to Talking Heads. If it is ok with y'all, I am not going to mention any more songs.


Sleeping on the plane.

Airplane seats are not made for people my height. I am tall, but not unreasonably so. Just a public service announcement for you short people (under 6 feet): average sized people like me have their knees RIGHT UP against the back of your seat. If you lean your seat back, you are going to smash the hell out of the knees of anyone behind you who is not short like you. Please show some kindness. I realize your life sucks way down there, but please don't take it out on the knees of average sized people like me.

Now I am listening to Alligator Pie by Matthews, Dave Band. I know I said that I would not do that anymore. I lied. "Daddy when you gonna put me in a song?"

It is a little weird flying without kids. I didn't have to remind anyone at the airport to go potty. Just to feel comfortable, I asked the COO if he needed to go, but it just was not the same. Here on the flight I do not have to manage DVD entertainment and watch 3 drinks. I don't even have to keep track of flight time to send the kids to the potty right before the pilot turns on the seat belt lights for landing. I might ask the guy next to me if he needs to go at the 1:15 mark of the flight, again, I don't want to feel too weird here.

"I used to rule the world. Seas would rise when I gave the word." Sorry I could not help myself.

I do not know the last time I had a Heineken before tonight. It will be awhile before I have another. It would be nice if airlines had a better beer selection. Considering that interference from a tiny little MP3 player might endanger the flight, I suppose beer selection is a minor concern.

"Hear Jerusalem bells are ringing. Roman cavalry choirs are singing. Be my mirror my soul and shield. Missionaries in a foreign field. For some reason I can't explain, I know St. Peter will call my name. Never an honest word, but that was when I ruled the world."

Sorry, I like that song. I really do.

Crap! The seat belt light is on for final decent. I missed my opportunity to tell that guy to go potty. If he wets himself, I am going to blame myself.

Ok ... I had to shut down my phone (and don't forget the MP3 player). Sorry for the delay. Did you miss me? Ok I don't have anything else to say right now. Later.

Hey Tera ... Do you see how I am not breaking this up into another post?


Waiting in the Phoenix airport
....


So today (Saturday) we went on a hike. Tracy and I had to head back early (before we reached the summit) so that we would have time to clean up a bit before our spa experience. 



This is what the back patio of our suite looked like.
I guess I did not hate the massage, but I did not love it either. It was very hard for me to feel comfortable mentally from the time I entered the spa until I left. I felt sort of like these freaks were trying to recruit me to their little cult. It was just very strange. I am very glad I tried it and might even give it another try if I get a free opportunity, but it is not something I would pay money for or recommend to someone. It honestly was not relaxing for me.

Tracy enjoyed it much more than I did. I guess that is to be expected.  She's a girl.


The company took a bus out to Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner. It was great. The "brew master's select" was a black IPA. That was their best beer. They were all really good, though.

After that we hung out at the resort bar for quite awhile. Some (including the CEO) got pretty crazy. Good times.

...

And now it is Sunday morning.


We are just hanging out in the Arizona sun until we have to leave for the airport around 2.



A picture of the compound.  That rock in the distance was what we climbed.
...

And now it is Sunday afternoon and we are waiting for our flight home. Tracy and I are not sitting together on the flight home. Oh well, we'll be ok. It has been a great weekend. I am very grateful that the company was generous enough to fly us out and put us up in such a nice place. They will almost certainly be too big next year to do the same thing, so it was to take this opportunity now. Gonna be tired tomorrow, I am sure.

Ok, well, I am sick of this post. I'll send it now and "publish" it tomorrow.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Echo Lake

Last weekend we headed up to Echo lake to play in the snow and on the ice.  Here are some pictures:


Over the years, we really have a lot of these shots. 
The main difference is that the boys just keep getting bigger.


Angles on the ice.


Brotherly love on the ice.


Wildness in the Mt. Evans Wilderness.


Family shot in the trees.


Taking a nap.


Fell down and went "splat"?


Just sitting watching the boys.


Fun jumping (falling) off picnic table.

Cute kid sitting on my knees while I'm trying to relax in the snow.


Just a nice, peaceful mountain shot.


And a video.  This is me laying down, taking a video of the peaceful blue sky and the clouds moving silently across the sky.  At the end, I am attacked by a couple of wild animals.  As always, if you are reading this on facebook, you'll need to go to the actual blog (http://blog.ericshepard.com) to see the video.
video

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shipping Bluefield Ale


Not sure why I took this picture.  See the sexy beer model in the background, though.  Very hot.
If you've read any of my recent blog posts and/or follow http://www.sheppybrew.com closely, you know that I've brewed a chocolate hazelnut ale porter inspired by my sister (the one who I blame for making me homebrew). Unfortunately, she lives in Wisconsin. Since the SheppyBrew nanobrewery is in Colorado, and has pathetic distribution (we are no Sierra Nevada ... that's for sure), I have to make special accommodations to get a sample to her.

We are going to be in the same place at the same time in a few weeks.  I don't want to pack beer in my luggage (various reasons including my lack of trust for baggage handlers).  So, I thought I would mail the chocolate ale.  I've never shipped beer before, but home-brewers do all the time.  It is illegal to ship beer via the US Postal Service.  It is against policy for UPS or Fed Ex to knowingly accept beer, but the advice I got from the AHA forum seems to be that a "don't ask / don't tell" approach with UPS works just fine.  This seems to be standard procedure for lots of other home-brewering bloggers as well.  The best resource I found was at BarlowBrewing:  "How to Pack and Ship Beer".


So ...


First I put each bottle in a zip-lock bag.



Then, I wrapped each of the zip lock bags with bottles in them in bubble wrap:


I put the bubble wrapped bags with bottles in a box with shipping peanuts.
a

And lots of crumpled up news paper.

Next, I'll have to weigh the box, print out a UPS label, and either take the package to a UPS store or someplace like that.  It should arrive in plenty of time.  Hopefully the recipient will have room in her fridge to chill the beer upright for a few days before Mrs. Bluefield arrives.

I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about shipping my beer.  I think I've packed everything pretty well.  I just don't know how it will turn out.  I guess we'll see.  If it turns out well, I'll probably let you know.  If not, I'll probably just stay silent on the subject.
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