Monthly Archives: February 2011

European Brown Ale: Brew Day

[EDIT: This post will soon be moved to the Bushido Brewery blog.]

This ale was brewed on January 7, 2011. It was my first brew day and took about 5 hours to complete from start to finish, including cleanup.

This was a partial mash recipe. The first step was boiling 3 gallons of water in the brew pot. Then, the heat was turned off and 2.5 pounds of grains, in a cheesecloth bag, were immersed in the pot and left to soak, with the lid on, for 45 minutes.

After soaking, the grains were removed and the wort was once again brought to a boil. After reaching a boil for the second time, the heat was turned off and the malt extract was added. Although the recipe specified that the extract should be added while stirring, we didn’t stir the pot until all of the extract was poured.

After adding the extract, the wort was brought to a boil for the third time. It boiled for 1 hour and hops were added as per the recipe timesheet.

The only concern that arose during this process was that the wort didn’t seem to reach the hot break. The pot was never in danger of boiling over.

My best guess is that, with only a single burner on, the wort wasn’t able to be heated to a high enough temperature to reach the hot break. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a thermometer on hand, so I wasn’t able to get any temperature readings.

After boiling and cooling the wort, it was ready to be transferred to the primary fermenter. First, 3 gallons of water were added to the fermenter. Then the wort was poured in. Finally, the yeast was pitched and the fermenter sealed.

The steeped grains were distributed around the trees outside my home. I assumed that there were still nutrients in the grains for the trees and lawn to use, and that putting them outside was less wasteful than into a landfill.

I forgot to use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the wort before sealing the fermenter. So, for this batch I won’t know the potential alcohol of the finished product. That’s something I’ll try to correct with the next batch.

Also for the next batch, I want to try increasing the heating power available for boiling by using two stove burners at the same time. In the future, I want to be certain that the wort reaches the hot break.

I expect fermentation to take about 21 days for this brew. It’ll spend 6 days in the primary and 15 days in the secondary. Until then, we’ll wait patiently to see what it grows up to be.

Breaking Boundaries

Breaking boundaries is about getting more experience than you perceive you are able to get. It’s about going where you are told you can’t go, pushing the limits and bending the rules to see exactly how much you can get beyond the stated limits. It’s about taking blinders off and widening your perspective. It’s about saying, “There are the edges – but are they fixed? What lies beyond them? Can I redraw them for myself?” In many cases, the answer is yes.

There are different kinds of boundaries, or limits to potential, that exist. I like to imagine them as concentric rings centered around each of us. We each have boundaries that are imposed on us, by ourselves or outside forces, based on many factors, such as skin tone, gender, age, education, skill set, etc. The trick is understanding which boundaries can be bent, which can be broken, by how much, and how to do it. Just like in The Matrix.

I also like to refer to these boundaries by level. First, second, third, enumerated from closest to us to farthest away. So, the first level boundaries occupy the inner-most concentric circles and are nearest to us. These are the boundaries we run into all the time, every day, throughout our whole lives. They are also the easiest the break through, because they don’t actually exist.

A first level boundary is a boundary that only exists in your perception. It isn’t actually present. Examples of this include feeling like you can’t talk to someone, or introduce yourself, or ask someone out on a date, or can’t ask for something, or can’t go through a door because it is labeled “Employees Only.” There is nothing physically preventing you from doing any of these things. If it weren’t for your fear of awkwardness, or being made fun of, or being caught, you’d do it. You won’t be physically injured by attempting any of these things. The boundary is in your mind.

A second level boundary is a boundary that another person or entity places on you. It’s no longer self-imposed. In order to break a second level boundary, you need the permission of an outside authority to do whatever it is you want to do. Breaking a second level boundary is usually best done by doing whatever it is you want and asking for forgiveness, not permission. For example, accessing a restricted area. So long as you don’t get caught, you are implicitly breaking the second level boundary. If you are caught, however, in order to continue breaking the boundary, you need a key to unlock it, a key which the authority holds. If you can’t get past the first level boundary in order to ask forgiveness or make your case for staying, you can’t break that second boundary.

Second level boundaries also involve getting people to do things for you that don’t explicitly cost money. For example, getting extra towels at a hotel, or samples of beer from the tap at a bar, borrowing something from someone, trading something for another thing (trading a weekday off to come in on the weekend). Sometimes you can break level 2 boundaries without asking first, and seeking forgiveness if you are confronted about it after you’ve done it. Other times, you have to ask first.

A third level boundary is where money begins to get involved. Examples of third level boundaries involve getting a hotel room upgrade, a free replacement for a stolen item, paying a lower price than normal for a cell phone contract. Getting your drinks bought at a bar is another example of breaking a 3rd level boundary.

One of the best ways to break through boundaries in an effective, sustainable way is to treat people well. Treating people poorly can work, sometimes, but it works against you in the long run, and often the short-term, too.

Breaking second and third level boundaries often involve negotiation. You may find that a lot more in life is negotiable than you previously thought if you approach everything from the perspective that deals can be worked out in a way that isn’t always as you assume, or as is first presented to you. You have the power to say “Let’s start from scratch and work out our own deal.”

So go out and start breaking boundaries. Free yourself. You can’t always break second and third level boundaries, but first level boundaries are completely under your control. You may not start getting favors and free things every-which-way, but the first step towards that is realizing it’s possible. All you have to do is not be afraid to try.