Anne and I took the train up to Santa Barbara for my birthday, and it was awesome. Because I've complained about Amtrak employees who were dicks in the past (K. Williams on the southbound Surfliner to Comicon, I'm looking in your snotty, sarcastic, condescending direction), it's important to me that I compliment everyone we interacted with on this trip, both Northbound and Southbound. The conductors were friendly and helpful, and so were the ticket agents in Santa Barbara. I love the idea of train travel, and I especially love going along the California coast. I always want to ride the train up to PAX, but I never have time ... one day though, I'm totally going to do that. I'm not sure what it is with Amtrak, but I always feel like I'm flipping a customer service coin, and I don't know if it's going to land on "friendly" or "asshat". Someone at Amtrak should do something about that, because I'm not the only person who feels this way.
While we were in Santa Barbara, we ate lunch at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company, where we had their IPA. As a fledgling homebrewer, it was probably more exciting to me than it should have been that I could watch their brewmaster tending to his beer, but Anne patiently listened to me while I pointed out every piece of equipment, and explained what it does. When I drank my IPA, I'm pretty sure I could taste Cascade hops, too, which made me stupidly excited because Ryan and I used Cascade hops in our IPA.
A lot* of people have been asking me how the homebrewing is going. The short answer is, pretty good, even though we made some mistakes with our first batch. Once it conditions in bottles, though, I think we're going to have a very drinkable beer.
I'm going to speak in beernerd right now, so if you may want to skip this paragraph if you aren't at least conversant in homebrewing. The longer answer is that we definitely screwed up our California Pale Ale in two pretty big ways: we boiled too long, so I think we boiled off a lot of fermentable sugars, and we racked to secondary about a week too soon. I've taken gravity readings the last two days, and it seems to have settled down right around 1.020. I know that's not where we want it to be, so we're going to let it sit for another week and hope that it drops. Right now, our potential ABV is only 4%, which seems low to me (but the Googles told me that most CPAs sit around 5%, so that's not too bad.) The really important thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that it tastes really good, and even though I don't think it's going to be exactly what we were going for, it's still going to be a tasty beer. It's still a little green, but it isn't bitter at all, it isn't too sweet, and the color and texture are terrific.
Ryan and I had so much fun brewing our CPA, I ordered two all-grain 1-gallon kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop: an IPA and a Porter. I figured that it was just one gallon, so if I completely screwed up the all-grain process, it wasn't that big a deal ... it turns out that it was incredibly easy, just as much fun as the first batch, and we used the lessons we learned from the first batch to prevent repeating the same mistakes. We won't bottle that until around August 8 (Anne's birthday, for those of you scoring at home), and I can't wait.
I can tell you, from my personal experience, that making beer is incredibly easy and incredibly fun. They say that if you can make oatmeal, you can make beer, and they're totally right. Oh, and the best part of doing an all-grain beer has been using the spent grains to make doggie biscuits for Seamus and Riley, and two loaves of bread for the rest of us. I made this one last night, and had a slice with breakfast, and I have a loaf of rosemary that's rising in the kitchen right now that will be ready in time for dinner tonight. AWESOME!
The funny thing (to me) about this whole experience is that I was always intimidated by the idea of making bread. But I figured, "Hey, I can make beer, and bread is pretty much the same ingredients assembled in a different way. Why not try it?" There's something tremendously satisfying about combining a bunch of ingredients that don't look or feel anything like the food I turn them into, and then eating (or drinking) it. It feels sort of ... magical, I guess.
I AM A FOOD WIZARD! COWER BEFORE MY SILICON SPATULA OF SCRAPING! MUWAHAHAHA!!
Um. Sorry about that.
Yesterday was Ryan's birthday. He turned 22, and a whole bunch of people on Twitter joined me to wish him #HappyBirthdayRyanWheaton. It was pretty amusing to me that I had to write my happy birthday message to him in a way that would make it clear to 1.8 million people that it was, in fact, me writing it, instead of him.
Before I get to work, I have two quick things:
1) Felicia and I are back on Eureka tonight! Come see us on the network-formerly-known as Sci-Fi at 8pm. #TeamParrish
August usually means back to school shopping for most Americans. But each year, thousands of children living in homeless shelters and foster care return to school without even the most basic of necessities. Operation Backpack, a program operated by Volunteers of America, helps provided these needed supplies to our country's most vulnerable students and gives them a chance to continue their education.
In an effort to support this wonderful project, Bards and Sages has partnered with other independent authors and publishers to create a special charity ebook bundle. 100% of our profits from this bundle will be donated to Volunteers of America to support Operation Backpack.
This special charity collection includes seventeen independent speculative fiction titles with a retail value of almost $50. A complete list of participating authors can be found on the Bards and Sages website under the Charity tab.
This collection is comprised of two zip files, one containing PDF files and one containing mobi/kindle format files. Both files contain the same titles, simply offered in different formats.
Oh, did I say two things? I meant three things. 3) In case you missed it, there's a new Humble Indie Bundle.
That's all for now. See you on the Twitters, the Tumblrs, and the Google Plusses.
*Or alot, if you prefer.