Clearing out the homebrew

I took stock of my cellar* the other day, and found a few old orphan bottles of homebrew. I haven’t been drinking much at home lately other than some shower beer lagers from work, so have been bringing them to friends’ places for testing.

Blood Orange Saison

I made this back in March 2016. I was quite proud of it when I made it – it had no discernible off-flavours, was quite effervescent, and the blood orange flavour was subtle but present. I was fully expecting it to be oxidized and awful after almost a year and a half, but was surprised to find it delicious. The orange had faded to just a slight orange blossom aroma with none in the flavour. The colour had deepened somewhat, and the beer had an amazing honey and jasmine flavour to it.

Lychee Gose

I had made this in September 2016 for the GTA Brews Brew Slam competition. The taste was exactly what I wanted when it was fresh. After almost a year, the lychee aroma had faded significantly. The salt was quite dominant at first taste, but quickly faded leaving a slight lychee candy-like aftertaste.

Wild Thing Blonde

I made this in February, using a Magnotta Blonde Ale kit with Escarpment Labs Wild Thing yeast that they had isolated from an apple orchard in the Niagara region. It started at 1.048 OG, and fermented down to 1.002. I was expecting it to be dry, but it still had a good mouthfeel. The yeast gave it a marked apple taste, like a semi-dry cider. Quite delicious!

Double Oatmeal Stout with Toasted Cocoa Nibs and Niagara Cherry Juice

I am the least happy with this one. There was a bit of oxidation in both bottles we tried, and one of them was a gusher. The cocoa nibs lent a really smooth chocolate aroma and flavour to the DOS kit from Magnotta, but the sour cherry finish seemed off to me. My friends who tried it quite liked it, so it could be just me. Still, I’m going to make it again and use the whole cherry not just the juice left over from making a pie.

*and by cellar, I mean hall closet where we keep the vacuum and old crap.

No, not feral after all

I was out for a walk with my beloved one day when I found them. It was a sunny afternoon in mid-October, the kind of day that is a gift from the weather gods – one last day of nothing-but-a-tshirt warmth before November starts to chill our bones.

We were walking along the mountain bike trail in the valley below us when I saw them…a green vine twining up a small tree and over to a hydro tower, festooned with the now-familiar shape of hop cones. It was late in the season, and they were brown and papery, but there they were. I managed to snag a few of the lower ones and found a nice citrus aroma under the dry leaf smell when I rubbed them between my palms.

I mentioned the find to a few people, and then mostly forgot about it. I’d think of the plant when it was least possible to harvest or dig up a rhizome, like the middle of summer or on a blustery winter day.

Fast forward to last Saturday. I was part of a beer panel at the Ontario Fermentation Fest in Picton, and got to talking beer afterwards with likeminded individuals, as one does. I was talking hops, and mentioned the find to a friend of a friend. Turns out he planted them! No, not feral at all, just a little wild after a guerrilla gardening experiment. Apparently there’s a mother plant a little further west…time to do more exploring.

I went back to the site the next day, and found things a little changed. The little tree had been cut down, the trail was now a wider dirt access road to the hydro station and there was nothing growing up tower. It looks like I waited too long to get back.

I poked around the tall weeds near where I remember the tree being, and found a patch of stinging nettles for my troubles. As i was cursing and flapping my now sore hand around, is was that there in the middle of the nettles hung a few cones. They hadn’t been able to climb, and the bugs had eaten the leaves to lace, but the plant was still alive.

Have to go back in a few weeks to check on them. Going to bring some gloves this time.

Night Shifts

I have been working since I was 16. And in those last almost-40 years of working, I have never worked shifts. Sure I’ve worked late nights in those long years of restaurant and bar service, but I have never worked actual rotating, days/afternoons/nights shifts. Until now.

Demand is such that Brunswick moved to 12-hour shifts last week. The two-week pattern goes 2 on, 2 off, 3 on, 2 off, 2 on, 3 off. I know it’s early days yet, but so far my feelings can be summed up in three words:

Not a fan.

I’m good working until about hour 10, and then it’s a hard slog to overcome tiredness. And if I don’t get enough sleep during the day, then it’s brutal. Saturday I only got 3 hours of sleep, thanks to the cats and my anxiety. I was so tired on Saturday night, I felt like I was walking underwater. It’s obvious that sleeping during the day needs more preparation than just falling into bed tired.

This is the post-work ritual that seems to work. So far.

Day-sleeping preparations

  • Shower: I’m usually sweaty during work, and hate going to sleep sticky. Loving this Bath and Body Works Lavender Chamomile body wash right now to help relax. I sometimes include a shower beer like Lug Tread or Absent Landlord; it depends on how the night shift went.
  • Eye mask: I got the kind that’s contoured over the eyes so I can open my eyes and fool my brain into thinking it’s night.
  • Ear plugs: because of course they are working on the elevators next to our unit during the day.
  • Melatonin: works well to stop my brain from being an asshole and keeping me awake by worrying about 100 things that will never happen. Finding the peppermint flavour a bit weird for an under-the-tongue dissolving pill.
  • Something relaxing to drink: I’ve found the Mother’s Little Helper tea from David’s works well, as does the Mellow Mood drinks.
  • Oatmeal: because waking up with a growling stomach after sleeping for only 3 hours is less than optimal.

Most sleep achieved thus far: 6 hours.

Catching up

It’s been a while.

I went to Hamilton yesterday to meet Renee and Robert at Merit Brewing, a new place in my old hometown. As we sat┬átalking and drinking, I wondered why I’ve stopped writing. Other than captions on Instagram or Facebook, I haven’t played with words at all. My novel is languishing, I’m carrying around a notebook that is still empty 3 months after purchasing it (except for a grocery list), and the last post here was February.

I can’t get back the time I’ve lost dicking around on social media, hitting refresh to see what I’m missing and to watch the dumpster fire that is my neighbour to the south. But I can say enough, and devote myself to things I like doing. Like writing. And making beer.


Since the last time I wrote, I’ve changed jobs. I’m now at Brunswick Bierworks, a contract production facility much closer to home – I’ve exchanged the 40+ minutes on the 401/400 highways to about 10 minutes, and spend as much on gas in a month as I did in a week. I’ve got about 5-10 hours of my life back, to spend with my beloved, doing things, watching Netflix and not writing.

The new gig is mostly good – as with all jobs, there are pluses and minuses. Mostly pluses. The equipment is new, and everyone is still working the kinks out after a recent rapid expansion. We’re busy, and have just gone to 24/7 12-hour shifts. Not sure how I feel about working those kinds of hours yet….I’ll let you know.


The oh-so-shiny Newlands 50hl system that I spend most of my time on.


The 20hl “pilot” system. I’ve only spent 2 shifts on it so far, but enough to know it’s much more fun.


It’s getting harder and harder to shake my hermit mode. Yay for being an introvert with some social anxiety! I force myself to make plans, and then force myself to not cancel at the last moment. And guess what? I have fun.

And I definitely had fun yesterday. I went to a new bar, talked to the brewer, met my friends, and drank some really good beer (the Berlinner Weisse with rhubarb syrup was delicious!). The other beers I had were very impressive, but I was disappointed that there were no dark beers on tap yet. Will definitely go back once the milkshake stout is done!


Home brewing has faltered somewhat. I made a few experiments with leftover wort kits from Magnotta – a blonde ale with Escarpment Lab’s Wild Thing yeast and a brown ale with roasted hazelnuts in secondary. I was very pleased with both of them. The blonde fermented down to 1.002, but isn’t boozy or dry. It has a really ┬ánice apple / saison flavour going on that I think I’ll replicate. I used raw hazelnuts and slow roasted them as per Clayton Hoy’s tips on the GTA Brews forum. The head retention was perfect, but next time I’ll chop the nuts a bit finer to get more flavour out of them.

Right now I have a wheat beer in the fermenter that should have been bottled a week or so ago. I am not a fan of bottling day. Maybe I can convince Keith to assist tomorrow and get it out of the way.