April 2012


For the past ~6 months, I have been doing a couple electronic technology experiments. The first involves web design. For the past 8+ years, I have been using the same basic web page design. I used whatever the current iteration of FrontPage was to maintain it and built up a bunch of content. It was a useful site. (web.mnstate.edu/bodwin) I originally set up up using frames which I thought was great because it made it easy to use a consistent navigation menu and made it really easy to control the viewer’s experience. {Sometimes I get a little obsessed with control…} After this many years, I have gotten a little bored with my site, and a little bit of bloat and disorder had started to creep in, so I decided to do a major re-design. In browsing around for ideas and current standards/best practices, it quickly became clear that frames had fallen out of favor (I don’t know that they were ever really in favor…) because they were a little bloaty and did not lend themselves well to making easily accessible pages. I decided that I would try to make a very simple page with minimal architecture that would be lightning quick to load and navigate.

Now it’s 6-months later and I’m at a bit of an impasse. I’ve tried to make the page as simple as possible from a design standpoint, but it’s got a fair bit of content that I’m trying to organize in an orderly way. So far, I’ve just used CSS and HTML and the site is clean and simple. (www.drbodwin.com) But there’s a problem. Maintaining good, easy navigation is killing me. With my old frames page, the navigation frame was always reading a single file, so the navigation was consistent and maintaining it was simple. With my new, simple design, the navigation is embedded in each individual page. Once I got up to 10-15 pages, this became a pain in the ass. Every time I wanted to add a new feature, I had to go into each individual page and update the nav menu. I know there are some little scripting tricks to address this specific problem, but I was stubbornly trying to maintain the “purity” of my site. I was an idiot.

Now that I have stumbled through some of the dumb, noob mistakes, I’m ready to take the next step. Once the semester ends, I will devote some time to putting together a re-re-designed site that will be easy for visitors to navigate AND easy for me to maintain. I’m not going back to frames, but there has to be some middle ground. Right now, I feel as if I’m using a rock to hammer in a screw, I at least want to get to the point that I’m using a hammer.

The fermentation finally slowed to over a minute per bubble, so it’s time to get this baby in the bottles. 2/3 cup of priming sugar and 2 cups of water brought to a boil and allowed to cool while I prepped bottles. That brings up two points: 1) the bottles; 2) the sanitizer.
The Bottles:
I’m using all first-time bottles. The majority of them are from New Belgium beers (Mothership, Abbey, Belgo). I’m also using some short bottles from a Red Hook 6-pack, I think it was called Winter Hook (?). The rest of the bottles are from Deschutes beers (Red Chair, Inversion, Jubilale). I probably have 300 random bottles collected over the years, it’s quite ridiculous. Maybe I’ll find someone who needs bottles and get rid of half of them.
The Sanitizer:
I’m always a little conflicted over sanitizing. I tend to use household bleach for bulk sanitizing, but I also have some 1-step sanitizer. The bleach is effective, but requires rinsing. The 1-step doesn’t need to be rinsed, and I’m not sure I completely understand how that works. When the sanitizer solution is in the bottles, it’s sanitizing, but when I dump it out, the bottle instantly becomes safe for the yeast that’s required to carbonate. How does that work? Does the 1-step know what I want it to do? Or is it only “toxic” to “bad” yeasts and other things that need to be killed by sanitizer? I had given the bottles a bleach treatment, but just to be safe I mixed up a batch of 1-step and did a final sanitization right before bottling.
Bottling:
The priming solution was poured into a bottling bucket and the beer was racked from the fermenter into the bucket. I bottled 51 bottles on 2012/04/09. This may be about the best smelling beer I’ve ever made, the dry hopping (and 4oz of boiling hops) have given this batch a glorious Centennial aroma. I had a few tastes and the flavor is double-plus-good. To be honest, the hop flavor is so pronounced that I’m not sure I’d be able to catch any off-flavors, but although it’s very hoppy, the hops are not unpleasant. There’s just enough malt backbone to provide balance.

Now for the worst part of any brew: waiting for the beer to carbonate and bottle-condition to drinkability. That should take 2 weeks, minimum. Arg, 2 weeks until liquid awesome.

Hmm, I didn’t get updates posted quite as soon as I should have…

The Rack:
Over the first couple days of primary fermentation, I had a good bit of blow-through.  After almost 2 weeks (on March 23rd), the fermentation had slowed a bit, and there was a significant yeast sludge at the bottom of the fermenter.  I was going to be leaving town for a few days, so I racked to my 5-gal carboy for the secondary ferment.  As per the recipe, I added 1oz of additional Centennial pellet hops to the fermenter.  Here was a benefit to using a 6-gal carboy for the primary, I was able to get the siphon started and allow some leavings/sludge behind while still racking a full 5-gal.  I was careful not to aerate during the transfer and sealed with a S-bubble air lock (with vodka as bubbling medium).  The carboy was returned to the cool, dark spare bedroom and left to finish.

A couple notes:
1. I might try to pre-wet, or even boil additional hops for a minute or two next time.  The additional hops were very buoyant and because there was less headspace in the carboy, the hop-mud that developed caused a little bit of blow-through over the first couple hours in the secondary.

2. I pulled a wee taste during transfer.  It’s still quite sweet but seems smooth, and I didn’t notice any obvious off-flavors.  Hard to judge right now.

3. After a week in the secondary, the wort had cleared pretty nicely and was bubbling about 4 times per minute.  Looking good.