Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Adventures in Public Transportation

This is totally off topic, but I had to share the experience and the absurdity I found on a recent "commute" to Boston via public transportation.  I normally work from home in Lowell, MA, but I had to go to the Longwood area of Boston for work, so I thought I would be virtuous and use public transit.  Here's how it went:

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6:00 AM

I left home and drove to the Lowell parking garage.  No traffic, got there in about 10 minutes or so, and I was feeling great!  As I drive in, I roll down my window and stick out a hand to take a ticket. The guy at the entrance greets me with an open hand, too.  Oops, he's looking for a $5 bill to cover my parking for the day!  At that hour, there were lots of spaces, so I was quickly in the terminal, looking for the ticket office for the commuter rail train to Boston.  No office, so I bought a Charlie Card for $30 in the machine there, figuring that was the way to buy my ticket.  
I am struck by the fact that I have to go up and down several flights of stairs to get to the platform from the garage.  It would be incredibly slow and inconvenient to do this with a rolling suitcase or in a wheelchair as the elevators are not fast or easy to get to.
Cost so far: $35

6:18 AM

The train leaves Lowell for Boston on time!  Great start, so far.  I settle in with my bagel and coffee and prepare to eat breakfast while waiting for the conductor to pick up my ticket.  When she comes around I offer my Charlie Card, only to find that it doesn't work on the train, only in the subway (so why sell them in Lowell?).  I have to buy a paper ticket (no surcharge because the ticket office hadn't opened yet) for $8.75, cash only.  The conductor is really nice, though, and she tells me about an app for my phone that I can use to buy a ticket for the commuter rail and just flash when she collects.  I make a note to use it on the way home.
Cost so far: $43.75

7:05 AM

We roll into North Station and I head down into the subway (green line, E route).  To do this, you have to actually EXIT the station, down a short flight of stairs, and then go into a subway entrance about 50 feet away.  Again, if I had a rolling bag, this would be a pain, as the escalators are busy and narrow.  There are 3 different flights.  And this is a new station!
Once I'm down in the station, I head for the turnstile brandishing my brand new Charlie Card.  When I tap in, I discover that for my $35 I got a hunk of plastic--it doesn't actually have any stored value! Wish they had told me THAT up front!  Off to the machine to feed the card $20 so I can use the subway.  Once I do that, now I can use the subway, and off I go to find the Green Line train.
Cost so far: $63.75

7:35 AM

Miracle of miracles, I arrive at my destination.  I am supposed to meet my co-workers and the client at 8:00, so I have time to get more coffee (I finished my original cup on the train).  Nice to be early, and the worst I endured was a crowded train.  Expensive, but a good experience.
During the day, I download and install the Commuter Rail pay app that the conductor told me about, and so that is installed on my phone. I ordered up a ticket for the trip home, so that is all set as well. That's another $8.75.
Cost so far: $72.50

5:00 PM

I dash out of my client meeting to catch the 5:00 Green Line trolley back to North Station so I can catch the 5:30 train to Lowell. I get the trolley (using the Charlie Card again to pay), but it is delayed, so I arrive in North Station at 5:33 and the train is gone.  RATS!  Next one is at 5:50, so there's nothing to do but wait.  On a beer related note, there is a Paulaner Bier "Garten" in the station waiting area, and it is open.  Hefe can wait, though. Exhausted, I opt not to get one so can get some work done on the train home and not fall asleep. 

5:50 PM

The train departed on time--Yea!  I spent the ride home watching recorded lectures for course I'm taking, and after 7 stops, I arrived at the Lowell station again.  It is 6:40pm. I reverse the process of parking and hop in the car to go home!

6:55 PM

I'm home.  Tired and hungry, but home.  It has been almost 13 hours since I left. I resolve never to take a job that requires me to do this every day!
The total cost for the day:
  • Parking: $5.00
  • Commuter Rail: $17.50 ($8.75 each way)
  • Charlie Card: $30 (sunk cost, this never expires, but has to be reloaded)
  • Subway fares: $4 (note that I loaded $20 on the card, so I have $16 left)
Out of pocket expenses are $72.50, but only $27.50 was for actual transportation ($16 still on the card is still available).  For $27.50 I could park all day in Boston, but there would be more wear and tear on me (and on my car), fuel cost, etc.  I do feel slightly virtuous (but dirty) because I took public transportation, so there's that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Apricot Saison and the AHA Conference 2013

I'm getting ready for the AHA Conference in Philadelphia in June of this year.

Brewing Apricot Saison in collaboration with my friend and fellow BFD Mike Damiano, and Patriot Oatmeal Stout.   We brewed the Saison in a 15 gal batch on Mikes electric brewery, which was pretty freakin cool!  I have about 4.5 gals on apricot puree sitting in my apartment right now, while Mike has the remaining 10 gals.  So we have 5 for AHA and about 4 for each of us!  This is my first fruit beer (unless you count a pumpkin ale I made right after I started brewing).    Here's the info on how to add fruit:

After speaking to a couple folks who have done this recently, I think we may have been light on the Apricot, but we will see.

Today I am brewing the Oatmeal stout, and I have had the difficult experience of trying to do a double infusion in a 10 gal cooler.  I added another 2 gals of boiling water to the mash to get to Mashout temp (168 degrees F) and ended up with minor overflow.  This was one of the most difficult brew days I have had in some time, and it all started with the grain crush. I couldn't get it to crush properly, and I ended up with the grain still in the husk, even though I conditioned it and re-milled it.  I think there could have been two issues:
  1. I was using some Valley Malt 2 row that is now 2 years old, I think.  It is possible that it isn't good anymore.
  2. I was trying to mill the grain using a drill instead of hand cranking, as I usually do.  I wonder if I milled too fast and it just squirted through.
  3. (oh, yeah, I said two--well tough) I might not have sprayed sufficient water to condition the grain .
So from the start, my gravity was low.  Of course, I had a hard time telling that because for some reason my refractometer seems to be messed up.  The line you read is now on an angle, which is not so good.  Also, the plastic cover doesn't seem to line up properly.  I checked it with a hydrometer though, and it was accurate once I nudged it back to place and re-calibrated with some distilled water.  I was shooting for a relatively high OG for the style, but ended up with 1.054, which is in the guidelines, but not what I should have had given the grain bill--that would have been 1.069!  A major miss, that one!   Of course the calculation was with Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter, not Valley Malt 2-row, so it might not have hit exactly, but I expected to be closer.

One cool thing that I tried (anyone but a brewing geek can stop reading here) is to recirculate the boiling wort in the last 15 mins and after knockout to cycle it around the kettle and the immersion chiller. Got the fasted cool down I have ever had with that chiller, so I guess it works! Thanks, Jamil, for idea.

Here it is in the fermenter.  Notice that there is a TON of headroom, because I had to boil for 2 hours to get the gravity UP to 1.054.  I only collected 4.5 gals, and then I pitched my dry yeast.  I hope it tastes good, but we will see in a week or two.

Next up for tasting is the apricot saison. I may get another can of apricot and add that in as well.

Happy brewing!