Zymurgy – Art & Science

So we’ve just about come to the end of this A-Z blogging challenge. For my final post in this series, I’ve decided to revisit one of my earlier posts with an update.

Back on April 2nd, I started my third batch of ale since restarting my home brew shop. One of the things that I love about brewing is how I can make small variations to my favourite recipes to change the flavour, appearance or effect of the beer.

The recipe that I usually use for my India Pale Ale (IPA) calls for 1 pound of Crystal Malt. If you were to taste Crystal malt, you would swear that you were eating Shreddies. Crystal Malt adds some colour, sweetness and body to a recipe. Since I only had 3/4 of a pound in my inventory, I topped off the grain bill with 1/4 pound of chocolate malt. This small change reduced the sweetness of the beer and gave it a darker hue.

Normally, after 1 – 2 weeks in the fermenter, I will rack (move) the beer to a secondary fermenter and add  1 or 2 ounces of finishing hops to add a nice hop aroma. When I checked the beer after 2 weeks, it had not progressed as quickly as I had hoped and I left it for another week. After the third week, I was ready to rack and dry hop the beer. As I was slated to head out of town for two weeks, this would ensure that when I got home, I would be ready to transfer my beer to a keg, put it in my magic fridge and would soon be enjoying real fresh ale.

As with so many things in life, plans change, ships get delayed and you adapt. I saw an opportunity to come full circle (almost); from Brewing to Zymurgy. Dry hopping relies on the hops sitting in the beer for a week or more and I didn’t have that time. One way to accelerate this process is to make a hop tea with the hops and add that at packaging. So I transfered from the primary directly to the keg, added my (wonderful smelling) hop tea and connected the CO2 system.

This change in procedure has reduced the hop aroma profile by about 50% over my previous batches. These two small changes have effectively converted my IPA into an Extra Special Bitter (ESB), and that’s ok with me.

I am hoping that small changes to a recipe can also change the effect that a beer can have on me. Before this batch, I made a ginger beer with 3 pounds of honey. After a night when I had “several” pints, I awoke to find that my tongue was swollen. I am hoping that a change to some Greek or other Mediterranean honey which is not made from the same grasses and pollens that I am allergic to, will have a lesser effect.

And with that, I raise my glass to you, feeling proud of my accomplishment with this beer and this month of blogging.


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Mel leads the way to Yelapa

I have the very good fortune to have an old boss (and very good friend) who lives in Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta. On our recent trip to Neuvo Vallarta, we reconnected and one of the wonderful excursions that he and his partner Naomi put together for us was a sailing trip to a small village on Banderas Bay. There is small road that leads to Yalepa, but for all intents and purposes, the only way in and out is by boat.

We started off early in the morning for the 3.5 hour trip across the bay. The seat of choice was a small plank that was mounted just forward of the mainstay. Even though there wasn’t enough wind to actually sail, it was a beautiful day for a boat ride.



We saw skates, porpoises and even spotted a whale or two off in the distance. Even though my Dad has spend a great deal of his life on the water, it was his first time on a sailboat.

We arrived just before noon and made our way to one of the beachfront restaurants. On the day that we were there, two large boats arrived shortly after we did from the tourist centres in Peurto Vallarta and the beach chairs filled up quickly. We were thankful that we had staked our claim in the restaurant and had gotten our orders in before they did.

As is the case with those types of tours, the passengers were hurried from one place to another with no time to relax or soak up the beauty that was around them. We were thankful that we could watch them come and go and leave us in our little piece of paradise.

We managed to find a bit of wind in the afternoon and Andrew set the sails for our resort on the other side of the bay.

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OK, it’s a stretch, but I’ll get there. I promise.

In the Spring of 2004, we played host to some young musicians from Ottawa who were on an exchange with our daughter’s school. Through the week, they had band concerts at the high school and some of the local middle schools, visited the Royal BC Museum and many of the other touristy things around this touristy town.

Since some of the kids had never seen the Pacific Ocean, on the weekend we took a ride up the west side of Vancouver Island to Jordon River. From there you can clamber out onto the rocks and see all the way across the Ocean. Actually, you sort of look NW towards the Aleutians, but they didn’t know. It was a great place to stop for lunch (fish and chips, of course) and have a walk on the beach.

On the way back home, we stopped by Royal Roads University. Hatley Castle was built for local coal baron James Dunsmuir and was completed in 1908. In 1940, the Federal Government purchased the land and buildings and there were plans in place to have the Royal Family live there during WWII. In the late 1940’s it was converted into a military college, and in 1995, it opened as a degree granting public university and the grounds are open to the public. In fact, my little sister was married there, in the Japanese Garden.

Does the Castle look familiar? It was the School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men series.

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Wellington, New Zealand

In October of 1999, I was in Wellington, New Zealand to attend my annual meeting with buoy operators from around the world. Even before this A-Z blogging challenge started and I began organizing my thoughts regarding all of the places that I’ve been, I had been thinking of my visit to New Zealand and my friends there. During one of our meetings we had the strongest earthquake I’ve ever felt. Those of us who live around the Pacific Ocean knew right away what was happening. It took everyone else a little while to catch on that this was an earthquake, and a big one at that. The recent earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan have reminded me that we must always be prepared.

When my meetings were over, four of us hired a car and took a two day tour of the South half of the North Island.

New Zealand has the most unusual flora and fauna that I have ever seen. Whether it’s gigantic ferns, flightless birds, odd looking marsupials or vast geothermal features, there is no place like New Zealand

As always, we searched out Craft Ale and Wellington delivered. We found the Malthouse and it became our local while we were in town. Even our friend Wynn from the UK was impressed with the variety and quality of the local beer.

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Valparaiso & Viña del Mar, Chile

My first trip to Valparaiso was in the late fall of 1999 when we were exploring a number of opportunities in Chile and Peru. As I mentioned in my Lima post in the A to Z Blogging challenge, we were much more successful in Chile.

Since then I have been back 2 or 3 times to provide training to the Chilean Navy in Valparaiso. It is the industrious port city in comparison to the relaxed beach town of Viña del Mar. We would work in Valparaiso and stay in Viña which is located on the next bay to the north.


Viña is a perfect resort town in my view. The beautiful seaside scenery, incredible fresh seafood and unbeatable Chilean wines is an awesome combination.

My last visit spanned Father’s Day and I spent the day missing my own girls, but enjoyed the wonderfully family friendly beach with its amusement rides, playgrounds and ice cream wagons.

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