Brewery: Mistakes

Here is a list of things I would do differently if I was starting over on my brewery project. I think this list will be very useful when I inevitably start over on my brewery project 🙂

  • Separate control boxes for low voltage and high voltage. I would build a small box that houses all the high voltage switches, relays, SSRs and plugs and run low voltage, opto-coupled signals to it. Having all the high voltage stuff in the main control panel makes it harder and more dangerous to work on, and makes it much bulkier than it needs to be. I would put the high voltage box down in the rig somewhere. This would have the added benefit of probably not needing expensive twist lock plugs. I think I spent almost $200 just in plugs for high voltage stuff.
  • Have a box on the rig for all the valves, temp controllers and pressure sensors and come up with a way to gang them all into a single cable going to the control panel. Ideally I would like the high voltage box and the sensor/valve box to just be networked to the control panel with RS-485 or something.
  • Kettles with bottom outlets. One of the most annoying things I’ve found so far with my brewery is that there’s no good way to clean the kettles completely. It’s a battle of diminishing returns. The siphon outlet of the keg leaves about .22 gallons along with all the crap that has collected in that liquid. So washing bits of grain, hops, etc. becomes a matter of pumping in water, draining it, pumping in more water, draining it. I’ve taken to using towels to soak up the last .22 gallons and then cleaning it all by hand. If they were bottom dump I could just rinse all the crap right down the drain.
  • Drill holes at 45* angles around the kettles instead of 90* angles. At 90* angles everything wants to bump into the stuff in the kettle next to it.
  • Skip the Blichmann gear. It’s pretty but it’s expensive and once you start drilling and cutting it’s kind of a waste. There’s better options for a DIY system like this.
  • Skip the solenoids. I’ve mentioned this before, but solenoid valves are useless in a brewery. I spent over $400 in solenoids just to find this out. Use motorized ball valves.
  • Use tri-clamp fittings on manifolds. This is expensive, but it will save a huge amount of frustration. Trying to line up dozens of threaded fittings is a massive pain in the ass. I don’t know how pipe fitters keep their sanity.
  • Spend way more time thinking about how things will get cleaned. Cleaning is still a pain in the ass. I still don’t know how to completely drain my system including all the hoses, valves and manifolds. All these spots are wonderful little havens for nasties to build up.
  • Remember how useful pipe clamps are for everything. They kick ass. Use them to mount almost anything to almost anything.

To be continued…

Why Macs Are Better

When Windows people give me shit about using a Mac I just take it cause there’s no point in arguing, but inside I am giggling. Giggling like a little girl.

Here’s why: I just used a free program called Carbon Copy Cloner to back my main laptop up to an external USB hard drive. It backs up everything, quickly, and makes the drive bootable. Then I unplugged it, plugged it into my 5 year old other Mac laptop and held down Option when it started. I chose the external USB hard drive as my boot drive and I am now instantly up and running with my exact operating system, all my data, preferences, everything. The only thing I had to change was the background image of my laptop monitor since I hadn’t previously assigned one to that monitor. My two laptops are pretty different: Different CPUs, RAM, drives, video, chipsets – just totally different. When I booted Mac OS X didn’t even utter a peep. No driver dialogs, no incompatible drivers, nothing. Just starts up and runs.

If you tried doing this with a Windows machine it would be a world of hurt and it probably just plain wouldn’t ever work unless the machines were nearly identical. You would spend hours clicking through drive installations and driver conflicts. Eventually you would just give up and reinstall Windows. And then all your preferences would be gone because you don’t know the black magic required to get your registry copied over. Oh, and don’t forget to “Activate” it.

You might think it’s Carbon Copy Cloner doing all the work and nothing to do with Mac. That’s about 10% right. CCC does a great job making sure all files are copied over and that the drive is bootable but the real magic is that Mac OS X has an intelligent driver system that Just Works.

Macs are way better.

PCH Day Eight and Nine

I haven’t gotten around to writing about our trip back home, but till I do, here’s some pictures!

PCH Day Seven

I’m totally beat, so not gonna post much. Been a busy day and 7 days on the road is taking it’s toll.

Today we found a Yoshinoya on our way out of LA, went to Huntington Beach, San Juan Capistrano, Carlsbad and Pizza Port, Carlsbad beach for sunset, Stone Brewing Company madhouse where I got two growlers and a new beanie, Lost Abbey which we bypassed cause it looked shady, checked in at the Marriott in San Diego, got some decent Thai at Royal Thai and now I’m gonna sleep, sleep, sleep!

Tomorrow we start back to Seattle on I-5. 1238 miles on the same highway, here we come!

PCH Day Six

Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll!

Today we got up fairly early, packed up and left Santa Barbara for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. After a strange trip down the 101 and 1 including a weird 2 mile stretch of beach that was nothing but giant RVs we eventually made it through Malibu and into Santa Monica. We took a quick trip down the pier but it was mainly a freakshow and we kept on. Eventually we ended up at Venice Beach. I wanted Courtney to see that particular brand of freak show; specifically muscle beach. Unfortunately all the body builders took the day off so we spent a few minutes checking out the skate park and then just walked the boardwalk for a while.

One thing that stuck out was the absurd “Medical Marijuana” booths all along the boardwalk. They all claim to have a “doctor” who is “in” and can take “walk in appointments”. Ignore that the doctors all look like bombed out stoners. I’m guessing all it takes to get a “prescription” there is for you to say “Oh, my aching one hundred dollar bill.”

Might as well just legalize it.

Anyway, Courtney hated Venice saying “I feel like I am going to get syphilis” so we retired to a nice drive down Sunset Boulevard and eventually landed in Hollywood. We saw the sights, groaned at the retarded ass superheros and called it quits. Hollywood is sad and depressing.

Next was a trip to a certain corner which was supposed to have good views of “The Sign”, which it did. And then we took a drive up Mulholland Drive. That was pretty great. We pulled off at the Hollywood Bowl lookout and got great views of downtown, the bowl, the sign and the valley.

Finally, we had had enough so we pulled over, woke up the Priceline app and landed a nice 4 star suite in West Hollywood for $99. Pretty awesome. We’re snug and cozy at the Le Montrose Suite Hotel and we just finished turkey dinner at the restaurant downstairs. It was delicious.

Tomorrow is our last day heading south. We’re planning on driving to San Diego, seeing the sights and sleeping there. Then we’ll turn around and start heading back home. The return trip is going to be a quick one, straight up I-5 with few stops.

PCH Day Five

We’ve settled in at the Hotel Mar Monte in Santa Barbara and as is becoming a clear pattern, I am pooped. We got up around 8am this morning in Monterey, had a killer breakfast at The Trailside Cafe, spent a few hours wandering the awesome Monterey Bay aquarium, meandered along 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, braved the cliffs and sharp turns of Big Sur, had a few quick beer samples at Firestone Walker brewery in Paso Robles and some good pizza just down the street at Griff’s Pizzeria and Bistro and made the 2 hour drive in the dark to Santa Barbara.

It’s been a long, busy day.

We’re about 100 miles from Los Angeles, and that’s tomorrow’s destination. We’ll get started early and probably spend most of the day in LA. We haven’t decided if we’ll sleep there tomorrow or if we’ll continue on.

Till then, I am updating all five posts so far with pictures from that day, so check em out!

PCH Day Four

On day four we wake up in Santa Rosa, me with a hangover and Courtney with general laziness. For the first time on the trip we kind of slept in and had a slow start. Our destination for the day is Monterey but before we get there…

Courtney had planned a loop of the Napa valley through wine country. Once we got ourselves moving we headed for Calistoga, which was a bit of a back track but necessary to get far enough north to visit the areas we wanted to see. Calistoga we just passed right though on our way to St. Helena. There we took a short little detour through the parking lot of Beringer winery which was neat but didn’t hold a lot of interest for us. Our real destination was Yountsville which is where Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant and Bouchon Bakery is. We made a quick stop there for super yummy pastries and baked goods and kept on rolling.

The drive through Napa was very pretty. The vineyards stretch on forever and make for great scenery, but neither of us had much interest in wine country so we just cruised through.

Next stop was Weird Stuff Warehouse in Sunnyvale which took us through the east bay area and our first In N’ Out Burger stop of the trip. In N’ Out was delicious as usual and Weird Stuff Warehouse was a bit of a letdown. I was hoping for a giant warehouse of surplus electronic parts but it was mostly just e-junk from the computer industry. Lots of routers and switches, network cards and the like. It was fun to walk around in the shelves but nothing caught my eye.

To come:

Santa Cruz

Traffic on 1 to Monterey

Cannery Row Brewery

An early night at the Monterey Bay Lodge

PCH Day Three

Today was Day Three, which starts at the Ravenwood Motel in Eureka, CA. I forgot to mention last night that in last 100 miles or so we had reached California!

I’ve finally put up my pictures so far. When I have more time I will pick out my favorite and include them in the posts, but till then, check out my Flickr set for the trip.

I’ve run out of steam tonight, so I will need to finish this post tomorrow. Hopefully I can catch up, although with all the awesome stuff we have planned, who knows. Till then, here’s a brief list of what we did today…

Breakfast at Ravenwood w/ Gary (great tips) and Perry

Trees of Mystery

Sky Trail

Tour Thru Tree

Klamath Coastal Route

Seascape by the harbor, scary

Lunch in Trinidad at Trinidad Eatery

Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse

House pricing, 1.3M

Quick stop in Eureka for Carson house and new tour guide @ Borders

Avenue of the Giants

Route 1 turnoff at Leggett

Nightmare driving scenario

Cliff conundrum

Fort Bragg and McDonalds

More scary

Courtney takes over

Jason takes a nap

Russian River w/ awesome growlers

Courtyard Marriot w/ free wifi

PCH Day Two

You do know that PCH stands for Pacific Coast Highway, right? Just so we’re clear.

Today is actually Day Three, but due to unforeseen connectivity problems last night I didn’t get to write about Day Two. Now we’re settled down for the night on Day Three and I have Wifi and a few minutes to write, so I will!

Today was kind of grueling. We did a lot of driving but we saw a ton of great stuff along the way. We woke up early and got a pretty early start. Neither of us were very hungry so we just hit the road. Our big goal for the day was to see the Seal Caves in Florence, so we just started heading that way.

First up, we came across a really nice looking lighthouse at Yaquina head. Our annual national park pass saved us the $7 entry fee (score!) and we decided to bypass the tourist info center and just go straight to the lighthouse. We ended up being the only ones there and got to wander around in peace and silence for about half hour. Mainly, it was a lighthouse, but I had a good time reading about the family that used to live there full time in the late 19th Century. It’s not very long ago that plucking dead people out of the sea was a common occurrence. Maybe it still is.

One of the things that struck me about the lighthouse was the hugely corroded metal finishings around the edges of the house itself. It looked like it may have been copper, and if so, it must have been ancient. Looked as green as the Statue of Liberty.

After leaving the lighthouse we got hungry and Courtney found a nice cafe in our guidebook a few towns down the road. We had a great breakfast and the best scones either of us have ever eaten at Cafe’ Stephanie in the Nye Beach area of Newport, OR. A very inviting and friendly little hole in the wall.

Speaking of guide books, Moon guides have been doing us great service and are highly recommended.

After breakfast we burned many miles to get to Seal Caves in Florence. This is another one I will need to write more about later. the basic gist of it is that you go through a gift shop, walk down a 400 yard path to an elevator buried in the rock, take it down 200 feet and you find yourself in the largest natural sea cave in the world watching sea lions drift in and out calling out to their mates. It’s fucking amazing.

Seal Caves done, we made many more miles and eventually stopped at Don’s Main Street Restaurant in Reedsport, OR for some awesome sandwiches and pie, thanks again to Moon guides and kept on.

Pretty soon we had hit Oregon Sand Dunes state park, or something of the sort. Eventually, the gorgeous coastline of Oregon gives way to giant sand dunes and they are just as spectacular. Even more wonderful is that many areas allow off roading and other 4×4 delights.

After seeing several 4×4 trucks up on the dunes, and seeing a tourist information map showing entry points, I convinced Courtney, must against her better judgement, to go do a little 4x4ing. We found a suitable entry point, hit the gas and promptly felt like we were going to get instantly stuck. I did a quick U-turn and with my sense of adventure (and manhood) feeling much lessened, headed back to the main roads. No worries though, I would get my fill of off roading on Day Three.

One of the notes I made for myself along the way was “Rain, rain, rain.” Not more more to say than that. It has rained basically the whole way. Sometimes hard, sometimes soft, nearly always constant. We’ve been lucky so far in that every time we have stopped to do something outdoors it has not been bad at all.

In Crescent City we stopped at Walmart to pick some cheap binoculars. I should note that so far we’ve stopped at two Walmarts and both have been nicer than more department stores I’ve been to. The one near our house in Renton is a shithole of epic proportions.

Our destination for the night was originally Eureka, but we decided that driving in the dark we would miss too much if we pressed on, so in Crescent City we called the Ravenwood Motel in Klamath, which came highly recommend and booked a stay. Gary recommended we eat in Crescent City since “everything in Klamath is closed”, so we stopped at Pizza King for some good pizza and plenty of local weirdo drama.

Finally, we pressed on to Klamath, found our room at the Ravenwood and called it a night. We were both asleep by 10 so we could be up by 7 for… Day Three.

PCH Day One

Not much time to write as we’re getting ready to start day two, but I wanted to get my thoughts down so I can expand on this later.

We’re roadtripping down the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle to San Diego and back. We don’t have much of a plan except to “See it all”, so that’s what we are doing.

Yesterday, Day One, we got up early(ish) packed the new Explorer full of roadtrip stuff and headed out. Our first destination was Astoria, OR and we made pretty good time there. Stopped in some small town in WA for a new sleeping bag and after driving in rain most of the way we hit Astoria around noon.

We stopped at the Wet Dog Cafe in Astoria for lunch and a tiny beer sample, crossed the Astoria bridge and back cause it looked cool, went and saw the house from Goonies and then hit the road.

Next up was Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach which was awesome. Just as we came around the curve for the town you could see this giant mountain of a rock looming from the ocean.

After an hour or two wandering the tidal pools around Haystack we jumped back in the car and made way for Tillamook to visit the factory where all our cheese and butter comes from. The factory was pretty awesome. One of the lines was pumping out 40 lb blocks of cheddar and it was pretty cool to watch all the industrial automation going on. We also picked up some fresh snacks and got to try “squeeky cheese” which is fresh cheese curds that for some reason squeek against your teeth when you chew them. It’s weird.

From Tillamook our goal was to head for Florence, where is where we are going to see some seals that live in caves, but first we decided to stop for dinner in Pacific City. We ended up at the Pelican Pub and Brewery which I will later write an entire book about. After that we were a little too tired and drunk to keep on to Florence. We ended up stopping at a really nice motel in Lincoln City, the Coho. We got a wide open ocean view and a great room for $100. This morning we got up early to get moving again and got to watch the moon, colored red by the clouds, set over the ocean.

Pictures and more words to come!