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on April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I brew my own beer. It has been a hobby of mine for more than 15 years. When people learn this fact, I get many different reactions. Some people picture me as a chemist, in a white lab coat working with beakers, test tubes, and Bunsen burners. Others envision huge kitchen messes and beers exploding in the basement. Fortunately, the reality and process of beer brewing is quite different. I am not a chemist, nor do I make a huge mess when I brew. There are basically two types of brewing methodologies; all-grain and extract. To debunk many of the myths and misunderstandings of home brewing, I will outline both processes of making beer.

All-grain brewing involves purchasing malt in grain form, and steeping it in hot water for a particular amount of time to create liquid malt. This process is called mashing. When the hot water comes in contact with the grain there is an enzymatic reaction. Starches from the grain are broken down into small sugars and malto-dexterines through multiple stages of reactions. Using different types of grains and changing the temperature of the water will impact the conversion rate and will result in different sugars being produced. The mashing process gives the brewer a considerable amount of control over the types and quantities of sugar in the resulting liquid malt. Although it takes longer and is more complicated, many brewers prefer the all-grain method for this reason. In addition, many brewers feel that the all-grain method results in a higher quality of beer. Given that all major breweries worldwide use the all-grain method, I tend to agree with this theory.

Extract brewing involves purchasing a liquid form of malt that has already been processed. A factory conducts a mash of grains based on a specific mash schedule. The resulting liquid is then condensed and packaged into containers for sale to home brewers. In some cases, the malt is further processed to reduce it to powder form so that it can be shipped easily. Most brewing supply stores sell three to five different types of malt extract. Each type is made using different grains and mash schedules, and will result in different amounts of beer sugars and flavors. Brewers buy the malt extract that is best suited for each recipe. The benefit of extract brewing is that it is a much quicker process. The average extract brewer will save about two hours of time as a resulting of not having to complete the mash step. Unfortunately, the extract brewer loses all control over the amounts and types of sugars in the malt. Brewers are forced to use what the factory provides. Buying malt extract is also more expensive than buying the grains needed to make malt.

If liquid malt extract is used, the malt is poured directly into the boil kettle. For dry malt, the powder is slowly poured into a small container of water while stirring feverously with a spoon. The stirring process ensures that the malt powder is mixed evenly and contains no clumps. Once it is thoroughly mixed, the now liquid malt is poured into the boil kettle. From this point on, the all-grain brewing process is exactly the same as the extract brewing process.

The malt in the boil kettle is heated to a boil for sixty to ninety minutes. Hops are added at different time intervals to change the way that the beer tastes. Once the boil is complete, the wort is allowed to cool and is combined with yeast is a large glass carboy. The carboys are placed in a dark area which has a consistent temperature of 65° to 75°F. The beer ferments for two weeks in the carboy. During this time phase the yeast eats the sugars and nutrients from the malt. As they eat the yeast multiply rapidly and produce alcohol by-products. By the end of the two weeks, the yeast has eaten all of the sugars available in the beer. They become dormant, and fall to the bottom of the carboy. A long plastic tube is used to siphon the beer off of the dormant yeast cells and transfer it into kegs for carbonation and dispensing. One full day after entering the kegs, the beer can be sampled for the first time.

Brewing may sound complicated and time consuming, but the process is easy once you have done it a few times. Choosing between the all-grain and extract process is a personal decision that each brewer must make. There are pros and cons to each method so it is a very personal decision. This decision depends on the brewer’s skill level, equipment, and time available for the process. Ultimately, both the extract and all-grain method can result an outstanding and repeatable beer.

This is the second post in a series recapping some of the more noteworthy and significant events of Clark family in 2010.


Las Vegas
In March, we headed to Las Vegas. Melanie had an Arbonne conference to attend so my mom and I drove down with the boys to meet her and to spend a week seeing the sights. I had just had hernia surgery was looking forward to some downtime in the warmer weather by the pool. Nathan and Zack had a blast going up and down the strip and seeing all of the sites and people. They were amazed by the volcano at the Mirage and the Bellagio fountains. The street performers were a constant but pleasant distraction, and the pool at the condo we stayed in was a daily hit. Towards the end of the week we met up with friends to attend a wedding and after-party. We capped off the trip with tour of the Hoover dam and a journey through the Valley of Fire.
Vegas Photos
Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire Photos


In late April, I joined four close friends and embarked on a truly epic ATV “man-cation” to Moab Utah. For most of us, this was our second trip to the area. Moab boasts the most extreme and unique trails in the United States. We rented a house for a week and stocked it with a kegerator, a small bar worth of alcohol, a stock pile of habaneros, and enough meat products to sustain an Army. We rode some of the sketchiest trails in the country and deep-fried more habaneros and meats than anyone should eat in a year. It was a week of debauchery, and at the end of the trip the casualties were as follows: one compound fracture requiring surgery, triceps tendons torn off the bone requiring surgery, torn meniscus requiring surgery, three flat tires, $900 in damage to an ATV trailer, $400 in parts to rebuild an ATV rear axle, $2500 in damage to an ATV that rolled on the trail, sunburns, and numerous scrapes and bruises. It sounds bad, but we all had awesome time; It truly was an epic experience!
Moab Photos


Lake City
Undeterred by our Moab experience, we took a large group on a 2 week ATV excursion to Lake City, Colorado in June. Located in a remote southwest corner of the state, Lake City is by far our favorite spot in Colorado to ride. There were 26 people in all, and for most this was their first trip to this picturesque riding mecca. It was a pleasant and memorable experience, except for one life-threatening incident near the top of Engineer Pass. My friend’s wife had a diabetic black-out and drove her machine off the side of a 45° rocky embankment. Thankfully, a member of our group riding behind her managed to see the incident, jump off his machine and chase her down the mountain to prevent her from rolling further than she did. Search and rescue was dispatched to get her off the mountain and she was taken to the Durango Hospital for treatment and observation. In the end, she escaped with only minor injuries (due to her being unconscious when she was rolling) and we were all reminded of the ever present danger associated with our pastime.
Lake City Photos


North Carolina
In July, the family hopped on a plane to Fayetteville, North Carolina to visit Melanie’s sister and mom. Melanie was raised there and she and we met for the first time while I was stationed at Fort Bragg. It was fun to visit our first apartment together, and many of our old haunts. The boys enjoyed hearing the stories of how we met and seeing the places that we had lived. They loved hearing about my experiences as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. We visited the Airborne and Special Operations Museum that had opened after we moved away. Towards the end of the trip, we visited some old friends of Melanie’s family at Wrightsville Beach. The best part was having plenty of time to catch up with Melanie’s mom, her sister, and my two nieces. It was a great trip!
NC Photos


Taylor Park
One of the last camping trips of the year was held in Taylor Park near Buena Vista, Colorado. In all, we had five RVs/Toyhaulers and more than 20 friends attend the outing. Over the course of the weekend we rode numerous trails, cooked community meals, and shared stories around giant bonfires (the new party-o attachment to our Toyhauler was also a huge hit.). The kids did their best to blaze new ATV trails up and down the road near our site and the dogs played themselves to exhaustion. We created our own community there in the mountains and had a blast enjoying the outdoors.
Taylor Park Photos


John Martin
John Martin Reservoir and State Park was our last boating trip of the year. We brought our Toyhauler and my buddy Jay brought his boat for a long weekend of camping and water fun. As usual, we had the lake to ourselves and enjoyed glass-like water conditions. By the end of the weekend, everyone on the boat had gotten up on skis. Even the kids were riding the tube after spending the whole summer being too scared to go out. It was definitely the best boating trip of the summer!
John Martin Photos


San Francisco
In November, I surprised Melanie by flying her to San Francisco for the weekend while I was on a business trip. We stayed at a trendy boutique hotel in the downtown area and went on a night tour of Alcatraz Island. Our good friends Stuart and Val came down from Santa Rosa to spend a day with us along the wharf. Other highlights included a visit to Point Rey, National Seaside and lighthouse. It was great to get some alone time with Melanie and have a few quiet dinners without interruptions from the kids.
San Francisco Photos


Last but not least, I spent two weeks in Penang, Malaysia in December. The purpose of the trip was to meet two new employees that I acquired with my recent position change. Thankfully, I had a weekend and some time off to explore the surrounding area. I spent the evenings exploring hawker stands and the broad diversity of food offerings. During the weekend I moved to Georgetown to visit historic Fort Cornwallis and the many temples and sanctuaries. I thoroughly enjoyed Penang, its people, and food and I can’t wait to return!
Penang Photos

Hope to see you in 2011!!

The Clark Clan just returned from a event week of fun and warmer temperatures in Las Vegas. The week started out a bit rocky for me as I still had a lot of pain and discomfort as a result of hernia surgery that I underwent a few days prior to leaving (the 12-hour drive didn’t help things either). However, by the end of the first weekend I was feeling mostly human again.

We took Nathan and Zack around the whole strip, seeing all the cool sights like the lions, aquariums, statues, fountains, free shows and street performers. For them, it truly was a paradise of sensory overload. Aside from the strip we toured the Vegas Museum of Nature and Science, the Hoover Dam and we spent half a day exploring rock formations and discovering petroglyphs in the Valley of Fire State Park.

We broke up the activities and trips with days lounging at the pool while the boys played in the waterfall and kids splash park that was at the timeshare. While we were away, snow storms raged in Colorado and we paid for it a bit on the way home. I-70 was closed in Vail and were were stuck on the freeway for about an hour there. It snowed heavily through Colorado the entire trip home but it was worth the long drive to spend a week of fun in the sun!