Category Archives: Homebrewing


Last week I went kiteboarding four days in a row, and I can now state with absolute confidence that I am a kiteboarder. I did make a second attempt at windsurfing, but after following that weak-sauce swim lesson with the best kiteboarding session of my life, my mind is now pretty much made up.

While my skills at windsurfing continue to go nowhere, my kiteboarding is absolutely on fire. The other night I rode for two hours, completely lit up on my nine meter Omega, and I kept it together the entire time. And when I say I was lit up, I mean it. These were conditions that even a week ago would have had me at their mercy, dragging my battered and boardless self into the Hood River Bridge. I had my kite completely depowered and my bar all the way out, and even with that I still had to edge upwind like crazy to keep the power out of the kite. Before I knew it I was up to the White Salmon Bridge, wondering for the first time ever how I was going to find my way back downwind.

On Sunday it was nuking, and Bea let me borrow her six meter Boxer SLE for the afternoon. Despite being underpowered I was doing great on the smaller and unfamiliar kite, and Bea eventually left me alone to find some cleaner air upwind. It wasn’t long until everything fell apart. There is a huge hole right in front of the Delta where the wind is super light, and I had already teased it a number of times that day. Finally the hole got the best of me, and I hit it in a lull and dropped the kite.

Lacking enough wind to get back up, the kite flipped and rolled a couple times, and once that happened a relaunch was out of the question. I wrapped up my lines so I could grab the kite, and cradling my board began the slow swim back to land. After all my gear was safely ashore, Bea and I spent the next hour untangling my kite lines.

While walking back to the Marina we described this particular session as consisting of “swimming and untangling lines, punctuated with the occasional fit of kiting.” Surprisingly enough, we both considered it a good session. No gear was lost, no gear (and no one) was broken, and even though I had quite an adventure with Bea’s kite, it was still in one piece and I didn’t owe her a new one.

I do owe her a beer for helping me with that rat’s nest of lines, though.

Speaking of beer, my first batch has been done for quite awhile now, and boy is it tasty! It consists of a can of Cooper’s Brewmaster Selection Wheat Beer hopped malt extract, and three pounds of Breiss Bavarian Weizen dry malt extract. Pretty straightforward, which is what you want for your first brew, and I must say I’m very happy with the results. It definitely tastes better than a number of microbrews I’ve tried (Flying Dog, I’m looking in your direction), but I can already tell that there’s room for improvement. This batch doesn’t quite have the body that I want in a beer, and I’ve since learned that I can likely accomplish that by using more whole ingredients.

Thus, my second batch of beer is already nearing the end of its primary fermentation. In response to Jon’s indignation when I mentioned that I didn’t add any hops to my first batch, I’m currently making the Pike India Pale Ale from the North American Clone Brews book. This recipe was certainly a doozy to tackle as one’s Second Beer Ever, requiring five pounds of five different kinds of grains, three kinds of hops, and no less than four hours on the stove.

I cooked the wort last Friday after getting back from kiteboarding, starting at 8:30 and finishing around 1:00 in the morning. Fermentation seems to have completely mellowed out by now, so in the next couple days I’ll rack the beer into the carboy to pull it off all the sediment in the primary fermenter. The weather in Hood River has been flunky and rainy this week, which allows for a lot of time brewing beer, but not so much time on the water.


I feel like I rushed the production of this martini, and its quality has suffered noticeably as a result. It seems to be doing its job regardless.

This afternoon, while the guy from Charter was busy fixing my internet connection, I started bottling my beer. The final numbers are in, and damn am I ever pleased. This brew is a full-on unapologetic wheat beer, five percent alcohol by volume, and it came out to yield 46 twelve-ounce bottles.

Right before bottling I pulled a sample for my hydrometer, as well as for my own personal tasting, and I’m quite confident that this first batch turned out just fine. It tastes great, albeit flat at this point, and since I haven’t yet gone blind or witnessed the walls melting I’m going to risk calling it a success. In seven days I will have for myself some Proper Beer.

Some other uncollected thoughts:

I finally found myself a decent (actually, an amazing) haircut here in Hood River. I’ve been going to Hairmasters over near Safeway, and I can speak with absolute confidence that while they might be “masters” of something, it is certainly not hair. My hair is not complicated, and yet every time I go in there I walk out looking like I had a tussle with a weed whacker.

No, I finally gave up on the trans-global-conglomerate haircut chain and went straight to Cathy’s Barber Shop, where I found myself a Proper Haircut. I told Cathy I had this shaggy thing going on that I kinda liked, but that I was looking for a bit of a clean-up. While at Hairmasters my ambiguity has consistently resulted in disaster, Cathy did an absolutely wonderful job with it, and tossed in some nice texturing to boot.

We both waxed poetic for a spell regarding the life of the self-employed/independent, and just like that I was sold. No other barber shop will do. And mind you, what Cathy runs is a pure-bred barber shop, complete with an awesome old-school barber chair. She doesn’t run no hair salon or perm parlor or epidermal treatment facility, she runs a barber shop. Walk-ins only. No reservations. And I’ll go so far as to say that Cathy’s is a bargain at twice the price.

matt pond PA has a new EP coming out, the cover to which I was initially opposed but have since warmed up to. During my most recent exodus to Walla Walla I spun an MP3 CD with my complete collection of matt pond PA, and only after listening to Emblems again did I understand what he was doing with the art direction for his upcoming EP.

Honestly, I now consider the art for If You Want Blood to be a stroke of cross-referential brilliance, and it furthers my conviction that Matt Pond may perhaps be one of the most talented singer/songwriters alive today. The songs he writes, they weave a coherent tapestry of message, place and emotion. One could liken his works to the mythology of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, with their recurring, self-referential themes and characters.

Needless to say, I’ve pre-ordered my copy.

Hooray for Midweek Weekends

My beer’s fermentation has pretty much completely mellowed out, so a couple days ago I transferred it from the plastic fermenter to the glass carboy. I did a fairly decent job at my first siphoning attempt, though I did lose suction a couple times throughout the process. Sometimes foam would travel up the tube from the carboy, and once it reached the racking cane it would lose all suction.

Frustrated with trying to get the siphon going again, I eventually gave up and pitched the leftover beer that was in the fermenter. Fortunately there wasn’t a whole lot left, and much of it was sediment anyway. In the end, I only soaked one pants leg with spilled beer.

In a week I’ll get to fire up the fermentation again, and start bottling my beer. It’s no stretch to say that I’ll probably still get at least 36 bottles of beer out of this deal. That’s good, because down at The Sandbar I’m starting to owe a lot of people beer. These days I’m riding without a board leash, which is quite pleasant and very convenient most of the time. Sometimes, however, I’m getting chewed up by gusts and ending up blown 75 feet downwind of my kiteboard, at which point I depend solely on the good graces of other kiters.

I mean, I’m not a total wanker. While kiting today I must have lost and retrieved my board five times or so without assistance. Usually it’s only ten or fifteen feet away, which is a totally manageable distance, but once today I had to spend a couple minutes relaunching my kite… and that’s all it took for my board to make a break for it. Seriously, when kiteboarding is fun, it’s freaking fun. But when kiteboarding is bad, it’s freaking bad. Luckily, I still have have a 100 percent success rate when it comes to not dying in the pursuit of this sport.

As for that kiteboarding mime who’s been hanging around, I think his days are numbered.

I think I’m actually looking forward to the wind picking up, because once it starts blowing stronger with more regularity I’m going to spend more time windsurfing. While it comes with its own unique challenges, windsurfing is a sport that doesn’t frighten me nearly as much as kiting. If the wind is light I’d rather be out kiting than riding on some huge-ass windsurf gear, but if the wind is nuking I’d be much happier tearing it up on a windsurfer than fighting a kite.

Perhaps tomorrow will be the day. Matters are kind of complicated by the fact that I don’t actually have a windsurf board, but it sounds like our rental shop is willing to help me out during these first few weeks. I might need to tweak my sail quiver a tiny bit as well, but it seems like the rest of my rig components are solid.

Kiteboarding. Windsurfing. I can throw punches from both sides of the bar.


My beer’s fermentation was slow to start on its first day, but now that the yeast has had a bit of time to get its bearings things are cookin’ right along. My closet currently smells like a blue ribbon at an Appalachia science fair. For future reference I know not to pitch my yeast too early, but the good news is that this batch need not suffer for my haste. “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.”

Today I went on an awesome day hike to Tamanawas Falls, a really popular hike near Mount Hood that has become a bit less popular ever since all the bridges washed out in last year’s Glacial Outburst. I parked at the usual trailhead (it seems you can still reach it from the Polallie trailhead as well) and found a 12″ diameter tree that had fallen across the river, granting a 20-foot span over the raging torrent.

After that the hike was pure gravy, except that I was completely unprepared for the sheer scale of Tamanawas Falls. The cascade is fifty feet wide and 125 feet tall, and it roars over a sheer basaltic cliff. The water crashes with such force that it tosses up a thick mist that fills the valley like a cathedral. Thick coats of moss cover everything that the mist envelops, and with some scrambling you can get into a huge alcove that’s actually behind the waterfall.
All that, and I had the place completely to myself.

After hiking I jammed down to The Spit to do some kiting, and was subsequently nuked off the water. Damn, it was gusty today, even for the Gorge. Not even fifteen seconds into my reach I got slammed by a gust, and it was nowhere but downwind for me at that point. I bailed my kite with someone on the beach, and Boardin’ Bob was kind enough to drag my board back into the shallows where I could grab it. Seriously, I owe that guy a beer.

When I got back to the parking lot, I found Adrian nailing someone’s sandal to a post.

I suppose there are two approaches to lost gear.

This weekend I finally got a chance to catch up on what’s happening with the Ham Lake Fire, which is rapidly devouring one of my favorite places on the planet. This is by far the most current and detailed map that I’ve found for the fire, and it really drove home the locality for me. Like, the Gunflint Trail is my neighborhood. That’s where I lived for two summers. I paddled that border route at least a half-dozen times.

I don’t know what to say, except that Sue Prom’s photos already say it all. This one has its own eerie beauty that somehow gives me hope:

Ham Lake Fire Sunset

While this one breaks my heart:

Ham Lake Fire, Burned Canoes

Hobby Farm

Tonight my house smells like a brewery, as I just finished my first attempt at crafting my own beer. It’s going well so far, and while I didn’t commit any large-scale disasters in cooking up my wort, I am a bit concerned that the fermentation isn’t kicking in yet. At 90 degrees, I may have added the yeast too early. It will be another two days before I know definitively, but I seem to have inherited my mother’s knack for killing yeast.

Nevertheless, if this project is successful I will have five gallons of beer at my disposal. I feel the risk is one that is both worthy and calculated.

Meanwhile I’m in the process of charging the battery to my scooter, which I can’t seem to keep juiced up. They recommend not using the electric starter on the scooter when going on trips shorter than twenty miles, and since I’m not yet commuting from The Dalles down I-84 at a suicidal 30 mph, it’s difficult to squeeze a twenty mile trip out of Hood River.

Thus, I’ve been kick-starting the scooter for the last couple weeks hoping that the alternator will charge the battery back up, but every time I neglect the poor girl for more than two days the battery goes right back to zero. Once that happens I can’t, for the life of me, get the darn thing started, and when I finally do it belches blue smoke.

I am told that the smoke is the result of the scooter still trying to burn through a batch of chainsaw oil, before it can reach the “really good stuff” that it has been topped off with. I am also told that the scooter automatically handles its own two-stroke oil/gasoline ratio, which to me borders on pure alchemy. Everything I know about scooters I learned from a homebrew enthusiast, and everything I know about homebrewing I learned from a scooter enthusiast.

The only reason I had time to brew beer today was because the wind cut out early this evening. Otherwise I’ve been out kiteboarding the last three nights in a row. Bea and I will cut out of work immediately after closing and head down to The Spit (also known as The Sandbar, The Delta, The Boneyard and The Honeypot) for an evening session, and try to make do with whatever wind the gods throw our way.

I have a new kite and board this year, a Cabrinha Omega and a North Jaime Pro respectively, and even though I’m still getting used to them I can already tell that they’re a major upgrade from my old gear. The kite depowers like a dream, which keeps me from getting dragged downwind into the The Boneyard’s gnarly skeletons every time a gust hits. The smaller board edges upwind like crazy, and keeps me from getting blown into the Marina, or under the Hood River Bridge for that matter. Seriously. Bridges are for trolls, not for kiteboarders.

I still have the grab handle on my kiteboard, partially because it’s helpful, partially because it’s hopelessly uncool, but mostly because I love the look I get when I tell people that I’m working on “sick board-off tricks.” That line alone goes a long way in reinforcing my second reason for keeping the grab handle.