Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stone Brewing

When I arrived at Stone I was very unsure of whether I had actually arrived. There is no sign on the exterior of the building that I was able to see. I figured a brewery with an "in your face" attitude would have a sign that would shame Vegas. Not so. The only thing I saw as I entered the parking lot was a sign that read "use next entrance", I ignored that sign and entered the lot to park my bike. I later found out that the cute little gargoyle on the Stone bottles is a real stickler for parking rules and regulations. I walked around the front of the building to find the doors locked. I amused myself with the expertly maintained garden in the front of the building while waiting for Stone Brewmaster, and my host for the day, Mitch Steele to come retrieve me from the front door.

I was given an exceptionally warm welcome by Mitch and the rest of the crew. Everything seemed to be in order for an informative day at Stone. The next thing I remember is the Gargoyle swooping in from the rafters and whisking me off to a gigantic pest containment cage so that I could be held under his watch until further notice. It seems my parking lot entry steamed him up and gave him reason to distrust me. No bother, I was given coffee and snacks during my stay in the cage and I found it quite pleasant. From my position in the cage I was able to notice how tightly spaced the newly added fermenters are. I was also able to see the warehouse operations crew in action as they performed their finely orchestrated forklift ballet in order to keep product moving out of the facility.

 Upon convincing the gargoyle I was not a threat to Stone or it's brewers I was released into the hands of Tim Roser. Tim's food science degree led him to seek a career in brewing. His 4th day of solo brewing led him to be saddled with this traveling brewer asking a quarter of a million questions about a process Tim is just starting to fully grasp. Some guys have all the luck right? Tim and I did get a chance to discuss the learning benefits of explaining what you are doing during each minute of your day. Tim is one brewer in a team of brewers working in 24 hour, 7day a week schedule. In this format the team of brewers have taken Stone from 400Bbls of beer in 1996 to somewhere near 150,000Bbls this year. Stone IPA will be nearly half of that production. Tim was temporarily freed from his purgatory by Jeremy Moynier who led me off to detail more of the fun at Stone.

Jeremy obtained his love of beer in part through harvesting grapes at a winery. He said "Finishing the harvest and being covered in sticky grape juice really made us thirsty. We drank a lot of beer at these times and this is where I developed my taste for, and love of craft beer." When it was time for a career change Jeremy found Stone and applied for a brewing job here. There was a filtration job available at the time and it quickly led to a brewing position when Jeremy showed his talent for the job. Jeremy and I checked out Stone's wood aging area and discussed a collaboration in the works with some other breweries involving used Scotch barrels. I got an opportunity to ask questions about why everything looks so new. It turns out that Stone has been in this facility for only five years, has filled it to near capacity with vessels, and is nearly ready for another facility to brew from. There are many other interesting projects coming your way from Stone in the months and years to come. Check the Stone website for good information on those. After discussing as many things as my caffeine addled mind could muster I finally shut up and let Jeremy talk. It turns out that the greater San Diego area is going through a food and beer renaissance. This is turning an ever increasing amount of focus on local beer and food. This new awareness of local beers has created an environment in which more than thirty craft breweries are able to thrive. In addition to thriving the breweries created the formidable San Diego brewers guild and invited all the area beer bars to join as well. This makes for a very open and friendly local brewing scene in which ingredients are sometimes shared. In addition to adding benefits for all of the brewers and bars involved it makes for a great yearly beer fest in Liberty Station. I even got to hear about why there is no sign on the brewery in one sentence - "If people want to find us they will." The amount of customers in the visitors center and pub at 11:30AM on a Monday morning instantly added weight to that statement.

The Gargoyle was watching.....

After a nice walking tour of the brewery with Jeremy I was invited to join him for lunch in the beer garden. Lunch was sausage and sour kraut with some other accompaniments. It was great to get a nice lunch without having to pay. After this I was determined not to raise a fuss over the brief, possibly necessary, caging.

After being fed I re-joined Tim for some more brewing. I was asked if I would like to add hops to a batch of Stone IPA. Of course I do! I actually got to make an addition to a batch of beer that many people will enjoy and that is a very cool thing, no matter how many times you've done it. After the hop addition we headed off to the lab to find a number of interesting things. I will repeat what I said earlier in this project, the lab is usually the place to be for fun.

That guy to your right is Phil. He is wearing black latex gloves in 
an effort to keep his bare hands off of the vanilla beans he is breaking up. He is breaking those vanilla beans into small pieces so that they may be added to a 1000mL flask to be heat sterilized in an effort to make them suitable to add to a wooden barrel full of porter. All of this labor is done so that people can enjoy the barrel aged vanilla porter Stone releases locally from time to time. I think you know what to do when you see Phil.

After talking with Phil for awhile about his day and his job, missing another valuable chance to learn to do a yeast cell count in the process, I moved out to the cellar to find Tim again. The freedom to roam for a minute allowed me to spy an astounding array of colors out of the corner of my eye. I followed it to the best of my ability. It was moving so fast I wasn't sure what it was until I caught the bright streak back in the lab.

That is Drake. This is Drake's second week at Stone. He is the newest member of the brewing staff, and the resident wardrobe expert. His story at Stone begins with a move across the country. He has been working in breweries for 4 years but your guide on this journey has forgotten to write down where. He wanted to continue the non stop adventure that brewery work has to offer, and he is getting a change in scenery to boot. In the first week of his employment here he helped chop upwards of 2500 pounds of pumpkin for a project that is in the works. This is common ground for new brewers. When you start at a brewery you will rarely get a chance to actually make beer. Instead, your efforts will normally go towards the process of creating the things that make beer happen, whether it is cleaning tanks or chopping gourds your early days in a new brewery will be spent as a facilitator.

I did finally catch up with Tim again. This time he was cleaning up a mess that I helped make while we were measuring and adding hops. I decided it was time to give him a break and I left to go grab a beer before I departed.

This is Kayle. There is a good chance that you will see him when you visit Stone. If you're nice he might pour you one of the great Stone offerings. He also might pour you any one of the 32 great beers available in the classy on premise bistro. He will probably be incredibly patient with you when you forget the in house internet password 15 times in a row. Before you leave the pub don't forget that Kayle should be tipped heavily for these services.

This is where I ended my day at Stone. I was welcomed to sit with Phil, Kihei, and Matt to enjoy some after work (for them) beers. It was nice to taste, discuss, and enjoy some great beers with these guys and not be in a position where I felt the need to constantly ask questions. While what I am doing is not exactly work, it is not exactly relaxing either. Luckily it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Cheers to everyone reading. Thanks very much to Stone.

Look out for that gargoyle.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Red mountain pass to Silverton, CO

Riding a motorcycle is the only method by which I can stay entirely sane. I get excited every time I look at my bike (and yours too, so you better cover it up). In an effort to help you to gain an understanding of what a motorcycle means to me I would urge you to take a look at the one thing that gives you hope, whatever that may be. Now, take that one thing you have in your mind and imagine it carrying you to the farthest reaches of the globe. Now I must apologize if your Grandmother was your bringer of hope. All jokes aside, whatever this thing is that you have pictured it probably can't take you anywhere near as far as a motorcycle can. Unless you're thinking of a bicycle, and we all know those people are nuts!. My bike can fit in a box and be shipped by rail in the event the road becomes impassable. My bike can traverse a stream whether on it's own wheels underneath me, or pushed beside me, if I have the strength. Without going too far let's just say my bike is the answer. Now, if you were to ask me if I would like to traverse Red Mountain Pass by car in a mix of rain and sleet, with the offer of a beer on the other side, I would have exclaimed without a seconds delay, "shit no we can buy beer at the store!" Given the chance to do this exact same thing on a bike, without beer, I would not hesitate for a moment.

That brings us to the story of Red Mountain Pass. This is route 550, or the million dollar highway, from Ouray, CO to Silverton, CO. The road is part of the San Juan scenic byway, and it one of the most intimidating pieces of pavement I have ever traveled. The Red Mountain pass is only one section of the road and the fun continues all the way into Durango, CO.

On Thursday the 15th of September I awoke with the mythical PBR gremlin inside my skull. After a 15 minute session of thrashing around in bed trying every new position for my head that my neck could provide I decided upright would be the best option for me. Upright with coffee in hand that is. I left the airstream to find this day looking just as awful as the last. Rainy, gray bullshit blanketed the hills and hid the sun. I headed for Glen's house to see if I could remember how to make the cure. After a few minutes of reflection in the kitchen I came to the conclusion that I could make coffee, but someone else could do it without causing my head to throb. I sat down. I waited for what seemed like an hour. I visited the bathroom to see if that would make coffee appear; you know, the way visiting the bathroom makes the pizza delivery person arrive. Finally, the solution was leaving house to arrange my things. Success! When I returned to the house I drank deeply. After a few minutes I began to feel human, and after an hour or so it was time to ride on. The bonus of waiting so long was a clearing of the sky. At least I wouldn't have to start off in rain.

I had to get something in my stomach, and fuel in my tank, in order to make to two hour ride to Ouray. I stopped on the outskirts of town at a gas station to buy a ham sandwich and gas up. I swallowed the ham sandwich in one bite, stuffed my headphones into my ears and cranked up some tunes. The music was as much in preparation for the mountains ahead as it was to dull the thud of what was sure to be a day long hangover.

After a long ride on straight, pointless roads with only feedlots and strip malls to break up the monotony, I finally arrive at 550. I am overjoyed by the prospect of the adrenaline that will soon be coursing through my mind. In equal measure to that excitement, I feel alarm at the gathering gloom that is closing in on all sides. These clouds mean snow where I am headed. If not snow, it will be some sort of cold precipitation that will equal slippery surfaces.
I am not in the mood to slip, I am in the mood to go fast. At least fast enough to peel the remaining rubber from my rear tire before reaching Durango. At this point I have taught myself how to ride with confidence again and I am in the mood to give my bike a proper thrashing at the hands on the San Juan mountains.

After an utterly demoralizing ride through Ouray, in which I had to follow an 18 wheeler at 11.3mph, I finally reached a passing zone about two-thirds of a mile into the first ascent. I cranked into third gear and left the milkman to his reasonable pace. From this point on the road was a series of amazing corners with dizzying drop offs. I rode at the pace the road conditions allowed and made it to the top quickly. The electric gear was paying off again in the sub 40 degree temperatures. I paused for a quick picture and headed back to the bike to keep the ride going. 

I thought I was at the top of the pass when I arrived in the clearing pictured above. This was due to a combination of things. The rest of the mountains being obscured by cloud cover was the first misleading detail, the second was my failure to check my altimeter in my GPS. I still had another 2000 feet of climbing after this. The road continued to amaze and the riding was the best and scariest I have done on the trip. With this piece of the ride over I pulled into Silverton for lunch. I was lucky to find a brewery.

Imagine walking into a Bar with your significant other to quench your thirst and, upon mentioning you are traveling and jobless, being offered the head brewer and bartender job. Sounds too good to be true right? This is what I thought when the Bartender told me the story of his five days of employment at Silverton Brewing Co. After listening to his story I told him mine. It just so happened that the owner was standing at the bar as well. He pitched the idea to Caroline, the new brewer with 4 days experience in this brewery, and she was fine with showing a fellow brewer around.

 Caroline is the newest brewer at Silverton. After walking in thirsty 4 days before she now can make all the beer she can drink. Silverton Brewery is the bar that tips you back. Caroline was cleaning a tank and doing some other brewery housekeeping tasks. She managed to take the time to share what she had learned about the area and the brewery in her 4 days. In a town where nearly 75% of the business shut down in the winter SBC manages to stay open due to business from the 2 ski areas in town. We basically hung out in the brewery and talked about brewer stuff until I realized I was probably holding up the works. I snapped some photos and made my way out the door to reach Durango, CO by the days end.

The brew system and fermenters are in the basement. The mash tun is an adapted dairy tank. There are two other dairy tanks as the kettle and hot liquor tank. The fermentation tanks are leftovers from a small British pub. While talking to the brewer I learned that the basement get so cold in the winter that the fermenters have to be heated up to remain at consistent fermentation temperature.This is something I haven't seen (or thought to about) anywhere else. SBC is another example of what you can achieve with a little extra creativity and clever adaptation. The whole system is very clean and makes terrific beer. While I was there my favorite was a smoked Vienna Lager. This beer was limited in quantity and may already be gone as a result, but if there is any left I recommend it strongly. I also tried the very drinkable IPA to accompany my lunch.

There will soon be another brewery in the small town of Silverton. It will be in the already established Avalanche Cafe. If you find yourself in town be sure to check out both of these places and everything else Silverton has to offer.

I came for the pavement and Silverton Brewing co. was my bonus and much needed rest stop between amazing roads and more amazing roads. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Welcome to the mind of Glen Fuller.

Glen Fuller kills an organic pear.
This will be special for sure....

I left Boulder to go get a Monday afternoon tour of New Belgium. That is one incredibly special brewery. I didn't write anything down about New Belgium. For me, it was more of a chance to geek out on a cool brewery and relax with some beers. The reality has finally hit, I am not going to work at every single brewery I visit. I did try to do something there but I was too nervous about hitting the road to properly spend a day there. I was informed by one of the brewers that I must hit the Red Mountain Pass to the southeast of Fort Collins. I took the longest way possible to get there going north around Rocky Mountain National Park. This circuitous route landed me in the small town of Paonia, CO after a long tiring day of riding.

Revolution Brewing Co. -

The entire reason for my stop in Paonia was RBC. I pulled into town feeling like hammered shit and in need of a bed. So far, in spite of my grand plans to camp 85% of the time, I find myself needing a hotel most nights due to my need of internet connections and a bed. I found RBC first. I think their operation started about 4 years ago. They make terrific beer and serve brats every night. I really enjoyed their fresh hopped Backyard Beauty. I'll let you guess where those hops came from. In this case their beer turns out to be nearly irrelevant in spite of it's quality. You see, Revolution is the reason I met Rich, without meeting Rich I never would have met Glen Fuller, and if I weren't cheap I would have paid the $20 to pass through the RMnP and missed the whole deal.
Rich and his Honda 70. Less than 800 miles on that beast.
I wish you were there to see it -

I was lead to the Rising Sun Farm by Rich. He on his Honda 70 step through and I on my trusty VStrom. It was a short, chilly ride to the location of the 35 acre farm, the first organic certified hop farm in Colorado. We searched the bailing area for a minute before I remembered I was told to expect people in the kitchen around 9am for coffee. We headed back to the house where Glen came out to greet us. The irony of Rich's kick ass leather jacket combined with the Honda 70 was the first subject of conversation. Once we clarified just how the 70 and the jacket worked so well together we all went inside for some strong coffee.

The house looked like I expected it to look. The fact that it was harvest time means there is not much time to clean, sleep, or eat. There was a significant amount of clutter as a result. We've all been in a position where the dinnerware timeline is counter, clean, use, with no time to put things in the cupboard. The most important thing to me was coffee. I spent the night before writing and consuming a 6 pack of New Belgium's Abbey Double. Perfect preparation for what was potentially going to be a long day working outside in the sun. After Glen filled my cup I was invited to join the group at the table. I was greeted quietly. At first I was nervous that I wasn't entirely welcome. I quickly learned there had been massive amounts of rum, beer, and tequila finished off the night before. I was slightly concerned that if I played my cards right I might get vomited on at some point in the day. Luckily I am absolute garbage at cards.

Glen was determined to show me his web page before we did anything outside. When the website didn't work this earned me, and the rest of the crew at round table, an opportunity to hear a story about collectible items sales gone wrong, near loss of life, and redemption as told by "Herbert" a computer specialist and seed collector, through an Iphone on the table. It turns out that if you attempt to corner "Herbert"  in a vacant field under the guise of receiving help with your broken down truck you'd better make damn sure "Herbert" is as meek and uncoordinated as he appears to be (and unarmed) or you might lose a finger and gain a new asshole. I really am unable to go any deeper than that, let's just say that after hearing this story I was ready to excuse myself to the road and give up all hope of ever seeing a hop farm. These could not possibly be normal farmers if they had a friend who would tell this kind of story before bacon. I convinced myself to stay by repeating over and over again, "Rich seems unconcerned. It's Colorado, I'm sure people shoot at each other every day." It worked and I stayed. I am so glad I did.

Let's go to the Hops -

What you see above is me in the largest pile of dried hops I have ever seen. They are waiting to be bailed. There are two more piles of equal size just beyond the wall in front of me. The baler just arrived from Poland and was not 100% ready to go yet. Baler prep was about to be worked on by Carl with a small amount of help from me. The idea was to have a hopper that would dump into the top of the baler. The hopper would be made of wood and roll on an inclined plane. Rope would be run through pulleys attached to both the hopper and the uppermost point of the structure in order to make moving the hopper up the plane towards the dump point much easier. Does anyone remember first grade? The things you learned there still apply. 

This is what the assembly process looked like. Carl would look at his work for a few minutes, make a few motions with his hands, there would be an audible sound of approval, and the next step would begin. It took about 2 hours to get to the stage in the final photo. Not bad for what was pretty much free building. To say Carl is a solid carpenter doesn't really do him justice, he had a plan in his head for this setup and free built it. I was blown away by the simplicity and accuracy of his wheeled dump- hopper design. 

While the employ were harvesting the final Chinooks they left me with the task of getting the fire in hop dryer burning properly. With the ample amount of coconut rope lying on the ground a fire was going in minutes. 

The dryer has a series of tubes above the firebox that push dry air into the ventilation duct. That dry air is then humidified slightly and pushed into the hop drying room. What you see above is the hop drying set up. Essentially, these are large screen-bottomed enclosures that allow that dry air to circulate through the hops. There is another layer of hops underneatch the ones you can see. This lower level will be dry before the upper level. This setup allows for stock rotation to take place. Dry out - Wet in - Almost Dry down a layer. At first glance this looks like a hard maneuver but there is a pivot system at the back that makes it a simple operation for one man. 

Step 1A. is the removal of a bottom tray from the bottom set of rollers (not pictured) Step 1B is rolling a top tray backwards onto the pivot/pusher system.

Step 2 (right) is to push the tray forward with the pivot/pusher system . Step 3 is not pictured. It involves walking to the front of the dryer and pushing the trays back so that a new one can be added.

This design was a joint effort between Glen and Carl. This setup will not be in place next year if Glen  can get his "European" drying room built in time for the next harvest. The room where I was laying in hops will be the tasting room for the Rising Sun Brewery that Glen is planning. As Glen was telling me more of his plans for the property the hops showed up and we were ready to sort.
They are returning with what is probably the last of the hops in the field. During my time at the farm this created a palpable excitement. Everyone had a smile on their face the whole day in spite of what must have been earth shattering hangovers.

This is the Wolf machine used to pick the hops from the vines. It is one of three Glen has brought back from Poland. In order to get this one he went to Poland and dismantled, shipped and sold two others. He then bought this one for his own operation and shipped it to himself. This is a lot of work with the only payoff being the ability to do lots more work. Since Glen took the other ones apart he learned how to assemble the pickers and I'm sure he did some craft upgrades as well. This machine will run much faster than the team can keep up with. As a result variable frequency (motor speed) drives were installed to lower the speed. On the right you will see a nice stack of hops being fed to the wolf. They enter the machine and get "gently assaulted" by many sets of rotating fingers. This separates the hops from the vine without destroying the hops. It also, mostly, keeps hops, stems, and leaves separated. To counter the slight ineffectiveness of the machine there are sorters at the outfeed conveyor. That's what I got to do for some of the morning. The work was over relatively quickly and that was a good thing because it started to rain very hard at about 1:30. At this point we went on an all out assault on a few 30 packs of PBR and communed with nature.

The last thing that a hop farm brings to mind is mortal terror. Nevertheless those were the thoughts I had early in the day as the voice of a vigilante programmer poured from the speakerphone. Luckily for me I am a little too crazy to be afraid of people. The day slowly wound down with us sitting in the shop trading stories of jobs and arrests past and future. We got to know each other in the best way possible - over beers.

That's Jim communing with nature.

The night definitely got slightly ugly later on when Marcy, Glen's girlfriend, decided that I was "queer and after her man". I played along with her, keeping my cool, knowing that this must be some sort of test of character. I hope next time we meet I can find out what my grade was. All in all this was a very real experience with some incredibly real people. Nothing written down can possibly scratch the surface of  the truth of what happened that day. I am not sure how much of it I imagined at this point. The hops were definitely real. As for the rest I guess you'll have to visit Glen's mind and see for yourself.

Thanks to Rich, Glen, Marcy and the whole crew (I told you I'm bad with names) for what is sure to be the most entertaining experience of the entire trip. It was a pleasure to spend a day working with, and getting to know you all.

Next stop Silverton, CO.....followed by Stone in Escondito, CA.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Boulder takes some weight off my shoulders.

After an unexpected depression bout in the middle of what is sure to be the greatest Motorcycle trip of my life (so far) I got the opportunity to work at Boulder Beer Co. in Boulder, Co. Boulder is the oldest craft brewery in Colorado. They got their start on what was essentially a goat farm in 1979. As you enter the building where they have been located since 1984 there are some pretty hilarious pictures of the good old days when a goat could still be used as a bottle opener.

 A little about Boulder Beer -

Boulder has been in the same single location with many of the original brewing and fermentation vessels still in use. Most of the original equipment is still in use today, with new additions made to keep up with customer demand. After 32 years of cranking out top-notch beers, there is actually a series of grooves worn into the Mash vessel from years of a mash rake sliding there. Since there were nearly no small breweries in 1984 most of the equipment in the brewery was adapted or custom made in the early years of operation at Boulder. This would be true for any of the early comers to the craft industry. Everywhere in the brewery,  from the adapted wort chiller that started it's life at a dairy farm to the insulation wrapped fermenters in the old cellar, there is evidence of the ingenuity that has made craft beer successful. When this brewery was started there was no network of raw materials vendors in place for the craft industry. This made sourcing malt and hops very challenging. In the beginning Boulder bought theirs from the good people at Coors. The mill used at Boulder is over 100 years old! Using a machine that is destined to be a museum piece is a bold move. If anything breaks parts must be made rather than purchased. Brewing beer isn't always pretty, it is messy work in a hot cramped environment. Most breweries in America are a far cry from what you will see when you tour a regional powerhouse or a national macro brewery. You will see transfer hoses rather than acres of gleaming stainless steel transfer piping. There will be few automated valves, and the floor will look like it's actually been walked on. When you are in a small brewery you will actually see brewers moving about quickly as they try to open or close valves to save precious product from being lost. When you enter the packaging area, rather than seeing 3 people calmly watching an operation status screen, you will see a group of workers who could easily be mistaken for extreme OCD cases due to the intensity and calculation of their every move.


Working at Boulder Beer -

When I entered the doors at Boulder I felt like I belonged there. I'm pretty sure this is a major key to the continuing success of this 3o,ooo Bbl brew pub. I was put to work immediately after a nice tour of the facility. This entire trip one thought has continues to follow me. If I were a brewery owner, or a production manager, and someone like me was offered up, I would work that person like a rented mule. I would give them the hardest job I could and see what happened. I have been hoping more people would do what I would do. Luckily for me, Boulder put me to work. I haven't worked on a packaging line that moves this fast where full cases are stacked by hand. I quickly realized my experience on a more automated bottling line had spoiled me. Bottling beer is hard enough when you have all of the luxuries afforded to you by working for a larger brewery. When every case needs to be placed on a pallet by hand that just makes you sore. Cheers to the people industry wide who do this each day. It's not easy. It is now two days later and my shoulders and back are still protesting.


After the 12oz bottling run there was a 1 hour period of down time where the employees changed the line over to handle 22oz bottles. I'm sure this was made significantly slower due to me asking questions about the process along with general brewery questions. As it turns out a majority of the bottling personnel are new employees. This came as a complete surprise to me. It seemed they knew exactly where to be and what to do at every moment. I left the bottling line incredibly impressed.

How I got here -

My day of work at Boulder is owed partly to my friend Tamar. She offered me her extra ticket to a beer event that Boulder was hosting for their 32nd anniversary. Once I was at the event I met David Zuckerman, Brewmaster of Boulder Beer. He seemed to like what I was attempting to do and invited me in for a day. Thanks David and Tamar.

David Zuckerman tells me about the brew house at Boulder.

The Beer Event -

As I have only been on the other side of the table at brewery events I grabbed the free ticket and ran with it. I wondered what it would be like to actually enjoy an event on such a basic level. Sure it's fun for the brewers when so many loyal beer lovers come out and tell them their beer is the greatest. Who doesn't want to be appreciated? The thing is, they already knew they made a quality product before they walked in the door. What they really want is to enjoy their weekend away from work with some beer of their own. What I really wanted to know was - Is it really as much fun for the guests as it seems to be? I was on my motorcycle so I was in no position to over-indulge myself. This left me calculating every beer choice I made. It basically came down to what I hadn't had before. This seemed like a solid plan at first.....I quickly realized I was in a state I had never been to, at an event dominated by beers I had never had. It got complicated very early. I had a lot more beer than I wanted to early in the event. This left me unable to try a few things I should have, it also left me unable to leave immediately after the end of the event. Normally I walk or take the train to a beer event. This time I had arrived by motorcycle. Since I am living on my bike I needed to leave by motorcycle. I ended up having an hour long phone conversation on the sidewalk to allow time between drinking and riding. This was after not having a beer for at least an hour before leaving the event. Next time I go to one of these things I will be arriving by any means other than personal transport. What I learned from this experience is this - It is really hard to pace yourself with so much awesome beer around, and so much competition to try the awesome beers you wish you could try. Having finally learned that I will feel a lot different about being accosted by - uhmm, overenthusiastic beer lovers when I'm on the other side of the table.

My experience at this brewery was a great one. I loved working there for the day. Had I done even a tiny bit of research (other than beer related) before walking in I would have realized they serve great food at this brewery! I had a burrito the size of my forearm paired with the Cold Hop ale. This beer was made to celebrate the 28th anniversary of the GABF. This ale was brewed with Maris Otter malt and the character derived from this choice of malt makes it a perfect pairing with a flour tortilla filled with greatness. If you're in the Boulder area don't miss a chance to experience the beer and atmosphere at Boulder Beer Co.



Today I am going to bail hops at a Hop farm in Paonia, CO. I would up here because I was tired and when I saw a small brewery called Revolution Brewery on the street I decided this would be a good town to stop. I me a guy named Rich who told me about a hop farmer in town. Minutes later the farmer walked in and we talked about his farm. That led to me asking if I could work there for a day.........

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quick ups and downs update

I have been enjoying the roads around the Longmont/Boulder area of Colorado for the past 3 days. The riding here is so amazing I decided to take a few days to myself to camp in the mountains and relax a little.

This is what I was greeted with after my first night of camping. I guess it got pretty cold overnight. I know I woke up very cold. I geared up and got on the bike as fast as I could, mostly so I could enjoy all the benefits of my heated gear. I had no agenda for the day. Intending to keep it that way I rode around as aimlessly as possible looking for the most interesting roads in the area. I am confident that I found them, and in doing so I gained back more confidence in my riding skills. This was much needed as the crash early in my trip left me a little lacking in that area.

After getting re-acquainted with my bike in it's slimmed down state I stopped to play on the rocks.

It was nice to ride my bike unencumbered by the extra 185 pounds that have taken residence on its backside. The day never really warmed up beyond 65 in the higher elevations. This coupled with the dry climate left me using my heated gear most of the day. I am glad I didn't lose it with my other gear. I stopped to take pictures more often on this day than any other so far. I had, at this point, decided to make a conscious effort to be in the moment and stop obsessing over the missing gear.
Have I mentioned that the Rockies are amazing?

When I stopped in the town of Nederland, Co for a much needed coffee break I met a couple from New Zealand who were touring the US. To the left you will see Marco and Ursula. They will be in the US until November. They have been here for 3 months already. We, well they really, talked about how great the couch surfing website is for motorcycle travel. I hadn't even thought of that before our conversation. I think I would rather camp or stay alone in order to keep up with this blog and the ride report on ADVrider.com.

I left the coffee shop feeling very positive about the rest of my trip. I needed to replace the stamps that I lost with my luggage so I sped off to the post office. This is where things took a turn for the weird.

When I arrived I was so confused about the things I was hearing I thought I had lost it for real this time. It was the largest post office I had ever seen and the size and layout combined to produce strange echoes. In combination with the echo effect I thought I heard birds chirping inside somewhere.

When I got to the desk there was a line of one, and someone was following me to the unattended counter. When the attendant (obviously alone) came to the desk, and departed to retrieve the current customers items the woman behind me said "you can get my ducklings while you're back there!" I knew I should leave at that moment. There had to be another post office somewhere in Colorado where I wouldn't have to deal with lunatics. Instead of leaving I asked "ducklings, did you ask for ducklings?"  She did! Apparently you can receive ducks by mail.

Now, I am relatively easy to impress. There are plenty of things I haven't seen. I am sure a $500 bill would keep me occupied for a shockingly long time. I'm sure you can understand that I was simply floored by the ducklings! They were in a cool little box with air holes and a live animals sign was taped to the sided. The babies were going apeshit over being trapped in there. I would too I guess. Bree is the keeper of the ducklings. Apparently her other ducks were consumed by the family dog. That made me just sad enough that the appearance of a box of ducklings left me 92% happy. Not so bad for a visit to the post office.

So far, this trip has been an up and down experience. This comes as a surprise to me. I wasn't under the impression that this would be a challenge free experience. Of course I realize living on the road will always be more challenging than being steadily anchored. This realization does nothing to diminish the shock I feel at the steady stream of odd occurrences that have come my way. From losing my top-case with a majority of my belongings to receiving an email that it was found and a.) not turned in to the authorities and b.) probably not ever going to be returned to it's rightful owner and c.) eventually receiving threatening emails from the "person" who now has my things. In addition to the threats in the email there is a suggestion of returning some, but not all, of my belongings. The person in question also tries to help me by categorizing my items in order of importance. I'll decide what those things are worth thanks very much. There are some strange folks out there....Kansas I'm looking in your direction.

After my amazing day of Rocky mountain exploration I returned to my campsite slightly after dark. I decided to start a fire and organize my things in order to leave camp more easily the following morning. Upon attempting to gain access to my side cases I was rewarded with a frightening *snap* instead of the satisfying feeling of opening a lock. This, to me, is more than minor inconvenience. I now am unable to gain access to my hatchet, matches, lantern, and other necessities. If you're quick you realize this also leaves me unable to return my tent and other heavy camping items to their temporary homes. At this point I just shut down completely. I started a fire very quickly with my lighter (good thing I didn't lock all of my incendiaries in the cases!) and some paper, and coals from the day before. I then sat there and contemplated my options. I could have brought a spare key, you'll notice that this isn't an option since I didn't do it. The spare key thought dominated my thoughts until logic finally prevailed by sending me the idea to call Katie or go to the motorcycle shop where I replaced my topcase. Good enough for one night. After figuring out what to do I enjoyed an Avery "Kaiser", a beer from their dictator series (or something). This beer was a strong, 10.2% abv, octoberfest style beer. I won't go into detail on why I liked it - I just did. It was great!

From that point the night was short. I went to sleep hoping for slightly warmer weather than the night before. I got my wish but I was mostly unable to sleep. No big deal. The lack of sleep just meant I would be able to get an earlier start.

I rolled out of my tent at ten of six to start preparations to leave. Not having access to my cases meant having to pack my dry-bag extra full. This created an almost dangerous overcrowding of my riding area. I was pushed so far forward by all the extra bulk that I decided to stand for most of my ride to Fort Collins, CO where I would hopefully fix my lock problem.

Here is Jim, ever the helper, drilling out my lock cylinders so that we may modify my cases to accept new ones. It is a long story with a happy ending because I can now use my cases again.

When I called Beemers and more Motorcycle Works and inquired about GIVI lock hardware the owner said - "we have some things, I'm sure if you come in  we'll work it out." Working it out required some modification of my cases. Ordinarily, one can order matching lock cylinder/key combos from Givi. This is convenient for everyone not currently engaged in a trip. Luckily for me Jim is clever. He had at his disposal set of no matching lock cylinders and a key to match each one. All that was required was opening my current cases to replace the cylinders. Jim ended up going the extra mile for me. Here's how.

Step one - Gain access to cases with broken Key (no picture).

Jim smoothed out the mating surfaces of my broken key. He then inserted the broken tip into the left case lock cylinder. Once that was complete he made sure it was seated with a fine pick. He then used the upper, red handled section of the key in it's almost intended way by placing it in the cylinder behind the broken off piece. This worked like a charm for this one case. the other one had to be drilled.

Step two - Decision time.

Do we use two unmatched lock cylinders? This will be simple to install but leave the end user with a small, but easily dealt with problem - too many keys. The second option is modifying the lock cylinder that hasn't been destroyed to accept a different key and then install the lock cylinder that is made for this dey in the other side case. While seemingly convoluted this was the best option. It was easily achieved by Jim in about 30 minutes from beginning to end. Now I can use my cases and only have to thing about 2 keys, the top case key and the side case key. Very nice.

Leaving the shop for the second time in a week I felt a renewed sense of confidence in my fellow man.
I also felt a new optimism about my trip. This was sure to last. No?

No. Today I have acquired my third netbook of the trip due to my second one having a critical failure of the charger. Before today I was unaware that such a simple device could fail. When I couldn't find a charger at either Best Buy or Batteries Plus I decided to return to the former and exchange my second netbook for yet another one, complete with charger. It is so silly to have to do that but I am lucky it worked. I have also been lucky to meet so many helpful and interesting people on my trip. I am definitely grateful for that. All of these meetings were caused by problems. So far the only problem that is unresolved is the initial lost luggage problem. The police have been relatively helpful right up to the point of the county where my case is most likely located. I can't get any action there. Oh well.

What this all boils down to in the end is that I will be at Boulder Beer Company tomorrow! There will be more Beer related content as a result.

Thanks for reading.