Plans for 2022

A yearly stab at setting goals for the oncoming year.
Blog: whitabootery
Categories: 9-minute read

For the last few years, I’ve written a blog post at the start of the year and a summary post at the end of the year.  I’ve found it a very satisfying process and I think that doing so has actually encouraged me to achieve some of the stated goals.  That’s not to say everything I’ve planned has worked out, we all know how the global events of the past few years have caused many disruptions.  However, it seems to be a new tradition for me and one that I am happy to continue with, as such, the following are my initial thoughts for what I would like to achieve in 2022.

Prep house for sale, sell it and offload stuff

Several years ago we decided to have a double-garage renovated into a large livable space.. the contractors we engaged for this work did a half-assed job (at best) then vanished into the ether before completion.  Shortly afterwards we became parents and the renovation work was parked for a while.  I tried on numerous occasions to engage tradesmen to complete the job and almost all were devoid of any interest in finishing someone else’s job.. but we did find someone and finally in the second half of last year progress towards completion started.. the handymen involved have done some great work but the lead chap’s baby boy had emergency brain surgery a few months ago and (very understandably) this caused delays to the completion of the work.  We had hoped to be in a position to put our house on the market this month but realistically it will likely be closer to the end of February, if we are lucky! If we don’t acquire a completion certificate from the council then this project is likely to end up costing us chunk when we sell the house.

After receiving a quote from a Japanese removal company for shifting the little amount of our possessions we wanted to take to Japan, we have realised that we really need to cut back even further!  Already I was only really taking clothes, a few computers, books and brewing equipment so there isn’t a huge amount of scope for cutting back further.  Either way, we’ll have a large house full of stuff to either sell (big ticket stuff only), donate or recycle.  In an ideal world we’d donate everything but realistically finances are going to be tight for a few years in Japan so we need to try and make some pennies by selling some of our possessions.  Particularly, as the UK pound is likely to be comically weak against the yen.

Our current house is the first we bought so we have no experience of selling a house and as such haven’t the slightest clue about timescales etc.  I know that this is a highly desirable area and houses sell quickly but I am not sure about the administrative and legal timescales so I’ll need to look into that tout de suite!

Practice driving

Despite my reticence, I acquired a driving license towards the end of last year and have hence satisfied the contract prerequisite.  Whilst I still lack enthusiasm in this sphere, it is a practical reality that since we’ll be living in rural Japan, I will have to drive.  It is our strong desire not to add to the global fossil fuel consumption levels and hugely favour electric vehicles over internal combustion engine options, however we need to do a reality assessment when we move over to see how likely this is given our location.  It is also our preference to use public transport wherever possible and plausible and to walk or cycle for very local stuff. 

Regardless of what type of vehicle we end up with and how we use it, I need to get some practice in before we leave Scotland as I’ve only driven a manual car thus far.  To this end, we’ll sign up to enterprise car club which is the only real option for a new driver, and hopefully hire electric or at least manual cars somewhat infrequently so as to gain some basic level of competence.

Deepen my growing brewing knowledge

This aim is two-fold, on the one hand, I will continue with my postgraduate programe in Brewing and Distilling and complete the final (of four) courses in December this year.  However, up until now I have been studying whilst working full-time and satisfying many requirements for moving to Japan so I have mainly been studying only to pass assignments, and whilst I have learned a great deal from the courses, I intend to properly study and research many aspects of brewing once I have a lot more time on my hands.

On the other hand, I hope to gain industry experience during the few years that it will take to establish our own brewery.  As I’ve written about on this site a number of times, I have been in contact with a brewer in our future prefecture and he is happy for me to spend some time with him at his brewery!  The details are still to be discussed (in person over some of his delicious sounding beers!) but this is very positive and my hope is that I can similarly spend some time assisting other brewers in the same vein.

Move to Japan

This is obviously an easy one to achieve but there are still some prerequisites to be satisfied and stresses to overcome before we take flight and then we need to get services hooked up (superfast broadband) and furniture purchased for our new rental house, only after which will I consider the move complete.  Hopefully further down the road we’ll be in a position where we can build our own house but that will almost certainly not start in 2022.


Continue sustainability drive

For the past few years we’ve been trying to do our bit to lessen our impact on the global climate emergency, moving to rural Japan gives us a renewed opportunity to go even further.  I plan to write a dedicated blog post on our current and future efforts, we’re not experts but are doing our best and will continue to make improvements as we go forward.


Find brewery location and start the ball rolling

Once we get to Japan, we need to find a suitable location to build a brewery and lease or buy the plot.  Whilst it is possible that there may be a building in the area that might be suitable for our purposes, it is our preference to build our own place from the ground up so that sustainability is a guiding principle in the design and resource provisioning.  In addition to finding a suitable location and starting to build the brewery, we need to build a business case and do a considerable amount of paperwork to acquire licenses to brew and sell beer.  How much of this is viable in our first year especially given it’ll probably be in year three that our brewery opens is unclear, but efforts will certainly be made to make progress in this regard.


Collaborate with others for the benefit of the community

When I refer to community I really mean communities as there are distinct groups of people that I want to help, there is the local village community, the prefectural brewing community, the island-wide brewing community, sustainability-related communities and under-represented communities (women, LGBTQIA+, minorities, charities etc.).  In each case, I want to volunteer my skills (or lack thereof) to help these communities with their particular challenges however I can.

Spend more time with family

Work-life balance is key for this next year and all subsequent years!  We have another baby on the way and I want to be as much a part of raising her as I have been already (and will of course continue to do) with our first daughter.  Despite the work required to achieve all that we wish to achieve, this will be done via a framework that guarantees dedicated family time.  Our future life is going to be a simpler one, built around three very basic needs - family, food and drink.

In some regards this aim equates to normality and perhaps not something that necessarily requires specifying in plans for the year, I don’t think it is exceptional for a father to want to spend time with and share the responsibility of raising his family, but for me, I feel like it is of paramount importance that I reaffirm my commitment to family time at the start of each year as it will be a guide in the many decisions I will have to make in the coming year.


Spend more time cooking

Throughout the past year, whilst I have still been cooking a fair amount, I haven’t spent as much time planning and making delicious food, rather I’ve been cooking in order to share the load in the provision of household meals.  This is because I have spent so much of the time that I previously spent cooking, brewing instead.  This had to happen and I have no regrets but I love cooking and when we move to Japan, I’ll have a whole new selection of ingredients to learn about, which excites me. 

As our daughter Islay has developed she has, perhaps unsurprisingly, gained an interest in growing food and cooking and some of my favourite times in the kitchen of the past year have been spent teaching her how to cook and enjoying eating these dishes together.  I look forward to spending much more time in the kitchen with my wife and kids this year!

Become a forager

Since becoming vegan almost 4 years ago my love for mushrooms has exploded, to the extent that my daughter’s nickname for me is now mushroom.. Over the past year or so, thanks largely to a small number of people on the fediverse and to the accelerating climate emergency, my interest in foraging has also exploded.  I have already bought a number of excellent books and have started tentatively collecting small amounts of fungi from nearby woods just to start working on my identification skills, but time is currently a limiting factor.  When we move to Japan, I really want to hone this skill, I’m not just interested in foraging for mushrooms but the wide range of locally available wild produce (always gathering sustainably) and am developing thoughts around how I might use these in some experimental beers in the future.

Get fit(ter)!

I generally steer clear of this new years' resolution trap, but I’m including it this time as I’m going to need to improve my fitness to be successful in my move from a desk-bound IT consulting hermit to a far more physical career in brewing.  So, once I’ve finally hung my IT boots up (for the second and last time!), I’ll don my trainers and start getting fit again.  Probably the most likely ways I’ll achieve this are through walking, cycling and yoga, though once we’re settled in Japan, I’d really like to add kayaking to this repertoire.

So there we have it, my initial list of aims for the next year, I will keep checking back on this throughout the year and do my best to adhere to them.  I wish you all luck in your own endeavours throughout the coming year.

頑張ります!


Smashed it

Notes on brew days #18, #19 & #20
Blog: brewshido
Categories: 4-minute read

After a slow start to my series of six single hop and single malt (SMaSH) beers and a small departure from the series, I returned to complete a very satisfying three brew days using some very popular hops. In order of appearance, I used Amarillo, Centennial and Mosaic.

Aside from having a strangely enticing name, the Amarillo hop is one which I’ve seen appear in a number of beers and recipes and is one which is described by hop book author Stan Heironymus as “intensely fruity (citrus, melon and stonefruits)”. It was a very drinkable beer but due to the timing of the hop additions I missed the intensity, as such was my first choice hop in a short series of dry-hopped SMaSH IPAs.

Centennial seems largely to be a ‘support’ hop and I’ve not often seen it as a headliner, which is likely more a reflection of my novice stature rather than indicative of its actual commercial use, however I see it frequently and wanted to see how it faired by itself. It was described by Mr Heironymus in “For The love of Hops” as uniquely floral so I have an eye on it for a potential green tea ally in future creations. The aroma is certainly less fruity than my previous SMaSH beers and the taste is somewhat floral, not quite piney but definitely a hint of a plant.. quite dry to taste as well. I’m not sure that the hop necessarily shines by itself but can see how it could positively influence a beer in combination with other hops.

The final hop in this series is Mosaic, and I’ve noticed that A LOT of brewers like to add this hop in the latter stages to really enhance the aroma of the beers, and though I have not yet tapped the beer, the aroma from the keg on transfer post fermentation was awesome, so I cannot wait to crack this one open. S H says “Rich in mango, lemon, citrus, pine and, notably, blueberry” so I have plans for this one rounding out a future stout idea that I have.

Impressions on mosaic: the aroma isn’t particularly strong, but I suspect that mosaic does most of its magic in the dry hopping stage(s), I picked up notes of fruits but not the sharpness of citrus, this was more of a soft fruit aroma, not stone fruits but maybe faintly berry-ish. The flavour of the beer sort of reinforces this, the (blue)berry hints are subtle and you could be forgiven for missing them completely but in direct comparison to the centennial SMaSH it is fruitier, also the hop flavour itself whilst just as pronounced as the centennial beer is a little lighter and more refreshing in comparison.

Note: The centennial and subsequently the mosaic beers were the first to be kegged since I replaced the O-rings in my kegs for the first time and there isn’t the slightest hint of oxidation in either so I’ll definitely need to make it a common practice to replace the rings reasonably frequently to avoid spoiling good beers with uninvited oxygen!


Normally, I’d write a little about the brew days here but they were very uneventful and efficient so not much to say.

The grain bill for each of the beers was 4kg of Maris Otter (Low Colour from Simpsons) and the yeast was White Labs WLP01 California Ale which I opted for because I wanted light, crisp IPAs for this series of beers.

For each of the 6 brews in this and my earlier post a single hop as used and the measurements and timings are as follows:

  • 20g start of boil (60m)
  • 40g 15m from end of boil
  • 40g after boil once temperature of the wort was cooled to 79 degrees C.

I used protofloc (carageenan/irish moss) to assist with fining.. and that’s it, very straightforward recipes for very straightforward beers in order to focus attention on individual hops. I learned a fair amount with these 6 brew days and have already embarked upon a short series of 3 dry-hopped beers using 3 of the hops from this series. At the time of writing this (way back in August!), I had just that morning kegged the first of these beers, using the amarillo hop and the aroma filled my kitchen, it was gorgeous! I was brewing a Citra version and I opted for Mosaic for the third.

Onwards!


2021 Plans Reviewed

Review of plans for was a very busy and stressful year
Blog: Whitabootery
Categories: 13-minute read

In January last year, I wrote a blog post about my provisional plans for 2021 , this seems as good a time as any to review the plans and assess how well I managed to move towards achieving them.

With the global challenges of 2020 bleeding through to much of 2021, there were certain goals that were either not legally achievable or I simply didn’t feel that the risk of infection was low enough to pursue the goal in question. Protecting my family from covid-19 was a constant consideration and at times perhaps I was more cautious than I strictly had to be but in this regard I have absolutely no regrets.

So “excuses” given, let’s review the plans in order of their placement within the previous post:

Japanese Local Government’s Rural Rejuvenation Initiative (kyouryokutai programme - 協力隊)

Whilst not explicitly highlighted as a goal for the year, my year start blog post mentioned that pretty much everything I planned for the year was done so in order to enable us to apply to this scheme. Both my wife and I successfully applied and were accepted into the kyouryokutai programme for Hidaka village in Kōchi prefecture on the island of Shikoku in Japan. My contract is due to start on June 1st 2022 and my wife will start a few months later once our second baby is old enough to attend kindergarten. I was pretty nervous during the interview with the town mayor, deputy mayor and various village people but they were very lenient on me with their questioning and I held my nerve and responded appropriately in reasonably acceptable Japanese. There is an implicit requirement for a driving license, but as long as we were trying to obtain licenses, the village officials seemed to be content and if we need or needed to learn in Japan, I don’t think this would have been a particularly big deal.

Brew more regularly

In January I set the target at completing 15 brew days by the end of 2021 and in order to enable this to happen we invested in an additional conical fermenter, allowing me to be able to brew more frequently (approximately every two weeks). I am delighted to say that at the time of writing, I have managed 18 brew days with 1 more planned before the year ends!

Thanks in part to teachings from my part-time MSc in Brewing and Distilling course, in big part to great advice from my friend Ken from Mukai Craft Brewing and in part due to my diligence and experimentation, I’ve progressed quite well this year. I decided to put my tech skills to use and developed a beer recipe database and front end web site (which still needs to be more populated) which also helped me lean on the knowledge of other brewers in order to get to the point where I am developing my own recipes. I’ve still much to learn and much recipe development to do but I have been reaching out to family who are experts in tea in order to help me think about flavour combinations that will make for unique and interesting beers featuring their delicious products.

My brewing will hit somewhat of a wall early next year as I’ll need to pack up my equipment for transit to Japan where it is currently illegal to brew anything over 1% ABV (alcohol by volume) at home. I’m not overly concerned by this as I have always planned to brew low alcohol beers as part of my beer line up and this will give me adequate opportunity for experimentation with different techniques for doing so.

Establish brewing network in Japan

I reached out to a number of breweries during the first half of the year and established contact with some cool brewers, I look forward to future in-person meetings with these brewers and more. I had plans to contact every brewer in Shikoku but there are so many new breweries popping up so it was becoming less viable. Instead I accepted an invitation into a facebook group offer to a group for Shikoku craft brewers. I had to create a new account because I don’t have a personal one, nor do I have any intention of creating one, but access to this group of brewers has already proven invaluable and so putting my principles aside in order to be part of this community seemed to be a worthwhile idea.

Once I’m in Japan, I have the opportunity to work with Ken Mukai from Mukai Craft Brewing for a while, which I am very excited about. The details are yet to be discussed and I certainly don’t want to be a burden or outstay my welcome but with our own brewery being 2 to 3 years down the road, I’ll be happy to help Ken out for as long as he can use me. Aside from this, I hope to experience brewing at other breweries around the prefecture or island in order to strengthen community relationships and glean industry knowledge from the brewers who have come before me.

Experience breweries in Scotland

This has unfortunately been the main challenge affected by covid-19’s continuing prevalence. It has been a difficult time for breweries (as it has for everyone) and whilst many of them have adapted well, it just wasn’t feasible to visit them during the year. I did manage a few brief chats during the Edinburgh beer festival but otherwise I’ve not pushed this as a priority due covid concerns, and lack of time really, learning to drive, studying my course, working full-time, preparing for interviews, looking after my daughter and preparing for our second daughter, as well as trying to brew as often as possible has meant that I’ve had almost no free time to allocate to this.

I did contact a brewery, one of the creators of which is a friend of a friend, and whilst they seemed happy for me to visit at some point the timing wasn’t ideal as a new head brewer was about to start and get used to operations etc. Trying to find a good time to even meet for a beer proved to be a challenge and so, unfortunately the visit didn’t happen.

Whilst I am a little disappointed not to have managed a single visit, I’m not going to let it bother me, if I can fit a visit in during 2022 before me move to Japan then cool, but with a new daughter incoming, my priorities are likely to shift.

Continue studying the science of brewing

Very happy with progress in this regard. I’ve completed two courses now and am on the verge of completing my third of four. Indeed, at the time of writing this I am somewhat procrastinating when I should be studying for the final assignment which is due in 5 days time.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have enjoyed each of the courses equally but regardless they have all been invaluable and helped me greatly develop my understanding of brewing. Due to the fact that I have been so busy with everything else in the year, I have primarily been studying to pass the assignments and not been able to really deep-dive into the bones of what I am interested in, however, I have been gathering lots of resources so that once I am in Japan and have more time on my hands, I can really settle in and study everything I want to study.

After this current course is done, I have a final course which due to scheduling won’t start until September 2022, it will be focussed on cereals, malting and mashing processes and I look forward to learning more about this from an academic perspective.

Get house in order

After much searching we found some very good tradesmen to work on finishing our garage conversion, unfortunately due to their personal circumstances the work which is almost complete has been on hold for a few months so we’ve not achieved the progress that I hoped but they have done an excellent job and I’m hopeful that they can complete the work soon and we’ll be ready to put the house on the market early in 2022.

We were very lucky with regards to our future living situation and have a rental house being held for us until we move over to Japan. We will need to live with my in-laws for a short while in order to furnish the rental house but I’m very happy that we’ll be able to move into a space of our own shortly after arriving in the village.

Groundwork for future brewery

Nothing much has changed in this regard since the post at the start of the year, which said:

Most of the work required towards our future brewery, can’t really start until we are in Japan. Also, as the intention isn’t to establish the brewery immediately, but rather continue my studies and gain some industry experience, the majority of the groundwork is really just research and clarification into licensing requirements and laws, and understanding the hoops that we need to jump through when the time comes, the more we can line up in advance the better.

At this moment in time, I’m thinking that we may build a taproom before we work on the brewery. The thinking is that a) we’ll need one, b) it will help with networking with other craft brewers if I’m selling their beers, c) will potentially open up collaboration opportunities for exclusive small batch limited edition brews to be sold in our taproom and, d) it exploits my almost two decades of experience in working in pubs in Scotland.

The intention would be to have uniform branding between the taproom and brewery, and so we can do work on reserving web domains, logo design, and as above, reaching out to brewers etc. before moving over.

However, I have reached out to a graphical designer friend who has agreed to turn my logo design draft into something of a more professional quality! I’ll be working on the website and reserving domains etc. soon after moving to Japan.

Obtain a driving license

After paying an agency who were sure they would be able to sort out driving lessons with an automatic car in our area with no issues, they failed to do so, the result being they charged me £150 for booking a £62 driving test. Dicks.. So, in somewhat of a panic I sent out emails to each and every driving instructor or agency that covered our area and was very lucky to get a response from Kate at Fastrackpass .. but we had to go with manual as there was no automatic availability. With an incoming test I had little choice but to go for this option. Kate hooked me up with a local driving instructor Duncan and set about finding a better test date and location as the one I had booked wasn’t at our local test centre (due to covid-19 related backlogs it was a take what you are given scenario). Within days of my first driving lesson, Kate had managed to secure a test a few weeks later than the initial one but at my local test centre. Many lessons were taken before the date but I felt that we had only just finished learning right before the test, so my nerves were a jangly bag of spanners on the day and I failed within the first 10 minutes of the test.

However, I needed to get a license and ideally one with a date of issue that is more than 90 days before our exit from Scotland as this is a requirement for the conversion of UK to Japanese driving lesson to be a relatively straight-forward process. As such, we lined up a few more lessons which were more focussed on practice and confidence building, and tried to find another test date, which was actually yesterday.

My wife who had an issue with a BSM (British School of Motoring) instructor just not turn up for her first lesson, also switched to Duncan, and Kate was lucky enough to find her a test at our local centre (rather than in Stirling which is too far for the instructor to lend his car), her driving test is soon - fingers crossed! BSM were somewhat difficult to get a refund out of but after several months of following their processes, I found an email address in their terms and conditions and we sent an email demanding a refund on the threat of invoking trading standards and solicitors. Refund was issue within the hour!

.. oh yeah, I passed.

Continue to find family time

2021 has been a fantastic year in regards to witnessing the development of my daughter, she is awesome! Frustrating as hell at times, but I am so happy to spend time with her and miss her terribly when she spends time away at her granny’s house.

As also alluded to a few times above, thanks to a last roll of the dice kind of situation, we have a new baby on the way due in mid-March! Opinions were split in the household and wider family over preferences for the baby’s sex (obviously not really important, health being the only real property we care about) with my daughter and I being in the minority with a preference for another little girl. The 20 week scan was inconclusive in identifying sex but the sonographer was leaning heavily in the female prediction camp, a second scan at a local ultrasound centre reinforced this opinion but again couldn’t be certain, so whilst we may still be surprised when they arrive, it seems like baby number two will be devoid of an Y chromosome, packing instead, double Xs.

2021 brought some unexpected, awesome news out of the blue. One Sunday during our weekly Papa & Daughter movie and popcorn session, I heard someone pop something through our mailbox but didn’t get up to investigate immediately as I was enjoying cosy time with my daughter. When I checked later there was a hand-written, hand-delivered letter to me which was a pretty unusual event. Whilst the letter contained some potentially concerning health news (which is in hand and not currently a concern) it also contained the phenomenal news that I have a sister whose existence I knew nothing about until that point. The letter was from her mum, the wife of my biological father (whom I’ve had no relationship with since I was an infant - a pattern which will continue) and it introduced my sister to me as a 20 year old who has “always” known of my existence. The letter rocked me but tentatively I reached out and we finally made contact by email in June, we then agreed to communicate using online chat via matrix and met in person for the first time in November. We have briefly caught up again just a few days ago and we’re looking forward to our next meet up. So whilst not in my original thoughts for the year, this definitely qualifies for inclusion under family time!

-–

This may have been the most stressful year of my entire life, and we’re not out of the woods yet, there is still a lot to get done before we move to Japan (hopefully in late April), but I have to be pretty happy with the goals that I did achieve, yes it would have been great to visit some Scottish breweries but I can become a brewer without having done so and perhaps there will be an opportunity or two in 2022, though I’m not investing much hope in that being the case with Omicron cases on the rise.

We’ll have to see if our plans are affected by covid-19’s resilience, but those are considerations for another post in the new year covering my plans and goals for 2022.

Onwards!


Slimming the Stack

My self-hosting plans going forward
Blog: whitabootery
Categories: 5-minute read

Since some time in 2018 (maybe 2017), I have been tinkering with self-hosting decentralised, distributed services thinking, as many like me have thought, that once I’d configured, secured and tested the application then I would be able to convince friends and family to move over to it from the big bad centralised alternatives.  I’ve written some blog posts in the past in relation to this (linked at the bottom of the page).

Over time, I came to realise that most people aren’t going to move, and that’s fine but the primary reason that there wasn’t much effort from me to “onboard” *shudder* friends and family to these services is because they were all in varying levels of pre-release development and lacked functionality or reliability that those (largely) non-techy people are used to.. So I simply didn’t really invite anyone to the majority of them, with the exception of my xmpp and matrix servers.  I’m in the process of **hopefully** moving my last friend from xmpp over to matrix and I’ve got double-figures (just) of my people on my synapse instance.

However, that didn’t deter me, I’ve had a great time experimenting with and trying out LOTS of different decentralised apps, mainly activitypub cognisant, over the past few years and regularly raise bug reports, feature requests or generally just try to help the developers of those apps as much as I can along the way.  My whole outlook on software development has changed positively due to these interactions. 

If I remember correctly, over the past few years, I have hosted:

My initial hosting efforts were on a chunky x86 server with lots of RAM etc. but for the past few years I’ve moved my sites and apps onto lower energy consumption single board computers (SBC) and rarely have I experienced any issues (though building early versions of plume on one was somewhat of a nightmare!).  I’m not going to go into the various reasons for ditching or keeping the apps that I host currently, but happy to discuss in comments or my contact links, should you be curious.

Whilst I still think that my friends and family should move over to decentralised alternative services, I’ve decided that (with a few exceptions) I’ll not be their host or admin going forward nor will my endless experimentation with the newest distributed app on the scene continue.

The primary reason for this not actually social media or technology-related, but I am on a path to a major lifestyle change and I will simply not have the time or inclination to be sat in front of a computer for as much time as I currently am.  Next year, we are moving from Scotland to rural Japan, I am (again, and this time finally) hanging my IT boots up and will become a craft beer brewer.

I’m in the process of moving those apps that I want to keep and use within my household over to subdomains of this one and ditching the others, again with a couple of exceptions:

  • GoToSocial - I love this (under development) app and was the first person to host it on an SBC! I raise bug reports etc. whenever they come up.  I am in the process of integrating it into this website and already, when I post here, the post is also sent to my account on GoToSocial.  I still have to engineer the scripts for two-way synchronising but its not urgent, I’ll get to it.

  • Pixelfed - I have a link below to a relatively dated post on why I stick with pixelfed, I see a lot of potential here and as such it is one of the two apps which will remain under my nipponalba.scot domain tree.  I think once bugs are sorted and the groups feature is released this offers the most likely portal for friends & family to move to should they wish (I know this contradicts what I said above but that’s just the way it is).  Also I like the dev and he has been very approachable and grateful for my contributions to the project, which is nice.

  • Nextcloud - Currently used by my household and my mum, but as soon as the [Quartz64]https://pine64.com/product/quartz64-model-a-8gb-single-board-computer/ is production ready, I’ll be giving it a beefier SBC and will configure a spare SBC for my parents to have their own instance (backing up all data from Scotland to Japan is not going to be a great experience).

  • Synapse (x2) - As mentioned above I now have multiple friends and family with accounts here and I hope to add more - so it is the second of two services to remain under the nipponalba domain.  I also just created a second instance (as dendrite development is glacial) for this domain, primarily to bridge to cactus comments, obviously should any of my close family who happen to share my surname prefer an account on this instance then they can have one.

  • Gitea - I’ve conjured a really fast and light website publishing process thanks to gitea and so it remains as long as my websites do.

  • Email (maybe) - Currently and until we move to Japan at least, we are using tutanota for our email.  I self-hosted the email before (on a VPS) but the IP address range wasn’t trusted by google or microsoft so emails to people I needed to contact weren’t being delivered, or were sent directly to spam.  If we can get a static IP address from our internet provider in Japan then hopefully I can self-host email again without trust concerns.

That’s it, aside from my static websites and various convenient apps such as bitwarden_rs (password manager) and beehive (automation tool) .

Going forward, rather than wanting to host everything for everyone, I’m more interested in trying to help my family and friends host their own services or sites - should they wish to.

Previous related posts:

Distributed or Federated Social Network

The Fediverse

Why Pixelfed?


Underwhelming

Notes from brew day #17
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 2-minute read
Tags:

I like to break up the slight monotony of a series of the same type of brews with a guest beer brew day, where instead of focussing on a technique or ingredient influence, I can just chill out and make a nice beer. For my 17th brew day, I opted for Siren’s Undercurrent Oatmeal Pale Ale as something about the recipe resonated with me and I love oats in a beer. I don’t remember ever sampling this beer before and perhaps if I had, I may have opted for something a little more interesting (for my taste), my attempt at Siren’s Undercurrent was disappointingly underwhelming.


The brew day was pretty straight-forward with the only real difference to my normal routine being a slightly longer boil which, and I may be mistaken here, lends itself to a slightly sweeter finish.

I wasn’t able to get one of the hops (Palisade) so switched it out for Williamette.

I was tired the night before so had decided to clean and sanitise the brewing kit in the morning before the brew, this is always a mistake but sometimes unavoidable and basically always leads to me struggling to get my head in the game. What should have been a very easy brew day turned out to be a series of micro-errors.

  • I had issues with recirculation during the mash stage which led to higher than desired temperatures for part of the process.
  • Once again the poorly designed additional filter around the grainfather inlet valve was swept to the side and rendered useless, leading to a little more grist getting into the wort.
  • The hop spider got blocked and so required intervention post whirlpooling and cooling,
  • And there were a disappointing lack of bubbles when transferred into the fermenter. Even after giving the wort a vigourous shake, the bubbles dissipated quickly leading to what I expected to be a fairly lacklustre fermentation.

I did however, hit close to both original and final gravity targets but the resulting beer lacked a little character and as this was before I replaced the o-rings in my cornelius kegs it was ever so slightly oxidated.

That said, every brew adds to my experience and knowledge and this one was no exception.

Onwards.


Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Notes from brew days #14, #15 & #16
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 6-minute read
Tags:

Two out of three ain’t bad..

.. but the third was excellent!

After a semi-successful run of 80/- beers in an attempt to develop the base for my first future commercial beer, I have moved on to the study of hops. In order to best study the contributions of the humulus lupulus I’ve been brewing a small run of SMaSH IPA beers, which are brewed with a single malted barley grain bill and a single hop. I’ve stuck to the same yeast for each of the brews but I did swap to an extra pale ale maris otter malt for the third brew, from very slightly darker pale ale malt.

Again, like in previous brews, due to the length of time it takes for a beer to be brewed and conditioned, along with the frequency of my brew days (approximately every two weeks), I can’t directly apply lessons learned from the previous brew day to the next one. As such, in the case of these three beers, the third beer benefited from lessons learned from the first brew (although the first beer hadn’t yet been carbonated or conditioned by then).

Each of the pretty straight-forward brew days went smoothly but the first two beers were somewhat underwhelming, drinkable but with very muted aroma and flavour profiles. I quickly realised that I had made somewhat of an error of judgement in the first two brews, which I’ll explain in the moment, and made a correction for the third day which was a game changer.

The realisation dawned on me when I was thinking about tea bags, particularly the pyramid bags that my in-laws use to package their tea in. For the first few brews and for several previous brews, I had been using muslin bags to place the hops in for each of the additions, but unlike in the case of a tea bag where there the leaves are loose and there is a lot of space within the bag for them to move around, I had packed the muslin bags pretty tightly, so that they wouldn’t open (I was using very small bags) mid-boil. As a result, I think that there wasn’t enough surface contact with the hop pellets and they weren’t able to properly breakdown and emit their goodnesss in to the wort. On the third brew day I reverted to using a hop spider which allows the hops to move freely but captures (most of) the spent hops (trub) so that they don’t make their way into the fermenter. My suspicions were correct and the third beer was in no way muted.


For each of the brews I used 4kg of maris otter malted barley, pale ale for the first two and extra pale ale for the third. I opted for extra pale ale for a little more of a neutral flavour impact from the grains and to accentuate the hop contribution.

I used White Labs WLP001 California Ale yeast for each of the brews as it is a reasonably neutral yeast with regards to its own flavour impact and is good for light and crisp ales.

In each of the brews I used 100g of the selected hop for the day. 20g at the start of the boil, 40g with 15 minutes left in the boil and another 40g at flameout, once the wort had chilled to 79°C.

Brew day 1: Motueka was the hop of choice and is one that I’ll revisit. I chose this because I have enjoyed a number of New Zealand beers over the past few years and for some reason it is the one hop that stuck in my mind from reading the cans. It is an aroma/flavour hop with low alpha acid content (~7%)which means that it isn’t often used for bittering. According to ‘For The Love of Hops’ by Stan Hieronymous (2012), Motueka imparts a citrusy flavour, most notably lemon and lime as well as tropical fruits. My muted version has a sort of dull tropical fruit feel to it but not prevalent enough to identify.

Brew day 2: I chose Challenger for its noted aroma and flavour contributions (wood and green tea according to James Morton (2016)) with an eye on future tea based beers. Again, it is a low alpha acid hop which will likely be important as tea may impart some bitterness, depending on the type and timing of its addition. Stan Heironymus (2012) mentions that this hop was embraced by English brewing company Bass and is noted for its fruity and spicy qualities. As per above, my use of muslin bags has resulted in an underwhelming, muted but drinkable, if not exactly enjoyable beer.

Brew day 3: Citra! A very popular hop for homebrewers and commercial brewers alike, famed for its dual purpose utility, in that whilst it is a reasonably high alpha acid hop (12%) and is therefore great for bittering, it also imparts a very crisp, citrus fruity flavour which in my beer, I perceive as grapefruit*. Mr Heironymus (2012) has the hop as being “rich in passion fruit, lychee, peah, gooseberries, and a laundry list of other unusual (for hops) flavours”. This beer is probably the cleanest, crispest and best brewed beer that I’ve made so far. It isn’t exactly complex but there is zero oxidation and it drinks beautifully. I’m very, very happy with this and will be pouring myself one as soon as today’s SMaSH brew is over (Amarillo).

This was also the first brew which I used my new Plaato valves which prevent an issue that brewers can experience when cold crashing, called suckback, and my first attempt at cold-crashing. The glycol chiller that I have is only capable of chilling down to 4°C and struggles to maintain that, so the temperature fluctuated a bit between 4-6°C. In a commercial brewery, you’d probably be aiming for around or slightly below 0°C but despite this, there was some improvement in haze reduction and final beer clarity. I’m happy with this first experiment.

*Segue: I recently learned that whilst we all have around 1000 olfactory receptors which sit behind our noses and are activated in unique combinations which may invoke memories or pre-conceived flavour profile, before building a flavour perception in our brains. However, we each have only around 360 of these receptors active, and they are not the same 360 receptors for everyone so we genuinely perceive flavour and aroma differently. This is why you can read a wine, beer or whisky (or anything consumable) flavour profile and be entirely bewildered after tasting as to how anyone could have arrived at those descriptors (Heironymus 2012). It isn’t ALWAYS pretentiousness!

I took a break after this mini-series to brew a beer by Siren brewing, which I’ll write about next time, there were an abundance of tiny mistakes, my head was not in the game, and though I’ve yet to taste it, I don’t have high expectations.

References:

Heironymus, S. (2012). For the Love of Hops - The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops. 1st edn. Boulder: Brewers Publication.
Morton, J. (2016). BREW. The foolproof guide to making world-class beer at home. 1st edn. London: Quadrile Publishing.


Quarter to 80

Notes from brew day #13
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 3-minute read
Tags:

The last brew of the first quarter of 2021, and the final attempt at an 80 shilling base beer, for now at least.

For my previous brew I used some small quantities of left over grains from the brew before that, and adapted some previously brewed 80/- recipes to create my very first original recipe. However, in order to reduce the number of small volumes of differing grains that I would need to use, I attempted to refine the recipe for this brew.


The last beer is still conditioning so I still don’t as of yet know exactly how it will taste but my gut feeling from sampling and smelling the wort at different stages of fermentation is that it won’t quite manage the level of sweetness that I am looking for in order to compensate for the bitterness when I introduce roasted green tea to the recipe later in the year. In order to try and improve on this as well as refining the recipe I also reduced the mash time by 5 minutes in order to try and retain some (but not a lot) of non-fermentable complex sugars.

As well as the Melanoidin malts which I introduced in the brevious brew, I also added some DRC malt - which is a double roasted crystal malt, it apparently contributes a caramel raisin flavour without the associated bitter astringency of some darker malts. I have a reasonably clear idea of how I want my eventual 80/- x roasted green tea beer to taste and I think the DRC malt will help achieve this, I will probably also introduce some orange rind when I come to experiment with tea, presuming I have a base beer to work with.

Last time I accidentally omitted Sorachi Ace from the recipe and used Magnum, this time I rejigged the hop additions and made First Golding the primary hop with some Sorachi Ace addition at flame-out for the “vanilla, tea and coriander notes” that it allegedly imparts, hopefully with such a late addition, I’ll avoid the intense lemon flavour associated with the hop when used for bittering.

Again as per last brew, no dry hopping, this is ostensibly a malty beer.

My usual yeast (White Labs WLP029 - Edinburgh Ale) was out of stock! So I had to choose between a Dusseldorf Alt or Irish Ale style yeast.. The profile of the latter was closest to the Edinburgh Ale yeast so I opted for that.. and hey, many Scots such as myself have Irish heritage so the beer is still authentic ;) .. actually on that, Williams Bros use Nottingham Ale yeast for their 80/- so..

I will create a recipe template for the site and post the recipe details, stages and notes at a later date.

The original (standard) gravity on this beer after transferring to the fermentation vessel was 1.048.. I’d like it to retain some sweetness and as such I’m not really sure of a target final gravity, I’ll just take what I get really.. I expect the ABV will be around 4.5% but we’ll see.

As mentioned above, I still haven’t tasted my first original recipe beer so trying to refine the recipe is a bit bold.. Only about 4 weeks left until I get to taste it and see if my efforts were worthwhile!


Mair 80 Bobbin

Notes from brew day #12
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 4-minute read
Tags:

What’s this? A brew day blog post on the actual brew day? My, aren’t we organised!

With reference to the title, ‘mair’ is Scots for ‘more’ and colloquially a shilling was called a bob back in the day, with the Scottish beers being often referred to as 70 bob or 80 bob etc.

As a result of having some excess grains and hops from my previous brew , today’s beer will be unique and I guess this was my first attempt to design my own recipe. It wasn’t merely a matter of ordering less grains and swapping in those I had in store, though that was part of it! I actually made some conscious decisions on grain choice with respect to my brew day plan.


My previous 80/- brew day had a 50 minute mash, which if I understand correctly results in a sweeter beer as there is a smaller window for the amylase enzymes to break down complex sugars into mono- or di-saccharides which can be consumed by yeast. The result would be a lower alcohol beer as there is less ethanol converted and due to a higher amount of residual sugars a richer mouthfeel and sweeter beer. At least this is my understanding. However, I want to provide as much nutrition to the yeast as possible, to exhaust it before conditioning and I think the 50 minute mash, or at least my management of it led to an excess in active, hungry yeast in the resultant beer, or at least at the bottom of the keg of said beer.

So, I went with the more familiar 60 minute mash but I still want this beer to be reasonably sweet, for future addition of a slightly bitter adjunct, and as such I opted to include Melanoidin malts, 10% of the grain bill. The blurb on the brewstore website states that if this ratio of aromatic (melanoidin) are added it can add a honey-like flavour to the beer.. Sounds good to me and should hopefully make up for the lower volume of residual sugars in my beer, to some extent.

With regards to the hops I have (Magnum, First Golding and Sorachi Ace), I did a bit of reading about their bittering and flavour profiles and decided to include both Magnum and First Golding.

  • Sorachi Ace if used for bittering can lead to a an intense lemon flavour but for flavouring it can bring vanilla, tea & coriander notes, these both sound great but I mis-remembered and thought that these weren’t all suitable for this beer. I intended to use them towards the end of the boil initially.
  • First Golding is a very commonly used hop for this style of beer, its bittering contribution provides a refreshing crisp finish and when used for flavouring can bring orange, marmalade and soft spices to the beer. Both sound good, I’ve gone with this as my primary bittering hop and added some at the end for flavour.
  • Lastly Magnum, a hop with high alpha acid content which is very popular for bittering IPAs, Pils etc. (In Europe anyway). Though it isn’t used much as a flavouring hop, it apparently can impart subtle spice aromas, like nutmeg and this holds interest to me. As such, I’m going with some Magnum mid-boil so that it’s bittering contribution is there but restrained and some in the last 10 minutes with a hope that it subtly adds a little complexity to the flavour.

On double checking the qualities of the hops, I actually did mean to use some sorachi ace.. oh well, plenty left for next time.

No dry hopping, this is ostensibly a malty beer.

For yeast, mainly due to limited alternative stocks at the brewstore , I’ve gone with WLP029 - Edinburgh Ale. It’s the same yeast used for the previous 80 shilling brews and it makes sense to have some part of each brew to remain uniform.

I will create a recipe template for the site and post the recipe details, stages and notes at a later date.

The original gravity of the beer on transfer to the fermentation vessel was 1.050 which is a bit higher than the other export beers that I’ve brewed which signifies a higher sugar content, so long as the yeast activity is fervent this should result in a slightly stronger beer, I’m hoping for the 5% ABV area which would make my final gravity target around 1.012.. but I’ll be happy with around 1.015ish, I guess. In addition, the beer looked very clear, was a gorgeous colour and smelled great.

It remains to be seen if my experimenting results in a tasty beer, but given this is my first attempt at my own recipe and will be tweaked going forward, so long as it isn’t bad it’s all good!

I am going to have to change beer types soon though as I am running out of 80 shilling based puns for blog titles! Let’s face it, in that regard, I’m never going to top 80 chillin !


Alice Porteresque

Notes from brew day #11
Blog: Brewshido
Categories: 4-minute read
Tags:

I departed from my current series of Scottish export type ales to make another dark beer for my birthday, or rather the brew day was for my birthday the actual beer is still a few weeks away. I opted for one of Brewdog’s recipes which they have open-sourced for several years, all publicly available for free as in pdf format, or on their website or for a small fee as a hardback book. As this is an published and open-sourced recipe and not part of copyrighted recipe book I can actually post the details for a change! Brewdog has a lot of critics, but I’m not one of them, I enjoy a number of their beers and commend their efforts towards sustainability . I am not however associated with Brewdog or in any way a Brewdog fanboi, unless James discovers this page and hey! I’d really love to come and see your brewery!

Another departure I made was that I ordered the ingredients of this brew from The Malt Miller rather than The Brewstore as the recipe calls for specific grains, yeast and hops that were unfortunately not available from my preferred, more local, supplier. I initially tried to find alternatives for each of the grains but it soon became clear that I was moving further and further from replicating the Brewdog version of the beer that I just had to look elsewhere. I was very pleased with the delivery and service from The Malt Miller and my only criticism is that I had to order larger quantities of grains than required as they don’t offer the smaller increments that The Brewstore does, opting for 50g implements rather than 10g. I also had to buy 100g hops packets even if only 5g of hops were required but hey ho, the excess will not go to waste!


On to the Brew day! The full recipe can be found here and the ingredients for a 20L brew were as follows:

Malts:

  • 2.63kg of Extra Pale
  • 0.88kg of Munich
  • 0.38kg of Crystal 150
  • 0.31kg of Special W - which I couldn’t find so replaced with Dark Crystal
  • 0.44kg of Carafa Special Type 1
  • 0.38kg of Flaked Oats - Which were unavailable so I used torrified Oats
  • 0.31kg of Torrified Wheat

Hops:

  • 5g of Magnum at the start (Bitter) - only 5 grams of bittering hops.. presumably this recipe was designed at higher volume and this is a scale down, but maybe not shrug.
  • 25g of First Gold in the middle (Flavour) - had to somewhat guess here, my understanding is that if the hops were added in the middle (30m) they would be roughly 50% bittering and 50% flavour, so I opted for 25 minutes before the end of the boil.
  • 25g of First Gold at the end (Flavour) - It isn’t uncommon to add hops at 0 minutes left but I read that end could mean anywhere from 15 minutes left to 0, so I opted for 5 minutes until end of the boil for this addition.
  • 25g of Sorachi Ace at the end (Flavour) - same as above.

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 1056 - American Ale - This was the first time that I used Wyeast and it was a smack-pack, where you smack the .. pack.. to burst the liquid yeast sachet, introducing it to a solution which activates and nourishes it before pitching into the fermenter. Pretty neat!

Not really much to say about the day itself, it went to plan without any drama, it was very enjoyable and followed by popcorn and movie day with my daughter, a good day all round.

Whilst I haven’t yet transferred the beer from fermenter to keg and therefore don’t have an actual FINAL gravity reading, it has been stable for the past few measurements.. the scores on the board (I do care this time!) are:

Brewdog Alice Porter Original Gravity: 1.053
Jon’s Alice Porteresque Original Gravity: 1.053 - booyah!

Brewdog Alice Porter Final Gravity: 1.013
Jon’s Alice Porteresque Final(ish) Gravity: 1.012 - やった!

Brewdog Alice Porter ABV: 5.2%
Jon’s Alice Porteresque ABV: 5.3%

I’ve no idea how close to the original this is going to be once it has finished its journey but {your deity of choice or not} on a bike I am looking forward to tasting it!


FitoTrack Is Good

A privacy-focussed, free and open source fitness tracker
Blog: Whitabootery
Categories: 2-minute read
Tags:

Yesterday, for the first time in many years (almost a decade), I took an hour long lunch break, during which, again for the first time in many years (much less than a decade though) I went out for a bike ride. It was suprisingly a beautiful, if not slightly cold day which definitely helped me start this new and hopefully lasting exercise routine.

Today, it is basically a storm outside with very strong wind and much rain but as I noted on a social media site (distributed, federated, free and open source obviously), “Bit of a dreich day for my 2nd lunchtime bike ride.. but I am of rain, I was born in Scotland, dreich is my daily driver, a wee bit of rain and wind won’t stop me… Only my resistant legs can do that! 33 minutes more of this psyching up to go." and psych me up it did, I completed a revised circuit and though I considered doing a second circuit (as I intend to progress to soon), I figured that it would be better to stop after one so that I can cycle again tomorrow, rather than push through and encourage the jellification of my legs.

In the same update I also said that I’m “Going to give FitoTrack a go today.", which is a free and open source fitness tracker app with lots of stats, devoid of any data harvesting or adverts, that enables me to track and monitor my progress in much the same way as you might expect of a similar, commercial app tied and bound eternally to a google data centre. The GPS seemed to be reasonably accurate though admittedly not 100%, I seem to recall my garmin watch being of an equivalent level of accuracy and you are able to export your workouts as GPX files or share to whichever apps you have installed on your phone that you may wish to share to, in the form of a png image file. On this point, I have raised a feature support ticket requesting an option to choose the size and file format of the shared file as it is quite large.

If this sounds like something you might like then you can find the FitoTrack app on F-Droid - or other non-ethical purveyors of apps which I’ll not link to here, alternatively you can download the source from their codeberg page .

Today’s FitoTrack workout summary with the map provided by OpenStreetMap contributors