Tag Archives: Charlie Papazian

Brainmuffin: The Renaissance (Polymath) Nerd

NERD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Europe had several periods of Renaissance starting in the 12th century. It is the Italian Renaissance of the 15th century with which many are familiar. During the later period, a person who had expertise in several areas of study was called a Polymath. The common term that later came to use was Renaissance Man.

Computer Nerd

Over the years my areas of study and interest has been varied. In high school, as I was too shy to ask girls out, computers became my first interest. Though we didn’t own one, I knew several people who did and my school in Maryland (Smithsburg High School) had an Apple ][, while my high school in Germany (Patch American High School) had Atari 800s. Friends had these as well as Vic 20 and Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. Through all these varied machines, I learned aspects of BASIC. I also learned a bit of PILOT and LOGO. Thousands of lines of code were written on paper and never typed in. I made my own adventure games and even a few graphics ones. Mid-way through my senior year I finally got over my nerves and asked a girl out on a date. Thus a second subject of study entered my life.

My major in college was Computer Science. One does not get much more nerd than that, do they? College  focused and channeled my analyzing skills and matured my coding practice. My interest in Math also expanded and it nearly became a minor. Learning from where various formulas that I had learned over the years derived open a new world. Math explained so much about the underpinnings of the Universe. Women remained unsolved, even after I met my wife.

My Own Beer

In the early 90s I took a job at the University of Tennessee in the Library Systems department. Though I went there to offer my skills for their various development needs, my world would soon expand into the area of homebrew beer. The first few batches were nothing to write home about, but with more practice and research, I was soon being asked questions by those who got me started. When I moved to Marion, Ohio to work for Macola Software, there too I had homebrewers who had been at it for years asking me how I did things. True, I was still using extract, but the recipes were mine and showed my talents for cooking. Over the years my expertise would expand to¬†amateur judging and all grain. I even had Charlie Papazian answer tweets and get me started as the Cincinnati Craft Beer Examiner. If you want to while away some time talking about beer, I’m all ears (and mouth).

Lift Them Weights

I was first introduced to lifting iron in 7th grade gym class. I wouldn’t get another fix for a couple more years when my dad brought a used weight set home. In 1983, the move to Germany meant they went to storage and I lifted very little. I would not start lifting seriously again until the summer of 1990.

The second foray into weight lifting slowly grew into an obsession. The first catalyst was purchasing a copy of Muscle and Fitness. Though I had little variety in equipment, the magazine had ideas I could adapt and meals gave me ideas on what to eat. Eventually, I was eating a great deal more and taking the occasional weight gainer. Weider’s magazine had information on many areas and I was an adept student.

My first gym membership came in 1994. Here I had access to lots of free weights and great machines. Over the next few years I would gain 20 pounds, mostly muscle. I hovered in the mid-190s in weight for years, but I never did get to body weight on bench press, squat and dead lift. Most of the routines I was doing were of the higher, lighter weight variety.

Time passed and we moved a few times more. Gym memberships came and went, though I did buy 200 pounds of dumbbells along the way. For much of that time, I thought there not much left to learn about weight lifting. About two years ago, I again starting reading Iron Man Magazine. The writers had changed since my last subscription and many of them were in their 40s and 50s. As joints were no longer up to heavy lifting, the routines reflected a switch to higher volume with less rest. Starting what I could at home, I rebuilt muscle and drop some weight. A membership at a new gym was soon added and my journey from 200 to 217 began.

Over the course of this year, my knowledge expanded into the area of StrongLift’s 5×5. After some prodding my a co-worker, I finally gave it a try. As I was used to lighter weights, I started low. Eventually though, I would hit body weight on dead lift, with squats closed behind. As for bench, my left shoulder needs more strengthening before that will happen. 135 pounds offers a very good workout at 5 reps and 3 sets.

Nutrition has also expanded in knowledge and I’ve dropped my body fat from 28% to 20%. The struggle becomes tougher here though and the goal is 15%. I’m collecting all the knowledge I can to get lower without sacrificing the muscle I’ve gained.

And women?

I have learned much there too and what I know I cannot share. Their quirks no longer frustrate and I’ve turned it into entertainment. Motivating people is still difficult.

Long way nerd

The journey over over 30 years has taken this nerd a long way. Yeah, I’m still dorky and those who know me don’t hesitate to remind me. I can still talk your ear off, especially about computers, programming, beer, fitness, nutrition, cars, the weather, the law of cosines, the beauty in Calculus…..


Vanilla Oatmeal Stout

English: Vanilla: 6 beans
English: Vanilla: 6 beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is time to make beer again. I have a request from a fan to make something “tall, dark and handsome”. I thought about that might be in a beer and came across Oatmeal Stout. Several years ago, I made one called Crystal My Oats, but that recipe was lost in BeerSmith when my computer crashed (back when I as running Windows still). I do remember elements of it and that was extract, how to make one via all-grain?

Time for some research

As I learned to homebrew in the mid 90’s, the old archive Cat’s Meow 3 is my first stop, always. Sure, there are more up to date places to find recipes, but I like the simple format of this archive and it feels like home. I am looking for general guidelines more than specific rules that must be followed at all costs, so it also fits my style better.

Searching through the oatmeal stouts lead to many extract recipes. Nuts. I need an all-grain. There’s one. But it uses flaked barley. And another. Nice. Rolled oats. Notes jotted.

A search via Google returns hits at several places, most of them discussions about a particular recipe. Do rolled oats go in the mash tun or on the stove for steeping and fading in? Where is Charlie Papazian’s phone number when I need it??? Answers found.

Start up BeerSmith

I chose the Oatmeal stout guide and start working on ingredients. It doesn’t take long and the SRM and bitterness guidelines are blow. Oh well. I want it DARK! Based on batch size and boil time, the estimated SRM is 46.7. Awesome! The upper limit is 40 for the style, but what’s 6.7 among friends???

The IBUs estimate to 52, ah only 12 over style. No worries. And that makes some assumptions about utilization in the boil. Maybe it will lower or higher. No worries.

Once complete, the parts list looks like this:

  • 14 pounds pale malt
  • 1.5 pounds Roasted Barley
  • 1 pound of Chocolate Malt
  • 1 pound of Caramel/Crystal Malt (80L)
  • 2 ounces of Centennial hops (10%) – 60 min
  • 1 packaged of Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084)

I really do want a beer near 10%. If the efficiencies in conversion and sparging have hit 72%, this one might get to 9. That’s good. The idea is to either put vanilla beans in secondary or use vodka to make an extract. Wait! Why vodka? What about bourbon instead?

Researching Home Made Vanilla Extracts

Back to Google for some searching. The best site on thekitchn.com. Wow. Didn’t know there were various types of vanilla beans. Based on the descriptions, looks like Bourbon or Madagascar beans are in order. Now, make an extract or just put 3 of them in the secondary for 10 days? Hmmm.

The site has great ideas. Perhaps put some in bourbon and some in the secondary? Decisions. Decisions.

Made the Beer

Used a single step mash of 150 degree water for an hour. Mash density was 1.25 quarts per pound. Sparge water at 170 degrees until 6 gallons were collected. As the boil is an hour, about 1 gallon will be lost to evaporation.

Once the wort was chilled and in the fermentor, the hydrometer reads 15 on the Brix scale. Potential here is 8.2% and the Specific Gravity once converted is 1.0611. A bit lower than the target, but not too bad for a fly sparging novice. Now to keep at a good temperature for fermentation without getting esters from the yeast. Updates will follow.

Pushing The Reviews

Perhaps I’m learning more about Search Engine Optimization or perhaps I’m lucky. My article about former classmate Edwina Marquand is now the first link when searching for her name. In a future article I’ll be sure to do the same for another former classmate by the name of Kevin Pelch. After all, he is the one who gave me the nickname Ropeman in the 10th grade. It is a name I used proudly for years until Anne Langley gave me the one of Brainmuffin. That, however, is writings for another time.

As many readers know, I also write as the Cincinnati Craft Beer Examiner. As the Cincinnati beer scene is going crazy these days, it is quite a bit keeping up. Several breweries have opened over the last few years, including Listermann’s (yes, the home brew supply place), Mad Tree and Double Barrel. Oh, what to do.

Well, it is time to do reviews. Not of one beer from each brewery. No, that wouldn’t feed my OCD very well. It is time to review everything available. Oh great…more text to read. Yes, but also video reviews. Pictures of beer (posted to Flickr too). After all, it is time to combine all my passions into a single, directed future. It is time time to combine beer, photography and writing. After all, Charlie Papazian was the one who pushed me to start on Examiner and it is high time his recommendation was rewarded.


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