You Can Do It (too)!

Just add water...
Just add water…

I’ve lived in Seattle a little more than 2 years now. In that time I’ve learned how to brew beer, make wine and roast coffee. I only have two more skills I’d like to add: curing tea and distilling spirits. I lived in Las Vegas for 30 years and never came close to making my own anything. It could be because I’m in my late 30’s and that’s what you do. As I got older I began to appreciate finer tastes in everything from cooking oils to cheese. However, I feel it’s more than my age; Las Vegas just didn’t have a DYI culture like Seattle.

Vegas does have some awesome tattoo artists though...
Vegas does have some awesome tattoo artists though…

Las Vegas is all about what other people can do for you. The service industry is king. This is not surprising for a town that depends on tourism. Unfortunately, this means that any DYI crafting is basically unheard of. I’m sure that there are a few people with chicken coops or brewing kettles; but it’s not part of the zeitgeist. I never thought about home brewing or coffee roasting because nobody I knew and nobody I met did it either.

I do believe Portland beat us...
I do believe Portland beat us…

Seattle lives and breathes crafty. We have numerous groups dedicated to making cool shizzle. Want to learn blacksmithing? Check out the Ballard Forge. Home brewing? We have 6 dedicated stores and our own state association. Urban farming? Got that too. Everywhere you go in this city, you are surrounded by people who make awesome things. Hipsters may very well make up a much larger percent of the population, but they were doing it first, right? In a very short time, the Pacific Northwest inspired me to learn and invent.

Important! DO THIS OUTSIDE!
Important! DO THIS OUTSIDE!

I’ve found that my time spent crafting has paid off in a few ways. When I brew beer, my price ends up being about $1-ish per 12oz bottle… which is an awesome price for craft beer! Hell, a good craft beer bomber (22oz) can run you anywhere from $4 to $20. I buy green coffee beans for half the price of store coffee ($5 per lb) and can roast them as dark (or light) as I want. Plus, the taste is amazing! You have not had coffee until you’ve had fresh roasted coffee. Not only am I saving money, but I am making items that are just as good (if not better) than what I could find at a commercial store.

Just do it.
Just do it.

The cool part is none of these skills are hard. It looked daunting at first, but once I was committed it took very little training and just a little research to get going. No matter where you live, the internet provides all the knowledge and materials needed. If I’ve learned anything, it’s not to let ignorance or fear get in the way of making something delicious!

It’s a new year. Embrace the power of the interwebs and MAKE ALL THE THINGS! You will not be disappointed.

The very good and the very (little) bad…

how did we ever live?!
how did we ever live?!

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and experience! It seems like the whole month of August went by in a hazy blur. Somebody must have clicked the fast forward button on the VCR. Go figure; time passes by quickly when you’re not paying attention. Now summer is almost at an end.

A few weeks ago, my parents came to visit. We hadn’t seen them for over a year. I try to call every week or so, though it usually ends up being every other week. I’m a bad son in that regard. I just lose track of time. However, seeing them was wonderful! Their visit reminded me of how much I really do miss (and love) them.

This is my father. He is the BEST man you will ever meet. Period.
This is my father. He is the BEST man you will ever meet. Period.

One of the hardest parts of moving away from Vegas was being separated from friends and family by thousands of miles. This is pretty normal for families in the United States; as soon as we’re able we’re encouraged to leave the nest. My experiences in Eastern Europe taught me that many parts of the world feel that moving far away from your family is an insane (and stupid) idea. I mean, who’s going to take care of the kids when you get pregnant?

Seriously. Run. for. your. life.
Seriously. Run. for. your. life.

Second, I ran my very first extreme 5k. “Run for Your Lives” is a zombie themed race meant to challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally. The race organizers did a great job of making the zombies as realistic as possible. The race included obstacles, steep hills, off road terrain, ravenous zombies and plenty of ways to be electrically shocked. I made a video of the experience.

This is Maria. Destroyer of livers.
This is Maria. Destroyer of livers.

Then Heather’s and my friends from Vegas arrived for a few days. Maria was my roommate before Heather and I were married. Her and her husband Brock are some of the coolest people we know. They are into food and drink. Having them visit gave me an excuse to eat and drink my way around Puget Sound: chicken & waffles at Burgundian, pizza from Zeeks, ALL the beer at Red Hook Brewery, bacon cheese maple braised pork loin biscuit sandwich at The Commons, wine from Chateau Ste Michelle, whiskey & vodka from Woodinville Whiskey Company, grappa from Soft Tail Spirits, mead from Sky River Brewing, bacon tater tot poutine and shepherd pies from Pies and Pints, spicy chorizo quesadillas at the Ballard Farmers Market, ALL the beer from Reuben’s Brews, and finally chocolate from Theo’s.

I will need to exercise for 3 months to recover from this one weekend. Well done friends… well done.

This is Dominic Taylor. If you see him, please alert police. He is a little bitch.
This is Dominic Taylor. If you see him, please alert police. He is a little bitch.

Then the bad. Last Friday I got home from work to find our house was almost broken into. Which is much better than actually being broken into. Our front door had almost been knocked off its hinges and the doorframe cracked beyond repair. One of our front windows had been cut in a very similar fashion to how our home was broken into last May. Yes, I suspect Mr. Dominic Taylor had returned to our home to see what else he could steal from us.

After the first break in, we installed some extra lights around the home and yard. This time I broke down and bought a camera security system. It has 720p HD video, nightvision, motion-sensors and will email me anytime it’s activated. Hopefully this will be the last time our home is violated for quite a while. Because twice in three months is unacceptable. This transgression will not stand, man.

Chris says "Drink beer."
Chris says “Drink beer.”

Then more good. Today is my birthday! I have so far survived 37 solar rotations. I marked this achievement yesterday by spending 4 hours with friends at the LivingSocial Beer Fest at the Seattle Center. Then four more hours at Pies and Pints for more friends, whiskey, poutine and shepherd pies. Today Heather and I went to church, ate at Zaina for lunch (Mediterranean street food), I finished my latest book while lounging in our hammock, we took a walk around the neighborhood to visit our local Little Free Library and as I finish this blog post, Heather is finishing her famous homemade satay chicken pizza.

Friends, I learned something valuable today. Those who are not grateful in the truest sense of the word for everything they have in life are doomed for misery. For they will never get as much goodness as they think they deserve, and will always feel like they get more evil than they feel they are warranted. Today I am completely and utterly grateful for my life, good and the bad. Today I am breathing and I am immensely happy.

I can ferment that!

Image
Oh no, whatever should I choose?

I used to think I knew beer, until I moved to Seattle. It was quickly proved that I knew nothing. Tasting the  Northwest craft brewing scene was like walking into that exclusive nightclub that you only ever heard about. A new world filled with fermented beverages that could only come from dusty tomes excavated from long dead civilizations. You drink from the cup and become a believer; yes, it is a religious experience.

Some of you may be thinking: “I don’t like beer.”

As my friend Chris likes to say. “Nay! You just haven’t tried the RIGHT beer.”

Over the last year, I have been introduced to home brewing through an extended family member. I only wish I had experienced it earlier. I used to think that brewing involved complicated chemistry skills, like alchemists of old who could turn lead into gold. Only a select few knew the secrets of unlocking inebriation from inert matter, and they held the status of demigods.

Looks harder than it really is.

However, I found out that fermentation is actually a very easy process. Enough sugar and bacteria and you can ferment just about anything. Organic matter is just waiting to be turned into alcohol. Apples? Easy. Cabbage? No problem. Cats? It’s in the bag. But just because you CAN ferment something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. In fact, it does take a certain amount of skill to make alcohol taste good.

Or at least, the right equipment and ingredients. Take beer. You have your grains (which produces malt; sugar for your yeast to eat).  You have your hops, which provide an amount of flavoring and act as a preservative. You have your water (clean water = clean brew). Finally, you have yeast (creates the alcohol; provides majority of flavor and texture). Put them together in the right way, and you get beer!

But it doesn’t stop there. Craft brewing is like tricking out your car; small personal touches that take the basic model and turn it into something amazing and unique. In the last year, I have tasted amazing heavenly brews that I never knew were possible. I have had a chocolate stout that tasted like a malted milkshake. I have had porter with the character and flavor of bourbon and caramel. I have had ale that tasted like lemonade and pilsners that were like refreshing iced green tea.

This beer tastes like fermented unicorns!

So if you think you don’t like beer, think again. Put down that Rolling Rock. Throw away that Coors Light. Jump onto the internet and check out breweries like Dogfish Head, Stone, Rogue, and New Belgium. You will not be disappointed!

If you want a list and ratings of beer that I have experienced over the last year jump over to Untappd, a fun social networking plugin that is a must for beer lovers (and aspiring beer lovers).