The 2014 Page Valley Road Race

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Another Great Brew Day at Beaver Run Brewery

It's been a two-year project for the Blue Ridge Brewers Association to develop a local source of malted barley for our home brewed ales - a project with legs, which if successful, could develop the source into a commercial product.

This year, working with a local farmer and a facility that could malt the grain down in Nelson County, a total of nearly 700 pounds was harvested and prepared for brewing.  Last week Dan drove down to Nelson County to pick it up, and he told me he was going to brew with it this weekend.  So I made plans to join him out in the brew-barn for part of the day.

As usual, I checked out the "on tap" board to know what I would be sampling during the work at hand.  Both offerings were great, but the Honey Brown Ale was unique in that it used some 25-year old honey Dan had in the basement.  The honey originated in Washington state, where his dad had a hive that foraged in a blackberry bramble.

They're calling the new malt 6-row Thoroughbred and I'll see if I can learn more about it in the future.  On brew day, Dan had planned a 10 gallon batch of IPA, and he had milled 20 pounds of malt for that effort, matched up with a selection of hops from the backyard hop yard.

I had an important errand to run during the middle of the brew, so I had my obligatory samples and helped stir the mash before checking out for a couple of hours.  Dan was using a step-mash approach to fully bring out the fermentables.  The effort involves a couple of pauses where the mash rests at temperature to ensure that its productivity is maximized.

When I got back to the brewery, the boil was just getting underway.  We walked through the hop additions - five of them, shown in order in the photo below.  All of the hops used in this brew were grown on the property - so between the well-supplied water, hops, and Luray-grown barley, this was a mostly local product.

I suppose the brew club will need to get to work on developing a local yeast strain now.  When they do, we'll have all of the major ingredients underway locally in Page County.

Our friends at Wisteria ferment one of their varieties with the yeast that comes in with the grapes from the field - so we know it's possible.  And I've heard rumors that at least one member is working on it.  In any case, there is a strain that has been isolated down in Richmond - we could brew with that one and have a Virginia-centric product, progressing gradually to our goal of a beer produced entirely from Page County ingredients!

Moving on to the true brew nerd portion of the post - Dan pulled samples of the wort as it progressed through the mash, all the way up until he started the boil.  We tasted each of them, from the sticky sweet, oatmeal flavored first pull through to the light amber of the final bit.

He measured gravity after the boil, before pitching the yeast, and it read 1.060.  Assuming the fermentation progresses normally, the target is 6.3% ABV.  Calculated IBU measurement is 64.

Ready in five weeks, I guess!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On to the High Line

Mary and I had a list of destinations we wanted to take in during our stay in Manhattan.  These things can be hit or miss - things take longer than you plan, they're not open, what have you.  But on our list was the High Line Park along the West Side, and we did manage to get there after our walk from China Town with Rosie.

The story of this park is that it is a "rails to trails" sort of development, with the converted elevated rail line actually an old freight line that ran directly into the heart of the city.  Starting in 2006, the community and the city began to build a park out of it.

In all, it's about 1.5 miles long.  We probably walked about 6 city blocks worth, enjoying views across the Hudson to New Jersey, or cross town views along some of the streets - and also, the peak out here and there to colorful murals and all the other stuff that makes New York great.

Although we were warned that by late afternoon the place is crowded, that is exactly when we ended up there - and the predictions were correct, it was crowded!  Still, there were ample spots to stop and take a break to enjoy the location.

I think Mary and I are already planning a next visit to take in more of it!

We exited around 23rd Street, which was only a few blocks (east-west blocks mind you - the big ones) from our hotel.  We made a stop to refresh ourselves there, and then headed out for a movie and a late dinner.

All in all, a great day with a big plus for us, in that we had a good visit with my hipster niece!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Meeting in Chinatown

While I wanted to try and catch the Staten Island ferry round trip on our walk through lower Manhattan, there was a very good reason we weren't going to have time - we were meeting our niece Rosie and her friend Paul for lunch in Chinatown.

So we got back on the subway to head for our meeting place in the Bowery - where we thought we might check out the Tenement Museum. 

A reminder to fellow tourists:  there is a lot to do here...don't bite off more than you can chew!

Yeah, so that didn't work out, but that was the location of our rendezvous.

From there, it was over to Chinatown, for hand-pulled noodles at the eponymously named restaurant.  Great stuff and everybody left full!  If you go, try not to pay too much attention to the restaurant itself, just saying, and anyhow they focus on the food here.

Paul had to get back to work so we parted ways after lunch.  Then Rosie, Mary and I spent some more time walking the streets of New York afterwards, eventually making our way over to the West Village, and then to the High Line, which will be the subject of the next post.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lower Manhattan Walk

Mary and I had a full day set aside for touring Manhattan on Sunday during our recent trip.  We set off for lower Manhattan to start, with the goal of viewing the 9-11 Memorial.

While we were down there, we had a look at the new World Trade Center, which was set to open two weeks after our visit.  In an earlier post, I included some of my photographs of that area.

We took the subway, although it would have been just as easy to catch a bus - and we have done that before on previous visits.  We emerged and navigated the streets that are still an obstacle course of construction, although that will likely reduce over the next few months.

We hadn't made any plans to go into the museum, and I doubt that I ever will.  I have my own memories of the day - as I have posted before, and the exhibit I saw at the Newseum a few years back was moving.  However, we did want to check out the memorial itself, so we took a walk through the area, stopping to have a look at the water features, the plaza, and the new forest getting started there.

It is difficult to capture the scale of this construction with a camera from ground level.  I was careful to try and capture a few full names of the people mentioned in the plaques with a view of the water feature in the background.  It was a pleasant fall day, and of course there were hundreds of tourists visiting the memorial.

We continued along, with a plan to visit the battery, and - time permitting - perhaps catching the Staten Island ferry for a round trip across the Hudson.  As it turned out, we didn't have time for that.

The area down at that end of the island was extensively damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  Between the WTC construction and the revitalization efforts after the storm, it has really made a comeback.  There is a new boardwalk and all sorts of pocket parks allowing the new residents to make their way to the waterfront.

I caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty out there in the narrows and was moved by it, and the memory of visiting Ellis Island a few years back with Mary, where we checked out the records of so many families that passed through there.  I'll close out with a reminder of what she represents, from the poem, The New Colossus:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Beaver Dam in Fall

In a September post I wrote about the ephemeral beaver pond that shows up in the hollow across the road from Hawksbill Cabin. At the time the area was covered over with wild greenery, but through the verge you could just make out that something had happened to the dam and the pond behind was empty.

Fast forward to last weekend, and now that the leaves are down and some of the plants have died back, you can see that the critters repaired their dam, and the pond has filled back up.  The pond is not as big as it has been at other times, but it's nice to see in any case.

For comparison purposes, the second photo with today's post was taken last spring, before the leaves came up.  The pond was much bigger at the time, probably full from the spring rains.

Mary and I took a look over there on Saturday afternoon, finding the pond partly frozen over.  Then we saw the wake of one of the beavers swimming around, and eventually the animal came into view.  Good to see them still around.

This stream is called Beaver Run - the hollow across the road isn't on our property, but it's part of the view from the brick terrace, so we enjoy having a look at it for most of the year.  When the dam is there, we have the benefit of the constant sound of running water tumbling through.

I'll keep an eye out for the opportunity to take some photos later in the winter, when it is frozen over.