Categotry Archives: Brewing

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Christmas Cyser 2009

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Categories: Brewing, Tags: , , , ,

This is my second year making a cyser, this year I’ve timed it better for the holidays and it should be ready around December 10th. Cyser is both a cider and a mead, that may be a little confusing but if I say it’s a mix you might get the mistaken impression that you blend of the two. You can do this, but I like doing it all in one shot.

There really isn’t enough information presented here or in the video to teach you to brew a batch, unless you’re an experienced homebrewer already, but its something I like to do so I thought I’d share.

The Primary ingredients are:

  • 1 Gallon Pasteurized Unfiltered Apple Juice
  • 1 Gallon Commercial Apple Cider Without Additives
  • 6 Pounds of Unprocessed Raw Honey
  • 1 Pound of Brown Sugar

Yes, this will make a sweet batch and that’s the way I make it because that’s what those I share with like.

I boiled the honey and brown sugar together with 1/2 gallon of water and brought it to a soft boil for about 5 minutes, then scooped the ‘scum’ off the top.  Then when I cut the heat off and I added added a table spoon of yeast nutrient and and a teaspoon of yeast energizer, stirred it in well and let cool covered until until 150 degrees.

Added it to juice/cider in a sterilized 3 gallon carboy with an airlock and pitched a tube of White Labs Yeast Sweet Mead Yeast, which promptly hung.  I’m not sure if the yeast was too weak to do the job, or if the tiny little shop that serves the greater Boise region didn’t keep the yeast stored properly (I’m guessing the latter as White Labs has a great reputation;) but, after 36 hours with only a few bubbles I pitched Cote des Blanc in a starter.

I made a 6 oz starter with 1 tablespoon each of yeast nutrient, yeast energizer & dry DME, after it cooled to 70 degrees I pitched Red Star Cote Des Blanc, it got active in a hurry and I pitched it after a few hours of bubbling merrily away, it’s doing a great job with a must with a starting gravity of 1.317, as you can see in the video.

Last year’s cyser tasted great, but was an aesthetic disappointment.  I’m going to work on having a clearer batch this year, I which may call for me to figure out a low-cost filtration option.

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Review: Ram Restaurant and Brewery

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We found ourselves running around Meridian and the growling of our stomachs told us that dinner wouldn’t wait any longer.  We don’t find ourselves in Meredian all that often so we only had a few ideas of where we could go, but then a sign popped up on the left, Ram Restaurant and Brewery.  Everyone that knows me is already aware of my views on beer, the smaller the brewery the better the beer, so the thought of having a beer at the scene of the brew grabbed my attention in a hurry.

First of all the place looks sharp, inside and out; and, we were whisked off to a table as soon as we came in.  This could be good timing on our part but it was obviously busy.  The wait was a little long, as I said it was busy, but I sat entranced by the beer menu.  I ignored the part that covered other people’s beer and concentrated on the local stuff, so imagine my delight when I saw they had a sampler of all six of their beers, 30 total ounces in six glasses.  I just wish I remember the name of the sampler from the menu.  I brew my own, so the style guide isn’t a stranger to me, but it’s rare that I get a chance to sink my taste buds into a selection like this.  First of all, I don’t care for hoppy beers, so I went for them first.

  • 71 Pale Ale was very crisp the hops were forward which is correct for the style and even though I’m not a fan of hoppy beers this was smooth enough that I could overlook it and appreciate the quality.
  • Big Red I.P.A was also a hoppy beer without yielding to the temptation of being a hop grenade, which many brewers don’t manage that well.  It was a clear, sharp beer with an assertive hop presence that didn’t distract from the quality of the brew.
  • A little less down the hop scale was Big Horn Hefeweizen, unfiltered and true to style with a blend of hops to malt closer to neutral than the previous styles, a fine flavor that I could see enjoying on a hot day.
  • Big Horn Blonde is a sweeter beer, more malt forward and correct to style with an excellent crisply sweet flavor.
  • Buttface Amber Ale is normally a little hoppier than my tastes run toward, but this pulled it off well, it hit hoppy but finished a touch sweeter to leave a pleasant confusion among the taste buds, they weren’t sure what hit them but they were ready to try it again.
  • Porters and Scottish ales are my brew of choice, so I saved Total Disorder Porter for last, it’s a perfect balance of hop to malt, coming in at 25 IBUs and the flavor curled my toes.  This may just nudge my favorite porter from its throne, it’ll probably take a growler or two before I can say for sure, but this is undoubtedly the smoothest porter I’ve tasted yet.

The only thing that could have made the array of beers I had any finer would have been a good Belgian sour or lambic, but they can count on seeing more of me, and I’ll be marking out a section of my beer fridge out for Total Disorder, and maybe a bit of Buttface.  I’ll have to see if I can watch the brewing one of these days, no better way to geek out a homebrewer.

The food, yes we did eat, Kim and I both ordered 1 pound burgers, she had the Extreme Bronco Burger, it came loaded with cheddar, lettuce and tomato, hold the onion and pickle, and they did and she got a side of guacamole, which made her day complete.  The raspberry milk shake put it over the top foe her.  She was smart enough to stop at half, I was not.

I had an Extreme Big Dawg Burger, also weighing in at a pound and this bad boy was fully dressed out, bacon, cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, onions and pickles and I got to choose the condiments, a little mustard and I was good to go.  It was so good I didn’t realize I was stuffed until I was done, a massive burger and a side of onion rings and life was complete.

Normally the fastest way for any eatery to irritate me is to charge for the coffee I like to savor after I eat, but this time I was still well pleased, it was a large cup of dark rich brew that made you realize that they didn’t skimp on the quality.

The beer selection was outstanding, they covered the basics that most beer drinkers look for and did it with class and flavor.  The food was excellent, I completely respect their notion that you should leave stuffed when you’re paying good money.  It was clean, cheerful and pleasant all around.  Two big thumbs up and I’ll be back!

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Brewing: Porto Robusto, a robust porter

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Categories: Brewing, Fibromyalgia, Tags: , ,

A porter is a dark ale, rich in malty flavor that is balanced well against its hops and perhaps the pinnacle of ale, which is the true king of beers, no matter what Budweiser foolishly claims.  Bud is only one among many mass-produced testimonials to mediocrity.  Actually I don’t like lagers that much and the commercial varieties are too light in body and the blend of sweetness and hops comes across as bland and listless, lifeless even.

Ales are fermented at warmer temperatures using a faster processing, top fermenting yeast.  The combination of malt and yeast gives ales a sweetness with hints of fruit in the background, but then its balanced with hops, the alpha acids in these leafy cones (related to cannabis, leading to its nickname of the cousin among some home brewers) provide a bitterness that is used to balance the flavor to the brewer’s taste. Personally I prefer close to a 50-50 balance of bitter and sweet, giving you the best of both worlds as it hits the different taste buds.

Hops serve a lot of uses, besides balancing the flavor of ale and beer, they can aid relaxation, help you sleep, can reduce anxiety.  They contain flavonids which have been found effective in studies against free radicals which can damage cells.  Coincidentally porter, stout and ale all have higher levels of flavonids than lagers or pilsners, aka beer.

Bear in mind that’s an ale or maybe two a day, standard beers, pounding ale or beer for health will get you nowhere but chubby.

But, on to porter, or in the case of my pride and joy, robust porter, it is defined in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) as follows: (style 12B, Robust porter) “A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex & flavorful roasty character.  Stronger, hoppier &/or roastier porter designed as either historical throwback or American interpretation of style. Traditional versions have a more subtle hop character (often English) modern versions may be considerably more aggressive.

The BJCP Guide also lists examples: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Meantime London Porter, Anchor Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter, Avery New World Porter & Bell’s Porter.

The best I’ve found so far is Deschutes Black Butte Porter, I’d recommend it to anyone!

To brew an extract version (simpler to brew and much less expensive in equipment) here is my grain bill, hops and yeast to produce a 5.5% ale.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
1.00 lb DME Sparkling Amber (Briess) (10.5 SRM) Dry Extract 12.50 %
6.00 lb LME Golden Light (Briess) (4.0 SRM) Liquid Extract 75.00 %
0.50 lb Crystal – 080L Dark (Crisp) – 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 6.25 %
0.25 lb Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 3.13 %
0.25 lb Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM) Grain 3.13 %
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (60 min) Hops 15.8 IBU
0.50 oz Tettnang [4.50 %] (60 min) Hops 7.9 IBU
1.00 oz Tettnang [4.50 %] (5 min) Hops 3.1 IBU
0.50 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] (5 min) Hops 1.6 IBU
1 Pkgs Nottingham (Danstar 15g pkt) Yeast-Ale
Description: http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style12.html#1b
A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex&flavorful roasty character
Stronger, hoppier &/or roastier porter designed as either historical throwback or American interpretation of style.Trad versions have a more subtle hop character(often English)modern versions may be considerably more aggressive.Both types are valid
Profile: Rather broad style open to interpretation distinguished from Stout as lacking strong roasted barley character.It differs from brown porter in that black patent/roasted grain character is usually present, & it can be stronger in alc.Roast intensity&malt flavors can vary significantly.May/may not have strong hop char,&may/may not have significant ferm.by-products.
Ingredients: May have several malts,darkroasted malts&grains,often inc. black patent malt(chocolate malt&/or roasted barley may be used).Bittering,flavor&/or aroma hops freq UK/US.H2O w mod – high carbonate hardness typ.Ale yeast either clean US/characterful Eng var.
Examples: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Meantime London Porter, Anchor Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter, Avery New World Porter, Bell’s Porter, Great Divide S

All together you can fill this bill for about $30 and it will give you five gallons of beer (roughly 53, 12 oz bottles), if you go to my brewing page you’ll bet a rough idea of what you’ll need to brew and ferment, it will be a couple of hundred dollars invested in gear, but it’ll pay off in the long run.

As a side notem I don’t brew because I like to drink, I brew because I enjoy the taste of a good beer, so 4-5 beers a week gets me by just fine, which is low compared to many brewers I’ve talked to.  Porter is the highest alcohol ale I brew, my other favorite is a Scottish 60/- (60 shilling) which normally comes in between 2.8 and 3%.

As you all know I do suffer from Fibromyalgia and that affects your body’s ability to handle alcohol, so I stick to low alcohol because I don’t like to get drunk, I like to enjoy a damned good pint.  The malt soothes my stomach when its upset, helps take the irritable out of the bowels, and helps me sleep a little sounder.

Your mileage may vary, go enjoy a quality brew while I try and think up a real name for this stuff!

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Brewing Report

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Categories: Brewing, Tags: , , , ,

Memorial Day was a bit of a brewer’s report card for me, and here’s the results of a tasting session:

The Lemon Head was interesting, it went too sweet which surprised me because sitting on the yeast with that much sugar it should have gone much deeper into the alcohol flavors, but it just might be that the acids and bitterness of the lemons combined with the alcohol it fermented as high as the yeast could and the rest was leftover sugar, it also didn’t carbonate much. Next time I think I’ll brew a high gravity beer then back flavor it.  I think it got an OK rating and Shae went home with the few bottles I’d put together.

Bragg’s Golden Braggot, braggot is a mead (honey wine) and malted drink (beer) at once. It went very dry and had a strong wine flavor, next time I go higher gravity on the beer side as this batch was mostly honey for fermentables, it was 6:1 honey to malt, I think I’ll bump that up to 2:1 next time with a slightly more assertive hop.  Key took home a 6 pack and I’m aging about 18 mor 12 oz bottles, I’ll call it a successful batch though.

Sour Puss Lambic definately had the funky sour tastes but was too light on the fruit flavors, I put in about 8 lbs of fruit but the yeast and souring cultures seemed to eat them all up.  When I popped the lid on the fermenter the scent was pure lambic, so I hit that perfectly, but lesson learned was to have a fruit concentrate on hand to back flavor it.  We tried mixing a lingonberry concentrate and it balanced up very easily with only a few drops to a 2 oz taster.  I’ll go mixed on this, its technicall correct, the flavor needs work, and nobody wanted any to take with them.

The Hard Apple Cider followed a trand of mine of going very fry, meaning high alcohol, I had to back sweeten it with soft cider, but next time I’ll use concentrate.  This was one of the better recieved and Kit got the rest of the batch to take home.  Next time, sour green apple cider.

The Red Death Melomel, a fruit mead, went very dry and the alcohol flavor is a bit of a knee in the groin.  It all stayed home with me.

The Holiday Cyser was a bit of a surprise, its mead and hard cider in one, with a spiced flavor that comes from a little cinnamon and a mix of honey and apple, it came out rather sweet and I’d cut that down by blending in a few cups of strong tea as the tannins reduce the cloying element of the sweetness.  It went rather well, expecially with those that like sweet spicy drinks.  Shae took home a half gallon and I have another gallon aging in the brew fridge.

After my last batch of Scotish 60/- (60 shilling) fermented out badly I was a little nervous when I tried my first Porter.  I’d rounded up the ingredients fresh in Seattle and brewed it up, I think I pulled it out of the fermenter a little early and it hadn’t finished conditioning, I compressed a three week process into two when it was all said and done, but it came out very well despite.  It was flat when we tried it but the flavor was very pleasant even then, I’d intentionally kept the hop profile a little lower than the brew shop’s recipe, to keep it in line with Black Butte Porter, but the malt really came through well.  Its a mild ale, a little light in color but I fan fix that with the steep next time, but it goes down really well.  I force carbonated it in the tap a draft and it is a gamned good ale, but a little heavy on a hot day.

As far as ales go, I may just have to alternate between 60/- and Porter.  Well, the 60/- in the summer and the porter in fall and winter.

Over all, I think I have a way to go, but pretty good for a brewer with under a year to his credit.

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Newsvine Piece: My Kitchen the Brewery

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I like to word hiatus, it’s a nice highfalutin word meaning took a break, goofed off, or did something else and I’ve spent the last six months largely doing something else.  The main reasons for the hiatus were twofold, first I spent a fair piece of it under the weather and its amazing how much being sick takes out of you.  Secondly the gruelingly unpleasant political process, the depths that it reached and how it politicized every discussion ruined anything positive I could find on Newsvine.  On the days that I did feel halfway decent I’d open up the Vines and by the time I was done reading my frustration and irritation factors sucked what energy I did have right out of me.  I did seed a few things but by and large I didn’t miss it at all. Continue reading →

© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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Brewing: Scottish 60 Shilling aka 60/-

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I’m not a big fan of what most people call American beers, Lagers and Pilsners made light with very little body. Thin and watery, like the Monty Python joke, its like making love in a canoe… fucking close to water. I like a heavier brew, ale generally, with a good backbone to it. Malt is good and I don’t mind hops at all, though I like them malty to balanced, hops shouldn’t dominate the brew. Some brews are like a hop grenade, they try to shove every last IBU (international Bitterness Unit) they can into their product.

Hops have a few purposes:

  • They add bitterness to beers and ales to balance out malt and sweetness
  • They add secondary flavors and aroma, depending upon type they can add spice, fruit, citrus, herbal, earthy or evergreen characters to ales and beers.
  • They preserve beer naturally, adding shelf life.
  • They have healthy effects, aiding in sleep and 2 beers a day (no more) can help keep heart disease and cancer at bay. In fact hops can be used in pillowcases for aroma therapy to help improve sleep quality.

But I don’t like hops for the sake of adding hops. I prefer a light hop like a Hallertau Select, nice aroma and light bitterness, they compliment the brew, not dominate it. This is why I prefer Scottish Ales and Porters over most others. They are dark in color, and depending on the type range from light in body to heavy.

  • 60/- has about 2.5-3.2% alcohol by volume and 10-20 IBUs
  • 70/- has about 3.2-4.0% alcohol by volume and 10-25 IBUs
  • 80/- has about 3.9-5.0% alcohol by volume and 15-30 IBUs

They aren’t meant to be pounded like their lesser cousins, they are made so you can sit with a nice pint and relax, they tend to be a bit filling so you probably won’t be drinking too many but that fits me quite well, two of anything is about all I care for at any given time, usually one will do me quite nicely.

Back to this batch, I brewed it on the 12th, racked it from the primary fermenter to the secondary on the 19th, when I racked it I gave the yeast a good feeding and added oak chips to it to give it a barrel-aged character. The current batch of yeast is going still now so the ale strain has almost played out so I’ll let it settle to clarify until next week. Wednesday I’ll prepare a starter of champagne yeast and pitch it on Thursday and let do its thing until Friday. Champagne yeast won’t ferment the malts or change the character and when I “bottle” it on Friday I’ll add priming sugar, this will naturally carbonate it in the “bottles.”

I say “bottles” because I’ll be using 6 liter bottles, in a tap-a-draft system, its very close to kegging. Two will be naturally carbonated which will take up to two weeks for it to fully carbonate. The third I’ll force carbonate, this involves two CO2 cartridges in the tap system, over the course of a week it’ll age and carbonate in the brew fridge and carbonate that way.

Experiments all the way around, and experiments can be fun and tasty! That’s another advantage to 60/-, from 4-6 weeks after brew day you can be nose deep in froth and it doesn’t take any special care along the way. Many styles can be real prima donnas.

© 2008, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

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My Kitchen the Brewery

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I like to word hiatus, it’s a nice highfalutin word meaning took a break, goofed off, or did something else and I’ve spent the last six months largely doing something else. The main reasons for the hiatus were twofold, first I spent a fair piece of it under the weather and its amazing how much being sick takes out of you. Secondly the gruelingly unpleasant political process, the depths that it reached and how it politicized every discussion ruined anything positive I could find on Newsvine. On the days that I did feel halfway decent I’d open up the Vines and by the time I was done reading my frustration and irritation factors sucked what energy I did have right out of me. I did seed a few things but by and large I didn’t miss it at all.

Sadly, it actually helped.

My first diversion was playing with the internet productively, I set up a site for a group my wife belongs to and another for a group of my daughter’s, then I moved a fantasy writing and gaming group from MSN to its own domain, beating MSN’s announcement that they were closing groups by a few months. Then I built my own site, so not only am I person I’m a domain now. Then I polished the first third of a book to final draft form and had a few friends critique the hell out of it for me, the second third will start the same process soon.

Among the many things I researched for accuracy was beer, ale and mead-making techniques. This led to what many of my friends think is an odd hobby for me, homebrewing. In a normal year it’s not uncommon for me to drink as many as four adult beverages a year. Yes, I said a year. There’s a few reasons for this, there’s usually a few reasons for everything with me it seems, but first I spent most of my adult life on call, I’ve been called in to work for all sorts of reasons at all hours of the day and night over my entire career and I couldn’t reconcile myself to telling people counting on me that I couldn’t report for duty because I’d been drinking and couldn’t drive. I have a firm policy, if I have a drink I do not get behind the wheel, period. Secondly, for many years I was on medications that wouldn’t allow me to drink because of risk to my liver if combined with alcohol. Despite the fact that I exercised my liver strong when I was younger I really don’t mean it any ill will. I don’t want to shock anyone, but my drinking has skyrocketed up to 2-3 beers a week now.

Growing up the beer of choice was of course Budweiser, because Bud was what everyone could agree on mostly, but over the years I discovered that I really didn’t like most of what people call “American Beers,” Bud, MDG, Miller, Coors, the usual suspects, and it was worse when you took Old Pissqawkie or Pissqawkie’s Beast (Old Milwaukee and Milwaukee’s Best) into consideration. I like heavy gravity dark ales, preferably with an emphasis of malt over hops. More beers and ales have come on the market over the years and I’ve discovered I like a few of the newer craft breweries, New Belgium, Pyramid, Laughing Dog and New Glarus to name just a few.

Part of the reason that I emphasized that I don’t dislike American beer above is that I don’t, a good American beer can compete with any beer made anywhere in the world. England and Canada are considered by many beer snobs as the home of “good beers” but considering that Canada’s #1 selling Beer is Labatt Blue and England’s best seller is Carling (yes, as in Carling Black Label), both beers that smell like they were used to wash skunk from a dog I maintain that bad beer is universal. For that matter, Budweiser is the biggest selling beer in the world, now what does that say for global taste?

(pausing to savor a sip of New Belgium 1554)

So, I started brewing. My first project was something indescribable, it was an experiment with mead that didn’t call for any special equipment, and since all of my brew gear was on order I tried it out for a start. Honey, orange slices, raisins and bread yeast. Quite frankly it reminded me of some swill that was made while I was enjoying the desert climate somewhere you don’t need to know about. Raisin Jack has livened up many locations in the world for unfortunate GI’s doing the world tour on the Uncle Sam plan. Club Med it ain’t. Well, sometimes it is, but I digress. That went down the drain. Ditto an experiment with a fermented lemonade.

Next came a cider, its potent as hell right now, with an alcohol in the 18% range because the (real) yeast sucked every drop of sugar from it. Natural sugars and a half pound of brown sugar to boot. But, its not bad at all, the fact I can drink it before aging is a good sign , I’m going to back sweeten it with apple concentrate because it’s too dry, for now its clarifying to get all of the cloudy elements out, but the color its turning is gorgeous.

Second on the list is another hard lemonade, it too went very dry and I added sugars back into it because though it was an interesting flavor lemon wine isn’t going to please Mrs B. She doesn’t care for wine in any form that I’ve found. Its now carbonating and I’ll be cold aging it for about a month to let the flavors mix and learn to play together.

My third project, that’ll be waiting for a few months before I consider bottling and aging, is a cyser. Yes, you read that correctly, cyser is a melomel, a marriage of cider and mead. It’s a mix of five pounds of honey, dark brown sugar and cider to make a two gallon batch. I sampled it after a few weeks and the flavors were already blending with a faint undertone of young alcohol. Wow! When this one ages out its going to be something else.

Finally is a braggot, which marries mead and ale. For a five gallon batch I mixed 12 pounds of honey, brown sugar, dark malt grains, and hops. When its all done it’ll hit about 13% alcohol and have complex mix of flavors combining maltiness, sweetness and bitterness. I sampled it when I racked it to the secondary fermenter and even now it has an interesting flavor.

My future projects are going to be homemade root beer, a heavy gravity root beer ale, and I’m thinking of a Scottish 80 shilling Ale. I’m not sure why, but everything I seem to put together, except the lemonade, has been high gravity, a fancified term that means it has a lot of fermentable sugars and malts in it. When you put a hydrometer in it the numbers come out high, water has a specific gravity of (SG) of 1.000, your “average” beers have an SG of 1.050, and most things I’ve put together have been in the 1.095 – 1.105 range. High SG = higher alcohol, depending on the final gravity reading. Which is why I’m looking at the 80 Shilling, a nice dark ale, malty with light hops and low gravity.

Anyway, I’ve beer-nerded enough for now and I have a beer to finish, with a turkey sandwich I think.

© 2008, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.