The problem with needing to keep my brain entertained at all times

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, one thing the narrator talks about is that many people don’t pay attention to their work, but instead want to be entertained, even while working. His mechanic continually fails to fix his motorcycle, apparently due simply to sloppy work. He blames this sloppiness at least in part on the fact that the mechanics are constantly rocking out to music when he shows up, and suggests that they will be unable to focus on his bike while they are listening to music.

I read this book recently, and the idea seemed kind of laughable. In the era of texting while driving, blasting Zep while cranking on some lug nuts doesn’t really seem like a big deal. I know people who  watch TV while cleaning the house, listen to books on tape while writing, watch TV while eating dinner, and can’t go for a run without good music. Heck, I AM some of those people. In fact, I’m one of the worst offenders I know, which may be why this topic resonates with me.

Is this a problem? I’m not sure. I get to listen to some awesome music, expand my brain with The Great Courses on audio book, and half-way enjoy myself at all times. My work may or may not suffer, so I’ll put that in the ‘maybe’ category. One downside that I never truly enjoy the things I’m using to distract myself – it’s hard to focus on the newest episode of Sherlock if I’m constantly running out of the room to organize something. The other, possibly more important issue, is that it turns everything else in my life into a drag.

Going for a run, lifting weights, cleaning the house, washing dishes, analyzing data, writing a book, biking to work, even eating dinner, etc. All of these things become chores, even when they don’t have to be, because I’m distracting myself from them by doing something ‘more entertaining’ at the same time. But many of these tasks when I focus on them, aren’t tasks at all, but rather something I can enjoy, or even get passionate about.

Maybe it’s a good idea to stop trying to distract myself from my life and just live it. I can’t believe I just wrote that; it sounds like a motivational poster. I guess I probably shouldn’t have been watching Netflix while writing this…



BJCP style #2: Belgian blonde (18A)

For the second beer in our series, I decided to brew a Belgian blonde, mostly because it’s become one of my favorite styles of beer, but also because it’s pretty difficult to find more than a few good examples.

11 - 23- 15 031My assistant brewer that day was my friend Trevor, who still hasn’t managed to come drink any since we brewed.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Belgian blondes are about 6% to 7.5% ABV, light and fruity with maybe little spicy character, a mildly sweet grain front, and a dry finish. There are other style expectations too, but that’s about all I can keep in my head. In my mind a Belgian blonde is kind like a fluffy, fruity, lower ABV, less hoppy version of a SONY DSCtripel. I only have to make that comparison though because I’ve drank a lot more tripels than blondes. If you’ve never had one, Leffe blonde is probably the easiest to find, and is a great example of the style.

So many Belgian beers I have had from breweries and home brewers in the United States are just undrinkable to me. They tend not to have a lot of real Belgian yeast character, and they finish far too sweet. So, my main goals here were to capture at least a decent amount of the fruity, slightly spicy flavor a Belgian blonde should have, and get a nice dry finish.



  • 10.33 lbs. Belgian pilsner (The extra .33 lbs. was just because I spilled a bit of grain)
  • 1 lb. German wheat
  • 4 oz. light dry extract (I actually forget why I put this in, I don’t have notes on it…)
  • 1.25 lbs. table sugar (Try to kick up the dry finish)

Hops: (the slightly odd hop weights were because I was finishing off quantities of certain hops I had lying around that I thought appropriate for the style).

  • 0.6 oz. Mt. Hood (First wort hop, boiled 60 minutes)
  • 0.4 oz. Hersbrucker at 60 min.
  • 0.2 oz. Mt. Hood at 7 min.
  • 1 oz. Saaz at 2 min.


  • 1 tsp gypsum in the mash
  • 0.25 tsp irish moss at 10 min.
  • 0.25 oz. coriander at 5 min.
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient at 10
  • Yeast was SafBrew Fermentis T-58 with no starter

We did a full volume mash with about 8 gallons of water to account for grain absorption and boil-off, using a 70 qt. cooler with a home-made bag.

After the boil we cooled to 65F and added the yeast. After fermentation started (about 12 11 - 23- 15 032hours), I moved it to the basement where ambient was 60F for about 36 hours until high krausen dropped, then moved it to my fermentation closet with a plant mat to try to get it up to 75F until fermentation was completely done (about 6 days). I use a similar temperature profile, with some variation, with most beers I brew, but especially Belgians. The reason why this is important is that by starting out fairly cool during the most intense fermentation, one prevents high concentrations of hot fusel alcohols, as well as other problems like band-aidy flavors. But heating up the fermentation as it starts to cool ensures that your fermentation will finish strong, and you’ll get a nice dry finish to your beer, which as I talked about before, is so critical with Belgian brews.

After another seven days, I primed with 4.5 oz. of corn sugar and bottled. This is a little more priming sugar than I’d usually use, but Belgians should have a solid carbonation to them.

The end result: delicious! It ended up being a little too alcoholic (like 9%!!), so it started out a little astringent but over time it mellowed out, and after a couple months is amazing.

Next up: quadruppel!