Monthly Archives: April 2014


Under the table, under the stairs. That's where Josh and I brew.

Under the table, under the stairs. That’s where Josh and I brew.

I think I’ve spoken before about my dislike of beer — and my happiness and love of Josh’s happiness when he tries new beer.

For Christmas I bought him a homebrew kit. He was giddy. We have so far turned out two beers, one complete, and one currently bottled and becoming carbonated in our tiny closet under the stairs. Having just written that, I wonder why I didn’t insist on calling it the Harry Potter Ale, or the Butterbeer or something else HP related — but I digress. The first was the Handlweizen, named because Josh had a ridiculous moustache when he made it. It’s obviously a wheat beer The second, and still in progress brew, is the Wok This Way IPA, named so because we didn’t have a big enough pot, and ended up using my newly purchased, thousand-gallon wok.

The first brew really went off without a hitch. We used a kit both times, but the Handleweizen was active and bubbly, constantly releasing gasses from the yeast. We bottled it with friends, had a great time, and two weeks later we were drinking it.

Wok was a little different. Again we used a kit. We had hoped to snag a Pilsner, but Josh’s favourite brew shop, Beer Hound Brewery, is closing up shop and moving to Culpeper, where it plans to expand from a nanobrewery to a microbrewery. Nanos and micros, what’s the difference, right? Turns out it’s huge. Anyway, the shop had only two kits left, so we went with IPA. Besides the wok mix up, Josh didn’t buy enough distilled water, and ended up using tap water. A week after the brew process, not a peep had been heard from the yeast. Nothing at all. We worried. Eventually, Josh claimed he saw one little bubble come out. He called me over to the dank closet to check it out. I saw nothing. I gave up after several minutes when my knees began to ache as we huddled around the bucket. Beer brewers are weird.

We let Wok go an extra week and a half. Kind of because of the yeast issue, but also because we got busy and forgot. Every once in awhile I’d ask Josh if it was okay to leave it, and his reply was generally, “I have no idea, but what can it hurt?” As the legendary Charlie Papazian says, “Relax, have a homebrew.”

And hurt it did not. We ended up bottling two weekends ago, and much to our surprise, the beer had accumulated 5 percent alcohol — the same as the Handle. What the heck happened?

We still don’t know, but we bottled it up. This time I got to help a bit more. With Handle, I really just ate snacks and chatted with friends over some wine while Josh and our lovely brewing companion Veronica did the heavy lifting. This time I filled the bottles and splashed beer all over the place, again with wine in hand. It was a really fun night.

I may not like beer, but there’s something about the brewing process that I certainly do love. Maybe it’s the odd spontaneity, the never knowing, the second-guessing, the surprise taste at the end. Whatever it is, I sure do like it.

Picking up that brew kit was some of the best money I ever spent. I think my only complaint so far is that I am constantly picking up, washing and finding a place for pop-off beer bottles. I’ve created a bottle hoarder. Oh well.




There is a lot afoot in the Grant Armstrong household. Pictures are town off the walls, holes are being filled, boxes are being packed. Dust is being stirred up — Annalee is sneezing a lot. That must mean, yes! We’re on the move to Alexandria, VA after a wonderful few years in C-ville. Well, two years and a bit for Josh, and one year and a bit for me.

Spelling Bee fail. It only took one strike to get out.

Spelling Bee fail. It only took one strike to get out.

We’ve loved this town, and the people in it. We loved the food, the wineries, the cherry blossoms, the kickball games, walking downtown, strolling the Mall, all of it. But opportunities for both of us are elsewhere, so off we go. With three weeks to go until we move in to our new apartment, I’m happy to report I am actually organized. Yes, with two weeks to go until the move, I have boxes packed. My winter clothes are ready to go, my shoes (with the best ones on top in case I need them) are in a reusable shopping bag, and my scarves, mittens, hats and winter boots are put away. I men, if we left right now I’d be as organized as I ever have been for any move in my lifetime. Just ask my family, who for some reason keep agreeing to help me move (suckers).

Our new apartment is amazing, and we’re really excited to get the keys. It’s close to the Metro and we got everything on our list — except in-home laundry. But we were willing to give that up if it meant the perfect kitchen, a patio for me to grow tomato plants and read on, and enough storage space for Josh to brew keg after keg of beer, if he so chooses. We got all of those things, and more. I can’t wait to start cooking in that kitchen! We may even need to buy new kitchen gadgets.

Hit Meadowcreek Golf Course on Saturday, and I kept up with Josh!

Hit Meadowcreek Golf Course on Saturday, and I kept up with Josh!

We’re wrapping up our final weeks in Charlottesville trying to tick off items on our C-ville bucket list. The cherry blossoms are almost at peak, the daffodils and violets are in full bloom already — this city is giving us the ultimate goodbye, although it’s not making it easy for us to up and leave. On Saturday we did nine holes of golf, and I did really well. Not only did I keep up with Josh, but I beat him on the final par-3 with one over. He got like 6 because he sucks at putting. It was such a good day.

Today, though, it’s raining and I’m back to work after a really great weekend. A rainy day is the perfect day to be at work.


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