01/17/2012, Rozelle Bay
Australia is a wonderful place that we are enjoying immensely. One of the few negatives we have experienced is the price of beer. Its very expensive.
During our trip up to Parramatta I learned that all the other skippers (representing three other boats) were brewing their own beer on board and that the cost of home brewed beer was a fraction of the cost of the store bought stuff.
One of the breweries in Australia (Cooper's) has developed a line of DIY beer making supplies that enable individuals to brew their own beers in a variety of styles from Mexican Cervesa to Irish Stout. here's a link to their web site http://www.diybeer.com.au/
To get started you purchase a DIY brewing kit at Kmart that contains everything you need to make a batch of thirty 740 ml bottles. You get a fermentation vessel, plastic bottles and caps, a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of your brew and the necessary ingredients to make a batch of lager. I also bought a kit to make a batch of Mexican Cervesa (Corona knockoff) and an additional 30 bottles.
As it turned out the Kmart in Sydney was sold out of the kits so I had to take the train back to the big mall in Parramatta to buy my kit. I took our folding hand truck with me as the boxes I had to transport were bulky. The train conductors on the way back expressed an interest in visiting me in about 4 weeks. I don' think you would ever have a problem finding someone in Australia to help you drink your beer.
Today I got started.
I watched the DVD that came with the kit and showed the simple steps to starting a fermentation and bottling the final product.
The first thing you have to do is sanitize the fermentation vessel and tools. That was easy. A weak bleach solution took care of that job in just a few minutes.
Then you dissolve the dry Beer Enhancer (mixture of sugars and malt) in hot water and add a can on malt extract. The malt extract comes in a big tin can about the size of cans that pineapple juice comes in. It is formulated to provide most of the flavor associated with the type of beer you are making.
I used the Mexican Cervesa kit for my first batch. After the sugars are dissolved you fill the fermenter with water to 23 liters and take an initial specific gravity reading with the hydrometer that is included in the kit. Then you add the yeast and wait a week. The initial specific gravity of my brew measured 1.037. Water is 1.000
The change in specific gravity that you measure between the first measurement and the last can be used to calculate the alcohol content of your brew. The Specific gravity drops as the sugars are converted to carbon dioxide and alcohol.
I have the fermentation vessel sitting on the seat in our shower. There seems to be some activity in the fermentation vessel that is similar to what I saw when I brought my sea monkeys to life many years ago. I should note that my sea monkey experience was very different from Eric Cartman's. The brew is supposed to get foamy over the next couple of days and then settle down for the rest of the fermentation interval.
The brew should be ready to bottle in about a week. You wait until the specific gravity of the brew does not change in a 24 hour period. This indicates that the yeast has finished consuming the fermentable sugars in the brew. Then you can bottle it. You put additional sugar in the bottles to allow enough additional fermentation to take place to carbonate the brew. In two weeks its drinkable.
I made beer in college. It was a much more primitive process back then and we tried to time the bottling step so that there was enough sugar left in the brew to carbonate the beer. The problem with this approach is that if there was a little too much sugar left there would be too much carbonation and the bottles would explode. It happened like an atomic reaction. When one bottle exploded it would set off another bottle or two and those two bottles would each set off more. The time line was quite a bit longer than the nuclear reaction of a hydrogen bomb but the net result was analogous. You ended up with a big mess consisting of broken glass and stale drying beer. The bright side of that situation was that, after smelling that mess, you were put off beer for a while.
The modern approach is to add the carbonating sugar in the form of sugar drops that look like colorless lollipops without the sticks. This precisely controls the amount of secondary fermentation that can take place and makes sure the level of carbonation is right. Two of these sugar chunks per 740 ml bottle is supposed to finish the beer just right. This assumes that the fermentation in the first stage progressed to completion.
Ill keep posting on the progress of the brew.
Gail and David on Fifth Season organized a road trip to Parramatta to see several free performances in the park that are part of the annual Sydney Festival.
Parramatta is now a suburb of Sydney. It was originally the site of the women's prison in the early days of the colony. It was also the home of the Reverend Marsden (aka, the flogging parson) who was well known for his brutal treatment of convicts and impressive skills in acquiring wealth.
Parramatta is up the Parramatta river from Sydney and was about a half an hours trip on the excellent Sydney public transit system.
On our first trip to Australia, 8 years ago, the guide we had for our tour of the Blue Mountains, had commented that, in the early days of the colony, the Parramatta road was known for its bush rangers and highwaymen who would rob people traveling on the road. He went on to comment that it is now the road where most of the automobile dealerships are located so things have not changed all that much.
The Parramatta we saw when we got off the train was nothing like the grubby little town that housed the women's prison. Its a bustling suburb with an incredible Westfiled shopping mall attached directly to the train station and a charming downtown area with lots of restaurants with sidewalk seating.
The events we came to see where held outside in the park. This turned out to be an unfortunate venue. It rained a lot.
We were all watching the weather and the forecast was for some light showers but we ended up getting soaked. It rained hard several times during the afternoon and again when it was time to leave.
Overall the performances we saw were not worth getting soaked over. At least they were free.
The headline act was called "The Barefoot Divas". The divas are 6 supersized women from various south pacific island nations who are trying to capitalize on the "Three Tenors" gig. They were not very good. None of them had a fine voice, their choice of music was mundane and it was pretty obvious that they are not that into singing together. A couple of them had pretty earrings.
The divas would have looked better if they had come after the second act
"Taraf de Haidouks & Kocani Orkestar - Band of Gypsies" which was truly appalling. This gypsy "orchestra" consisted of a few baritone horns, a tuba, three trumpets, a zither, electronic keyboard and percussion. It was more like noise than music and various band members were heavily into the monkey face thing where whey act like they are having the time of their lives but you end up with the impression that they are trying to convince you their performance is enjoyable.
The leader of that group was a terrible singer. I am assuming he was the leader as I cant imagine any other reason the rest of them would have let him sing.
There was another act in the park was called "As the World Tipped" was an interesting performance art thing where the stage platform tilted until it was completely vertical and the performers scrambled up and down over projected images. The performers were suspended on cables and counter weighted by other members of the crew (dressed in black) who climbed up and down the scaffolding on the edge of the stage to allow the main performers to move up and down over the surface of the stage. It was interesting for about 2 minutes but went on for a looooong time. I guess I missed the point.
The pot luck picnic supper was a success. All the cruisers who participated brought things to share. When you live on a boat its really interesting to experience other people's cooking once in a while.
A company that makes packaged ice cream cones (Cornetto) had lots of pretty girls handing out free ice cream cones. Since the weather kept the crowds to a minimum there were plenty of ice cream cones for all. I had two, I think Shawn had 4. They were really yummy.
On our way back to the train station it really poured and we all took shelter under an overhang a few hundred yards from the train station. It was one of those deluges that would have soaked you completely in a minute or two. For entertainment we had David, from Fifth Season, with his smart phone showing us radar images of the rain we were experiencing and were all staring at the screen hopefully. We were looking for any sign of motion that would indicate that the rain was moving away.
I was feeling a bit pissed at myself for not bailing on the gypsies as soon as I heard the opening notes of their performance. I knew what was coming but stood around and listened anyway. If we had left a little sooner we would have beat the rain.
We got back to the fish market docks where we had left our dingies and, by then, the rain had stopped. We bailed the dingies and got back to our boats without any additional rain.
I dont feel like we really saw much of Parramatta and want to go back again to see the historical sites.
12/31/2011, Sydney Harbour
We had the good fortune to be invited aboard the catamaran Fifth Season for New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbor. Our hosts, David and Gail Funk, have been passing the cyclone season here in Australia for the past three years so they are experienced at dealing with the madness of the thousands of boats that anchor in the harbor for the fireworks display.
We had barely recovered from parties associated with Christmas and then were treated to an evening of grazing on all sorts of goodies that were contributed by our hosts and other guests.
Gail is an accomplished musician and she provided us with a sundown recital. Gail likes show tunes and classics and plays a harp that David built for her. One reason they transitioned to the catamaran was so that there would be a bunk for her harp.
David and Gail invited us to spend the night on their boat on the bay so there would not be any issue of trying to make our way back to an anchorage with hundreds of Aussie revelers on the bay. It was a very good idea as the catamaran provided a very stable platform that was hardly effected by the ferry wakes on the bay.
The fireworks display was like nothing either of us has ever seen. The news stories said that the show cost the city 7 million dollars. That was not hard to believe. The central focal point of the show was the Sydney Harbour bridge but there were also fireworks going off on the tops of buildings in the city.
We could not have asked for better weather. The skies cleared off and there was not too much wind to blow the aerial displays around. Near the finale there was a cascade of golden fireworks streaming from the edge of the bridge into the bay.
I'll post a picture that we took that evening. Its not as good as you might have seen on TV. We are expecting some friends to share their photos and will upload them to an album when we receive them.
New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbour is something that should be on everyone's bucket list.