Saturday, May 19, 2012

New Tricks

Not too long ago, after getting some pressure from my rye-fanatic roommate, I whipped up a Rye IPA, or RyePA if you're into that sort of thing.  It was a fun experiment.  Having never brewed with rye malt before I decided to start conservatively at 10% of the grist.  Here is what I came up with.

70% 2-Row
10% Dark German Munich
10% German Rye Malt
5% Victory
5% Crystal 60° L

13.2 AAU Nugget (60 min)
1 oz Mt Hood (30 min)
1 oz Cascade (15 min)
1 oz Mt Hood (5 min)
1 oz Cascade (0 min)

Wyeast 1332 - Northwest Ale

When toying with new ingredients I tend go overboard.  I eschew subtlety in favor of making damn sure I know how a certain malt or hop will affect the final quality of the beer.  With this Rye IPA I'm glad I found restraint.  The spiciness from the rye is present, but fairly subtle, and complimented nicely by the Mt Hood/Cascade hops and the slight fruitiness of yeast.  If anything, the rye could be more present in the final beer, and I think that I will bump it up to 15% on the next go around.

Quite a full boil!
The bottom line: I landed really close to the pin with this recipe.  It's probably luck, but I may also be getting better at understanding how all the facets of recipe formulation fit together.  I will brew this beer again soon with two primary adjustments: more rye (offset by reducing the 2-Row, I would guess) and more hop bitterness.  Despite all the late hop additions, I would still like this beer to be more bitter.  To this end I suppose I could go one of two ways: by upping the bittering hops at 60 minutes and/or another addition around 45 minutes, or I could start treating my water with sulphates.  This second path would only up the perceived bitterness at risk of impairing the malt character, and thus I am a bit reluctant to try it.  However water treatment is still a missing dimension of my brewing--one that I'll have to start exploring sooner or later.

Until I figure all this out and come to a decision, I'm going to continue to explore obscure English ale styles.  Up next: Old Ale!  Filling that no-man's land between Brown Porter and English Barleywine.  There's 5 gallons of bitter about to go into a keg and that yeast cake will be prime to ferment out an 1.065 OG beer in no time!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Skynet is Almost Online

While doing the rounds on Ray Kurzweil's Singularity hype-site today, I came across a spiffy little news bit. Could this be what brings about our inescapable Matrix-esque demise? Even if it doesn't, the Computational Complexity course over in the CS department just got a little harder.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Out with the Old, In with the New

It is always saddening, at least on some level, to say goodbye to a batch of beer. When homebrewing, every batch of beer lives a unique, transient life. The beer changes day to day, grows, ages. One of the best aspects of the hobby, to me, is observing each of my ales trace out the arc of its life. Needless to day, I always feel a bit of sinking feeling when I draw the last pint from the keg.

Make no mistake, the sinking feeling is brief. I'm overly happy to see a good beer go, especially if it's been a particularly good batch. After all, I firmly believe that the best thing to do with beer is drink it. In this sense, the early kicking of the keg is an honorable fate for a good beer to meet. "...runners whom reknown outran, and the name that died before the man...."

Unfortunately, not all great beers pass so gracefully. For example, I still have a Porter on tap that I made in late 2011. It was one of the best beers I'd made to date, so good that I decided to take it off the tap in order to preserve it, to make it last forever. Then time passed, the Porter sailed way past its peak and it took a drastic dive off the deep end, turning into a funky, tart disappointment. Now I'm stuck drinking my way through 2.5 gallons of beer that doesn't really taste good and only reminds me of what it used to be.

So I suppose the moral of the story is to appreciate the fleeting moments. Don't try to hold onto something, not touching it until it withers and haunts you with memory and regret. Either that or the moral is that people need to get over here and help me humanely put this sad beer down so I can use that keg to start serving up the Mild I made two weeks ago. Good riddance!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Back from the Dead

Good news, everyone! Though most people who should know this know this, I passed my PhD screening exam--the reason for my disappearance late last year. Since then I've done such fun things as visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, OR, the land of cheese, trees, and ocean breeze, watched, in person, Oregon handily dispose of Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and spend $700 replacing the cam-shaft position sensor in my car. Happy New Year!

In even better news, I'm making beer today. Earlier this year I took a stab at brewing a new style: English Mild. It turned out so well that the entire 5 gallons hardly lasted a week! Even though I overshot OG by 4 points the beer stilled weighed in at 4.1%, making it quite sessionable. What's more, the beer is dirt cheap and ready to drink inside 14 days from pitching the yeast, carbonation time included. Check it out:

English Mild

5.5# Marris Otter
0.75# English Crystal 55° L
0.27# English Chocolate

0.31# Brown sugar

5 AAUs Fuggles (60 min)
0.5 oz East Kent Goldings (10 min)

WLP-002 - English Ale

I wanted to mash at 152°, though I think it was closer to 150°. The fermentation happened between 64.5-65.5°--very stable for a water bath fermentation. The end result? A beer that delivered a roasty sweetness with just enough esthers and EKG flavor to keep it interesting. It was one of those rare brews that hit the mark on the very first try. So precisely, in fact, that I think this recipe has made it house offering status. It may even edge out my Bitter as the go-to cheap, fast, drinkable crowd pleaser. I'll see if I can recreate the magic today, but my money is on this Mild being a regular presence in beer fridge.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Not so Far-Fetched

While I have all but forgotten about this blog, I haven't been posting with good reason: this semester has been marked by a notable increase in work. The main event, my PhD Screening Exam, is a mere two weeks off and I am deep into the studying at this point, hardly finding time for my classes, let alone any meaningful research. Putting all that aside, there has been some exciting developments in QIP around here lately...

As you can read in this article, the USC Information Sciences Institute cut the ribbon on the first D-Wave One computer outside of the D-Wave facilities in BC. The 128-qubit, adiabatic quantum computer comes as a quite generous gift from Lockheed. The machine is in place, cooled down to a nice 20 micro-Kelvin, and being calibrated over the next couple weeks, which means that we may soon take a little field trip out to Marina and try running some experiments.

Beer wise, things are still slow as I can't find the time to brew these days. However I have received packages of hops from the tipi at my parents place in Oregon which will hopefully get used up before too long. Also, I brewed the second annual Estate Pale Ale (almost 2 months ago!), an APA brewed with wet cascade and centennial hops from my own modest hop garden here in LA.

Friday, August 19, 2011


This is old news at this point, but the latest, greatest beer bar to hit LA opened up on August 1st. Mohawk Bend boasts an impressive, rotating tap list of something between 65-72 California craft brews. They have food and spirits and wine to boot, also all from California, but I patronize them for the beer alone. What's possibly the best part of it all? I can step out my door and be at MB inside 10 minutes, walking.

The opening of this theater-turned-restaurant has been long awaited.  I'm not sure of the specifics of the delays, but I do know that I've been waiting patiently for MB to open despite the big day being pushed back from early spring into the depths of summer.  Now all that is in the past and the future looks very bright.  Each time I step up to order a pint the menu has changed pretty substantially, and I have been able to wet my whistle entirely with beers I'd never tasted before.  There are a number of breweries being poured that I'd never heard of before, and even more that I'd never seen at a bar.

I could go on about all the beers, but the bottom line is that you should check this place out.  They've been packed to the jowls so don't expect an easy time ordering, let alone finding much space to sit in the bar area.  You could wait for a table, but then you're in for a 1-2 hour wait.  I'd chalk it all up to a small staff and restricted hours, which supposedly they are planning to extend soon.  When that happens, you can be sure that I'll be in there on USC game day later this fall.

On a completely separate note, I discovered a most excellent YouTube series the other day covering all the bare-bones basics of Quantum Computation.  It is a series of short, self-contained classes (in the style of Khan Academy) by Michael Nielsen, the guy who literally wrote the book on Quantum Computation. If you have any interest in how QIS works and loosely what it's all about, you should give these videos a peep. You don't need any quantum mechanics to start working through it all, though some linear algebra is pretty integral to making any headway. Any way you slice it, the stuff is very interesting and these videos lay everything out as clearly as you will find anywhere, starting with the fundamental idea of the qubit and working towards very cool results like superdense coding and quantum teleportation. It's not science fiction, it's just science.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

That Makes it Easy

I just had my mind blown.  In my summer course, Random Processes, I had a homework problem regarding estimation theory and determining 2nd order statistics about linear combinations of jointly Gaussian random variables. Part of the problem is to determine the Covariance of these linear combinations. As worked away I had an incredible realization: Covariance behaves like an inner product!

Check it out, it satisfies the properties of an inner produce on the probability space:
1) It's bilinear
Cov\lbrack\gamma A + \delta B,Z\rbrack = \gamma Cov\lbrack A,Z\rbrack +\delta Cov\lbrack B,Z\rbrack\]
2) It's symmetric
Cov\lbrack A,B\rbrack = Cov\lbrack B,A\rbrack\]
3) It's positive semi-definite (or what I think is better said non-negative definite, but that's for another post)
Var\lbrack A\rbrack =Cov\lbrack A,A\rbrack\ge 0\]
Where $Cov\lbrack A,A\rbrack = 0$ implies that $A$ is a constant random variable.

So it's not exactly an inner product--there isn't the existence of a single zero. Rather, all constant random variables behave like zero. Apparently, this defines a Quotient Space--a vector space with an subspace $N$ that forms an equivalence class with $0$--and Covariance is an inner product over such a space.

Anyway, I looked this up on Wikipedia and, sure enough, there is a little section titled "Relationship to inner products" (which pointed me towards the article on quotient spaces). I guess it's not any huge discovery. I wasn't expecting that. But I am a little peeved that Variance and Covariance were never taught this way, or that this cool perspective was never even mentioned. I feel as though I pushed my understanding and intuition of Covariance way ahead by seeing this little change of face, and it would have been a huge help when taking probability courses in the past.