Change in Pace

I’m sitting here in my brewery starting to work on Brew Five of my 100 Brew Challenge.  I know I haven’t done a good job of keeping up to date with my last two brews.  There are plenty of reasons for that.  Whether it’s work, a social life, taking care of my son, or engaging in other hobbies, it has stopped me from documenting my brewing here.

However, more importantly, I’ve slowly been trying to figure out what I am trying to do with this blog.  So far I’ve been writing it like a play by play explanation of my brewing activities.  And, to be perfectly honest, that’s not what I want this to be.  I’m not a serious brewer.  I brew because it is fun and I like what I make more than most the things I can buy.  That’s it.  So a technical journal is not what I need to do.

Instead, I’m going to make this a lot more simple.  Less pictures of the procedure, more of the result.  Less about the how, more about the why.  Less about the technical detail, more about beer.  How does that sound?

Brew Two: Springtime Gose

Brew: 13 April 2019
Secondary: 20 April 2019
Bottle: 27 April 2019
Refrigerate: 1 May 2019
Drink: 7 May 2019

On to Brew Number Two of the 100 Brew Challenge.  As I try to start integrating monthly brews into my life, I have created a goal above all others: Brew as many styles as possible.  With my last brew, I learned about the benefits of flavoring during secondary.  I also learned about how priming sugars relate directly to the structure of the head.  With this month’s brew I hope to learn a few new things as I make a Springtime Gose (while it snows outside–that’s Colorado for you).

With this brew, I am going to do something during the mash that I have only ever heard of.  I am going to add salt and coriander.  This will also be my beer with the lowest IBU–coming in at seven.  I know that hops is primary meant to keep beer from going bad.  So my hope is that this number will be high enough.  Since I am aiming for 45-50 bottles, I will likely have this brew around for a couple months, so I hope to find out.   Here is the recipe I will be following.

The Recipe
Brew Method: All Grain
Style Name: Cream Ale
Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size: 5 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 6 gallons

STATS:
ABV (standard): 6%
IBU (tinseth): 7
SRM (morey): 5.74

FERMENTABLES:
7 lb – White Wheat Malt
2 lb – Munich Malt
2 lb – Acidulated Malt
4 lb – Pilsner Malt

HOPS:
1 oz – German Tettnang (AA 2.0)

OTHER INGREDIENTS:
1 oz – Salt
1 oz -Freshly ground coriander

YEAST:
Wyeast – British Ale II Beer Yeast
Optimum Temp: 60 – 95 F
Fermentation Temp: 70 F

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Before I started my second brew, I made a couple changes to my brewery.  As you can see above, the layout is a little different.  That is because we moved the fridge from the garage to the brewery.  This allows for me to keep all my ingredients (and beer) close on hand.  Since we don’t use this fridge for much other than beer and breast milk storage, there wasn’t much of a reason to keep it in the garage.  It’ll be nice to have everything I need right here.

The second big change was with the bottle situation.  Friends and family have been giving me their left over bottles for a couple years now.  When I moved into this brewery, it appeared that I had close to 400 bottles.  When I went to bottle Brew One: Vanilla Bean Cream Ale, I realized that the array of bottles would complicate things.  Some bottles don’t take normal caps.  Some bottles are way too big.  Some…had things growing inside of them.  Since we had so many, I decided to consolidate with the best.  We got rid of any that had any signs of not being properly cleaned.  We also got rid of the weirdly shaped ones.  In the end, I still have a little over 200.  And now I don’t risk having a beer spoiled by going into a bad bottle or not carbonated because the cap wouldn’t go on properly.

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Anyway, I used four socks to start of the mash I did last time.  Except this time I actually have my thermometer (I found buried under hundreds of caps).  The socks are working beautifully.  Until a get a systems that does a lot of this automatically, these socks are going to be a part of my ritual.  The mash went off without any issues as I watched Mystery, Alaska.  Great movie.

With the boil, one of my primary goals for this brew was to end up with more volume.  So, at the end of the mash, I salvaged as much as I could by pouring hot water over the the soaked socks.  In the end, I was able to fill up the kettle barely to the top.  I believe this will allow me to get more than 500 ounces from this brew.  Hopefully more like 550.

As I got the boil up to temperature, I ground an ounce of coriander.  As I started the one hour timer, I put in the ounce of salt, coriander, and hops.  I put in a whilforic tab at about 30 minutes.  At then end of the hour, I flamed out the wort to about 200 degrees.  In the end, I was able to get a final wort of six gallons.

I tried to keep as much gunk out as possible as i moved everything over to the carboy.  With a starting wort of six gallons, my hope was to get a tad bit more than five gallons into the carboy.  Leaving behind nearly a gallon of wort and residue, I was able to get about 5.25 gallons into the carboy.  Leaving behind some beer likely means my number will be slightly off.  But the difference between an ABV of 5.7% and 6% is pretty much irrelevant to me.

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Damn

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Emergency transfer to a new carboy before the crack spreads.

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Well that was terrifying.  The moment I heard the cracking sound I thought I had lost the wort.  The carboy is dead, but I was able to safely transfer the wort to a new carboy.  This is going to be a nice lessons in patience.  I went far too fast in trying to bring the temperature down.  I need to go in increments.  Not try to do 200 to 70 in just a few minutes.  By the time the new carboy was full, we were down to 115 degrees.  So I left the hose in a let it run for awhile.

After it cooled down to about 70 degrees, I put in the yeast.  This time I remembered to take out the liquid yeast several hours ahead of time and activate it so it would be ready at this time.  After some violent shaking, I was ready to set everything up for fermentation.  Since Colorado is bipolar–with periodic snow followed by days in the 80s–I decided that the cubby under the stairs will be a permanent location for fermenting.  It is almost always 70s degrees there.  Some day I will get a true temperature control device or fridge.  But this will work for the time being.

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Since life is endlessly busy, I didn’t really check up much on the fermentation process of this brew.  This may have been my downfall.  Between work and my baby, I remember only checking on it once and wondering if I had missed a build of the heading fermentation period.  I fear, for whatever reason, the the fermentation process never took hold of the full brew.  I was, however, left with a good layer of dead yeast.  So I could be wrong.

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A lot of my family has become interested in my brewing since I started the 100 Brew Challenge.  So I decided to try to make what I was doing more accessible.  For one, it’s hard to fully gauge how much a carboy actually hold.  So, for scale, I took a picture of my four month old next to the carboy right after moving the brew to secondary.

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After secondary, I returned to work and life for another week and let the brew just sit.  It was worth it.  It doesn’t look like I got another picture, but I was able to take yet another small layer of yeast out.  This allowed for the final product to be quite clear.  I did this with Brew One as well.  I never used to do this secondary stage.  But it seems to be worth it.  The final product comes out incredibly clear and without “gunk.”  After a week in secondary, I bottled.  One of my goals after Brew One was to maximize the number of bottles I get out of each brew (Mainly because we plowed through Brew One since it was so good).

Brew One: 492 Ounces (41 12-ounce bottles)
Brew Two: 540 Ounces (45 12-ounce bottles)

That may not sound like much but that nearly a 10% increase in output.  Well worth the effort.

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After about a week in the bottle, I placed one in the fridge overnight.  When I poured it the next day, the carbonation was near zero.  I feared that I may have made a possible second mistake–not mixing in the carbonation sugars enough.  When I tasted it, I was quite worried.  It simply wasn’t good.  I don’t normally drink Gose, so it hard to know exactly what the taste is supposed to be…but it certainly shouldn’t have been that.  In the end, I did what every book, website, and forum said–I left it.  Let the carbonation do it’s thing and come back to it.  So we went on vacation and just left it out.  I fear this could have been mistake number three.  While we were gone, Colorado had some pretty warm days.  By leaving the bottles in the brewery, I feel they may have experienced temperatures over 80 degrees.  Damn.

When we got back from vacation, I put a six pack in the fridge.  When I poured the first one, some of my fear waned.  It was carbonated.  No where near as well carbonated as Brew One.  But at least it wasn’t flat.  The taste was much better.  Not great.  Kind of good.  Since then, I’ve had several.  I’ve started adding a lime wedge to each one, which actually amplifies the taste a lot.  The thing I’m discovering is that there is a different outcome with each bottle.  That means there was some uneven distribution–almost certainly with the carbonation.

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Shake it off.  Every brew will not be amazing.  Learn from your mistakes and keep plowing along.  This weekend, I am going straight into Brew Number three.

Goals for Brew Three: Avoid Mistakes of Brew Two
1. Keep an eye on the fermentation Process
2. Make sure the carbonation Sugars are mixed in properly.
3. Keep bottles in temperature controlled environment.

Brew One: Vanilla Cream Ale

Brew: 17 March 2019
Secondary: 22 March 2019
Bottle: 29 March 2019
Refrigerate: 13 April 2019
Drink: 20 April 2019

March 17th, 2019 marked my 30th birthday.  To celebrate, I started on the 100 Brew Challenge.  I am attempting to brew one hundred times before I turn forty.  The hope is to try out many different methods, styles, and generally get better at brewing.  For my first brew, I decided to take on something entirely new.  It was something I had been wanting to do for some time.  A Vanilla Cream Ale.

I use brewersfriend.com to house my recipes and look up other recipes.  I found a well reviewed vanilla cream ale on the site and made some alterations to make it more my style.  You will see that I am shooting for a higher ABV.  In my last brew, I fell below what I expected.  I am shooting high in case I make the same mistake.  Although, I think the mistake was temperature control on the fermentation since it was the middle of February.  Since I will be fermenting inside, I shouldn’t have to worry about that.

The Recipe
Brew Method: All Grain
Style Name: Cream Ale
Boil Time: 75 min
Batch Size: 4.5 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 6 gallons

STATS:
ABV (standard): 7%
IBU (tinseth): 21.3
SRM (morey): 5.76

FERMENTABLES:
5 lb – American – Pale 2-Row (43.5%)
2 lb – American – White Wheat (17.4%)
2 lb – American – Pale 6-Row (17.4%)
0.5 lb – American – Caramel / Crystal 20L (4.3%)
0.5 lb – American – Carapils (Dextrine Malt) (4.3%)
0.75 lb – Flaked Barley (6.5%)
0.75 lb – Honey – (late addition) (6.5%)

HOPS:
0.5 oz – Cascade, Type: Pellet, AA: 6.2, Use: Boil for 60 min, IBU: 12.51
0.5 oz – Cascade, Type: Pellet, AA: 6.2, Use: Boil for 20 min, IBU: 7.58
0.5 oz – saaz, Type: Pellet, AA: 3, Use: Boil for 5 min, IBU: 1.21

OTHER INGREDIENTS:
1 – whirlfloc, Time: 15 min, Type: Fining, Use: Boil
2 oz – pure vanilla extract, Time: 0 min, Type: Flavor, Use: Boil
4 each – Vanilla beans – in 2oz Vodka, Time: 0 min, Type: Other, Use: Secondary
1 oz – pure vanilla extract, Time: 0 min, Type: Flavor, Use: Bottling

YEAST:
Wyeast – Kölsch 2565
Optimum Temp: 56 – 70 F
Fermentation Temp: 64 F

 

My brewing day started off with a few setbacks.  First, my hope to start in the morning was dashed.  I can’t complain.  I had a party at my house the night before and it didn’t break up until after midnight.  Mix that with waking up with my newborn son a couple times, and I didn’t get started until the early afternoon.  As I got started, I found that my kettle had a few grain burn spots on the bottom of it from February’s brew.  So I spent a good half hour scrapping those off.  Then, as I finally thought I was ready, I couldn’t find my thermometer.  But after searching for 15 minutes, I decided to stop caring.  So, this will be my first brew without knowing the exact temperature as I brew.

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Luckily my brewery is in the same room as our water heater.  I’ve tested the temperature of the water as it comes directly out of the water heater.  160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Perfect for the mash.  So I took the water from there and kept the burner at a level that should maintain.  I tend to leave the grain in the mash for about an hour before getting started on the boil.  That seems to be more than enough time to get all the necessary sugars into the mash.  On a side note, these grain socks are amazing.  The last few brews that I have done I just made an oatmeal and strained it.  This is so much better.  So much better.

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As I wait for my mash to finish up, I set up my private corner.  As my wife, her best friend, and my son are out shopping, I get to enjoy a show, a video game, a beer, and some chili.  I honestly don’t think I could ask for much of a better way to celebrate my birthday.

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The finished mash had significantly less volume than I had hoped for.  No matter.  With the grain socks, it’s easy to recover more mash without sacrificing ABV or quality.  Using the hot water directly from the hot water heater, I took the grain socks in a separate container and soaked them with the extra water.  This brought me from about 4 gallons to about 5.5.  I like starting my boils at about 5.5 so that I can have about five gallons to actually ferment with.

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Before (top) and after (bottom)
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I did a 75 minute boil on this brew, as the recipe called for.  At the end of the boil, I added two ounces of pure vanilla extract–which is where most of the vanilla flavor will be coming from.  When I finished, I ended up being rather short on time before we were heading off for some Saint Patrick Day Drinking.  This ended up being a blessing.  Since I don’t have any cooling device, I had to improvise.  And I came up with a fantastic plan.  I placed the wort in the carboy.  I placed the carboy in a backup kettle.  Then I brought them outside and placed a hose in the kettle.  It’s March, so it poured cold water into the kettle.  It only held about a gallon of water with the carboy in it.  So I filled it with cold water, waiting for that water to heat up, put more cold water in, and repeat.  In the end, I got the temperature down within an hour.

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Once I was at about seventy degrees, I pitched the wort.  This was my first time using liquid yeast.  I ended up failing to read the instructions before opening the package.  So…something to work on for next time.  Regardless, I pitched the wort and brought the carboy into the house.  One of my biggest goals with this brew (other than trying a new style) was to get some control on the fermentation temperature.  Luckily, we tend to keep our house in the upper 60s.  This brew calls for a fermentation temperature of 68-70 degrees.  Perfect.

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When I checked on the carboy the next morning, the activity was beyond anything I had seen before.  The yeast was so active that several bubbles were coming out each second.  The was yeast flying around the wort in quick swirls.  I watched it for awhile, making sure I hadn’t added bacteria and create some terrible monster.  But, it looked pretty good.

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The intense fermenting subsided after just a day.  I let the fermenting continue for four more days, until it mostly subsided.  Then, as the recipe called for, I moved the beer into a secondary container (luckily I now have four carboys).    This was a step I seem to have forgot about entirely the last time I brewed.  This is the best method I know of dealing with yeasty bottles.

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In the secondary container, I added five full vanilla beans.  I had never seen full vanilla beans before.  They have a really intense vanilla smell to them.  I think they will add a good aroma as well as some extra vanilla taste.  I let this sit at the same temperature in the house for another week.  It should have only take a couple days but I work full time and have a newborn, so that is not really possible.

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I left the secondary container alone for a week (again, longer than needed but work and baby make it hard to do work on the weekdays).  I decided not to bottle directly from the secondary container since there was a little bit of sediment gathered on the bottom.  I moved the beer to another carboy and added five ounces of priming sugar.  This beer may be the clearest beer I have every brewed.  It looks gorgeous.  After completing the mixture, I bottled.  I got 41 12-ounce bottles in all.  492 ounces.  A little less than four gallons of beer after rejecting a lot of yeast.  But worth forgoing a few beers for a better product.

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The recipe calls for three weeks of bottle conditioning followed by one week in the fridge before consumption.  I ended up waiting two weeks before deciding to test one out.  After leaving one in the fridge for a day, i decided to try it out.  I poured it into a pint glass.  And…it has one of the best head’s I have ever made.  I am pretty sure this is due to using priming sugar.  I have often used different types of sugar–honey, grapefruit juice concentrated, etc.  They add a nice flavor but seem to destroy the head.  This is going to be something I will have to play around with.  Like with this brew, it seems better to add late flavors into the secondary fermentor rather than in the priming solution.

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The beer itself is beautiful.  Pretty much what I expected since I used a clarifier, a secondary fermentor and moved it to a final carboy before bottling.  I was surprised by how smooth the beer was.  I don’t have the fullest vocabulary for test.  Instead, I will just quote my wife, “I think this is the best beer you’ve made.”  That sounds like a great start to the 100 Brew Challenge.

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I will be putting the remaining brews in the fridge this weekend.  However, judging from the fact that my wife loves these, I may have to make this one again later this summer.  The next time I make this I want to make sure I use a thermometer.  I also want to add vanilla extract during the secondary fermentor.  I think that would make the taster even bolder.  I also want to see if I can get more than 500 ounces out of it without sacrificing flavor or clarity.  I am not sure how to accomplish that.  But I do believe it will be worth it if I can get another six pack or two out of it.

As for my second brew, I already have the ingredients in my brewery.  I will be making a Springtime Gose.  With this one, I am continuing the goal of trying styles of beer I have never tried before.  I will use a thermometer to make sure I am hitting the correct temperatures at the correct times.  I will be using the liquid yeast properly this time–after reading the instructions in full.  I also will start working on producing more than 500 ounces of beer.

Second Brew Day: Saturday, April 13th, 2019

Vaccinate. No Exemptions.

adorable baby baby feet beautiful

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

According to the World Health Organization, between 93-95% of the population needs to be vaccinated against measles in order to reach herd immunity.  In Colorado, 88.7% of Kindergartners are vaccinated against measles.  How did this happen?  It could be the decades of misinformation built upon a factually false study.  It could be the echo chambers that social media creates.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how it happened.  It must be fixed.

The simple answer is to make vaccinations mandatory in order for a kid to enter school.  In theory, this is already the case in Colorado.  In practice, exemptions have allowed parents to skirt the law–creating the dangerous situation we have today.  Kyle Mullica, a representative in the Colorado legislature, is drafting a bill that will take away these exemptions.  Opposition by the minority anti-vaxxers will be fierce, but irrelevant.

Unlike many other debates in public discourse, there are not two sides to the this issue.    They can argue that vaccines cause autism.  They are wrong.  They can argue that vaccines are not safe.  They are wrong.  They can argue that forcing vaccines upon people is immoral.  In reality, you must only vaccinate your child if you choose to send them to public school.

The state government must do its part to keep our kids safe.  Current law does not do that.  We must eradicate all non-medical exemptions.  By doing nothing, we will only continue to see our vaccination rates drop and our outbreaks increase in magnitude.

 

The Test Batch

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Today I am bottling what I am now referring to as my “test brew” for my new brewery.  It has been about a year since I last brewed, so I needed to break myself back in.  This will be the first brew in my new brewery and the last brew of my twenties. 

Considering I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing, I took an old recipe I had used to on brewersfriend.com and played around with it a bit before I bought my ingredients.  I had used the somewhat same recipe to make a Grapefruit Amber Ale and a Grapefruit IPA.   I didn’t really realize it until I saw the dark wart, but it looks like this will be a porter.  Since I intend to carbonate with honey and grapefruit syrup, this will be a Honey Grapefruit Porter sitting at about 7%.  I’m not sure if that sounds good, but it was nice just to get a brew under my belt.

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I had to move to the beer indoors to carbonate since it has been hovering around zero degrees outside over the past week. 

March 17th, 2019 will be my 30th birthday.  It will also be the first day of my 100 Brew Challenge.  My primary goal with this challenge is to make baby steps.  Since it will be Winter still, my first goal is to work on temperature control.  I have already done some investigating on fermentation heaters.   My second goal is to try a new style of beer that I have never made before.  I am thinking a milk stout.

Until next time,
Richard

 

Reflecting on my 20s

On March 17th, 2019, I will enter my 30s.  As my 20s wind to a close, I can’t help but reflect on how much has happened over the last decade.  In order to prepare myself for the decade to come, I want to reflect on the time gone by.  I gathered my favorite moments and consolidated them here.

Wrote my first novel

I graduated college

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Got rejected from the Peace Corps

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Substitute Taught in dozens of schools in Greeley, Windsor, and Fort Collins

Ran for School Board–Lost

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Move out of my parents house

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Wrote a novel

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Voted for Obama 

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Met the Woman of my dreams then promptly left for Peace Corps

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Spent 13 months learning a language, interacting with a new culture, and teaching

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Moved to New York with the woman of my dreams

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Started my Career

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Got Engaged

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Got married

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Started brewing

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Voted for Bernie

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Got Hudson

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Moved back to Colorado

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Got pregnant

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Bought a House

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Got Titan

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Found out my unborn son had Gastroschisis

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Welcomed my son into the world–spent three weeks in the NICU

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Laid a penny floor and created my home brewery

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Now, onward to my thirties…

 

The Penny Floor Home Brewery

In June 2018, my wife and I bought my parents home.  It was the house I grew up in.  They had lived there for nearly 20 years.  It worked out perfectly that my wife and I were looking to buy our first home at the same time that my parents were looking to downsize and retire up in the Rocky Mountains.

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When my wife and I tried to plan out what we would do with the house, we quickly realized we had more space than we needed.  It is a house to grow into.  Since she was two months pregnant when we closed, it was perfect.  She knew full well that ever since she got me into brewing three year ago, I wanted a true brewery.  A place where I could keeping my brewing supplies out and dedicated.  Luckily, this house has the perfect place.  There is a “utility” room behind the garage.  It is the same length of the garage but only about six or seven feet across.  My father had been using it as a “tool” room.  Over 19 years though, he had accumulated a lot.

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In the Summer of 2018, my parents, my wife, and I started the long process of moving them out and moving us in.  It took months to complete the whole house.    As everything fell into place, I decide to turn a pipe dream into a reality.  I had seen videos and pictures of penny floors all over the internet.  I knew it would be perfect for a brewery.  As I cleared out the floor in my father’s tool room, it revealed a dirty light green concrete floor.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity to upgrade a room and to the penny floor I had been wanting for years.

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The day before we got our first ultrasound, I laid the first pennies.  It was a learning process.  We tried to lay them in such a way so that there would be as little gap as possible…but that turned out to be harder than I expected.

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One hour of work…

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About ten hours of work in (room being used as storage since I am taking months to get this done between work and taking care of my pregnant wife).

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My general setup was to do three rows across the room at a time.  That would take about half an hour.  So, about ten minutes per row.

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By the Fall of 2018, this project fell onto my back-burner.  In August, my unborn son had been diagnosed with Gastroschisis–a disorder that left his intestines outside of his body.  As the pregnancy progressed, it consumed my wife and I as our appointments became more and more common.  By his birth on December 27th, 2018, we had gone to more than twenty ultrasounds.

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After three weeks in the NICU, my son was discharge and I got two weeks of paternity leave (my wife had already quit her job). My wife and I gave each other free time to feel sane during these first few weeks.  I decided to use my time to finish the floor before I went back to work.

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Putting the final pennies down…

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After laying more than 28,000 pennies over the course of 75 hours, I grouted the entire floor to make the copper color pop.

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Lastly, the Polyurethane to protect the floor and make it shine.  I did two coats.

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After letting it dry for 48 hours, I moved the work benches into place.

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On  18 February 2019, I did my first brew in my new brewery.

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Parenthood Rising

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It’s been nearly a week since my son was released from the NICU.  This past week has been a whirlwind.  Lack of sleep.  Watching Scrubs during 3:00am feedings.  Days where I don’t even go outside.  And, holy crap, is it worth it.  This little guy is amazing despite not doing much of anything yet.  And today is his due date.

Henry’s Due Date