Aubrey Emma Larson


On Monday, March 25th Amy, Benjamin, and I welcomed Aubrey into our family!  She was born at 6:13am, 22″ long, and 8lbs. 8oz.  Getting a little girl was a total surprise to us.  We just assumed we were boy parents but we couldn’t be happier!  Welcome to the world Aubrey!

how to clear up your homebrew with gelatin

I’ve pulled a couple pints off the keg and found that the beer is still really really cloudy. I did a little research and decided to try to use some gelatin to clear it up. This is what I did:

Unflavored gelatin

Unflavored gelatin

  1. start with chilled beer that’s already in a keg
  2. 2/3 C. water in microwave safe glass container
  3. 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin (Knox grocery store brand)
  4. slowly microwave until a temperature of 150F is reached
  5. depressurize the keg and open it up
  6. pour the gelatin solution in the keg and lightly swirl the keg around to mix it up
  7. 24-48 hrs. later a majority of the particles should drop


The first few beers after this has been done will be really cloudy but after that it should be much cleaner.


Keggle Boil Kettle Conversion


fresh from the welding shop

I’ve been wanting to get into all grain home brewing for a while now.  The only thing holding me back was the cost of nice kettles.  After brewing with my buddy, Aaron, a couple times with his keggle I realized I didn’t need to drop that kind of money.  I put a wanted ad up on craigslist a few weeks ago and found a couple 1/2bbl kegs.  I took them to Pools Welding Shop in Milan, IL to have the tops cut off and the tabs and handles welded on.  I was really impressed with how they turned out.  Keg #1 on the left will be turned into my boil kettle and keg #2 on the right will be turned into a mash tun.



Now its time to clean these things up.  I decided to start with the boil kettle because I could start using it right away and add the mash tun into the mix later on.  I’m going to wait a while on the mash tun so I can think the design through and hopefully get some input from some more experienced brewers around the area.  The first thing I did with keg #1 was remove all the stickers and left over adhesive that’s collected on it over the years.  I used a hair dryer and a plastic paint scraper to slowly remove the stickers.  The next step was to remove the adhesive with Acetone and an old rag (i made sure to use this stuff outside in the garage, it’s nasty).  Once that stuff was all gone I hit the entire keg with dry 150 grit sandpaper.  I was able to remove a lot of the shallow scratches and smooth out the surface.  Over the next few days I wet sanded the keg with 220, 400, and finally 600 grit sandpaper.  It didn’t turn out as shiny as i had hoped but its a major improvement.

Now it’s time for the hardware.  After trying to piece all the necessary parts from multiple sites I found and was really happy to find out that they offered kits for different keg conversion applications.  I picked up the kit that included the following items:

  • 3-Piece SS Ball Valve
  • 1/2″ SS Diptube Assembly
  • 3″ Diameter Dial Thermometer
  • model SL Sightglass kit
  •  1/2″ hose barb

barely fits on the burner

As with any project I take on I find out that I am missing a required tool.  I had to order a 7/8″ step bit in order to drill the holes in the kegs to install all the new hardware.  I used a light weight 3-in-1 oil on the bit to help it cut.  I stopped every 20 seconds or so to let the metal and bit cool down since stainless gets harder the hotter it gets.  After a few minutes I had three perfectly round holes ready for the accessories to be installed.  After installing everything I filled it up and tested all the seals. I had issues with the thermometer and the sight glass seals. As usual I didn’t read the manual and Bobby from got me in the right direction (sorry for the multiple dumb questions!).  I needed to use some teflon tape on the threads on the thermometer and the rubber gasket goes on the outside with the sight glass. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  The keg is pretty banged up on the outside but its going to function like a champion!  I a trial run on the burner and I think I’m going to have to weld some tabs/extensions on it so the keg has a little more buffer room on the edges.  I’m planning on building a dedicated stand (something like this) for brewing this summer so I might just wait for that to get built.



Brave American Amber Ale – extract recipe

The point of this recipe was to experiment with dry hopping some Simcoe hops since I was finally able to get my hands on a couple ounces.

Simcoe hops


  • Briess Victory – 1 lb. unmilled
  • Amber Malt Syrup 3.15 lbs.
  • Amber Malt Syrup 3.15 lbs.
  • Centennial Hop Pellets 1 oz. x3
  • Simcoe Hop Pellets 1 oz. x2
  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale

BREW DAY (2-10-2013):

  1. start 4gal. of water in kettle
  2. steep the Briess Victory at 155 for 20 minutes in 1gal. of water
  3. wash the Briess Victory with 1gal. of 170 water



  4. Once the main kettle is boiling at in the 2gal. of Briess Victory wort
  5. remove from heat and add 1 of the Amber Malt Syrups
  6. Return wort to boil
    • Add 2oz Centennial Hop, and boil for 60 minutes.
    • Add 3.15 lbs Amber malt syrup 15 min before the end of the boil.
    • Add 1 oz Centennial Hop at 1 min before the end of the boil.
  7. Cool the wort. When the 60-minute boil is finished, cool the wort to approximately 72° F as rapidly as possible.
  8. Sanitize fermenting equipment and yeast pack. While the wort cools, sanitize the fermenting equipment – fermenter, lid or stopper, fermentation lock, funnel, etc – along with the yeast pack and a pair of scissors.
  9. pitch yeast to fermenter.

Brew Day Notes:

  • i’m glad i brewed today instead of late last night. it was much more enjoyable.



  • remember to get the wort chiller out to the garage before brew is started, running to the basement wasn’t fun.
  • remember to get a really good rolling boil going. when i did the late extract addition the wort was a better rolling boil when it was returned to boil temp.
  • Because I stayed more organized clean up was much faster today.
  • I can’t wait for the 1/2bbl boil kettle! i have to baby sit the 8gal kettle way too much.

Secondary (2-24-2013):

  1. Two weeks later move to secondary carboy
  2. 2oz. Simcoe hops in secondary for 1 week

Kegged (3-9-2013):

  1. I had to clean up the beer after kegging to remove some of the cloudiness.

my Withings body scale

I first heard about the Withings scales a few years ago when some people from work got them.  I thought they were just some fad that would pass and saw no real value in collecting that kind of data on myself.  Since then I’ve been working out a lot more, eating really healthy, and being a lot more watchful of my weight.  I’ve been weighing myself once in a while on our old school scale and comparing the new weight with the previous one with no real history to see my progress.  I decided it was finally time to get myself a Withings scale so it could do all of this for me.

First off, setting this thing up was the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do on a computer.  It might have taken 10 minutes.  The hardest part was finding the USB port on the bottom.  The best part about this scale is that I didn’t have to my routine other than using a new scale.  It can recognize who is on the scale so I don’t have to mess with user selection or anything like that each morning.  The online dashboard, iPhone, and Android apps are free and pretty nice to view my data.  I also have it hooked up with so my latest weight measurements are whats being used in my calories burned calculations of my workouts which is really nice.

Something that I think is funny is that after we have people over at our house I can go into the online app and look at the unidentified weigh-ins and see all the different weights that people logged when they were in the bathroom.  I think I need a sign on it that says “you’re being watched!”.  :)

Now go get one!

My first non-5K running event

I started running a few years ago to lose weight and never really enjoyed it.  But even though I hated running I did lose 40 pounds and have kept it off.  Last year my wife and I signed up for the Quad Cities Marathon 5k race to get our butts in gear.  We both finished it and from there on out I have been hooked on running and running events.  That fall we ran in another 5k called The Pumpkin Run in Sherrard, IL and again, we had a ton of fun.  After that we decided to purchase a nice treadmill to get us through the winter.  We put it right in the living room next to the kitchen so it was never out of sight and always in our mind.  :)

This summer I wanted to bump up my mileage and my running goals.  I’m the type of person who really needs a goal to keep my mind focused so I decided that I would sign up for the Quad Cities Bix 7 event.  My wife and I went to Go Outside and Play in Galesburg, IL and got professionally fit for a proper pair of shoes.  I got a pair of Saucony Cortanas.  My old shoes would make my left foot go numb so that really put a damper on my running and I could never get above 3 miles.  This spring I started bumping up my mileage 1 mile per week.  About a month ago I hit 8 miles, I was ready for the Bix.  My buddy, Kevin Minnis, drove over from Des Moines, IA to run with me.  We both use to log our runs so we were able to “train” somewhat together.  We both did awesome and had a lot of fun.  The hills were a piece of cake after months of training on similar terrain.

I am now signed up for the 2012 Quad Cities half marathon at the end of September.  I recently hit 10 miles so I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m at for that event as well.  I can’t wait!

Simple Whole Food Margarita Pizza

My mom stopped by a couple days ago with a bag of fresh veggies from her garden.  My wife and I didn’t have any plans for dinner that night so we decided to use the tomatoes she brought and some basil from our garden to throw together a quick pizza.


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp yeast (active dry yeast)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • two tomatoes sliced thick (roma is best, but use what you’ve got)
  • 1 handful sweet basil
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

Instruction for the crust:

  1. drop the yeast into the warm water and let it sit for a few minutes until the yeast starts to foam up
  2. add the salt and olive oil to the mixture
  3. put the flour in your mixing bowl and add the water mixture
  4. mix on low to medium speed until a ball of dough forms
  5. put a little bit of olive oil on the dough, cover, and let sit for an hour

Now that your dough is ready to go preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Roll out the dough and put it on your pizza stone or baking sheet.  Brush the top of the crust with a small amount of olive oil.  Next spread out the tomatoes on the crust and top with the cheese.  Make sure your tomatoes are sliced pretty thick so they make it through the high heat while baking.  Now bake the pizza for 10 minutes.  After baking let it sit for a few minutes and add the fresh basil to the top of the pizza.  If you add the basil before baking it will burn (as we found out).



growing up green

I grew up on a farm and I remember us always having a huge garden every year.  I remember sitting around with my brother and my mom snapping the ends off peas, shucking sweet corn, and picking tomatoes every summer.  I remember it was always fun to eat food that I helped harvest and prepare.  As I got older I slowly lost interest in where my food came from and more interested in when it would be served to me.

I am now 29 years old and in the last six months my wife and I have become much more interested in where our food is coming from, who is growing it, and what is used to grow it.  After going to farmers markets over the years we decided it was time to start our own little garden (when I say little I mean little, 5′ x 6′).  Besides the benefits of growing some of our own food our two year old son, Benjamin, gets to learn that someone has to gow the food that he eats and that it’s a lot of work.  He has a lot of fun helping us with the watering and going out to the garden with us to pick lettuce.  He holds the bowl while i cut the leaves.  While we are eating dinner we make sure to ask him where his lettuce came from and he points out to the backyard at the garden.

We still rely heavily on the farmers at our farmers market and our grocery store for most things but it’s nice to know that we contributed to our meals a little bit.