Monday, April 18, 2016

News of Ancient Fire

Honey bees around the mash tun on a recent brewday. Very Ancient Fire!

For my some of my long time blog readers the name Ancient Fire is known as my "brand" of homemade fermentations. Using that name I've written lots of blog posts and traveled myriad roads learning about food, beverage and culture. Along the way I've always met a lot of great people, many I still know, and some I hope to reconnect with real soon. Good times!

Ancient Fire (story about the name) is stronger today than ever before, but just not nearly as public. 

That's going to change.

Not long before I stopped my blog writing (in 2013) I reflected on the goals I had for myself early on.
I had been searching for the thing that made sense for me. Luckily, I had found it. Sensory training and competition judging. After a couple years of volunteering at local competitions I decided to really dig in and make something of that instead of writing. That was a solid choice. 

WineMaker Magazine Competition, 2016

In the time away I've gotten BJCP Certified as both a Beer and Mead judge. I've logged many hours of competition judging, judge coordination, judge training, individual and panel sensory training, hosting workshops, attending faults training sessions, reading (lots!) and many, many, many hours fermenting beers, meads, wines and ciders from a ridiculous list of ingredients that hasn't stopped growing steadily since 2005! 

I continue to make a lot of different beverages, as well as participate in industry-wide activities promoting beverage production by both amateurs/enthusiasts and professionals. I judge in a lot of competitions, and I am learning, developing my palate; and getting better at it every time I get the chance. It is amazingly rewarding as a brewer and judge to help others get recognized for the great stuff they make, as well as help them learn to judge to grow the community supporting the local homebrew scene. 

I've also won a few awards for my creations going back over a decade now. I recently won medals numbered #98 and #99, both for Cysers (apple mead). I won the first at a brew club internal competition for a Mesquite Cyser. The most recent was a Second Place for a Buckwheat Cyser at the International Mazer Cup, the most difficult mead-only competition in the world. I still compete here and there, but I tend to not judge in competitions in which I enter anymore. I stress out too much. 

One other recognition from a couple years back is that I have always been more comfortable "doing" in settings of my own choosing, so the events I've decided to get involved in did, and continue to give me the paths and connections I want to follow and make good from. That's just how I am. I channel my time into activities selected in that comfort zone, and really, through them I better understand the "localness"of different endeavors we might choose to take on. The real lesson is that most of what we find great, be it in wine, food or anything else is all about the relationships of the people who do it. I feel that in search of greatness we have to find people and places that resonate with us to help create passion. The company I keep is definitely not settled based on all the crazy ideas I've been kicking around, and that really will be a big part of the next adventure. 

Let's get to business. Here is what I expect I'll be sharing here:
  • Educational development for process and sensory training
  • Hosted training events
  • Helping new producers and products get launched 
  • Collaborations with commercial producers
  • Trip reports
  • Presentations and resources
  • Personal training goals and milestones
  • "How To" content and discussions (active in FB groups for this)
  • Production plans and updates (as our own shop takes shape, more later)

Yes, you did just read that I firmly said I am going to open some type of beverage business. There isn't more to say now, but I will when there is. There is plenty to do. You won't miss me talking about. ;)

I'm signing off as I always did,



Friday, July 12, 2013

A Loss of Words

( A salsa judge at the World Championship
Chili Cook-off in 2010. )

There are fewer words here than there used to be. I'd bet on that continuing. And this is not a surprise to me.

In April of 2010 when I gave my 18 month old winemaker's journal (blog) a shot in the arm I was full of ideas and energy. It was a birthday present to myself. "Go do something", was the idea. And I did. Over three plus years I have achieved some of what I initially set out to do. I tasted, sampled, wrote, took photos, networked, laughed, sighed, sponged up information, provided education to others and did a fair bit of traveling. I changed courses many times and for many different reasons. I still do most of these things and with gusto! The early goals I didn't achieve have been superseded by so many others, some I have nailed, some I haven't; and some just not yet. Some weeks I wrote a lot and some weeks I wrote less. I wrote, shared, read, shared, commented, debated (argued), shared and along the way I have learned so much!

I continue to enjoy all of the experiences this journey affords me, and most of all I genuinely appreciate the many people I continue to "meet" along the way. I have never met some of these people in person (yet), but there are things we have in common so we get each other enough that we have a great dynamic in a networking context. I continue to carry on relationships with some of the people I've met while others are more often a friendly face in the more business-y realm of food & beverage events. All of them are part of the "family" however weird that ends up being in one city or another. I still look forward to these days.

But I just don't write about this stuff anymore and I don't spend much time on social media plugging my work and keeping tabs on the beverage media. Why? Well, it's complicated I guess.

Late last year (2012) I felt my drive to write about and share my experiences waning. I reformulated my approach, a natural and not unexpected reaction given the 2+ prior years, and kept plugging away. But I wasn't digging it. The idea of throwing a bunch of words together, using a euphemism here, and sharing them as a way of expressing my experiences secondhand just wasn't resonating anymore. Things change and I know myself well enough to know that when I lose interest in something there is nothing good in trying to keep it going. So I won't.

From some reflection I came to realize that my goal of "go do something" was never intended solely to mean blog about my life nor that it should necessarily create something new and permanent. So setting aside some of the activities I picked up while out "doing something" when they no longer interest me is not a crime. It isn't even failure. It is quite the opposite actually. Here is what I am keeping:
  • I have more time for dates with friends (yes this is you Margot) where we get to sit around the table eating, drinking and socializing. We all want to do this and we all love it.
  • I still make a shit-ton (I saw a joke this week that in the UK that is shite-tonne, he he!) of beer, mead, cider and wine and I share it with friends, all the time!
  • When I travel I can strike a better balance of food/beverage visits with other things of interest. Some of it is just baked in. Portland, Oregon and the Oregon Brewer's Festival anyone? Week after next.
  • With other aspects of my life (work, family, community) being as dynamic as they are for anyone else my life isn't as harried. I know I can't do everything and I can balance all of what I am doing better now.
  • I am less structured and more open to just exploring things. That is what I get out of bed for.
  • When I see you I'll have stories. They weren't on the blog so we'll have something to talk about for sure!
It is OK to miss the words. I'll miss my words too, but not because I regret changing my priorities but because when blogging was my priority I really had fun sharing my days with all of you. It is good to have memories that make you smile. I have fun doing lots of different things and following my interests is keeping things plenty exciting so I am sure to keep racking up good memories. See you on the trail!



Friday, June 14, 2013

Now Hear This – Sony Walkman W & The Grateful Dead

When I share product reviews they are exclusively food & beverage related. This week I will depart from that truth to tell you about the experience I've had with the Sony Walkman W Meb Keflezighi Edition.

I received my Sony Walkman W as a perk from I’m not a runner, one of the intended audiences, but I do walk a lot, hike and work out in the yard & gardens quite a bit. And working out in the yard is where I found the Walkman W to be a fantastic product.

I've been on a binge with the yard-work in the last couple of weeks. Between getting the existing gardens prepped & planted, clearing for new gardens, new landscaping in the front yard and some spot seeding I’ve probably spent almost an entire work week out there since Memorial Day weekend. Margot has helped with the work quite a bit, but during the times where we have worked in separate parts of the yard or when she was working elsewhere I've enjoyed taking my music with me as a work.

The Sony Walkman W is a about the side of a normal pair of headsets, with small modules at each ear for the electronics and a rubber coated cable connected the two. It has a USB plug for charging and to transfer music. It is designed to be water resistant, not swimming waterproof though, but more so sweat and rain-proof. I've tested both of those scenarios successfully.

The sound quality of the unit is exceptional. My music of choice the last couple of weeks has been live recordings of The Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band. Some of the audience recordings have good sound quality on their own and others have a bit more of the ambient noise. Even at the max volume the Sony Walkman W does a great job of making the music sound great. I don’t know exactly what the battery life is in practice (the web site says 8 hours), but I haven’t run out in between chargings which have been sporadic since I have been using it.

( A glimpse of what some of all the hard work has been about. )

I'll take a quick detour to share an observation specifically about my choice of music. The pairing of audience recordings of the Grateful Dead and yard work turned out to be superb, bordering on ethereal. The Dead never played the same show twice so the improvisational and organic quality to any collection of live recordings is part of the allure. Working in the garden is connective exercise, human with earth, and that activity and the music seemed linked in a spiritual way.  I prefer to listen to live music outdoors, it just feels better, and I think the experiences I have had in the yard these last few weeks are an extension of those feelings. With the added rush of the physical labor I was genuinely happy even after long, hard days of labor.  

I would highly recommend the Sony Walkman W to anyone who I active and would like to take their music on the go. It is light, comfortable, powerful and has enough storage (2GB) to listen to unique tracks for at least a few hours. The product retails for $69 at Sony's web site. Don’t worry about it getting sweaty or wet, it will keep on truckin'!