Oct 072012

Those that know me know I like a good brew. Anything local or craft-brewed tops my list; the only things I don’t really like are “big” beers just for the sake of being big. Or, you know, the IPA with 4000 IBUs in it just because… Well, because EXTREEEME!!! 

A while ago I decided to finally make the plunge and setup a little brewery in my garage. I thought I’d document some of it here. First, some background: I have none! I have never made a beer before, kit or otherwise.  I have a few friends that make all-grain beers frequently, and by leaning on them heavily I was able to setup my own all-grain system. Special thanks to Greg (hi Greg!) for the tons of help he gave in this setup.

I’m happy to answer any questions and take any feedback or criticism while I’m at it!  My target was to do half-batches (one corny keg, 5 gallons) per brew.

And here’s the rest of my gear, all on one convenient shelf in the garage:

Not pictured: two more kegs  and a water filter.

Some of my more cherished items (the grain crusher, pictured above the fridge) were purchased from friends that no longer brew. A lot of the minor buckets, supplies, and hoses aren’t really anything special; I made sure all my hoses were food-grade and able to handle high temperatures, but standard stuff all around.

I really like my thermos containers (the bright orange ones). My hot liquor tank is 5 gallons, my mash tun is 10 gallons. They are sold as water-dispensers (the kind you see at football games) from Home Hardware on sale for about $50, and the water spout just unscrews and a spigot fits right in without needing any modifications! Wonderful. They retain temperature quite well and don’t drip or leak.

For the mash tun I dropped in a screen that happened to fit the inside radius perfectly.

I have two 6.5 Gallon carboys as secondaries, plus two more 5 gallon carboys. I’m not sure the 5 gallons will ever get used, they were a mistake! I might try to swap them for some 6.5ers. Pictured above: little red rubber/metal handles on the carboys. THESE ARE AMAZING, if you have glass carboys USE THESE and you can make handling them way easier and safer! Only a few bucks each!

For my brew pot, you can see in the above photo it’s resting on a custom-built wooden frame sitting on top of an old set of office-chair wheels. It looks haphazard but it is quite solid, and way better than lugging around a vat of boiling water by hand. I can use this setup to wheel the pot to the drain at the front of the garage (and the filling hose there too). The height of the pot is such that I can gravity-feed into both the orange vats; the screw-top lids on the orange vats mean they’re easy enough to safely lift back into position on the shelf.  Because I’m a strapping young man with bulging arm muscles and I just love to lift 5 gallon tubs to show off.

The pot is also low enough that you can gravity feed into it from the mash tun so, hooray! Perfect height. (The adjustable shelving unit was so helpful here)

Here’s a closeup of the pot:

It’s came with a temperature gauge outside (it seems to read 3-5 degrees colder than an interior thermometer, unfortunately) and a spigot already on it, but I decided to go electric instead of propane. That way I could stay indoors in the dead of Canadian Winter and not worry about fumes or anything.


There’s a sheet metal shop in town that charged me $20 to punch some circular holes in the side of the pot. The elements are from Home Depot, they are standard 120V hot-water-tank heating elements ($40 ea). A friend helped out by slicing open some extension cords, wiring up the elements, and hooking up the ground wire. A single electric element can bring 8 gallons to a full boil in about 1 hour 45 minutes; two elements as I have here brings 8 gallons to a full boil in about 45 minutes.

I was shopping around for a chest freezer to modify for dispensing (I might still, someday), but someone was moving and had to get rid of the fridge and I managed to snag it for free. Free is a good price! I can live with that! I’ve got a Johnson temperature controller plugged into it at the back.

All in all, the whole kit cost me around $1000, the biggest single expense being the three kegs and the full giant Co2 cannister that I got off the local sites like Craigslist. If you want to do your own bottling and naturally carbonate things, you could shave $300 or so off of that price.

The only complication is two elements on any one outlet will blow a fuse in my house, so I’ve got to run an extension cord through my basement.

I’ve made my first brew already, but I’ll save that for another post!

May 242011

I run the local Victoria game developers group (LEVEL UP!), but our sister group in Vancouver (FullIndie) was having it’s one-year anniversary last week and I was invited over to give a nice short talk of some sort.

The Trip

I had a blast on the trip. FullIndie had probably over a hundred people show up for the birthday celebration, and we all went roving across three pubs after our talks. It was great to meet so many new people – but the size was a bit overwhelming! I couldn’t even meet everyone if I tried.

I took my FlashGamingSummit talk and slimmed it down to around 14 minutes (originally 60 minutes!). I basically cut out all the “facts” and just left the jokes and the summary “lessons learned” and tried to quickly barge through it all. Because of the size of the meetup, I actually had to give the talk twice to two seperate groups of people! They were both laughing most of the way through though, so I think I did a good job. :) It was a lot of fun for me anyway. A student was there filming one of my talks, maybe it’ll find it’s way online someday?

SteamWorks Brewpub let us into their secret cellar meeting room, which was pretty cool. Had some awesome pints and talked my throat raw. Good times!

The day after the event I hung out with some new friends, played some prototype video games, and even got a few board games in. Wonderful trip.

Since Victoria is on an island, seperated from Vancouver without a bridge – we have to take a 1.5 hour ferry ride between the two places. During the day, the view is beautiful and inspiring, as the ferry weaves between the Gulf Islands. At night, the wind and chill is usually so great that it’s best to huddle inside and do something productive…

I decided to do a GameJam!

The Jam

I was jamming on my own but I invited others along via Twitter. I did a screencap of me working at night spliced with the earlier trip during the day. Check out my rough editing skills here:

(Thanks to DVGMusic once again for his awesome tunes that accompany the video.)

In the end, I made an educational game that attempts to teach people fractions. I didn’t have a lot of time so a lot of elements are missing, and it could definitely use some work – but it might be a neat app to develop further in the future. My girlfriend teaches math, and she approves! Check it out the first prototype here:


(You’re supposed to be at the speed controls of the ferry, being shouted orders by the Captain.)

Jul 192010

Picture by Navaboo

I’ve met up with a lot of game developers in the past few months, and seen awesome local-develpment-hangouts, gamejams, and general community cohesion. It seems every major city in Canada has a vibrant Indie Game Development community!

I’ve also lived in Victoria for 10 years, where we have the University of Victoria and it’s awesome Computer Science department. We have a few game studios in town, and even a branch of Disney up island a bit. I don’t know a single developer here. It feels like I’m a monitor with no computer to connect to (see image).

My friend Fieran and I discussed it over a pint, and we’ve decided we’re going to get things moving, instead of waiting for it to happen!

WELCOME TO VDEV. I founded a Meetup.com group, we’re using our University contacts to secure some computing space, and we’re going to have monthly beer-and-games meetups, and a GameJam in September. I’m really trying to get the local university folks involved, because so many students graduate and immediately move to Vancouver. Vancouver surely has more jobs than Victoria (it is a bigger city after all), but most are completely unaware of how fun Indie Game Making is, and I’m hoping to make a few converts!

VDev's current logo.

Don’t get me wrong; I miss all my international friends, and hope to attract a few to the larger events. I hope a bunch from Vancouver will come out. And most of all, I hope all those quiet Victoria devs finally come out of the woodwork and I get to meet you all!

So take a look at the Meetup group. It’s free to join and you’ll be notified (optionally) of any events we hold. I’d love it if you did!

We’re currently aiming to have our first big GameJam on September 17th-19th. Just waiting on space confirmation; already have a few big ticket guys on the line!

(And for those that might have to travel: Victoria is hosting the annual Great Canadian Beer Festival on September 10th and 11th. It might be a good month to visit!)

Nirvana for the Content

 Beer  Comments Off
Apr 072009
At the pub tonight I had enough beers that would normally place me firmly in the grips of “drunk.” However, the quantity of food I devoured (well over average) counter-acted the results and placed me in the ultimate perspective of contentedness.
I did not feel dizzy or lightheaded; I did not feel any lack of judgement; I did not feel any dampening of my motor functions; I did not slur my speech. In fact, if I woke up feeling this way I would have no problem getting behind the wheel of a car. If it were for not one little side effect.
Everything we glance at, we analyze – we spot a painting, we note it’s size and shape. We spot a bottle and we note in our head that is it brown and contains beer. We glance at people and silently assign names or pointers in a split second of scanning recognition.
And I had lost all of these abilities.
I scanned the pub, the crowd, the things on my table, and I just saw shapes. The only things that concerned me where that who I was talking to and the pint in my hand. I had lost any ability to care for or note my surroundings.
The experience was in full force for around 10-15 minutes but quickly began tapering off to normality. I was really quite pleased with the experience and hope to have it again sometime!
Needless to say I did not touch the squids today. I am completely content with their progress from yesterday.