Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hobo Dan's Pumpkin Ale Attempt

The Finished Product
The Wife and I were having a discussion on what beer I should brew in August. At her suggestion, because she is obsessed with all things pumpkin, I put together a Pumpkin Ale recipe. I guess it wouldn't be fall if I didn't ram pumpkin into each and every orifice.

I brewed it on August 16, 2015. It took around 4 hours. A note for those of you who want to make your own beer: it doesn't have to take 4 hours. I have been brewing all grain my last few brews. For starters, you can use extract or partial mash, which only requires around 1.5 hours of brew time. In fact, if you go here, Northern Brewer has a 1 Gallon starter kit that is super easy and helps you learn the basics (comes with a DVD as well). Maybe I should write a beginners post.

The Pumpkin Ale was bottled on September 9, 2015 and clocked in at 5.5% ABV. It was a 5 gallon batch and I ended up with 34 12oz bottles and 8 15.2oz Grolsch bottles.

I cannot claim full responsibility for this recipe. I use all kinds of online resources to research style guidelines and see what others have done to put together a recipe. Much of this recipe can be attributed to BiabBrewing.com's YouTube video where he makes a Pumpkin Ale using the Northern Brewer Smashing Pumpkin kit as a base. I've made some adjustments to mine, including not using the kit at all. That brings me to an important point, if you are interested in brewing, get on YouTube! There is a ton of information out there.

So this was my first attempt at a 5 gallon batch and a Pumpkin Ale. For the most part, I didn't screw it up. Improvements can be made of course, my efficiency is terrible for instance (efficiency is a thing I really don't have the energy to explain right now). But overall, I am pleased.

Next post will be covering my Hard Cider/Beer hybrid (Graf).

Pumpkin Ale Recipe is as follows:

5 Gallon BIAB Pumpkin Ale:
Total water: 7.5 gallons
Strike water 163 F
Mash for 1 hour at 153 F
Mash out heat to 168 F for 7 minutes

58 oz of Pumpkin Puree (2 cans of Libby's canned pumpkin)
9 lbs 2-row pale malt
1.5 lbs munich malt 10L
1.5 lbs crystal 40L
.5 lbs biscuit malt
1 oz Northern Brewer hops
.5 oz East Kent Goldings hops
1/4 tsp Irish Moss
Safale US-05 yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
2 chunks crystallized ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 whole clove
1/4 tsp ground all spice

Warming up my strike water.

Two 29 oz cans of Libby's pumpkin, baked for an hour at 350 F. Added to the Mash for an hour.

Mashed in with a total of 12.5 lbs of crushed malt plus the pumpkin. Rest for 1 hour at 153 degrees F.

After mash, bag removed, bring to a rolling boil for 60 minutes. Hop additions at 60 (Northern Brewer) and 30 (EKG) minutes. Pumpkin spices at flame out.

Here is a sample I pulled to test the alcohol content and color after fermentation. 5.5% ABV

Here is the full batch in the secondary fermentor. After fermentation and transfer to this vessel, I am a few quarts shy of 5 gallons. You always lose volume when transferring and to trub (trub is the white stuff at the bottom of the carboy).

Rule number one of brewing, sanitation! Here you'll see the bottles have already been sanitized and I am transferring sanitizer into my bottling bucket.

Here I am siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket. It's hard to see, but the bucket has a spigot at the bottom to connect my bottling wand.

The final product. 34 12oz bottles and 8 15.2oz Grolsh swing top bottles. They need to sit and carbonate for two weeks in a dark cool place.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hobo Dan Makes Beer

So yeah, you probably noticed I haven't posted in a while. Blogging is hard and I read and write all day at work, so deal with it.

Hope's IPA, my first all grain beer
But guess what I have been doing? Making beer. I started in April of this year when I purchase a 1 gallon starter kit from Northern Brewer Homebrew Supply (the Irish Red Ale kit if you're interested). Anyways, I hadn't even tasted my first beer before I knew this was a hobby I could work with. I've always liked to cook and make my own recipes. Like the Northern Brew kit says, if you can cook mac and cheese, you can brew. So how hard can it be?

I cannot promise anything, but I would like to record some of my brew days and recipes here for you all to read about. I'll try and explain myself as I go, so if you are interested in learning how to brew, maybe this will be your spring broad. I will not post on a brew until it is done and tasted, so some patience on your part is required.

That said, first up will be my Pumpkin Ale. It was brewed in August and should be ready to post (and drink) by October 1.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Most Anticipated Games of 2015: Part 2

…pation. Welcome back, here are final games I am most looking forward to getting my grubby hands on this year. I promised six more selections in last week’s post, but well, I cannot count, so here are five more. Sorry.

Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity is a Kickstarted cRPG from Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind classic such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout New Vegas and more recently South Park: The Stick of Truth. PoE is their effort to bring RPGs back to the golden days of Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment. Think of it as a spiritual successor to those game. Between this and Placescape: Tides of Numenera which will mostly likely get push to 2016 (thus not on this list), old school RPGing is back in a big way. Pillars of Eternity will release on March 26, 2015 for PC, Mac and Linux.

So I don’t have a Wii U. That doesn't make me wish I did and crave the games coming out for it. Sure, third party support of the Wii U is nonexistent. But who cares when Nintendo is making games for it? In all honesty, when you look at the three consoles, the Wii U has the clear advantage when it comes to exclusive games. So in comes a new IP with Splatoon, a multiplayers shooter. Wait what? A multiplayer shooter from Nintendo? Kinda. In Slatoon you run around with a paint gun spraying paint all over the place. The team which has covered the flood with the most paint by the end of the round wins. And you can turn into a squid and swim through you own paint, because Nintendo. It looks like pure fun. Splatoon is due in May.

Legend of Zelda 2015
I know, I don’t even have a Wii U, how can I be excited for this game? There are just some games I’m happy exist, even if I never play them. This Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U and is still early enough in development it doesn’t have an official title, but word is it will come out in 2015. Something about Nintendo is just awesome. It’s an intangible thing. For instance, during the first game play video for this game, the developers showed Link on his horse shooting at enemies with a bow. Nothing unusually here. Then they mentioned that no matter how hard you try, you cannot steer the horse into a tree, because a real horse wouldn’t run into a tree. I had to pause for a moment. For all my gaming life, horses handled basically like cars. No gamers ever questioned it, why wouldn’t they go where you want them to? Not only does this make perfect sense, but now that your horse is cruise control for cool, you’re free to shoot your bow without worrying about running into stuff. Brilliant.

Overwatch Beta
Blizzard is making a Team Fortress 2 like FPS. I’m interested. The beta is advertised as coming early 2015 and I have had decent luck getting into Blizzard betas. Maybe they are inviting me in an attempt to reignite my old WoW addiction. Won’t happen Blizzard. Well, probably won’t happen. I mean, unless…

A few years ago a game named Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery Ep was released on the iPad. I even worte about it here. It eventually made it way to Steam as well. What an amazingly atmospheric game. The music was what really did it. So when I heard that Capybara, the makers of S&S were teaming up with Jim Guthrie, the man behind the music of S&S to make Below, I was sold. Below looks to be a top down perspective adventure game with roguelike elements and a very Dark Souls feel as well. The art looks fantastic, but I’m most looking forward to the music. Below is set to release sometime this year for PC and Xbox One.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MechWarrior Online Perspectives Part 1

I have a million things to say about MechWarrior Online (MWO) and this post is only the first of many. MWO is a free to play game (get your boos out now) I have been playing since early closed beta in 2012. It is an arena mech combat simulation in the vein of the old MechWarrior games from the 1990’s. Of course MechWarrior is an offshoot of the old 1980’s Battle Tech table top miniatures game (the MechWarrior games benefit and suffer from this fact). If all of that is confusing to you, think about it like this, you are the pilot of a giant walking tank/robot shooting huge cannons, missiles and lasers at other giant walking tank/robots. Now go clean yourself up so you can finish reading.

I have watched MWO and its community grow and change and argue. It has been an interesting experience because I always felt like more of an observer than I did a participant. I play the game daily and occasionally post on the forms under Hobo Dan. But I rarely play in a group and mostly run the builds I like, not what the dreaded “meta” suggests. My KDR (Kill to Death Ratio) is probably well below the basic standards competitive groups would consider average, but I care not for their tomfoolery. Besides, once upon a time, in a world long forgotten, videogames were meant to be fun, right? I am writing a gaming blog and I must post about the game that, while maybe not my favorite, currently occupies the majority of my play time.

So first I would like to warn you, I have spent real money on this game. Yes, it is free to play. What I have found is that spending money on free to play has made me somewhat defensive of the flaws of the game. I can see then, I can attest to them, but the game is stuck on me in a way I cannot fully understand. Take that into consideration upon judging the opinions that follow.

The shear and utter lack of a new user experience in MWO was lost upon me until this holiday season. In a multiplayer mech shooter, I’ve played a large majority of my games solo. I started playing the game fresh out of the box and have adapted and changed along with it. So when my younger brother got a PC capable of playing MWO for Christmas, I was excited to have a teammate for once. Then he booted it up and I witnessed the awful truth first hand. MechWarrior Online is a monumental dick to new players.

The game has one tutorial that it asks you to play upon logging in. It covers basic movement and shooting, then the game drops you off in the MechLab with not a C-Bill (the in game currency) to your name and says “good luck figuring out 30 years of Battle Tech mech construction rules”. New players who choose the free to play route have only trial mechs as a playable option for between 10 to 15 matches. The player cannot customize trial mechs and only a limited number of trials are available at a time (usually 2 per weight class). Trials aren’t too bad to pilot, and things were much worse for noobs back when the trail mechs were all stock builds. But having this very limited variety is sad. Chances are you’ll drop into a match, see a totally kick ass mech waging a relentless battle against you, only to find you cannot get access to it via trial mechs and it costs 8 million C-Bills just to get the sucky stock chassis, let alone upgrade it.

The game does inject new player’s accounts with extra C-Bills for their first 25 matches, but having any idea what to do with these funds is near impossible. The urge to buy and customize your own mech is strong and without guidance, making a poor decision is easy. I conversed with my brother for an hour over what chassis he should get once he had the cash. At my suggestion, he got a Shadowhawk. A 55 ton medium mech that was cheap enough to have funds left over for customization. Without my guidance, he could have easily purchased a 100 ton Atlas, and been laughed off the battlefield when he ran it stock because he had no left over C-Bills for upgrades.

Players willing to put down some cash are not as hobbled since you can buy the stock mechs for MC (real money) and save your C-Bills for upgrades. But why put down cash if you’re not sure you even like the game? The whole point of free to play is that you can play for free to see if you like the basic gameplay. On top of new and more extensive tutorials for basic gameplay, MWO really needs a MechLab tutorial and Purchasing Guide. I also think a free mech just for signing up would do a lot to help new players out.

I love MechWarrior Online and I want to see it succeed. There is word on the street of a Steam launch in 2015, which would be great for player numbers. But if they don’t fix the new player experience first, I’m afraid it will be a waste.

MechWarrior Online is developed by Piranha Games Inc. (PGI) and is available free to play on their website. If you are interested in jumping into the deep dark waters of mech combat in the year 3051, hit me up, it is smashing good fun once you get your feet wet.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Most Anticipated Games of 2015: Part 1

Here you shall find six of the twelve games slated to release in 2015 that I am looking forward to the most. They are in no particular order of importance. Have I missed your most anticipated game? Let me know in the comments and maybe I won’t mock you horribly for having terrible taste.

Massive Chalice

Fair warning, I Kickstarted Massive Chalice last year and have already been playing the beta. It is just excellent. Massive Chalice is made by Double Fine, makers of some damn fine games like Costume Quest, Trenched Iron Brigade and Psychonauts. Massive Chalice is a turn based strategy game in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics on an epic 300 year timeline. You’re heroes won’t just die in battle, they will die of old age, all of them. Your only hope to survive is to play as a quasi-pimp/matchmaker to hook up your best heroes and hope they produce lots of children. Parents pass down genetic and personality traits to their children. In the beta so far, my best bloodline also happens to be a family of horrible drunks who suffer from a hangover debuff at the beginning of each battle. Massive Chalice is slated to release spring 2015, but can be purchased under Early Access on Steam right now. It is available for PC, Mac, Linux and Xbox One upon final release.

Hyper Light Drifter

Here is the second game on this list I Kickstarted last year. Hyper Light Drifter is an action role-playing game that was promised to be a mix of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo. So count me in. I have actually played the early beta they made available to backers in October. It was a very limited demo of one level of the game and I unfortunately didn't have a tremendous amount of time to play it. What I did play with my limited time was fluid, had great animations and excellent art pixel art. All this has me counting the days to final release. You can expect to be playing this sometime early to mid-spring on PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox One and Ouya of all things.

Darkest Dungeon

I came across this game very recently. Darkest Dungeon is by Red Hook Studios and was successfully Kickstarted in March of 2014. It doesn't have a release date yet, but it’s up on Steam to add to your wish list and is being advertised as “coming soon”. It’s a roguelike dungeon crawler, which doesn't sound at all unique in this day and age, but stay with me. It is also a sidescroller with turn based combat. If you’re still yawning, look at that hand drawn art. That is what the game look like. It looks excellent and has a really great, morbid, moody style. I think I’m going to dig this. When it comes out in February, it will be for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4 and PS Vita.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Would you like to play a game where Henry Fleming of The Red Badge of Courage, the Lion from Wizard of Oz, Tiger Lilly from Peter Pan and Tom Sawyer team up with Abraham Lincoln to defeat an evil race of aliens invading England? Me too. When Nintendo announces they are making a new game with a brand new IP and gameplay that seems reminiscent of new X-COM, you play it! Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is coming exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS and I am pretty pumped. It’s not every day that Nintendo releases a new IP. It looks crazy and weird and everything I love about Nintendo. Also, Intelligent Systems, the team behind Fire Emblem, are working on it so you know the strategy elements will be top notch. The game is scheduled for North American release on March 13 and is currently in the May release window for Europe.

Galak-Z: The Dimensional

I’m not usually into this kind of isometric shooter but this one looks fun. I guess that’s all I’ve got. Games are meant to be fun anyways, right? Galak-Z is made by 17-BIT and is scheduled for a 2015 release on PC, PS4 and PS Vita.

No Man’s Sky

This is a pretty popular pick for many anticipated games of 2015 I imagine. Truth is, I really just want to see if the developers at Hello Games can pull off what they are saying this game will do. No Man’s Sky is advertised as a procedural generated open universe, free for players to explore at will. If not familiar, procedural generation simply means the game creates the the game world in this case, using a set of rules the developer puts in place. No artist actually crafts the world or creatures, as is the case in 99% of games. Hello Games claims the system they have put in place can support 18 Quintilian possible planets…. How many zeros is a Quintilian? So it’s a first person adventure game where you pilot space ships, explore planets and we aren't really sure what else. I guess it could suffer from the “Minecraft” problem of no way to win, which some people seem to have a problem with. I do not and have happily sunk hours into a small farm along a cool mountain ridge in Minecraft, so I’ll make due here. We have seen very little other than some impressive, supposedly in game, videos. If it achieves what the developers say it will, it will be an experience unlike any I have ever experienced. Slated for release sometime this year on PS4 and PC.

So that’s all for now, but come by in a few days and I’ll fill you in on the other six games of 2015 I’m most looking forward to. I’m sure you’re filled with antici…