Yesterday I took a great ride up into the mountains north of Beijing. The total ride distance was 92 miles (149 km) and a total elevation gain of almost 4k feet (1200 meters). It was a group of about 20 riders hosted by the KHS bike shop and included a support vehicle that trailed us about 3/4 of the way. When I was invited I was told only that it was a 120 km (60 mile) ride and no mention was made of going up into the mountain area. We hit the first hills and at the first stop someone pointed to the top of the mountains and said, "we are going up there." ?!?! But the fact that there was a SAG van as well as a great group of fun riders gave me the confidence to go for it.
Here we are at that first stop. You can see that most of the group is on folding bikes, though there are a few road and mountain bikes in the mix. I had problems with my right knee ever since the last century ride, and I was pretty nervous about what would happen even with a normal 60 mile ride. But though there was some pain once in a while, for the most part I did not have any of the leg cramping or other problems that were present on the century ride. I carried extra Gatorade this time (4 bottles) and a full water bottle.
We had a nice lunch at some fish place. At the lunch the shop had organized games and everyone played. I won a nice pair of titanium skewers and it was totally a lot of fun. After the 1 hour lunch stop we regrouped for a second climb. The first climb had been very, very difficult and ended with a downhill run that saw me shatter more former speed record I had set on the Serotta. I topped out at 49 mph (79 kmh) in the middle of a really tricky switchback route. The disk brakes were smoking at the bottom.
The second climb was gradual, but the last 2 miles were very steep and I finally failed near the top and had to push the last 200 yards. At the top we grabbed a snack, regrouped and took a photo before the final descent.
At the bottom of the descent we rode for a while longer and then the group split. About 5 of us went for home on the east side of Beijing, passing the Ming Tombs and a lake. Finally the last 3 miles I was by myself and it was here that my body started to break down. I noticed I was shaking when I stopped at stop lights, and I knew I had to go straight home. I really felt that I was at my total limit. It was a really wonderful ride and I was probably the happiest I have been since moving to China.
I fired up both of my brewery control systems to make sure they worked. I also did some minor process programming to get a feel for how the system will function once I am ready to brew. I have really struggled with my decision to use these versus a more standard PID control. I love the functionality, and I wanted the capability to do more complex tasks so the BCS seemed like a great choice. But being here in China I am having tremendous difficulty in even getting the most basic parts (bolts for example) and a pre-assembled panel from somewhere is really starting to look good. But I know if I can just get this to work that in the long run this will be something that I am glad I did. I have two of these controllers, one to run my brewing process, and the other to control my jacketed fermenters. The controllers and probes all came from Brewer's Hardware in the U.S.
I placed my valves and heating elements in the HLT/Boil kettle to make sure everything would fit. I am in the process of trying to complete the control system, but I am running into a lot of problems. China does not really understand GFCI or why you would want to waterproof an electrical box. A lot of simple things that I thought I would just buy here I am now considering shipping from the U.S.
Safety is a very real concern. Water and electricity do not mix, and on top of that the safety of some of the availble components here is doubtful anyway.
I am having second thoughts about my design and I plan on getting some input from the guys over at The Electric Brewery.
I had a big day and achieved my first century (100 mile) ride. It was a big achievement for me and helped to soothe the pain of turning 49 the next day. I was invited on this ride by a guy I met on Weibo. He and a group of Chinese riders invited me to join with them and do a full 160 km ride out to PingGu. This is an area to the east of Beijing and well know for their peach orchards.
The ride was really windy and we were hung up for almost an hour at around the 40 mile point waiting for another group to join us. I felt myself tightening up but really was not paying attention. I did not hydrate enough, and when we took off my right leg started to cramp. It was a real problem, and the guys held back and helped me work though it in about 15 minutes.
But throughout the rest of the day and the long ride, it would continue to resurface. I tried to hydrate constantly and not bend too far over the handlebars. The wind was just brutal and in our face the whole way home. The last 30 miles were some of the toughest I have ever ridden. Mentally I was really pushed to keep going, but that is why I ride.
The most humbling thing was the ride leader did the full 160 km on a folding bike. Here I am dying, and the guy in front of me is on a bike designed to fit on a bus, no comfort or efficiency. And he was in front of me all day long, many times pulling away.
Was an exciting day today, besides being my birthday I received the vessels and conical fermenter I had fabricated last month.
I will post more details on system as I begin to bring the pieces together, but so far the welds on the stainless look good, and the insides are nicely polished.
I began trying to scout out a route from Beijing to Tianjin yesterday and completed my longest ride to date, about 76 miles. The objective was to see what the roads and cycling is like beyond the boundary of Beijing, which is not easy to do. I got within a mile or so of the border yesterday, but still not officially outside of Beijing. The city is over a 100 miles wide and tall. But still, once you are beyond the 6th ring it is a different world.
I have been steadily making changes to the Giant XR2 Roam, and I had a Surly 1x1 steel fork shipped from the U.S. to replace the cheesy Suntour suspension fork. I will have two Surly racks here in a couple of weeks. I also had the brakes reversed as they were opposite (left/right) as in the U.S. The basic day ride rig is shown in the pic. I carry tools and tire repair items, camera, lights and everything I need to ride at night. Once I have the racks in place I will start to build out an overnight rig. The Roam is really awesome, very responsive in traffic and very fast with the 700c tires.
In the morning after I passed the 5th ring I came up on a kite dealer parked on the corner. Check out not only the kites, but the assortment of line winders next to him. He was on one of the typical 3 wheel vehicles that are everywhere here.
Once I was beyond the 6th ring things were pretty quiet. I was on a long stretch (still with a bike lane) and almost no houses, just fields everywhere. All of the sudden I started hearing someone in the distance singing, like as in full blown concert singing. I came up on this building and there was a guy in front of the doors in a complete, gilded, white Elvis suit singing full blast. The beautiful thing about the bike in China is you can just stop and check it out. I went in the front area and there were two long rows of vendors selling fruit and a few villagers hanging out enjoying the afternoon show. As I stayed more and more people showed up, and you could tell they were surprised to find this going on, and very happy to see it. None were in cars, they were all on 3 wheelers or bikes. Some person came out and started doing gymnastics and martial arts so I took a pic after I bought a couple of bananas for lunch (about 30 cents). I still don’t know what was going on or what this building was. It was just one of those random bizarre things in China that makes you laugh.
I stopped after this when I reached the farthest point I was going to go south east. This was where I was within a couple of kilometers of the Hebei border. There was a row of green houses and I stopped on the corner to take my own pic. I hesitate to send this cause it shows the 15 pounds of China winter fat I packed back on since December (uggh) but the group of guys behind me staring at the procedure is hilarious. Like I said, beyond the 6th ring it’s another world. People are really friendly and you see the coolest stuff. But nobody, and I mean nobody – speaks English.
Cutting back to the east I was able to cross over the G2 highway that goes to Tianjin. I wanted to see if it was possible to ride a bike on the highways (tollways) because from the high speed train it had looked like they had bike lanes. There was a traffic officer at the G2 and she indicated that it was a no go, but there were plenty of roads going the right direction that still had bike lanes. They are mostly unmarked on my GPS map though, so a compass is really more useful. And another problem is I don’t have a data feed out there, so I have to use the maps I downloaded and I don’t have detailed maps beyond the boundary of Hebei.
I stopped at a Sinopec station to get something to drink after I burned through the 3 containers I had. I was really surprised that they had real urinals. Not toilets (still had the squatter hole for that) but knowing that Sinopec stations have at least clean, semi-modern facilities is cool – but you still have to bring your own toilet paper. They were so nice at the station. You never pump gas yourself in China, always an attendant does it. So the attendant guy just stood there and held my bike for me while I went to the bathroom.
I cut back north and saw a bunch of kites being flown in the distance, some really high in the air. I decided to go down into this graveled area even though it was strewn with glass and who knows what else. That’s the thing about riding here, you never know what you are going to end up riding through/over. Down in this area there were people flying kites. There were there on 3 wheelers and bikes, and kids standing around watching. As I took pictures more and more people started showing up. Sometimes they would have 4 people crammed onto one of those 3 wheelers. And in the background of one of the pics you can see the guy tending sheep, and the carcasses of kite flights gone bad up in electrical lines.
Further north there was a site being setup for the Beijing Strawberry Festival. It was really strange the site was almost completely empty, but the buildings and restaurants were fully staffed. I stopped in and road around once and then left. The decorations and buildings were crazy in that wacky sort of China way.
Finally I made the turn to come back into the city and home. Sometimes (well mostly) I am just blazing in traffic, typically I pass everything, motorized or not. The Roam is really a quick bike. Everybody carries their little kids on the back of their bikes or scooters, and sadly none of them have helmets. The little kids are the funnest, they just stare and if you smile and wave at them they always grin. And a lot of them will try to speak English. So on the way back this little girl was riding on a scooter and her dad was riding pretty fast, and I came up behind them and she was so surprised that a bicycle was riding beside her. Then I grinned and gave her the peace sign with a hello and her jaw just dropped. It was SO funny. So I passed them and then a while later we stopped together at a light and she was just smiling away. But the best part was when I took off with them and she just started bobbing her head to my pedal strokes and smiling. Just one of those moments that make it so much fun to ride here. I can’t wait to get my sport cam hooked up.
I stopped by Great Leap and Slow Boat over the last week to see what was going on. I have to say the feeling and customer service at Great Leap is much improved. Their banana beer was excellent, along with several other choices. Chandler's new Slow Boat Taproom is done really well, with a nice clean place, a real bathroom, and 20 beers on tap. Their vanilla porter was the best Beijing brewed beer that I have had yet. And it came in at a decent 8.75 ABV.
I need to get out more and check out some of the newer places that have sprouted up. Things have been busy with helping Annie on some of her projects, working on a couple of things for a client in the U.S., and just trying to find a way to exercise and live a healthy life in Beijing. This site needs to be revamped, and I have more web development projects that needs to get done as soon as possible
The Breitling juicer has worked out well, but so far I seem to like my old Champion better. I just can't bring a Champion in my luggage (too heavy), and the Breitling works fine it is just more troublesome to clean.
I had really wanted to bring a Surly Ogre to Beijing, but the many other items I needed to bring here just did not allow for it to happen. So I went down to the Giant store and picked up a Roam XR2 and some accessories to get started on my version of an expedition bike. The goal is to build something up that can be used to ride to Xian, or maybe even Harbin. There is a lot of work to do as the quality of the components and the tuning of the bike leave something to be desired.
The main thing is the maintenance on the bike. Mechanics here are just not up to speed on how to properly tune a bike for maximum performance and durability. I watched them flatten a headset surface with a flat file and just cringed. The last thing you want is to be 300 miles from home and have a bearing failure. So I will have to invest in the tools to do the maintenance myself. Not a big deal and I am really glad I took the Park Tool classes while I was back home in Chicago.
So today was the first ride, and I did a short 15 mile run out to the 798 Art District to see what has changed. The bike really performed well, and I think that with a little work this will be a great ride for the next few years. It was a snowy day, probably the last one this year, and I was glad for the fenders.
As things continue to deteriorate in Beijing for foreigners, another attack was reported this time by the U.S. Embassy. I rarely walked over to the west side of Worker's Stadium unless I was just passing through, and the the clubs there had a bad reputation anyway. But I did spend time on the east side both at George's and Fubar. I really liked both places, but I cannot see visiting there for quite a while - if ever.
I got the word yesterday morning (last night Beijing time) that the Black IPA took first prize at the 2012 Beijing Craft Beer Festival. This is really exciting news and I am jazzed. The turn out was big too, and that means a lot in terms of where craft beer is going in Beijing and China in general. I would really look for this to snow ball, and for home brewing to grow quite strongly in the next year. It is too bad that the regulatory situation is so difficult, because there is a huge market that could be opened up to small, regional craft breweries in China.
It was really a proud moment for both Yin Hai and myself to win first place at the first Annual Beijing Craft Beer Festival. There were lots of beer lovers along with some very experienced brewers, and to get that kind of respect is really great. This post will explain a little bit more about how the beer was brewed, the ingredients and some lessons learned.
One of the most interesting things about this beer is that it was brewed from an Northern Brewers extract kit. Many people will say that it is not possible to brew first rate beer with an extract kit, but we have proven that is not true. In China we typically brew using the all grain method, and that is mostly because quality extract kits are not available in China. This particular kit was purchased from Northern Brewer in February and then carried back to China by Annie during a visit to New York.
The Black IPA kit utilizes specialty grains and four types of hops along with the extract to create something really unique. The description on Northern Brewers site says, “An ebony pint with a beige head is surrounded by an aromatic citrus-and pine force field, backed by a smooth roastiness redolent of cocoa and French roast coffee. Full-bodied, hop-bitter, and boozy, this beer is compelling enough to both fuel and quash the argument of its stylistic integrity, and it goes great with a blue-cheese stuffed sirloin burger or steak.” It is certainly all of that.
--113 grams / 0.25 lbs Weyermann Carafa III
--113 grams / 0.25 lbs Chocolate Malt
--226 grams / 0.5 lbs Briess Caramel 80
--1.43 kg / 3.15 lbs Dark malt syrup (60 min)
--2.72 kg / 6 lbs Dark malt syrup late addition (15 min)
--454 grams / 1 lb Corn Sugar late addition (0 min)
--HOPS & FLAVORINGS
--28 grams / 1 oz Summit (60 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Chinook (15 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Centennial Type (10 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Cascade (5 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Centennial Type (0 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Cascade (dry hop) (Yin did a 33g hops addition instead, as he felt it would push more of the IPA qualities that he likes)
--WYEAST 1272 AMERICAN ALE YEAST II. Fruitier and more flocculant than 1056, slightly nutty, soft, clean, slightly tart finish. Apparent attenuation: 72-76%. Flocculation: high. Optimum temp: 60–72° F.
--DRY YEAST ALTERNATIVE: SAFALE US-05. Optimum temp: 59-75° F.
When we reviewed the recipe prior to brewing it was pretty clear to us that the key to making an exceptional version of this was to time the hops additions precisely, and control our boils. The Brewtong’s facilities are slightly primitive, and to get the brewing process exact takes some work. Not only that but we brewed it at the end of a long day that had two full all-grain batches brewed prior to this. We setup a stopwatch for this batch using a digital timer and began the boil using purified water. The first round of ingredients included the specialty grains which were poured into a mesh bag and suspended in the water as we brought it up to boil. Once we got a vigorous boil going these were removed and discarded (about 20 minutes).
When you are brewing multiple batches a timer with an alarm is essential because often times you are doing multiple things. In this case, once we had the initial boil going and the first round of ingredients added, we were busy filling a fermentation vessel with the previous all grain batch, and sterilizing our equipment for the next batch. Things can get hectic at the Brewtong on brew day! The timers keep us informed at a glance exactly where we are in the brewing process and how long we need to go before the next ingredient addition.
One of the different things about this beer style is the addition of 454 grams (1lb) of corn sugar at the end of the boil. This helps us to hit our target O.G. of 1.075. Once the wort was cooled using our coil chiller we racked it to the fermenter and pitched the Wyeast 1272 American Ale II. Unfortunately we did not activate the package until brew day, about 2 hours prior to pitching. In the future we hope to refine our yeast starters and really get a well documented system for handling our yeast. With Jacob Wickham’s knowledge it is for sure that we will only get better and better in this area.
We also deviated from the primary recipe by not racking to a secondary fermenter. With the limited facility and time it was not possible. The original recipe calls for it to be held in secondary fermentation for 2-4 weeks before dry hopping 5 days prior to kegging. Instead we chose to skip the entire secondary fermentation step and dry hop (28 grams Cascade) to the primary fermenter 1 week before kegging. This allowed the beer to be conditioned for a couple of weeks prior to the festival.
Again, many thanks to all of the people who tasted the beers from the Brewtong. The feedback is extremely valuable to us as we work to develop our brewing process and beers.