June 1, 2012

Getting crafty

I don't consider myself to be a particularly creative person. I am not one of those people who looks at yard as a blank slate, and can picture how I would landscape it. I don't walk into a craft store and imagine all I can do with the bits and pieces in bins. Food in the fridge aren't ingredients unless a recipe is nearby. Rather than being a "vision" guy, I tend to be more on the production side of things. Give me a set of plans, and I am on it.

I do have an occasional corner of my world where I try to stretch my legs. In the past, I made DVDs at the end of each year, and I enjoyed laying out the pictures, movies and music to try to tell a story. When I wrote my novel, there was a front and back cover to design, photos to stretch and twist, and a website to arrange.

These days when I have a project, creative or not, solutions can generally be found online. CreateSpace, Kindle Publishing, and PubIt made it possible to produce the various versions of my novel. I found a great (free) program in GIMP that allowed me to design my book cover myself. YouTube videos have taught me how to fix appliances, re-key door locks, and snake drain lines.

When I started brewing beer, I found lots of creative people willing to share their knowledge and excitement. I have spent (too) many hours surfing websites and message boards looking for every bit of information I could find. Once I get this homebrewing down a little better, I will look to create my own versions of beers, but for now I am sticking to the recipes.

In the meantime, I have been pouring a little creative energy into the stuff surrounding the actual beer. I found plans to make beer crates quite cheaply out of scrap wood. I will use these to store the beer in the crawlspace, away from the summer heat. The guy who drew up the plans also showed how you could antique the wood with a little steel wool and vinegar, and imprint a logo with a color printer and an iron.

Here is how they turned out:

Plain crate

Logo imprint

Antiqued and filled with beer

While I was waiting for the beer to ferment and condition, I created a label for the bottles.

The little QR code on the right will lead you to a webpage with the statistics, recipe, my brewing experience, lots of other beer nerdiness. There is also a link to the website in the sidebar (if you're into that sort of thing).

I opened the first beer last night. Mistakes were definitely made during my first batch, so I was a little worried that the beer would be undrinkable. In the end, it was just okay - not great, not terrible. It was a little flat, and I was little disappointed that the hop character didn't come through. Afterward, I opened up a Red Hook ESB, which is what the recipe was based on, and I realized that my version wasn't as far off as I thought. I guess I remembered Red Hook being better than it was.

So far, I am really enjoying the brewing process, and having a small creative outlet. I already have another batch of beer fermenting, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. I know that I love the beer the recipe is based on, so I have higher hopes.

I have also started using the website Pinterest, which is an endless stream of inspiration and creativity - crafts, recipes, re-purposing and re-imagining everyday objects. Kristy has bookmarked lots of cool projects already. Who knew there were so many things you can do with wine bottles, mason jars, and wood shipping pallets?

I am starting to see little glimmers possibility in the bits and pieces, and I now find myself stopping more often at the local fencing company to look through the scrap pile. I just need to keep looking over the shoulder of those creative types until it really takes hold.

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