Category Archives: Lessons Learned
One topic that seems to come up a lot is how to make board game prototypes. I’m not talking about coming up with a design. I’m talking about physically creating prototype game components. Game designers are constantly trying to make their components so that they can get right to the playtesting phase of game design.
Today I want to discuss the tools I use to create my prototypes. At this point you should already have your prototype artwork created if you’re going to be printing anything. Let’s assume it’s already been printed. Now it’s time to make it awesome!
One common component that is particularly easy to make for prototypes are chits. These are typically just printed artwork glued onto matte board. But matte board can prove to be difficult to cut.
There’s two ways that I’ll cut my chits out of the matte board.
- Straight edge and utility or X-acto knife (not ideal)
- Rotary cutter (ideal)
What we are doing here is separating the chits from one another. When creating your artwork you should line up the edges of the components so that you only need to make one cut between them.
The straight edge and knife approach is definitely NOT my approved method and I would never recommend it. However, a lot of people use that approach so I needed to mention it. One recommendation is to use a safety straightedge like the one shown here. You only have 10 fingertips so why not spend a few extra dollars and get a straightedge like this and make sure to not lose any fingertips!
I don’t like this method for a few reasons. The first is that you need a cutting mat to go underneath so you don’t scratch your table. The second is that the blade doesn’t always stay straight as you are cutting the matte board. And that can be really annoying.
My preferred method is to use a rotary cutter like this Fiskars 12″ Scrapbooking version. It is super easy to use, relatively cheap (especially compared to the $40 safety straightedge), and very reliable. And since most of us don’t have printers that print on anything other than 8.5×11 paper anyway, the 12″ Fiskars tool is perfect!
So I will print my prototype artwork on photo paper, adhere it to matte board, and then cut out the individual components using the rotary cutter. Just a heads up when using matte board though: you’ll likely have to roll the cutter back and forth a few times to cut all the way through. That’s still an easier process than trying to run a blade along the straightedge.
On the topic of matte board, I recently went to Hobby Lobby and purchase two huge packs of “matboard” for $6 each. I got a pack of 12″x12″ and a pack of 11″x14″. These are so cheap that I almost felt like I was stealing. They are just the leftovers from the framing department that were cut out from the boards used to mat pictures/paintings for customers. What a great way for Hobby Lobby to reduce their waste and provide a useful product. Here’s what I got for $12:
The other key tool of my trade is a glue stick. Some people will use standard glue, some will use spray adhesive. I prefer the glue stick to standard glue since it is simple to apply evenly. This is very helpful when trying to make sure that your components are completely glued down.
Now you know a great method for producing chits. If possible, keep them as rectangles rather than circles of hexes. But since we’re on the topic of circles and hexes let’s move on to another excellent tool…
There are times when you don’t want rectangular components. Perhaps your game is a map building game with hex tiles. Or perhaps you require special discs for your game. If that’s the case, then I strongly urge you consider purchasing a punch.
One thing to keep in mind when purchasing a punch is how thick of paper/board are you wanting to punch. Often these sorts of punches are used by scrapbookers who are only punching paper. That means they may not be able to punch through matte board. Sometimes you can only find out after you’ve bought the punch. Bummer.
Here are some recommendations, keeping in mind that I don’t know specifically how thick they can punch. OR you can just do a search for “hobby punch” and find one you’d like.
- Fiskars Squeeze Hex Punches
- Creative Memories Punches
- Older Creative Memories Hex Punches on eBay
- And don’t forget the Corner Rounder punch which can be helpful for cards that are printed on nice canvas/linen finish paper.
These can come in really handy. I use a circle punch when creating prototype coins. I have used a hex punch to create stickers for hex tiles. And here is my little tip for punching, which I mentioned in a prototyping article a long while back, but which is worth repeating.
When punching, flip the punch over so you can visually align the part that you want cut.
So now you’ve got the tools to cut out chits and punch out little bits of awesomeness! What about cards?
Many game designers come across the need for cards in their game designs. I have made cards numerous times. Early on I would buy 60lb. paper and just cut out rectangles. But there is a problem with that. The edges of the rectangles can be slightly bent from cutting, which leads to great difficulty in shuffling the cards.
The way to prevent that while also protecting the cards is to purchase card sleeves. These inexpensive beauties will be a little lifesaver by removing anguish from your prototypes. Plus, you can get awesome one’s like the one shown here with a kitten running through a field!
If you want a good go-to source for sleeves then look no further than Mayday Games. Here is a series of links to the sizes you may be looking for:
- Euro Cards (59×92 mm)
- Mini Euro Cards (45×68 mm)
- Card Game (63.5×88 mm)
- Standard USA Cards (56×87 mm)
- Magnum Ultra Fit for 7-Wonders (65×100 mm)
Those should offer some help. They definitely help with being able to shuffle your cards. The only downside is that when stacked they can be really slippery and your stack may tumble over.
Speaking of tumbling…
Sometimes it becomes necessary for a game designer to create their own set of dice. Sure, you could always just make a cheat-sheet conversion table, but that can be a huge burden for your playtesters who would constantly have to recheck the sheet. So one of the tools of the trade is to purchase blank, sticker-able dice.
Look no further than Indented Blank Dice. The best part of their site is that they have labels that you can purchase and print on rather than having to buy blank label paper and try to cut/punch out your own labels and then peel them off.
Don’t buy blank label paper. Don’t cut/punch out stickers. Don’t try to peel them.
Just buy the sticker label paper and save yourself from the frustration.
So this concludes my little article about Prototyping Tools of the Trade. Next week I will be posting a follow-up article on Sourcing Components for Prototyping. It will cover where to purchase boards, bits, and more. So stay tuned!
My recent design, Conclave, initially suffered from a lack of symmetry. After a great playtest session with Jeremy Van Maanen, Adam Buckingham, Corey Young, and Brett Myers I received some great feedback that pointed out how the initial round could greatly influence the game due to the asymmetry. So I balanced the player decks to eliminate that asymmetry. What followed was a nice conversation on Twitter about symmetry versus asymmetry. So I though I’d write a brief guide about putting symmetry into your game design, and where it might be appropriate.
My Definition of Symmetry:
Before discussing where symmetry or asymmetry is important it is necessary for me to define the terms so that you understand what I mean throughout the rest of this article.
SYMMETRY: when conditions within a game are equal for all players.
This could be that all players have the same options on a turn or that they all start with the same cards or they all have the same opportunity to progress. Symmetry is typically only present at the beginning of a game. Once one player has taken a turn, then the game is different for the next player. So games where all players have an equal opportunity to be the first player inherently are symmetric at the start. Games where a random player goes first are not inherently symmetric since by the time the second player goes, the game conditions for that player are different than they were for the first player.
An example of a symmetric game starting condition is one where players simultaneously bid for turn order. Another example is when all players simultaneously make their first move in a game.
ASYMMETRY: when conditions within a game are unequal for all players.
I think of asymmetry as the situations where players have differing decks of cards, or different options on their turn, or different opportunities in the game. But asymmetry also applies to when games change from turn to turn and thus no two players ever face identical game conditions. There are many examples of asymmetry within games. And to provide examples could take a long time. Instead, check out Lewis Pulsipher‘s thread on BoardGameGeek: Looking at Game Design as Ways of Introducing Asymmetry.
Where to design for Symmetry:
There are definitely places within game designs for symmetry. If conditions within a game ever put a game out of balance, where one player has a distinct advantage toward victory through no means of their own, then the design calls for symmetry to remove that lack of balance.
My example, from Conclave, fits perfectly here. The original design provided each player with a 30 card deck. However, during the game not all of the cards were used. This caused a problem with probability. There was a chance that one player may end up only getting cards of their own color to place on the table while another player would only end up getting cards of the other player’s colors. This would then cause the game to be very much in favor of that first player despite them not earning that opportunity. This lack of balance called for adding symmetry to the game.
In this case symmetry refers to all players having the same amount of opportunity on the table. With balanced decks where all players play all of their cards it means all players will have the same opportunity within the remainder of the game.
This is my recommendation:
Apply symmetry where a game could otherwise randomly favor any single player.
This will not only make sure the game is fair, but it will also make sure that players can enjoy the game without feeling like they never had a chance.
Where to design for Asymmetry:
I would recommend designing for asymmetry anywhere and everywhere, as long as it does not conflict with my recommendation above.
Asymmetry for Conclave would mean adding different abilities based on the person you are representing.
Asymmetry can refer to players having unique abilities or different ways to move forward in the game or different cards and thus different opportunities. Examples of asymmetry in games are plentiful. The Settlers of Catan has a beautiful level of asymmetry that depends where players place their initial settlements. Ticket to Ride has asymmetry with the destination tickets, which determine each players individual path to victory.
Asymmetry in a game can add to the variability and replayability of games. And often it can add to the tension of a game as well. One example that comes to mind is Shipyard. In that game there is a great asymmetry in players options on their turn. This is simply due to limiting the options that a player can take on their turn. No two players turns in a row are the same. Yet the asymmetry in player options add a lot of tension and strategy.
I am definitely an advocate for asymmetry in game design.
My Bottom Line:
Now that we’ve briefly discussed symmetry versus asymmetry in game design I want to make my point one more time. When a game design creates an unfair advantage for a player that is not based on the choices of any player, the game requires symmetry and balance. Apply symmetry to a game to balance the game and make it fair. In all other circumstances, feel free to apply asymmetry to your design. It will be harder to design and require more playtesting to balance, but it adds so much to the game.
What are your thoughts about symmetry versus asymmetry in game design? Do you prefer one over the other? How would you define the two? I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks.
I’m back from a series of mini-vacations. In that time my Ben Franklin’s Honey Ale was able to carbonate and mature enough to try it out. So today I will review my second beer, Ben Franklin’s Honey!
Brewing Ben Franklin’s Honey
I’ve mentioned this beer before so I won’t go into depth here but I wanted to mention a few things.
The first is that brewing my second batch of beer was much less intimidating than the first. Everything was easier. Everything went better. And the overall amount of time and effort that was required fell a lot.
The second thing I wanted to mention is that I recently learned a little about lagering. This seemingly has nothing to do with Ben Franklin’s Honey, however, I only learned about lagering due to a conversation that was started because of Ben Franklin’s Honey. Why do I mention this? See more below.
The third thing I wanted to mention is that timing is an important part of brewing beer. Due to the amount of time is takes to brew/ferment/carbonate it is important to choose a date by which you want your beer to be ready. Then work backwards. So assume you want a month in the bottles. Then add in a week in the carboy. Then add a week in the fermenter. All told for a simple ale you’re looking at a month and a half minimum. That’s how far in advance you need to brew before your desired release party.
So completing my second brew has taught me a lot about the process and what it all involves. And I now have a great summer beer to enjoy over the next couple months!
Tasting Ben Franklin’s Honey
Last night I had the privilege of sharing the first tasting of Ben Franklin’s Honey with three friends over a game of Ora et Labora. My friends were willing to give it a try. The collective opinion: Enjoyable!
This beer is a pretty light beer that tastes “summery.” It comes in around 5% alcohol. It has a light and clear color. The honey flavor was not overwhelming, which was good.
Overall I would say this was an enjoyable brew. I have plenty more to enjoy and may bring a few to GenCon. I will hold off on rating this beer until I have had a few more. But if this brew is like the Alberti Amber, which got much better after maturing in the bottles for a month, then this will be a fantastic beer come August!
Ben Franklin’s Honey’s Successor?
So above I mentioned lagering. This leads me to my next brew. I am planning on brewing an Oktoberfest!
The problem with lagering is that it is slow and needs to ferment at a cooler temp than a typical basement. My luxury is that I have an extra refrigerator in my basement. So I can probably adjust the temperature on the fridge to a point that might work for lagering.
Since I can try to lager, I now have to make sure the timing will work. If lagering takes 6 weeks and maturing in the bottle takes a month, then I have 2.5 months before it will be drinkable. So if I want my Oktoberfest to be available at typical Oktoberfest time (September), then I need to get going on it.
If I brew within the next two weeks I should be able to have a decent Oktoberfest ready on time. Oktoberfests are one of my favorite beer styles. Perhaps it’s partially due to the season in which they show up since I really love late summer/early autumn. Perhaps it’s because I would love to attend the real Oktoberfest in Germany. Whatever the reasons, I am planning on brewing/lagering an Oktoberfest for this fall.
Have you been brewing? Any tips you’d like to share about lagering? I’m planning a post about the lagering process and how it compares to brewing ales and your tips could be included. Thanks for reading!
I have a new game design I’m working on and today I am posting the second of 4 articles about it. Including last week, today, and the next two Thursdays, I’ll be writing about the game from it’s creation to the present state. Here’s the four articles in this series:
- 5-16-13: Origins of Trading Post
- TODAY 5-23-13: Prototyping Early Versions
- 5-30-13: Hiatus and Re-design
- 6-6-13: Path to GenCon
So today let’s again jump back in time a few years and take a look at my early prototyping attempts, from when I didn’t know anything about prototyping games!
One of the first things I attempted to make when I thought I had the design “together” enough was a board. I figured black and white was a great place to start. So I drew a few sketches about the layout and then opened The Gimp.
For those of you who don’t know what The Gimp is, here’s where you can go to learn more: http://www.gimp.org/
It is an open source image editing software. While it used to be my weapon of choice for image editing and graphic design, I now use Inkscape since it is a vector graphics software (and still free).
So in The Gimp I got a 21″ x 21″ file open and began by creating the main hex grid. Last week I wrote about a grid of squares with truncated corners where cubes could fit. Well, that was gone by the time I decided to make a prototype. So here we are already discussing a hex grid map with square tiles. In the earliest designs all the tiles were going to be 1″ squares. So the board reflected that. You’ll understand why I went with squares a little more in the discussion about components below.
The hex shaped grid for player territories was a beast to design. I actually had to do math to get the grid to be a hex in The Gimp. This would have been relatively easy in Inkscape. But it wasn’t very fun in The Gimp.
After wrestling with the hex grid territory region I added a few other smallish things to the board. This included the title, resource areas, a time track, and a spot for cards. After spending a completely ridiculous amount of time on a board for a prototype that hadn’t even been played, here’s what I ended up with:
As you can see it values function over form. Ugly though it be, it would still get the job done. So I printed it on 9 different sheets of paper and tried to get all the edges lined up. Maybe my struggles with creating a full size game board when working on Trading Post are what subconsciously led me to not having a full size board for Scoville.
The Territory Tiles:
The main concept of the design involves exploration of your territory. Players start with their pawns in the center and eventually should try to explore all of their territory. So I had to make tiles to put on the sections of your territory as you would discover them.
These tiles would represent different resources that could be available, AND the amount of that resource that the piece of land would produce… for the rest of the game. This included things like Wood, Stone, Fruit, Grain, and more.
Here is a lesson I learned when prototyping the territory tiles: Just buy chipboard components from someone like Printplaygames.com. For the cost you can get just about everything you would need to get your game to the prototype phase.
Did I make such a wise decision? Not even close. I actually bought a wood board and went to a friend’s house to use their table saw to cut 1″ square tiles. Then I cut out square pieces of paper. The paper got glued to the tiles. Then I drew little icons on each one and colored the edges to match the icon. Here’s a recommendation: Don’t do it like that!
Eventually I got to the point where a hex-based grid seemed like a better idea and I began to work toward a hex-based prototype. I used a computer aided drafting software called SolidWorks to render a hex grid that I could print out for the hex-based prototype. I don’t recommend using CAD software for board game design unless you’re making minis. The main problem is that the CAD software typically doesn’t allow you to save images in high quality. The downside of the change to a hex-based system was that all the effort I put into the wooden square tiles was now wasted. (I can say that it was wasted because it was never even used in a playtest).
The hex-based system didn’t change how the game was played. It just made things fit a little better and look neater & tidier on the board. It was at this point in my board game design career that I decided to purchase a hex-punch. I bought a Creative Memories Double Hex Punch off eBay for about $8. It turns out that that’s a crazy awesome price! Despite the price I recommend buying a variety of punches, especially circles. I just searched and found a few of the Creative Memories hex punches on eBay for about $37. Another free designer tip:
Punches can be your best friend!
Here is a link for punches from Fiskars. I would recommend starting on eBay, though.
Ugh. Looking back on all of this makes me wish I had been familiar with Inkscape at the time I was working on this design. All of the art and tiles could have been made with Inkscape so much more easily than what I was doing.
Well I now had my territory tiles made. Now it was time to add the other unnecessary ingredients in this poor game design…
The Event & Order Cards:
After reading the article about what makes a game good (Note: here’s the article I mentioned in last week’s Trading Post article, thanks to Neil Roberts who found the link – What Makes a Game Good?) I knew that I wanted to especially avoid monotony in the game design. I already had a random draw for territory exploration. But how else could I increase variability and replayability?
I came up with the idea that each “year” in the game would have something different going on. I called these “Event” cards. They typically affected how the market worked for different goods. But they also could positively or negatively affect all players. A few of the event cards are shown here on the right.
These were masterfully made in Excel. The bottom row of the event cards is a spot for players to put a cube of their player color when the card affected them to show that it had done so. Cards could only affect a player once. The top box on the cards is also color coded. The DROUGHT card in the image affects GRAIN and thus matches the yellow color of the grain. Pretty awesome, huh?
But this wasn’t enough! Another free designer tip:
Don’t add complications until the game needs it!
At the time I was designing Trading Post I hadn’t learned that lesson. So I added ORDER cards in a seemingly theme-less way to make each game different. I guess I was really worried that people would be bored with Trading Post after one or two plays.
Thematically the ORDER cards represented things the Trading Post needed during that year. That at least made sense. These things included blankets, hats, pies, buildings, flagpoles, and on and on. I struggled to make a list long enough of the sorts of things that a Trading Post might need. But eventually I got them all together and started making more “awesomeness” in Excel. Here’s a glimpse of the result:
So made a stack of about 50 order cards that would come out randomly, four per year. These would be available on a first come-first serve basis. The cost is shown on the left. In the image above, for example, the curtains would cost 2 cotton. The reward is on the right. In the same curtains example the reward was 2 Trading Points and 4 coins. I even added further complication by having some order cards provide a bonus if the owner already had fulfilled a prerequisite. In the image above an example is the BLACKSMITH. If you had fulfilled the HAMMER order card for the Trading Post and then fulfill the Blacksmith card you would earn an extra point and an extra coin. I suppose I added this to the design to produce a more guided decision tree to players.
In most of these images the way the prototype components were made was by printing on normal paper and glue-sticking them to 60lb. paper. The problem with this method is warping. And it was a big problem with the original Trading Post components. This is one reason that I have moved on to gluing stuff to matte board or chip board.
By this point in the design I had the board, the territory tiles, the event cards, and the orders. A market board was also built for the game to allow people to trade for different goods. This would be the driving economic factor of the game, but would also allow players to obtain goods that their randomly seeded territory did not produce. With all those components in place it was time to focus on what was in front of me… the player mat!
The Player Mats:
Since I knew that I wanted a main concept of the game to revolve around exploration I decided that upgrading your ability as an explorer would be critical. Thematically that meant going from a “trader” to a “trader with a horse” and eventually to a “trader with a wagon.” From early on in the design I limited the explorable zone for a “trader” to the first two rows out from the Trading Post. The idea behind this that fit the theme was that a man or woman could only walk, explore, and carry enough food for an expedition two rows out from the Trading post. By upgrading and purchasing a horse you’d be able to move faster and thus could explore more territory on the same rations. So when you purchased a horse you would be able to explore rows three and four away from the Trading Post. Finally, if you wanted to explore the outer most regions you would need to build a wagon.
So there is a side objective of all players in the game to be collecting the components they needed to be able to build their wagon. In the design I set it up so that you had to procure certain items. Once you had all these items you had a de-facto wagon. The wagon would allow you to explore the fifth row from the Trading Post.
I designed the player mats to show how far you could move and how much you could carry based on your status. And I included a Wagon Construction Area showing your progress toward a wagon. Here’s a look at the first and second versions of the player mats:
The cool thing, or at least what I thought was cool, was that in the second version you would actually be building your wagon by placing the pieces on top of the illustration.
One other thing to point out about how the game worked is illustrated in the second version of the player mats. There is a row for INCOME and a separate row for MONEY. Thematically the INCOME row represented any money earned during your turn. This would be like getting a paycheck. The way it worked was that after your turn, your income would be added to your money and then the income track would be set to zero. This means that any money earned on your turn isn’t available until the next turn.
I would say that through this whole prototyping process, which occurred in mid-2011, my favorite components were the player mats.
Overall Prototyping Experience:
The best possible tip I could provide to designers regarding prototyping would be this:
Just make something functional and test it. Only put in the effort to make it look good once you know it’s working.
Next week you’ll see that I don’t heed my own advice. But I’m inhibited by my desire to make things look good. And now that I know how to use Inkscape it takes much less effort to produce something that looks good.
Looking back at all the things I did for Trading Post I’ve realized that I wasted a lot of time. I built spreadsheets. I wasted hours using The Gimp to make that board. I added needless complexity, which then required me to make more components.
The game was only attempted to be playtested in its previous form twice. The effort to playtest ratio for this game is just ridiculous. So next week I’m covering my hiatus from the game, how I’ve advanced as a designer during that hiatus, and now how I’m going about redesigning the game. With that in mind I’ll leave you with one final image, which is a printout of a spreadsheet that I made so I could take notes on. This illustration sums up all the things that I am trying to avoid with the redesign!
Thanks for reading. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about Trading Post and the things I’ve posted so far. Just share your comments below!
If you’ve been following this blog then you know I’ve purchased my first beer brewing kit. 2013 just seems like a great year to get started. I’ve wanted to brew for about 5 years now. So it’s about time I leveled up in Manliness and actually brewed.
Two Saturdays ago I connected my propane tank to my turkey fryer and boiled some wort! It was an interesting learning process and I’m proud to be able to report on it today on B&B!
Some of us who run, and by “us” I mean “you,” have experienced something known as Raceday Nerves. It’s where you’re all nervous before you start a race. I’ve been there too. I ran a couple half marathons two years ago and have definitely had those butterflies. Why do I bring that up? Because for some reason I had a little pre-brew jitters. I guess it was because I was hoping to not mess up.
There was nothing I could do about the nerves so I just got to it. Here’s my homebrew setup:
It looks all shiny and new there. That lasted about 3 minutes until the flames started to cause the black paint on the turkey fryer stand to bubble, crack, and burn away! Yikes. And of course as the paint and the bolts were flaming my neighbor walked up and asked what I was up to.
Who wants to boil some Wort?
For my first brew I wanted it to be as simple as possible. That means I was brewing with a pre-made extract. This is a liquid that comes in a half gallon jar. You can see it over there →
Brewing this way is pretty “easy.” You just boil the wort for about 40 minutes, then cool it, put it in the fermenter and add the yeast.
Eventually I will get to the point where I’ll be choosing the grains and hops that I use so that I can brew actual, legit home recipes. But as a first timer I think I made a good choice.
In some ways it relates to board game design. I could have chosen to go with a complicated all-grain brew and thrown a bunch of awesome stuff in there. But it probably wouldn’t have all worked together, especially on the first try.
In board game design it seems like it would make sense to put a bunch of awesome mechanics together and expect an awesome game. But what ends up happening is you get a game where things feel non-thematic, unrelated, and almost like they’re work. *Cough* Archipelago *Cough*
So I didn’t want to put a bunch of awesome stuff together and hope for the best. I took this first batch as an opportunity to learn a little bit!
Gettin’ Hot in the Pot
With my wort warmed up and the water boiling I was ready to begin! I was pretty nervous about this part. Reading through the directions it was pretty clear that this part could involve a “foam over,” not to be mistaken with a comb over.
Fortunately my turkey fryer is a 7.5 gallon pot and I was only boiling 2 gallons of water and the wort. There were a few times that the foam rose up near the top. If I had been boiling it on the stove it definitely would have foamed over.
By using the knob on the turkey fryer it was pretty easy to control the heat to the pot. Therefore any time I saw the foam building I was able to turn down the heat just a bit and watch the foam dwindle. I was really thankful that I paid for the turkey fryer since it gave me so much peace of mind when boiling the wort.
Here a peek into the pot:
When the wort started boiling I added the Willamette hops. After 30 minutes I added a half ounce of Kent Golding hops. And then after 8 more minutes I added another half ounce of the Kent Golding hops. And two minutes later it was done!
Am I a Brewer Yet?
Once the wort was boiled and the nervous part was over with it was time to cool the wort. I filled my utility sink full of ice water and placed the whole pot right in there on a metal trivet. With active stirring it cooled the wort pretty quickly. In a previous article I had mentioned making a wort chiller. I may still do that, but this cooled it down in about 12 minutes.
The next part was a little tricky too. It was time to transfer it over to the fermenter, which is a fancy word for plastic bucket. Without much hesitation I poured it right in. It felt really good to be done with the boiling portion of the brewing process.
Here’s what I left behind in the pot:
So the beer was brewed. What’s next?
The Waiting Game
With the boiled wort in the plastic bucket (I just can’t call it a fermenter) it was time to wait. I was super excited about the waiting game. I was really looking forward to seeing some bubbles coming through the fermentation lock.
I was prepared to see no bubbles. My confidence in my brewing ability was so high that I was expecting to fail.
Fortunately a day later I saw the first bubbles! It was a great moment in my life. I put it right up there with taking the ACT for the fourth time in high school and that moment in baseball practice when I got hit, well… you know where.
So the bubbles, while exciting, really weren’t much to look at. I figured they would happen. I was just slightly worried that it would foam over through the fermentation lock.
Thankfully it did not. And I was able to move onto the second stage of fermentation… the Carboy!
Carboy is a Cool Word
So the next step is to transfer the beer over to the glass carboy. This doesn’t have to be done, but all the books and experts make it sound like it’s the right thing to do. So I did it.
I had purchased an auto siphon, which really made the transfer pretty easy. I hoisted the bucket up on a box and cracked it open. It really smelled good! I put the siphon in the bucket, being careful to keep it off the bottom, and then pumped and let it do its work.
Here’s how it looked during siphoning and after all was said and done:
I AM a Home Brewer! What’s with “Alberti?”
So at this point my beer has been in the carboy for about 4 days. It is a little cold in my basement where it is fermenting and I think that has caused it to ferment less than it perhaps should have. But the bottom line is that there are several gallons of my own beer sitting in my basement!
So the next step will be bottling at some point in the next week or so. That should be interesting. I bought a bottom up bottle filler, though. That should help the process a bit!
So why did I name it “Alberti Amber?” This beer is named after Leon Battista Alberti, who was a 15th century Renaissance man. I like to consider myself sort of a Mediocre Renaissance Man and so it’s fun to name these beers after men I look up to. Alberti is a favorite renaissance man of mine due to his Alberti Cipher work in cryptography. I have a little man crush on unsolved ciphers and maybe my beer will help me solve some of them. Probably Not.
So it’s been a fun, if nerve-wracking, process brewing my first batch of beer. I think the second time will go much smoother. Or at least I’ll be more comfortable with it. All I have to do is figure out what style of beer I want to brew next! Helmholtz Honey Bock? Franklin Cream Ale? We shall see!