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Monday Brews – 2-16-15

Welcome back from a busy Valentine’s day weekend. I hope you all treated each other with love! My wife was out of town most of the day Saturday so I took part in a local Math Trade (where I received a Dixit expansion, Splendor, and Cinque Terre). Then we grabbed a pie from a local diner as a gift for my wife. Then some friends came over and we played Deus, which is inspiring me to build a deck-based engine builder game utilizing similar but unique mechanics.

Then yesterday I had the privilege of demoing Scoville at a local game store. A 13 year old loved Scoville and his grandpa ended up buying it for him. I hope it inspires him to become a gamer!

But you aren’t here to read about my weekend. You’re here to see what awesome Boards & Barley I’ve been enjoying! So let’s begin with the Barley…

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The Barley:

Dubbel-y delicious… compared to my previous homebrews, at least.

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT:
Homebrew Belgian Dubbel

Despite having several new beers this past week I had to make my homebrew the spotlight this week. It is by far my best homebrew yet and finally one that I’m not at least mildly gun-shy about offering to people. It is really excellent. My colleague requested the recipe after I gave him a six-pack. And my friends actually enjoy it.

NEW BEER COUNT FOR 2015: 13

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The Boards:

Sort of fun.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT:
NEW! Madame Ching

There is a neat and interesting card mechanic where you utilize the cards in your hand to move your ship across the sea. Using a similar color as your previous card moves you straight across. Using a different colored card moves you diagonal down and across. The goal is to earn points, which is done most regularly by completing objectives, which are earned based on how far your expedition traveled across the sea.

I thought the artwork was nice and colorful. But the gameplay seemed really dependent on the cards you were able to procure. I found it difficult to put together a nice expedition. But I’d like to play it again to see if it was just a case of bad luck.

NEW BOARD GAME COUNT FOR 2015: 8

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So what Boards & Barley have you been enjoying? Are there any games or brews you would like me to try? Just let me know!

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Monday Brews 10-13-14

Welcome back to Boards & Barley! It’s been a while since I posted and I blame it all on my kids. I’ve got three little rugrats and they often find ways to fill all of my “free” time. But I’m back today with a recap of the Boards & Barley that I’ve enjoyed over the past couple weeks.

Before that, however, I’d like to mention how awesome it’s been with having kegged beer. I put the kegs into my basement refrigerator and I now have cold beer on tap. I need to thank my neighbor once again for loaning me the equipment. I wouldn’t have been able to afford two kegs, regulator, gas lines, taps, and CO2 tank otherwise. If you want a beer on tap without having to pay $5 for it, head on over and I’ll pour you a cold one!

The Barley:

Don't be sad, little guy. You tasted pretty good!

Don’t be sad, little guy. You tasted pretty good!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Nobody Plays Brown – Homebrew

I brewed this “Northern Brewer Caribou Slobber” kit back in May and let it age (unintentionally) in my basement for four months. This was a kit that my older brother gave me as a Christmas present last year. It’s fun to get a beer kit as a Christmas present. So the other night with some friends over I took some glasses down to the basement fridge and filled them up from the tap. It wasn’t the best brown ale I’ve ever had, but I’m not disappointed to have 4 more gallons of it either.

The Boards:

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Unpublished Prototypes

The Wealthy Lazeabouts by Jeremy Van Maanen can best be described as an auction game about bidding on who will win the auction. When I originally heard about that theme I cringed a little. It seemed boring. But we played the prototype the other night and other than a balance tweak and art upgrade I’d buy this game! It was highly enjoyable, provided for interesting choices, included a LARGE amount of player interaction, and was plain fun to play!

Super Ego by Adam Buckingham is all about Super Heroes who are more interested in glory and honor than in actually rescuing innocent victims. In the game you are one of those super heroes. During the game you’ll collect skill cards and use those skills to perform rescues and earn honor. Sometimes you may be able to earn honor that you can post on your timeline on your HeroBookFace account for all the other super heroes to see and envy. This game was full of intriguing choices, options to hose the other super heroes, options for revenge, and fun gameplay.

Both of these games were amazingly successful for their first playtests. If you are interested in playing either of them they’ll both be available to play at Protospiel-Madison in a few weeks.

Designer’s Corner:

After playing The Grand Illusion 4 times in the past two weeks I’ve decided that the game needs to be redesigned. With a theme of magic and illusion it really needs to have awesome magical elements in the game. With the players representing illusionists I want the gameplay to feel like you are being sneaky and pulling things over our heads. I want there to be magical elements, common tricks, and other things that are generally associated with magic and illusions. So I’m turning it into less of a card based game and more of a classic Euro game. Imagine being the magician and having a few assistants to help you gather the equipment you need, market the show you’ll put on, and help you practice. Also imagine the assistants utilizing magic to help you out. Your objective is to begin as a street performer and work your way up to performing a Grand Illusion in a theater. I’m excited about upgrading this design significantly. Since the mechanics of the old design worked I think I may utilize them with a different theme.

Also on the design front I designed an expansion for Scoville. It took about three hours to scheme up the design, create the art, and make 36 new cards. I’m super excited to try it out. Also, I have three other expansion ideas for the game that I’ll try to mock up before Protospiel-Madison. It was fun to work on Scoville again, but now I’m desperately wishing the real copies would arrive!

Brewology 101: Kegging

You'll never want to bottle again!

You’ll never want to bottle again!

I have an awesome neighbor who used to brew. One of the ways he is awesome is that he is letting me borrow (indefinitely, I believe) his 6 gallon carboy, wort chiller, and double keg system!

A friend came over the other night to help me with kegging. I had never done it before and I was a little nervous.

But before we get to the kegging I wanted to mention my process for bottling:

  1. Save bottles from friends. You typically need 45-50 bottles per 5 gallon batch. (Time requirement: months)
  2. Soak bottles and peel labels off. (1 hour)
  3. Wash bottles in dishwasher. (1 hour)
  4. Transfer beer from carboy to plastic fermenter. (15 minutes)
  5. Sanitize a group of 10 bottles. (3 minutes)
  6. Fill and cap ten bottles. (10 minutes)
  7. Repeat Steps 5 & 6 four more times. (~45 minutes)
  8. Clean counter, plastic fermenter, carboy, tubes, etc. (30 minutes)

All told the bottling process usually takes about 3 hours on any given evening, which doesn’t include the bottle soaking/label peeling portion. It’s not enjoyable work. Thus, I was very happy when my neighbor loaned me his kegging gear.

What is a Keg?

Cornelius (“Corny”) Keg

A keg is basically just a metal tank in which to put beer. The keg allows for the introduction of high pressure (~10-25 psi) Carbon Dioxide to the beer.

Soda producers and beer producers often use these types of kegs to store their product. These will be distributed to restaurants and bars where they will be connected to the taps.

You can buy these types of kegs online or at a local brewing store for roughly $50.

But you’ll also need some other equipment. The American Homebrewers Association has a nice run-down of the equipment you’ll need here.

These include connectors for the keg, plastic tubing, a CO2 tank, and a pressure regulator. I’m not providing an exhaustive list of the items you need. You can find that elsewhere. Rather, today’s kegging article if focused on the kegging process.

Racking Your Beer

Usually a homebrewer till use a carboy for secondary fermenting. If this is the case for you, you’ll want to rack your beer before transferring it to the keg. This is a simple process.

First, make sure everything that will touch the beer is sanitized. I use One Step for my sanitization. This means you’ll need to sanitize your plastic fermenter, the transfer tubing, the keg, etc.

Then I prefer utilizing an auto-siphon to draw the beer out of the carboy and into the plastic fermenter. By doing this step you help eliminate much of the sediment from the beer getting into the keg.

Fill the Keg!

This is the portion of the brewing process that replaces bottling. Instead of doing all those steps I listed above, simply use your auto-siphon to transfer your beer from the plastic fermenter into the keg. So. Much. Easier!

Do You Have Gas?

I hope you’ve got gas. Once the beer is in the keg, seal the keg and hook up your CO2 tank. Here’s where you’ll need a little information. You’ll need to know the temperature of the beer so that you can apply the right pressure. Here is a handy (?) chart to help you set your pressure correctly (Click for full size):

Image courtesy of KegOutlet.com

Some people force carbonate their kegged beer. This can be seen in the video below. Basically this utilizes a higher pressure of CO2 for a few days. Once those few days have passed, hook up your dispensing line, lower the pressure to dispensing levels (10-20 psi) and try your brew!

Today was a very brief article on kegging. Here are some picture of my kegs and equipment:

Helpful Video:

Nobody Plays Brown – Homebrew #5

NobodyPlaysBrownLabel051314

I brewed my first batch of beer for 2014 last week. It was a bit chilly sitting in my driveway while the wort was boiling. But I powered through and now my brew is transferred to the carboy getting tastier by the day.

There’s just something about brewing your own beer. It’s manly. It’s adventuresome. It’s rewarding. So in a few weeks I’ll have about 50 bottles of Nobody Plays Brown. How cool is that?

Brown Ales… What are they?

Brown ales are described this way on BeerAdvocate.com:

Spawned from the English Brown Ale, the American version can simply use American ingredients. Many other versions may have additions of coffee or nuts. This style also encompasses “Dark Ales”. The bitterness and hop flavor has a wide range and the alcohol is not limited to the average either.

And since you may not know what an English Brown Ale is either, here is the BeerAdvocate.com description for that:

Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.

And since you may not know what a Mild Ale is either, here is the BeerAdvocate.com description for that:

The quintessential British session beer, like its name suggests, a Mild is known for its low level of hops character. Alcohol content is traditionally very low. Grainy to toasty malts might be present, but expect some body from the high dextrins produced in brewing. Low carbonation with a near still, bubbly head. Colors can range from gold to dark brown. Traditionally a draft beer made popular in London and the Midlands of England.

Brown Ale

So what did we learn? Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of Brown Ales:

  • Low level of hops
  • Low alcohol level
  • Malty
  • Can be nutty (Can’t we all?)
  • Reddish brown to dark brown

There you go. Now you know as much as I do about Brown Ales!

Caribou Slobber = Nobody Plays Brown

This brew was a kit I received as a Christmas present from my older brother. It is called Caribou Slobber and is a kit based on Big Sky Brewing‘s Moose Drool.

For 2014 I am choosing board game related names for my brews. I twitter-sourced this name and must give credit where credit is due. Thanks to the Cardboard Jungle Podcast for the suggestion!

The kit includes the following:

  • Specialty grain (Breiss Caramel, Fawcett Pale Chocolate, Black Malt)
  • 6 lbs Amber Malt Syrup
  • 1 lb Amber Dry Malt Extract
  • 1oz US Goldings Hops
  • 1oz Liberty Hops
  • 1oz Willamette Hops

Those are the key ingredients for the brew. You can check out the recipe here: Caribou Slobber Recipe (pdf).  It’s a pretty easy kit to brew and I had an enjoyable time brewing it.

In another week and a half I’ll bottle it and then the aging begins. I think I’ll see if I can save most of it for fall.

Anyone know of a cheap place to buy glossy label paper so I can make some labels for this brew?

Monday Brews 1-13-14

Welcome back to Boards and Barley! I’m so glad you’re here. Every Monday I write an article that let’s you know what beer and board games I enjoyed over the last week. I also give a little insight into my design ventures of the past week. It was another slow week in terms of beer and games, but the game design portion of my life picked up a bit.

Let’s start with the Barley…

The Barley:

That’s a chair I could sit in!

Gray’s Busted Knuckle Irish Ale: I enjoyed this Wisconsin brew while my brother visited. We got some amazing fried cheese curds and a beer. This was an enjoyable Irish ale that I would get again.

Fleming’s Scotch Ale: I had another of my homebrews. I think it is now stronger than the original 6.6%abv. I might have to measure that again. This one really packs a punch.

New Glarus Spotted Cow: Another Wisconsin beer was enjoyed while a friend was over. We watched some football and enjoyed a beer and some ranch pretzels. That makes for a pretty good evening.

Deschutes Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale: I am not an IPA or Pale Ale guy in general. I don’t care that much for hoppy beers. But this one was quite good. It wasn’t too hoppy overall and it had a hint of a sweet finish with a mild floral aroma. I would drink this again and I think it could be my gateway to IPAs.

Capital Winter Skal: I enjoyed this while playing Nothing Personal. This is a mighty fine brew from a local brewery.

The Boards:

Nothing Personal: My friends played this at GenCon while I was on a panel about Protospiel. They have played it several times since then. I finally got to play it last night. And it was awesome! Nothing Personal has an amazing level of back-stabbing, promise-breaking, deal-making interaction that I haven’t seen in any other game. There is a lot to keep track of in this game and it would be easy to make mistakes and get left behind. I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to play it because it was a lot of fun.

Tenzi: I got my friends to try this out last night. Each player has 10 dice. You roll them and try to get all of your dice to be the same number. The first player to get all of theirs the same is the winner. There are a bunch of variants in the rules that you can try out. But this was a thoughtful Christmas gift from my mom because she knew I wanted dice for game design purposes and she got me dice that are also a game. Thanks mom!

Designer’s Corner:

This prototype box will suffice for now.

This prototype box will suffice for now.

Last week I worked a little bit on Quantum Orcas. I want to put together a version that I can purchase from The Game Crafter. It is amazing how much artwork really goes into a game. Not only do you need art for the cards, chits, tiles, etc. You also need artwork for the box and the rulebook. Then if you want to have a nice sales page on TGC you need artwork for that page. There is a lot of behinds the scenes artwork that is needed to complete a game.

So last week I put together a bunch of art and Quantum Orcas is getting closer. I still need to do more playtesting to make the game go from playable and “not bad” to something that is enjoyable that people will want to play. I’ll keep you posted.

The other progress I made last week was to come up with new mechanics for Brooklyn Bridge. I have shared the concept of the mechanics with several friends and none of them said it sounded awful. So I might have something there! I am pretty excited about the new utilization of workers. Brooklyn Bridge is a worker placement game, but it uses workers in ways I have not seen before. So I’ll plow forward with this to make it playable in the near future. My goal is to have tested it several times before Protospiel-Milwaukee in March.

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So that’s the Boards & Barley I enjoyed and the game design progress I made last week. How was your week?

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