Union Tribune pricing

The San Diego Union Tribune recently implemented a paywall: One can only view a limited number of articles before being redirected to a Subscription Offers page.

OK, fine, I get that the UT is bleeding, and that Doug Manchester didn't purchase the paper solely to advocate his political views. But you never win fans by charging for something you used to give away freely.

What I find interesting, though, is the pricing structure. An "unlimited digital-only" subscription costs $3.50 per week. A Sunday-only paper delivery, which includes the same "unlimited digital-only" subscription, also costs $3.50 per week.

There are a number of ways of viewing this. The one I choose to take is that the UT recognizes that their content is the only thing they have of value. The Sunday paper only just pays for itself with revenue from advertising/coupons, hence it can be given away for free once you have chosen to pay for the content - it makes no difference to them either way. And the paper delivery of the rest of the week is the albatross on their neck, just costing them extra money, so you're going to have to pay up if you want that delivered.

It is at the same time mind-boggling to admit that their primary purpose for being, their namesake (the "news paper") is worthless. But in an era where so many papers have gone under for refusing to admit that fact, perhaps it is an admirable admission.

Warm days, cool nights

We're finally reaching the time of the year that cool evenings are a treat, rather than a punishment.

Note that sometime around November, I'll be noting that the feel of direct sun in the warm afternoons are a treat, rather than a punishment.

Mr. Beer #2

Mr. Beer #2 is in the fermenter. This time it is the Witty Monk Witbier recipe. Of course, I could not resist adding some additional sugar: A cup of white and a cup of brown.

Now I have this to help with my brewing:

I'll use that to measure the gravity over time. This contributes a) a better understanding of the pace and completeness of fermentation, and b) an ability to calculate the actual alcohol content of the final product.

As an example, here is the first measurement:

Brix refractometer showing a line at 12.8 degrees brix

Specific Gravity of Mr. Beer #2, in Plato units
DateBrix (°Bx)Temp (°F)Plato Units (°P)Specific GravityABV (%)
5/4/2012 11:00 PM13.07612.51.0500
5/6/2012 11:42 AM11.47310.051.0401.41
5/7/2012 11:27 PM7.8714.371.0174.48
5/8/2012 7:01 PM7.1713.271.0135.05
5/9/2012 8:30 PM7.0733.111.0115.13

Expected post-fermentation ABV (via recipe): 6.6%

Expected post-carbination ABV: 7%

Since the last listed measurement, the refraction index has stayed at 7&degBx (as of 5/13, but unlikely to change). So I supposed it'll just get to sit there a bit while the yeast clean up any outlying acetaldehyde and what not.

Mr. Beer mentioned on Fark

In a comment on Fark, a user mentioned:

"Homebrew can be Awesome - if you did Mr. Beer or one of those cheapo no boil kits with sugar - then you might have a hard time making decent brew."

WE'LL SEE! From the pre-bottling tasting, it's a bit cidery (as the Mr. Beer manual warned), and the hop/malt flavor is a bit thin. But I'm sure it'll still be OK!

Mr. Beer #1

Mr. Beer #1 is in the fermenter!

For anyone who hasn't heard of it (I wasn't THAT familiar with it beforehand), Mr. Beer is a basic home-brewing kit. It comes with a barrel-shaped 'fermenter' with a spigot attacked, and their revenue model seems to be focused on selling a wide variety of reasonably priced (but not cheap) "malt extracts" that save you the trouble (and, from what I hear, 64000-btu-necessary) process of making wort from your malt and hops.

And I received just such a kit for a birthday present! You know who you are, thanks! :-D

The kit starts with a mysterious "sanitizing" powder, which you are instructed to use to sanitize the inside of the fermenter, a bottle opener, a measuring cup, and a spoon. Although the package has some safety warnings (and it contains 'carbonates'), they call it a no-rinse sanitizer, meaning you are to leave it inside the very fermenter that will hold the brewing beer.

It occurs to me that a) the measuring cup will only come in contact with ingredients that will later be boiled, and b) they do NOT suggest sanitizing the top of the Malt Extract cans, which contact the malt extract, and will be added after boiling (albeit only shortly).

So, onto beer #1:


8.5 quarts Target 'purified water' 1 can Hopped Malt Extract, West Coast Pale Ale style 1 package 'Booster'

And my variation from the recipe:

1 cup brown sugar

I mention boiling but not what I boil: They instruct you to boil 1 quart of water with the 'Booster' pack - a pack labeled only 'Corn Solids', and which is accompanied by warnings that you should pour very slowly to avoid 'clumping'. Boy are they not kidding! It must be corn starch - which clumps worse at higher temperatures. I ignored instructions and stirred it into pretty warm water, and had to add more water to bring down the temperature and reduce clumping.

Their handy little chart suggests how much each sugar source will increase the alcohol-by-volume of the results of a batch of beer: Each can of Hopped (or unhopped) Malt Extract will contribute 2.3%; the Booster pack, 1.4%; and the cup of sugar, 1%. So, by their predictions, the result will be 4.7% ABV.

I was going to add 2 cups of sugar to give it a healthy 5.7%ABV, but they also warn that "2/3rds of the ABV should come from malts, to avoid a cidery flavor." OK, well I'm over that limit, so hopefully it won't be too bad!

They suggest 7-14 days for fermenting, and 7-14 days for bottling. So, that means I should be putting it in bottles around St. Patrick's Day, and emptying the bottles starting in April.

Let's hope it goes well!