WILK Arctic Ale

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2012 by arcticalchemy

New song written by Linda Bootherstone Bick

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21, 2010 by arcticalchemy

01-Track 1

Day 16 We need more beer !

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2010 by arcticalchemy

Cruising down the James Bay road southbound was like taking a victory lap after a big race, the weather was improving and getting slightly warmer with each mile. The sights of the road are still fresh in the mind and we often reflect on the strange landscape ( Lance’s reflection was the best) , “it’s as if Dr. Seuss drew the trees and rocks here”. We entered an area where there was obviously a major wildfire , literally thousands of acres had burned and even the posts of the guardrails were toasted. A few of us had seen a “black wolf” cross the road , racing to get out of our way, and much too quickly to snap a picture. I didn’t know there was such a thing, and thought to myself this wolf must fit into the freshly burned forest nicely and if it hadn’t crossed the road, we surely wouldn’t have seen it.

My original plan for the trip was to have two brewing days at the final destination, but because of the most difficult weather and having to wait it out, we all agreed this was simply not in the cards. Yet my mind was not at ease with coming home with only one batch of beer, I had committed to many generous sponsor’s and friends that I would have bottles of this Arctic Ale for them and stumbled over the gallons per bottle equation quietly under my helmet. As we refueled at the only gas station at the mid-point on the James Bay road, a thought and idea came to mind. If we were to stop and camp at the Ruppert River , I could gather more water and possibly brew another batch of beer to fulfill my quest to return with two batches of beer, unfortunately I kept this idea to myself as the team blew past the mighty Ruppert two hours later.

We pulled into a nice campground wih a beautiful lake on the southern end of the James Bay road. Everyone was exhausted from the long trip once again. I was exhausted and was first to crash, fully clothed in my motorcycle suit, boots still on. I spent almost the whole trip sleeping inside my brewery trailer, is this odd? not for someone who dreams of beer and adventures…..my poor wife Leslie.

Early to bed, early to rise, the nagging feeling took hold as I woke. I was disappointed that we didn’t stop at Ruppert and quickly acted on my thought. As quietly as possible in the early morning light, un-hitching the trailer and jumping in the Land Rover while everyone was sleeping. I was going back to the mighty river alone. I have brought empty water bottles and coolers to fill once again, determined to make good on my promises and after coming all this way, this was my chance. I had forgot how far past the Ruppert we had come, and realized that I was putting us in jeopardy of gas for getting back to the station, on this long road, gas is critical, but I didn’t seem to care. So with Ruppert water in hand we packed up and set our sights for more miles down the James Bay road. On our trip north we found a great campsite called Lac Villebon and the scenery and setting was fantastic. This would be where we could brew our second batch of Arctic Ale.

Comic relief on the road, who are these people?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 by arcticalchemy

Day 15 Radisson Quebec, drying out

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 by arcticalchemy

After a long day of difficult brewing and freezing hands in the middle of August, we set our sights on leaving the shoreline and heading back down the long road to Radisson.

It remains a bittersweet memory of the place I had dreamed about for so long, such a beatutiful place to see and if the weather was better?….well , but a small part of me enjoyed experiencing the rough climate and I think it was in that element that made us appreicate the spirit and the realization of why this was a magical ale for the sailors of 1852.

John and I had one last look at the endless sea and felt moved once again by this majestic landscape and extenstion of the arctic ocean.

The road out of this place is loose gravel and fairly difficult to navigate on a motorbike, especially the deep pockets of sand and loose stones. If you have ever ridden a ladened bike over 500 pounds, the wobble of the front tire and an almost constant feeling of slipping is close at hand, it takes your full attention and nerve to keep up pace, add to that the 3 1/2 days of rain-soaked ground…fun !

My mind was full of reflection on what we had endured and what we had done, the realization of the mission. I had wondered if I would ever see this place again and felt humbled by the whole experience.

As we pulled back into Radisson, the only small town within hundreds of miles except for the Cree village of Chisacibi the team was exhausted and most everything we had was rain soaked. Rather than setting up at the campground , we opted for a warm and dry hotel room. At dinner later that night we discussed our plans for the next few days and realized that distance we had to travel before reaching home.
The Le Grand river at LG-1 crossing

Pictures from the road

Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 by arcticalchemy

Just some pictures today courtesy of Lance McKay

Day 13 and 14 – We make beer in the Arctic !

Posted in Uncategorized on August 13, 2010 by arcticalchemy

Saturday arrives with cold and some wind, but no rain to worry about. Waiting to brew our ale was a little like the Mount Everest climbers, we sat and waited at high altitude camp and prayed for the weather to break before the final push to the summit. That may be a pretty extreme analogy , but nonetheless very true. With winds over 20 mph , it is very difficult to concentrate enough btu’s under the mash tun and boil kettle to make the brewing process work.

My brewing system was designed at home and utilizes 3-55 gallon stainless steel barrels and professional Asian Wok burners , the burners output is about 275,000 btu’s , and one 100,000 btu burner for keep up the mash tempurtures. 40 lbs of liquid propane fuels the brewery and a D/C to A/C converter helps run the pump for moving hot liquids.

The day was still cold and windy , but we did our best to stay warm and block the wind around the burners and kettles. Lance and John piled rocks up to build a wall of wind protection and Irina and Nastia outfitted their camera’s with garbage bags to keep any stray rain out.

The first part of the day seemed to go very well , first we heated mashing water , about 45 gallons to mix with the grain to start extracting sugars from the barley. Then we added the grain to the tun to create an oatmeal like mixture. Adding water that is near 155 degrees , makes the starch in the grain convert to simple sugar ( some other science at work here too , but not for this blog) . The mashing process takes about an hour to ninety minutes to allow the starch to convert to simple sugars ( the yeast will eat these sugars and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol as a by product of fermentation later on) .

About 3 hours into our brewing day ,and we hit a snag…. the strainer at the bottom of the mash tun ( like a colander you would use for spagetti , colasped under the weight of all the grain this ale needs to have such a high alcohol content. In the world of brewing , it is often referred to as a “stuck mash ” or in this case an equipment failure. Either way , the flow of liquid was stopped and buried under nearly 100lbs of grain ( this colander is located at the bottom of a drum ) .

After nearly 2 hours of fiddling around, we transfered the grain to another barrel and uncovered the colander. fixed the problem and started to brew again. The day was long and difficult , plus the added weather conditions and by the time we finished 9 hours had elapsed. My team was cold, a little wet and most definitely exhausted. Everyone pitched in to help clean up and stow the gear back carefully in the trailer. Our day of brewing was over , and beer was in the fermenter and we celebrated by going to bed, the day had beaten us down .
Again and again we looked out at the angry sea and reflected on the stories and journals of sailors who had feared the sea and ice in the 19th century , it gave us hope to continue on and realize our difficulties paled in comparison to those courageous explorers who had braved the elements and put aside fears of death and icy conditions. Our mission was simple in relative terms, all we needed to do was to brew some beer…in the summer of the southern arctic.

Day 14 , two weeks from our send-off party we had brewed our beer and started our long journey back home . The day was again riddled with cold and rain , and we all had mixed feelings about the place we had been for 4 days… 4 days in the crappiest of conditions to just brew some beer? …yes, a magical end to one guy’s dream ..the team had completed the mission and it took every ounce of energy and patience to get the job done.