Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who me? Bitter?

My second-latest homebrew was enjoyed far more than I'd have guessed yesterday at our annual local homebrew competition, bringing me a win for the third year running.  The surprise comes from it being a very hoppy beer.  This crowd has traditionally seemed to enjoy lighter styles, though with my Porter winning last year and now this aggressive pale this year, perhaps there is a change in tastes going on.

This beer marked another change - I have always brewed in the kitchen, which is convenient but slow, and frequently unpopular with other family members (ahem).  For this beer I hauled out my big camp stove, which turned out to be very nice for bringing large batches to boil quickly.  I liked this so much I think I'll brew them all this way in future.

Anyway, here's the brew:

Who me? Bitter?
  • 2 lbs 2-row malt
  • 1 lb flaked wheat
  • 1 lb crystal 75L
  • 1/2 lb rye
  • 1/2 lb munich
Mash in at 170 F with 1.5 gallons. Insulate (I used a cooler and a couple of sleeping bags) for about 50 minutes. Sparged carefully with 2 gallons or so at about 175 F. Brought to a boil, turned off heat
  • add 7 lb light liquid malt extract
brought to a boil. Added
  • 1 oz Magnum hops for 60 minutes
  • Whirfloc for 20 minutes
  • 2 oz Centennial hops for 5 minutes
removed from heat, let cool, splashed into primary fermeter and added water to make up 5.5 gallons.
  • Pitched White labs California Ale yeast (WLP001) at 68 F
Fermentation started in about 18 hours (at 68 F), proceeded for approx 1 week. When bubbling had decreased enough to suggest secondary fermentation was underway, I added directly to primary fermenter:
  • dry hopped with 2 oz Columbus
  • 1 oz french oak chips (steamed for 15 minutes)
After another couple of days, the rate of bubbles dropped to roughly zero.  after 1 more day I racked to a 5 gal carboy, then crash cooled to 36 F in a cold freezer (took perhaps 12 hours).  Let stand for 5 days for yeast and other debris to settle out, then kegged and carbonated.

After aging for 10 days in the keg, this beer is medium bodied and a pale amber color, with strong hop characteristic and huge floral nose from the dry-hops. And yet it isn't so bitter as to rip the back of your throat off.

Friday, October 6, 2006

A9 and Google

I've been trying other search engines lately.

'Other' is an interesting word, isn't it?  As if there is such a strong expectation that I'd use Google that I need to make a point of using anything else.  Not that I'm completely happy with the Google search experience.

As it turns out, though, Google seems to meet my needs better than does A9, and the reason why appears to be a real-world example of the Innovator's Dilemma.

Both Google and A9 use ads to pay the bills.  Google has sponsored links that follow the model of the competitive coupons that you get at the supermarket  checkout - the till sees what you're buying, and prints coupons for competing brands. Google sees what you're searching, and companies have bought presentment in response to specific keywords and combinations.  I just searched in google for "water heaters" and got a handful of sponsored links from companies that sell water heaters, such as sears, findaplumber, that sort of thing. It is a short list, small font, occupying a small portion of the page. I read a fair number of the ads, and frequently click of a few.

Over at A9, the same query "water heaters" results in two columns of output, one is a series of web links such as that from Google, and the other is a list of books and publications you can buy about water heaters, conveniently linked to the purchase page at Amazon (who, of course, own A9). And that column of sponsored links is very large, occupying a pile of screen real estate.

Now with a general query like "water heaters", which sponsored link do you imagine I'd more likely want to look at?
  1. "The World Market for Instantaneous Gas Water Heaters: A 2004 Global Trade Perspective (Spiral-bound)"  $795.00 at
  2. a page of tankless water heaters for sale at Ira Wood and Sons ?
What I don't know here is whether most queries at Google or A9 are by folks looking to buy, or to learn (and willing to pay for the book). But I imagine buy. That's why I frequently click on a few of those links - because
I am looking for a vendor who sells what I was searching for.

This seems a good example of the innovator's dilemma, which talks about companies with an entrenched business and customer base being unable or unwilling to brings new products to market to serve different customers. In this case, Amazon is so focused on books and book buyers that of course the sponsored links are to books they sell. Even if that makes little or no sense for the query.

There may well be a place for both search engines, if I am willing to tune my own behaviour. When I search, sometimes I am looking to buy, sometimes I am looking to learn. If I can remember to change search engines I may optimize my results in any instance. But that is a fair amount of work. And if I search from the address bar (which I don't, but I think others do), that won't happen.