After a layoff of several months I finally got things cranked up this weekend for the fall and winter brewing to come. Yesterday I played with my new toy--well, my second new toy (see below)--the Barley Crusher Malt Mill! Other than failing to secure the grain hopper, and knocking it over (along with a couple of pounds of uncrushed malt), it worked beautifully. I crushed up 5 kg of GambrinusOrganic Pilsner Malt without much effort. I got a full sack (25 kg) of this British Columbia-grown base malt from 7 Bridges. I weighed out some hops as well, 1/2-ounce of Belgian Admiral whole hops for bittering, and two 1/2-ounce doses of whole New Zealand Hallertaur for flavoring. I like to have things all laid out for the brew day--it saves time and I can cope better with unexpected events. That was a good thing today as the temperature probe I use to keep track of the mash stopped working in mid-brew. Not good. And I missed my strike temperature and had things a few degrees below where I wanted. I grabbed the hotplate and the 10-quart pot and drew off a gallon of the mash and brought it to boiling like in a decoction. I threw that back in the cooler with the rest of the goods and that seemed to do the trick. I got a decent final gravity of 13 ºPlato (ºBrix on my refractometer!) for the 5 gallons that went to the fermenter. With some 60 ºL Great Western Crystal and a touch of 140 ºL Briess Extra Special Malt, I'm shooting for a pale ale. I have to say I really like using the refractometer and not having to mess with hydrometers and cylinders and all that. I pitched a pack of Wyeast European Ale (1338) which ought to add some interesting character. Clean-up went smoothly, it always does when the weather is nice (and today was spectacular), and I'm feeling good about my first "exhibition game." I'm now ready for the "regular season." Mark's Pale Ale should be ready to drink by my 50th birthday.