Brewin’ up a Storm

Rebecca and I started brewing beer. Years ago (2012) I started brewing beer with my friend Alex. I gave it up when I moved to South Korea since my apartment was so small. However, since back to America, I started brewing beer again, and Rebecca was happy to join in.


It’s a lot easier to get into brewing beer now. I remember four years ago having to scavenge on Craigslist for equipment. This time around I just went on Amazon and found a basic kit from Northern Brewer for $99, including a recipe for a beer (~$40 value). Our first beer was the White House Honey Ale. We spent a Saturday morning and afternoon brewing the beer. Once the active steps were done, we transferred the beer to a carboy to ferment for the next 2 weeks. Extract beer brewing (the sort that you can buy all-in-one recipe kits for) is pretty easy to do. Essentially it’s some variation on:

  1. bring 2 gallons of water to a boil
  2. put grain (look like oatmeal) into a cheesecloth
  3. steep in boiling water
  4. add malt extract (looks like honey)
  5. stir, add hops
  6. add enough water to bring total size to 5 gallons
  7. leave to cool
  8. transfer to a big white bucket
  9. leave to sit for 2 weeks
  10. bottle it

It can become a lot more complicated than this, and it often is, for example, there are usually specific amounts of time for many of these steps. An IPA might require adding hops in 15-minute increments for an hour. Sometimes you may also let the beer ferment an additional two weeks with some additional ingredients added to it. This second two weeks is referred to as a secondary fermentation. Coffee beers or anything with fruit in the name usually means it had a secondary fermentation with coffee or fruit added to it.

Following that beer, we also made a brown ale, a grapefruit IPA, and a Saison. The grapefruit IPA won second place at a beer brewing competition in Ridgefield, CT. The competition was judged by 2 brewmasters from Two Roads Brewery in Connecticut. The second place finisher didn’t get a trophy, but Rebecca’s dad had a trophy made for us online, which was awesome!

Rebecca and I at the beer competition

Italian Ladies Heritage Night and Roller Coaster

One thing I really like about New York is the ability to do seemingly anything you want at any given time. For example, last night, Rebecca and I took the subway out to Coney Island to see a minor-league baseball game and ride roller coasters. Rebecca’s friend got us all tickets for the game and we met up in front of the stadium. That night’s theme was both Ladies Night and Italian Heritage Night. The game was pretty fun. I love watching minor-league games because of all the gimmicks. They draw a much smaller crowd so they do a lot to try and keep people entertained. There were prize giveaways, races around the bases, and lots of drink specials (yay for public transportation).

After the game, Rebecca and I went on a roller coaster on the boardwalk then hopped back on the subway to return to the city. I don’t think there are many other cities where I could go to a baseball game, ride a rollercoaster and then take public transportation back to my apartment. The ease of getting around the city without a car is really growing on me.

Storm King Sculpture Garden

Rebecca and I borrowed her family’s extra car and drove up to Storm King Art Center,  a giant sculpture garden in upstate New York named for it’s closeness to Storm King Mountain. It’s about an hour and a half drive North of New York City and once you’re out of the city, it’s quite peaceful. The property is huge and we spent the better part of the day wandering around the grounds.

Raisin’ Branding

I’ve been at the small branding agency in Brooklyn for a few months. My first project was building a portal for students at a college in New York. The portal included sections for professors to post syllabi and other course material, a class directory, and a message board. It was a tough undertaking but I was able to complete it in a few days. The next project I had was building a site for an independent physician association for a major hospital in New York city. That project took me a few weeks.

Remote Control

The third project was building 3 sites simultaneously. At that point, I spoke with the founder and expanded the business from one junior developer to one project manager managing a team of remote developers.

I moved from a junior developer to a technical project manager and started working with a remote team. The team was based primarily overseas. My main focus was making sure the code was written up to our standards and fully customizable on the backend. I instituted a series of standards such as commented code, Foundation CSS, and standardizing plugins based on functionality such as trying to always use the same plugin for caching or for forms.

Let’s Get Analytical

This new role greatly expanded the business. Based on this new workflow, we were able to reduce website development costs by 30%, increase our bandwidth by 400%, and reduce our development timeline by 50%. I made it a goal of mine to revisit sites in the companies catalog and optimize those as well. I was able to reduce the page load time of older sites by an average of 20%.

Overall, I’m enjoying the work I do and the sense of ownership I feel over the projects as a whole. By working with more sites on shorter timelines, I’m also able to expose myself to more functionality and increase my WordPress knowledge at a faster rate.

Post Flatiron Life

After graduating from Flatiron, I interviewed at several places and the competition was fierce. As part of my interviewing process, I had to make forms using ERB, build a Tic Tac Toe game, create a survey generator in AngularJS, and map out a computer using class diagrams. I also built a personal project called Walk2Dinner. It helped me personally to find restaurants close to me and provide me with easy walking directions. It also pulls in pertinent weather data like temperature, sunset, and the chance of rain.

Interim Jobs

While I job searched for something in web development, I took a job as a project engineer at an engineering firm in Hell’s Kitchen. I did a lot of life safety surveying and helped the company with some business analytics. I helped streamline their digitization process for all the accumulated old documents they had laying around and helped them to launch their own web application called NYCityAlerts, based on the Python framework, Django. I also worked for the Flatiron School as a Learn Expert helping incoming students with online support and troubleshooting their development environments. It was a pretty intense few months. I would work from 8-4:30 pm in Hell’s Kitchen then come home and work from 5-9pm from my laptop. It was a great way to stay a part of the development community and keep my skills sharp.


Getting a Job

While I was working as a project engineer and a Learn Expert, I was also on the job hunt. A few months after graduating, I accepted a position at a small branding agency for nonprofits located in Greenpoint. The company is four people strong (5 now) and it’s a short walk to work in the morning, which I love. The short commute reminds me of my time in Korea. I’m the sole web developer at the company so there’s no one above me to bounce ideas off of or ask for help. Initially, it was pretty nerve-racking, but I’ve learned a lot and become quite adept at WordPress and PHP, the tools I work with most often.