Saturday, July 28, 2012

Soft Pretzels 2.0

So I might be a touch obsessed with soft pretzels right now. This happened with Garlic Potato Bread, and then with Artisan Pizza. I like making bread. There is something about it that feels good. When you're kneading the dough, and pressing it out over and over by hand it just feels good.

For batches 2-3 I did the overnight rise in the fridge, I believe that it improved the dough. I also tried one batch with a soda bath, the other with an egg wash, changed the process, and increased the sugar. See the details after the break.

(please read more after the break.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bottling with an Italian Champagne Corker

In the spring after tax season I purchased an Italian Wine Corker. This is an amazing machine and the premium model with all the bells and whistles is worth the money. Why is it worth the price tag? almost all metal. Everywhere you want metal there is metal. The only plastic I have found is on the nonskid red base, and the red plastic grip. The cork reducer is all metal construction. Because of the persistence of souring bugs I thought this was important. Any place beer can touch and the bottle touches should be sanitized. This is easier with metal than plastic. Starsan and Idophore are great but all plastic sucks the same when it comes to scratching and bacteria.

(read more after the break.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Brew Food: Soft Pretzels

One things goes together better than beer and pizza: beer and pretzels. American pretzels are dry, heavy, salty, and bland. You see them at the grocery, and you can find them on bars everywhere. Why is this what we call a pretzel? because these pretzels are tailor made for mass production.

A good soft pretzel is a rare treat. I'm not talking about the bland leavened things you might get with a cup of cheese at the movie theater. To me a pretzel is leavened bread, it's rich and salty, the crust is doughy and rubbery and the crumb is soft and flavorful. This type of pretzel is more than a simple snack. A good pretzel begs to be dipped in cheese or spicey mustard and it holds up on it's own when added to those bold flavors.

(read more about great pretzels after the break.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Maple Triple

Maple Triple

Appearance: brown with a tall white head. The head disappears into the beer rather quickly. The body is brown, and thin. It gets dark in the middle and light golden at the edges.

Aroma: Belgian! The aroma is of bubblegum and bananas. Sadly the maple syrup is missing. I knew this could happen when I added it to the boil, secondary or bottling are the times to add maple flavor.

Flavor: Rich yeast and cloves. The spiciness beer is all in the flavor. The alcohol is a bit too prevalent. This should improve over time.

Mouthfeel: Properly Carbonated. Absolutly glad I went with high carbonation for this beer. It's great.

Overall: It's a great beer, however the maple adds little. I would have used Belgian candi sugar if I had this beer to do over. I may make it again and add the sugary maple to secondary. Everyone agreed this was my best beer ever at our tasting so I have no choice but to give it an A. Go Me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

American Lambic - Turbid Mash

This year's ECY01 blend Bugfarm VI has "three wild yeast strains from northeast cider makers, brett from a well known brewery and from a well known lambic producer. Pedio from a lambic producer, and lacto delbreuckii." I have two vials of this and I plan to use one for an American made lambic. Year two is all about improving my craft and experimenting. I'll be brewing one lambic using the same method that I did last year. The other lambic will be made using a traditional recipe and a turbid mash.

I have been thinking lately about this whole lambic experiment. I am as committed as ever but I've learned a few things. The first rewards are slow to happen; I am 12 months in and I haven't had a single sip of home made lambic. It's hard to wait, and it's even harder to wait for 2-3 years before you have enough lambic to make a gueze. I'm still 24 months away. The good news is eventually I'll have a house, barrels, fruit trees, and friends who I can share the waiting with.

(read more after the break.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Year of Blogging

Things are looking up!
Thank you for reading my blog! This is around the one year anniversary of when I first started working on my blog. I can't say that my blog has always been easy, but it has been fun.

The main thing I've learned: It's the Yeast Stupid.
Quality ingredients matter; Grains have flavors; yadda yadda yadda. The flavor of signature beers has as much to do with the yeast as with anything else. You can't make a Belgian beer without Belgian yeast. You can't make a sour without acids and micro-flora.

If anyone is reading this please post a comment of what you've learned from brewing in your years of experiences.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Brinkman Smoker: Pork, Pork, & More Pork

Small Place Big Brews is growing again. I am going to start including brew food. Nothing gets friends to gather around to drink your free beer like the promise of free food. I'm a huge fan of grilled foods, smoked foods, Chinese food and pizza. If I had my dream brewery it would serve somethings like this: Southern foods, ribs, meats, smoked foods, refreshing summer pale ales, saisons, sours, barrel aged beers, and wood fired pizzas. Someday after I get a house with a fenced in back yard, and a deck I'll construct a wood fired pizza oven on that deck. then I'll host my friends for brews and home cooked foods.

This Brinkman Gourmet Smoker is the first outdoor grill I've ever bought. The cost was a modest $39.95. It's a serviceable model, but with a few modifications it becomes a premium model. There isn't an accurate thermometer, the body leaks air and smoke, and the controls are lack luster. I can fix all of this.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fruiting My Batch 001 Sour

Tonight I tried my batch 001 homegrown sour. The dregs from the jolly pumpkin beer that I cultured have given the batch a refreshing sourness. It didn't quite have the tart bite I wanted so I decided to go with blueberry for my fruit. I have around 2-2.5 gallons of brew in my carboy. So tonight I went out to buy 5 pounds of blueberries. Buying blueberries in this volume gave me a nice discount over the per pint price. Blueberries have a special place in my heart as well. My grandfather Emil was a blueberry farmer. When my mother needed a break from having kids my sister and I were sent to the farm to play. This often involved peanut butter and jelly lunches and all you can eat blueberries. I could eat lots, and often did. My over exposure to blueberries as a child caused me to detest the flavor of blueberries for the longest time. I didn't regain an appreciation for the flavors of this delicate fruit until my mid twenties (a few years back).

(read more after the break.)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Iron Brewer Brewday

I procrastinated far too long on this brew. I did what I had to do though. I have no regrets about choosing Sarah, and My Father on separate weekends over brewing beer a bit sooner. I still think a month is plenty of time for a low alcohol brew. The internet indicated 91% apparent attenuation in under two weeks. I am not too worried.

I picked up the grain and hops from Sicilianos on Friday morning. I rushed home to brew. I choose to go with fresh lemons and rosemary instead of the dried options. I used my micro plane grater to de-zest four lemons and I chopped up a sprig of rosemary. From those measures I measured out my accurate weights.

(read more after the break.)