Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making a Cheese Press

One goal I have in 2014 that didn't make my brew years resolution post is to be more honest. That's like a life goal so I didn't put it on here sooner. It's hard to drink all of the beer I brew by myself. A good deal of it gets wasted. It's unfortunate because I've brewed some good things. I attempt to give much of it away to Kyle and Derek as well but I really need more friends so I can give it to more people.

In that spirit last year, even further back, I started posting other things on this blog about brew food, sodas, at home soft pretzels, and more. I eat food every day so it's easier to post about more often than making beer. Seeing as my blog is 100% add free, and reading it is totally voluntary I don't feel bad subjecting you to my amateur hour cooking. I'll try to keep the blog brewfood/fermentation centric.

Onto the thrust of post. (read more after the break.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pizza: Easier than you think.

We've all done it. We've paid more for a pizza than we should have; be it at the local tavern, or even at some upscale place boasting a wood fired stove; we've over paid. We're drawn to pizza like moths to a flame. We all burn for crispy warm bread covered in zesty tomato sauce oozing with caramelized cheese, and topped cured greasy meats(or fresh vegetables). For most Americans pizza is just a phone call away, for rural shoppers pizza can be purchased in the grocers freezer isle and baked at home offering a hint at how it's suppose to be.

What is Pizza suppose to be though? It's not fine dining in high society, but it's also not recycled leftover meatloaf. It's somewhere between a hot dog vendor steaming precooked links, and a restaurant where your waiter wears gloves. In my opinion pizza is best when shared and as a simple dish without too much analysis.

When you make pizza at home it gets even better. The ingredients in pizza aren't mystical and the items used in your pizza won't differ too dramatically from those used at your favorite pizza place. Pizza is something that you can have at home for a few dollars, and a few minutes of work.

(read more after the break to read just how easy pizza can be.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Peach Lambic

I used up five gallons of lambic base on an experiment. I had a jug of relatively good tasting lambic style ale resting on the kitchen floor of my mothers home. It sat quietly developing from a mostly bland flavorless endeavor at first tasting to a sour one at blending time. pLambic #4 is now resting on top of peaches.

Why peaches? Because it's amazing.

I first experienced a peach lambic when Derek and I were on California Trip #2. It was here we had Fou' Foune from Cantillion. It was pretty magical. I still remember the duality of being both intensely sour with hints of funkiness and fruity with the apricot/peach flavors that were undeniable. 

Since then I've sampled other peach flavored sour ales and among them there were two stand outs. Cascade Apricot Ale which is a fine ale with nice sourness and a pleasant flavor of fresh fruits. How the beer maintains those flavors is pretty unexpected when you get your first nose full of sourness. The other standout was Upland Lambic: Peach, which like Fou' Foune had those lambic elements and a nice sour peach flavor.

When I blended white flame peaches with my sanctification clone I tried a fresh peach for the first time. I dunno why but my parents had only ever served me canned peaches floating in syrup and I thought that was the flavor of peaches. Perhaps their flavor was that of Peach Faygo, a guilty pleasure for Derek when he's in Michigan, a flavor I find cloying. I tried them at that point and found out that their flavor was totally different from what I had known. This peach season at Gavin's Orchards I've tried more peaches than I knew existed three months ago. The variety settled on to make myself a peach sour was the Blushing Star. Described as, "It has a unique wonderful distinctive full flavor of an extra sweet but slightly acidic white flesh peach plus a penetrating, pleasing aroma. Flesh is white tinged with pink and does not brown." I found it to be very easy to eat. The flavor is peachy without being too much, and the slight acidity of the peach balances that out pleasantly. Peach and acidity, who knew right?

This was mostly just my rinsing the skin of the peaches to clean off any dirt or other substances clinging to the outside, and then cutting them up. A few portions with deep bruising had to be tossed away but the peaches were in relatively good shape. Around 10 pounds of peaches were added, the amount would be 1/4 bushel or so, minus what I ate while I was working. Everything went well and after 12 hours there was minor airlock activity of the year old microbes getting a fresh start with their new food.

Fingers crossed that in four to six months this turns into a winner and that I have a real choice of what I should enter in the Siciliano's home brew competition.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: Double Dry Hopped Imperial IPA

This was brewed as Derek's birthday present. We had it over his birthday weekend as both a lawnmower and palate cleanser. It was light for it's abv, balanced for it's IBU, the aroma burst from the glass, the hops filled the flavor, and it finished smooth. I had Derek review it for the blog (Thanks Buddy). It may have faded before Derek drank it because he reported less aroma than I remembered, or perhaps it was personal perception.

Appearance: (B) Nice copper color with slight haze, nice head with good retention, settles down to a foamy quarter inch

Aroma: (B) Light floral hop noted, fairly understated

Flavor: (A) Pine and floral hops with a mild bitter finish

Mouthfeel: (A) Medium bodied with pleasant carbonation

Overall: (B/A) Nice summer, good character and quite refreshing

Improvements: I might consider adding more hops. Add another charge to the aroma step and or layer hops known for their aroma into the beer to accentuate that. Also I'd use a Wyeast liquid culture instead of a packet. Possibly a good candidate for filtering if you were trying to win a competition.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Flood

Now that it's over I can talk about it. There was a flood in my apartment and I've been homeless for 21 days. That is the length of time my landlord took to undertake what should have been a simple cleaning up from a pipe that burst in their laundry room.

Several batches that were either aging or waiting on me for bottling have been lost. One batch is on wait and see.

I also think I have to move, how can I trust my landlords after this? No longer will I inhabit the same small space I've lived in since I started this blog.

I dunno what's next but I'm hoping to find out soon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Expanding my brew day.

As if a six to eight hour brew day wasn't long enough this past brewday I wanted to do more. I wanted to try to make spent grain bread. You may have heard of this and thought, can I do it? The answer is yes. It's super easy!

To start with read this primer on the Home Brewers Association's webzone

I modified their recipe down to a more manageable size and removed the milk because I never have milk at home; it always spoils before I drink it all.

1.50  cups spent grain (wet, but drained)
0.75  cups warm water
0.25  cups sugar
2.50  cups all purpose flour (give or take)
0.50  tsp. salt
1.0   egg beaten
0.5   packet dry active bakers yeast

When I made this it was still sticky and wet at first so I added about a half cup more flower. This will depend on the water content of your spent grain. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky or wet. It should stay together and not stick to your hands. Find the right amount of flour for your batch. 
Side note on making bread: when you're adding ingrediants at the end to get it to the right texture and consistency add them a little at a time, kneed them in and see if you need more. If you dump a half cup of flour in because it's still a little wet it might become overly dry and break apart; this can be overcome by adding water, but if you add too much you are in a cycle of fail.
So you'll do a rise until it doubles in size, this depends on the ambient temp, in a cool kitchen it could take 2 hours or more, on a hot day with no AC your time will be less.

After the rise punch the dough down and form it into whatever shape you want your loaf to be, I usually make a boule. Let it rise again for about as long as you let it rise the first time. You want the yeast to create little CO2 pockets to keep your bread light and airy.

Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes, when the loaf is hard you should be able to bang on the bottom and should sound hollow, then it's done. The crust will be thick and rustic. Enjoy.

My Results

The bread was good, the crust was thick and dark perhaps a bit over cooked, but the inside of the bread was warm, moist and surprisingly sweet. The spent grains added texture as well to the bread. I'd make it again without hesitation and would enjoy trying bread made from a red or brown ale too.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Double Dry Hopped India Pale Ale

I am normally not all about getting a recipe from another source and then remaking it on my home system. Why? It's not nearly as much fun. You're standing on the backs of others trying to reach for a ring that some one has already obtained. Even if your clone is perfect you're still second in the race to perfection. Heady Topper is a DIPA that has been cloned extensively. Why? it's fantastic. The cans are hard to come by because they sell out each week and are only distributed within Vermont and to Boston. I'd love to have a keg of Vermont's finest DIPA but I'm going to leave the cloning to the clone experts. People with strict fermentation controls, well developed palates, and access to the original can have this shiny ring.

I am going to take aspects of the best clone recipes I can find and adapt them to my tastes. I'd call the an inspired by rather than a copied from.

(please read more after the break.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chicken Bratwurst

It's good to mix things up. In an effort to keep my taste buds guessing and my waistline in check I have made some sausages for summer. These chicken brats were the second meat to pass through my grinder which did not disappoint the second time through.

Chicken Bratwursts aren't the least traditional thing out there. Johnsonville makes them; I haven't seen them in my area. Livestrong has a totally unnecessary article on how to cook them. The Spicy Sausage (A great resource for recipes) even has a recipe. The internet agrees that this is a lighter alternative to pork. After the break I am going to include my recipe and thoughts after trying some chicken brats.

(please read more after the break)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blending my first Kriek

The last of the blended sample
Last Summer I got started on my first Kriek by blending a sour blond ale with cherries. On it's own the sour blonde was dynamite. So mixed with 10 pounds of sour cherries I was expecting unicorns and rainbows. When I sampled it the first time I was how bad it was
Sanctification on tart cherries:
Aroma: Cherries, Medicinal, Band-aid
Flavor: Cherries, Cough Syrup
It was the gut kick that started my spiral towards questioning the whole fruited sours project. I was in a bad place after that tasting. Who wants to go on when all your results are bad? Where do you go from rock bottom? Just when I had abandoned all hope something magical happened: the beer turned.

What do I mean "turned"? It morphed from something terrible to something better than that. Gone was the medicinal aroma which lead to the strong flavor of cough syrup. Gone too were the phenols which made my beer smell like a band aid. What was left was a beer with a modest amount of funk, some sourness, and a cherry bliss. My only rational was that something needed a little O2 to begin it's fermentation and time to do so.

(Read more about my blending session after the break.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hmong Sausage made w/ Ginger, Basil, and Spices

I've never had Hmong Sausage before. After reading about it I knew I wanted to try to make this delicacy because I love all of its ingredients individually. I first became aware of the Hmong and their sausages while reading Hank Shaw's excellent blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook. There Mr. Shaw outlines his recipe and the inspiration for it as well as walking you through his process. You can read my process here and see my recipe and inspirations after the break. This was the first sausage I made on my new STX Megaforce grinder. It worked like a champ and as you can see in the picture to the right it grinds well, all the meat was ground in about 2 minutes. 

(please read on after the break)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sausage: A Novice Guide

Gyro Sausage
I'm an expert at exactly one thing, my chosen line of work, everything else is a novice pursuit. One thing I started doing last year is making fresh sausages. You might ask 'why?' but that should be self explanatory; when is the last time you walked in to a Super Target, Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, or Local Grocery Chain and bought lamb sausages? What if after eating at a Hmong place on vacation you wanted to recreate the sausages you had there? I'd bet my bottom dollar that the guy behind the deli counter at your local grocery couldn't tell you any more than mine could (unless he happened to be Hmong). Next you might be asking yourself, "Why read your guide? I am sure some expert has written a guide." Let me assure you that they have! My guide is my experience coming from being a novice going to being an amateur including what I learned and found helpful.

(please read more after the break.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Beer Review: Enjoy By 4.20.14 IPA

Another beer style I want to brew this year is an IPA. Having a black IPA and an IPA on tap is something I'd like to do. I just need to find friends to help me drink beer. Also I need tax season to be over so that I have time to brew. In the lead up to eventually brewing an IPA I wanted to sample some of the freshest and newest IPAs I could find. Enter the devastatingly dank Enjoy By 4.20.14 IPA by Stone Brewing company. This beer was bottled 17 days before I'm drinking it. Wow. Stone sure does take their product seriously. 

This IPA weighs in at 9.4% ABV. Per a variety of webpages this is a mosaic of hops(not to be confused with mosaic hops) Bertus Brewery identified Citra, Cascade, Centennial, Nelson Sauvon, Galaxy, Target & Simcoe are all included. The Full Pint reports it as 13 varieties in a unique blend. They Tag it with probably some insider information as having Ahtanum, Super Galena, Simcoe, Delta, Target, Amarillo, Calypso, Cascade, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, Citra and Helga. So I'll have my work ahead of me if I want to draw out what I like about this beer.

(please read more after the break.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cheap Chili Chicken

Huy Hung Foods Chili Sauce & Honey + Chicken
Low calorie chicken dinner.
Anyone I've ever met knows my affinity for Asian food. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese; I love all of it. It's the interplay of flavors that I like. Sweet and sour, sweet and spicy, hot and spicy I love it all. You can find various vibrant flavors melded together to create something greater than the sum of their parts.

After a late night at the office and a trip to the grocery store I still had to feed myself. This is when I knew it was time for Cheap Chili Chicken. It's like a sweet and spicy Korean Chicken Nugget. It's good on it's own, it's good leftover and it takes very little time to make.

(please read more after the break.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beer Review: Green Flash Black IPA

Every once and a while it's fun to drink other peoples beer. Tonight this beer is from a brewery 2146 miles away. I've actually been to Green Flash, it's an amazing little brewery with lots of hoppy beers on tap. They do hops justice and if you get a chance to try one of their hoppy beers you should do it.

This beer pours a a dark black with a brown/tan head, The carbonation is evident as the head billows up from the beer. The glass reveals garnet edges so it's not all black, but close. As I sip the beer it leaves lacing and each sip refills the glass with hoppy aroma. The aromas are more floral than pine, and the roast fills out the aroma nicely. The taste is lots of floral hops, and minor amounts of roast. The mouth was dry and hid the colossal 12% ABV well. I had a buzz before I even realized how strong this beer was.

Upon further scientific research (read: google searching) the hop varieties used were Warrior, Citra, and Cascade. Which reinforces my perception about floral hops.

I liked this beer, it was a bit strong, but the lack of finishing gravity made it easy to drink. I'd get drunk before I got full.

In comparison to my amateur home brews this had some things I liked and some I didn't. I liked the carbonation, low finishing gravity and high aromatics of what I can assumes is lots of late hop additions. I disliked the floral combinations with the roast in the flavor. I'll be sticking to piney hops. This was a good beer and I'm glad I bought it, I can't say enough good thing about Green Flash and would recommend this to a friend looking to try a black IPA.

They made a good Black IPA but I think I can make a better American Black Ale, look forward to a new ABA recipe coming after April 15th.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Flanders Red & Other Sour Tasting.

Group photo, smile!
I wanted to sample my Flander's as I had done over the fourth of July with my lambics. I thought I should try the other sours to see if the results were as disastrous. A quick recap of my early lambics: Nothing great, a couple of acceptable, a few bads. Lets see how this goes.

So this second sampling of sour beers could not have started out with lower expectations. I mean How do you go down from, utter disappointment and near total failure? There is hope though, time does funny things to sour beers, so that could be a blessing as well as the potential to blend and have two things become more than the sum of their parts. I need to blend two beers from this to enter into the NHC to meet my entries. Lets see what I have to work with.

(Please read more after the break.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: Brewing with Wheat.

This book is a good companion to Wild Brews. Why? because they talk about a few of the styles which were not the seminal focus of that book. This book also explains the intricacies of the unique ingredient which distinguishes so many continental European styles from their American and British counterparts. While reading this book I couldn't help thinking that these Brewers Publican books should just have been one large book with lots of cross notes. Brewing is so intricate a craft a times even when you are making a Belgian sour ale by the book (that book being Wild Brews) you might not be told exactly what you're gaining from the wheat which is the base of your beer. I recommend this book if your even considering brewing a beer with 5% wheat so you can know all about which variety and why you might want to use it.

(please read more after the break.)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

January Recap

January has been a month for me personally. Polar Vortex anyone? sheeeesh. Hard to home brew when you can't go out for supplies.

I'm preparing to start cheese making. I use a lot of cheese in my cooking because I love it and I'd love to learn to make it! To that end instead of reading a beer book this month I've been reading about how to make cheese. A more detailed post on that is coming.

I ordered my 2014 supply of East Coast Yeast from Solar Home Brew. 2x Bugfarms, a Flemish Ale, and a Saison Brett. It came and everything looks right.

I'll be making my starter for my 2014 IPA soon. I can't wait to have fresh IPA on tap again. A post incoming soon.

This weekend I will blend my first Lambic & or Flanders Beer. I am doing this for the AHA Competition. I haven't been selected yet but I want to be ready; if I am not selected then I'll find somewhere else to enter it. Lambic and Flanders are amazing styles and if I can brew good ones I want people to try them. A recap of the blending session is coming soon.

I think that's it. As far as updates go. Stay Warm.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Recap 2014 Resolutions

Thank you to anyone reading this blog.

2013 was a crazy year for me personally. Many changes have come about in my personal lives and 2014 looks just as volatile. This impacted my brewing schedule as much as the realities of the beers I brewed; by that I mean that some one has to drink all this beer. There is so much beer. In 2011 through 2013 I joined a few national reserve societies. I sampled some rare and often expensive brews from across the fruited plains. This has eaten up a bunch of funds, and sadly those funds had to come from my brewing funds. I missed almost every single one of my 2013 resolutions.

So what's left? 2014 goals? I guess.

I want to hit my 2013 goal of 6 posts a month but I am going to aim for 4 as to not overshoot.
I want to brew once a month and brew 12 new beers in 2014.
I want to finish my tap handle project and get some tap handles done.
I want to enter a home brewing competition.

That's it. Aim low. Deliver above expectations.

Thanks again if you read my blog. I'll be attempting to get to 60+ posts in 2014 to keep content up and prove 2013 was the aberration.