August 31, 2011

Beer Book: The Homebrewer's Garden

The Homebrewer's Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing HerbsThis book was written for the true Do-It-Yourself-er. The Homebrewer's Garden is all about growing and using with your own ingredients for making beer. The authors explain clearly and in depth what it takes to grow hops, grains, and herbs for your homebrew. Included are diagrams and complete instructions for:
  • building a hop trellis
  • planting hops rhizomes and caring for the bines
  • building an oast (for drying your hops)
  • growing over 40 different herbs to use in your beer (including basil, coriander, mint, and rosemary)
  • growing, harvesting, and malting your own barley and other brewing grains
The authors also include over 25 recipes to get you started brewing with your homegrown ingredients: Mixed Berry Porter, Oregano Pale Ale, Ginger Ale, Quinoa Bitter, Chicha de Jora, Pumpkin Ale, and Dandelion Stout, just to name a few.

Whatever your skill in brewing, this book will open up countless new possibilities! Check it out!

Mad Fox and Chili Dogs!

Guest post from Anton:

Made another trip to the most local brewery I know... Mad Fox, set in a nice little part of Falls Church, VA, just minutes from my apartment.



Mad Fox is a great place for lunch, dinner, or the quick growler fill-up. I was at Mad Fox for the last of these options.

Feeling culinary, I went in to grab a nice beer to go with a special chili recipe that I had just created--man do I love cooking! Anyway, the chili was supposed to be for eating straight from the bowl; however, it turned out more like the kind of chili meant for chili dogs.. and spicy ones at that! Adapt and overcome, right?




So, after asking the Mad Fox bartender to recommend a beer for spicy foods, I ordered some wings and a cask Porter. Yum!

Within an hour and a half, notes in one hand and growler in the other, I set off for a delicious adventure!

Here is my recipe for Mad Fox Porter (Inspired) Spicy Chili Dogs

At least six hours before eating:

Turn on some tunes
Clean Crock Pot
Add to Crock Pot:
½ cup water
3 Jalapeno and Cheese Sausages (diced into bits)
1 Frozen Turkey Patty
2 Tbsp Strawberry Preserves
¼ Red Onion (diced)
4 Whole Jalapenos (seeded and minced)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Squirt of Lime Juice
3 Dashes Chili Powder
1 Can Tomato Bisque Soup
1 Can Tomato Paste

Cook for 6 hrs on low

20 Mins before you’re ready to eat

Cook 2 polish sausages in bacon grease recycled from breakfast (BACON!!!)
Add ½ cup of onions and ½ cup of Mad Fox Porter beer to sausage and bacon mix
Toast Buns

Drink beer and chill...e (get it?)

August 24, 2011

Are Today's Lagers Really South American?

Mr. Pasteur himself.
I always thought of Lagers as a distinctly German invention (i.e. Red Oak Brewery's line of Bavarian-style lagers), but apparently strains of yeast used to make today's lagers can trace their heritage back to South America.  The researchers suggest that some yeast from the New World made its way back to Europe and crossed with another strain, which was found to perform well under cooler temperatures.  Of course it wasn't until the mid-1800s that Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast was the active ingredient in fermentation, so I imagine the crossing was accidental.

Maybe an early New World explorer brewed some beer for the trip home and reused those some barrels for another batch when he got back to Europe?  It could happen!

Read more here at Fast Company.

Brewing 101: Amarillo Pale/Amarillo Peach

Since my previous post on homebrewing, I've been mighty busy visiting breweries in North Carolina and Virginia - and working on my next batch of beer.  Several of you offered some good tips, so I made a few modifications to the recipe.  If you're interested in making your own beer, this post will give you a taste of what's involved.

Here's the updated recipe for what I decided to call Amarillo Pale and Amarillo Peach:

1 lb. Flaked Wheat
1 lb. Organic Carapils Malted Barley
3 lbs. Briess Pilsen Extra Light LME (liquid malt extract)
3 lbs. Wheat LME
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 oz. Amarillo hops for 60 mins
1/4 oz. Amarillo hops for the final 15 mins
1/4 oz. Amarillo hops for the final 5 mins
WLP001 California Ale Yeast
The 5 gallon batch is to be divided into three parts, two of which will utilize locally-grown, hand-picked peaches as adjuncts.


1.  The first, least glamorous, but probably most important, step in making beer is to sanitize everything that may come in contact with your beer.  Otherwise you risk getting bacteria or wild yeast in your beer that could ruin the whole batch.

2.  Steep the grains if you have them.  In this case I did a "mini-mash" using a pound of flaked wheat for body and a pound of organic Carapils malted barley for flavor and fermentable sugar.  I put the grains into a gallon of water and did my best to keep the temperature between 150F and 155F to pull the enzymes from the mash without over-cooking them.


3.  Next, strain the grains, reserving the water (now called wort) and wash, or sparge, the grains with hot water to make sure you get all the good stuff out.  You can discard these spent grains now - mine go straight to the compost.


4.  Then mix in the malt extract and turn up the heat.  I used 3 lbs extra light liquid malt extract and 3 lbs wheat liquid malt extract, hoping for a light-colored beer with a decent amount of alcohol content.  Most homebrewers lack the equipment necessary to process 10-20 pounds of grain, so a malt extract, either driy (DME) or liquid (LME), is an easy way to get fermentable sugars into your wort.   Homebrewers might start with all-extract recipes and work their way up to all-grain as they become more proficient.


5.  Now the countdown begins.  I boiled the wort for 1 hour, adding the hops at different points in the boil to achieve bitterness, flavor, and aroma.  I chose Amarillo hops to (hopefully) complement the peaches.

Hops for homebrewing usually come in pellet form.
6.  When the boil is over, cool the wort to less than 90F.  Move to your primary fermenter, add enough water (preferably filtered) to make 5 gallons.  Take a reading of the Original Gravity (to calculate alcohol content later), then pitch the yeast.

7.  Over the next several days, the yeast will feed on the sugars in the beer, thus producing alcohol and CO2.

8.  About halfway through fermentation, move your beer from one container to another, adding any additional ingredients that you may have.  In this case, peaches, which I had already sliced, pitted, and frozen beforehand.  Amarillo Pale got no peaches, Amarillo Peach got two, and Amarillo Double Peach got four.

Amarillo Peach on the left, Amarillo Pale, and Amarillo Double Peach.
In ten days or so, we'll bottle it up!

August 12, 2011

A Local Gem: Hidden in the Rough




Hello, all!

It's Anton again and I'm stoked to follow up David's post about the taxation of beer.

Though I want to write more about the economics of beer, I will save that for my next post since I've been delaying the following for some time.

Alas, in this post, I will be introducing some (and perhaps reintroducing others) to one of my new favorite local beers. Kick back, grab a brew, and build up an appetite because I'm putting on my chef hat and cooking locally (with beer)!
---
So, the other day I was in Safeway gathering items for the nightly feast (a.k.a. dinner) and I decided to do something I rarely do. “Today is the day to start from the left,” I said. For the ones who don’t know, at this particular Safeway, the left side of the beer aisle refrigerator is reserved for a very special kind of beer.


Ok, maybe it’s not fair to call it “shitty” beer.. let’s call it “unfortunate” beer. Yes, that's better. The left side of the beer cooler at this Safeway is the land of misfortune.

Fortunately for me, however, I happened upon a gem of magnificent beauty.

Now, since most people reading this blog may not know my prediliction for drinking brew-dogs, let me explain. Where some say, “I love beer,” let's just say I throw up my fists and yell:

“Hooray for beer!!”

I mean, I grew up on beer: the first time I had a beer was [redacted] and that was the Summer I also learned how to ride a [redacted] without training-wheels. So, yeah, I've been drinking for at least [redacted] years. But enough about me, let's get back to the story...

As I stood across from the unforunates, something glimmered in the florescent Safeway lighting; lurking in the shadows, amidst the Miller High Life and Steel Reserve sat a local treasure calling my name.

Mind you, I'm not saying I had a Lord of the Rings moment wherein my "precious" was calling out to me; however, I'm not saying that I didn't have a Lord of the Rings moment either...the important point is what peered out from the wasteland of the unfortunates was none other than a Port City Optimal Wit.






And now for some background:

Port City Brewing Company is a craft brewery located minutes from Washington, DC—in Alexandria, Virginia.

Voted Washingtonian Magazine’s 2011 “Best Brewery Tour,” Port City Brewing Company is a local beer with attitude. ...well, I just made up that whole "with attitude thing"; but, suffice it to say that this beer is bang-a-lang-dangin. It would most likely get a "Very Nice" on my personal Likert scale... so, take that as you may.

Granted, I would have been happy had the story ended there, but not only did I find this local beer hidden amongst the shite, however, Port City’s “Optimal Wit” was the cornerstone to the recipe burning a hole in my pocket: The Homebrew Chef's Wit Braised Chicken.

The Homebrew Chef, Mr. Sean Paxton, has the following recipe on his website:


2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 Slices Pancetta, thick cut or bacon (optional)
1 Whole Chicken, cleaned and cut into 6th
(Leg/thigh, breast, wing)
Sea Salt and Pepper
2 TBSP All Purpose Flour
1 TSP Coriander, whole
1 TSP Orange Zest, dried
1 Each Leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 Each Shallots, peeled and diced, about 1 cup
3 TBSP Thyme Leaves, fresh
1 Bottle Wit Style Beer*, 750ml
1 Cup Chicken Stock, preferably homemade
1 Cup Heavy Cream, organic

So, in effort to recreate this recipe with a local twist I modified (and specified) the following:





3 Slices of Smithfield (Virginia) thick-cut bacon
1 Whole Chicken (Locally farmed, free-range, organic)
2 TBSP fresh Thyme from my garden
1 Bottle Port City Optimal Wit
1 Cup Organic Chicken Stock
1 Cup 1/2 and 1/2, organic

The result was delightful; my wife actually claimed it was, "Gravy-licious."



By using spices such as orange zest and coriander, I was really able to accentuate the undertones of the Optimal-Wit. Like most Belgian Wit beers, the Wit beer style of Port City's Optimal Wit has hints of both orange and coriander in its finish. According to Port City,

"Our Optimal Wit is brewed in the Belgian Wit Bier tradition. It is brewed with raw wheat and oats, and steeped with coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise. This ale is a pale golden color with a bit of cloudy haze from bottle conditioning. This unfiltered ale offers layers of complex, nuanced flavors that evolve in the glass. It finishes crisp and refreshes the palate."

The Homebrew Chef recommends using: "Blanche de Chambley from Unibroue, Blanche de Brugge, Hoegaarden or Celis White." Though of those beers I've only had the pleasure of sampling Hoegaarden, I can say that if the others are anything near the quality of Hoegaarden, reproducing this recipe with each beer would be a task worth undertaking.

A Hoegaarden on the patio is always a Summer treat:




Now that I've eaten all the Wit Braised Chicken left overs (and I've used the gravy in three meals since), I am ready to go back to Mr. Sean Paxton and see what other delights I am able to create with local beers.

Please feel free to comment or ask clarifying questions on the recipe. I find that Mr. Paxton includes the exact amount of detail an intermediate chef requires. Even so, however, I am pleased to offer any insights or recommendations on this recipe.

Until next time, remember to have a great day with a great beer.

Take it easy,

~Anton





August 8, 2011

Lower Taxes for Microbreweries?

Per the Beer Sommelier, here's an interesting article about a potential bit of legislation that could lower taxes for microbreweries: Schumer Beer Tax.

On one hand, it could stimulate the growth of these small businesses and encourage them to hire an extra employee or two.  But would that justify the reduction in federal revenue?

What do you think?

For more info visit Schumer's website.

If you like this idea, tell your representatives in Congress to support the BEER Act.

August 4, 2011

It's IPA Day - Starr Hill's Northern Lights

After a long first day at my new job, I'm happy to finally be able to indulge in this holiest of beer holidays. OK - I had no idea an IPA Day even existed until I saw it on Twitter the other day, but I'm not going to let that stop me.

To celebrate, I'm reviewing Northern Lights - an IPA from Starr Hill Brewery, which was founded in 1999 in Charlottesville, VA. Today, the brewery is located just down the road in Crozet, VA, which I just found out is not a town but a census-designated place. Odd.

Back to the beer.

Northern Lights pours a nice reddish-amber color, with a substantial head. The smell is hoppy for sure, mostly a sweeter citrus and floral character. The taste compliments the aroma very well. It's not overwhelmingly bitter. The floral and citrus notes give way to a slight malty sweetness that you might expect from an amber or red ale.

I think some hop-heads might want a little more bitterness, but in my book, Northern Lights gets very high marks.

Look for it in Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.