Maybe you’ve noticed but it’s been since March that I’ve posted on this blog and that is for several reasons/excuses. I got a full-time job, I was learning about marketing at my job and become completely immersed in that while channeling my writing juices into my company’s blog, and then I got on a serious budget which stopped my cash flow into adventurous cooking and cocktail/beer explorations. That said, in the interim I discovered how much I loved Twitter, then dumped it for Google+.
My refocused energies mean I’ve decided to start a rotating small plates club (way better than book club), try running a 5K/8K this year, retire this blog and move it to Google+, rev up my Italian and get my groove back. Any and all interested in joining me on my little adventure, heave ho!
Get recipes, tips, stories and great pics from fellow foodies here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/
This past weekend I traveled to Hampton, Virginia to see Disco Biscuits and String Cheese Incident for Hulaween 2010. As an added bonus I got to visit my brother a bit too which meant we had some great food. Before stopping at his house I picked up a 750 of Allagash Black, the brewery’s new Belgian style stout (they’re based in Portland, ME and I haven’t seen their bottles anywhere in Ohio yet). Some Terrapin Hopsecutioner and Hop Karma IPAs out of Athens, GA and a smoked cheese and another great creamy and nutty cheese called Pyreness. Scrumdiddlyumptious to say the least.
This was all a prelude to lunch with my brother at The Blue Talon Bistro – a French comfort food restaurant in colonial Williamsburg with Redmarker Ale on draft and a reasonably priced and decent wine list with a very nice Malbec by the glass. Paired that with a delicious brandade – think artichoke spinach dip in steroids and but no artichokes or spinach but instead … SALTED COD, ohhhh yes please. To follow a delightful green salad and a blackened fish Reuben.
Needless to say, when I ran out of crostini to scoop up the brandade, I started slathering on my sandwich. Thanks to colonial Williamsburg for yet another delicious meal.
There is something kind of insane about being a college graduate, fresh off the campus. I had two months of down-time while I looked for work, tried to catch up on the sleep I haven’t had for 22 years and figure out what to do with my life. Now all of a sudden I’m juggling two internships, a night job and moving stuff out to my new apartment in Chicago when I find a free moment. This is the long way of explaining why I haven’t been blogging so much. But that’s not even the whole story. In those two months of figuring out time, I wasn’t cooking and I’m still not cooking, nor do I have any interest in cooking right now. I have not felt an ounce of inspiration for kooky jams or savory masterpieces. Totally out of answers.
One project I’ve been working on is the visual conception or logo for A Hoppy Pipper thanks to a great friend, Kenyon alum and magician with spray paint. His work outpaces others working in the medium: the concepts, the craftsmanship of his stencils and innovation with prints made him my number one pick. Below are the first products of our collaboration to be updated when I get more material in. I would love feedback from everyone!
There are several things to keep in mind when you’re on the precipice of enjoying your well-deserved beer. To name the essentials:
TEMPERATURE — don’t treat beer like it has to be as cold as the Rockies: would you serve a Malbec at a freezing temperature? No, so please respect your beer enough to let it breathe a little and warm up to cellar temperature (45-55°F) so it can properly display and perform its wonderful components. You can tell the difference even in a terrible beer: if the mountains on the can turn blue, your beer will smell and taste like cold, like licking the freezer crust off a Stouffer’s mac ‘n’ cheese, but if it warms a little you get the actual aroma and flavor. Think about it the next time you see those commercials about “drinkability” and “Cold as the Rockies” — what are they hiding behind all that cold?
GLASSWARE — proper glassware is another must. Accelerated in the wine industry by the Riedel family was the idea of specific glasses for certain wines to enhance the experience of drinking the product and enjoying it to the fullest degree. This has been a part of the good beer world since the beginning. Beer steins, goblets, snifters, tulips, kolsch, pints…the list goes on. I personally dread the presentation of a beer in the common, all-purpose shaker glass at most bars — the whole thing seems off if the beer isn’t showcased in the best light or in this case the best glass for its contents.
THE POUR — I can’t even get started on how many terrible pourers there are working in the bartending industry or just in casual settings. There is no excuse not to pour a beer correctly, because it’s too ridiculously easy. If you need video instruction, here’s your man.
One of my favorite parts about beer, besides the taste, are the different types of bottles they come in and their labels. You can get growlers at most any microbrewery brewpub, where for a fixed charge you can buy a half gallon of beer on tap and then bring it back when you’re done with that beer for a lesser charge for a refill. This is a great system and provides a solid link between the brewery and their customers. There are also bombers, which are the 22 oz. bottles you can find now in most any good grocery store. Some breweries only do bombers, like Buckeye Brewing but others do a mix of both bombers and the regular 12 oz. bottles. When you venture into lambics, you get to experience the delight of the champagne style bottle with cork and cap. Or if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on De Molen, you’ll have the treat of holding a sweet bomber with cork, champagne cage and wax top.
Alright I’m done geeking out on beer. Contribute comments or questions — I’m happy to answer!
When I joined Ratebeer.com over a year ago, one of the first things I learned was that many more styles of beer existed than I had previously reckoned. There are in fact, 73 different styles of beer lovingly crafted for your enjoyment. So far I’ve worked through 65 different styles, with sours ranking as my favorite for its unique complexities and delightful inconsistencies across this particular style. However, belgian strong ales take the cake for the beer I seem to drink the most. Anyways, here is the rundown of the Mighty 73. Look them up on RateBeer for the deluge of descriptions.
Abbey Dubbel/Abbey Tripel
American Dark Lager
American Pale Ale
American Strong Ale
Belgian Strong Ale
Belgian White (Witbier)
Bière de Garde
Classic German Pilsener
English Pale Ale
English Strong Ale
Golden Ale/Blond Ale
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager
India Pale Ale (IPA)
Lambic – Faro
Lambic – Fruit
Lambic – Gueuze
Lambic – Unblended
Malt Liquor — edward 40 hands is the only reason to drink this, and probably not even then.
Scotch Ale — if you value your life, don’t EVER call a Scottish person a Scotch…a person is not something you drink, unless you’re a vampire.
So what if all the rum’s gone….you’ve got 73 types of beer to choose from, so drink up me hearties, yo ho!
Every brewer starts with 4 ingredients: water, hops, barley and yeast. Yeast is weird, gross but also kind of magical — for some reason the image of the gross kid from middle school eating his scabs keeps popping up in my head … that’s what yeast is like in the trio of other noble ingredients. But without that gross kid, middle school wouldn’t be the same and without yeast, beer could never exist.
But before yeast is added, the mash must happen. Mashing is the part where you put your grains or extract in a large vessel and bring it to a boil for about an hour or sometimes longer. Hops are added at different times during the boil to impart their particular characteristics in the bittering, flavoring and aroma aspects of the brew.
Next is the magic of fermentation, when the wort (the chilled result of the mashing process) gets to play with the yeast. The sugars broken down from the starch of the grains or extract are eaten by the yeast to produce the all mighty alcohol and CO2 content. There are three famous strains of yeast used in brewing: Saccharomyces cevisiae, this ale yeast is the variety that causes foaming on the top of the wort during fermentation while Saccharomyces uvarum is a lager yeast that is known as a bottom fermenter. Brettanomyces is hands down my favorite yeast because it is responsible for the funky goodness that is lambic. A brewer can choose between a dry yeast or a liquid yeast which has already been rehydrated as the yeast “starter” and offers the brewer more stability and fewer possibilities of infection in the brew.
Conditioning is another important step. For homebrewers it means the addition of priming solution (cornstarch and water) or spiese (practice of using unfermented wort) into bottles before the beer is bottled. This process is important to the development of carbonation in your bottles so your beer won’t be flat. Most big breweries force carbonate their brews with specialized bottling equipment. Conditioning can smooth out the flavors of the beer as well as provide carbonation. It is vital that you keep an eye on the gravity (what determines or estimates the original and final alcohol content of the brew) during the whole process and before bottling.
Now go study …. which translates to, go drink a beer and think about it.
After a full year of blogging about beer and food, I’ve realized that perhaps not everyone reading this blog is a die-hard beer geek and might be interested in the basics of what makes beer awesome. Therefore, in the next weeks I’ll be rolling out Beer School 101. The first installment covers “The Harvest”, wherein I’ll discuss the growing of hops and barleys, and the different varietals among them.
Hops are an essential ingredient to beer and are a product of a female plant. They provide an array of different flavors and aromas in beer when used at different periods of the beer making process which will be discussed in greater detail later. As for growing hops, something I have yet to try, their process is fairly easy and has been likened to the rapid growth of kudzu. They are trained up stakes or trellises as they are a climbing plant. Only the cones/flowers are used in the brewing process and look like spikey, leafy pine cones but smaller and bright green.
Pictured above are fresh hops which can be used in brewing but offer some difficulties in consistency for the brewer. More commonly, hops in pellet form are being used for their increased stability and consistent flavor delivery during the boil. If you have access to your own fresh hops, you can crush one of the cones between your fingers then drop in the bottom of a glass and pour say an IPA over it: having crushed the cone you’ve released the aromatic oils of the hop flower which can greatly enhance your drinking experience.
There are many different varietals of hops, each with their own distinct profile that results in a spectrum of flavors and aromas. Two uses for hops are bittering and finishing: bittering is used to make a beer have a bitter bite to it while a finishing hop is used to produce certain aromas that are citrus/piney/resinous/floral/grassy.
Barley is the second ingredient essential to beer. It can be grown in two-row or six-row which indicates the style of beer in which it will be utilized. The row number refers to the amount of barley on the plant that will later be husked for use. The lower the row number = the higher amount of sugar available for fermentation which yields a higher alcohol content. Most English Ales and traditional German brews use two-row for this very reason while American ales sometimes use six-row if they’re using additives such as corn. Barley is malted for brewing use, meaning the barley is soaked in water until it germinates which gets the enzymes working so the starch of the plant turns into usable sugars. Remember that sugar is what the yeast will feed on later to create alcohol and CO2.
I could go on and on about the complexities of these two important ingredients, but hopefully you get the general idea. Now you know a little more about what goes into that beautiful thing called the beer in front of you. Cheers!
A friend sent me a link to the trailer: “For The Love of Beer”. FINALLY! Finally there is a documentary coming out about the incredible female brewers across the nation. I am just kicking myself that I wasn’t the first person to think of it and that I’m not somehow involved. From the trailer, the documentary looks super awesome and follows some of the top women in the industry and looks at the women who drink the product. They still need help in the money area for completion and getting it into theaters, so if you’re interested just follow the link.
Last week was my second time working at Buckeye Brewing this summer. Two weeks ago, all I did was wipe down the bombers before packaging them in cases and transporting them to the coolers. As boring as that may sound, no task is menial at a brewery and it allowed me to keep my ears open and ask a lot of questions about the brewery and its history. My second time round, I worked a 9 hour day: the first half went the same as the previous week and the second half I got to bottle. I was doing alright until I mixed up the buttons. The bottling machine works by placing 2 bombers under the fillers and pressing 2 black buttons at the same time. Then you move the bombers over to the capper and press 2 yellow buttons and 1 bottle is capped at a time.
However, I managed to accidently press the black buttons instead of the yellow when no bombers were under the fillers and so 2 bombers of Hippie IPA went spraying all over the machine, the table, the floor and me while I yelled, “NO NO NO!!! STOP STOP STOP!!!” I pressed the stop button and called over the owner who was very sweet and told me “It wouldn’t be a brewery if you didn’t get soaked in beer at some point”. To insure it didn’t happen again, I wrote in red sharpie on the back of my hands, “Black Beer” and “Yellow Cap”.
That was one highlight of the day, but the real highlight was being shown and allowed to dry hop the Hippie IPA with Cascade pellets for aroma. Hop pellets are so funny looking, they remind me of gerbil food from 5th grade science class. However, they offer brewers a great advantage in that they are more consistent in their bittering and aroma capabilities and more stable during the boil than regular full hops. Anyways, the point of this little story is that even after my little accident I came away feeling like a big girl and one step further on the brewing yellow brick road.
Between the Travel Channel, TLC and the Food Network, I don’t know which channel to blame for making me ravenously hungry at inconveniently late hours. And they always seem to coincide with an empty fridge, lack of cakes and absence of gargantuan novelty menu items in my home. Such a bummer for me. Anyways, Man v. Food is a show that can either turn my stomach in that I’m-about-to-hurl way OR it turns my appetite on in a big fat way.
He recently came to Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood and I missed the show. But whatever, because I’ve had the pleasure of eating there in person already, dying and going to Heaven. I’d tried once at their new Cedar Road location but the wait was so long even at 9:30 pm on a Thursday that I bailed for another night and their original location on Detroit Ave. It was a religious experience to say the least. I ordered the Smoky Russian — don’t worry I knew what I wanted before I got there because I’d already perused the menu online about 20 times, while I mopped the drool off my face.
photo courtesy of KH
The sandwich alone is ridiculously good, like I don’t want to talk to you until I’m done with this good. The kind of good that makes you chuckle to yourself because you’re so happy and you can’t believe you have the good fortune to be eating this right now good. But the sandwich is part of a trifecta: the vodka kraut slaw with pickles on top and double fried fries complete the plate, beautifully complimenting its buddies. The beer selection is also very good, obviously not close to the Beer Engine’s offerings but still very respectable. The ambiance reminded me of my dorm rooms: Cranberries playing, plastic light-up lawn ornaments over the bar and a Miss Pac Man cooler for bottled beer. Not to mention the really beautiful blue pressed tin ceiling. If this place isn’t on your list; you’re either crazy, stupid or have just had open heart surgery and don’t wanna push it. I repeat: DROOOOOOOOL WORTHY.
photo courtesy of KH