Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Melting Pot Beer Dinner

I'm back.   Its been quite a busy couple of weeks.   And when I say busy I mean lazy; really, really lazy.   I did have a rather entertaining ordeal involving a rabid fan and a hacked brewing blog, but I survived.   Security levels have been raised and restraining orders have been filed.   Let's talk about beer.

Last night I was cordially invited to attend my first beer dinner.   For those of you who do not know, a beer dinner is when somebody tells you to eat their food while drinking their beer.   Then they charge you a lot of money.   Last night's event was held at The Melting Pot restaurant in naptown.   Now I am not a huge fan of fondue.   I'm somewhat of an aggressive eater, and I tend to leave fondue restaurants with some rather serious burns in my mouth.   But my love of beer trumped any medical concerns, so I packed my aloe vera gel and prepared myself for a wonderful night.   I was not disappointed.  

The hosting brewery was Brooklyn Brewery.   I am not very familiar with their products.   In fact, even though I have read (partially) a book about the founding of the brewery (Beer School) I am not sure if I have ever even tried their signature Brooklyn Lager.  I was looking forward to sampling some of the best craft brewed beers in the world.  I'll stop boring you now and give my super expert professional review.

Course 1: 
Brooklyn Cheddar Cheese Fondue: Brooklyn Pennant Ale, cheddar and Emmenthaler cheeses accented with Nueske's (who?) Applewood-Smoked Bacon, onion, dijon mustard, Tabasco and scallions.       
Paired With: Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 (apparently 1955 was the last year the Brooklyn Dodgers won the pennant, or maybe it was 1855.  Who knows?)
Professional Review: Bangin'.  That Nueske is ok in my book.  He sure knows how to smoke a hog.  The bacon made the cheese taste all appley and woody.  This was probably favorite dish of the night.  The Pennant Ale was good too.  It had a reddish color and a refreshing quality.  Somewhat dry but sweet at the same time, if that makes any sense.  This was my second favorite beer of the night.  I lucked out too cause the guy next to us won a free pint but wasn't much of a fan so he passed it off to my wifey.  Since we are married and required by law to share everything 50/50 I begrudgingly commandeered my half and stowed it away for safe keeping in my rapidly expanding gut.  It's the law. 

Course 2:
Wisconsin Wedge Salad: Iceberg wedge with Roma tomatoes, Emmi Roth Kase Gorgonzola, Nueske's Applewood-Smoked Bacon and Peppercorn Ranch Dressing.
Paired With: Brooklyn Brown Ale.
 Professional Review: BORING!  What can I say?  Its lettuce.  I absolutely despise Gorgonzola (and bleu cheese, what's the difference?) and for some weird reason I can only eat tomatoes if they are on a sandwich.  The bacon was delicious of course.  The brown ale was good.  Not great.  I'm not a giant fan of brown ales.  I have never had a non-skunk New Castle and always wondered why they use clear bottles.  But this is Brooklyn Brewery, and this brown was fresh.  It had a nice crispness to it which went well with the salad.  Overall I'm afraid this course fell short based on personal preferences.  If my buddy had a fresh case of Brooklyn Brown chilling I would certainly help him finish them off.  Would I buy it in the store?  Probably not.  It's just not my preferred style.  This was my least favorite course.

Course 3:
Entree: Buffalo Chicken, Memphis-Style BBQ Pork Tenderloin, Teriyaki-Marinated Sirloin and Cajun-Style White Shrimp.
Paired With: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace.
Professional Review: My first reaction when I saw the selection of meats was sheer joy.  The kind of emotion that only the chubbiest 10% of the population are capable of feeling.  I freaking love shrimp!!!  I consider myself to be an honorary Beaver Boy (warning: extremely immature content.)  Off the chain.  I also really enjoyed the teriyaki sirloin and buffalo chicken.  The fondue dippin' sauce reminded me of chicken flavored ramen.  I have a refined palate.  The Sorachi Ace is probably the most unique beer I have ever tasted.  After my first sip I found myself thinking "WTF this tastes like Bazooka Joe."  I also really enjoyed the carbonation.  It gave the beer a very clean and enjoyable finish.  Sorachi Ace was my favorite beer of the night and I can't wait to get my hands on some more. 

Course 4:  
Dark Chocolate Fondue: Dark Chocolate Fondue with Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka.
Paired With: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Chocolate Stout Ice Cream Floats
Professional Review: Whoever had the idea to make ice cream floats with beer deserves a pat on the back (if it was Nueske I'm facebook friending this guy.)  I am not a huge dessert guy so I only dipped one or two pieces into the fondue.  It tasted like... dark chocolate.  I am also not a huge stout fan.  I always feel like I just gave birth and am ready for a 3 hour nap after I drink one (is that normal?)  I was very impressed with this beer however.  I have tried chocolate stouts before but have never really tasted the chocolate.  In this beer the chocolate flavor was very noticeable.  It was very good paired with the vanilla ice cream.  It also packed quite a wallop at 10% alc.  I was very impressed with this beer and have to say it is my favorite stout that I have tasted so far. 

Well there you have it.  Delicious food.  Delicious beer.  Wonderful atmosphere and a designated driver to boot.  Does life get any better?  We met some cool people and learned a lot about beer.  I had an absolute blast at this beer dinner and cannot wait for the next time.  Have fun.  If you have any good beer pairings leave me a comment.  I will start you off with one of my college favorites. 

Beer: Bud Light
Food: Doritos

This combo is an all-time favorite of mine.  The delicious saltiness of the processed cheese complements the watery flavor of the Bud perfectly.  Enjoy! 


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yeast Starter

Sunday arrived and for the first time in recent memory, I was not hung over.  I decided to make it a productive day and pick up some stuff for my next brew.  I plan on one day being able to brew completely outside so I picked up a propane tank.  I hooked it up to my sweet burner I got for Christmas and gave it a test run.  It makes my garage smell like chemicals but it lights stuff on fire so thats always good.  I'll have to rig up some kind of ventilation system in the near future.  Alcohol, fire and flammable gas make for an interesting night.

I also decided that if I ever wanted to brew up my IPA I would have to learn how to make a yeast starter.  So I hit up google and after reading a few differing opinions I had a rough plan.

Now before I get into my awesome plan I should maybe explain what a yeast starter is and why it is recommended for a beer with a high specific gravity...or at least the 6 years in college for a 4 year degree version.  Yeast is alive and its hungry.  When it eats it has babies.  Its favorite food is sugar.  Beers with a high specific gravity have a lot of sugar in them.  Too much for the little yeast guys to eat before passing out in a food coma.  So the idea behind a yeast starter is to give them an appetizer to start having babies but not enough to fill their tiny bellies.  It is basically making a little bit of wort to feed your yeast.  So now after the starter they are all hungry and there are a lot more of them.  You dump them in the fermenter with the high specific gravity wort and let them eat into a comatos state.  I envy them.  Questions?  I have one.  Why dont you just add more yeast at the beginning?  Answer:  Stupid question, Next.  Real Answer:  I don't know, back off.  I'm still learning.  Maybe because it's expensive.

Okay moving on.  My awesome plan.  For this plan to work I will need the following:  Dry malt extract, water, pot (kitchen style), yeast, funnel and a container.  I had all of the above except...dry malt extract (DME).  Luckily for me, the liquor store down the street just started selling homebrew supplies a few months ago.  A quick trip down the road and I was ready to roll.  Pro Brew Tip 1- Do Not buy Amber extract for an IPA.  That's right, I bought amber extract.  Why?  Because I have the brain of an ADHD addled 4 year old.  Get this kid some Aderol.  I was stuck on brew #1, which was an amber.  Too late now.  Let's get started. 

I followed instructions from John Palmer's website.  Boil a pint of water, add a 1/2cup DME.  Boil 10 minutes.  BORING.  For the last 3 minutes I was supposed to put the lid on the pot.  After that I wasn't so sure so I went to check the directions.  Pro Brew Tip 2- Do Not leave your boil pot unattended in the house. 15 seconds later I hear a sizzling coming from the kitchen.  Ugh why me?  My pot overflowed.  Imagine turning your burner on high for 10 mins and squirting maple syrup on it.  Not pretty.  I scrubbed the sh*t out of it for 15 mins but it wouldn't come up.  Oh well, live and learn.  At least I now have my yeast starter.  I just have to cool it to 80 degrees, pour into my container and add the yeast.  Simple.  Pro Brew Tip 3- Do Not shake your yeast vial vigorously before opening.  It will explode.  Everywhere.  If you would like to see this effect recreated go to the store, buy a 20 oz Mountain Dew, shake it for 30 seconds, and open.  Very similar.  I lost about 1/3 of my yeast.  Will it still work?  I don't know.  You will have to stay tuned to find out.  (The suspense is killing you)

BTW, that guy John Palmer has a book.  It's what got me started in this messy hobby.  Check it out if you want to learn more.       

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First Brew Check In

So it has been 10 days or so since my first brew.  I thought I would give an update on how things are progressing.  I took a hydrometer reading today and it looks like we are sitting right around 1.03.  We started around 1.06 or so, which means we are progressing nicely...I guess.  I really dont know.  The directions say let the beer ferment for 7-10 days and then siphon to the secondary fermenter.  I am not using a secondary fermenter because I have heard they are unnecessary.  So I will give it another week or so and take another  reading.  If we are still around 1.03 the fermentation is complete and we can move on to the priming phase.  Nice.

Now I'd like to discuss the newest additions to my brewing toolset:

First is my racking cane siphon.  I actually had this piece before I brewed my first batch, but had not bothered to learn how to use it.  So instead I used a cut up milk jug and a plastic cup as my funnel.  A quick search on youtube told me everything I could ever want to know.  Here is the vid if interested.

Now we have the funnel.  I picked one up for a dollar at Giant.  If you don't know how to use a funnel please send me an email.  A friend of mine is a Nigerian prince with a great investment opportunity.  I would love to send him your info.

And to finish it up, we have my thermometer.  You probably remember this guy.  I had to leave my house with the stove on high to pick up this one.  It was like $6 at Giant.  Ideally I would have bought a floating thermometer like this one but I was kind of desparate at the time.

Thats it for now.  I'll give another update when I'm ready to bottle.

Sincerely yours,
Salty Rick