Monday, August 31, 2009

Let them eat beer!

Those of you who also subscribe to my wife's blog, Danger Kitten Bakes, know that I recently made her a chocolate stout cake for her birthday. My mom gets credit for the idea (thanks mom!), because she knew I was planning to make a cake for Elena, and she came up with the idea of mixing our respective blog topics - beer and baking - into a dessert we could eat and then write about.

I won't recount the cake making process, which you can read about here, but I will tell you about the stout I used to make said cake. (The recipe called for Guinness; I thought otherwise.)

Dario, the wonder pig, protecting his afternoon delight...

Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout (5.2% ABV)
Wells & Young's Brewing Co.
Bedford, UK

Appearance: Coffee almost black in color. Super velvety head (creamier than Guinness).

Aroma: Chocolaty and robust, with a slight metallic edge lurking in the background. Once the beer warmed up a bit, the aroma blossomed into what can only be described as a plate of warm, chocolate chip cookies.

Taste: The first (and obvious) flavor is bittersweet chocolate, followed closely by a sweet nuttiness. It feels smooth and creamy on the tongue, with a hint of bitterness lingering at the back of the mouth.

Overall impression: If it's going to be stout, make mine an Oatmeal from either Wolaver's or Samuel Smith. Young's Double Chocolate was delightfully creamy and smooth, though a bit too sweet to drink all night long - much better to have with a plate of rich, creamy cheeses, or else with dessert. And, if you do choose to pair it with a dessert, you might as well make it a decadent, chocolate stout cake...


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three guys. Two batches. One dog.

This past Saturday, I brewed not one, but two batches of beer with my homebrew pals, Eric and Scott, and Eric's new chocolate lab, Wallace. Wallace seemed more interested in his new rope toy than our brewing session, but his emotional support and unyielding companionship really carried the day.

We brewed an Oktoberfest lager (Eric's choice) and a Barleywine ale (mine). The Oktoberfest recipe, called "My First Marzen," came from this website. The Barleywine recipe came from Charlie Papazian's third book, Microbrewed Adventures. It was called "Old Lighthouse in the Fog Barleywine Ale." In honor of Wallace the dog, and in light of the fact that we had to substitute 50% of the ingredients in the Barleywine, I'm calling it "Wallace Fogbottom's Strong Ale."

For the first time ever, the Original Gravity of a beer brewed by yours truly came out on the button! The Barleywine was supposed to be 1.099 O.G., and we achieved 1.100. The Oktoberfest should have been 1.064 O.G., but we hit 1.043.

The Barleywine recipe Charlie presents in his book was based off of Anchor's Old Foghorn Barleywine. He did not know the actual recipe, so he guesstimated, and since we had to make partial hops and yeast substitutions, ours is a variation on a best guess, which puts it rather far afield. No matter, I am excited for the final product, which should come of age around the beginning of November - perfect timing to enjoy a Fogbottom in front of the fire on a cool, fall evening.

[insert name here] Oktoberfest (6 gallon recipe)
1.8 lbs German Vienna Malt
1.8 lbs German Dark Munich Malt
0.12 lbs Belgian Chocolate Malt
6.6 lbs Dry Light Malt Extract
1.2 oz Hallertau (pellets, 4.5% AA) - 60 min
(We only used 1.0 oz)
0.6 oz Hallertau (pellets, 4.5% AA) - 15 min
(We used 0.7 oz)
WYeast 2308 Munich Lager
O.G. 1.043

Wallace Fogbottom Strong Ale (4 gallon recipe)
8.8 lbs Light Dried Malt Extract
1.5 oz Northern Brewer Hops (pellets, 9.0% AA) - 120 min
(We used 1 oz Northern Brewer, and 0.3 oz Hallertau)
1.0 oz UK Wye Northdown hops (pellets, 7.0% AA) - 20 min
(We used Challenger (7% AA) hops)
1/4 tsp powdered Irish moss
(We used one tablet Irish moss)
English-type ale yeast - double dose
(We used one vial of English-type, and one packet of dry ale yeast)
O.G. 1.1oo

NOTE: Depending on fermentation activity, we may pitch additional yeast when we rack the Fogbottom to a secondary fermenter.

(I'll keep you posted!)


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Driving Ms. Danger Kitten

A month and a half ago (yes, I've been negligent in my blogging duties), my wife, a.k.a. Danger Kitten, scheduled a classroom observation in Harlem, and asked if I was interested in joining her for an afternoon in NYC, i.e. drive. Being a devoted husband, I agreed to chauffer, and immediately set to finding a suitable watering hole to hunker down in while she watched reading teachers do their thing.

My first thought was to sign up for a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery, but unfortunately our visit landed on a Tuesday and tours were weekend only...

Not to be deterred, I surfed over to Beer Advocate and turned up this list. Someone needs to check it for selection bias, because if we accept it as valid, 6 of the top 13 beer bars in America are located in the Big Apple, including the one I chose - David Copperfield's. And, no, the bar has absolutely nothing in common with the illusionist of the same name.

I was drawn to David Copperfield's for two reasons. First, it was the easiest pub for me to reach using public transportation. Second, I'm a sucker for literary association. David Copperfield was a character from a Charles Dickens novel of the same name. The story is supposed to be autobiographical in nature - a mistreated youth perseveres to become a successful author - though I haven't read it. (Dickens never grew on me, though I do remember enjoying Great Expectations in high school.)

In any case, Copperfield's was cozy and comfortable, with marble bar tops, a quality juke box (Motown dominated the airwaves during my visit), and a friendly staff; in fact, while I was tasting and jotting down notes, the bartender, Andrea (from New Jersey), asked what I was up to. When I told her about my little blog, she was intrigued. When I mentioned that my wife blogged about food, she was even more intrigued, noting that she and her sister were planning to make ravioli from scratch that evening. (NOTE: I was totally okay with the fact that she was more interested in the food blog than the beer blog.)

The draught list at Copperfield's is extensive (30 on tap), and the bottle lineup includes many of my favorites, such as Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Biere and Samuel Smith's Nut Brown. The balanced offering included everything from the tried and true classics (Anchor's Liberty Ale) to the truly bizarre (Dogfish Head's Palo Santo Marron).

As it was a hot July afternoon, I was in the mood for a saison, and first sampled Southern Tier's Cherry Saison. This tart and tinny ale was copper in color and had a simultaneously sour and boozy flavor. The head dissipated almost instantly. On the whole, the beer left me unsatisfied.

I ended up with a pint of Sorachi Ace (another saison) from Brooklyn Brewery; so in a way, I ended up getting an abridged version of the brewery tour I'd been aiming for. The beer was released in July, and is only available on draft near the NYC area.

Sorachi Ace Saison (6.5% ABV)
Brooklyn Brewery
New York, NY

Appearance: An almost pinkish hued, golden colored ale. Fluffy, proportionate (i.e. the right amount) head.

Aroma: Lemon/citrus with a yeasty backdrop.

Taste: The Japanese hops mingling with the Belgian yeast gave the beer a smooth, sweet, yet crisp flavor. I first tasted a bubble-gumminess, that moved to a clove/fruitiness. Each sip yielded a slightly different and pleasurable flavor. Complex and enjoyable.

Overall Impression: This was a truly unique beer - complex enough to beguile the taste buds, yet light and clean enough to satisfy without demanding much attention. It drank lighter than its 6.5% ABV, and, if you can find a keg, it would be the perfect choice for a Labor Day BBQ.

-- Brewfus

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hot off the Wire - Baltimore beer from an old friend...

Those who know us well know that we don’t watch much television. I watch sports. Danger Kitten occasionally channel surfs for movies. The only reason we have cable is for the bundle discount on our Internet service. Yet, last year, friends turned us on to HBO’s series The Wire, a five-season drama that ended in 2005, which we watched religiously this spring thanks to Netflix. Better late than never?

Anyway, the show takes a nitty-gritty look at the mean streets, schools, docks, politics and media of Baltimore, through the eyes of the police, drug dealers, unions, teachers, politicians, and journalists who call the city home. It was a riveting show which we became utterly obsessed with, and which we sadly finished in June. And, our viewing of the final episode coincided perfectly with a visit from my good friend AJ and his fiancée, Amber, who moved to Baltimore this past year to teach, and who were on their way to Petoskey, Michigan (AJ's and my hometown) via Ann Arbor. As new Baltimoreans, we've encouraged them to give the show a try. But I digress...

Turns out people do read my blog, because AJ showed up in Ann Arbor bearing this little medley:

He got the idea from this earlier post. (See #28.)

AJ brought me this six-pack of Maryland brews after reading my blog, and in honor of his kindness, and my disposition toward strong beer, I decided to taste (and write about) the barleywine...

The six-pack is long gone, but the gesture lingers on. Thanks, AJ, for pulling a solid.

Below Decks Barleywine (10% ABV)
Clipper City Brewing Company
Baltimore, MD

Appearance: Ruby, deep reddish copper, lacy head that dissipates quickly.

Aroma: Malty, spicy yeasty.

Taste: Strong and warming, a malty kick in the teeth! Smoothly carbonated, neither flat nor over bubbly. Alcohol lingers on throat and nose, spicy and fruity but quickly covered by the booziness.

Overall Impression: My head felt warm after three sips, perfect for savoring on a winter's eve by the fire, not so perfect for consuming between innings at a softball game.