Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Psychotic Extraction

So we've got a Coffee + Beer event coming up at the Lab in September. I'll be brewing up a batch for the show. I'm not much of a coffee + beer aficionado so the challenge was to think of a way to avoid using coffee as an adjunct - which is the approach most people would take. Planning the flavor profile of a dark beer and using coffee in place of kilned or roasted malts is perfectly reasonable. I want to do something different, that being the use of cold extract coffee as brewing liquor. I figure 3 pounds of fine grind medium roast will produce an easy 10 gallons of coffee that I'll use to make a 5 gallon batch of Strong Ale - mid 1.070's, mostly pale malt, some caravienne/munich, a little Special B, a pinch of Brown malt, mash a little hot for residual sweetness, firm balancing Cascade bitterness, and ferment with the Chico yeast for a good attenuation. See how it goes...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Culture Media - Lime Bitters Flavor

Welp, my Uncle Mac liked to say "You always go to school on the first one". The Lime Bitters is finished and what we have is a solid gelatinous block of bittersweet citrusy goodness. Following the "Regans' Orange Bitters No.6" recipe; I separated the booze from the botanicals, boiled & steeped the solids in water, and left that to soak. The final step is to combine the two steeps and sweeten. The bitter alcohol portion was wonderful - pure lime bitters excitement. The bitter water portion was a little challenging - weird, semi-solid, and slimy. It passed the "Looks OK & tastes OK test" so I proceeded to finish. Pint of bitter lime rum, pint of runny slightly gelatinous goo, and a cup of invert sugar syrup hardening in a small non-stick saucepan - check! Got it mixed together, glopped into an empty fifth bottle, and into the fridge. Fixed us a round of vodka tonics with lime bitters as taste test and the result is very good. This batch of lime bitters doesn't score very high on appearance but the flavor is exactly what I had in mind; an herbal spiciness, resinous bitterness, and a bright lime citrus flavor on top of it all. Next time I'll forgo the extra water steep, sweeten that second pint of water, and expect a slightly milder bitters. Now on to the next batch...

Update: So after a little sleuthing, we've decided that boiling the botanicals with the fruit for the hot water steep set the pectin in the fruit. And well and truly set it is, I've got a fifth of lime bitters that ain't goin' nowhere.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lime Bitters

So we've been doing a bit of cocktailing lately. Or rather moving on from our comfortable Classic Martini, Gin & Tonic, and Whiskey Sour when-we-want-a-cocktail routine and getting better acquainted with the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, and the Negroni (as a start). Yeah, I'm still a 2nd level Cocktailist, but my AC and saving throw against cocktail ignorance are coming up. I thank you. Part of my investigations into quality cocktails has been a lot of reading up on bitters, the patent medicine-style infusions and tinctures that are used to add depth and dimension to cocktails. Angostura and Peychaud's are examples of classic aromatic bitters and there are a ton of contemporary bitters producers replicating long lost commercial examples; orange bitters, celery bitters, etc. So, in keeping with the current "F*ck it, I'll make my own" motif that I've been operating under I've decided to make my own bitters. After I've already stocked up on Angostura, Peychaud's, and Regan's Orange Bitters, of course. So I decided to start with lime bitters, "I don't know, maybe it'll turn out OK and we can use it in G&T's". Now ""Regans' Orange Bitters No.6"" is out on the internet so I used that as a starting point and replaced the orange component with fresh lime. That was a week ago and OMFG!!! this sh*z is teh deelizious!!! I'm never buying commercial bitters again. Just having the ingredients on hand putting this batch together has given me enough insight that an excellent aromatic bitters is right around the corner. Thank you Mr. Angostura, thank you Mr. Peychaud, but your services will no longer be required.


Had a great beer dinner a while back at Brandon's and had a spot of Aquavit as a digestif. Very very nice finish to the evening. Spicy, earthy notes behind a very firm and floral anise flavor with a lingering sweetness. Very nice indeed. So along with that, we've been watching episodes of "New Scandinavian Cooking" over and over. One of the recipes that the Norwegian food writer/chef Andreas Viestad (though I like the Dane, Claus Meyer, better - I get the feeling that his cuisine is a lot closer to the Danish culture, closer to the place it comes from, and I like the simpler, "cooking by hand" feel of it) has shared is for Aquavit, the ubiquitous Norse schnapps-style liquor flavored with caraway, fennel, dill, and anise. Aquavit has always held a certain charm for me, even though I've only come to it very recently. When I was a mere 'Tween I had a stack of cookbooks that were in the same rotation as Tolkein, Herbert, Heinlein, and Stephen King, one of which was the Time-Life book "The Cooking of Scandinavia". Very appealing to me to read about the food and associated culture of part of my heritage, with the one thing making the biggest impression on me being the mention of Aquavit and the traditional "Skål" that accompanies it. Illustrated by a very suave Max von Sydow; hold your aquavit glass in front of you, look your company in the eyes, "Skål" is cheerfully offered as you raise your glass, down the hatch, and you return to look your company in the eyes. Very civilized, very convivial, and bad ass. So fast forward a bit, and lately I've been getting more and more interested in expanding the kinds of food products that we make for ourselves. Getting better informed and pointed toward making more charcuterie, pickling food, cheese making and baking. Anyway, I put some Aquavit together. Took a bit of an experimental approach to it for the first pass, put together a base mixture of caraway, fennel, and dill seed along with star anise and whole clove (all traditional ingredients). Picked out a 2 liter bottle of middling vodka and put that spice mix into 4 separate splits. In three of those splits I added a larger proportion of caraway, fennel, and dill for a more pronounced flavor, and in the fourth split I added crushed black pepper and strips of fresh lemon zest. My thinking was to let these sit, filter them, and go through a convoluted program of blending small portions of each to get a nice result. Pffft, whatever! So after 3 weeks rest I got all the filtering done last night, the result being a beautiful golden hued, intensely aromatic, and inviting infusion. And after a few samples, the well considered attempt at blending was decidedly unnecessary. The black pepper & lemon peel stands on it's own; intense Lemon Pledge aromas upfront, very lively interplay of fennel/anise, black pepper spice, and resinous citrus through the middle palate finishing with a modest heat from the black pepper lingering very late. For the more "traditional" style 'Vit, I'll bottle one part each of the caraway & dill portions with two parts of the fennel portion. After a bit of sampling (ha, ha), I feel the base mixture of spices is probably a bit fennel/anise forward (which I like). On their own, each portion shows the extra ingredient very well (as I expected); the caraway is grassy & spicy, the fennel is very floral & intensely licorice-like, and the dill is very herbal with interesting fresh cut grass/floral notes. The "house" Aquavit should end up with a nice caraway/dill character backing up a pretty firm fennel/anise flavor. Some of the Aquavit recipes I looked at required that it be sweetened, which I'll take a pass on. So far at least, this first attempt doesn't need it. I think that I should have enough of each split after putting a big bottle together that I can put another bottle together and rest it on some sour mash whiskey flavored oak cubes that I have somewhere. Or maybe I should soak some oak cubes in some Sherry. Hmm....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The East Marginal Way South & South Spokane Street Fraternal Order of Wayward Brewers

Happy New Year! Well I've moved out of the house. Moved all me brewing equipment that is. I've gone in with a couple homies on a little brewing space down in Sodo/Georgetown. Lotsa room and brewing under cover rules. Haven't hit my full stride yet, I'm looking at getting up to brewing once a week, but getting back to brewing feels really good. Got a couple things under my belt; 5 gals. of Sierra Olympus (my SN Pale clone with Citra, Simcoe, and Amarillo - very good drinking indeed), 5 gals. of Belgian Bland (low gravity batch to prop up some of the Wyeast Westmalle strain), 10 gals. of botched IPA that is being served as a Northwest-style Bitter (actually pretty nice, lots of subtle hop character), 5 gals. of an ashy Foreign Export-style Stout using the Pacman yeast to prop up for 5 gals. of Infernal Libation (a Black Wine that I've been "planning" on brewing for about 2 years) that still has to package, 5 gals. of Czech Plz (a beer I've brewed a few times with various tweeks; this batch uses Sterling hops for the first time for me, still a bit green at this point but should come around), 5 gals. of an attempt at a Westmalle-style Tripel with a West Coast hop profile (I abhor the whole "Belgian IPA" affect and refuse to use that term) that is a few weeks shy of going into the keg, and freshly put up tonight: 5 gals. of Berliner Weisse. WAHA organized a lecture with Jess from Wyeast about that style of beer with a lot of great information. I'd brewed a Berliner Weisse before with stomach turning results (no boil, a week on Lacto, then pitched with yeast = ugly, sulphury mess) and have wanted to try it again. The Wyeast advice was to brew, pitch Lacto, and two days later pitch Sacchromyces to clean up. Still wanting to take advantage of a short boil, I chose dried malt extract instead of all-grain thinking that a lot of the sulphur compounds inherent in malted barley would have been driven off during the malt extract production process resulting in a cleaner wort. The wort after knock out and chilling was clean and bright tasting but we'll see after we get into the ferment. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to a lot more brewing; got a couple weddings this summer to brew for, need to fill Darrel, my home brew club North Seattle Brewers has a barrel project in the works, and with all the brewing gear out of the house there's finally room for a kegerator! Wheee!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Hardest Liver To Liver '11

Ahoy True Believers! So being about 4 months behind on the blog; nevermind the Christmas Mule, moving into Beer Lab, and "Hey, hey, now I can afford to brew me own beer!" - I'll jump into 2011 with a bit on our Brouwers' Cafe Hard Liver Barley Wine Festival ex-beer-ience. Went down on Saturday to judge (thanks Bonney!), which was pretty cool. Sat with Megan from Beer West and Brandon (a local beer Illuminati) for our evaluations. Good times had by all; just a few "not so much" beers on hand. The big problem (as if) were beers with just a bit of a nasty chloro-phenol thing happening, which I attribute to overuse of a certain hop variety. Not that the specific hop variety is important, but using too much of any hop can lead to some "challenging" flavors. Anyway, sat at the bar for lunch with Mr. K & Mr. S, and had a nice time tasting and talking trash (lots of trash talked) waiting for the judging results. Seemed to take a looong time, but we ended up with '10 Anacortes "Old Sea Bass" taking 1st (deservedly so; perfect malt character, just a tad sweet, low hops with a nice port wine-like finish), '09 Anderson Valley "Horn of the Bear" taking 2nd (a bit too candyish/strong Imperial IPA for my taste), and '10 Glacier Brew House Old Woody (full bodied with big maple/vanilla "rested on wood" flavors) taking 3rd. Very nice indeed. Had a hearty bowl of potato soup for lunch and managed to escape without blacking out. I thank you.

Went back down on Sunday, with me Sweetie, for a few. That Anacortes beer is simply wonderful. Showed the best among the 30-odd Barley Wines we managed to get to. Interesting balance across the lot; for the most part very hop forward, just a few seemed to firing on all cylinders. We liked the Rogue '08 Old Crustacean and the '09 Speakeasy Old Godfather the best; both very nice, with firm malt flavors finishing just a bit sweet, big rosy alcohol flavors, and pleasant hop character, with the Rogue beer leaving the palate with a big resinous hop note. Very, very nice indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

15 Points of Satisfaction

Sitting down with a pint of the Robopo after spending most of the day out shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner. We're hosting, so that means collecting lots of turkeys and mass fixin's. Got the scoresheets back from Novembeerfest last week. I entered McChief (first place, Belgian-style Specialty), Fled (3rd place, Belgian-style Sour), the Bride's Ale (meh, too clovey), the Witch (meh, too anise-y), and the Robust Porter which scored (on average) 15 points. That made me laugh out loud! Now I'm not proud and I think that at the very least it's a 28 point beer (ha, ha, ha), but these "judges" blew it. Harumph! I'll take it to the next North Seattle Homebrew Drinker's meet and see what Russell and the Joy's think of it. Anyway, I'm enjoying it.