Monday, February 27, 2006

Brewing of a Different Kind

I am pro-beer, but what I can't seem to get enough of lately is ginger ale. The kind of ginger ale that bites and gives me a sense of euphoria. Grocery-store-2-liter-bottle versions are too bland... the good stuff in 4-pack bottles gets too expensive.

So a girl must brew her own.

I think we forget that we can make our own soda. We're so apt to go to the store and buy it. It's easier and we know the taste. But those reasons are also lame and thus, so begins my experiment.

After I found this recipe online where kids were making it, I knew it had to be easy. So combine that recipe with one from a PhD in Chemistry and I figured I found a decent starting place.

First Attempt at Ginger Ale (makes two 2-liter bottles)
1/8 teaspoon of yeast (fleishman's as a first pass)
1/2 cup 105(degF) water
1T sugar

2 cups sugar
8T lime juice
10T fresh grated ginger juice (no pulp -- saved that for infusing vodka)
1T dried ginger powder (*did this only to one bottle)

Clean bottles thoroughly. Mix yeast with warm water & sugar and allow to sit around 10 minutes. Meanwhile, divide the amounts of sugar, lime juice and ginger juice between the bottles using a funnel (i.e. pour 1 cup of sugar to each bottle). Add a bit of water(~2c), cap and shake to dissolve sugar. Divide the yeast mixture into the two bottles, using water to rinse thoroughly (which is also added to bottles). If desired, add powdered ginger (I added to one bottle). Then add water to top (1 inch headspace) and cap. I left them at room temp all day yesterday and when I came down this morning they were pretty firm and I put them in the fridge. Seems you can let it rest anywhere between 24 hours and 6 days. Remember, ginger enhances yeast activity so keep an eye on it.

Started it yesterday; I'll keep you posted with how it goes.

Chocolate Cardamom Ale

I just couldn't stay away from the brewery this weekend. Had to get something started.

I've been thinking that I should probably make something basic, work on fundamentals a bit. I should, but then I remind myself that I can get great "basic" beer any day of the week at reasonable prices, so to hell with that. I'll worry about basics if I ever decide to go into business.

No, I decided to try something fancy, again.

The following is a sequel, of sorts, to Matrimoniale, which I am calling "Lune de Miel" ("Honeymoon"). It's built on the basic elements of Matrimoniale, but it is flavored with (I guess I killed the suspense with the post title) chocolate and cardomom, a combination to which I was introduced at the Pierre Marcolini boutique right around the corner from our hotel, while on our lune de miel. Also, coriander, to give it a bit of citric acidity and spice, to balance the bitterness of the chocolate.

I may be making some additions to the secondary, depending on how the flavors are coming along. So I'll wait to post the recipe until I can describe it from beginning to end.

As of this morning, I didn't even have pressure in the airlock, though I know enough to know not to panic--yet. Depending on how much chocolate drops out of solution (I'm expecting a lot, actually), the color will likely be somewhere between burnt orange and orangey-brown. (At the moment, it just looks like brown sludge. As in hell of chocolate.) OG was 1.052, and I'm expecting 80-85% fermentation, so we're looking at a relatively mild 4.5-5.5% ABV.

Updates to follow. Estimated bottling date: March 12. First taste: as long after that as I can hold out. Probably March 19.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

PSA for my Tucson-based readers

We went to The Shelter last night (I hadn't been there in ages) and the Guinness on tap was astonishingly decent. I think they cleaned the lines in anticipation of the brewery's annual marketing stunt. More importantly...they served it at the proper temperature!

Not to raise expectations to unreasonable heights, I will point out that I've had better pints stateside (in particular, here), but not in Arizona.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Bidding Farewell to Beamish

Beamish Irish Stout will soon no longer be available in the United States.

Neither will John Courage (which I am less sad about, but will miss nonetheless).

Beamish has always been the centerpiece of my more-or-less annual St. Paddy's Day party. I might have to see if I can buy up enough for one last hurrah...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I've got a new drinkin' buddy.

Meet Ollie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy V-Day

This is getting a lot of linkage in the Beer 'Sphere, but in case you've missed Lew Bryson's great piece on women and beer, go read it. Now.


Why don't women drink beer? More to the point, why do brewers think women don't drink beer? They do, I've seen them. Smart, chic women, too, I might add...

I happen to believe that women are just like men when it comes to their tastes. That women, like men, have different tastes as individuals, and that they are not gender-selective for sweets and glop any more than men are. That women deserve to be treated with the same respect when selecting a beer that men do, not a patronizing assumption that they want something light, fruity, candyish, or wine-like. They, like men, may not even know what they like. But I believe that the best way to find that out -- for both of us -- is to offer them the same kind of choices that I would a man.

He also makes some excellent points about the condescending and sexist way beer tends to be marketed (especially by the merchants of mass-produced swill in this country) and how that probably plays a huge role in putting women off of the beverage. Which strikes me as a collosally stupid business practice...not to mention an excellent opportunity for craft brewers to expand their market share...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Wo ist das gute amerikanische Pilsner, bitte?

The wife brought home a bottle of Left Hand Polestar Pilsner (link is a pdf), which was nice, because I was in a pilsner-drinking mood.

It's not exactly a complex feast for the senses, but it was an attractive (pale straw with excellent head retention all the way down the glass), clean, grainy, easy-drinking pils, with a nice grassy aroma and mild Saaz bitterness. Which is to say, exactly like a good German pilsner.

This got me thinking that I don't know of very many American beers that would fall into this category. I'm a huge fan of the style, and tend to buy quite a lot of the more reasonably-priced German imports in the spring, especially. But I'd rather give my business to American brewers, if the product is just as good. (Nothing against the Germans, mind you, but I don't think their brewers really need my help.)

I figure I might not be that familiar with the American-produced, German-style pilsner scene for any number of reasons, among them:

1) I've just been lazy, and going straight for the German imports.
2) Microbreweries in the US (and especially in the west) are definitely more geared towards producing ales than there might not actually be that many easily available in these parts.
3) American micros might not bother so much with lagers, because the American market is already so saturated with mass-produced lagers (never mind that these tend to be incredibly inferior products)...i.e., micro ales are in less direct competetion with macro lagers.

Anyway, all of the above (well, with the exception of #1) is pure speculation on my part. Any opinions (or better yet, information) on these would be welcome.

More welcome are suggestions of good German-style pilsners made in the U.S.A. Polestar will definitely be going into my regular rotation, but I'm always happy to find more.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Dogfish Head Fort

Last night we cracked open a bottle of the latest from Dogfish Head, which is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorite American breweries. (Incidentally--Founder Sam Caglione's book is on my wish list, if anyone is feeling generous.)

Fort is a flavored ale fermented with "over a ton of fresh pureed raspberries". Taking the notion of "extreme beer" very seriously, DFH has made what is probably the world's strongest fruit beer at 18% ABV. This hefty beer also commands a hefty price ($17 + tax in AZ, for a 750-ml bottle), making it also the most expensive beer I've ever bought, in case you count the 18EUR bottle of Carlsberg I had at a jazz club in Paris (which I drank very, very slowly!)

Anyway, on to the important stuff: mildly yeasty and aggressively fruity/citrusy aroma upon opening. Many reviewers have noted that this beer pours very foamy and is almost too effervescent--this was not my experience. Ours poured easy, a beautiful, strikingly clear golden-amber with a light, frothy foam that layered about 0.5 cm thick in a large wine goblet. The fruit in the aroma became much more apparent in the glass, along with floral and herbal overtones.

The flavor was truly tasted like beer. I was skeptical about this one, expecting it to taste like some sort of barley wine on crack with fruit mashed up in it. However, my man at the local beer shop has never steered me wrong, so I was willing to trust his (very enthusiastic) recommendation. I was not disappointed. At the front, complex malt, fairly assertive hop bitterness, and a slightly sour raspberry finish. The fruit is actually quite subtle in light of its predominance in the aroma, much more so than a Belgian Framboise. As it clears the palette, a warming alcohol presence becomes apparent--though again, it is nowhere near as powerful as you might expect from a beer that is nearly the strength of a port. About 10 seconds after leaving the mouth, a soft, mildly acidic/cotton candy aftertaste makes an appearance.

It takes about a minute to fully appreciate a sip of this beer, from smelling it until the aftertaste fades.

Best enjoyed on the couch with a good movie and a beautiful wife. Preferably your own.