Monday, August 31, 2009

Eggs Benedict: Bacon Grease and the Brunch of Champions

We decided to mix things up a bit last week by doing a brunch instead of a lunch. Mike wanted to get things moving because he would spending the rest of the day with his father, ripping up the old damp floor boards in one room his new basement (which, he reports, he hopes to convert into a walk-in cooler once it is waterproofed). Indeed, it served as the final such Sunday farmer’s market meal in the old apartment. We hope to reorient ourselves to the Takoma Park farmer’s market and the bounty of fall fruits and vegetables in the next few weeks.

The idea this week was a riff on a brunch staple: Eggs Benedict. We opted to go all-American, though, replacing the traditional English muffin and Canadian bacon with a local whole wheat bread (a think loaf with a cross-hatched top whose label read: Multigrain Bruschetta) and some thick-sliced bacon. We also slipped in some homegrown tomatoes for a bit of bright contrast. And, just for Dan, we made a batch of creamy, heartstoppingly rich Hollandaise sauce.

Farmer's Market Booty
Multigrain Bruschetta (Bonaparte Breads)
Farm Fresh Eggs

Pantry Staples
Black Pepper
Distilled Vinegar

Bacon grease is your friend. And here’s why…
To get started, we fried the bacon, three thick slices from Niman Ranch (which Mike had left over from the previous week’s tarte flambée). Once the bacon was crispy, we used the drippings to fry two Texas-Toast-thick slices of the multigrain bruschetta (Is there anything that isn't improved by some bacon drippings? Mike says beer, but notes that Brooklyn Brewery is nonetheless putting out a bacon flavored barleywine shortly… I refuse to be the guinea pig for that one!). Once the bread got a little color we moved it to the toaster oven, on low heat, to get it out of the way.

With the pan vacant we cut thick slices of a couple tomatoes, freshly picked that morning from the planters on my back porch, and added them with a little olive oil to the pan (sadly, the bread soaked up a lot of the bacon grease while pan-toasting). The tomatoes are an heirloom variety that never gets past a reddish-pink, but they are very solid and sweet.

I bought the tomato plants as four seedlings at the beginning of the summer when I only had $2 to spend at the Adams Morgan farmer’s market. Sadly it took considerably more than that to purchase the necessary potters, soil, stakes, and such, though they have done a great job producing throughout the summer (and thankfully, the planters and dirt can be reused next summer).

Next, on to the poached eggs! I was particularly wary of this step never having poached an egg and worried that every effort would result in protein-clouded water and broken yolks. Hence, Fearless Mike led the way on this one. We filled a non-stick pan with several inches of water and brought it to a boil. We stirred in a tablespoon of distilled vinegar, which lowers the pH and encourages the proteins in the white to set quickly. Once the water was boiling, we turned off the heat, and gently poured the eggs into the pan (this is easiest if you crack them into cups or small bowls first). After 4 minutes with the cover on they were nice and oozy, but not too runny.

Before the poached eggs, we actually started the Hollandaise sauce, the recipe for which we took from Good Eats, which, though it sounded easy enough, caused quite a bit of panic as we worked to time the egg poaching and Hollandaise whisking so that neither was done too soon or late.

For the sauce, you whisk the three egg yolks with a bit of water for as long as it takes for your arm to feel as if it fall off (weakling that I am, this only took about three to four minutes). When the yolks will become light yellow and frothy, add a touch of sugar (the small amount helps to fight curdling by getting between the proteins… though we still ended up with a few tiny yellow dots in ours).

Heat the yolk mixture in a double boiler until it begins to thicken, then slowly add 1.5 sticks of butter whisking constantly. Once all the butter is incorporated into the emulsion, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

Finally Mike assisted in a quick assembly: layering a slice of the toast with bacon, tomato slices, a poached egg, and finally a “drizzle” of the Hollandaise (we really just spooned the stuff on, and it was wonderful).

The meal was delightful and rich, salty from the bacon, and tart form the tomatoes, crunchy bacon-y toast… once the stress over trying to cook five different things at once wore off. The ingredients all played very well together and the rich butter sauce really helped to bring all of the elements together. Our only mistake was starting the toast a bit too early, and placing it in the toaster oven to keep it warm, so it ended up a bit on the dry side (nothing a little dip of Hollandaise couldn't fix, though—shameless!).

In the absence of pie (and in lieu of nutritional content of our meal), we rounded out the hefty meal with a couple of sweet, simple slices of cantaloupe.

To compliment all these elements, we went with a bottle of the Lemon Pepper Single we brewed a few months back. It has really dried out since Mike reviewed it, and the carbonation has come around. The subtle lemon flavor matched well with the Hollandaise and the crispness fended off otherwise rich, fatty flavors.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mo' Betta Bretta Batch #1 Final Tasting

After doing a tasting of my second attempt at cloning Mo' Betta Bretta, I thought it was time to do a tasting of my first attempt (the recipe was the first post on this blog). The first and second batches were very similar, the only major changes were the strain of Brett (Brett C for batch #1, and Brett A for batch #2), and the way the acid/sauer malt was added (to the main mash at the start of the sparge for batch #1, separately for batch #2).

After how oxidized the second batch tasting was I didn't have high hopes for this one, but it pulled through. One of the two recipe changes (or another uncontrolled process variable) was the flap of the butterfly's wings that sent these two batches in completely different directions over their two years in the bottle. There is always a bit of luck involved in brewing, particularly in 100% Brett beers, and this is just one of those times when things worked out.

Sadly I don't have any of the first batch's dried cherry Pinot noir portion left to sample (most of it was sent out for the BBB 100% Brett swap).

Mo' Betta Bretta Clone Batch #1 - Tasting 8/21/09

Appearance - Brilliantly clear golden with a thin white head. The carbonation keeps the head inflated, but it is not as voluminous as it was in the beer's youth. It took some time to clear, but this is a beautiful beer now.

Aroma - Terrific stone fruit aroma (peaches and apricot in particular). This would make a great base for a fruit beer with one of those. Luckily no sign of the oxidation that plagued the considerably younger bottle of Batch #2 I had a few weeks back. There is some musty/barnyard funk that this batch has always had, but it is just a subtle complexity compared to what it was when the beer only had a couple months in the bottle.

Taste - The flavor is very nice, lightly tart and crisp. The apricot carries over from the nose and is joined by some cherry. The flavor is just a bit sweeter than I recall, by now basically all of the bitterness has faded. A well rounded flavor that gets funkier as it warms (but never unpleasantly so). No malt character and just a slight breadiness from the malt.

Mouthfeel - The carbonation gives it some lightness, but the beer still has a medium body (probably from the oats). I remember it feeling a bit lighter in the past, but it is fine as is.

Drinkability/Notes - It was no chore to down the entire bomber on a warm evening. The combination of complexity and drinkability makes this an excellent beer. Maybe a bit past its prime, but still in very good shape considering that it is a pale, moderate gravity beer that was brewed 30 months ago. I had forgotten how good these 100% Brett beers can be, I'll have to do another run of them sometime soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


On a schedule of alternating weeks, last Sunday was Mike's turn to decide what we would make for lunch. Chicken-Under-a-Brick is essentially butterflied chicken, pan roasted under something heavy so as to encourage a deep, crisp browning on the skin. A much quicker mode of cooking than, say, roasting a whole chicken, the butterfly cut levels out the flesh to cook evenly and quickly. Accompanied with a simple salad and some roasted roots, this Sunday's lunch was comforting and filling without being too heavy for the summer heat.

Farmer's Market Booty:
One Whole Chicken
Tomatoes (a rainbow of heirlooms)
Fresh Garlic (distinct in intensity and flavor from the kind with dried outer layers)

From the Pantry/Refrigerator:
Black Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
Kosher Salt
Turbinado Sugar
Olive Oil

If you have some extra time you can brine the chicken for an hour (which we did). The chicken was submerged in a solution of 1/4 cup of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar dissolved into 2 quarts of water. This process both seasons the meat and allows it to retain more moisture over the course of cooking leading to juicer meat. If you want to flavor the meat you could certainly add some crushed garlic, herbs, or spices to the brine as well, but with such a high quality free range chicken it didn't seem worth it.

For Mike to prepare the chicken, Audrey had the pleasure of witnessing the sickening crunch of bones and spine removal a la Mortal Kombat (nerd alert: it was a Deadly Fatality!). Butterflying a chicken can be intimidating, but is actually a pretty simple procedure once you have done it a couple times. First cut out the backbone (this can be done either with a knife or kitchen sheers), then flip the bird over and apply pressure to the breast to flatten it (enter sickening crunch here). Finally flip it back over and make a shallow incision in the membrane that covers the keel bone that separates the breasts, and leaver it out with your finger. Such butterflying as this makes for much faster cooking as well as easy serving at the table.

Butterfly chicken can also be grilled outside, but in the heat of mid-August (and living in an apartment), we opted to stay indoors and make good use of the stove and oven. Dry the skin, then lay the entire chicken down in a lightly greased pan (we used cast-iron, but anything oven-proof would work) and set either two foil-wrapped bricks, or (as we did) a heavy cast-iron dutch oven, lightly greased, directly onto the exposed flesh. The pressure helps to keep the skin in contact with the pan, increasing browning and deliciousness.

After about 5 minutes, we began to smell the familiar waft of frying chicken skin, but we kept it there for a good 15 minutes total before performing an amazing feat of chicken-acrobatics. We moved the chicken onto a plate, drained out most of the grease from the pan, laid down the potatoes and carrots (any root vegetable could work here as well), and replaced the chicken, skin side up this time, on top of those (no need to replace the dutch oven/bricks this time as it goes into the oven which was preheated to 450 degrees).

Brush with a simple mixture of lemon/olive oil/garlic/red pepper flakes/black pepper. The brined bird will give up some salty liquid, so you may want to hold back on seasoning the vegetables until after they are cooked (in our case they needed a bit of salt).

Once the chicken hits ~150, go ahead and remove it from the oven and let it rest on a cutting board or plate. In our case, the chicken seemed to cook a little faster than the roots, so we poured off most of the liquid from the pan, and returned them to the oven until cooked through. To serve, we placed the carrots and potatoes in a bowl and topped the chicken with a good bit of chopped parsley.

While the chicken cooked we made a simple arugula salad, with a basic dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper (pretty similar to what was poured on the chicken). Being late summer, we of course could not leave the tomatoes off the menu, so we just chopped a couple of colorful ones to top of the dressed arugula.

For the beer we went with Mike's Hoppy Brown. The hop character is a bit over the hill now at seven months old, but the lightly roasted malt did a good job matching the roasted flavors in the root vegetables and chicken.

And finally, what is such a hearty meal absent dessert? Well, still pretty good, we assume, but with a good amount of blueberry peach pie leftover from a pretty fantastic potluck the previous night, we helped ourselves to a couple of fat slices.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cherry Doppelbock

I have been a bit lax with my brewing lately, so for this week here is a recipe from my pre-Mad Fermentationist vaults.

Long ago (well not that long ago, but more than a year before I started this blog) I brewed a batch of cherry doppelbock. The idea for the beer was inspired by a nip bottle of Kuhnhenn's Raspberry Eisbock that I got in a trade. It was a beautiful beer, rich, sweet, jammy, and complex.

The base beer for my attempt was based on a Mike McDole Eisbock, and the idea to use cherries was based on a note in Radical Brewing that cherries were popular in German Bocks before the Reinheitsgebot (which among many other things forbade the use of fruit in brewing) enveloped the country.

Since I was adding the cherries in the middle of winter using fresh was not an option. To try to get a balanced fruit character I went with four different forms of cherry: Oregon puree, sour cherry juice, dried cherries caramelized in port, and cherries packed in water (from Trader Joe's). Combined they did a pretty good job giving a balanced cherry character, and the bit of cooked flavor actually worked well with the dark malt.

I waxed the tops of the bottles, it really makes opening a bottle feel like a bigger event. The bottle wax that many homebrew stores sell is the best way to go (1 lb is about enough for 1,000 bottles, so pick a color you really like), don't try to use paraffin as it is very hard to remove if you want to reuse the bottles. Just melt the wax beads in the microwave (in an old coffee mug or something that you won't mind staining) and then just dip the bottle tops into the wax, repeat after it hardens (which should only take a few seconds) for a thicker coating.

Cherryator (Cherry Doppelbock) Tasting 8/16/09

Appearance – Nearly opaque, dark brown, with just a hint of amber when held to the light (surprising not to see much red). The light tan head isn't big, but the retention is great.

Smell – At first I get sweet cherries, but the deep brown-sugary malt quickly takes over. It used to be much more fruit forward in its youth. There is a hint of oxidized malt, but considering this beer is pushing four years old it is in pretty good shape (I really think the cherries' antioxidants helped).

Taste – The slightly tart cherry twang is present balancing the potent sweetness (not to say that it isn't still almost cloyingly sweet). The finish is lightly roasted coffee and caramel (the roast character is not common in German Doppelbocks, I was probably too heavy handed with the Carafa). There is a deep bready/malty character from the Munich malt and to a lesser extent the decoction mash. The alcohol is completely hidden behind the malt/fruit sweetness (FG was ~1.034).

Mouthfeel – Rich and thick, moderate-low carbonation works well with the malt sweetness.

Drinkability & Notes – A great dessert beer, disturbingly easy to drink (even on a hot August evening), it has held up well considering I brewed it in 2005. The only batch that I still have bottles of that is older than this is a double-saison that was brewed in September 2005, but it is not very good (too much dried ginger).


Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 17.33
Anticipated OG: 1.100
Anticipated SRM: 21.8
Anticipated IBU: 23.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

12.00 lbs. Munich Malt
2.00 lbs. Vienna Malt
1.00 lbs. CaraPils
1.00 lbs. Flaked Soft White Wheat
1.00 lbs. Rye Malt
0.33 lbs. Carafa

1.50 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfruh @ First Wort Hop
0.25 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfruh @ 85 min.
0.50 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfruh @ 10 min.

8.00 Oz Cherries Caramelized in port
32.00 Oz Sour Cherry Juice
3.00 Lbs Oregon Cherry Puree
12 oz Cherries Packed in Water

WYeast 2206 Bavarian Lager

Mash Schedule
Dough In 20 min @ 95
Protein Rest 120 min @ 122 (Infusion)
Sacc Rest 75 min @ 152 (Decoction)
Mash Out 15 min @ 167 (Decoction)

Brewed 11/5/05 OG 1.100, 1/2 lbs rice hulls stirred in at mashout. 8 oz dried sour cherries boiled with Port in a frying pan until almost dry then added at flameout. Wort cooled to 55 then pitched with a decanted 5 qrt starter.

12/2/05 Ramped up to room temp (~65) for a diacetyl rest.

12/6/05 1.040, transferred onto the rest of the cherries (1 can Oregon puree and 1 can TJ's cherries in water and the sour cherry juice).

1/2/06 1.039, racked off cherries to lager

Slow 2 week drop to 30 degrees

4/7/06 1.034, and pretty tasty

4/23/06 Bottled with a fresh pack of 2206 and 2 1/8 oz of corn sugar.

5/7/06 Minimal carbonation, moved to furnace room and agitated to get yeast moving.

5/22/06 Fully carbonated, cherries taste processed. Solid, but not much complexity apparent. Beer moved to fridge for further conditioning.

8/6/06 Cherry flavor has mellowed and improved, turned out to be a very tasty beer. Over time a mild sourness from the cherries emerged which is a nice counterpoint to the thick sweet malt.

Next Time: Fresh cherries (mix of sweet and sour). Simpler grainbill, drop the carapils and rye. Decoction may not be necessary because the cherries prevent the malt from really being showcased. Drop the last hop addition (no hop aroma after long aging).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Salad Farm-oise

For once, I had a solid idea in mind of the meal we would make before we arrived at the Dupont Farmer's Market last Sunday. I kept toying with the words "niçoise" and "salad," suggesting the outlandish twist of sausage in place of tuna (!), and "who has time for those fancy olives... and capers... and anchovies, anyway?" Mike insisted that this salad creation of mine, while perhaps loosely inspired by the original, was not in fact anything like a real Salade Niçoise.

In the end, we built a sound "niçoisienne" base of little gem lettuce (the diminutive bibb lettuce-wannabe of the Romaine fam), green beans, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, and a tangy, herby, slightly creamy vinaigrette. Atop we laid perfectly tender, juicy medallions of marinated, pan-seared pork tenderloin. And, though we don't by any means usually adhere to the schedule of a proper meal, the prospect of some bruschetta-type pre-salad course was too tempting to ignore. We "toasted" a few slices of French baguette (I use "toast" here because we may very well have used enough olive oil to technically be frying said slices) to act as spongy seats for our chopped tomatoes, garlic, and basil ("bruschetta" here loosely defined).

Now, les details. Below are two lists of food; the first containing those items we purchased at the market (not all, just those relevant to this meal), and the second, those items which we already owned and used at some point in the preparation of... LUNCH!

Farmer's Market Booty:
Potatoes - small, yellowy flesh, and with a reddish skin
Tomatoes - one pint of red-yellow mixed cherry tomatoes; two small black princes and two green zebras (at least I'm pretty sure that was the variety)
Green Beans - one pint of what seemed to be slightly more mature beans (or maybe some rogue variety, unfortunately I didn't get the name), which I didn't notice entirely until I got them home
French Baguette - from Bonaparte Breads, who thankfully make the trek to Dupont (and other markets) every week with the finest bread in all the land, pastries, and countless stacks of other buttery wonders. Seriously, for your own good, check these people out
Pork Tenderloin - About a half-pound strip of lean pork tenderloin, suggested by the nice man behind the table in lieu of my sausage idea (which would admittedly have overpowered the subtle flavors of the other ingredients)
Little Gem Lettuce - smooth, inoffensive, and buttery

Pantry/Fridge Staples and Such:
Olive Oil, Garlic, Shallot, Mayonnaise, Kosher Salt, Pepper, Dried Thyme, Basil (fresh and dried), Dried Tarragon, Sherry Vinegar, Coarse Brown Mustard, Eggs

While the ingredients for the bruschetta and the salad were prepared alongside each other until the very end (we ate the bruschetta while waiting for the tenderloin to cook and rest), for clarity's sake, I'll explain the basic procedure followed for each as a whole on its own, rather than what I did in chronological order (I was all over the place, but it worked!). For the bruschetta, I waited to cut the bread (on a hard bias, so as to increase the slice surface area) until I was ready to put it in the pan. Though it probably wouldn't reduce it to crouton staleness, you never know what might happen (meteor, dance party, tenderloin crisis, and so on) and before you know it, the bread's been sitting out for two hours. Given the quality of this baguette, though, it would probably take a lot more than an extra hour sitting out to come anywhere close to staling it out.

Now, the tomatoes = super easy. Everyone's definition of "bite size" is different, but I cut about half the pint of cherry tomatoes and my four other heirlooms into such approximate size into a colander resting on a plate (or bowl, or in the sink--just something to catch the liquid at the tomatoes drain). If you like the extra juice, no need to salt your tomatoes, but for our taste, mixing about a teaspoon of kosher salt into the cut tomatoes did a great job of pulling out the excess liquid and concentrating the sweet, rich flavor.

Once the tomatoes had rested with the salt about a half an hour, I got rid of the liquid (down the sink or down the hatch, whatever you please), and added 1-2 finely minced cloves of garlic, another small pinch of salt (you might want to taste a tomato first to determine the need), a couple grinds of the pepper mill (again, to taste, it's up to you), about a tablespoon of olive oil (not too much, since it's really best served as a toasting agent for the bread) and let it all sit and get happy in a bowl. I waited until just before serving the add the basil chiffonade so it wouldn't darken.

And of course, the bread. Some people might prefer to skip the liberal application of olive oil which aids so well in the pan-toasting process, but not us, not this time, being Sunday lunch and all. All it takes is a simple nonstick pan atop medium-heat, and a patient little wait of maybe 5 minutes on each side (no real timing magic here, we just constantly lifted the slices to check the progress until we were satisfied with the rich golden brown color).

As the toasts became ready, we placed them on a plate, and atop them, the garlicky-basiled tomatoes. It would nearly have sufficed as an entire lunch in itself...

...If it weren't for the amazing pork tenderloin that had been marinating for over an hour in olive oil, garlic (two crushed cloves), salt, pepper, dried basil, tarragon, and thyme. The photo may be a bit difficult to make out, but beneath the looming specter of olive oil, on the counter are the dried herbs and tenderloin.

While the tenderloin marinated in the fridge, the rest of the salad preparation was quite simple (if not mildly sweltering with all the boiling and no AC, though it's amazing the discomfort your brain ignores when it's in the cooking zone... but maybe that's just me). In no particular order, we: boiled eggs; boiled (in salted water) and then quartered potatoes (for fear they might get waterlogged if we cut before boiling); steamed green beans; and washed and tore up the lettuce. It should be noted that to none of this did we add salt, except for about two teaspoons to the water in which we boiled the potatoes and green beans. Given the delicate and fresh flavors of the salad components, and the distinct zip of the dressing, we thought it best to let them shine as themselves while also acting as complimentary vehicles for the subtle, succulent tenderloin.

The tenderloin! Not much to it after the marinade, really. We fired up the cast iron skillet nice and hot to get a good sear on the outside, making sure to remove any big pieces of garlic or herbs beforehand, and let it cook on all four sides for maybe 5 minute each. As you can see in the photo, we settled on only cooking the meat to medium/medium-well (around 140 degrees F), and it was well worth the risk (so far...? anyone know how long trichinosis takes to show up?). Be sure to let the meat rest for about 5 minutes after removing it from the heat before cutting it, as well, as it gives the juices a chance to cool down and settle, magically keeping them from running out all over the place, and resulting in disappointingly dry meat.

For such a simple, lean piece of meat marinated in a really uncomplicated mixture (believe me, if I can make it up, it's not that difficult), the final product kind of knocked my socks off and was almost delicate enough to match the service tuna normally pays to a Salade Niçoise.

Next-to-last step was to mix up a vinaigrette containing sherry vinegar, a tiny amount of (real) mayonnaise for a little creaminess, coarse brown mustard, kosher salt, pepper, chopped basil, and olive oil. The trick, it seems, to a decent vinaigrette is saving the oil component to be whisked in, very slowly, until last. At that, if you've not added any real emulsifying components to the vinegar (mustard, egg yolk, etc.), making it essentially water, the oil droplets are going to quickly coalesce at the top. Additionally, though it may seem counterintuitive to add salt to such a strongly flavored component of the dish, believe me, it's one of those things that you'll miss if it's not there.

Finally, we placed all the ingredients together on our plates -- lettuce in the middle, green beans sprinkled on top, eggs and potatoes each lining one side, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and the tenderloin medallions down the middle.

Beer Pairing:
Mike chose Orchard White, a dainty wheat beer from the Bruery folks that has only recently become available in the DC area, and supposedly with smacks of lavender, though we only got a pleasantly faint waft here and there. Mike adds: The firm carbonation and light character did a good job keeping our palettes fresh between the different components of the salad. It was delicate enough not to trample on the greens or the eggs, but still had enough herbal complexity to match with the pork (although probably not as well as something a bit of darker malt would have). The Bruery is one of the most interesting breweries to open in the last couple years. Most of their beers are delicious Belgian inspired brews (I am particularly fond of the Saison De Lente). The only knock on them is that their quality control still has room for improvement; I had a badly infected bottle of Black Orchard a few weeks back.

I hope you all enjoyed my first actual post. This is very much a process in progress, so please don't hesitate to let me know what you think can be added or improved for future posts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fruited Sour Beers

Despite not doing much actual summertime brewing, this time of year my thoughts always turn to adding fruit to aging sour beers. I love the way the acidity of the beer brings out the fruit character in a way that no other base beer can. Here is a brief update on a few of my fruited sours.

Today I added 5 lbs of (sliced and lightly mashed) white peaches from the farmer's market to about 2 gallons of my Honey-Wheat sour. Originally I was planning on adding some flowers to that batch before bottling, but after waiting 6 months I decided fresh peaches sounded like a much better idea (it is hard to say "no" to beautiful fresh fruit). I have always heard that peaches don't work great in beer, but having tried the delicious Festina Lente from Dogfish Head and the tasty Eric's Ale from New Belgium (and hearing my friend Dyan rave about Lost Abbey's Yellow Bus) I just had to give it a try for myself.

Half of my Lambic 2.0 from last summer has been sitting on a combo of dark cherries and raspberries for the last month or so. I racked the 2.5 gallons of beer onto 18 oz of raspberries and 2 lbs of cherries which had been frozen for about 24 hours. I am hoping that the fruit's acidity and the renewed fermentation from the sugar add a bit more tang since the base beer doesn't have quite enough sourness for my taste. I will be aiming to bottle that one in a couple months depending on how it is tasting and if the gravity drops back down close to 1.000.

Over the weekend I bottled my Cabernet spiked Berliner Weiss. Hopefully it carbonates soon because that is exactly what I should be drinking now that it finally feels like summer here in DC. The beer was a nice deep cranberry-red in the fermenter, but looks decidedly more pale in the sample tube.

I also have 5 lbs of sour cherries vaccu-packed in my freezer. Some of them will go into a portion of the Wine Barrel Flanders Red that should be ready to go in a couple months, and I am thinking about doing another version of my Cuvee Tomme clone in the fall.

I am about to buy a house, so my brewing/posting may not be on quite the pace after the closing later this month. That said, once I get settled in I finally have a yard (plus a basement and a garage), so I'll be brewing outside, and have more room for aging beers, cheese, charcuterie, and other fun projects.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How often do you cook with beer?

1% Daily

14% Weekly

51% Monthly

32% Never

Glad to see most people cook with beer occasionally. There are plenty of (relatively) standard dishes that call for beer out there, beer breads, beer batters, beer stews etc… That said I often use beer in small quantities where many other people would use wine. For example a Flanders Red does a fantastic job deglazing sautéed onions while adding a bit of acidity, a sweet beer (like a vanilla porter) makes an interesting addition to a zabaglione (thanks Nathan), and a small addition of malty brown ale to a braising liquid adds some sweetness while helping to carry alcohol soluble flavors.

Audrey and I sometimes incorporate beer cooking into our Sunday lunches (in addition to the beer pairings), but it won’t necessarily be a weekly fixture.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lambic 3 - Turbid Mash

Normally summer brewing isn't my thing, but brewing outside on a cool June day at my parents' house in Massachusetts is a completely different experience from brewing in my sweltering DC apartment. This year's batch makes it three summers in a row I have brewed a lambic on my summer vacation. I enjoyed the last two brewdays so much that this year I decided to extend it by making my first attempt at a traditional turbid mash schedule.

The basic idea of a turbid mash is to draw off some of the wort during the mash, holding it hot before adding it back to reach the mash out. This liquid (because it is drawn off early and held too hot for the enzymes to work) still has starches and other complex molecules that are usually broken down before the end of the mash. These molecules are part of the reason that a traditionally made lambic takes several years to ferment as wave after wave of microbes slowly tear apart the large molecules (creating sourness and complexity as byproducts of their effort).

I was surprised that the mash regimen, while labor intensive, did not take THAT much longer than the Wyeast (cereal) lambic mash I had used for my previous two batches of lambic (probably just over 2 hours from dough-in to sparge). What I did not expect was the big drop in efficiency I experienced. The previous batches each hit 90%+ owing to the hot sparge and long boil (which allows for extra runnings to be collected). While this mash had a similar sparge and boil the starches were not fully gelatinized. Despite the fact that turbid mash is that it calls for raw (ungelatinize) wheat, you do not boil or otherwise swell/burst the starch granules during the process (which would allows the enzymes access to the starch).

For my microbes this year I added a package of Wyeast Roeselare along with a cup of slurry from last year's batch (half of which was bottled with the rest racked onto raspberries and dark cherries). That batch has a great aroma, but is a bit lacking in sourness (most likely due to the high alcohol content).

While the turbid mash didn't take too much longer than a standard mash it did involve many more steps, rests, and twists (what did kill my entire day was the 5.5 hour boil I needed to reduce the 9 gallons of pre-boil wort down to 5). Hopefully the pictures along with each step will help to make it easier to follow than the (similar) text descriptions found in either Wild Brews, and The Cult of the Biohazard Lambic Brewers.

A Pictorial Turbid Mash

The 5 gallon mash tun, empty at the start of the day.

My big kettle started with the entire (milled) grist, 5.25 lbs of German pils and 2.75 lbs of raw hard winter wheat (a softer wheat would probably be ideal, but I couldn't find any raw).

The small kettle got spring water, heated up to 144 F. The instructions I was following called for a total of 4 gallons of water for the mash, but I started with more to account for any evaporation or adjustments to the mash temperature (which came in handy).

First 2.5 qrts of the 144 F water was mixed into the grain, to get the mash to 113 F. This is a very low water to grain ratio (.3 qrts/lb), so there was not much free liquor. Grain holds onto about .4 qrts/lb at the end of the mash, so really this step just gets the grain damp (basically no free liquid).

I mixed the water and grain together in my big kettle before transferring it into the mash tun to ensure it was thoroughly wet (the manifold in my mash tun can get in the way).

The water in the kettle was then heated to a boil and held there for the rest of the infusions.

After letting the mash rest for 20 minutes I added 4 qrts of boiling water to it to get it up to 136 F.

After 5 minutes I pulled 1 qrt of wort from the mash using the spigot (I did a brief vorlauf to remove any large chunks of grain). The 1 qrt of "turbid" wort was heated to 176 F in the big kettle to halt any enzymatic action.

Right after pulling the 1 qrt of wort I added 6 qrts of the boiling liquid to get the mash up to 150 F.

After 30 minutes I pulled 4 more quarts of wort from the mash (through the spigot again) and combined it with the wort I had pulled earlier in big kettle. I put the pot back on the heat to get it back up to 176 F.

Right after pulling the second portion of turbid wort, I added another 5 qrts of boiling water to get the mash up to 162 F.

With the final infusion complete I topped the small kettle back up, and cranked the heat to get the water up to 185 F for the sparge.

Finally I added all of the 176 F starchy wort from the big kettle to get the main mash up to 165 F (167 F was the target, but it took me more water than called for to hit my mash temps). This is hot enough that the enzymes should not work on the starches added back to the mash (preserving them for the fermentation). After about 10 minutes I then started the vorlauf (I used a piece of aluminum foil with holes poked in it to prevent the grain bed from being disturbed).

After 10 minutes recirculating the wort I started the sparge, draining from the mash tun into the big kettle, with the mash water staying hot on the turkey fryer.

90 minutes later, with the sparge complete and ~9 gallons of 1.024 runnings collected I put the big kettle on the burner and put the spurs to it. It still took about an hour to get the wort to a boil due to the large volume and underpowered burner.

I had picked out some Hallertau Selects because they had such low AA% (1.5 when they were fresh), perfect for this brew since I have been too lazy to age any hops.

I added the hops just as the boil was starting.

Even with the large volume of very hot sparge water my efficiency wasn't great and it took .5 lbs of light dry malt extract to get me up to my target OG of 1.048. Assuming the same efficiency (74%) 5.75 lbs of pils and 3 lbs of wheat would have gotten me there (along with 10% more water at each step of the mash). With the 5.5 hour boil completed, the wort chilled to 68 with my immersion chiller, and the hops strained out, I drained the wort into a 6 gallon Better Bottle.

Once the transfer was complete I pitched a pack of Wyeast's Roeselare Blend along with a cup of slurry from last summer's lambic. Fermentation took off quickly, and after a few days added 1 oz of house toast Hungarian oak which I had boiled in water for 30 minutes to reduce the tannins.

I'll figure out if all the work was worth it when I try the beer next summer.

Lambic 3.0

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.50
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated SRM: 3.5
Anticipated IBU: 12.9
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74 %
Wort Boil Time: 330 Minutes

5.25 lbs. German Pilsener
2.75 lbs. White Wheat
0.50 lbs. Muntons DME - Light

3.00 oz. Hallertauer Select @ 330 min.

1.00 Oz House Toast Hungarian Oak Cubes

WYeast 3763 Roeselare Yeast + Slurry (Wyeast Lambic Blend, Russian River Chips, 3F Gueuze)

Water Profile
Spring Water

Mash Schedule
Turbid Mash - See description

Brewed 6/29/09 By myself

Raw hard winter wheat from Whole Foods used in the mash. Bottled spring water used with no adjustments. Traditional turbid mash employed.

Collected ~9 gallons of 1.024 runnings. Super long boil because it just simmered for the first hour or two on my turkey fryer. Added 1.5% AA poly bag stored hops at the start of the boil. Added DME to compensate for lower than expected extraction near the end.

Chilled to around 68 then pitched most of a pack of Roeselare and about a cup of slurry from lambic 2.0. Fermentation took off quickly in my parent's storage closest which was in the mid-60s ambient. After a few days added 1 oz of house toast Hungarian oak which I had boiled in water for 30 minutes to mellow.

10/14/10 Racked 2 gallons of the beer onto 2 lbs of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

10/15/10 Bottled the remaining 3 gallons with 3.5 oz of table sugar.

3/23/11 Ended up a bit more carbonated than I expected, but the flavors are great (funk, citrus, minerals). Sourness is a bit lacking, but still a great beer.

7/21/12 Bottled the grape portion... finally. 1.5 oz of table sugar and a bit of rehydrated Red Star Premier Cuvée. Sourness has come up a bit, but it is slightly vinegary. Still a bit cloudy, we shall see.

3/19/13 Finally a tasting of the Cabernet sauvignon aged portion. Nice mix of light fruit accented by lemons and funk. Similar to the plain version in that it is close, but not quite there. The flavors don't mesh in a way that works seamlessly.