Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brew Day, Finally! ...Continued

Last week Sunday, after our day of beer festivities, we finally had time set aside to brew our beer! Brian and I packed up our equipment and ingredients and headed out to our parent's house.  We picked their house to brew because of their second kitchen, gas stove, and the shelf space in their cool basement to put the beer to ferment.

We started with the lame part:  cleaning all of the equipment.  Pot, fermenting bucket (from our equipment kit), spoons, etc.  We also had to sanitize all of the equipment that would be touching the beer after it was brewed; this is to prevent bacteria from contaminating the beer.  Next, we filled up our pot and turned up the heat!  We followed directions in the book How to Brew by John Palmer and the instructions included with the Plain American Ale kit from Midwest Supplies.  Both were very similar, but had some variances; it's just different opinions on how to brew.

If you browse any homebrewing site, forum, blog, you'll hear that the best book to use is John Palmer's How to Brew.  Palmer starts the book by explaining what you need to begin brewing and the basics to get your first batch of beer brewed.  From there he expands on each area of the brewing process, explaining the "how"s and "why"s of brewing.  Once you browse through it for the first time, you'll understand why people call it the "Brewer's Bible".  What's even better is that Palmer offers the first edition of his book for FREE on his website!

Since this was our first homebrewing experience we decided to stick with a kit that just had malt extracts; no specialty malts/grains that require steeping and a longer brew time.  While some think that only using malt extract to brew is taking a "shortcut", it's the best way for someone to start.  Brewing with malt extract vs. partial grain vs. all-grain could be viewed like someone making spaghetti:  using malt extract would constitute a person boiling some store-bought noodles and pouring a jar of Ragu over it while brewing with all-grain would constitute a person buying the tomatoes, herbs, and spices, cooking their own sauce, and making their own pasta.  Both ways give you spaghetti, but one way is simpler while the other way makes it your own unique creation.

One problem we had during the brew process is that we never did get the water or the wort (as Palmer puts it, "Wort is what brewers call the sweet, amber liquid extracted from malted barley that the yeast will later ferment into beer.") up to a full boil.  From what Brian read on the Internet, this seems to be a common occurrence for homebrewers that use stovetops.  This is why many use outdoor propane burners (such as this one) to get the wort up to the correct temperature.  Next time we brew, Sean better be supplying his propane burner!

Once we finished brewing we cooled the wort in an ice bath and added the yeast.  Cooling the wort to 80º F (and cooler) as fast as you can is important in order to minimize the risk of contamination.  A side project we'll be doing is building our own "wort chiller".  Wort chillers are used to speed up the cooling process.  This is done by sticking the wort chiller into the wort and running cold water through the ~25' (or more) of metal piping.  The heat transfers into the water and is expelled out the other end of the chiller and down the drain.  Using a wort chiller can cool the wort in about 15 minutes!

Next we added the yeast to the wort, threw the wort into the fermenter, put the lid on, and brought it down to the basement.  Once there, we filled the airlock up with vodka (the other two options are sanitizer solution or boiled water) and put the airlock on the lid.  This is where we ran into our second problem.  We learned the hard way that you want to attach the airlock to the lid BEFORE you put the lid on the bucket.  When we pushed the airlock down it forced air out of the bucket and through the airlock.  When the lid lifted back up slightly, it created suction which sucked some of the vodka into the bucket.  Thankfully it was just vodka and not sanitizer; all the vodka is going to do is increase the ABV of the beer where sanitizer could kill some of the yeast.  Either way, after a few minutes pressure built back up and the airlock started bubbling!

We left the fermenter alone for a week and came back this past Sunday with a 5 gallon glass carboy to transfer the beer into secondary fermentation.  We ran into a few problems getting our siphon to start, despite my constant practicing the week before.  Because of that we're either going to invest in an auto-siphon (which makes siphoning a lot easier) or perform primary fermentation of our next batch in our bottling bucket which has a spigot on the bottom (suggested here).

Next week we're going to take some gravity readings to see if fermentation has finished and then bottle our beer.  Just a few more weeks until we can finally enjoy our malty creation!

TL;DR:  We made beer.

List of equipment we purchased:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Brew Day, Finally!

Here are some pictures of our first brew day this past Sunday.  I'll let Eric explain exactly how we went about brew day and what we'll be doing different for our next beer.  Enjoy!

Eric starting the cleaning/sanitizing process

Smelled so good I wanted to taste it!

My nephew Avery wanted to help brew!

Cooking the wort

Cooling and checking temps on the wort

Getting the yeast ready

Bringing the fermentor to its resting place for the next few weeks

Vodka for the airlock

There she is...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Oktoberfest beers are here!  My favorite time of year.  Breweries come out with an array of seasonal beers this time of year including; Oktoberfests, porters, pumpkin ales, etc..  my favorites are pumpkin ales.  They tend to have a distinct taste of pumpkin pie... With alcohol!

I'll be reviewing a few different pumpkin ales, but the first one is the Arcadia Ales Jaw-Jacker Pumpkin Spice Ale.  Now this is only a "pumpkin spice" beer, it's not made with any pumpkin.  However it is still a delicious beer.  If you're wanting the flavor of a pumpkin beer, but don't want the heaviness and sometimes sweetness that comes with it, this may be your beer.  It has a nice orange-amber color when poured and has a sort of tartness along with the spices.  Overall, it's a good change from a typical pumpkin ale (and definitely more drinkable) but if you're in the mood for a pumpkin beer, you better buy a pumpkin beer...

Monday, September 17, 2012

HOP in the City Festival

This past Saturday, Schlafly hosted their 14th annual "HOP in the City" beer festival.  Located at the Schalfly Tap Room in Downtown St. Louis, the 5 hour festival featured live music, food, and of course, beer.

If you were one of the lucky ticket holders, you were granted access to unlimited samplings of ~40 different types of beer brewed by Schlafly.  The variety included just about any type of beer you can think of (and some you can't).  Some of the more popular beers were the Chocolate Stout, New Zealand IPA, and Vanilla Milk Stout (which ran out while we were there).  Every year Schlafly has a "festival beer" with this year being their Pumpkin Stout.

Round of Vanilla Milk Stout
Two beers which I thought were unique were the Nitro Stout and the Smoked Porter.  The Nitro Stout is artificially nitrogenated which leads to a head with very fine bubbles.  The Smoked Porter was my least favorite beer of all of them that I tried.  The smokiness gave it a flavor similar to something you would put on a wound to clean it.

My three favorite beers from the festival were the Dry-Hopped Märzen, Oktoberfest (which I've bought a few six packs of already), and the Vanilla Milk Stout.  The Dry-Hopped Märzen had a sweet fruity flavor to it, the Oktoberfest had a nice maltly flavor, and the Vanilla Milk Stout had a unique sweetness to it given off by the lactose.

Brian tossing the cornhole
After the festival, we went further downtown and had some pizza at Pi Pizzeria.  Pi has some of the most delicious pizza I've ever eaten.  I washed mine down with a Schlafly Common (brewed exclusively for Pi) and finished the meal with some Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Pudding that I shared with everyone.  All-in-all, it was a great day filled with beer, food, and friends!

Pizza Pi
Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Pudding
Finishing the pudding

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Soup and Sandwiches

Our high temperature yesterday was about 70 degrees; time for soup and sandwiches!  Now everyone loves Campbells Tomato soup with an American cheese sandwich.  Well I'm gonna take the soup and sandwich a few steps further and make a delicious black bean soup with a hearty grilled chicken, apple, and smoked gruyère cheese sandwich.  Be sure while you're making these recipes that you keep a good pumpkin beer next to you while you're cooking (all of the Oktoberfest beers are out finally!  YAY!).  Start cooking the soup first because you can let that sit on low heat for hours if needed:

Smoked Black Bean Soup
2 chopped butcher cut slices of smoked bacon
1 small chopped onion
1 minced garlic clove
1 15oz can of chicken broth
1 15oz can of black beans drained & rinsed
1 1/2 Tbsp of tomato paste
1 minced hot pepper (jalapeno, hot chili, etc.)
2 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste
freshly grated smoked cheddar cheese for garnish

What's better than the smell of cooked bacon?!
In a medium to large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until cooked/crunchy.  Then add onion and garlic to bacon and grease (do not drain the bacon; why would you do that?!) until onion is tender. Add black beans, broth, tomato paste, and hot pepper and bring to a boil over medium high heat, then simmer for 25 minutes.  Then take about 75% of the soup and put in in a blender and blend until smooth or until you get the consistency you want (start off slow so that soup doesn't fly everywhere!).  Add back to original pot and add salt, pepper, and paprika.  Pour into a coffee mug and top off with some smoked cheddar! (2-3 servings)

Grilled Chicken and Apple Cheese Sandwich
(makes 3 sandwiches)

3 thinly cut chicken breasts
1 granny smith apple, cored and cut into thin slices
gruyère cheese sliced
your choice of bread.  I used marble rye.
salt, pepper, and smoked paprika
soft butter for the bread

Season the chicken breast with the salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and drizzle EVOO on top.  Set on a medium to medium-high grill for about 5 minutes and turn.  When you turn the chicken, set the apple on the grill and keep a fairly close eye on them (they can burn and dry out easily).  When the chicken and apples are cooked (about 5-7 more minutes), place the buttered bread (butter side down of course) on the hot grill and assemble your sandwich with the gruyère cheese.  Grill each side for about 6 minutes, but be careful that the bread doesn't stick to the grills.  Then enjoy with your black bean soup!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Drink More Beer Because it's Good for You!

College kids give beer a bad name.  They drink it to get drunk and nothing more; and that's what most people believe the only thing beer is good for.  WRONG!  Here are a few health benefits of moderate beer consumption according to the Mayo Clinic:
    • Reduce your risk of developing heart disease  
    • Reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack  
    • Possibly reduce your risk of strokes, particularly ischemic strokes  
    • Lower your risk of gallstones  
    • Possibly reduce your risk of diabetes  

     Also, according to a Fox News article, the hops in beer contains "polyphenols" which help lower cholesterol, kill viruses, and fight cancer!  Of course light beer such as Bud Light, Miller Lite, or Coors Light will not benefit you as much as dark beer will because dark beer uses more of all the ingredients that are beneficial to your health.

    You may be asking yourself (like I was), what is "moderate alcohol consumption"?  Again according to the Mayo Clinic, the guidelines for moderate alcohol use for men are up to two 12 ounce beers a day and for women up to one 12 ounce beer a day.  So for those friends and family that think I'm an alcoholic for drinking one or two beers a day, I just proved to you that I actually may be healthier than you are!  So suck on that!  Drink up!

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Local Brew & Food

    One of the best places to eat great food and drink tasty beer in mid-Missouri is in Columbia at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing  .  The atmosphere is up beat, and there's a great patio to sit at during a sunny summer day! Eric and I went there this past weekend and enjoyed several beers.  My first beer was a Baltic Rye Porter; a meal in its self!  And Eric decided on a Wheat IPA.  However, if it's your first time at Flat Branch, I suggest you try their signature Green Chili Beer.  They describe it as...

     "...the chili-heads favorite brew. A mild base beer is spiced up with Anaheim and Serrano peppers. This beer has a wonderful green chili aroma and a touch of heat in the finish. Have it with tomato juice as a “liquid enchilada”.

    To go with Eric's Wheat IPA he ordered the Cheddar Bratwurst and Kraut.  A great item to have on a pub menu!  It comes with this amazing, hearty Beer Mustard that would be a good dipping sauce for virtually anything.  After dinner, we both brought home growlers of beer.  I brought back the Oil Change Oatmeal Stout.  It is as black as diesel oil!

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    Cooking with alcohol

    PBR isn't just for drinking.  I used this good American lager as a base to marinade my chicken quarters.  To me I believe PBR has a more full flavor than other common American lagers; and best of all it's cheap!  And to go along with the chicken I made rum glazed sweet potatoes.  I used a strong, sweet, dark rum to add some bold flavors to these chard potatoes.  The Kraken!  it doesn't just taste good with a cola.  Not sure if these are the right measurements for this recipe because the PBR I was drinking got the best of me...

    PBR marinade

    4 Chicken quarters
    1/2 12oz can PBR
    1/4 cup EVOO
    4 garlic cloves
    1/2 lime juice
    4 super chili peppers (from my garden)
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    3 tbs honey
    1 tbs cumin
    salt & pepper to taste

    Add all that together in a blender and let the chicken marinade for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

    Kraken sweet glaze
    2 sweet potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    1 cup Kraken dark rum plus 1 tbs
    1/2 cup dark brown sugar
    1/2 stick butter cut into pieces for fast melting
    1/4 cup honey

    Boil potatoes for 20 minutes to get them tender.  Add 1 cup rum, brown sugar, and honey to small sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat stirring frequently.  Add butter and keep stirring until melted.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until you no longer smell the alcohol (about 15-20 minutes).  Take off heat and let rest for a few minutes and then add the final tbs of rum.  Take potatoes out of pot and pour about half of glaze over the potatoes and let sit until you're ready to cook.  

    The chicken will take about 30-40 minutes depending on how hot your grill is and the potatoes about 15 minutes. I used indirect heat for the chicken and direct heat for the potatoes.  I used the left over marinade and the glaze to periodically coat the chicken and potatoes while cooking on the grill.  Be sure to have an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to wash it all down.

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    Must of been a BIG animal

    I work at a grocery store and one of the departments I over see is the liquor department.  Everyday vendors are trying to get me to buy new product from them, and about 85% of the time I don't buy.  However one of them did talk me into buying a Barleywine style Ale.  I've never tried a Barleywine Ale before so i asked my vendor to describe it.  All he said was "it's a BIG beer".  

    It's the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale! Scores high on every beer website I've been to while researching this beer.  This beer backs up it's name (unlike the New Castle Werewolf).  It has a sweet, malty smell; almost smells like it's made with maple syrup.  That sweet smell and flavor gets cut buy a bittersweet hoppiness.  Careful when you drink however, because big flavor usually means high alcohol content (9.6% to be exact).  In my opinion, this is one of the absolute best beers I've had all year!  It's a great beer just in time for the fall.

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    It's what the POTUS ordered!

    Earlier today the White House released their response to the petition requesting the recipe for the White House Honey Ale.  Well, they delivered!  They released their recipes for White House Honey Ale and White House Honey Porter.

    This beer is the first alcohol ever brewed or distilled inside the White House.  The brewing process is started in the White House kitchen.  Chefs brew the beer with honey collected from the South lawn
    and ferment it in the basement.  Once bottled, President Obama shares and enjoys this beer on the campaign trail, at special events, and with distinguished guests.

    As mentioned before, we will take this recipe and brew our own batch of either White House Honey Ale or White House Honey Porter (eventually both!).  Unfortunately, since we don't have access to honey from the South lawn of the White House, it won't be exactly the same, but we'll try.  Of course, we have to begin brewing in the first place, so it may be a little ways down the road.

    Honey Ale and Honey Porter Recipes (PDF):
    Official White House Release: