Monday, November 30, 2009

Build-A-Beer 8 at Fort Street

Sez Doug:

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving and that you've recovered from your tryptophan induced comas! Thanks to all of you who came out on Thanksgiving Eve and helped lend credence to that whole "busiest bar night" thing!

This Thursday, December 3rd we'll release our eighth edition of the sensation that's taken the nation by storm. I'm talking about Build a Beer! You know, the beer made with random ingredients drawn from a hat. This version was crazy, with four of the eight ingredients being yeasts (German lager, English Ale, Belgian Sour, & American ale)! In addition to that, we also drew Pilsner malt, buckwheat, nutmeg, and maple syrup. I'm always a little nervous about how these crazy beers will turn out, and I gotta tell ya, I was really unsure about this one. Much to my relief though, I'm really happy with the end results. I think you will be too! Of course after the tapping we'll draw more ingredients for the next version of Build a Beer, and we'll have some fabulous prizes to give away as well....

...Full post

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Because One Feast Just Ain't Enough

So, with a fridge full of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, assorted vegetables, ice cream, etc, I felt I should spend Friday cooking. Well, low-n-slow cooking; 'twas a full pork shoulder in the barbecue smoker, for 11 hours. Saturday morning found me fork-pulling the meat apart, and whipping up a batch of macaroni and cheese. Once I got out of the way, Mrs. Cicerone stepped back into the kitchen and whipped up a batch of dirty rice. (Cue Homer drooling and moaning...)

The reason for this was real ale. My most recent batch of mild ale had been cask conditioned and tapped on Thanksgiving, and we needed to get some volunteers over to help finish it off. Lemmetellya about this beer: Chestnut colored, tight, creamy head that lasts to the bottom of the glass, gentle fine-bead carbonation. Malt, toffee, whiff of roastiness. Rich, but not sweet. Plus a tiny kiss of Fuggles dry hops. See?

Today, we will relax and eat leftovers....

...Full post

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pulled Pork

What turkey?

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Cicerone Thanksgiving

A beautiful roast turkey with unbelievably rich gravy, and a plethora of side dishes, the product of several days worth of preparation. Many fine beers, and a happy family made for a fine day indeed. A reading from "Warmed By Love", a book of poetry by Leonard Nimoy (Nimoy's a poet??) was the icing on the cake.

TURKEY 18pounds, fresh, acquired at Capital Poultry in Eastern Market. Brined in a simple salt solution for 12 hours. (A lot of) sagey butter smeared under the skin, and in it went, basted frequently with more butter, until the thigh registered 165 degrees. The skin was a rich gold, the dark meat succulent and tasty, and the breast was moist and tasted vaguely of sage. Perfect.

GRAVY A 4 part process. Turkey stock made with turkey wings three days prior. Addition of giblets, and further reduction of stock two days prior when turkey arrived. On the day, heart and neck meat chopped finely and fried until crisp, roux made and cooked until brown, and gravy made with prepared stock. Lastly, defatted pan drippings added to gravy. Oh my.

CRANBERRIES Cooked with dried cherries and an apple. The pectin in the apple allowed the sauce to jell, so I was able to set it into a mold, turn it out, and make it look pretty.

POTATOES Yukon Gold. 8 pounds, peeled and boiled. A looooong hour ricing the whole 8 pounds through a smallish hand food mill. Hot half & half, butter, and salt & white pepper stirred through, and voila! Perfectly creamy delicious potatoes. NOTE: We have family traditionalists who insist on no added ingredients to potatoes, so we were unable to doctor them with roasted garlic, or horseradish, etc. So Mrs Cicerone, on a ridiculous whim, decided to fry half a pound of sliced shallots, a few slices at a time, for an optional garnish. Whew. A ridiculous amount of work ending at midnight two nights before, and a house that really stunk of cooked oil for the next 12 hours. The shallots were not even that good.

STUFFING (It was dressing.) Two kinds. Oyster and shitake mushroom.(Yeh!) Fennel bulb, toasted almonds, black mission figs and sweet Italian sausage. (Delicious!) The bread cubes were made from Italian bread loaves three days prior. The traditionalists won't eat ANY stuffing, so we were scott-free to make whatever we wanted.

VEGETABLES Brussel sprouts with Nueske bacon roasted until brown, crisp and caramelly. (Say no more!) Butternut squash, parsnips, cauliflower & carrots roasted until brown, then minced ginger, pecans and maple syrup added during last half hour of cooking. Mmmmm. (Oh, the traditionalists brought the "safe" vegetable with them- a can of creamed corn.)

SALAD Greens, pomegranate seeds, toasted hazelnuts and feta dressed with a fresh mint and champagne vinegar vinaigrette.

LAGNIAPPE The turkey's liver, roasted along with the turkey, cut into about 6 pieces, and passed around for those worthy enough to enjoy the small, but rich morsel.

A cheese torte. A simple one made with layers of mixed marscapone and chevre, chopped smoked salmon, fresh dill and chopped pistachios.
Squash soup, made by my sister-in-law from squash they grew. Thick, rich, and tasty, and some added ginger gave the soup a good spicy contrast. A little swirl of Creme Fraiche, and voila!

Pumpkin pie, and apple & cranberry pie, both made by my sister-in-law. The traditionalists demand this dessert, and not being a pumpkin pie lover myself I happily leave this to her, and she does make a good one. With whipped cream, made the real way (no canned cream in this house, ever!) Mr Cicerone and I satisfied our dessert wish list by making two different ice creams- a rich custardy vanilla bean, and Mr Cicerone's favourite, malt-with-a-hint-of-chocolate.

Mr Cicerone brewed a batch of Mild a few weeks back, and declared he would condition, and serve it, from our firkin, through our beer engine, on Thanksgiving Day. So he did. Imperial pints of Mild were drunk, and enjoyed immensely, throughout the day. Mild is good with food. Any food.
Mr Cicerone's Ginger Wheat went perfectly with the squash soup.
We brought out a bunch of bottled beers to share with the turkey course. Jolly Pumpkin's La Parcela pumpkin ale, Clipper City's "Prosit" Imperial Octoberfest, The Bruery's Autumn Maple, and Ettaler Kloster Dunkel were shared amongst the beer drinkers. All were great with the turkey and trimmings. The Bruery's Autumn Maple was stellar- a wonderful blend of spice, malt & alcohol warmth, all in balance. "Prosit" was a nice surprise- a strong marzen with a good hoppy finish that kept the malt sweetness in check. La Parcela is just good, always, and Ettaler Dunkel is such an exquisite example of the style (and Dunkel goes with everything, also).
We opened a Southern Tier "Pumking" when we served the desserts. We knew it was not a great match with the already-sweet course, but wanted a few people to try this popular strong and sweet pumpkin ale. As expected, it was received well. The Mild was a great match with the pies. (Mr. Cicerone notes that Uncle Dave sandbagged a bit of the Autumn Maple to go with his pie, and declared it excellent.)

After three days of cooking (and extra hours working at the store), a house full of people, loads of food and beer, Leonard Nimoy, a cacophony of Tiki Time and our whistling, dancing pink flamingo at the same time, and the clean-up, Mr Cicerone and I sat down, at last, at 11PM, exhausted, but happy. I downed two bottles of Great Lakes Christmas Ale, rather quickly. Aaaaaah.

...Full post

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brew Day, Batch #310

Porter. Sorter.

Base of Maris Otter, with some 40L and 80L crystal, chocolate, black patent, and Larry's special home-smoked malt. 30 BU total from 2 additions of Nugget. Looking at an OG around 1.055-1.060.

Erm, Nugget and Willamette. Somebody around here's been goin' a little heavy on the Nugget of late. Matter of fact, the hop store's looking pretty picked over. Maybe it's time to surf on over to and see what's going on....

Weekend fare

Mirepoix of onion, red bell pepper, chopped tomato, garlic, Spanish chorizo and Spanish (smoked) paprika. Add chicken stock, and a cup or so of Belgian Blonde Ale ('twas Dieu du Ciel! Derniere Volonte). Add lots o' mussels, steam for a few minutes until done, remove mussels and reduce sauce by half. Add a dash of whipping cream, and serve over a bed of warm wilted spinach with warm chewy garlicky bread for dunking.

The beer to accompany this feast was Bruery's Saison Rue, a rich saison made with rye. The rye added a depth that worked wonderfully with the chorizo, tomato and paprika.

Dessert- Bell's Expedition Stout for Mr Cicerone (always a winner), and Ken Schmidt/Stone/Maui Kona Macadamia Coconut Porter for me. (Unfortunately not available here at this stage). This is a delicious beer with coffee in the nose, coffee, chocolate and what I would call "drinkability" in the taste, and coconut in the finish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


(You can't see the flames.)
The plum pudding, in all its glory, unveiled, flamed, topped with rum-laden hard sauce, and devoured at Slows last night amongst a crowd of us hanging at the bar. We were there discussing the upcoming "Holiday Beer Dinner" ( we are hosting the dinner at Slows on Monday Dec 7th) with Tara and Chef Brian, and in a previous brief meeting about this event Chef Brian mentioned he had not tried this dish. (So I made one). We tried many beers with it. The beers that could match the intensity of this incredibly rich and heavy pudding best were Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA and He'Brew Jewbelation Barmitzvah. Mr Cicerone's Winter Warmer, and Anchor's Our Special Ale 2009 were *almost* there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's this then?

Fruit for plum pudding, and the Dupont Calvados that it has been soaking in for two weeks. The white chunks are suet; acquired with some difficulty, but the local butcher did come through, and on opening my white paper-wrapped parcel of beef fat I was happy to discover that there was a sliver of kidney still attached.
It's been made (steamed for 9 hours), so stay tuned for pictures when I unleash it tomorrow night as a treat for Chefs Mike and Brian at Slows.....

Recap: Michigan Cask Ale Festival At Ashley's Westland

'Twas brillig! I was on hand as a, uh, technical advisor, which meant mainly getting handed samples of beer and getting asked if it was OK. (Note: it is always OK to give me beer.)

Here is what poured:

Bell's Double Cream Stout
Bell's Amber
Bell's Porter
Arbor Larry Hoppe Imperial IPA
Stone Oak-aged Smoked Porter
Morland Old Speckled Hen
New Holland Mad Hatter IPA
Motor City Brewing Works Pale Ale
Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale
Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA
Dragonmead Earl's Spit Stout
Dark Horse Scotty Karate Scotch Ale
Kuhnhenn Brothers Loony Kuhnie Pale Ale
Greene King IPA
Founders Centennial IPA
Arcadia Scotch Ale
Greene King Ruddles County Bitter

Unbelievably, I managed to sample all but one! This was mostly due to limiting my sample sizes, though I didn't apply that limit to the Double Cream. All of the Bell's beers were in excellent condition, with nice long lasting foam stand. The quality overall was excellent; some favorites were Arcadia Scotch, Ruddles, and Loony Kuhnie.

Kudos to Jeff Mohr and his staff for pulling this off, and also to our buddy Gary Lawrence and his colleagues at Rave Associates for their planning and hard work. There is already talk about repeating this event in the spring. Count me in!

Upcoming events at Ashley's are posted at

...Full post

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Charity Event, With Beer!

And not just any beer- This just in from our friend Mike Turriff:

While sitting around the brewery one day Ron and I were trying to figure out what to do for charity this year. He then says, "Hey how about we look and see what older beer we have around and auction it off for charity?"
So here are the preliminary details:

Date: Monday December 14, 2009
Where: Jolly Pumpkin Cafe (311 S. Main St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104 - 2nd Floor)

Not sure of exactly what will be auctioned off, but here are some of the guaranteed beers:

Perseguidor 1 (at least 6)
Roja Grand Reserve (at least 3 years in bottle)
Fuego del Otono (4 yr old)
Luciernaga (1st Batch ever)

I will post the final list of beers that will be auctioned off as the day draws closer, but i can guarantee that everything going up for auction will be at least 3 years old.


Check for updates at

...Full post

Brewmaster Dinner at Big Rock Chophouse

Big Rock Chophouse
Thursday Nov 12

Platinum Blonde Lager
Belgian Wit
Chef’s selection of Hors d'oevres

We arrived a little late for the reception, but the Platinum Blonde Lager still awaited us. Nice, crisp lager beer. I did manage to snag the last pot sticker.

1st Course
Helles Bock
Saison St Clair
Platinum Blonde Lager & Pinconning Cheddar Cheese soup “En Croute” (which means - wrapped in pastry)

Two wonderful beers. Dan’s Saison is 4 years old, and is remarkable. Its high level of carbonation cut through the rich creamy soup and the peppery spiciness added another savoury note to the soup. My favourite however, was the Helles Bock with the soup. At about 8% ABV it was more into the Doppelbock alcohol range, and this beer could have got me into big trouble. It was smooth, malty and beautifully balanced, and for me the sweet malt notes melded into the creamy cheese wonderfully.

2nd Course
Czech Pils
Red Rock Farmhouse Ale
Steamed Lake Superior Whitefish in pilsner soaked cherry wood
Butternut squash & ginger chutney

Pils and steamed whitefish. Simple, but very good. Dan’s pils is excellent, and so aromatic. The hop aroma created a cloud of joy in the glass.
Red Rock is a Flanders Red Ale. And it’s amazing. It was my favourite beer at the recent MBG Harvest Fest. It just won silver at the 2009 GABF competition in the Lambic/sour Beer category, beaten only by the venerable Lost Abbey brewery. And, the beer also took gold in the Sour Beer category, and Best of Show, at the 2009 World Beer Expo in Frankenmuth.
This beer is a delicious blend of malt, wood, and sourness, all in the correct proportions. It’s so more-ish, and it was perfect with the chutney. Though but a tidbit, this was the best pairing of the day.

Main Course
Belgian Strong Dark (The dark candy sugar used in this was made by Dan with Michigan-grown beets.)
Norm's Raggedy Ass IPA
Sour Cherry Tripel
Sopressata-wrapped braised short rib
Ragout of Black-eyed peas, cipollini onion & mushroom

The Belgian strong was, as expected, killer with the rich meat. The IPA was great with the ragout. The cherry Tripel, in limited supply, came around later when I'd had my fill of meat, but Mr Cicerone declared its affinity with the rib. The beer was at least one year old, but still had noticeable cherry notes.
Russian Imperial Stout
Bourbon-aged Russian Imperial Stout
Rogers Root Beer Float made with butterscotch toffee ice-cream.

A fitting finale to a fine meal. The float was superb, and beautifully presented in a huge snifter. While I preferred the stronger-flavoured bourbon version with the dessert, and the “ordinary” (hah!) RIS on its own, Mr Cicerone's palate preferred regular RIS with dessert.

A fine evening of beer, food, and company

...Full post

The Cicerones Are Coming!

We are teaming up with Sandina Polgar of "Dinner With The Mrs." for a cooking class/feast:

Friday, November 20- "The Cicerones are Coming!" Enjoy a five-course meal provided by Dinner with the Mrs. accompanied by a beer pairing/lecture by Certified Cicerones Annette May and Mike Bardallis. All beer and fine food fanatics welcomed!
7:00-9:00 p.m.
$48 per guest

The menu, subject to change, looks awesome:

White Bean and Sausage Ragout With Tomatoes, Kale and Zucchini
paired with
Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale
Carrot Habanero Soup
paired with
Ginger Wheat Ale
Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce and Cilantro Crouton
paired with
New Holland Sundog Amber
Quinoa Salad with Vegetables And Tomatillo Vinaigrette
paired with
Stone IPA
Toasted Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding With Cinnamon Syrup
paired with
Scotch Ale

Additional info at Dinner With The Mrs. or email

...Full post

Mini Recap: Oak Cafe Tasting Featuring Short's Brewing

Joe Short was on hand to explain and entertain for the appreciative crowd at the Oak last Tuesday night. Just a very quick rundown, as there were 11 beers and no printed listing:

Kind Ale, an IPA made with fresh Mission Peninsula grown Cascade hops picked on brew day. Balanced, some grassiness.

Autumn Ale, a hoppy amber ale with English malt base.

Golden Rule, an organic IPA, very pale and bitter; yeasty.

Beach Wheat, a classic Hefeweizen. Also known as Snow Wheat in the wintertime.

Stellar Ale, another IPA, this one with all Amarillo hops.

Hangin' Frank IPA, similar to the Stellar, but with all Simcoe. Nice.

Mystery Stout, an imperial stout with some cocoa and molasses. Rich, balanced, nuanced.

Belgian plum black IPA- This one confused my mouth.

Belgian Raspberry IPA, actually not too hoppy, lots of raspberry and woody flavors. Nice.

Black Cherry Porter, great balance of fruit, roast, chocolate flavors. Had me hankering to try it with some roast duck.

'09 Anniversary Ale, a wheat wine with a bunch of blood oranges in't (zest and juice.) Wow. Wow. Amazing color. The wheat and fruit fit together seamlessly.

...Full post

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New at Merchant's

I hope, as we speak, that many of you are in the queue to get into Ashley's Westland Cask Ale Festival! If not, it doesn't end until 6PM, so go! Mr Cicerone is there, doing some quality control, and having a couple of pints. I, unfortunately, am holding down the fort here at Merchant's while Kevin is in Arizona acquiring (I hope) some Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale, for me!!

*DARK HORSE BOFFO BROWN *BELL'S SPARKLING ALE (Back after hiatus) *STONE DOUBLE BASTARD- and we have two 3 liter magnums. *STONE SELF-RIGHTEOUS ALE. MORE! *SIERRA NEVADA 2009 HARVEST ALE (We now have all 3- Estate Harvest 2009, Southern Hemisphere Harvest 2009, and (regular) Harvest 2009.
*DE DOLLE OERBIER RESERVA 2008 (Belgium) *AYINGER (Germany) WEIZENBOCK You know it's going to be good. *SCHNEIDER HOPFEN-WEISSE (Germany)

*BELL'S CHRISTMAS (Scottish-style ale, Michigan malt & hops) *GREAT LAKES CHRISTMAS (My favourite!)This one goes quick. *ANCHOR BREWING CHRISTMAS 2009 ("Our Special Ale") *SAM SMITH WINTER WELCOME

*BELL'S/DE PROEF "VAN TWEE". A Belgian dark ale with cherry juice. *LOTS OF BELGIAN, & ENGLISH HOLIDAY ALES (including my favourite,"Tsjeeses" from De Struise)

Now, go drink cask ale!!

...Full post

Monday, November 9, 2009

National Indian Pudding Day, Plus...

From Doug:

Greetings and salutations!

The big day is almost upon us! Thanksgiving? The start of hunting season? No! National Indian Pudding Day! A whole day to celebrate this wonderful, and nearly forgotten dessert. First things first.
This Thursday, November 12th at 8ish p.m., we'll tap our 114th cask-conditioned ale. "Women Drink Fruit Beer and Lose Their Panties! Film at 11!" (aka "I'll Have What She's Having!") is actually a cask-conditioned lager (Lincoln Lager) with pomegranate ice cream flavoring added to it. If you like fruit beers or the sight of crazed women in the presence of a brown-eyed handsome man, you'll love this beer! I know Sue's definitely looking forward to it! As always, we'll have some fabulous prizes, courtesy of our corporate sponsor for a few lucky folks in attendance at the tapping.
If that's not enough for ya, immediately following the tapping, we'll be hosting a promo party for Milagro Mandarin Tequila. That's right, free samples of booze!
To kick off National Indian Pudding Day, we'll release Indian Pudding Ale at midnight. Then it'll be on tap as soon as we open Friday morning, along with plenty of Indian Pudding to eat. What's that you say? Been in a Turkish prison and don't know about Indian Pudding? A quick summary to get ya excited- it's made with mollases, corn, milk/cream, and assorted spices. We made the beer with all those same ingredients. Trust me, it's delicious!
Our drinks of the week are "Gourmet Caramel Apple " (Van Gogh Caramel Vodka and Stoli Apple Vodka). You can get one for just $3.25! It's better than a real caramel apple, and it doesn't stick to your teeth! We're also featuring $2 Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Cokes and $3 shots of Milagro Mandarin Tequila (starting Thursday). You already know that Fan Club Members can get $5 growler refills (excluding The Queen) with purchase of something else every Saturday and Sunday. But did you know that if you go to, click on "savings and special offers", and fill out the form, you can get a free tube of Extreme Clean toothpaste! Also, Wednesday is Veteran's Day (be sure to thank a vet or anyone currently serving), and Krispy Kreme is giving out free donuts all day long to veterans!
Hunting season starts Sunday, so don't forget to fill up your growlers! If you want a keg and you have your own cornie keg, I can help you out with that too. I'm actually gonna take a couple days off for hunting myself, so next week's newsletter will be delayed, but we will be having new food items and a new beer on Thursday the 19th.
This week on, "Pudding Pow Wow", you'll hear Francisco say, "What happened to the new guy?" You'll also hear Nicole say, "Shush! We've got a lot of pudding to make!"
On your plate this week, look for Tuna Noodle Casserole, Chicken Lasagna, Coconut Chicken with Pineapple Ginger Rice, Meatball Strombolis, Pretzel Crusted Catfish, Apple Cranberry Turkey Burgers, and of course, Chicken and Waffles and Beer Can Chicken (Thursday-Sunday).
To summarize: fruit beer on Thursday!; free tequila on Thursday!; Fort Street Brewery is party central for National Indian Pudding Day!; three cheap drinks this week; thank you veterans!; free toothpaste!; lots of tasty food on your plate; and "be very quiet, I'm drinking beer but telling my wife I'm hunting!"

See ya soon,

Fort Street Brewery
1660 Fort St.
Lincoln Park, MI
(313) 389-9620

...Full post

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Belgium VS Michigan Beer Dinner at Roast

Michael Symon's Roast, this past Tuesday.

1st course
A feast of meat and fat. Mmmm. Two types of house-made sausage (the lamb sausage was lean, spicy and marvelous), finochionna, a couple of other thinly shaved cured meats, cured pork jowl (oh my!), and cured duck fat. Some great pickled onions and peppers to go with. And crostini.
DE RANKE CUVEE DE RANKE (Belgium) VS JOLLY PUMPKIN LA ROJA (‘Twas the bourbony Blend 8, 2009)
To be fair, this was comparing apples to oranges. Both are wild ales, but very different, and both are excellent beers. So, no vote for us. The La Roja did pair better with the charcuterie.
Charles’ beer wins, hands down.

2nd course
Great dish. The mussels were plump and tasty, the broth great, and the chorizo (Spanish, dry cured) was a great addition.
We had to go with Dupont. It’s a classic, and always superb. Both beers were great with the mussels, although the Dupont’s spiciness and pepper notes had the edge over Bam.
A nice surprise with the Dulle Teve, a beer we had not had in quite some time. It packs a punch for a tripel with a lot of alcohol and a bitter finish, but it was so well in balance, and just so tasty, that it had our vote.

3rd course
I can’t remember the last time I ate so much meat. It was just so good. And the cracklings were my "memory trip"; a familiar taste and texture from my younger years when all pork products (in Australia) had a layer of fat and rind attached; always cooked along with the meat, and always relished. (Okay, bad Jew.) The roasted Brussel sprouts were, of course, fantastic.
While both were excellent, the Velvet Hammer was really sour. The Oud Bruin showed more balance with the nice fruity malt notes that one expects in an Oud Bruin. It got our vote.
We were evenly split on this one. I think I preferred the Noel de Calabaza. Although again, they are very different beers.

4th course
It’s gotta be Raspberry Eisbock, any time. It’s just no match for anything else. I think the vote was even though. Kasteel Rouge is a winner with so many people.

Overall, Belgium won the battle.

It was a great idea, and Joseph did a fantastic job with the event. We had a wonderful time, and even managed to hide our Cicerone status from all the attendees (although Joseph tried, albeit gently, to have us own up). It was great value for the money, with 14 beers to sample, and enough food for twice as many of us. We were also very fortunate to be sitting next to a nice man who shared his 2008, and 2009 vintages of Leelanau’s Petosky Pale Ale with us.


...Full post

Brew Day, Batch #309: I'm Not Dead Yet!

Him, here. Haven't posted anything for over a week, and there's a backlog of stuff what needs writin' about.

So of course I'll be posting about something else, such as the mild ale I'm brewing up right now. Mild ale, the 'forgotten stepchild' of the beer world. Malty, with a bit of roasty and chocolate flavors, 3-3.5% alcohol, very low bitterness, and no real hop character. Typically, black malt provides as much balance to the malt sweetness as does the small amount of kettle hops. This ale, like most low-gravity beers, is tricky to get just right, because small differences in the amounts of specialty malts, and in the water chemistry, can turn a balanced beer into a mouthful of harsh roasty swill pretty easily.

Because I've forgotten to treat my mash water from time to time, there is a handy reminder on the wall above my brew kettle:

In actuality, this clever device rarely helps. Like today, for instance, where I doughed in and stabilized the strike temp before thinking of the chalk that should've been added. I reckon I got it blended in OK with a bit of extra effort, with no harm done. In the end, I cast out chilled wort at 1.035, with a calculated 18 BUs. The neutral but reliable W1056 will be doing the real work at around 65F.

I've always thought that more small breweries could be successful with a mild ale, based on the reaction my homemade stuff gets. It is hugely popular with the 'training wheels' crowd, with the typical comment being, 'I don't normally like beer, but this is great!' I was lucky enough to have a sample of Liberty Street's excellent mild at the Harvest Fest at Eastern Market, and am looking forward to a full pint tomorrow at the Friends of the Rouge benefit tomorrow afternoon. After all, it'll be a good three weeks before today's brew is ready to drink.

...Full post

Friday, November 6, 2009

Jolly Pumpkin Beer Dinner at Slows

Jolly Pumpkin Beer Dinner at Slows
This past Monday.....

A Sicilian dish consisting of a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar, and capers in a sweet and sour sauce with variation according to local tradition. This one had raisins.
Great pairing. Rich eggplant and sweet raisins tied in with fruity black malts.

Boy, do Chef Brian and Chef Mike know how to cook superb scallops. They are always perfect; nicely seared on the outside, and perfectly soft and creamy within.
Great pairing. Tart Bam, creamy scallop. Simple but grand. My favourite pairing.

LA PARCELA (Pumpkin ale).
Another winner. The beets were simply cooked, and were sweet/sour and crunchy. The cashew vinaigrette was plate-licking good. The pumpkin seeds were spicy and delicious. This one was many people's favourite pairing. It all just worked with the beer which has a slight pumpkin flavour with hints of pumpkin pie spice, and a touch of cacao to add some depth and richness. In the words of weekend-guy Kevin "I don't even like beets, but this was fantastic."

(Tallegio is an Italian cheese, Finochionna is a pork sausage made with fennel.)
Another winner. Creamy cheese, slivers of porky sausage, roasty cauliflower, malty/spicy notes in the beer finishing with woodiness, tartness, and a little bitterness. This batch of Oro was just superb. I guess I should have remembered the batch number.

LA ROJA (Blend #8 2009, large portion of the blend was aged in recycled Founders "Hand of Doom" bourbon barrels.)
An obvious, but very good pairing. This blend of La Roja was indeed a little "bourbony", and was excellent.
The sweet potato fritters were amazing. They were coated with sugar mixed with ground bacon!!

It just worked. Especially the frosting with the beer. Cheey creaminess, spicy tartness.

A fantastic dinner. Ron & Laurie Jeffries were there, and it was a pleasure to hear Ron present each course and talk about his beers and the brewing process. Slows were, as usual, very generous with the beer pourings, and I, amongst others I know, were "none too well" the next day.....

...Full post

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Hallows at The Pumpkin

Dinner and beers on the Eve of All Hallows at Jolly Pumpkin Cafe in Ann Arbor was indeed a treat. La Parcela poured on regular draught dispense (mmmm), plus there were four pumpkins on the bar (two downstairs, two upstairs) that had been filled with variations of the beer. They were spiled and tapped, and were all pouring, complete with scary skull decoration.
We did not sample the upstairs offerings, but our friends Frida, Diego and Scotty Karate (in the flesh) pronounced one of the beers to contain agave and pepper. Our bleeper bleeped, and we headed downstairs to be seated, where we enjoyed the hibiscus-infused version that was pouring from one of the pumpkins. What great colour this beer had! The other version pouring downstairs contained anise, but we did not try this. I dined on the "sweet and spicy cobia sandwich", a wonderful sandwich filled with ocean fish, spicy mayo and sweet crunchy pickly things. Mr Cicerone enjoyed pumpkin ravioli, rich and satisfying. Other beers enjoyed were Octoberfest, and the limited edition cask golden bitter, a beer that was a very pale gold, and very bitter. (Lots of hops. Very good.) After a photo op with a giant banana and we headed to a party to enjoy some lovely Hofbrau Dunkel on draft.The giant banana with a couple of old codgers, Steve & Marc.

...Full post