Thursday, December 29, 2011

Brew Day, Batch 356: Matmos Ale

Another beer where the name came first! We were talking about future Movie Nights, and agreed that Barbarella is on the list.

Don't let the picture of a young, hot Jane Fonda in a sexy outfit snare you; this movie kills brain cells faster than crack.
In this comically bad 1968 sci-fi movie, the dangerous city of Sogo "where a new sin is invented every hour," sits above a subterranean lake filled with an evil sentient goop called "the Matmos." Mrs. C., Uncle Dave, and I figured we needed Matmos Ale for a Barbarella movie night.

Hm. Well, the Matmos seemed to be rather viscous, so right away that points to some good ol' flaked rye. Since it's evil, it ought to be dark. The beer will be pretty highly carbonated as it is supposed to be 'alive.' After coming up with these easy parts, I tossed the formulation over to the voices in my head for consultation, and this is what we came up with:

10 gallon recipe

10 lbs. Briess 2 row pale malt
2 lbs. Weyermann Munich II
2 lbs. flaked rye
1/2 lb. Briess crystal 40L
1/2 lb. Briess crystal 80L
1/2 lb. Dingemans Special B
0.9 oz. Nugget hops 12% alpha (60 min.)
1.0 oz. Nugget hops 12% alpha (20 min.)
1/2 c cocoa powder (10 min.)
1/2 t powdered ginger (10 min.)
1/2 t powdered cardamom (10 min.)
1/2 t powdered cayenne (10 min.)
Wyeast 1098 ale yeast

Weird, eh? The mash was a single infusion at 148F. Once the wort was boiled and cooled we had 10.5 gallons at OG 1.052, a little higher than I'd planned. The beer will be a dark amber color, heavy bodied, with a range of malty flavors including toast, toffee, chocolate, prune, and a spicy, earthy flavor from the rye. The spices are all at (hopefully,) a level where they should not be directly discernible, but should enhance the rye and specialty malt flavors. We will see....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ashley's Belgian Fest

Ashley's Westland is holding its second annual Belgian Fest from February 9 until February 19, 2012. Last year we attended a couple of the events - the highlight for us being "Sour Fest". Here's a peek at some of the line-up for this year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brew Day, Batch 355: SunuvaBuster 2011

Buster was actually brewed yesterday. Today, I took 10 gallons of extra sweet wort I'd collected yesterday while Buster was boiling, topped the kettle up to 12 gallons, and made some Bonus Beer. Tasting the sweet wort, I found it to be decidedly chocolatey tasting. I didn't want to distract from that too much, and so added only one kettle addition of Centennial hops to an estimated 35 BU. Centennial hops, to my taste, contribute a distinctive candy-like bittersweet character when used as a kettle (bittering) hop. The finished OG was a whopping 1.042, and I expect it to attenuate pretty well. We could be drinking this beer pretty soon, I reckon, depending on tap spots....

Brew Day, Batch 354: Buster 2011

As in years past, the "Buster" beer for 2011 will be 1) massive, 2) unconventional in some way. This year, I began thinking along the lines of an Imperial stout with some sort of odd fruit adjunct such as dates or raisins or prunes. The more I thought of it, the more I liked the idea of prunes- a prune-like flavor is pretty natural in a strong dark beer, especially an aged one, as this one would be. Plus, drawing on my Cicerone skills, I have determined that prunes taste dandy. I discussed recipe formulation with my co-conspirator Skip, telling him that I was thinking Imperial stout with some sort of fruit, and he said, without a pause, "Prunes!" Done, and done.

Now, the prunes won't come into play until after the wort is fermented; we will rack the green beer onto a couple pounds, coarsely chopped, in each of two five gallon secondary fermenters.

What did come into play was a lot of malt. A. Lot. Here's the grain bill for 10 gallons:

48 lbs. Muntons Marris Otter Pale Ale malt
1 1/2 lbs. Briess  40L Crystal
1 1/2 lbs. Briess 80L Crystal
1/2 lb. Dingemanns Special B
2 lbs. Fawcett Light Chocolate malt
2 lbs. British roasted barley

This lot was infusion mashed in two cooler type mash/lauter tuns at around 152F with 1qt./lb for around 90 minutes. First runnings yielded only about 8 gallons, so we sparged both mashes a bit to collect a total of about 13-1/2 gallons in the kettle. Once this was reduced to a wee bit over 10 gallons, the ol'l hydrometer read 1.113. Whoa. Cool.

When the volume in the kettle got down to about 12 gallons, we started tracking time. 30 minutes from that point, we added about 2 ounces of Magnum at 20.5% alpha, and one ounce of Nugget at 12%. 40 minutes later, an ounce of Mt. Hood went into the kettle. The extremely scientific calculations underlying these additions have us in the neighborhood of 85 BUs total.

Once cooled, this very heavy wort was turned over to a healthy slurry of Wyeast 1056, which tore into it like a starving wolverine attacking a juicy hamster. Stay tuned....

We have it all!

The end result of this

We tried Mr Cicerone's Wee Heavy ( just a tad too lightweight for this incredibly rich boozy pudding, but close),
Mr Cicerone's Buster '09 (one of my favourite beers EVER, but the pudding made the beer taste too bitter), and Mr Cicerone's Buster  2010- perfect! It takes one MIGHTY beer to stand up to this dessert.

Potato latkes for Chanukah, along with, er, ham and shrimp?
Among the many beers consumed, the "official" Chanukah beer is always He'Brew "Origin" pomegranate ale.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Brewing Buster....

As I type, Mr Cicerone is all-consumed brewing Buster 2011, an Imperial Stout, with an er, secret ingredient to be added later. Here's some pictures.....

Lots of malt. Two mash tuns. Ready to go.
Filling the second mash tun. It (almost) doesn't fit.
Mr Cicerone needs a boost.
Stirring the porridge
Getting help lifting the mash tun from our friend Aaron, the Stone rep who left us for Chicago.
  Mash. Vorlauf. Running in.
All in.

Hop Babes Nicole and Mrs. C add the first charge of hops.
Sloooowly running in to the carboys.

Git yer own!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve, Cicerone Style

Aperitif: Bridgeport Hop Harvest Ale, a fresh hopped Imperial IPA. Massively bitter, fairly light bodied, and nary a whiff of grass clippings, cat byproducts, or any such unpleasantness. Awwright!

We enjoyed the IPA with some of our favorite cheeses, Manchego, Wensleydale, and Farm Country Truffle, while waiting for our porcini-crusted lamb shanks to sloooowly roast. When the bomber of IPA ran out, we dialed the throttle back a bit and enjoyed some special bitter from downstairs, which despite its diminutive OG, was actually a better partner with all of the cheeses. This keg was dry hopped with Northern Brewer, and is gulpably good, to use more of that fancy Ciceroney language.

Main course:  Lamb shanks slow roasted with a paste rub of garlic, shallot, thyme, and rosemary, and finished with dried porcini crumb crust. A sauce made with pan drippings, and a deglaze using Buster 2010 Uber-doppelbock. Plated up with some steamed spinach and mashed rutabaga, to catch all the tasty drippin's. Beer: Allagash Musette, a Belgian style Scotch ale aged (partially) in a bourbon cask. The Musette was deliciously malty; the booze character was minimal.

Dessert beer: 2010 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Woof. Veery boozy and a bit hot. Wish we'd let this one rest another, say, 5-10 years.

All of this occurred in front of a cheery fire. And to all, a good night....

A reminder.... go to The Oak Cafe. Here's what we had there last night, on tap.....

Bell's Best Brown Ale- cask-conditioned!
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Short's Sour Puss (Wow! Forget Key Lime Pie and S'Mores Stout! Make more of this!!)
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice
Well's Banana Bread Beer (never seen this on tap before)
(Sierra Nevada) Ovila Dubbel
B. Nektar Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser (Really well done!)
Great Divide Oak-aged Yeti Chocolate (Hints of cayenne. WOW!)

I couldn't manage any Goose Island Matilda or Gouden Carolus Noel.  Shame.



Because Mrs. Cicerone is clever, we had an amazing dinner last week. Duck confit risotto with Infinium. I'm going to have to shift into hyper-technical Ciceroney talk to describe the Infinium: Wow.

Life is gooood.
But, seriously, wow. As many know, there was a problem with many bottles of the first go-around of Infinium; they were overrun by the dread spoiler diacetyl. Not so with this subsequent batch; it is, I imagine, what was intended by the evil geniuses that conceived of this project. This 10% all malt beer has a subdued nose that reminds one of a "wheat wine" such as Two Brothers Bare Tree, which follows into the strongly malty flavor, with flavors of golden raisins, concentrated pilsner malt, apricot, and noble hop. Then, ...a vanishingly dry finish.The attenuation of this beer is nothing short of amazing. Details are scarce on the patentedTM process behind it, but some here at Chez Cicerone suspect a veeery low-n-slow mash. Check it out if you can find some.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And, on the way home......

......a stop at Dark Horse for the 4 Elf party

...where we shared a beer (Mr Cicerone- Rod, me- Fore Smoked stout) with.....

Barry & Kathy Johnson of Saugatuck. Brewing. Barry IS Saugatuck Brewing. We also run into him everywhere we go.
And....we had a few fun moments with.....

Scotty Karate!
And, ate a little of this, too......

Another Eccentric Day, enjoyed and survived!

Let's see.....we had Two Hearted, Christmas Ale, Amber Ale, Oarsman, Sparkling (sorry, just don't like this beer), Harvest Ale (mmmm, interesting and delicious malt character, hoppy and good), golden rye (wish I could get a lot more of this), Exp Hop 2011-1 (I didn't recommend this one to Mr Cicerone. Read why.), Oracle DIPA, Kalamazoo Stout (first beer of the day), Java stout, Expedition, Rye stout, Smoked stout (yeh!), Harry Magill's & Eccentric Ale.

The food did not disappoint either, there being lots of good fishy things, good cheese, pickled eggs, smoked wild boar, head cheese chock full o' tongue (mmmm), and a large pot of spicy alligator gumbo.

Mr Cicerone, viewing the world through Kalamazoo Stout.
Very silly people

Now bring us some figgy pudding.....

They're soaking in it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thanks Mike!

Mmmm. Chock full of rich, crystal-like malt character, and fresh Cascadey aroma and flavour.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Idea: Feed Mayonnaise to Tunafish

In a cheesy, mostly mediocre movie called "Night Shift," movie audiences were introduced to an actor named Michael Keaton, who played the character Bill "Billy Blaze" Blazejowski. A self-proclaimed "ideas man," he was always shouting his crackpot ideas (hence the title of this post) into a portable tape recorder he carried around everywhere.

Because I am not a movie character, I don't have an audible, visual, prop to show when I have Big Ideas. They just rattle around in my skull until I do something about them. So it was with the idea to Feed Barbecue Potato Chips To Chickens. Well, not exactly, but I had this idea for "Barbecue" Barbecue Chicken.


...Full post

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brew Day, Batch 353: X-Treem IPA

Well, from my point of view, anyways. There was a time when IPAs were not all a minimum of 7% and 70 BUs. My regular version is in the 5.5-6.0% range, 55-60 BUs, but today I wanted to experiment with the fresh Citra hops I'd just got in, and one thing led to another.... Today's beer is going to be in the 7% range, deep amber, 70+ BUs from 4 additions of Citra. Because these hops seem to be pretty resiny, the grist is designed to provide a lot of richness to support them. The following sketchy recipe is for 10 gallons:

17 #  Briess 2 row
3  #  Weyermann Munich 2
1  #  Briess Crystal 40L
1/2#  Briess Crystal 80L
1/4#  Fawcett light chocolate
1 oz  Citra 13.7% alpha (60 min.)
2 oz  Citra 13.7% alpha (30 min.)
1.5oz Citra 13.7% alpha (20 min.)
1.5oz Citra 13.7% alpha (10 min.)

Single temp infusion mash at 150F, 1qt./lb.
OG 1.068
I'm using a healthy slurry of Wyeast 1056, but yeast strain is not critical with this XTRREEM ingredient bill.

Honestly, I'm a bit scared that this will be too resiny and stinky for my taste. If it's too much for me and Mrs. C., I may be advertising a half-pound of hops and a couple kegs 'free to good home.'

Monday, December 5, 2011

Only 5 days to go.....

....until Eccentric Day!



Ode to a haggis....

I love haggis!

Luckily, getting some is easy, if you happen to be in the vicinity of Battle Creek in early December. You might be lucky enough to be at Arcadia Brewery on their annual anniversary celebration, an occasion featuring not only great beer....not only haggis....but Tim Suprise himself addressing the haggis! This year was their 15th anniversary. (Congratulations Tim, Josh, Stacey, Rick, and everyone involved with this wonderful brewery!)

We dined well on haggis....wanna know a big secret? Haggis is NOT the nasty, slimy brains-of-a-she-monster thing that everyone seems to think it is. It's MEATLOAF. Yes, there are organy bits in there, and maybe it's cooked inside a sheep stomach, but it's chock full of spices, and oats, and it tastes great. Even Uncle Dave liked it!

See? Meatloaf!
Arcadia brought out two versions of an 15th anniversary ale this year, for sale only at the brewery on celebration day. The base beer was a strong brown ale brewed with tart cherries. Anniversary 15 was this beer aged in bourbon barrels. Anniversary XV was this beer aged in red wine barrels. Sadly, on the day yours truly was suffering a terrible cold that totally killed her taste buds, with beer being the big loser. So, no report! I couldn't taste much! (I still can't, and haven't enjoyed a beer for nearly a week!!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A belated, and quick Thanksgiving post

Due to important things, oh like flying to California to see Mr Cicerone's first grandchild, we haven't posted anything about this year's Thanksgiving feast. So, it's brief, but here we go....

Mother O' Mr Cicerone offered to host, and though that means some compromising with the menu, we were only too happy this year to drive the 5 blocks there, rather than spend three days in preparation doing it at Chez Cicerone. (Let's just say that due to a combination of work, a grandchild and USPS we just didn't have the time this year.)  Turkey, gravy and mashed potato were made by our hosts. Oh, and this too, being the only vegetable that Dad O'Cicerone will eat.....
 That left us, and my sister-in-law, a creative and good cook, to bring the rest!
APPETIZERS  Hot crabby dip. Mmm. Cheese. Mmm. Cheese-stuffed dates with prosciutto. Mmm. Gougeres.
Beers with appetizers were Mr Cicerone's "Atmospherium" saison, Les Deux Brasseurs (sadly past its prime), Jolly Pumpkin Lupulo de Hielo, and a bottle of good Champagne to toast the latest addition to our family.
SOUP I made a delicious squash soup spiced with Garam Masala and other Indian spices. I'd used some of Mr Cicerone's Wee Heavy in the soup, and this went perfectly wth the soup. New Holland's Beerhive Tripel was also good, though a tad sweet for the soup.
SIDES WITH TURKEY  Yay! Oyster and shiitake dressing. Spectacular! Greek salad with lots of feta and some pomegranate seeds. My sister-in-law made a sausage and apple dressing, roasted brussel sprouts, peas with pancetta (yum), and a great cranberry and orange sauce. The turkey was pretty good, considering it was done at the most basic level (frozen turkey, not brined.) Uncle Dave fancied up the potatoes with bacon. Beers - it was a "let's just take all these beers that have been sitting in our fridge forever and drink them" occasion. So we did. Russian River Damnation 23 (nice, oakey, orangey notes) and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin were drunk and enjoyed. Plus Mr Cicerone's Bitter & Goose Island's Winter Mild. 
DESSERT Pumpkin pies by my sister-in-law, which I'm sure were delicious, but I'm not much of a "pah" eater, so skipped it. We'd made caramel ice cream earlier that week, and that, with Mr Cicerone's Wee Heavy, ended the meal on a great note.

After dinner Mr Cicerone's Buster 2010 made us all drunk, though we wept tears of joy at the incredible deliciousness of this beer as we imbibed.....