Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 380: Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale

I have a day off from the brewery... what to do, what to do...

Awww, yeah. Fermenters are filling as I write this; not much to add except my standard 'can't wait to drink this....'

Friday, November 23, 2012

Terse Thanksgiving Post-Mortem

Man, was that gooood. Mrs. C. knows how to put on a feast. My favorites were both stuffing/dressings, and the wild rice, all with dunkel. Also with pumpkin beer. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get back to digesting....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving at the House of Cicerones

Thanksgiving Feast 2012

Kiss yo’ mama soup (corn & crawfish)

Winter greens and citrus salad with pomegranate & pistachio

Turkey, brined in Oktoberfest beer

Oyster & eggplant dressing

Panettone, sour cherry, lamb & fig sausage dressing

Bourbon and pineapple glazed ham

Mashed potato

Brown butter & bourbon mashed sweet potato

Green beans with caramelized onion

Canned creamed corn for old fat guys

Giblet gravy

Pomegranate and port reduction sauce

Cranberry & sour cherry sauce

Pumpkin pie (made by Chef Tara)

Chocolate almond tart

Caramel ice cream

Real! Whipped cream


Pumpkin Ale ✦ Porter ✦ Munich Dunkel ✦ Session IPA ✦ Atmospherium Saison ✦ Weizen Bam ✦ Saison Sorachi ✦ Ginger Wheat Ale ✦ Scotch Ale ✦ Dynamomium Double IPA ✦ many more

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 379: Nugget Pale Ale

Quite possibly my 'desert island beer,' this American style pale ale features all fresh Nugget hops. Nugget was bred from a Brewers Gold parent, and developed as a high alpha variety. As a kettle hop, it contributes a clean, bittersweet character much in the way Centennial does. As a bonus, it turns out that it (in my opinion,) contributes superior flavor and aroma character; in this beer it puts me in mind of marmalade. All of the base malt is German, and the resulting beer has some nice bready, toasty malt flavors which fit nicely with the hops. Toast and marmalade, mmm!

Sketchy recipe for 10 gallons:

13 lbs. Weyermann Pils
lbs. Weyermann Munich 2
1  lb.  Briess Crystal 40L

Mashed 1qt./lb. at 152F.

90 minutes total boil

3/4 oz.   Nugget 14% alpha for 60 minutes

1-1/2  oz. Nugget 14% alpha for 20 minutes

1-1/2  oz. Nugget 14% alpha for 5 minutes

Fermentation is being carried out by Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale. Can't wait to drink this one....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 378: Mild Ale

Mrs. C noted that granddaughter Mia's 1st birthday celebration is coming up next month, and that there would be time to come up with a nice firkin-able beer to wash down that cake with. The assembled guests will be of all stripes, and I have found that pretty much everybody likes a nice dark mild. The beer is malty but not sweet, with crystal malt and chocolate malt flavors, balanced as much by a dry roast edge from some black patent as by the minimal hop bitterness. It's visually appealing, as well, with a clear deep brown color with a ruby cast to it. Here's what went in to it:

Mild Ale - 11 gallons

11   lbs. Muntons Maris Otter Pale Ale malt
3/4  lbs. Muntons Crystal 60L
1/4  lbs. Briess Crystal 80L
1/4  lbs. Fawcett Pale Chocolate
1/4  lbs. Black Patent malt

Single infusion mash, 1 qt./lb., mid 150s F. I used 1 tsp. chalk in the mash. At completion, I lautered and sparged until runoff gravity dropped below 1.010, then topped up the kettle to 12 gallons.

Total boil time was 90 minutes; one kettle addition 2.2 oz. Fuggle at 4% alpha for 60 minutes, for a target 18 BUs. Yield was approx. 11 gallons of wort at 1.036, perfect. Wyeast 1084, a decent flocculator, is doing the honors. Looking forward to a few pints of this in a few weeks....

Monday, October 22, 2012

Not Exactly Beer Related

I should oughta have my head examined. About a month ago, my buddy Joe at Liberty Street Brewing Co asked me if I would be willing to participate at a storytelling event planned for November at the brewery. Given the many (0) times I've got up on a stage and told a 10 minute story to a crowd of pubgoers, I of course said yes. I now am envisioning a version of this famous movie scene. More info about the event is at the Midwestern Gentleman website....

So many tomatoes, but no more time.

For them to ripen, that is.

Hmmm, fried green tomatoes maybe? Never made them, not even sure if you use unripe tomatoes or a specific variety. Well, there's only one way to find out.

Presto! Fried green tomatoes, topped with shredded crab and a sauce made from whole grain mustard, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, heavy cream and cayenne. With two saisons- Weyerbacher 17, and New Glarus saison. Both delicious, and great with the tomatoes. The New Glarus was drier and more effervescent, and absolutely delicious. The Weyerbacher was maltier, a bit fruitier, and good too, though the New Glarus got my vote.

(Guess we'll give the rest to Skip for picklin'.)

I was going to make pasta anyway.....

So, why not these?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On Recipes

I've written about this before, but since I've been posting a lot of (half-arse) recipes, (you're welcome, Kenny!) I wanted to give a few words of general explanation about what makes it into the posted recipe, and what gets left out. I think it's clear to most moderately experienced brewers that these are not complete paint-by-numbers type procedures. I don't have the time or patience for that, and more importantly, every brewer and brewery has their own way of accomplishing certain things. There are, for example, three or four popular ways of chilling wort in a home brewery. Different ways of mashing, i.e. brew-in-a-bag, no-sparge, etc; different ways of sparging, i. e. fly vs. batch. I don't address water, which is a local source issue that each brewer must sort out. Fortunately for me living here in metro Detroit, I have a great water source that requires only carbon filtration to remove chlorine, and basic mineral tweaking as the grist might dictate. More about that one anon.

Some things that I do pretty much every time, that may not be noted:

...Full post

Friday, October 19, 2012

Coming Out of the Closet

Photo credit: Big Gay Uncle Dave
Not the 'can't tell anyone I'm gay' closet. (Still can't tell anyone that, 'cause I'm not.)  No, it's the 'homebrewer harboring fantasies of going pro' closet. I haven't been posting about this, (or much else, to be honest,) as I really think it's outside the scope of our blog, but I've been working on a business plan, and hope to open a small microbrewery in Detroit, hopefully in Eastern Market. To this end, I've been taking advantage of various friends in the pro brewing community and helping out (read: getting in the way and asking a lot of nosey questions) in their breweries. Much thanks to my buds at Corner Brewery and Liberty Street in particular. And recently I got accepted at U of D. Not University of Detroit, but University of Duncan. Grizzly Peak's Brewmaster Duncan Williams has served as the mentor for a number of the area's brewers. I am his newest lackey in the downtown Ann Arbor brewpub, helping to keep the beer flowing from their sprawling cellar to the throngs of thirsty pub patrons upstairs. I must say, that's no mean feat, either; this pub pours more beer than any other brewpub (and a fair number of production breweries,) in the state. So come on down for a pint at the Grizz, and don't be surprised if you see a short, stout, hairy sort scuttling about muttering about dry hops....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beer Brunch 2012

THE MENU......
A plethora of olives, pickled quail eggs with Jolly Pumpkin La Roja
Skip's pickled green tomatoes with Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam*
Kiss Yo' Mama Soup (corn & crab) with Mr Cicerone's Robust Porter
Garlic shrimp and grits with Mr Cicerone's (famous) Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale
Bitter greens, tangerine, blood orange, walnuts, lemon-ginger vinaigrette, hop candy crunch with Mr Cicerone's Dynamomium IPA
Duck, pork, veal & pistachio terrine, La Roja pickled cherries with Mr Cicerone's Buster 2010
Spooky Trail Farm wildflower honey with Mr Cicerone's Atmospherium Saison

...Full post

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 377: Pumpkin Ale

It's been a few years since I've gone to the trouble to make pumpkin ale for Thanksgiving, and Mrs. C. has decreed that we shall have some this year. My idea of pumpkin ale is an amber to brown malty ale, (with a distinct orange tint from said pumpkins,) with just enough spice to round out the flavors a bit. This year I decided to roast the pumpkins whole in my barbecue, which is a) easy, and b) might add a subtle smoky nuance to further round out the pumpkin and spice flavors. Here's how it went down:

...Full post

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oy! This is a tough one!

See all these awesome beers? None of them worked with the dish. We rarely have this much trouble, but this one has us stumped!
The dish? We can't be giving too much away, as it's for Beer Brunch, but it's spicy, and everything so far just makes the beer far too bitter.
Back to the drawing board....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And the winner.....

The contenders.....
Lips of Faith "Brett Beer" collaboration between New Belgium & The Lost Abbey (brewed at New Belgium).
"Escoffier Bretta Ale"  collaboration between New Belgium & Brewery Vivant (brewed at Brewery Vivant).

The winner? Escoffier. Hands down. More Brett character, more sourness. Complex, balanced, perfect.

Living the good life....

...with cheese and beer.
Manchego, Vella Dry Jack, Sartori Bellavitano washed in Raspberry Tart , Italian sheep's milk with black truffle. Spanish chorizo.

Mr Cicerone's Sorachi Ace Saison, Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest, Mr Cicerone's Kolsch, Vivant  Contemplation.
This cheese is amazing! It's washed in New Glarus Raspberry Tart beer.

A smarter person would have just bought a jar of pickled beets....

....and used the juice. (It's for a Beer Brunch dish). (We also boiled and peeled 36 quail eggs.)

Oh! But then we wouldn't have been able to make a meal of those delicious beet greens! A small glass of Mr Cicerone's awesome porter while I was squeezing made it all worthwhile. In my He'Brew glass of course, as it's Rosh Hashanah. Shana Tova!

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Corn caramelizing, fava beans steaming, corn & onions steaming & ranch dressing being made. All part of practise runs for our upcoming Beer Brunch. Oh, and Mr Cicerone's Kolsch was delicious. We nailed down 3 courses last night, and drank (too) many beers. (I'm hungover today.) See how hard we're working for all our friends?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Speaking of tomatoes.....

Our first Pink Caspian!! Picked yesterday!

Critter Update

Despite the baited cage,  motion detectors and video surveillance, we have seen, and caught NOTHING. Until this, a few days ago....


Another half-eaten tomato! In the same place! seems that the tomatoes are not from our yard. Good for us, I guess. Sorry tomato-robbed neighbour, whoever you are!

Brew Day, Batch 376: Session IPA V2

The keg gridlock here at Chez Cicerone is breaking up, and we're anticipating a bit of loosening of refrigeration gridlock soon, so I can resume brewing. This is fortunate, as I was getting awfully tetchy; I've been casting about for something to kill for the last few weeks. Today will be a second tilt at this windmill, wherein I lighten the color and toastiness on the malt side, while leaving the very pleasant hop bill substantially intact. Here's the poop:

...Full post

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This is awesome!

(Guess who??)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pure. German. Malt.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Here yesterday, gone today.

Our precious tomatoes, that is! Our friend has come back, and has successfully, over the past few days, managed to deprive us of our much-looked-forward-to fresh, succulent, umami-packed daily tomato treat.

Stolen tomato #3, half eaten on the ground.
Remnants of Lost Tomato # 4, on top of the fence.
Mother fucker! When we came down this morning, there were the remnants of Lost Tomato # 5!
Mr Cicerone, getting serious. (Nice shoes!)
Possum trap, well  baited, and relocated from our garage where it had been for a few days, to the current scene of the crime.
As I type, Mr Cicerone is setting up both a motion detector, and video surveillance camera. Stay tuned!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Our friend Doug at Fort Street Brewery likes to throw some wacky theme parties, but the hands-down best one of the year is the Brew-Ha!-Ha!, held this year Saturday August 8 from 1-7PM. Lots of special small batch beer, guest beers, great snacks, brewing demo, and happy people. We'll be there....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's starting.....

The practice runs for Beer Brunch, that is. Tonight? Wee Heavy, Buster 2009, Buster 2010 and Dynamomium. All contenders for the quiche-to-end-all quiches, caramelized onion. The winner? Now, that would be giving it away, for those that are attending....

 Three pounds of onions, cooked on loooow heat for 1 1/2 hours until caramelixed...

Become this! Onion quiche. With all the beers!

Summer, glorious summer!

Know what these are? FRESH sardines!! Rubbed with olive oil & garlic, and grilled. Along with grilled artichokes, and Greek cucumber salad.  And beer- saison I think! Mr Cicerone's Atmospherium.

Ceviche- snapper, shrimp, scallops & octopus. With Mr Cicerone's Ginger Wheat, and Hitachino Ginger brew.

So sayeth Mr Cicerone, recently....

"This isn't a beer that should be $6 for 11.2oz  (Editorial by Mrs C "But O! It IS worth it!"): everybody needs buckets of this to drink, and pour over their heads! Or swim in it. It's 100 degrees outside, and this beer is PERFECT."
Sadly, this is our only bottle. The beer? It's Bayerischer Bahnhof, Brettanomyces Lambicus Berliner Weisse Special Edition. Retired. Wish we had buckets of it!!

Note gorgeous glass! You can have one too. Hand made by Furnace glass studios, Dearborn.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Fest '12 Is Over

...watcha wanna do next? How 'bout...


Monday, July 30, 2012

Umami overload

Mmmmm. Linguine, coated with a mix of toasted walnuts and garlic, topped with Italian parsley, chives, chevre, and a soft-boiled egg. Umami overload. Sierra Nevada/Russian River's Brux was wonderful with this rich dish. The beer is a complex golden ale with malty notes, some hop flavour and bitterness, a hint of sourness and some wonderful Brett Brux character. Brett + Umami = excellent!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hot Glass Cold Beer. An awesome event!

Thursday August 2nd, 5-10PM, at Furnace Design Studio/Glass Academy, Dearborn. These lovely people know how to make gorgeous works of (glass) art, and they love Michigan beer! Mr Cicerone and I will be pouring beer at this event. There will be 5 Michigan breweries at the event, glass blowing demonstrations, and beautiful objets d'art for sale.

For those on Facebook, details here. For those not, details here.

Wanna drink your Michigan beer from this? Then come by!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Must Have Your Recipe!

Note: I originally wrote this 15 years or so ago for my homebrew club's newsletter. I thought I'd freshen it up a bit and post it here, as it's still pretty relevant for both brewing and cooking. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, the authors of the recommended books are friends of mine. Yes, I have friends that can write....

Remember this plot from cartoons and movies?

  1. Kindly, pure-hearted explorer/scientist, working doggedly in isolation for many years, discovers amazing secret formula for world peace / cold fusion / lead-to-gold conversion, etc. Said formula is typically recorded on tattered piece of paper and kept in a briefcase.
  2. Evil, avaricious, criminal mastermind or hostile foreign country attempts to steal the secret formula. This usually involves kidnapping an attractive female relative or associate of the kindly savant.
  3. A hero, possibly wearing a garish costume, prevents the valuable tatter from falling into / remaining in the hands of the dastardly criminals.

I’ve always wondered: how would someone like Simon bar Sinister, assisted by his henchman, Cad, fare if let alone with the magical piece of paper? Wouldn’t his laboratory be somewhat different than that of the inventor? Would all his available ingredients be exactly the same? Same shape flasks? Same size Bunsen burners? Same diameter hoses? And how would bar Sinister know which of these mattered to the outcome, lacking the years of specialized experiences of the originator of the formula?

...Full post

Monday, July 16, 2012

My turn! It's Michigan Craft Beer Month

Wow, haven't been able to get a word in, what with Mr Cicerone brewing up a storm, and blogging about it. So here's a small one......

July is Michigan Craft Beer Month, officially declared by our legislature! Support our local brewers by buying Michigan-made beer this month! Not only will you be helping our local economy, you'll be doing yourself a favour by buying some of the country's finest beers! It's a win-win if I ever saw one!

Here's one beer that will leave you very happy, and refreshed during the hot July days! And, there's a couple of facts in there about the Michigan beer industry, too. (Oops, after watching it, my accent makes it sound like I said "Legislator", but it was, indeed, "Legislature". Us Australians and our weird pronunciations.)


Brewing Kolsch can give a fella an appetite, so I took a break during the saccharification rest to make myself  a little snack.

Not even sure if this was legal. My lunch was grilled cheeses on croissants. Yes, I grilled pastries made of butter and flour, in butter. (Next up: deep fried stick o' butter!) The one on the right is the Amish truffle jack. Pretty tasty. The one on the left is 1/2 Tilsit, 1/2 horseradish cheddar, with Sierra Nevada Stout mustard and white onion. Wow. No one is going to want to kiss me for, like, a month, but it was WORTH IT! Ahem. Washed down with rauchbier, natch.

Brew Day, Batch 375: Kolsch

Kolsch, the ale version of Pilsner. That's the way a German-educated brewer of my acquaintance explains what he learned in brewing school. In Koln, they'd probably get their hackles up at such a simplification, but you know what? It works for me. Golden like Pils? Yep. Pils malt flavor up front, dry finish? Check. Fine noble-type hop character? Yep. Fruity esters from ale yeast? Also yep. Makes for a great summer refreshment.

Here's how I do:

(10 gallons)

15 lbs. Weyermann Pils

Dough in with 1 quart/lb for a first rest at around 125F.

After 30 minutes, pull 7 quarts thick mash for the first decoction. Heat to 155F, hold 10 minutes, then heat to boiling and boil 10 minutes.

Return decoction to main mash for saccharification rest at 146 -148F.

When starch conversion is complete, pull 8-1/2 quarts thinnest mash, and heat to boil. Boil 5 minutes, then return to main mash for mashout at ~165F.

Vorlauf/lauter/sparge until runoff gravity drops to 1.008 - 1.010. Make up kettle volume to 12 gallons if necessary.

Total boil time is 90  minutes. After 30 minutes, add 3 oz. Saaz, 4.5% AA. At 70 minutes, add 1 oz. Hersbrucker, 3.1% AA.

At the end of the boil, chill to ale pitching temps and pitch an appropriate yeast. I use Wyeast 1007, which is reputed to be the Zum Uerige altbierbraueri yeast. At around 65-67F fermentation temps, it produces some nice soft esters. It is a very boisterous top-fermenting yeast, and frequently escapes the bondage of the fermenters to the relative freedom of the surrounding floor, so be advised.

Target OG is 1.046 - 1.050, BUs 30. I really like to use the Hersbrucker for this one; the earthy, herbal flavor comes through nicely.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Batch 368: Tropical Blonde Ale

Recently, Uncle Dave's best buddy Greg turned 40, and Greg's bride Colleen asked Dave and me if we would brew a beer for the occasion. Time was short when we got serious about it; I told Dave, "OK, it'll have to be a quick maturing low gravity beer." "How about a nice bitter, or a mild, or an Irish stout?" Well, the party theme was sort of a Hawaiian/Polynesian thing, and at the 11th hour we hit on this: A simple blonde ale with the distinctive tropical fruit flavors and aromas of Citra hops! Here's what we did:

(10 gallons)

12 lbs. Great Western 2 row malt

Mash with 1 qt./lb. at 150F. Vorlauf/lauter/sparge to kettle until runoff gravity falls to 1.008. Make up kettle to 12 gallons with brewing liquor. Boil 90 minutes.


1.1 oz. Willamette 5.2% for 60 minutes
1 oz. Citra 13.7% for 15 minutes
1 oz. Citra 13. 7% for 5 minutes

Calculated BUs: 24
OG: 1.038
FG: 1.008

Chilled wort and pitched with Danstar Nottingham. Fermented at 70F.

This beer was really nice; 4% alc/vol, lots of interesting fruit flavor and aroma from the Citra, and undoubtedly from the Nottingham yeast as well, and definitely suited to the party theme.

Brew Day, Batch 373: Saison Sorachi

I scored some Sorachi Ace hops recently, and had a couple of ideas about how best to use their unique lemongrass-like aroma and flavor. One idea was a saison, where the peppery phenols and fruity esters might harmonize nicely with lemony flavors. We will see. Here's what I did:

(10 gallons)

11  lbs. Weyermann Pils malt
2   lbs. Weyermann Munich Type 1
1/2 lb.  Weyermann Cara Munich
1/2 lb.  Simpsons "Golden Naked Oats" crystal oat malt

I did a very thick initial dough in for a protein rest at about 125F for 30 minutes, then infused boiling liquor to boost to a saccharification rest of 147F. I collected 11.5 gallons of sweet wort, and topped the kettle up to 12 gallons. For a total 90 minute boil, here's the hop schedule:

1 oz.   Perle 9.3% for 60 minutes
3/4 oz. Sorachi Ace 15.1% for 15 minutes
3/4 oz. Sorachi Ace 15.1% at end of boil

Calculated BUs: 30
OG: 1.045

I chilled down to 67F, with the help of some ice, and pitched a hefty slurry of Wyeast 3711 French Saison saved from the last batch of Atmospherium. Thanks to the Granny Thermostat, everybody is happily fermenting along at 70F. Stay tuned...

Ps. I still have an ounce and a half of the Sorachi, and plan to use them in a batch of blonde ale, which should be a great vehicle for their unique aroma and flavor....

Of Interest To Homebrewers Only

It's been freakin' hot hereabouts since, like March, and I've been ineffectively trying to manage fermentation temps in the basement while simultaneously not running the A/C all the damn time. Also, I just want it to be consistently cool in the basement, and not see my breath upstairs. Finally, it occurred to my thick self that maybe I should control the thing I am concerned about directly, and not worry about the rest unless I need to. So I put a thermostat in the granny cell, and let that run the A/C.


This is a granny cell:

That's the whole room. It's in the corner of our basement, and was built so Mrs. C's mum would have someplace to sleep when she stayed with us for a month at a time. (She likes purple.) Since that time, the little Cicerones have grown up and gone on their ways, and we have a spare bedroom above ground for mothers-in-law and other travelers to use.

So, anyways, it has a door, and one of the three HVAC diffusers in the basement within its bounds. So, if I put a "granny thermostat" in there and put my fermenters in there, I could control their ambient temp, and thus fermentation temp. Thermostats are really simple gizmos, and you can just parallel them as long as you only turn one on at a time. Right now, the only diffuser register that is open is the one in the "cell," because temps outside are fairly livable. The rest of the house will track along, depending on whether the registers are open. When the temps inevitably approach 100F again, I will close windows and open registers again. The important thing is that while Mrs. C. and I can easily tolerate some extreme temperature swings, the yeast doesn't have to. After all, brewers make wort, but yeast makes beer! Current granny cell conditions:

Room for plenty more... especially once the bed goes!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summertime, And The Livin' is Eeeaaasyyy

Well, it is for me, at least, as Mrs. C. did all the work necessary to get this wonderful dinner of ceviche together. Ceviche is fresh (uncooked,) seafood that is tempered in a marinade of citrus and spices. Ours had tilapia, shrimp, scallops, and octopus. Served up with some avocado, pico de gallo, lettuce, tostadas, and salsa verde, it helps ease the heat-afflicted Cicerone's suffering. (I speak for myself regarding suffering; Mrs. C. would be happy if it was 100F.)

That's a wonderful summertime snack, and it was complemented by the bottle of Anchorage Whiteout Mrs. C. scored on a recent visit to Chicago. Whiteout is a sort of high-gravity witbier, made with Sorachi Ace hops, lemon peel, black pepper, and coriander, and is fermented in part by Brettanomyces and aged in Chardonnay barrels.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Beer VS Wine throwdown

The Southern Great Lakes Symphony Beer VS Wine Throwdown fundraiser has come, and gone. Results?
Beer won 4 rounds, and wine won 3.

Here's the courses....
Chicken Cesar salad.
BEER StMartins Abbey Blonde Ale (Belgium)
WINE Karantes 2010 Rose de Karantes Langedoc.

"Very Veggie" Italian Pasta with Tomatoes
BEER Moretti La Rossa Doppelbock (Italy)
WINE Di Mago 2010 Sangiovese Terri Degli Osti

Bohemian Keilbasa & Kraut
BEER Veldensteiner Munich Dunkel (Germany)
WINE Pine Ridge 2010  Chenin Blanc & Viogner

"Doug's Famous" Pulled Pork Sliders
BEER Motor City Honey Porter (Michigan)
WINE Plungerhead 2010 Zinfandel Lodi

Slows To Go Macaroni & Cheese
BEER Saugatuck ESB/Amber (Michigan)
WINE M Lawrence - NV "Sex" sparkling rose.

Bodacious Brownies
BEER Atwater Vanilla Java Porter (Michigan)
WINE Grahams 6 Grapes Reserve Porto
 (Editor's note. They were all wrong!!)

"My Big Fat Greek Bakalava"
BEER Detroit Brewing Radler
WINE Tintero 2010 Moscato D'Asti Sori Gramela
WINNER - WINE! (Wrong again!)

A great time was had by all, and the event netted the symphony a bucket of cash. Yay!
We ABSOLUTELY have to do an event like this again. And soon.

Summer Love

Grilled octopus and Jolly Pumpkin's iO Saison......

Friday, June 22, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 371: Return of Atmospherium

My original attempt at Atmospherium missed the target a bit; instead of 6 to 6-1/2% alcohol I ended up with 8.1%. Tasty as it was, it really was too much for a hot summer's tipple. Today, I am attempting to learn from my previous errors, and make something more 6ish. The key elements are intact: a portion of malted rye to accentuate the spicy, peppery phenols from the French Saison yeast; a wort designed to attain very high attenuation through a multi-step, low temperature mash and the use of 6% table sugar AKA Atmospherium; and lots of spicy Saaz hops throughout.

Here's today's take:

(10 gallons yield)

10  lbs. Weyermann Pilsener malt
2   lbs. Briess rye malt
2   lbs. Weyermann Munich Type 2
1/2 lb.  Weyermann Cara Munich
1   lb.  table sugar (cane)

  • Doughed in with 13-1/2 quarts of 134F liquor for 124F protein rest; rested 30 min.
  • Infused with boiling liquor to 147F, rested 75 min.
  • Vorlaufed, lautered, sparged to collect 12 gallons of wort. Terminal runoff gravity 1.011.

90 minute kettle boil

-Sugar added at 30 min.
-1.3 oz. Perle 9.3% alpha acid at 30 minutes
-1   oz Saaz 5.1% alpha acid at   75 minutes
-1   oz Saaz 5.1% alpha acid at  ~90 minutes

Calculated BUs ~30

Wort was chilled to 65F, yielding 10 and a skosh gallons at 1.050, which was pitched with Wyeast 3711 slurry. This should hit the ABV target nicely....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 369: Munich Dunkel

Dark Munich-style lager beer; it is possibly the very epitome of maltoliciousness, and one of the first classic beers that I strove to make for myself when I began homebrewing almost 25 years ago. The first recipes were based mostly on the contents of my hinder parts, using domestic ingredients, and the wrong ones, mostly. We still got beer out of it, just not real Munich beer; it didn't have the intensity of malty, bready, toasty, caramelly flavors the real thing has. Over the years, increased access to quality information and German malt led me to the promised land. And unlike say, pale ale, hereabouts there is a dearth of these hearty lagers, so it still really pays to make your own. This is a recipe that I've frozen, and won't change unless I can't get the Weyermann malts someday.

(10 gallons)

Target OG, 1.054, 24 BUs

15  lbs. Weyermann Munich Type1
2   lbs. Weyermann Munich Type 2
1/4 lb.  Weyermann Carafa 1
1.2 oz.  Perle 9.3% alpha acid -60 minutes
1/2 oz.  Saaz 5.1% alpha acid  -20 minutes
Wyeast 2308 Munich lager yeast starter

Scaled-down decoction mash:

Doughed in 1 qt./lb. at 132F for 125F strike. Rested 10 min.
Pulled 9 qt. thickest mash for 1st decoction. Heated to 155F, rested 15. Heated to boil, held 15.
Returned to main mash for 154F (needed to infuse 2 qt. boiling liquor,) rested 40 min. After a negative starch test, pulled 7-1/2 qt. thin mash and boiled 5 min. Returned for 165F mashout.

Vorlauf/lauter/sparge until runoff drops to 1.010; collect 12 gallons sweet wort.

Boil/hop as noted above. Total boil time is 90 minutes. Chill to 70F (best we can do this time of year,) and pitch yeast. Place fermenters in 45F cooler to finish attemperating. Rack and lager like the dickens when fermentation subsides. (Note: with this yeast, a diacetyl rest is necessary; allow temp to rise to mid-60s for the last few days of primary fermentation.)

Looking forward to drinking big mugfulls of this while eating barbecue....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 367: "Session IPA"

Today's beer is a command performance: Mrs. C commanded me to make a "session IPA," that is, a low-gravity pale ale with very high bitterness and hop character. She did not have to command too stridently, though, as I think it's a capital idea. We are currently enjoying a very citrusy 5.9% v/v IPA, but a pint of that stuff before dinner makes Mrs. C's head spin. Thus, I'm looking to produce an amber beer of around 3.5-4.0% with around 55 BUs. Here's what I'm going with, straight from the back of the envelope:

(10 gallons final volume)

11  lbs. Great Western 2 row malt
1   lb. Weyermann Melanoidin malt
1/2 lb. Briess Victory malt
1/2 lb. Dingemans Special B malt

Single infusion mash, 1 qt./lb., at 154F

90 minute boil

1     oz. Columbus 13.0%           60 minutes
2     oz. Northern Brewer 10.0%    30 minutes
1-1/2 oz. Willamette 5.2%          10 minutes
1     oz. Bramling Cross 4.7%       5 minutes

As you can see from the hop bill, this will not be a citrusy one. Seemed like a good idea to change it up a bit- the previously mentioned IPA, plus the Dynamomium uber-IPA which is citrusy and fruity as well, have that covered. I'm hoping for a wee bit of piney-ness to carry through from the Columbus, add a bit of wood, mint, and tea from the Northern Brewer, some nice clean spiciness from the Willamette, and a nose full of currant from the Bramling Cross. Wyeast 1098 British Ale yeast will be doing the real work on this one, which we hope to be drinking within 3-4 weeks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 366: Ginger Wheat Ale

Summer weather is here, and I'm a bit behind- this is one of our favorite summer beers, and it'll be weeks until we have any to drink. I guess we'll have to make do with two varieties of Pils, and some IPA. Nothing new about today's beer; it's the same as detailed here. I'm using one kettle addtion of Crystal, with 4 oz. of chopped ginger in the boil for 60 minutes and 10 oz. for 10 minutes. Top-fermenting Wyeast 1007 will do the honors. Stay tuned....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Beer VS Wine Throwdown!!

Support the Southern Great Lakes Symphony Orchestra by attending their "Beer VS Wine" Throwdown fundraiser on Friday June 8. 6 small plates paired with both a beer, and a wine! You vote! And,  be entertained by a jazz quartet at the same time!
Mrs Cicerone is doing the beer pairings!
Tickets available here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Speaking of Rauchbier... An Educational Afternoon

Several weekends ago, our friends Jeff and Susan invited a few of us beer nerds over to their place on a Sunday afternoon. They had recently been on a trip to Bamberg and the surrounding area, and generously decided to share with us the treasures they'd brought home. Also their excellent homebrew and smoked pork loins, and other tasty goodies. After some tasty homemade dunkel and a couple variations on pils, we started with the Dusseldorfer Bonus Round:

Im Fuchschen, Zum Uerige, Hovels altbiers

Three way-fresher-than-you-can-get-here samples of real by golly altbier! The Hovels was the softest, with rich malt, well-integrated bitterness, and a dry finish. Fuchschen was a step up, but still very easy to drink. The Uerige was massively bitter, and then, like the others, vanished cleanly from the palate. The common attributes of all of them were a rich malt aroma and flavor up front, with a strong medium high to very high bitterness, and a disappearing finish. A huge burst of flavor, then little to no aftertaste. It would be very easy to drink these all day, as Jeff reported doing.

Then, the main course: rauchbier. Rauchbier and rauchfleisch. Jeff smoked a pork loin over river birch, and one over orange wood. Both were distinctly different, and both were delicious, particularly with the beers we had with them.

Fresh Schlenkerla Marzen, Spezial Lager, Spezial Marzen
These beers are available here in the states, but 't'would be rare to get any as fresh as these samples. The Spezial Lager came off a bit smokier than the Marzen, likely owing to having a less melanoidin-intense malt profile. The Schlenkerla was uber-smoky as usual, the smokiest by far, but also exhibited a huge, rich malt character. Eventually, we stopped stuffing ourselves on meat and potatoes. (We ate them all.) Just to cap things off, we enjoyed a couple half-pints of Jeff and Susan's Timothy Taylor's Landlord clone and soon to be famous cream ale. Yeah, we were drinking that stuff before it was cool....

Friday, May 18, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 365: Rauchbier

Because Mrs. C. says we'd better not run out, as barbecue season approaches. Can't argue with that. Especially considering how hard we are hitting the last keg of batch 349; it won't hold out much longer. Now that I've made one batch with the current 'crop' of rauchmalt, I can dial in the recipe a bit. 349 turned out pretty much as expected, dark gold to light amber color, malty like a Marzen, and moderately smoky.

We are tweaking it just a bit today, boosting the rauchmalt from 67% to 72%, and shifting the balance of the Munich malt toward the darker Type 2. This should deepen the color only a tad, but give us a little more of the intense caramelly melanoidin flavors. Hops are in a supporting role only, 24 BU from Crystal and Mt. Hood. As is often the case, the esteemed Wyeast 2308 Munich yeast will do the actual work.

The Key Ingredient
Looking forward to enjoying this out back with some smoked cheese, gazpacho, and mebbe some barbecue....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 364: Dynamomium

OK, the name of this beer came first. Clearly, it's an Imperial IPA, though. As to the question of what exactly Dynamomium is, well, only my brothers and I know. And even then, it's not all that clear. It's a reference to one of our childhood tropes, anyway, and we are amused. For everyone else, it's a beer of mid-high 70s gravity, well attenuated, with 80 BU from a blend of Cluster, Magnum (20.5% alpha!) Crystal, Mt. Hood, Citra, Willamette, and Nugget, added frequently throughout the boil. Said hop addition amounts and times were arrived at via precise frantic calculations conducted minutes before each dose was tipped into the kettle. Also, Uncle Dave threw a couple of unscripted small handfuls of Nugget in at the end of the boil, for good measure. The specific hop varieties used were selected mostly for their flavor and aroma characteristics, though the Magnum was included also because of its monster alpha content- where else can you use more than a pinch of the stuff? As it happens, the Magnum also has a very bright, citrus-candy aroma when rubbed fresh. Speaking of handling this stuff: another way of stating 20% alpha is that this stuff is over 1/5 lupulin. You can pick this sticky stuff up, but putting it down is something else entirely! Check it out:

 Yeah, buddy!

I don't think there's much point in posting a 'recipe' for this, as it was a pretty seat-of-the-pants type brew day. We basically took the grist from here, added a couple of pounds of Dynamomium (which bears a remarkable similarity of appearance and flavor to dextrose,) and hopped it up as described above. The resulting wort was served up to a bit more than a quart of fresh 1056 slurry, which set upon it like a hungry wolverine on a nice, juicy hamster. Stay tuned for results....

Monday, April 30, 2012

O! How we love New Orleans!

 We just spent 5 glorious days enjoying The City That Is The Happiest Place On Earth. Yes, we did everything we set out to do, including eating fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House, dancing in the sun to Hot Club of New Orleans, slurping oysters, drinking Guinni at Monagahan's (Erin Rose), drinking pilsner at Crescent City Brewery, eating crawfish in every way imaginable, discovering The Bulldog multi-tap in Uptown, throwing down to Bonerama and Evan Christopher, waving to Ignatius J Reilly, buying the weirdest thing we could find for Mr Cicerone's daughter's birthday, eating turtle soup at Court of Two Sisters and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde, drinking Sazeracs at The Roosevelt Hotel, and, in general, eating, drinking and laughing until we fell down. Uncle Dave, and our friend Nicole of Eat It Detroit, came along on our adventures, and I just know we would not have had quite as much fun if they had not been there with us.

Highlights- the food! Everything we ate!

Here's what Mr Cicerone had to say about Cochon.....

The Green Goddess can only be described as SUPERB, AND I WANT TO MOVE IN THERE. Jacques-Imo's was, as usual, fantastic. Platters of fresh oysters at Felix's were worthy of the king's proverbial ransom. The turtle soup at The Court Of Two Sisters was unrivaled. Jambalaya at Coops, the crawfish boils everywhere one looked, the cheese at St James Cheese Company, fried green tomatoes and etouffee at various places. Groan, groan, groan. And....the fried chicken at Wilie Mae's Scotch House made Mr Cicerone weep tears of joy.

The beer!
There's a really nice pilsner at Crescent City Brewery, good Guinness at Erin Rose, and a few really good beer bars if you know where to look. There's DBA in the Marigny, Cooter Brown's at the end of the St Charles street car line 30 minutes from The French Quarter, The Bulldog in Uptown (awesome!), and The Avenue in The Garden District, where I was stunned by the diversity of the draft beer list (Tilquin Gueuze on tap!), but a little dismayed at being served line cleaner in my glass instead of beer. (Note- I'm sure this was a "once-off". There are two Certified Cicerones on staff, and it was not they that did this.) Most of the bars and restaurants carry Abita, and beers from NOLA Brewing (Flambeau Red, Blonde & Hopitoulas were all good), as well as newcomers Bayou Teche   (LA-31 Bière Pâle & Biere Noire were excellent).
Note: The "International Beer House" (of which there are more than one) on Bourbon Street are sad, smelly watering holes that are to be avoided for the most part, though we did enjoy a pint of Paulaner Helles purchased there.

Pictures? Here's a bunch

I'll stop now, and just add that YOU JUST HAVE TO GO THERE. NOW.

Dinner at Chez Cicerone

Tonight's dinner made use of a GIANT (7.5pound!) chicken that Mr Cicerone smoked last weekend. We barely made a dint in it, and on the spur of the moment, this evening, as I was starting to chop the leftover chook for chicken salad, I decided to make quiche instead. So, thank goodness for food processors, because like magic, the pastry was made. As it rested in the fridge, I sauteed some shallots, smashed the garlic cloves that had been used for aromatics inside the chook's cavity, and made the custard for the quiche with 3 DUCK eggs that I'd been lucky enough to find at Eastern Market last Saturday. (Whip eggs, add 1/2 cup cream, one cup milk, salt & pepper.). The pastry then got rolled out and fitted into a pie dish, and blind-baked for 20 minutes, then brushed with egg yolk. A thin layer of grated Manchego covered the bottom of the shell, then the shallots & garlic, and handfuls of chopped smoked chicken, then the custard poured in. Baked at 375 deg F for 45 minutes. Served with a simple green salad, and Mr Cicerone's Rauchbier.
That's Mr Cicerone's Rauchbier in the Schlenkerla glass.
Lovely as the quiche was, next time I think I'll add some bacon!! And, there will be a next time. We still have about 2 pounds of leftover chicken, and 9 more duck eggs!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 363: Classic American Pils

Some years back, our gentleman friend and fellow dashiki-wearin' dude Jeff Renner led a campaign to resurrect an indigenous beer that had been largely killed off by Prohibition.

Blame this guy.
The beer, once lost, can be considered successfully revived. Commercial producers have picked up on the crisp, bitter lager as something worth celebrating, and one can find some nice examples out there; I recommend Craftsman's 1903 from Pasadena, CA. Capsule history: Pilsener beer was the 'It Girl' of the brewing world in the mid-late 19th century, and European immigrant brewers, mainly from Bohemia and Germany, sought to make a pils-type beer from the ingredients they found in their new home. The biggest problem was that American barley malt, typically made from 6 row barley, was significantly higher in protein and husk material than the 2 row barley of Pilsner's place of birth. The protein created potential haze problems for a beer celebrated for its brilliant clarity, and the grainy flavors from the husky 6 row were not desirable. The silver lining of the husk issue is that that's where the enzymes in malt are found, and 6 row malt has enough spare enzymatic power to convert added starch in the mash to fermentable sugar without breaking a sweat. Thus, American brewers cut the 6 row malt with corn grits, which are almost pure starch, comparatively speaking, to thin out the protein rich wort. Hop profiles were similar to the original Pils in terms of perceived bitterness, although American hop varieties were frequently used. So goes the story, anyway. Today's story proceeds thusly:

(10 gallon recipe)

12  lbs. Briess 6 row malt
3   lbs. Flaked maize
1.8 oz.  Cluster hops, 8.7%AA (kettle addition, 60 min.)
1   oz.  Saaz hops, 5.1% AA (flavor addition, 20 min.)
1/2  t   Calcium Chloride in mash liquor
Wyeast 2308 Munich lager slurry

Simple decoction mash-

Doughed in 1 qt./lb. at 130F for 123F strike. Rested 30 min.
Pulled 8 1/2 qt. thickest mash for 1st decoction. Heated to 155F, rested 15. Heated to boil, held 10.
Returned to main mash for 146F, rested 20 min. Infused to 150F with 2 qt. boiling liquor, rested 20.
After a negative starch test, pulled 8 qt. thin mash and boiled 5 min. Returned for 166F mashout.

Vorlauf/lauter/sparge until runoff drops to 1.009; collect 12 gallons sweet wort.

Boil/hop as noted above. Chill to 55Fish and pitch yeast. Rack and lager like the dickens when fermentation subsides. (Note: with this yeast, a diacetyl rest is necessary; allow temp to rise to mid-60s for the last few days of primary fermentation.)


I am writing about this as if I am some sort of authority, when in fact this is the first CAP I have ever brewed. Plus I mostly pulled the recipe out of my hinder parts. You may want to disregard this entire post....

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I got okra, enough to choke ya....

Quick post about Dinner at Chez Cicerone this evening......

Giant (8 pound) chicken, lovingly sloooow-smoked by Mr Cicerone, accompanied by whole steamed okra  blanketed with a decadent mustard remoulade sauce. The sauce was made thus....

3 large egg yolks, 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon, one tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco, salt, pepper, one clove minced garlic, whisked together. Then, on low heat, 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter are whisked in gradually to produce a thick, velvety, buttery, mustardy sauce.....Oh My!

Beer? The only commercially available Steinbier, Hofstetten Granit Bock, went wonderfully with the smoky chicken. The beer is rich and uber-malty, with that deep, almost raisiny/pruney malt flavour reminiscent of Celebrator Doppelbock. It has a delightful burnt toffee flavour, too, and as it warmed this transitioned into a nice, mellow smoke....

(Mr Cicerone's Wee Heavy was also a fine accompaniment to our meal.)

(And now, as I'm writing this, I'm sipping on Buster 2010,which has oxidized a wee bit in the loveliest way, with the end result being a drier, hazelnutty version of the original beer which is hiding its 10% ABV content a little too well.....)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Les Bon Temps, They Will Roulez

We are heading down to New Orleans on the morn, meeting up with Uncle Dave, and Ms. Rupersberg, for to spend five days in The City That Care Forgot. The French Quarter Festival will be going on, and that will be grand, but there is really no bad time to be in N'awlins. People there know how to live- music, food, drink, conviviality are important there. And it shows in every respect, but, arguably, most in the food. (This keeping in mind uh, JAZZ!) I have yet to visit Paris or anyplace in France, but if there's a better place to eat, I don't know if I could survive it. (Uncle Sean, having been to all three, rates them thus: #1 Seoul, #2 New Orleans, #3 Paris.)

We travelers have been corresponding and plotting for the last weeks, getting more excited by the day. Nicole came forth with mention of many of the things friends had suggested she must do, and I was compelled to respond with a sort of a manifesto:

Coops is mandatory. Good food, good atmosphere. The lamb ribs are mighty fine, and their jambalaya is really good. Sorry, bro, it's got bunny in it....

I will eat fried chicken from Willie Mae's Scotch House, or die trying. I will eat many, many oysters. Ditto mudbugs. Ditto ditto mudbugs. I will have a pils or two at Crescent City. I will eat beignets. (My spellcheck helpfully suggests 'signets' instead.)(Cygnets, maybe...) I will down Guinni at Monaghan's. I will be thrown out of Avenue Pub for drinking all of their beer. I will down more Guinni at Monaghan's. I will throw down to Bonerama. And Evan Christopher. I will eat too much at Jacques-Imo, Cochon, and elsewhere. I will sing inappropriately at odd hours and places. I will buy cookies from the dessert guy on Frenchman Street at 2AM. I will discover many more new and glorious things, mostly by chance. I will be very, very happy. Furiously happy.

Many, many mudbugs.

Seriously, if you've never been to NOLA, put it on your 'to do' list. You can thank us later. With beer.

(Apologies to Jenny Lawson for appropriating "furiously happy;" I think she would approve of my furious pursuit of happiness.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 362: Pils

Because, Yeaaaaaay, Pils! That is all.

Like this.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 361: IPA (Old-School)

Old School as in Goose, Grant's, Liberty, and the like- A pale, very bitter, slightly-stronger-than-normal ale with a pretty good dose of hop flavor and aroma. Mad Hatter actually fits the mold pretty well, at 5-1/4% alcohol and a metric ton o' BUs.

Today's beer is designed to be golden colored, 6ish percent alcohol, 60 BUs, and most importantly, to make the drinker's tongue tingle. Also, (this is important,) no one drinking this beer should find themselves thinking about cat boxes.

Here's what the 10 gallon recipe looks like:

19# Briess 2 row malt
2 # Weyermann Munich I
1 # Weyermann Carahell
.8oz Centennial 10.5% for 60 min.
1 oz Nugget 14.1% for 30 min.
1 oz Northern Brewer 9.9% for 20 min.
1 oz Cascade 8.6% for 20 min.
1 oz Northern Brewer 9.9% for 10 min.
1 oz Cascade 8.6% for 10 min.
1 oz Nugget 14.1% right before strike heat

Single temp infusion with 1qt/lb at 149F for about 40 min. (overkill with Briess)
Chilled to 65F and pitched an active starter of Wyeast 1056. OG is 1.064

I am optimistic.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Our 8th wedding anniversary had us doing what we really enjoy most- cooking at home!
We started with our annual anniversary toast - 2004 Bigfoot (the year we got married; we have one every year on our anniversary)- paired with some stilton and a 5 year cheddar from Wisconsin. First- the beer. It's getting old ( a bit like us!); oxidation/vinous/nutty flavours abound. It's still good, and still holding its bitterness, but personally we both prefer fresher examples. Both cheeses were quite splendid with the beer.

Next- dinner. We had scored some venison and berry sausages from Corridor Sausage Co. Hmmm, what to do, what to do. Inspired by a bottle of Goose Island's Bourbon County Bramble Rye, I pan fried them and laid them over a bed of the most delicious rice ever- Black Japonica by Lundberg farms- and made a simple sauce from blueberries macerated in port. A side of simple steamed spinach, and we were happy! Needless to say, the Bramble Rye Stout was wonderful with the meal. The beer, made with blackberries & raspberries, was silky and fruity, and the boozy character from the rye whisky aging was not over powering. 

EDIT from Him: The "simple" blueberry sauce incorporated the aroma and flavor of crushed black peppercorns and juniper, and was piquant and delicious....

Friday, March 23, 2012

How time flies!

Once again, Ashley's Westland are having their annual Cask Ale Fest on May 12, from noon-6PM. Early bird tickets are available here for $20 instead of $35. More info posted when available!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thanks again, Sean.....

....for last night's meal, carefully prepared according to your recipe! The corned beef turned out superbly, as did the veggies. Though, we did have to tweak things a tiny bit. The cooking liquid (which contained both Mr Cicerone's Sunuva Buster 2011, and Matmos Ale) was unbearably, inedibly salty about half way into the cooking time, so I had to start over with an all new batch of cooking liquid complete with beer and spices. And, the beer in the cooking liquid created a lot of bitterness when cooked down, so I added 1/2 cup of buckwheat honey to the cooking liquid, with a delicious end result.

Result- perfectly cooked, unusually spicy corned beef, with the most delicious accompanying vegetables I think I've ever had!

Oh, try this mustard ale sauce, also Sean's recipe, with your next corned beef. It went superbly. I used Bell's Hopslam.

Oh, almost forgot the beers! Of course Sunuva Buster 2011 & Matmos Ale were superb with dinner, as was Mr Cicerone's Rauchbier!!

That's cabbage sprouts on the left- delicious!!

Brew Day, Batch 360: Mild Ale

Time for one of my favorites, English Mild Ale. And so I once again show my skewed priorities, and spend an unseasonably warm March day in my basement. We are hoping to serve this beer as a cask ale one evening in the near future, while we screen select episodes of The Beer Hunter TV series for our friends....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thank you Homebrew Chef!

Here's to Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef. I came across his recipe for "stout-cured corned beef" last year, but it was too close to St Patty's Day to actually brine the meat (which takes 6-8 days). So, this year I planned correctly!  I have just put 5 pounds of brisket into the brining solution (which contained 32 ounces of Mr Cicerone's SunuvaBuster 2011), and will remove it on St Patty's Day when I'll cook it with more spices, and more beer! 

A big chunk o' brisket

Brining solution, chock full of fragrant spices and beer.
Into the fridge it goes, for 8 days.....

Monday, March 5, 2012

More on the intriguing beer dinner.....

The dinner at The Rattlesnake last Thursday was wonderful, and a lot of fun. Mr Cicerone, unfortunately, was out of town at a family funeral, so my date was Miss Eat It Detroit (who isn't really a fan of IPA, though she's being won over...)  Brian Tennis of the Michigan Hop Alliance was the guest speaker, and he did a wonderful job talking about all things hop-associated, as well as discussing the beers that were being served that evening. Thanks to Alex for the idea, and for putting this evening together - I'm not aware that an all IPA dinner has ever been done before? And thanks to Chef for the amazing food!
Here are some pictures......

...Full post

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Intriguing Beer Dinner

Rattlesnake Club is doing an all-IPA beer dinner next week on Thursday. A very interesting idea; check it out here. What other beer styles would you think might lend themselves to such an adventure?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 358: Gluten Free Ale

This'd be another example of "the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry." Excepting, perhaps, just how well my plans were laid. In my position as royal consort to the Queen of Beer, I have sampled many a gluten free "beer." The quotes are because some of the samples just flat-out didn't qualify as beer. I've had a few decent ones, ones that I've actually ordered multiple pints of- My buddy Doug periodically makes a "CPA," or Celiac Pale Ale, that is quite nice. The Belipago at Jolly Pumpkin Cafe is also quite a good beer. And the Green's beers are perhaps the most impressive of all. So naturally, finding out that my friend Terry, and possibly his brother Brian are experiencing gluten intolerance, I felt the need to reinvent the wheel.

So far, I think the new wheel may have some flat spots.

I had this idea to use sorghum syrup from Briess as the base, and augment it with a small amount of oats, half of which I toasted in the oven. I also planned to continue the oatmeal cookie theme by harnessing the curranty nature of Nugget and Goldings hops. The oat part was predicated on using a powdered amylase enzyme to convert the starchy oats into a sugary solution. This is where I didn't plan things out so well- the powdered amylase doesn't seem to be up to the task. I tried a wide range of temperatures over about 12 hours, and got a moderately sweet pot of oatmeal. Before I jettisoned the oats entirely, I had gooped up around 10 pots and strainers of various size and shape here at Chez Cicerone. (Nothing new....) Thus the entire fermentable part of the wort came from the sorghum syrup with a bit of dark candi sugar syrup for a little bit of color. I ended up going with Goldings, Goldings, and Goldings for the three hop additions, to a calculated 40 BU. The very dependable and neutral 1056 was given the job of fermenting.

By itself, the extract syrup resembles and tastes like pale malt extract. The wort was definitely a bit different than a malt based one, though I couldn't put my finger on a suitable descriptor(s) to explain in what way(s.)

Here's where we're at:

We'll see how we do. If this one doesn't do the trick, we'll figure out how to get the job done. The goal is not, "pretty good for gluten free," but "I'll have another!"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Nice, Simple Meal

A favorite meal here at Chez Cicerone is edamame, sushi rice, and some grilled fish, usually rare tuna seared a bit on the outside. Tonight, though, we had a nice pair of mackerel filets, broiled with a little bit of salt and pepper. Such things are usually served with a little dish of soy sauce, which one can stir a bit of wasabi into, if one likes. Also on hand, typically, is gari, which is thinly sliced pickled ginger. Gari serves as a palate cleanser, or 'tongue Zamboni,' and is nice when you've a lot of different things on your plate. It really wasn't necessary tonight, as we were lucky enough to have some Bambic to serve that purpose, however. Bambic, from Jolly Pumpkin, is 30% "Lambicus Dexterius," and 70% Bam Biere, and is as tasty and refreshing as any gueuze. Also, though the gari wasn't required, an apres-tif of Winter Ginger Ale provided us with a different sort of pickled ginger altogether....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 357: Pils

Mmmm... Pils... I looove Pils.  When my yeasty buddies get done fermenting today's batch, I'ma give them another batch of Pils wort straight away. 'Cause if you Google the phrase "too much Pils," you won't get a lot of relevant hits. (Of course you will get some hits; you'll get hits on "butt nugget tuba.")(OK, the only hits you'll get for that will be for this post, but still....)

The recipe is simplicity itself:

(for 10 gallons)

15 lb. Weyermann Pils malt
1.9 oz. Perle 8.2%  for 60 min.
1.5 oz. Saaz 5.1%  for 20 min.
1.5 oz. Saaz 5.1%  for ~2 min.

I do a simplified decoction mash for this- dough in at around 125F, rest about 20 min, and pull about 40-45% thick mash, heat to around 155F, rest 10, boil 10, and return for a sacch rest around 148F. After conversion, I pull a similar amount of thin mash, heat to a boil for about 5 min, and return for mashout. There's no point to being too specific about amounts and temps, as what it takes will vary from one brewing setup to another.

I'm using my favorite lager strain, Wyeast 2308. The experts would probably pick something else, something that produces a crisper, drier beer, but I am brewing the beer for me and Mrs C. The beer will exhibit possibly too much pils malt character, little to no DMS, and the upper limits of hop aroma, bitterness, and flavor according to the all-important BJCP style guidelines, but will probably be just right according to the United Beer Drinkers of Harrison Street....

Ps. If you want a fresh, domestic commercial Pils that kicks ass, try Prima Pils from Victory, or Noble Pils from Boston Beer.

Who would have thought.....

 This bottle of Westvleteren 8 is 12 years old. AT LEAST. I purchased it at The Map Room, sometime between 1995 and November 2000, when I worked there, and when both 8 & 12 were available in the USA. We opened it last night, sure that it would we well past its prime, and kicking ourselves for letting it go "to waste" as it sat, hidden and forgotten, on the bottom shelf in the circus room, collecting dust.
Such was not the case! It was still nicely carbonated, and though it did exhibit a little oxidative character, it was not papery or carboardy, and was rich, malty and chock full of date flavour. Lucky us.