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.