Ginger Haughty (A Ginger-Beer-Syrup Hot Toddy)

•December 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It’s Monday.  Monday right between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It’s the time of year that there are an endless glut of holiday get-togethers.  Also, the season for getting super sick from hanging out with all those jerks who never wash their hands.  In honor of all this I offer you the hot holiday feel-good beverage of the year.

Now, assuming you’ve been following along for the past three posts you have produced your very own ginger beer – or at the very least know what the hell it is.  If you still have some of that spicy beverage hanging around your house completely unconsumed I have a suggestion.  Make yourself – and maybe some very lucky friends of yours – a ginger beery cocktail.  This is so easy that there is little reason to put it in writing, but here it is anyway.

What You’ll Need:

2/3 Cup Ginger Beer or 1/3 Cup Ginger Beer Syrup

1 Cup Hot Tea

1/8 Lemon

1 Shot Whiskey, Brandy, or Rum of ChoiceGinger Haughty

(Scale this up to serve at holiday parties, but bear in mind, you will need to taste it along the way to ensure the quality of your final product)

Step One:  Take your ginger beer and put it in a sauce pan and, on medium heat, reduce the volume by about half – Obviously skip this step if you already have your ginger beer syrup.

Step Two:  Make your 1 cup of hot tea in a medium bowl or ~2 cup measuring container.

Step Three:  Once tea is steeped, add the 1/3 cup ginger beer syrup to the mix, being sure to mix well.

Step Four:  Squeeze your 1/8 lemon into the ginger-tea solution.

Step Five:  Get your favorite, appropriately sized, container.  Place your liquor-of-choice shot in said container – I chose the Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey I bought for my wife.

Step Six:  Add Ginger solution to your cup.

Step Seven:  Drink it while it’s hot!

See.  Hardly worth writing down.  But you should certainly give it a try.  Let me know what you think and what you do differently to make it your own.  What do you do with your leftover ginger beer if you have any?  Until next time, Happy Winter!  And now back to the job search!

Super Simple Ginger Beer Recipe

•November 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

At long last (much shorter than the time between other posts I Will Have You Know!) I submit to you my extra simple Ginger Beer recipe.  Thinking about my typical ginger beer recipe on the days leading up to production day, I came to the conclusion that I had made things a bit too complicated.  Therefore, I am paring this recipe down to the bare bones and leaving the rest up to you.

What You’ll Need:

Large Saucepan

Saucepan and Measuring CupFunnel

Carboy

Airlock

Ginger Beer Plant (or not)

8 1/2 Cups Water

2 Cups Sugar

1/3 Cup Grated Ginger

IMAG0976editStir 2 cups of sugar into 8 1/2 cups of water in the saucepan and bring it all to a boil.  Some recipes do not require the water to come to a boil since it is unnecessary to dissolve this low of a concentration of sugar, I do it just to try and reduce the risk of infection.  Do as you see fit.  After the water comes to a boil add the grated ginger and boil the mixture for ten minutes.

Once complete, grab your funnel, set it securely in your carboy, and pour your mixture in.  My collapsible funnel tends to fold when it gets too hot, and has been responsible for making many a mess on the stove.  Take precautions to avoid this if you can.  Now depending on the size of your carboy you may need to pour some into a glass so you have enough room for your ginger beer plant to move around.  I had one instance where the airlock was nearly down in the ginger beer solution and the “plant” started pushing its way into the airlock – certainly not ideal.  Plus having a little extra gives you a sample, so you’re working with a known quantity before fermentation.  You probably want to know whether you prefer the sweet and spicy flavor of a ginger ale, or the more acidic, less sugary taste of a ginger beer.  If you decide that you love plane old sugar and ginger just the way it is you can save so much time by carbonating and drinking it immediately.  Oh joy!  Extra time to do with as you please – us old folks know that’s something you just can’t beat.

Here – working with a small batch – cap the carboy and shove it in the refrigerator or freezer to cool.  Prep your airlock for deployment.  Once down around room temperature, add the ginger beer plant plus a little bit of the media it’s growing in to your ale.  Get the airlock firmly in place and set the bottle somewhere it will be able to sit comfortably for at least a week.  You can ferment for longer than a week, but be sure to taste it from time to time until it meets your expectations/desires/standards.

Ginger Beer Progress

When brewing is complete, use sterilized utensils to filter the ginger and ginger beer plant out of the mixture.  Carbonate, refrigerate, and enjoy.  I’ll usually make up a large batch of sugar water and put the ginger beer plant in with a bit of the leftover ginger until I am ready to make the next batch.  You can even refrigerate the darn thing if it will be a while until you try this again.  There it is.  You made your first ginger beer, And You LOVE IT!

Notes:

  • Take them.  Keep track of what you’re doing.  The first time I attempted to make ginger beer, I did not write down my procedure – or even the damn recipe – and it was one of the best batches I have made to date.  Seven trials later and I am finally getting a consistent product that is as delicious as I want it to be.  I use Field Notes, mostly because there are just enough pages for me to get everything I need in there.  They are easy to organize because they give you three at a time so you can break them down by subject or, however you other moderately obsessive compulsive folks out there do things.  Also they have an expedition version that can get wet – perfect for brewing.
  • My most successful ginger beer brews have occurred at cooler temperatures – usually somewhere between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  I think that this might keep yeast from becoming overactive.
  • Check out my previous Ginger Beer post for more details/rants

Ginger Beer

•November 4, 2014 • 1 Comment

I love beer.  Circumstances have led to me brewing less than I once had.  I thought it would be a great idea to buy three 5-gallon kegs and to make beer for my Ellie’s and my wedding.  Our homemade wedding beer came from the kits you can pick up in any decent brew shop.  For the first four or five beers I made using those brew kits I had a great deal of fun steeping the limited grains provided, adding the malt extract, and adding the different varieties of hops at the specified times.  One terrible thing about these kits – they make you feel a bit like a brewing genius when in fact you are still, most assuredly, a beer brewing novice.  Much like one of the chemistry sets I had when I was younger, combining the reagents and having the expected outcome occur was as easy as following the instructions, but this did not necessarily denote an actual understanding of what was happening and why.

One thing I have learned about myself – and most of my friends and family have known for a while – is that I tend to jump into things and learn what works and what does not work first-hand.  I started brewing from actual recipes.  Thus far, there has only been one true disaster, but that does not mean that all of the beers have been worth sharing with others.  For that reason alone I have an abundance of beer.  Now the unfortunate thing about having three kegs full of beer and only one adult in the household who drinks beer somewhat regularly is that an abundance of beer quickly becomes a vast overabundance.  Clearly it was time for me to rethink my brewing habits.

Because my wife is a connoisseur of ginger soda, and since I was able to locate a homemade soda recipe book at the Knox County Public Library – if you live in Knoxville and don’t use the public library you are missing out! – I decided to try my hand at making homemade, handcrafted soda to fill at least one keg.  I delved into the resources available to me over the internet and quickly found that there was something called ginger beer.  It appears as though ginger beer is something that can only be created through the use of a ginger beer plant which is a scobi, a combination of bacteria and yeast.  Some ginger beer recipes call for adding bakers yeast or trying to start your own spontaneous fermentation using diced ginger and sugar.  Although these are a ginger beer some do not consider them to be true ginger beer.  To me, the main difference is when yeast is used – which is what causes most instances of spontaneous fermentation – the flavor is, not surprisingly, yeasty or bready, where ginger beer fermented with a ginger beer plant is very slightly vinegary and far more acidic.

Half-gallon ginger beer syrup fermenting

Half-gallon ginger beer syrup fermenting

Lucky for me, almost as quickly as I discovered there was such a thing as a ginger beer plant, I found a friend here in Knoxville who just so happened to have some in his refrigerator. awaiting the opportunity to work its science on a sugary ginger concoction.  Another thing I love about Knoxville: there is an excellent, near-surface fermentation movement that is fairly easy to stumble across.  My first ginger beer was exactly what I had wanted – spicy, gingery, and sweet – but has proved to be difficult to reproduce.  First, the ginger beer plant granules – their typical form – produced a long scobi – supposedly not too atypical – which I collected for use in future ginger beer fermentation.  I also downgraded my single five gallon batch to multiple half gallon batches in order to try different recipes.

Thus far, subsequent attempts have resulted in about 60% of the ginger beers tasting at least slightly bready.  Although this is a substandard result as far as I am concerned, when I sampled a breadier ginger beer version at the French Broad Picklefest I ended up going through a good 1/3 of my stock there was such a high demand for it.  Evidently a bready/yeasty ginger beer is not necessarily a bad thing.  In addition to regular ginger beer, I also produced ginger beer syrup, which would be perfect if it hadn’t come out too viscous. So viscous that it sinks to the bottom of the cup, forming a layer below whatever I try to mix it with.  Next I’ll try and use it in some sort of hot ginger cocktail, similar to a hot toddy.  It should make for a wonderful fall or winter treat.  A new batch of ginger beer should be in the works within the next couple of days with a recipe to be posted after fermentation, so fingers crossed and check back.  Until then, maybe find a recipe of your own and give spontaneous fermentation a go.

Beer Tristravaganza

•May 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In honor of being neIMAG0025arly finished with graduate school and my wife taking charge of the local Wednesday farmer’s market I am going to evaluate not just one, but three hoppy adult beverages.

First up, New Belgium‘s Dig Pale Ale.  If you’re looking for the typical New Belgium Fat Tire with a whopping helping of fruit flavors, then the Dig is the right beer for you.  With the Dig, the overt nut flavors that typically balance the hop’s bitterness and earthiness are overpowered by fruit.  I can appreciate a fruit beer that manages to maintain the hop and malt character that make our bitter, fermented friend what it is.  In the case of Dig, the beer was way too sweet for consumption.  I have become disenfranchised with most New Belgium beers as they tend to mostly be variations on the same basic elements.  Couple that with an overwhelming abundance of sweet fruit flavors and there is a high likelihood that this beer is not going to be a favorite of mine no matter how much oIMAG0026f a chance I give it.

Aroma: 2.5/ Flavor: 2.5

Next up is a donation from the parents down in Marietta.  Red Hare Brewing Company is a somewhat recent discovery of theirs and they were gracious enough to send a couple cans of brew my way.  The Long Day Lager was under-carbonated and, whether as a product of it’s low carbonation or just an unfortunate recipe, completely forgettable.  The finish was slightly bitter which increased my enjoyment of this beer a tid bit.  However, If I’m drinking a lager I want it to be crisp and refreshing and unfortunately the Long Day Lager fell flat.

Aroma: 1/Flavor: 2

IMAG0032For that person still reading this (and paying attention) you will probably have deduced that today sees a double helping of Red Hare Brewing Company.  Last up on this abbreviated extended review session is the Watership Brown Ale.  If nothing else the beer has a great name considering the breweries ties with rabbits.  The first taste of Watership Brown was immediately disappointing.  The carbonation was nearly absent, which takes the expansive flavors and crams them together.  That being said, this was a heavy brown, having somewhat dark and smoky nuances.  Once I had time to consider the character beyond the name this ale hit me somewhere between a brown and a porter, which typically are lower carbonation anyway.  Therefore, out of the two, Watership Brown Ale was my favorite from Red Hare Brewing Company, mostly because I enjoy darker beers and this was an interesting take on a brown.  It was smoky, slightly nutty (as browns tend to be), and had silky, creamy mouthfeel.

Aroma: 2.5/ Flavor: 3

Home Brewing Class

•May 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

As we neared summer and the final week our Groupon was valid my brother-in-law and I decided to attend our free-for-us introductory brewing class at Brewmaster’s Warehouse in Marietta.  Having already brewed four whole batches of homebrew start to finish – straight from the box full of all the ingredients and explicit hand-holding instructions – I figured it would have little real value to me.  But, momma gave it the ol’ redheaded in-law and I for Christmas and, us being from the South and it being necessary to live up to Mom’s expectations, we had to at least come down and give it a shot.

Upon arrival I scoffed at the size of the place; about three times that of my local Ferment Station here in Knoxville, with roughly the same amount of goodies.  We were promptly directed to our rectangular plastic tables adorned with slideshow handouts, bottle opener, and pilsner glass.  My B-i-l and I each thought the same thing: “Shit, at least we get a glass out of this.”  Eventually more people shuffle in and the class gets started.  As far as I’m concerned every class we ever pay for, regardless of the topic, should start like this one did.  Our homebrewing guide came around to all the pupils and offered a tasting of previous classes brews.  Somewhere in there my cynical side knows this was part of a ploy to get me to buy their homebrew kits.  But I am perfectly okay with that.

The class was actually very enlightening.  From a basic walkthrough of what it takes to make beer and the purpose of the different ingredients involved, to more in depth explanation of many of the options we have as homebrewers the class covered everything you would need to know to get your first batch of beer out.  We passed around different malts and were able to taste each to get a better understanding of the flavors different malts impart to a beer.  Several different types of hops were also circulated for the same reason, and I must say I’ve always assumed that you need to have some sort of refined senses to be able to really tell a difference between hops, but I could actually smell the difference!  Teach also told us about malt extracts – syrup and dehydrated – , cleaning product options, and different yeasts – apparently there are such things as wet yeast which offer tons more variety than dry, just with a shorter shelf-life!  Neat right?!  Who’da thought that you could gain so much extra knowledge in two hours?

Moral of the story is, if you’re still in those beginning stages where you have just enough information to get you into trouble, consider hitting your local shop for some tips and pointers.  Our class was a lot of fun, we got some tasty beer samples, and I gained a good bit of useful knowledge despite being mildly inebriated.  Most importantly, it made me really excited to start creating my own recipes and experimenting.  So here’s to that!  Get out and take a course and maybe make some new friends – like me!  Also any suggestions on the recipe creation front would be most assistantive of you.  Now go make me some beer damn it!

Brewer’s Best Smoked Porter (Walkthrough?)

•March 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

Well shit.  Clearly I am not cut out for this regular writing gig, luckily no one is paying me too so I’m feeling no pressure at all, and I have to admit it feels great.  However, there are now other things that I would rather avoid doing so it’s time to do a biannual review/brew kit breakdown.

So I recently got married and as a part of our “money saving” tactics we decided that I would brew my own beer (as much as brewing your own beer involves a box with all the ingredients, and instructions on exactly what to do).  We chose three types of beer, an American Pale for my wife, a Smoked Porter for me, and then a Red Ale for all people who, we figured, probably would not enjoy our taste in beer.  I assumed that the Red would get emptied, the American Pale would be half full and I would be the only smart one drinking a smoked porter on a cold March day.  Now that I’m married the rate of me being wrong has increased 10-fold, but never did I think it would start so soon.  The Porter Was the Hit of the Reception!  Take a breath, and now don’t tell anyone that you were as shocked as me, learn from my mistakes and move forward.  Everyone loved the porter.  That is of course operating on the assumption that everyone = people-with-a-proclivity-to-choose-a-porter, but that was an astounding number of people!  And throughout the day I’d say I got about half as many compliments on the Porter as I did congratulations on the marriage.  So I thought I’d share my homebrewing experience with you.  Buckle down and maybe grab a beer or two because this might take awhile.

First off I got my fermenter, giant spoon, hygrometer (Coopers Beginner Brewing Kit), candy thermometer (normally, but I used a meat thermometer in this instance) and sanitized it with some good old fashioned bleach.  I like bleach because, having worked in a lab before, I know how easy it can be to contaminate nutrient rich environments with unwanted bacterial cultures even under sterile conditions.  After bleaching I gave it a really good rinse using super hot water.  I’ve used this technique twice now and have had no problems at all; I just make sure every piece of the fermenter that can be removed, is removed and individually washed, and that all the bleach gets rinsed off.

ImageAfter that I grab my stock pot fill it with 2.5 gallons of water (supposedly the more water you have in the pot during the boiling of the hops the greater your IBUs) and pull out all of my Brewer’s Best Smoked Porter ingredients. Being a little overly concerned about screwing up everyone’s beer for the wedding, I read the instructions 4 or 5 times before starting.

ImageNow, to the fun part!  Turn the stove on and heat the water.  We poured all of the grains into the cheesecloth sack and tied a lose knot at the top so we weren’t scrambling when the water reached the ideal temperature range for steeping, 150-165°F. Once there the grains stayed in for 20 minutes and we were cautious to make sure the temperature didn’t get to high as this can make the beer tasty funky.  We pulled the bag out without wringing any liquid back into the pot, and then boiled the shit out of it!  Well, I suppose we just boiled it in a reasonable fashion.  Once it got to a nice, calm rolling boil we dumped in our the extracts, which we had in a pot of warm water to make them dump easier, and boy did they dump easy!  You should have seen it, just gorgeous.  At this point we made sure to constantly stir the mixture as the extracts will begin to “caramelize” on the bottom of the pot and will eventually burn, which I’m assuming is not good for beer.

Our kitchen sorta smells like bread at this point in time, an extremely sweet bread.  Once the extract is all in we then move on to the bittering hops.  We stirred them in to the pot ever so slowly.  I think the slow addition is to prevent things from gettin’ a little too crazy too quickly – kinda like how things in your tummy get a little too crazy too quickly when you go from eating your morning bowl of Cheerios complete with yummy milk and start taking shots of Tequila immediately after.  Things start a’churnin, and then you spend the rest of your day in the bathroom – assuming you can make it that far.  With your beer the pot starts to boil over and then you spend the rest of the day in the kitchen – cleaning – because the burners are now encased in crystalized wort.  Anyway, once the hops are added we crack open a couple beers and wait the 55 minutes it needs to get all the bitter goodness in there.  Sit back, relax, and take in a deep breath of that wonderfully beery smell now emanating from your kitchen and throughout your household.  Once 55 minutes have passed it’s time to add the aroma hops – mmmmmmmmmmmmMMMMMMM!!!  The aroma hops go for 5 minutes and zen we must Ter-minate ze boil!Image

At this point I’m at my least efficient.  With only an in-sink ice bath to cool down my wort I’m spending way too much time waiting around just hoping to avoid inoculation by some unsavory bacterial species.  Lid on, lid off it’s, all a toss up at this point as the heat dissipates faster with the lid off, but there’s also more air getting in introducing those cultures causing your feet to stink – wash your feet, or just leave your socks on – into that beer you just spent hours making.  I choose the uncomfortable in-between, put the lid on, take the lid off, put the lid on, take the lid off, on, off, on off until I’m basically fanning the damn thing.  But, alas, eventually the temperature does get low enough (about 135°F).  Then I wind up pouring everything from my stock pot into my fermenter, you know, cause everybody’s welcome at my pool!  Once to this point, things start to calm down and I add cold water to about the 18L (5 gallon) mark on my fermenter.  The temperature should be about right for the yeast, so I throw them in, seal it up, and hide it in a warm dark place for about a week.  There should some bubbling as Carbon Dioxide gets released from the yeast converting sugars into alcohols.  From here I keg my beer!  And that is how babies – uhhhh, beer – is made.

The length of time this whole process takes depends on the amount of time for fermentation but is normally about 1 1/2 weeks if you force carbonate.  If you don’t it’s taken me as much as 1 1/2 months.  In total I’ve made 4 brews and I’ve had my problems along the way, but so far it’s much more fun than just going to the store and handing over your hard earned cash for a six pack.  My next step is to get a secondary fermenter to help clean up my beer and get a more complete fermentation.  Suggestions or questions, leave a comment or drop a line.  And Happy Brewing!

Review: Brewer’s Best Smoked Porter was smokey, chocolatey and wonderful!  Then End!

Fort Collins Chocolate Stout

•November 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The economy, am I right?

Fort Collins Brewing

Fort Collin's Brewing Chocolate Stout

So maybe laziness is more appropriate excuse for why it’s been a few months since I’ve last written about beer.  But times are tough and I’m finding that I’m analyzing every purchase I make with an increasingly critical eye, so the state of the ol’ purse strings certainly has some sort of effect on the amount of money and time that I’m spending on beer.  However, recently I’ve come to the conclusion that if I’m really interested in making beer at any level I need to know what’s out there, what I like, and the difference between what’s good and what’s not.  So saddled with the burden of self-improvement, and guided by the wisdom of my fiancée (she suggested I take notes while drinking so I can remember what it tastes like – not because I drink too much to remember, I just have a terrible memory in general), I’m back to pass along some knowledge.  So sit back, relax, and let’s enjoy this.

Fort Collins is apparently a popular place to make beer.  I know this because I can name more than one brewery that has established their base of operations in or around that city.  Fat Tire is available in no small amounts everywhere I’ve ever lived, so when I saw Fort Collins Brewery‘s Chocolate Stout on my way back from Texas, I thought I might as well give it a shot.  The label says “chocolate” and “stout” and could only be improved if they slapped “porter” somewhere on the label.  The only bad thing about my Chocolate Stout purchase was the fact that I bought it in August while in the process of moving to an apartment lacking any form of air conditioning besides windows that open.  And for those of you who aren’t from the Southeast, when it’s 95 outside and 80% humidity, it’s pretty much 95 anywhere you go.  So I’ve been biding my time until I could actually enjoy a Stout.

Having waited for so long I was a little disappointed by Fort Collins.  It has nothing to do with the color of the beer, it is a perfect light-swallowing velvety chocolate-brown, and it smells of some sort of very thick chocolate aroma.  I imagine Willy Wonka’s chocolate river would probably smell something like this if it were made of a Chocolate Stout.  Somebody should get on making something like that by the way.  The problem with this beer is the hop flavor.  You can smell it just slightly, but when you drink it the nice smoky, chocolate flavor loses out to a final grassy bitterness which detracts from the experience.  It’s almost more unfortunate because you are still able to taste the chocolate keeping the memory fresh of what could have been.  Kind of like when you are at work imagining that back of Cheddar and Sour Cream potato chips stowed away in your cabinet at home, and then you get home and grab  your bag of chips to find that there is only one chip left!  Your sweet indulgence is ruined by the bitterness of what could have been.

We can’t let these bitter experiences ruin our lives, though.  And look, there’s that tiny bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream potato chips that you hid from yourself months ago just waiting to be opened.  And that’s exactly what Fort Collins Brewery’s Chocolate Stout is.  It’s thick and flavorful just like you want in a stout.  It just puts a little too much emphasis on the hops at the end which isn’t ideal for any stout of mine.  Buy one before you buy a sixer, but don’t write it off completely.  Until next time, drink safely and stay warm.

Color: 5 /Aroma: 3 /Flavor: 3

(all ratings out of 5)