By Jasmine · April 12th, 2013 · No Comments
And for your enjoyment today, a guest post:
Jake Metzler is a home brewing fanatic who loves to write and share his knowledge with others. When he’s not brewing, you can probably find him rock climbing and/or listening to eighties metal.
As a home brewer, I often find myself latching on to the latest trends in beer. If I see that a commercial brand has just released pomegranate ale or something else I haven’t tried to make, I start researching into how I could make something similar.
Since IPAs have gained popularity over the last few years, I’ve been using a lot of hops in my home brewing. IPAs are noted (and sometimes hated) for their bitterness, since they use a lot of bittering hops, put into the brew during the boiling process when they will release the most alpha acids.
One trend I’ve noticed recently though is the act of dry hopping. When I first came across this term, I was not sure what it meant, since any hops I had ever bought were definitely dried. Turns out that it refers to adding aromatic hops to the brew either late or even after the boiling process. This reduces the amount of acids released and usually results in a floral aroma.
A lot of commercial brands have tried dried hopping in at least one of their brews. Sierra Nevada’s “celebration”, Samuel Adam’s Pale Ale: the list goes on.
Since I am a hops fan, I enjoy dry hopped brews, and have enjoyed experimenting with the technique. Before, I usually focused on the type of hops I used, but now, the point in the process when I add the hops I the most important thing. I’ve added late in boiling, right at the end of primary fermentation, and even in secondary fermentation.
Of course, not everyone enjoys hops as much as I do, and I’ve gotten some people who don’t like the floral aspect of the beers. I haven’t had people say it’s too grassy or oily like many websites warned me, but I have had people say it’s not their style.
The reason I started brewing in the first place is because I like to do things for myself. I figure that the less dependent I am on outside sources, the better. It also gives me a hands-on hobby that I enjoy. So it shouldn’t be surprising that all of this research got me thinking about growing my own hops. I’ve never been much of a gardener, but mostly because I’ve never thought much about it, not because I didn’t want to.
Beer is a motivation though, so last year I decided to get some hops rhizomes and plant them in my back yard. If my research was correct and my luck was good, I would have some homegrown hops in time for my fall brew.
When growing hops, the most important thing is placement. Apparently South-facing is preferred. You want the plant somewhere where the vines will have support. I planted mine near my fence. I dug my holes about a foot deep and put a bit of fertilizer in with it.
In beer brewing, the amounts are always important. You want your ratio of hops to malt to yeast to be right to get the right reactions and flavor. When planting hops, I learned that if you put too much fertilizer, the plants will basically suffocate due to too many chemicals.
Due to some bad weather and what might be a black thumb, I didn’t get any hops last year. But I’m going to be trying again this year. I see it as a way to be even more involved in the process of my beer brewing.
And it turns out, that hops don’t naturally grow all dried and shriveled up. When you grow your own hops, you have to dry them before you use them, which can be done by using a food dehydrator (which always makes me crave jerky), a low-heat oven, or even being set outside on a sunny day. Hops can get too dry though, so you have to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get brittle and brown.
What’s your opinion on hops? Love them? Hate them? Have you tried growing your own?
Tags: Homebrewing · The Basics
By Jasmine · March 20th, 2013 · 2 Comments
Joe can be sort of a hoarder. When it comes to magazines (need a Bon Appetit from 2007? Come on over.), brewpub t-shirts (how else will we remember that we’ve been there?), and special beers (honey, I bought these for you because you like this kind. Uh-huh.), there is no such thing as too much or too old.
With the magazines, about once a year I pointedly drag his piles into the middle of the living room and stare at them until he sorts them into a much smaller pile. This keeps us from living in true hoarder style, where we are forced to make furniture out of magazines. My grandparents basically did this with newspapers, and in fact had to stop using their back door because the entryway got too full. They were also smokers (cigarettes, not meats), and this plus their lack of smoke detectors meant that at a certain point my parents refused to let my brother and I sleep over there any more.
And I definitely can’t get all Naggy Wife about the t-shirts. Take a spin through our photos and you’ll see that other than the occasional rented tux for a wedding (ours or otherwise) he never wears anything else. One pair of jeans a year, one pair of shoes. Many t-shirts. As far as husbandly vices go, this I can deal with. I’ll take t-shirts over cars or video games any day.
But the beer. I love it. He loves it. It isn’t all that expensive, when you consider we could have been wine snobs instead. Or sometimes Joe will get really into, say, Scotch for a day, but has never once come home with four rare Scotch bottles he bought “by accident”. No, the problem with the beer is that we live in a one bedroom apartment. The closet where we keep our beer and wine cellar is also the closet where we keep our food.
The beer was starting to win.
After he discovered that we had TEN Firestone Walker bombers, we decided there was only one thing that could be done: we had to have a party.
We bought a case each of Solace and the FW Pale as palate cleansers and sobering agents. Fifteen or so of our best drinking buddies (they’re so lucky to have us) braved the North Beach St. Patrick’s Day hurricane to sit in our garden and drink our aged beers. It was phenomenal.
The best beer was the first one we drank (word nerds: is there a term for this? The first thing you eat/drink/try on/drive is usually the best. If not there should be). It was Firestone Walker’s 12th Anniversary beer
. Brewed in 2008, it is a blend based in FW Parabola, which is, as far as I can tell, in every one of these anniversary blends. I suspect this is the reason that every blend can have totally different beers and still come out similar (but not the same!). Adding to the fun in this particular one was a special brew called Saucerful of Secrets, brewed by Sean Paxton (The Homebrew Chef); Opal, a “wheat wine”; and Rufus, which had been aged in whiskey and bourbon barrels.
The beer was smooth and chocolately, a hint of raisins, but no syrupy sweetness that raisin flavors tend to bring along. Unfortunately I can’t recall what it tasted like fresh, but I can only imagine that the aging toned down the sweet and enhanced the cocoa and coffee flavors.
The rest of the beers were Anniversary 14, 15 (two of them!), and 16, Sucaba (“Abacus”, two different years), Parabola 2010 & 2012, Wookey Jack, Double DBA, Union Jack and a Black Xantus we’d been holding for two years. Oddly the 15 was better than the 14–perhaps something about that blend helped it age better, or maybe it was better to begin with.
I remember very little after the 15. I do remember adoring the DBA, rich and malty honey flavors, but not sweet. I remember the Parabola is a bit overwhelming and difficult to drink after a bunch of heavy, high-alcohol anniversary beers, especially when those anniversary beers are more balanced.
Joe is smiling so aggressively his glasses are almost being smiled off.
After a few hours our friend Christian (who happens to be the beer buyer at Beltramo’s in Menlo Park) shows up with with a magnum. Of Stone’s Double Bastard. Which is what we called him for bringing such a thing (not really).
It was a bit over-aged, but still had good carb and decent flavor. We managed to finish 3/4 of it and all our guests still walked out on their own two feet.
We had such a good time–Firestone Walker has been one of our favorite breweries for a long time. It was incredible to taste these all side by side.
Note that is a 22 oz bomber next to the magnum, not a regular 12oz bottle
On another note, Joe has for years worn a Firestone Walker hoodie (see intro above) as his main jacket. This Christmas it went missing in a Wisconsin airport. Now that his grieving period is over, Joe is in the market for a new sweatshirt. Put suggestions in the comments!
Tags: Beer I can't get my hands on · Tastings
By Jasmine · March 5th, 2013 · Comments Off
Although I go out for a drink fairly often, since I’m always on the lookout for something new, have an eclectic taste, and a wide variety of friends in different neighborhoods, I don’t really have a bar at which I’m a regular. Kennedy’s here in North Beach used to be close (hey, they have Buck Hunter and a usually-empty back room) and if it’s the right bartender, Joe might still get recognized. Certainly Craig and Beth at City Beer Store know us, and by now most of the staff recognizes me from Strong Cheese deliveries, but if I sat down at the bar, no one would be able to say, “Hey, Jasmine, you love stouts so you gotta try this…” La Trappe might come close. Not only have we done some events with Mike and his great staff, but last time we were in Mike spotted us and said, “You guys went to Belgium a while back, right? Let’s drink a Westie!” And proceeded to dig an aged Westvleteren 12 out of the bar’s cellar for us to share. So I can’t complain.
But today I became a true regular somewhere for the first time–at a coffeeshop in North Beach. Beacon opened up just a few months ago and I immediately fell in in love with their big windows, tasty coffee (even the drip!), chill music, and truly helpful staff. Today when I ordered my coffee, the barista waved away my money and said, “I’m getting your coffee today.” I thanked her, reached for it, and then she said, “Oh wait, let me get you an extra saucer for the top.”
See, I have this sort of quirk with my coffee, where I feel the need to keep it covered at all times. When you sit in a coffeeshop and sip slowly, it tends to get cold. So I’ll put my muffin plate over the top, or a book, or a plastic to-go lid. Whatever I can find. Oddly enough, it has never occurred to me to ask for a saucer to put over it. Apparently, it has occurred to her, and she remembered that I was the customer who did this. This is what separates fine customer service from above-and-beyond customer service. Just noticing things. I find this even more impressive in light of the fact that I am not a chatty customer.
This same barista is one of those people who is so comfortable in and good at her job that it’s fun to watch her do it. The tamp, steam, grind, pour monotony turns into sort of a performance art piece when someone can make a long line of espressos and cappuccinos quickly, and with a sort of calm confidence. I used to feel the same way certain days at Cowgirl, when we were busy but not crazy, and all of my excellent coworkers would just rock it. Twelve people could move around a 6×6 space at high speeds without ever stabbing, dropping, or hurting anything or anyone. Because they were that good.
My biggest complaint about Beacon is that it’s hard to score table space. It’s getting too popular, dammit. Also they don’t carry lunch type food, although perhaps this isn’t a bad thing as I might never leave otherwise. They have shelves full of local foods to buy for a snack or home-cooking though (you can see a bit in the background of the picture). The owners live right here in North Beach too. In fact, I saw them at our local Off the Grid night once (held at the North Beach Pool lot) and they told me they live in the same building as the shop!
Later this week Joe will give you a bit about HIS favorite new coffeeshop here, The Station, which opened up just a few months before Beacon. Competitors! But judging by how busy both places generally are, there is apparently plenty of room for both.
Tags: Non-Beer Beverages
By Jasmine · February 26th, 2013 · Comments Off
Ah, Beer Week. Joe and I agree that this was our best Beer Week experience ever, possibly because we’ve learned how to do it properly–plan ahead, mix up the type of events you go to, take a day off work (why not?), and once you get there, chill. Beer might run out. The lines will be long. The brewers will be too drunk to tell you what you’re drinking with any kind of clarity. Consider this all part of the fun.
Add to this mix an event we co-hosted with La Trappe that was filled with unique beer, absurdly delicious cheese, and very little stress (ok, Mike–the owner of La Trappe–may have lost a few years off his life trying to finish the booklets in the hour before the event, but we’re sure the happiness that came after totally counteracted that…). We did an event with them back in 2011 (“Sour & Stinky”) which was fun, but different, as the cheese and beer were a la carte instead of selling tickets.
This year’s event was based on the Zymatore series beer from B United distributors. Basically, they take beer from a brewer and age it in wine barrels that they have procured, then resell it once it has ripened the way they want it to. While this is a new and somewhat odd idea in the beer world, it is super common in cheese. There is even a French word for the person who does this, an affineur. This person does not make the cheese, but may wash or wrap or just age already made cheese, and then resell it once they become what they want. The final products are sometimes unrecognizable from the originals.
When I mentioned this to Michael, the B United rep who attended our event, he told us that the word “Zymatore” actually comes from a mashing of the words “zymurgy” and an Italian word that means the same thing as a cheese affineur (it may have been “assaggiatore” which is more like a sommelier for cheese, but I can’t recall for sure). He told us that all the brewers were fine with what they were doing–if a brewer was against their beer being changed, B United has plenty of other options, and so didn’t do it against anyone’s will.
Rather than give you a full list of the 13 beers and 10 cheeses, I thought I’d highlight some of our favorites:
1809 Berliner Weiss aged in Pinot Noir/whiskey barrels, paired with Cowgirl’s Redhawk triple cream: the Weiss was the most drinkable of all the beers, but was not light on flavor. It is bright and acidic, with distinct pineapple flavors. The funkiness of the Redhawk balanced beautifully, almost like a dessert. Sweet and stinky. It was the only beer (after trying all 13) that I went back for seconds for.
Bitter & Twisted aged in Pinot Noir/Gin barrels, paired with Quike’s Smoked Cheddar: what I heard from other participants was this–”I didn’t love the beer, really, until I tried it with the cheese, then WOW!” This is what we aim to do with pairings. Quike’s is fantastic on its own. The beer was ho-hum. Together they were even better, and no, the beer didn’t bring the cheese down.
Old Engine Oil aged in Grenache barrels, paired with Boerenkaas : Probably one of our favorite beers of the night. A hint of sour, but with a deep, dark, raspberry chocolate base. Our intention in pairing with the Boerenkaas was to have a sort of parmesan/balsamic vinegar flavor combo happening. I’ve been to cheese shops (and once a winery in Italy) that served their parmesan that way, and in this case it absolutely worked. The Boerenkaas is a tad sweeter than parm (being a gouda, of course), but Old Engine Oil is more bitter and sour than a sweet balsamic, so they balanced perfectly.
Hitachino Nipponia aged in Pinot Noir/Gin barrels: this was a surprise tap, so we didn’t have a cheese for it, but Joe declared it his favorite. It wasn’t really sour, more bright and light. The flavor of the barrels really came out strong, including a hint of herbal notes from the gin.
This event sold out long before the day of–watch for it (or something similar!) next year. The Beer at Joe’s staff will be hard at work looking for new pairings until then.
Tags: Beer & Food · Tastings
By Joe Ruvel · February 15th, 2013 · Comments Off
Enjoying a sunny day in the mission at The Sycamore. Local taps only!
Pictured here is Heretic Miscreant – Flanders Red – amazing brew – great sour bite but much darker then a lot of Flanders reds.
Also Drake’s Cuvée is dark love.