Archive for February, 2009

German Purity And The Master Brew

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

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Friday night when I was getting the ingredients to make some beer boiled sausages I saw something that gave me a chuckle. On a bottle of German beer, prominently displayed, were the words brewed according to German purity law. The German purity law, or Reinheitsgebot was created 1516 to protect grain supplies for bread, and was struck down in 1987.  The ironic part of beers brewed in a way to qualify is that they don’t even meet the original purity law. So how much better is purity law beer? Well like with all things it depends on the quality of ingredients, and the skill of the brewer. I could easily brew a “pure” beer using only hops,  barley, water, and yeast and still make a really crappy beer. In fact the beer I tried during my layover in Germany wasn’t even comparable to some of the top notch micro beers from the States. So why do we have this fascination with purity, and automatically assume it makes a better beer? Well partly it’s because Germany believes their beer is better, and insist on telling the world that every chance they get, the other reason is we have a fetish for all things European. Just look at all the people who drank Heineken in the 80’s and 90’s all the while insisting that it was a far superior beer. I love watching people in the beer isle hovering around the imports as they search for the perfect beer when there’s several amazing selections right in front of them. I could continue to go into all the reasons that the Reinheitsgebot is a worthless piece of junk, but someone already did it for me. If you want more info on the German Purity Law check out this article.

Thanks alot to all you people who bought up every last tub of light and amber malt extract yesterday. I really am gonna try to get this gruit brewed though, and even will try to make a video of it.

Gruit Fluff

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

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When I mention my gruit recipe, the two most common reactions are to either accuse me of blasphemy for not having hops, or absolute confusion. This has led me to the belief that whenever I discuss gruit I need to give whoever I’m talking to a nice long history lesson.  So here is a breakdown of what gruit is, and why I think it’s a beer style that needs to make a come back.

The first thing you need to know to understand gruit is that beer was not always brewed with hops. The funny part about this is craft beer drinkers don’t like this idea, they just cover their ears and pretend they can’t hear you. For you Bud and Coors drinkers out there I guess I should tell you what hops are since you’ve never tasted them 😀 Hops are an herb related to cannibis that is used to bitter the beer and help preserve the liquid with it’s antiseptic qualities. Hops however didn’t grow everywhere. People throughout the world though made their beverages anyway using bitter antiseptic herbs that grew locally. The main candidates that were used that have survived to modern recipes are Yarrow, Sweet Gale, Marsh Rosemary, Mugwort, and Labrador Tea. The problem with early gruits is a lot of the herbs brewers were adding to their beer were narcotics, and they knew it. As the church spread throughout Europe there were ways they came up with to remove some of the narcotic qualities, but people ignored them. Although the decline of gruit is really complex it’s probably not a stretch to believe that as hops made their way into brewing the narcotic effects of herbs like Sweet Gale gave gruit a bad name in some circles. Although many areas in Northern Europe managed to hold out against the change to hops for a long time change was inevitable as it became possible to get fresh hops in areas where they couldn’t be grown. Nowadays gruit has been relegated to a specialty beer brewed by people who are curious about history, and the tastes of early beers. Gruits have all the body and malt flavors of a well brewed beer, but have an herbal aroma, and a unique taste that I happen to like. With the availability of a lot of these herbs though it can be a pain to procure the supplies to make one. Since the history bit turned out to be long I’ll just toss up the recipe tomorrow. Hopefully Doug gets better so I can procure my grains

Mocking The Craft? Or Bridging The Gap?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

beerA year ago I would have asserted there was no such thing as a bad beer.  I would gladly take a Killian’s or a Blue Moon at a local watering hole without lamenting at the lack of a good beer selection. So as I work my way through Michelob’s attempts at craft beer why am I disappointed? It all started with their Jacks Pumpkin Ale back in October. I’d had some really good pumpkin ales in the past, and was brewing my own when I ran across it, so I decided to try a few. I couldn’t have been more disappointed. It was like someone had taken one of my favorite holiday beers and watered down the flavor. I pressed on though and tried their other offerings like Hop Hound, and Shock Top. Ok, the shock top wasn’t too bad, but it had the same issues that Michelob’s other beers did, it lacked the full flavor of the styles they were brewing. So I decided to sit down and write out a post detailing how horrible Michelob’s beers were, and that in their attempts to cash in on the seasonal and craft beer departments they were ruining good beer as we know it. My sister changed all that though. My sister absolutely cannot stand the taste of beer, even the pale watery American lagers disagree with her. So when she told me that she’d not only tried a shock top, but that she liked it I started looking at it differently. Could Michelob’s attempts into the market actually draw non beer drinkers into the fold and help them experience great beer? Then to further humble me and my beer snobbishness I started reading a book written by the guy whose grandfather had brought Heineken to America. Reading his view of how ridiculous beer culture has become in the US brought me back to my roots. Just because someone doesn’t enjoy a full flavored stout, or a hoppy APA doesn’t make them wrong, because there really is no such thing as a bad beer.

Couple of things, I plan on remaking my gruit sometime this week, and will get the recipe up soon. Also I discovered that my spoiled beer makes one fine chuck roast.

me – 2    spoiled beer – 0

Today’s Post

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

venti_extI know the names not very creative today, but I decided to let my friend Dan choose the title today. In fact that’s not the only thing that went different then planned today. I was supposed to be updating today from Venti’s Bento in downtown Salem, but apparently all 15 wireless networks downtown are locked now. Even with the inability to get online though Venti’s is definitely a great place to go for a meal and an awesome beer. Venti’s is unique in the fact that the owner doesn’t drink, yet they always have a really good and unique selection of beers both on tap, and in 22oz bombers. The reason for this is that customers and employees get to recommend the beer. This makes it difficult to say what will be tap or in bottle from week to week. Right now they may have tricerihops on tap, but next week it could be the newest seasonal release from Bison Brewing. I asked Dino how often they run a tap and he told me it can be a run of anywhere from one to three kegs, and occasionally more. Not only does this keep things fresh in terms of selection, but it means that the tap lines are cleaned out fairly often. That’s a great thing in terms of selection since not all places clean their tap lines as often then they need to. Today I purchased their lunch special and a bomber of Winter Warmer from Bison Brewing, and it cost me less then $10, which is pretty good for a micro brew from a downtown restaurant. Although Venti’s will remain an occaisional treat for me, rather then a daily thing, it is definitely a must for beer lovers. After all, whats better then a business that lets you choose what you drink? For more info check out their website at VintisCafe and their blog. Also Conrad Venti will occasionally post stuff about the place on his blog at conradventi. I’ll see if Conrad or Dino can send me updates about what their serving week to week so I can let you guys know.

Just a side note. beware of ordering a bomber here as they tend to be stronger then what’s on tap, as I discovered today. My Winter Warmer ended up being 9% apv

Manic Mondays

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

garfield_monday1I have no clue where this post is going to go. It’s Monday, I’m tired, and thanks to Saturday night i’m currently not so fond of alcohol. The strange part about today though is how much I have to deal with beer. I have to rack my wheat beer to the bright tank, clean up the new additions to my bottle collection, attempt a fruit beer tincture, and finish making my lunch for the week which is cooked with beer. It’s weird how much of this Monday revolves around beer. Here’s some random beer thoughts from this last week.

• I really, really, like Ninsaki’s Oatmeal Stout. In fact I have a bomber of it in the fridge, and if alcohol didn’t sound so unappealing right now I’d drink it with lunch.

• Miller used to just make crappy beer but now they’ve added crappy craft beer to their list.

• Hop Hound ale has a banana taste to it that isn’t altogether unappealing, but from a homebrewers perspective it can be a sign of a sloppy brewer.

• If you haven’t been to Capitol Market at least once in your life your missing out. They can officially claim that they have the biggest beer selection in Salem/Keizer.

• Doug Faynor, the owner of Homebrew Heaven, is an awesome guy, and actually had a real conversation with me recently. It was startling.

• I want one of my friends to start brewing, but she moves too slow. I may have to go over there and scrub out, then fill her carboy on my own in order to get the ball rolling

• I still don’t get why people like wine. It has to be one of the worst beverages in my opinion

• I need a lot more shelves in my room to house all my bottles

• I almost want to win the Porsche that Ryan is giving away at PorschePerfect just so I can sell it. Not sure if this thought is about beer as much as it is about money, but I do need money to buy beer.

• This blog was supposed to be about brewing your own beer, but it’s kinda become about beer in general

• The history of beer is fascinating to me, and I want to do a post on it, I just have no clue where to start.

• I have managed to put off doing any work for about 30 min. Yay.

• Last but not least I really don’t wanna go clean and run errands. It’s my day off, and I want to spend it having fun.

Beer For Desert?

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

blog-010I had the most amazing desert last Saturday, or was it the most amazing beer? Anyway, regardless of what it was it was awesome. Ready to find out what it was? Okay, it was an ice cream float…. made with beer. I’ll let that sink in. If your familiar with the Guinness float, then this won’t seem so far fetched, but it definitely seemed strange to me. All you need to make a stout float is a mug of your favorite stout, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m curious as to who first invented this drink, and why they did so. Were they a light beer lover who wanted to make their deep roasty stout more palatable? Maybe they were a beer connoisseur who thought the two sounded tasty together. Perhaps it was an overworked parent who was seeking an escape while making the kids root beer floats. I think however, that like many great culinary inventions it was a result of small changes over time, combined with happy accidents. This was for sure a happy accident though as it has survived the years, and is still apparently a popular drink in some circles. Here are some stouts that would go extremely well in this concoction.

Ninsaki Oatmeal Stout – I tried two separate stouts (for research purposes) and this was by far the better

Rogue’s Chocolate Stout

Guinness– from the bottle, that way you get those neat little nitrogen bubbles

Cappuccino Stout – I’m not normally a fan of this style, but love RedHooks Double Black. I used this as my other stout, and it didn’t work out so well for me since the bitterness overpowered the ice cream

The cappucino, oatmeal, chocolate, and dry stouts deffinatly seem to be the more popular, but the choices are far from limited. I could see this being made with a sweet stout or a milk stout also. However I’d stay away from american stouts due to the brighter hop flavors, and the russian stouts due to their complexity. Also if it says double, triple, or extra in the name realize that the bitter flavors will be stronger.

Happy Belated Birthday Oregon

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Ok quick show of hands, who knew that Oregon had its 150th birthday on the 14th? I see one of you…. Oh you were 1233094805_1_ft0_roguesesquicentennialalescratching your head. Well at least I wasn’t the only one who missed it. In fact I wouldn’t even know still if it hadn’t been for the good people over at Rogue, and their Sesquicentennial Ale. Rogue has long and involved history with Oregon, and decided to honor that. So to commemorate this special month they released a beer made with only ingredients from Oregon. The barley was grown in the Klamath Basin, the hops at their own hop farms, Pacman yeast from Hood River, and free range coastal waters. What a fitting way to honor a state known for it’s micro brew industry. The beer is apparently on tap for a limited time, but outside of Portland your best bet for finding it would be at Rogues brew houses and pubs. This beer is also available in 22oz bombers, which is how I tried it. Definitely a beer to check out due to it’s uniqueness. For more info on Rogue and it’s drinks check out their website www.rogue.com. Also, if you get a chance you might want too try some of their other amazing beers.

Also I baked up some of those spent grain dog treats for my sister mutt. Apparently she enjoyed them, but refuses to write a review unless she gets a cut of any and all future advertising revenue that I may get on this site. I tried telling her that even if I were to get ads they are a long way off, and offered her another biscuit instead, but she referred me to her agent for further negotiations.

Welsh Rabbit

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

wales_flag_largeI’ll be honest, when I first decided to start cooking with my spoiled beer I was nervous. I was worried that whatever I cooked would taste nasty. But after yesterday I feel empowered to cook with it. Welsh Rabbit is one of my favorite dishes, and this batch was one of my best. For those of you who don’t know what it is, Welsh Rabbit is the best cheese sandwich you’ll ever have, served open faced.
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  • 1 1/2 tbl butter
  • 12 onces beer (one bottle)
  • 4 1/2 cups cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp werschetchire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbl hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp salt

melt the butter, combine with the booze, and heat. Next add the cheese slowly, stiring till it’s melted. Once the chese is melted and smoothwhip up 1/4 cup of the mixture with the egg, then add it to the pot. add the rest of the ingrediants, stir, and serve over toast.

Score

Me = 1         Spoiled beer = 0

Beer News

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Before I start what looks to be a serious post I want to share something with you. A week or two ago when the Sam Adams scandal was still in the news I ran across this image from destonio.net

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With this recession going on alot of the beer news revolves around declining sales for the big brewers of urine cheap beer, and Oregon’s ridiculous 1900% tax increase on beer. In fact these stories have so dominated Oregon’s beer industry that no one noticed that Kid Rock is jumping on the micro brew band wagon with his own beer. I want to do what everyone else is doing though and focus on the taxes. What does a 1900% tax increase look like? well broken down to it’s smallest serving size it comes out to a 15¢ tax on a 12oz bottle of beer, rather then the less than a penny tax we have right now. Add that back up though, and it amounts to $50 in taxes on a barrel of beer, right now the tax is $2.60.  According to Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brothers Brewing this will raise your $4 pint to $5.50. Oregon has a far richer history with the micro brew industry than most states, and many brewers fear that adding such a big load on the industry all at once may force the micro brewers to start cutting jobs in order to cut costs, cut back distribution, and may even put small brew pubs out of business. Now what are the chances of this passing? Well they are pretty slim. Historically Oregon doesn’t like beer taxes, but the fact that every year these politicians put it out there, and every year we say no, says something about how well they listen to us.

I made some Welsh Rabbit today using my spoiled beer, I’ll tell ya tomorrow how it tasted

Tap Report

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

meblogI should have thought about this before I committed to it. Although a tap report sounds easy, going around to every pub and buying beer isn’t a great way to stay sober. So I think what I’ll do for tap reports is do a few local pubs, and just recommend a good beer from them. Also if there’s a bar or pub you’d be interested in knowing more about the selection at let me know in the comments. So without further whining on my part here’s what’s on tap in Salem/Keizer.

Boon’s Treasury

This is definitely the best place to go for craft beer in Salem. They have an amazing variety of beers that are almost all brewed by McMenamins, and it’s Satellite brew pubs. For the inside scoop on what’s good, you can’t go wrong with a Rubinator. The Rubinator is a mix of their Terminator Stout, and Ruby Ale. With the great selection though it would take a whole post to cover what’s available there, so here’s just a few.

Irish Stout – Available starting March 1st
Pole Axe
Edgefield Wheat
Black Rabbit Porter
Terminator Stout
Ruby
Dr Who
Hammerhead
Ninsaki IPA

Ram Border Cafe

With great food, atmosphere, and a decent bar The Ram is a decent place to go. Although they don’t have as big of a selection, they are a brew pub, and make pretty darn good beer. If your a fan of Bocks, Bighorn has a really good one.

Irish Stout- Available starting February 25th
Mai Bock – Available starting in April
Big Horn Hefeweizen
Big Red IPA
Buttface Amber
Total Disorder Porter
Bighorn Blond
Bock

Porters Pub

Really there’s nothing exceptionally special about Porters. Like most pubs they have excellent food, and a decent selection of beers on tap, but lack the craft brews that some have. The thing I love about Porters though is that it’s a local place with a family friendly atmosphere, and it doesn’t cater to the trendy aspects of beer culture like Boons does. Also any place with Guinness or Dead Guy on tap will get me to at least order one beer with my meal.

mirror pond IPA
fat tire
Alaskan Amber
Guiness
Fat Tire
Black Butte Porter
Dead Guy