A Misfit's Reflection on the World Around Him and Something About Beer.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Still Drinking Beer. (and maybe even posting about it once in awhile)

So Good.
With a return to a semblance of calm and reasonable workloads (and finally replacing the computer that crashed) I can come back and play around here with a few words and pictures. I am looking back at some of my older posts and realizing that I have not been the best at writing or presenting my ideas. Some of the postings aren't as thoroughly informative as I would like. Some of the posts have too much of a faux edginess in their voice that just sounds awkwardly juvenile. My apologies.

I will probably go back and cull a lot of material from this blog and edit (or just write updated versions of) several posts so that they are better at providing the information I feel is relevant. Possibly, they may end up less annoying to read as well.

That is it today. I have several Gigabytes of data to transfer from old hard drives and other domestic responsibilities to knock out of the way before night two of "ZOMpire: The Undead Film Festival".


Monday, May 6, 2013

Introducing "Dark Chapel" Belgian-Style Dark Ale.

It is now official. The brewing, fermenting, and bottle conditioning took almost three months in total (not unlike the "White Queen"). I think it was all worth it.

The Beer pours beautifully with a deepest brown color and light brown head of tight bubbles. The oak is upfront in the nose, followed by mild vanilla and some light clove from the yeast, and finally, a hint of the bourbon.

At bottling the ABV calculated out at about 6%, but after bottle conditioning hydrometer readings indicate a final 7.2%. Much closer to my original intent.

I could tell you how it tastes but I feel that tasting notes can be really subjective, even if using a standardized rating system, because we all taste things differently. Instead I'll simply describe the flavor using some fairly recognizable descriptors and if you're interested in trying it, just give me a shout.

I tried to get a good picture of it in the glass before the head receded, but I'm not wasting a bunch of time or Beer on getting a good "money shot".

The same flavors in the aroma are present in the taste, but the vanilla is much more prevalent. The bourbon and oak meld mildly into the malty backbone for what is a pretty smooth character. The light cinnamon additions and earthy hops balance out any residual sweetness from the Belgian candi syrup. The overall result is a smooth, strong dark ale with a pretty well-balanced flavor.

I am pleased with the results, though I had several doubts during the process. I will admit that the finished product is not exactly as I had planned, but I can tell now how I might more easily achieve the desired results the next time I attempt this recipe.

Thanks for reading through the rambling and maybe I'll get to share one of these with you. Maybe you'll like it, maybe you won't, but we won't know until then.


( Brewing Notes: As soon as I get my notes properly reconciled I will post the recipe, but I can tell you it was brewed as a mixed extract/grain beer using Belgian Special B, Chocolate Malt, C80, and C120 malts. I used Goldings and my "Owl and Moon" hops, along with Amarillo towards the end of the boil. The yeast was the Wyeast Abbey Ale. Fermentation was done over toasted Oregon Oak soaked in cream sherry and the Bourbon Oak chips used in "The Archdruid" (which themselves were soaked in some vodka along with the Bourbon Vanilla Bean. I added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the boil and a half-ounce of vanilla extract as well. )

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dark Chapel Artwork

final "Dark Chapel" label art.
     "Dark Chapel" is nearing readiness and bottle conditioning is going well. I decided it was time to take the label art ideas that have been taking up numerous sheets of paper and choose a final image. After scanning the sketch I used GIMP to give it a little extra character and after numerous variations I am pleased with the result I'm making "official".

     I'll provide more info on the Beer itself after a full two weeks in bottles. I'll provide an updated %ABV, notes on the recipe, and some overall thoughts on the result and what I will do differently the next time.

     I decided to make a collage of some of the other rough sketches I played around with just for fun. I eventually decided that the simple glass and candle idea had a more subtle, elegant demeanor.
Several of the rough idea sketches I played around with.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Owl. Moon. Hops. Welcome Class of 2013!

Say hello to the new vines! Here comes the new growth of hops for this years home-brewing experiments.

         Here we have the "Owl and Moon" Hops; remember, we don't actually know what variety they are since we have never done a test on them. We suspect it is Magnum... maybe. perhaps this year I'll have them checked out and find out for reals.

This one is well established and will provide more than I will be able to use... unless I go ahead and make some enormously-hopped ales. This thing is taller than I am already.

Over in the side-yard we have the Goldings - Remus and Romulus. Remus already has some bold, leafy growth while Romulus is shooting up about a dozen stalks. I have done a little research on whether or not I should cut any of them back but I haven't made up my mind yet on whether it will be necessary for me.

Last year I was able to harvest enough Goldings to produce my Wet-Hopped Bourbon Oak ESB ("The Archdruid"). From what I've read and heard told about first year growth, that's a good indicator of a hardy plant. I'm looking forward to a good yield this year but I won't count on it until I start seeing the cones.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Festival of Dark Arts: A Carnival of Stout

Festival of Dark Arts/Stout Month

- Ft. George Brewery, Astoria

The Back-story:

            It had better be just as good next year, because I’m putting a lot more effort into planning and preparing for the next trip. I’ve decided that this was the most enjoyable event I’ve been to in the last year – combining great Beer, music, art, and atmosphere.

            I almost didn’t go, for the second time.I didn't make it last year. This year it crept up on me and I had less than a week to prepare… and no one in town for the young’un to stay with. We made arrangements at a local campground anyway and figured we’d at least drop in at the festival so we just wouldn’t miss it entirely. As it turns out, the folks were out at the coast that weekend and offered to swing through and take in the boy for the night. So we ended up free and clear to just hang out at the brewery all evening.

The Evening Begins:

            We started off first with dinner at the Wet Dog CafĂ© (Astoria Brewing) and had some great food and tasty Beer (Strong Ale and Badass Stout).

Hanging out in the brewery
            After that we walked to the brewery, bought our glasses, tokens, and swag, and then took the extras back to stash in the car. We hurried back to Ft. George with our glasses, tokens, and map... but where to start?

            There were several sampling tables setup throughout the Ft. George campus and anywhere from 4-8 selections at each one, as well as at the bars. All the people working the tables were friendly and helpful and the place was not crowded at all (except when the band was playing in the Pub).

Entertainment Highlights:

            In the Brewery proper were works by painters and glassblowers and tattoo artists ready to do their thing to you right then and there. You could hang out with your Beer and gaze upon the long row of barrel-aging Beers or hob-nob with brewers and bloggers.

Girls in Black Leather w/ Fire
Taunting the Fire Dancers
            In the courtyard between the Brewery and the Pub you could hear the ringing of hammer on iron as a craftsman worked at his forge and occasionally taunted the fire dancers about braving some real heat. The dancers were entertaining and what good is a night festival anyway without swirling pyrotechnics, right?

Live Arts
Painting and Sculpture
            In the Gallery you could catch the live painting up for auction, enjoy several works of art with Ravens, Owls, and/or Glass, or gather around for various audio/visual presentations and belly-dancing. I was most interested in catching the Soriah performance. I’d had the opportunity to meet Tuvan-trained Throat Singer Enrique Ugalde several years ago when I was spinning at Hive but had never been to one of his shows. I was not disappointed.

The Builders & The Butchers
            In the Pub we caught a band that My partner has already been in love with for a couple of years now, and I had become a fan of. The Builders and The Butchers, an alt-country (i.e. more traditional and less pop-music sounding country) band, closed out the evening sounding really good.

The Beer:

Ok. Finally. Here’s the really good part. 40 Stouts. Here is our List of what we tried in no particular order – with maybe a brief description or an emotional blurt!
            Ft. George Polish’s Black Walnut Stout – Solid, they should age this one in Bourbon Barrels! (6.4%)
            Ft. George Meeker’s Mark – Aged in Maker’s Mark Barrels. Good Stuff. (8%)
Th Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Cavatica I am drinking Now
            Ft. George Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Cavatica – Aged in Heaven Hills Rye Whiskey barrels! (I’m drinking some right this minute… mmmmm.) (9.2%)
            Ft. George Coffee Girl – Coffee Stout. (8.7%)
            Bear Republic Old Baba Yaga SpicedFuck, good! Spent our last tokens on more of this! (11.5%)
            Laurelwood Barrel Aged Moose & Squirrel – One up on the regular stuff.
            Boneyard Bourbon Barrel Suge Knight – Big, Black, Gnarly was an apt description. (14%)
            Elysian Omen – Belgian Raspberry Stout (7.2%)
            Ft. George Three Wisemen – aged in three separate barrels: Wild Turkey, Appleton’s Rum, and Cazadores Tequila. (9.9%)
            Portland U-Brew Tiger Blood – Belgian style stout (8.8%)
            Ninkasi Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatis  Yum. (9%)
            Ft. George Squashed Stout – rich and squashy (6.7%)
            Hopworks Army of Darkness – The bourbon taste really glows on this one (11.1%)
            Ft.George Kentucky Girl – “Coffee Girl” aged in Four Roses Bourbon Barrels. (9.2%)
            Ft. George Viva La Stout – Mexican Chocolate Spice Stout (7.6%)
            Burnside Red Light District – if you read my post about the 2012 Fruit Beer Festival you already know I (we) loves this one! Belgian Chocolate, Strawberries, and Rum Barrel Aging! (11%)
            I wanted to do the Block 15 Super Nebula and the Stone 2008 Bourbon IRS but they were out by the time we got to them. I had already sampled the Astoria Brewing Badass Stout (8%) at their own facility prior.

            I know that wasn’t a list of 40 stouts, but there are many that I have already had the pleasure of drinking before and I wanted to focus on new, rare, or just really fucking good.

The Wrap-up:

            I was a fan of Ft. George from the first 1811 Lager. When I got to try the Cavatica I was sold-in-full. After my first trip to the brewery and the Bourbon Cavatica… well, anyway, you see I am biased, right? But this combination of local arts, dark themes, and top-notch stouts is beautiful. This was a gathering of elements that scratched so many of my itches I felt like a giddy puppy in the center of a gaggle of enthusiastic schoolgirls (take that however you wish)!

            This goes to the top of my list of annual events that I will make every effort not to miss. I invite you to join me next time, we’ll be spending the whole day there.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Quest: Beer Mac & Cheese Glory

If you do not like Mac & Cheese (or Farfalle, Rigatoni, Shells, whatever... ) you can just stop reading this now. (because you just won't get it... sorry.)

Who does not like Mac & Cheese, anyway?

So, sure, people make gourmet versions of simple comfort foods all the time and adding Beer to the recipe is no big new thing... we are in agreement there, friend. But a Mac & Cheese made with Beer! Come on, that is always something to get excited about! And so far the best one I have ever eaten is Bridgeport's Kingpin Mac 'N Cheese at their Hawthorne Alehouse. It was simple: Macaroni, Cheese, Kingpin Double Red Ale (you know I'm a fan of this one), and a topping of Crumbled Kettle Chips; De-fucking-lightfully Tasty - creamy, with a subtle maltiness, and perfectly satisfying.

Of course I wanted to have something like this at home so I started experimenting with creamy Mac & Cheese recipes. I discovered that a solid Roux was the key. The first one I made was too thick however and I started using more cheese and less flour... it's gonna clog yr arteries either way, so might as well just make it better, eh?

There is no hard and fast recipe for this thing that I do, but I do follow a set of guidelines that doesn't change much, and if you are interested, here it is:

Roux: 5 Tbsp Butter (melt over low-to med. heat)
          5 Tbsp Flour (mix with other dry seasonings, whisk in when butter is melted, at med. heat)
          1 tsp Mushi Curry (or less, if using Cheese with strong, unique flavors like herb cheeses or such.)
          Pinch of Nutmeg
          4 cups of Milk (whisk in evenly after flour mix)
          1 cup of Beer (whisk in after milk, bring it all to a boil, then let simmer for 10-15 min to let thicken a bit, then turn off heat)
          18 oz of Cheese (Any ratio you wish) Yeah, I know that is a lot of cheese, what of it?
          (stir in until melted)
Pasta: Water (I never measure this, honestly, I just fill a Large Pot about half-full of water.
          1 1/2 cups of Beer (same source) (add to water and boil, Be ready to scoop a lot of foam)
          16 oz of pasta (cook to desired tenderness, but you knew this already, right?)
Topping: 4 oz Kettle Chips (Unsalted, or any Salt and/or Pepper variety)
              8 Strips of Bacon (I use Veggie Bacon, you can use whatever you want)
Why bake it, you could just dig in now!
              (Crush it all together in a baggie and set aside in a bowl, sprinkle onto mixed Mac & Cheese before covering baking dishes and putting in the oven.)

Bake for, what, maybe 15-20 minutes at 350-375 degrees? Sure, why not?

Let sit for 5 min. or so and then dig in. And that is it. 

I have used both Red Ale (Ninkasi Believer and Bridgeport Kingpin are excellent) and Wheat Ale in the sauce as well and both are good. The Red adds more of a malty bite than the wheat ale. Next time I think I'm going to use a strong, flavorful stout and see how it compares.

Tillamook Medium Cheddar usually forms the backbone of these recipes, but I include at least two or three specialty cheeses each time. Smoky and tangy cheeses are particularly excellent for this kind of dish. Gruyere, Gouda, English Cheddar, Swiss, Stilton, Whatever... I usually don't use Blues because of my unfortunate reaction to such things. But I think the key elements here are Bite, Depth of Character, and Flavor Compatibility. My ideal mix would be a well-aged English Cheddar, a Smoked Gouda, and Gruyere in even amounts , with cheddar making up whatever balance may be necessary.

The Curry adds a lot of flavor beyond just regular cayenne and/or mustard powder, and if you want to dial it back it is all good. It can really stand out against the Cheese. Make a judgement call... but the curry is terrific against a cheddar, gruyere, smoked/sharp cheese combo.

 How does it Pair up with Beer? Other than the obvious choice of "whatever Beer went into the recipe" I think it goes well with a darker, malty Beer that isn't too rich or high alcohol and without too much hoppiness... the Beer should compliment, not contrast with the Mac & Cheese. Of course, this is just my opinion... I am no culinary expert. I am, at the end of the meal, just a well-fed and satisfied lover of Beer and Mac & Cheese. MMmmm.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Love The Fall (Autumn, That Is… Leaves, Rain, Pumpkins, and BEER!)

‘Tis the season for Rich, Malty Beer with various Spices and Vegetables in the foreground instead of a reliance on an Abundance of Bitter Hops, yes? Now that the Rain and the Cold Winds and the Turning Leaves are dominating the landscape everybody is ready to embrace the Beers of the Dark Seasons. Last year I whined about the lack of Fall Seasonals appearing on the shelves in a timely manner though this year they were hitting the shelves before Summer was even over. But I am not complaining about it… these are some of my favorite styles of Beer and I wish they were available year-round. Hell, I even have a 6’pk of Bridgeport’s Ebenezer in the fridge already! (probably my favorite Yule-season Ale)

That is a Great line-up for sharing! (consumed right to left)
Any time of year is good for a Good Beer.

I’ve already enjoyed a lot of Pumking (Southern Tier) and Night Owl (Elysian), as well as a lot of other Elysian Pumpkin Ales Like Dark o’ The Moon and The Great Pumpkin. The Best Elysian I’ve had is without a doubt the 9th Beer in their "Beers of the Apocalypse" Series… Blight Pumpkin Ale. Both my partner and I were amazed and delighted by this offering… the Cinnamon is the key to this intense pumpkin ale, but while it dances all over your tongue it still does not overpower the Beer. Mighty Tasty.

Heater Allen = Great Lagers
I was disappointed (I mean wish I hadn't bothered, really) in the inexpensive KBC Pumpkin available at Trader Joes this year, though. Last year it was a decent ale for the price, but this year it is too sweet and watery for my tastes. The Boatswain Chocolate Stout however, while a cheap Beer at $1.99 for a 22oz bottle, has a solid flavor that doesn’t go wrong. So... as always, its hit or miss for the TJ's exclusives.

Did you know? Smoked Beers are also wonderful this time of year! (Because I love them!) Alaskan Smoked Porter, as you should already know, is one of my favorite Beers. But another worthy Beer I haven’t said much about before is Heater Allen’s Smoky Bobtoberfest. The smoked malts are well balanced with the rich appeal of this smooth autumn lager from McMinneville, OR. I'm already a big fan of their Schwarz and Coastal Common and this finely crafted rauchbier is just another reason why they are worthy of some recognition.

I’m excited to try two of the new pumpkin brews I have waiting “on deck” in the fridge… Oakshire’s Big Black Jack and Uinta’s Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin. The Oakshire is a single batch Pumpkin and Cocoa Imperial Porter. I've been looking forward to trying this one for months. The Uinta is a big 10.31% Ale aged in Oak Barrels!

 I love the Richness of Squash-brewed Beer and I’m looking forward to getting my own Grinning Jack bottled this week! (this year I made it without the Rum-soaked Oak chips to see how the flavor differed, but I still roasted the Pumpkin with The Kraken.)

And what else do I have to tell you? Just that if you want to try some of the Best Beers of the Year, get out and get them now.