Monday, February 25, 2008

Art in the park

I spent a quiet Saturday trying to sell prints of Susan's paintings at the Jaurez Park today. There was a clutch of artist with their paintings spread out along the benches and hedge rows lie wash on the line. Our artist friends, Steve and his son Noah pointed me towards a space on a concrete bench that I could use for displaying, but warned that each artist has their personal spot that they use each weekend and that I should move if the artist that works that area shows up. He did. I moved and offered my apologies quickly not wanting any friction. After a short while an older Mexican woman (also an artist) approached and spoke in rapid Spanish. Understanding some words I deduced that I was suppose to be a signed member of this art group and if I wasn't, I should leave. I asked in broken Spanish if she had the forms for me to sign and she nodded yes slowly and left to get them from her bolsa(bag). Soon she returned and with Steve interpreting we agreed that I could show Susan's paintings today but no more. This was actually good because I had no intention of returning as I didn't sell a thing. The tourist eased by casually scanning our wares, amused at our attempts and then filtered down to the park by the church to drink warm Cokes and watch each other pass.

In the mean time, I tried my first sampling of my second batch of homebrew. I call it the 'meil de agave pale ale'. I am impressed with the crisp distinct mouth feel and a strong aroma and flavor of Cascade hops. Alas, I am unable to detect any agave flavor. Perhaps, tonight at the gathering I am having to sample beer, someone will claim that they have found the taste of agave.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Heading to the coast

Grain delivery

We will be taking the bus to La Manzanilla at the end of the month and I'm looking forward to it. San Miguel is a great place but it is a city and with that comes the heavy traffic of buses and cars, the noise and some pretty heavy smog (and dog shit and barf) that collects at the street level between the densly packed buildings. A couple of weeks at the beach should clear my lungs and my head and maybe if I'm lucky, I will discover a yet untried malt bevererage.

I will plan on carrying all my beer making equipment out to the street in from of our house to try and sell. I would like to recover at least half of what I paid. There's not much to it, a boil pot, burner on a stand, fermenting buckets and large tub for icing down the hot wort. I won't be using it again this trip and it is now in the way. I will take the chiller back home with me because I can use it in the future when I do the brewing classes at the college. One more week and the beer that is conditioning in the bottle will be ready. I plan on taking a case or so with me to the beach, which should last the first couple of days there. Just kidding...o.k I'm not kidding. I may not have internet access so there may be a gap in my blog, ouch!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Batch #2

Meil de agave

So, batch #2 is in the bottle. Now for 2 weeks of patience. I did have an extra 2 litres left over after filling 48 bottles and I have a C02 injecter, so I will be able to sample some in a couple of days. The hydrometer sample tasted good with some lingering bitterness. I didn't detect any flavor from the Miel de agave. In the mean time, I have gone through both cases of the first batch of beer except for several that I will sample with a couple of locals that were interested. One of those interested is Morris who owns the local mescal boutique. He prides himself in his knowledge of mescal and has a dozen good distillers represented at his shop. I learned from Morris that all Tequilla is mescal but that only mescal made with the 'blue' agave and produced in Tequilla is certified by the government of Mexico as 'authentico' Tequilla.
Back on the streets of San Miquel, street vendors lay out framed pictures of religious icons and thick stacks of saints laminated on playing card sized placards with a corresponding prayer on the opposite side.

I asked "tiene 'Santos Gabrinus'?" The patron saint of beer brewers.

"No, senor". But she quickly goes on to suggest instead Saint Michael, Antonio or Saint Christopher or how about the virgin of Guadalupe?

"No, Gracias."

She lastly snatches up a picture of the pope in a guilded frame, pushing it towards me insistently.

"No, Gracias." I turn and leave.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Meil de agave pale ale

The blue agave

Another batch of beer is in the fermenter today, a thick head of krausen has already formed on the top thanks to the US56 dry ale yeast and perfect fermentation temperatures. The weather here in San Miguel is near perfect for brewing with it's hight desert coolness the temp. in the shade is 75F. and in the evening it is in the low 60's in our upstairs bedroom where I keep the fermenter. Yesterday when I brewed, I was in tee shirt and shorts feeling the warmth of the sun and breathing in the malty goodness of boiling wort. I added 1-1/2lbs. of meil de agave (honey of the agave) at the end of the boil for added sweetness (fructos) and perhaps a mild flavor of the abundant cactus. I am also interested in having a little of the local ingredients imbued, adding the sense of this place of wide open expanses with scrub and cactus littering the arroyos and mesas. Again I used the liquid malt extract that I ordered from
the hops that I received from Speaking of ingredients, our landlord, Victor, who has lived in this area all his life has taken up my quest to locate malted barley near here. I wish him luck but I'm not holding my breath. I can't even find a homebrew store on line for Mexico City and the nearest brewery, Modelo, is in Mexico City. Finding barley at an animal feed supply is more likely but I am in not position to malt it (see my blog titled 'malting barley').

Friday, February 8, 2008

Malting Barley

Cebada malteado
In my search for brewing ingredients and equipment I have been unsucessful at finding malted barley. In the Mexican dialect it would be called 'cebada malteado' although all the locals expressed complete confusion on thier faces when I asked if they knew where to get some. Recently while shopping in the 'Bonanza' supermercado (the Trader Joe's of San Miquel) I came across 1 Kilo size bags of cebado. This particular barley is the small, thin husk type that I believe is refered to as 'Pearl'. I decided I would experiment and attempt to malt this puney grain. I have to admit I was a little excited about the prospect of success and a possible source for beers main ingredient. I went to work immediately soaking the barley in water, rinsing, and finally spreding it out to sprout. Surprise, it did sprout and had grown enough to stop the process in 6 days. I tried to dry it out in the oven set on a low temperature (120.f.) but our antiquated gas oven failed to stay lit at that low temp. I then put it out in the sun but it still wasn't drying. Then, I believe I made my fatel mistake, I raised the oven temp. to 250f. and I believe I over baked the grain because when I finally went through the mashing proceedure I extracted negligable amounts of sugar. Anyway, the search goes on. I won't be ordering any more malt from the states because of the high cost of shipping so if I brew here again (after I use up my current supply of liquid malt extract), it will be because I've found malted barley.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Brewing success in Mexico

My first IPA using local honey

I uncapped my first bottle of mexican homebrew last night. I was very anxious as I began to pry the cap off. I held my breath as I listened for the sound of carbonation. The bottle hissed and I exhaled with relief that the bottling process worked. Next I poured the beer slowly into a clear glass being careful not to molest the thin layer of yeast sediment that rested at the bottom of the bottle. Once in the glass I noticed that the carbonation was a little heavy aned the bubbles large. The head was thick and full and fell slowly, and the clarity of the beer was slightly hazy. The aroma from the cascade hops was prominent and enticing as I raised the glass for my first taste. Wow, beer with flavors. My mouth was struggling to pass on the abundance of flavors for my brain to enterpret. Grapefruit and tangerine to start with a floral and honey background. The malt came across with caramel notes and drifted away slowly. There is evident sweetness up front that quickly blends with a balanced bitterness provided by the Columbus hops. The bitterness lingered for only a moment after the swallow leaving a clean pallet that craved another mouth full. My wife Susan took a cautious sip followed by another and then asked for a glass full, which is a real testament to the drinkability, especially since her least favorite style is IPA. I poured another for myself and quickly repeated the process of accute sensory awareness, then sat back in the warm mountain air of Mexico and just enjoyed the time spent savoring the fruits of my labor of love.
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