Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beer Ice Cream

Out of nowhere I received a letter in the mail, you know, those paper things that pass from hand to hand until reaching it's destination in far off lands. In this case traveling from Michigan to California. I'm always a little surprised when I get something in the mail that isn't a bill or and ad. It restores in me a sense of hopefulness that is often obscured by the grind of daily life. This letter came to me from contributing writer and loyal Beer Diary... reader 'Mom'. Yeah, when you think that nobody reads you, there's always Mom.

Turns out that she was doing a favor for a friend by forwarding a newspaper (South Bend Tribune) clipping that her friend Anne had asked her to give to me. Apparently, Anne shares an interest in brewing and beer because of the influence of this blog, or more likely because of the bragging my mother does about her children. By the way, for you young'uns not familiar with this cultural imperative, saving and passing on clippings is a popular past time in the Midwest. As important as jello with fruit cocktail and mini marshmallows which is referred to as salad along with fourth of July bonfires fueled with pallets and full sheets of plywood and heavy doses of liquor.  Whether it's coupons for the local grocery store, fascinating news and anecdotes or in this case valuable recipes, clippings are as Midwestern as apple pie and all of them are a way of communicating concern for and an interest in the welfare of family and friends.

Anne considerately affixed a post-it to the clipping that said "Hi Mark, thought you might get a kick from this recipe. Best regards, Anne (the one for beer ice cream)"
The cut out has several other recipes in it and I guess she thought I might not understand. Very sweet.

Even though I rarely post about food, out of respect for Anne's thoughtfulness I decided to post this recipe for all the Beer Diary... readers and newspaper clippers out there in the blogosphere.
I hope you enjoy:

Beer Ice Cream
Total time: 20 min. plus freezing time
Serving: 2 to 4
Adapted from Matt Schreiver, who adapted it from Antoine Westermann at he resaurant Beurheisel in Strasbourg, France.

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup beer (type not specified)
1 cup heavy cream

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they are pale and lemon-colored. bring the beer and cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottom saucepan, then slowly pour over the sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over low heat, whisking frequently, until it thickens.
Pour through a strainer into a mixing bowl set over ice and whisk until cool. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

If I had an ice cream maker, I would try this and tell you how it turned out. If anyone gives this a shot, report back please.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Little Extra Beer - Part I

I began my day with plans to brew a big beer, an all-grain Belgian Tripel, one of my favorite styles and worthy of having a keg on tap at all times. But in the brewing process, I ended up with about a gallon of additional running's at the end of the sparge.

I didn't plan for this extra project when I started out this morning brewing my take on a Belgian tripel. I simply went about my business as usual but was unaware of the gallon or so of additional water in my hot liquor tank or it could be that I just didn't care that much, once the water was there. Normally I'm careful to calculate the amount of sparge water I will need in order to run all of it out of the HLT, through the mash, and finally end up with thirteen gallons of wort to begin my boil. This time, when I got to thirteen gallons in the boil kettle, my mash tun was still flowing and so I diverted the flow to a separate vessel and waited to see how much I would collect. I eventually ended up with close to a gallon of wort. Now, even though I got a great efficiency from my sparge, I checked the gravity of this extra gallon and found that it was still at 1.025, I couldn't bring myself to toss it so decided to boil it on the stove top.

Cooper's drops to increase gravity

In the mean time, I still had my brew session going on outside and in that process had used up all of the cane sugar I had on hand for the recipe. Thinking quickly, I dug into my brewing supply bin and came up with an open bag of Cooper's carbonation drops. The bag still had about eight ounces in it, perfect to raise the gravity of my little beer. Then, I measured out about 2/10th's of an ounce of Saaz pellet hops and added that directly for the entire 45 minute boil. After the boil, I chilled the wort to 65f. by placing the boil pot on a bed of ice. At this point I had about 1/2 of a gallon for wort and checking the sugar content, I came up with an original gravity of 1.064 or about twenty gravity points lower than the 10 gallon batch of the same. I then poured the wort through a sanitized funnel into my tiny fermenter, a Martinelli's apple juice jar, and added a small portion of the yeast starter that I'd held back when I pitched for the ten gallon batch. I was just lucky that the airlock fit this jar but if it didn't I guess I would have simply covered the top with a piece of foil, I personally don't think it makes that much difference having an airlock unless you plan to keep the beer in the fermenter for an extended period of time.

mini fermenter to the rescue

As of this moment, the mini fermenter is percolating nicely with happy yeast activity. I have no idea about how this will taste and frankly don't have any expectations, but going off the beaten path every now and again makes for a more enjoyable hobby and could lead to new possibilities. Maybe I'll make this a regular part of my brew day, mixing up my tiny batches with weird and unusual ingredients just to see what comes of it. In part II of this project I'll talk about crash cooling, transferring and carbonating on a miniature scale and talk about how this small beer tastes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hop Infusion Using A French Press

If you keg your beer, here's a effective and simple way to add extra hop flavor/aroma to those beers that benefit from the additions. Specifically pale ales, India pale ales and Imperial India Pale ales. I recently used this technique with my Cascadian or black IPA with great results. It's an easy process and not only can you infuse any desired level of hop flavor/aroma, you also get another thrifty benefit, the used hops can be bagged and set in the freezer for future use as bittering hops in your next brew because this procedure simply removes the aromatics that you want and leaves behind the alpha acids necessary for bitterness. If you want an even bigger impact, use this process and also dry hop with another charge of hops. In my case, I used a stainless steel tea ball with half an ounce of pellet hops suspended in the keg for several days. This time I just dropped them in without any further processing like I've done in the past, which you can read about here.

Here is how I use this technique. First, I pour myself a beer. Then, I measure out the amount of hops I would like to add to the keg and place those in the coffee press. I've done this with both whole hops and pellet with fine results, for me a lot of it is a matter of what I have on hand.

Heat enough water to cover the hops in the press to a temperature of 170f. approximately, but no hotter than that, as it may extract too much bitterness.

Add the hot water to the hops in the press and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. I add about two cups of water and expect to lose about half of that as the hops absorb the liquid. I end up with a cup of liquid going in the keg. You will have to experiment to get the right ratio of water to hops for your desired results and you may have to play with it a few times to get it to your tastes. There are no hard and fast rules to this, you just have to mess with it.

Press the hops down as far as possible allowing the hop infused water to rise to the surface. Pour this liquid into another vessel and set in the freezer until it cools to the same temperature of the keg that you will be adding this solution. Taste to make sure it has the flavor you were expecting, you don't want to dump this in you precious beer if it isn't to your liking. Gently pour the liquid into the beer and re-seal and pressurize the keg.

I would recommend beginning with a small charge (1 oz. or less) to begin with and adding additional hops to taste or adding dry hops to augment your results. You can also use this process to add bitterness to a beer that may have turned out too sweet for you, maybe under attenuated or just out of balance. Simply heat the water to boiling temperature and leave the hops in it for an hour and add as noted above. It's easy to go too far doing this so tread gently and ramp up as needed.

If you do this, leave a comment on your technique.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Beer Judge

I helped judge beer for the Santa Cruz County Fair and learned the procedures and etiquette for the process. In my case as a new (non-bjcp) judge, I was assigned to a table with a couple of more experienced judges to guide me in my efforts to provide honest and accurate critiquing. We were judging ten beers total with the majority of those being in the brown ale catagory.

Concerted effort

It was a little intimidating judging others homebrew because I didn't want to be critical and at the same time honest criticism is what the entrant is looking for in order to improve their brewing. I had the BJCP guidelines opened up to the page that described the style I was judging and used it as a reference to make sure the flavors and aromas I detected were appropriate or not for the style.
I tried to be thorough and accurate and I learned as the judging progressed that I will need to develop not only my palette but also my vocabulary if I am to continue judging in the future.

This is serious work and judging anothers homebrew is not something I take lightly. This is not sampling beer and having an opinion on personal likes and dislikes or preferences but comparing the sample to the style for accuracy and quality.

The nerve center of the competition

This year there were one hundred and thirty some beers entered into the competition, the largest number yet for the county fair and an indication of the rapid growth in the homebrewing hobby. When all was said and done, I ended up in the best of show arena with my Russian imperial stout, but the winner of the best of show turn out to be a new brewer who submitted a Belgian Saison. Congratulations for brewing a great beer.

Next week, each night of the fair, the Zymurgeeks homebrew club will be conducting brewing demonstrations at the fairgrounds and pouring samples of beer from one of the local commercial brewers from Santa Cruz. If you can make it out I'll be brewing on Wednesday night, stop and say hello and taste some beers.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hop Bag Device

Here's a video of my version of making your own hop bag device for the brew kettle. I used this for the first time when making this video and brewed a black IPA 'Cascadian'. My concern with using this technique is whether I'll get the hop utilization I would normally get with my tried and true system of seperate hop bags for each addition and if the flavor/aroma qualities will come through. I'll report back here in a couple of days when this brew is finished fermenting. In the mean time, enjoy the flick and I'll see you on the flip side.

If you use this type of system, please leave a comment telling how you like it. Thanks from all who read Beer Diary...
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