December 2014 Archives

All Things Brooklyn - Make Some Beer

| No TrackBacks - it seems a lot of great things come out of Brooklyn, brownstones, baseball teams, rock bands, restaurants, pubs, and breweries - who in some cases have turned out great books. The most interesting baking books I have read all come from Brooklyn or California. The ones from California always have some connection back to the city. Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, is by far one of my favorite books. Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson is another one that has caught my wandering eyes of fermentation. Both seem to give authoritative and educated advise on breads. I recently read Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood. He seems like a good guy. I wouldn't bother reading his book. It's ok, but it seems to lack science. Something that is pretty important with bread and beer.

With cooking you can do whatever the hell you please, and it always works, well almost always. Grain based fermentables offer no limits on experimentation, however their god is a bit stricter. Not unlike the action of the rider on the bicycle, or the delicate movement of a pilot in an aircraft, each action, no matter how subtle yields a change from the god of flow and aerodynamics, or in this case the god of fermentation. A bit more protein, sugar, moisture, time, or heat make sometimes significant changes. Perhaps the god of fermentation is the twin brother of the god of flow.

I learned this through experience. I started out with some rather ignorant meanderings and recipes like this one. My bread was wet, flat, had no oven spring, in fact it fell in the oven. I got some help from those that had seemed to perfect bread. But in the end it was the good books that really helped, helped me to understand what nuances yielded what details in the final product. I recently read Baked - New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis. It's a great book. He partners up with Six Point Brewery using their malt to make blondies. I used some malt extract laying around for mine. They were amazing. Baked is of course - in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn BrewShop is another Brooklyn based business with a book. This book has meaning to me because I started brewing in Brooklyn, and when I did, there was no Brooklyn Brew Shop. The closest homebrew supply was a hobby store in New Paltz, NY, and it was crap. You'd drive up there to find they had pretty much nothing. Homebrewing wasn't what it is today. My first batch was a kit. Not the award winning partial mash kits of today with refined dry yeasts. No - this kit when followed closely - made alcohol water which seemed a distant cousin to beer, but close enough we got pretty damn excited about it. Well me and my roommate at least. I can't say the rest of the world tripped over their feet to try it.

The beginning of Make Some Beer by Erica Shea & Stephen Valand explains how Brooklyn Brewshop got started - how the idea originated in their heads -  when they realized there was nowhere in NYC to to buy homebrewing supplies. I was not the only one back in the late nineties making trips to New Paltz to buy homebrew supplies that were questionable at best. I suppose at the time it never hit me as that strange because NYC is a place, as odd as this may seem, where it's hard to find things. You would think that in a city of over eight million people you'd have everything you desired within walking distance. That is rarely the case. I can recall on one cold January morning when I was home sick and bored out of my mind buying a television (this was before the days of flat screens) on Atlantic avenue and dragging it home to Brooklyn Heights, knuckles bleeding from carrying the damn thing for blocks. Well I guess it was still technically walking distance. Anyhow I could relate to how they might have felt. There is of course far more to the story of Erica Shea and Stephen Valand starting Brooklyn Brewshop, and I assure you it's far better reading that TV's on Atlantic avenue, but you'll need to buy the book for that part.

Labeled 'how to brew refresher' the book gives the most concise guide to all grain brewing I have ever read. It introduces stove top all grain brewing, something that certainly would have come in handy back in my days of brewing out of a my little room in Brooklyn. It provides a hop guide, and many other great resources. I like the fact that their recipes are extra, more, creative. It recommends honey for bottling which I find a bit risky if not just pure insanity. Honey does not ferment at a consistent rate, and it is is a great way to introduce bad things into your beer you don't want. I like this book - it is a reminder that all grain brewing does not have to be an all day production and it pushes the average brewer out of his comfort zone with Dandelion Gruit, and Tapioca Ale. It inspired me to get off my ass an start brewing again.

While we are on the subject of Brooklyn. Last years Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewery was a train wreck. After much pestering I finally got some response from the brewery. First a T-shirt and glass, which I couldn't care less about and finally a helpful rep, Michael Maraghy, that refunded my $50.00 for the case and assured me they do their best to maintain quality control. I was upset, I love BCS, and I have for a long, long time. I am however happy to report that this years does not suck. It seems to be pretty close to where it was in 2013. I will be doing a vertical sampling soon and will report back.

So anyhow Make Some Beer was a good book. Read it. It might inspire you too.

Oh yes and I am obligied to state that I received this book from Blogging for books for this review.

Also I am not obliged to state that the inspiration for this book review came from Hoppin' Frog D.O.R.I.S. which is totally amazing. Deep rich, minimal head, with notes of everything barrel aged even though it's not. Rich chocolate, vanilla, sweet, just too damn good to be true. Some people just know how to brew beer.

Aviator - October Beast

Aviator.jpgOne great adventure of moving is discovering new breweries. The Carolina's have several. Admittedly sometimes I am a bit hesitant to just buy something with little knowledge of the brewery. I have been eying several of Aviator's brews and with a recommendation from one of the local beer purveyors purchased some.

October Beast is a very true to style Oktoberfest. It pours a nice head, deep amber, a bit cloudy from sediment in the can, and has a great sweet aroma appropriate for the style.  The taste of Munich malt is present, hops are subdued as they should be. The roasted barley notes come forward as it warms up. All in all this was excellent, a great example of the style and next to Manny's homebrewed Pumpkin Ale, the best fall beer I've had this year.

So far I am impressed with Aviator I look forward to trying their other brews.

Goose Island Beer Co - The Muddy

100_5140.jpgOnce upon a time Goose Island made a great Imperial Stout - Night Stalker - then of course they got purchased by AB InBev and turned out a disgusting version of something they called Night Stalker. They should have called it infected old pine tree. Because it was hard to decide what was worse, the little tree air freshener flavor or the nasty infection. But again this is the company that both post, and prior to purchase, have been turning out Bourbon County Stout. Which I am happy to report is still amazing this year. They dropped the abv a bit to expand their distribution footprint, or that's what it would appear. No complaints, I would not have picked some up so easy otherwise.

Expanding their lineup a bit they introduced The Muddy, an Imperial Stout with brewer's licorice, and Belgian dark rock candi sugar. It pours with minimal head, dark, yet transparent, and has a medium body. Initially it has a nose similar to Blackout Stout but much milder, still an aroma I am not crazy about. As it warms the aroma does improve greatly, lending itself to the some licorice sweetness but not much. Overall it's good, I liked it. Dark roasted malt notes are present, slight chocolate and sweetness as well - but not what I would expect from an ale claiming 'amplified sweetness'.

I would drink this again and thought it was a decent stout minus the $5.00 price tag at Hambersham, which is a bit too much. But they like to ride the pricey train anyhow. Unfortunately my computer just corrupted all the photos I took of a full glass, so you get the empty one, sorry. I guess you'll have to buy your own.

I Can't Believe I am going to miss 4Elf this year.



The Brewmaster


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