Sunday, December 27, 2009

Successful sourdough boule, Ploughman's lunch..

Well, here's a long overdue post.. and about nothing other than food. I haven't had much stuff to say since Christmas came to town. But, I've been fighting mightily with my sourdough cultures, and have finally found success. My starter can now easily double, if not nearly triple,  in 9 hours or less. It was an uphill battle, but I finally beat it. Or, rather, came to terms with it.. I'm not sure I've completely won.

..that's a pic of what I consider to be my first sourdough loaf success. It's not perfect. Far from it. the sour is not really there, the crumb is not dense, but not open, either. It's not really tall, but neither is it a discuss like the last one either. It's perfectly edible, but I *did* forget to install the salt. I still wonder what the difference would have been had I put that in there.. I also failed to get a good slash formed on top, so it never really opened up.. but that's fairly minor compared to forgetting to put in a standard component part, I figure.

What that said, this is what I had for lunch:

That is *my* cheese, *my* beer, *my* bread and .. err.. well, Jody's sausage.  But hey, other than a little foreign sausage, that meal was not just prepared, but entirely formed/created/fermented/crafted by my hand. It was a neat though as I stuffed myself on these bits for lunch today.. And I'll say, the stars of the show were the sausage and the cheese. I haven't had this cheese in months, since it was new.. and man, what a difference a bit of age can make on a cheddar cheese. Awesome! The sausage was just plain awesome all by itself. The beer wasn't awesome, but it seemed to pair well with the spicy meat and cheese parts.. so, overall, the meal was really good. And now that I've finished my lunch, and the beer glass is empty, I may just go crack open that new bottle of Kombucha I put in the fridge last night for a taste test.. which, incidentally, I also made myself.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Kombucha, injured hen repaired..

Just moved my Kombucha mother culture into a new jar with new tea and sugar mix. I'm just tasting the smoked Kombucha now for the first time, uncarbed, straight from the jar. The smoke is fairly evident on the nose when you first approach it, but it's not really coming through in the flavor. The sour attack is so prevalent, I think it washes out any smokiness that might be there. After you swallow that sip, however, the smoke comes back, and is faint, but is definately there in the finish. Quite balanced, all things considered! Here's a pic of me swapping the mother culture over:

Sick, isn't it? ;-D

I think this tea has a slightly too sweet taste to it too, much like the last one.. which surprises me, cause I thought for sure this bigger, stronger culture would overpower more of the sugars. I just did some rough and dirty calculations with QBrew, which tells me that if I mix 100 grams of white sugar into 1 liter of water, I'll get a 1.050-ish solution. When I measured this new Kombucha out of the jar, it was like 1.042 on the dial, so I don't think this stuff is very alcohol tolerant. If this new tea is this sweet, the Kombucha must be running into a wall somewhere along the way. I think maybe next time (It's too late for the new batch..) I'll dial it back to 75 grams and see how the stuff tastes there. Should dry it out a bit, I think. I've also just started pondering a 5 gallon batch of the stuff, and putting it on gas in the beer fridge. Heheheh.. wouldn't that be sick?

So, here's the big hen that got injured the other day..

In this photo, I had jsut finished building the temporary pen for her in the garage out of a cardboard box and some netting. The very top of her comb you might be able to see is almost black.. that's a result of putting the hydrogen peroxide on there. I have no idea why it did that, but it did. She was bleeding pretty good prior to that, but that stuff and some gentle pressure put that to a stop. She spent the night in this Taj Mahal (with a suspended heat lamp that you can't see in the pic..)..

And was fairly happy about it, really. Heck, it was *9* degrees F outside, and a sweet 50-ish in this box. With that said, the other chicks were bright and chipper the next morning.. 9 degrees is the lowest we've had so far this year, and I was somewhat concerned about them, but everything I've read said they'd be fine. And, so, they were. I got 4 eggs today, which is normal, and then I let the beauties out for a run, where they promptly began rolling in the dirt again. The injured chick was returned to the flock outside the coop where she immediately asserted her dominance over the first challenger to approach, and then things were back to normal. She's out there now with the rest, perched on the post for the night.

I also scored a small plastic walled pet carrier from the dump this afternoon for $5. Way better than a cardboard box, and will allow any future injured chicken to be much more secure when in segregation.

Speaking of eggs..

That's the Balsamic vinegar pickled eggs I made up last week.. this is the first one I had, after 7 days in the jar. I hear you can age 'em in there for up to a month with better and better results, so, since I did 6 eggs, I'll try one a week or so to see the progression. Ugly though, eh?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SouRED update.. still ain't sour.

I was justchecking out my newest sour beer, the Hanssens derived thing I brewed up a month ago.. as it hasn't shown any signs of souring, and no aroma so speak of for same. I suppose I should have tasted it.. didn't think of that till right now. Not all souring bugs will form a pellicle, afterall.. hmm. In any case, I took out a bottle of the SouRED I bottled a year ago today, and had that, and pitched the dregs from that bottle into the Hanssens beer. I Figured it couldn't hurt. But check this photo of the SouRED..

Beautiful! It's not really sour.. but it has a bit of something to it that could be considered the begininngs of sour. it has a pretty good bitterness still, and an overall nice orange-ish flavor.. and a touch of what I believe is Brett, but it's hard to tell. Could be a touch of oxidation, too.. but nothing objectionable. This is really a delicious beer, when it comes down to it.. even if I missed my original mark by about four miles. Well, still have 40-something bottles of it to go to see how it develops with a few more years aging. :)

Third day in a row now, middle of December that the chickens have given 5 eggs in a day. Sweet! They're out wandering the driveway now, seeing as they still don't like to even touch the snow. Weirdos..

The new sourdough starter has still failed to rise after 48 hours. I gave it a bump with 4 tablespoons of flour and a couple of water, per the instructions I'm following online, but we'll have to wait another day to see the results of that.

That is all..

Sunday, December 13, 2009

challah! I love that word...

Challah bread! Made some for The Boss the other day, and it came out pretty well. Check it:


And there is is. I love the weight on the scale.. apparently, this is "The challah of the Beast" I've baked here. Hopefully, I've also baked at least most of the pure evil out of it. It tastes pretty darn good, at least!

A chicken update! Here's a couple shots of the chicks playing outside in the mulch along side the house, taken yesterday.

..crazy buggers, rolling around in the dirt like it's July out there! It was about 22 degrees or so at the time this was taken, near the middle of the day. They don't seem to mind the cold, but they sure have no interest in even touching the snow. In fact, I moved their coop overtop of the pavement in the driveway now for the winter, because if there's snow on the ground, or in their coop, they won't go near it.. effectively cutting their run size in half. At least if they're on the pavement, it'll warm up in the sun during the day and give them some room to move around on.  Plus, after morning egg laying is done, I let them out to roam.. and they go where they please, as long as there's no snow covering it.  ;-)

I also scored a heated watering dish for them, too.. that process of chasing after the iced over water several times during the day was really starting to drag me down.

I also re-started the sourdough project. Apparently, I read the directions wrong.. err, interpreted them wrong, from the start. What I *think* I did, was to effectively tell my yeasts that I was going to underfeed them every time, and that they should eat and then immediately go dormant. What I should have done, from the beginning while building my starter, is to (once the starter shows some activity..) throw half the starter away, and then feed the starter it's own weight in water *and* flour, in essence, tripling the overall weight of the stuff. What I was doing, was throwing away half the starter and then mixing in half it's weight in flour and half it's weight in water, doubling it in weight. When you read the texts online and such, it's a bit misleading, because they want your starter to double in size, but in order to do that, you have to feed the thing adequately to do that. I was basically taking 100 grams of starter and feeding it only enough to support 50 grams of starter beasts.. and then starting that process over the next time, again and again. I selectively bred sissy yeasts! So, I'm starting over. It seems to be going well right now.. we're on day #3.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kaiser Rolls recipe, and the Arrogant Bastard..

This is the recipe I've been using the past few times for my sandwich Kaiser rolls. I love 'em! They seem to stay soft and delicious for a really long time, too.. which I think is a bit odd, compared to my regular bread loaf, which starts to go hard after three or four days.

This is from King Arthur's site:

  • 3 cups (360g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (9 grams) salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (177 grams) warm water

Manual Method:In a large bowl, or the bowl of your electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients, stirring till the dough forms a cohesive mass and begins to clear the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then allow it to rest for 10 minutes (which gives the dough a chance to absorb the liquid, and the gluten in the flour a chance to relax.) Knead the dough for an additional 5 minutes, or until it's smooth and supple. The dough should be quite stiff, but not at all "gnarly;" adjust its consistency with additional flour or water, as necessary. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till it's noticeably puffy, about 1 hour.

Shaping:Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into six equal pieces. Shape the pieces into round balls, and then flatten them into 7" discs. Working with one ball of dough at a time, shape the balls of dough into 5 sided pentagon shapes, by folding the edge of the disc up towards the middle of the disc, equally, on five edges. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Dip the tops into whatever topping you like, for instance, poppy seeds as shown below..

Like this:

This photo shows a 1/2 risen roll, flipped upside right..

Place the rolls cut-side down (yes-cut-side down--this helps them retain their shape) onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the rolls, and allow them to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until they've almost doubled in volume, flipping them right side up a few minutes before baking so as to allow the tops to get rounded and not be flat from being upside down.

Bake the rolls in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.Yield: six large kaiser rolls.. like these:

Arrogant Bastard.

This is a beer I had once in Denver, CO two years ago and have feared ever since. Ever since this year, I should say. That year in Denver, on a trip to the Great American Beer Fest with my faithful companion Jody, I had a pint of Stones 'Arrogant Bastard' at Falling Rock tap house. That beer beat me up, kicked in my face, spit in my eye, and threw me out of the bar. I could not finish it. It was so arrogant. Down right cruel, in fact. It was liquid sandpaper. It was the beer drinking equivalent of consuming a hand grenade. It was the beer drinking simile of trying to toss back a pint of running chain saw.

And, apparently, it was all bologna. I've had Arrogant Bastard since then.. In another bar, at my house, at the same bar, Falling Rock in Denver, 2009 in fact.. I've had Oaked Arrogant Bastard, and I've had Double Bastard, also at GABF. All have not measured up. I have not had had the same reaction to a beer as I had that first time with the Bastard in Denver. Was that a bad batch? Was that a *good* batch? Was that a particularly *mean* batch? Was that a special brew made just for the guests at Falling Rock at that particular moment? I don't know, but no beer since then has owned me as hard as that one did two years ago. And not tonight, either. 

Tonight's Arrogant Bastard was a fairly straightforward beer.. yeah, it was a little on the coarse hoppy side, but other than that, fairly standard. Dark Mahogany in color, not much head remained after the gentle pour of this bomber into a 22oz snifter. Take note of the photo. Again, it had an above-average hop aggressiveness, but it wasn't mean. I mean, my wife surely wouldn't drink this one, but I didn't think it was over the top. It got better, tastier, after it warmed up a bit. Stone Brewing won't tell you the particular hop variety, but it's one of those high cohumulone types. And this time, I drank it all. And I enjoyed it. Relished it, even. It was a good beer.  I lived to tell the tale, and would certainly drinnk another without fear. 

But now what? Before, I had a beer I knew could beat me. Something that took me out of the game once, and surely could do so again.. but I guess that one was a fluke. What's a fellow to do now? Where's my challenge? I feel a bit let down, actually.. like I've crested the mountain and am now relaxing on the walk down the other side.. 

I need another arrogant beer. I need a bigger, better, meaner bastard. Something to fear.. any suggestions? 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kombucha revealed, busted loaf, & pickled eggs..

Ha! Fixed that damn snowblower today. Sorta. Parts of it, anyway. The drive chain is still busted, but the thing starts and runs now. Jerk!

Here's the latest flat sourdough that I hurled into space (well, the back yard anyway.. ) this morning:

Darn things keep coming out flat. Just not rising enough. Talking with some folks on The Fresh Loaf website and they think I'm on the right track.. but still doing some trouble shooting on this.

Here's a shot of the Kombucha project.. the first one, not the second. This one is all bubbly in the bottle now, and tastes just FINE. *Really* fine, in fact.

The second version of the Kombucha monster is still churning in the jar downstairs, but really probably is done by now. Interested to see how that tastes, since I used Lapsang Souchong tea as the base.. heh.

Here's a pic of the jar of pickled eggs I made up a couple days ago, too.

Here's the recipe:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic red vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 rings of onion (small onion)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • tsp of crushed red peppers
  • dash of all-spice/lawries stuff
  • 3 glubs of hot sause

All but the all-spice and hot sause brought to a boil then cooled. Add to 6 hard boiled eggs after. Easy as that. Only reason I used balsamic vinegar is I just didn't have *quite* enough white vinegar to do the job.. and now the whole project is a deep red color. Curious. We'll see how that works out, as I've never pickled eggs before and have no idea if I even will like them.

Speaking of eggs, this is becoming a pretty typical sight for a morning:

Four large eggs, ranging from 52 to 57 grams per egg. This is the girls' collecting bucket.. they like it, and keep them from breaking the eggs in their hands while trying to open the doors to bring the eggs inside. Kids are funny like that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The new, bestest thing.. and snowy chickens.

These chickens just got their first taste of real snow. And they're not that interested. I opened the door to the outside world this morning after collecting 4 eggs from the ladies to see hat they thought of the place. Only two were on the ground eating at the time, but nobody else came down after I unlocked the door.. and that's really unusual. They normally would have been out of that box like a shot.. but not with the 5-ish new inches of snow/slush on the ground. Have to keep an eye on them and see how they progress.. cause it ain't gonna get any nicer out there!

This is the new, bestest thing for breakfast here in my house. The two scrambled egg and shredded cheese, salsa covered and hotsause infused breakfast burrito. It is *awesome*. And no, I did not make that tortilla. I tried and failed in the past at that.. I know my limitations now, and tortillas are one of them.

My snow blower is broken again. The new drive chain is still on order.. but since that's hopefully gonna get fixed, the spark seems to have just given up the ghost just now.. and I was *almost* done, too. I also have no adequate shovel with which to shovel the deck or front walk.. so that project failed utterly.

I'm going to go make some bread to attempt to cheer myself up.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

100 posts, IPA review (sorta) and.. snow.

So, it snowed last night. There's about an inch and a half on the ground out there. I hate it. My M/C hasn't been properly put away yet for the year, or my lawn mower, for that matter.. and the snowblower is still not fixed quite right. Heck, it's still upside down in the garage, in agony, from last year.

In other news, this was a really good beer. Surprised me, because it's good, it's been on the shelves here for who-knows-how-long, and I'm not sure I've ever even tried it before. I cannot remember any details on it, other than it had a fairly agressive flavor from the hops.. but I remember being rather pleased it it, overall. Go drink one, and lemme know how you make out.

According to Google, my *last* post was my 100th post on this blog. Sheesh. Hooray for me, 100 posts of dubious quality in just under one year. Well, if nothing else, it's a fairly permanent record of what I did and what interested me during that time.. should be fun to look over n my one year anniversary of this thing next month.

Had another 5 egg day today, although one was broken.. still counts as five. I am not supplying supplemental lighting for my chickens, and do not plan on it. If that light I installed there ever goes on, it'll be for heating purposes only, not for supplemental light for egg laying production. I get, normally, 3 or 4 eggs a day, and that seems to be quite enough to supply this family just fine, with a *few* extra to give out every other week or so. Maybe during the summer that will increase, but right now, it seems to be less extra than what I had originally thought. But for us, here in this house, we're just fine with 5 hens. I think I'd like one more, for a round 6, but 5 will do for now.

I broke out that 1+ year old Colombian bean that was giving me fits roasting a couple months ago.. nothing but disappointing cups, one after the other. I took a break from it, came back last week, and the results are now fantastic. I have no idea what was going on there. Weird.

Still no signs of souring activity on the surface of the Hanssens beer I did solo a while back.. will be 1 month's time this week, I think. Curious... might have to go find another sour beer to help that one along, maybe.

No pics for this, but had some experiments with a 10% pale ale malt bread loaf that I did yesterday.. there were some snafu's along the way, so I'll try the recipe again paying more attention as I go, and maybe dropping back to 5% barley malt next time. It did somethign weird and just collapsed in the oven as it was baking. It rose fine, although a little on the sort side, but when in the oven, the edges on parts of the loaf just sorta fell in on itself. When we cut it open, right out of the oven (I know, I know.. don't do that!), it as still *really* moist... and that's being kind. It was really actually sticky. I wonder what's up there, and does barley malt need special attention when baking with it? As opposed to regular barley flour, I mean? I'll look into that before next I try..

That's it, I'm hungry. Go click my Google ad before you go!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Couple of reviews, Kombucha repitch, etc.

So, just out of curiosity, is there anyone reading this right now that isn't subscribed and seeing themselves in a little box to the right hand side of this message listed as a Follower? It'd be great to have you sign in if you are, just so's I know who I'm writing at, if not just myself. ;) Plus, you dogs out there who have nothing but gray outlines for their profile pic, shame on you! Fix that immediately!

Just came in from the coop after giving the chickens some leftover cereal and milk from the kids breakfasts.. they snapped that right up, quick. There's two egs in the box right now, and the kids pulled in three large ones this morning already. That makes my second 5 egg day. 100% chicken efficiency! 

The Kombucha project seems to be functioning well, too. Geoff came over last night for a beer session and Kombucha initial tasting. I washed up good and then just reached into the jar with the Kombucha in it and just picked up the whole floating jellyfish thing that had formed. It came right out with no problem in one piece, and I put it down on a small plate with a little of the liquid over the top to keep it hydrated. I mixed up a new batch of the sweet tea, which I neglected to post a recipe for last time.. and then sunk the new mother culture pancake thingy back into the jar with the new tea mixture in it. Easy as cake! The recipe I used for this tea is half and half black tea and green tea, at a ratio of 3.5 grams per 250 mL, which is how I make my regular tea, strength wise. I swirled into the tea 100 grams of white table sugar per 1,000 mL of water for the Kombucha to feed on. Pretty simple stuff. This morning, I went to take a look at how the new culture is doing, and it's already formed a abit of a funk across the top of the tea.. much, much faster than the first pitch.. which was way underpitched, really.

Me and Geoff had a small taste of the Kombucha tea itself as well, and both of us easily detected some sourness and acidic twang to the mix, but also noted it was still fairly sweet. Seems like the culture hadn't had quite enough time to do it's job.. so, since it's bottled in a swing top jar, I'll have to let the pressure off the top every day or so to keep the bottle from exploding. Sorry, no pictures of this thing.. I totally forgot in the excitement of a new "thing".. I'll get some pics of it on the next batch.

While Geoff was here, we had a few commercial beers.. this one included;

That's Captain Lawrence's Imperial Pale Ale. It's pretty good, but seemed to me to taste a bit too much like a pine tree. Like, seriously like a pine tree. I failed to take notes on this and it was one of the last beers we had of the night, so my memory is lacking other than that one major sticking point.

The other beer was this one:

That's Harpoon's Ginger Wheat, from the 100 barrel series. We had this one first, and took some notes on it. We noted a very clear beer, straw in color. Didn't hold much head for any length of time.. but had a fairy serious lemon aroma and flavor, and a more subtle ginger note that got kicked around a bit by the powerful lemony-ness of this thing. It's a 7%abv brew, but drinks like a much smaller beer. At first, it's a bit much to take, but after a few sips, the taste grows on you and it becomes very enjoyable. We figured we'd reccomend it to someone if we thought they were a wheat beer fan. It was good.

And lastly, I picked up an external hard drive from Staples from their Cyber Monday deal, ust before Christmas. It's something me and The Boss have been kicking around for a while now, getting a backup program in place, and since OS X makes implementing that so easy, with the plugging in of another hard drive, we jumped on this one. It's a 2 TB Seagate something or other, and it clocked in at $139. Cheap! It's 4 times the size of our built in drive, so with incremental backups, it should be usable for a good long time before it starts kicking out the old backups.

I'm tired! See ya's..

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sourdough bread success, krappy Kaisers and a Kombucha update..

Some success! After a few defeats in the ring with sourdough breads, I went back to the drawing board. I was just not getting any luck with conventional recipes for sours and just not getting any rising action out of these things. I know my starter has the power to rise well in excess of twice it's original size.. so I was sort of at a loss as to what was going on. I came across a site with a different approach, this one, which gave it's recipe for damn near anything you wanted to throw in it.. based on percentages. It was so different from the others, I gave it a try.. figured I had nothing to lose! Besides, they were advocating a *huge* increase in size of the starter percentage in the recipe than all the rest (typically 20-25% of the recipe, comared to the 66% of this site) that I figured it might even work.

So, I mmixed the stuff all together, shooting for a 500 gram (about one pound..) end result of dough. With that number, I used 250 grams of flour, and worked the percentages of the salt, starter and water from there, so my total was 500 grams, and let it be for a while. This was just a few hours before I had to leave for work at 1400 hours, so I wasn't sure how this timing was going to work out, but since The Boss was gonna be home for the day, I knew there'd be at least someone home to keep an eye on the thing in case of disaster.

I ended up with my numbers just about perfect, and after mixing the flour, starter and water, I let it rest. This is what they call the hydration rest.. I can't tell you how important this part is. Do it. It changes the flours and starches in ways so fantastic in only 20 minutes of hands off time, it makes the dough much more manageable. I thought this dough was a bit stiff, so I ended up adding a TOUCH of water, and left it at that. I proofed it in a bowl downstairs in the warm room for a bit, and after I ran out of time to wait, brought it upstairs to form the loaf. It didn't look all that risen for it's first rise, but when I squooze it on the table top, it surely did have co2 bubbles all through it. I gave it a bit of a knead, formed my loaf and put the thing in a greased pan to hang for the day. I was going to be gone for 10 hours at least, so I warned The Boss to watch out for it. When I called her later in the day, around 1900 hours, she said it hadn't done much.. but when I got home, it was pushing up against the plastic wrap I had sealed it with. I couldn't take a chance that it would deflate overnight, so I warmed up the oven at just prior to midnight and began to bake the thing. I also threw in the Kaiser rolls I had made the previous day that just didn't want to rise , just because they were in the way and they were gonna get tossed in the garbage if I didn't bake them. Well, when I opened the door, the "oven spring", as they call it, really did a great job on the breads and the loaf was just about an inch over the top of the pan! Awesome!

In this photo above, you can see both breads I'm describing.. me and The Boss cut the loaf up right then and there and had a few pieces. She said it was noticably different and better than a commercial yeast bread. Wile I thought it was quite good, I wasn't sure it was *that* much better. It's the longer storage times and less reliance on commercial yeasts that interest me in this project.

However, the real star of the show was the Kaisers. Tho they didn't turn out as planned, I learned something interesting. Without going into too much detail on the original recipe, it called for malt syrup, which I didn't have.. a Google search told me that malt syrup was.. well, syrup made from the malting process of grains. essentially, it's the beer brewing worlds liquid malt extract, with no hops added. That's common enough at a brewing store.. but I do all grain beer, so this didn't apply to me. I just don't use the stuff. A Google search for malt syrup replacements told me that you could take whole grains, steep them in water, begin the sprouting process and then grind the grains to a powder and add those for the flavor the recipe was calling for, in a pinch. While this sounds complicated for the normal household baker.. a lightbulb went off in my head. I didn't have to do a thing. I had many, many pounds of this stuff in my basement in the form of pale ale malt, chocolate malts, crystal malts etc. Now the gears were turning! A quick trip downstairs for 18 grams of crystal 40L, ground to a powder in the coffee mill, and I had my replacement. The color you see in the photo's above is a direct result of the crystal 40L addition.

The taste of this stuff, of those Kaiser rolls, is unbelievable! I've never had its equal in bread. It's so sweet, so powerful a flavor, and so pungent.. but let's the bread really shine. Oh, and The Boss won't go near it. Weird. This is a groundbreaking event for me, right here. This means I can color breads however I like, while still retainng the original flavor with certains grain additions, I can take lighter Lovibond malts and crystals and do fabulous things to a loafs flavor and not change the color at all. There's a whole lot of potential here for brewers/bakers that I think needs exploration. When I feel more comfortable in the area f sourdoughs, I'll definitely be experimenting with this. I'd encourage you to do the same. A zillion different grains are all as close as your nearest homebrew shop, conveniently packaged in nice, one pound bags. Do it!

This post is way too long.. but I should also mention that the Kombucha experiment is still under way and moving along slowly, still. There seems to be a thick film of goop on the top of the whole container now, but I can't get a really good picture at the moment.. gotta let it grow a bit more, still. This is day #10 for that thing.. we're still on track.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Smoked Wheat down, Orval taste test, and my chickens first 5 egg day...

Sad day, indeed. The Apple Smoked Wheat beer I brewed with Jody has been annihilated. That was a truly good beer. It has since been replaced with the IPA I made with Frank a few weeks ago. And yeah, I'm gonna call it an IPA.. I was thinking about demoting it to Pale Ale, cause it finished a bit high when I measured it last, but when I plugged it into the kegger, the thing had apparently dropped a few more points, carbed itself, and upped it's abv% just enough to properly squeak into IPA territory. Besides, it's got that Dogfish 90 Minute viscosity where it just doesn't feel like a Pale Ale anymore. It's quite good, and it's hopped entirely with Northern Brewer, so if you wanna know what that particular hop tastes like, this is a pretty good way to get that done.

I also tasted a bottle of this over the weekend:

..and it was good. The rumors are true, this is fermented with quite a bit of Brett in it, and it shows clearly. This was a hugely carbonated beer, and was pretty darned good.. if you like Brettanomyces. If not, I'd pass. If I wasn't going for just a straight sour beer in that fermenter downstairs, I'd have pitched these dregs right into it.. just because it's a fine strain and seemed like a good idea. But, my sour side won out, and I refrained. Hopefully, that thing sours right up..

Also, two days ago, our chickens had their first 5 eggs layed day. Evey chicken I have fired one out. Heck, I didn't even know they were all capable, let alone able to synchronize the operation! And here I thought I still had two lame-o's in the flock. Yesterday, we had 4 and we would have had four again today, but one broke in the nest box.. one of the new girls is still in the early 'soft shell' stages of gearing up.. too bad.

Otherwise, Turkey Day came and went yesterday as well, and that was a fine time.. my sourdough project was miserable and inedible, but I'm learning still. I'm trying to fire up some sourdough Kaiser rolls right now, but I'm not that optimistic. The dough just doesn't feel right for this..

The kombucha project is still going downstairs, but it's slow going.. we'll have some status updates on that when it get's more interesting. There's a little film on the surface, but not enough to take a picture of.

That's it for me.. carry on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sourdough success, loafs, rolls, and Orval

So! Here we are again. I had a bit of a setback with the sourdough thing, but then quickly realized my error and figured it all out. I had an "epiphany moment" as it were. When doing these starters, the mix at first is rather gooey, wet, and liquidy.. bbut after the wild bgs have found their way in and settled down with you, you really need to thicken up the mix. The easiest way to do it is with a scale. Simply weight the amount of goop you have into a glass bowl zeroed out on your scale, take half of that weight in water, and  the same amount in weight of flour, mix it up well with the starter, and put it back in the jar to grow again. It will double in size, ready for the next feeding. Here's my current sourdough sponge:

For instance, here's the math in an example. you start out with some small amount of starter you've grown in the fridge.. like, say, 25 grams. Take that, mix it well with 12.5 grams (ok, approximately, let's not get carried way here..) of water and 12.5 grams of four. Mix, and set aside in a warm spot. It'll double in size if all goes well, and will be a 50 gram mass by the next 12 hours. When growing starters, feed every 12 hours or so.. you want to feed the starter when it's at its peak of activity, not before, and not after it begins to collapse. So, 12 hours later you'll take your 50 gram mass of starter, throw it in a bowl, and measure out 25 grams of water and 25 grams of flour, whisk well (introduce lots of air, the wild stuff and souring components in there love this stuff!) and put back in the loosely covered jar. 12 hours later, you should have 100 grams of starter, that has doubled in size. Keep doing this until you have as much starter for your recipe and you're done. Remember to set aside a small amount for your next recipe, that you'll feed as normal and then stash in the fridge.. which will retard its growth significantly, and allow feedings of only once a week or so.

Yesterdy, after growing a starter up all day, I did a mixed yeast beast of part sour sponge and part cultured bread yeast. I made this gorgeous loaf:

I also made some rolls for Thanksgving dinner.. check 'em out. They're Oat grain topped whole wheat 10 grain rolls. Oh, snap! Oh, wait.. I forgot to take a pic of the baked versions.. these are the pre-baked rolls. Ah, nuts..

Here's me working the magic on the big sourdough project made from the starter sponge in the above-mentioned pictures later that day.. This stuff is LOOSE. Very flexible, elastic.. sorta sticky, but this is what the dough requires to rise properly. 

And here's the finished dough, waiting to rise in the bowl overnight.. I wanted a slow rise, so I stashed it out on the work bench in the garage where it's only 46 degrees, to slow down the rise. I mixed this up at 2030 hours and managed to stay awake till 2230 hours, but then got tired.. a warm rise would have taken 4-6 hours, putting me at the oven baking this thing at some time around 0230 hours in the morning.. I wasn't interested in that, so I put the chill on the dough to slow it down. It worked like a charm, and was only slightly risen in the morning at 0830. Now, it's back out in the warm room and just about doubled up.. more on that in a later post.

OK, got some stf to work on.. here's a closing shot of my dog, Barbie. Just for comic relief.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2009 coffee bean crop 2009 and the sourdough saga..

Here's a quick update on the sourdough project, the coffee tree, and the new Hanssens derived sour beer thing.


This is day three of the sourdough project in the jar where I've been growing it. The first two das it was fairly slow.. not much to see, but today, it's got some noticeable bubbles and stuff on the surface. Figured I'd give it a post.. it's starting to stink a bit, too. No sourness.. just stinking. :)

Here's a couple pics of the new for 2009 crop of coffee beans.. check it:

Yep, there's three beans there this time, instead of the measly one I got last year. So, just like that, I tripled my output! Fantastic! Some year, we'll be able to grown a whole cup worth of coffee.. talk to me in a decade or so about that.

And finally, I got a chance to rack the Hanssens "No Problem" All-Purpose sour beer into it's 5 gallon container where it'll rest for about three months or so. I've got a sample of it right here that I'll try to describe.. It's flat and warm, mind you. Right off the bat, it's cloudy right now, but orange in color.. I get an aroma of oranges or clementines in the nose. Flavor wise, it's fairly bready.. lots of the original malty-ness is still here, almost like a spoonful of raw flour was dumped into this glass. In the finish, I'm getting more orange-ish citrus flavor and more bready-ness. Quite a bit after that, I'm picking up somethign else that I can't quite put my finger on. For a 1.050-something beer with only 23 IBU's, this has a fairly pronounced bitterness as well. This would be a fine drinker if it never goes sour.. but of course, I'm hoping for sour as heck. Bring it! I'll keep you posted on pellicles and weirdness in the carboy as time goes by.. take care!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Keg down! Send help!

Keg down! Killed this afternoon.. poured 3 oz and then gave up the ghost.

Was a good beer. Will be a regular here, as I think this was the beginnings of a great stout recipe. a couple small changes, but I think this has promise.

In it's place, variant number 1, brewed by myself and Rob Klepps, has been placed on the gas in this beers stead. The "Rump Wrecker" Rye Ancho Chile Stout should be ready in about a week. A slight derivative of the original beer, I had to sub the Chocolate Rye with flaked rye and standard Stout ingredients for color and flavor.. next time, I won't leave out the dark chocolate. We'll see how this is anyway..

A big post of small projects.. check it! Kombucha, Sourdough, etc.

Did a couple funny things yesterday.. went out and scored a bottle of Kobucha ($3.99 a bottle? Really? How do people afford this stuff on a regular habit?) with live cultures in it to grab on to. If you're not that familiar, go Google some Kombucha stuff or check it on the Wiki somewhere.. but essentially, it's a fermented tea product. You make tea, either black or green, in a mosty ordinary way.. then add some sugar for the bugs to grab onto and ferment, and you're done. It's served cold, and either flat or sparkling.
The cool part is, the Kombucha cultures are a mixture of weird bugs, like Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and wild yeasts from foreign lands. Good stuff in the beer world (well, for me, anyway..), and apparently good stuff in the tea world, too. The first time I tried this stuff, I found it sorta gross.. I wasn't accustomed to this sort of flavor at the time. But now that I'm a sour beer fan, I'm finding this stuff is pretty tasty. It's a lot of the same bugs and wild vermin that's working on both products, so it all makes sense I guess.

Anyway, here's a pic of me jamming the tea down a funnel into the jar I'm going to ferment it in.

That was pretty exciting, eh? Then, I took the bottle of GTs Synergy Strawberry Kombucha, brought it up to room temp and pitched half the bottle (with the junk on the bottom) into the cooled jar of tea. Check it:

It's got a paper towel over the top held on by a rubber band.. the acetic acid monsters that dwell within need the oxygen in order to produce the vinegar compounds.. unlike beer, oxygen is good, up to a point, with this stuff.

Speaking of beer, part of this thing was inspired by that product a well. I got side tracked with trying to figure if I could somehow get this wacky culture to help ferment a beer into a sort of pseudo-Lambic (pLambic) beer. I'm not sure at this juncture if a full on, 100% Kombucha ferment is best, a secondary infusion of the beasts to finish off any residual sugars, or a simultaneous mix at initial pitching to make the magic work. I'll get to that in time and fill ya'll in on the progress as we/if we go.

Also, had this the other day:

Yuengling "Premium" lager. What's Premium mean? Dunno. It's a fairly standard Yuengling taste.. tastes just like the regular one I had a while back (a long while back..) so I'm not sure what the difference is. It's pretty good, though not a real standout in the crowd. Thankfully, it doesn't have that kick in the face corn flavor that most crappy lagers have, so that's cool. Great color and a fantastic head of foam stays on the top.  Sorry for the lame-o review, but I can't find much to single out for this one. It's good, but not stellar.

You ready for more? Good! Check this goopy mess!

 That's nothing but a glass jar with half a cup of water and half a cup of flour (a quarter cup each of Oat Flour and regular Red Wheat bread flour). It's left in that jar for somewhere over a week, with a loose fitting lid, and supposedly it's gonna pick up some wild yeasts in the air and turn sour. You're on to me now! Sourdough! I finally took the plunge.. I'm gonna give it a whirl. This should take some time to get the starter going (regular, daily feedings of the beast in the jar for a while, etc..) so I'll have to report back in some time with results. In fact, it's time to go do that feeding now. Later!

Now, go click my Google link, you cheapos!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ancho Chille hangin' in the breeze...

Did a Rye Stout with Rob the other week.. decided to suspend an Ancho Chille in the fermenter for about a week or so, up until I kegged it. Well, kegged it up today and took a pic of the hanging chille, which I thought was kinda funny. Short post today.. just wanted to share.

Tasting notes to follow, when it's cold and carbed. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oude Guezue from Hanssens Artisanaal..

So, in my spare time today, I whipped up a 5.5 gallon batch of a brew thaat I intend to sour with some bug dregs I got from the above-mentioned Gueuze from Hanssens, in Belgium. It's a pretty good player, and I thought I could handle it myself after my partner couldn't make it up.. and you know, I sort of *needed* it (or, the junk on the bottom of the bottle, anyway..) to actually make a sour beer. 

I pitched two strains of yeast here.. a really old WYeast smack pack that failed to swell up, and the scum from the bottom of this bottle of sour. BTW, thanks Rob, for the ol' smack pack! Yep, this is *that* one! I didn't do any starters or growing of any sorts.. just pitched, crossed my fingers and I'm gonna hop for the best. Worst case, I could always pitch a dry yeast in the morning if I don't see anything happening.. but I think I'm jut gonna take the Papazian approach and just not worry about it.

Anywho, the new beer consisted of mostly two row pale, a touch of both Crystal 20 and Crystal 40, a bit more of some Munich (the light variety..) and that's about it. I added a bit more layering of grains to this one than I did with my Oro de Maggie, cause, although that beer was (is?) really quite nice, it's a touch one dimensional.. I wanted to see if I could bring a bit more to the plate, so I used smaller amounts of specialty grains and layered 'em up on each other.. we'll see how that goes. Plus, I used the two strains here in the new beer, and just the Calabaza yeast in the Maggie beer. I've taken to calling this newest creation the Hanssens "No Problem" Sour Ale.. cause, well, I had no problems with the brew.. which is unusual, and sorta screws with my naming scheme. Since all my beers are usually named after a problem in the brew day, a dead animal, or a single hop beer indicating just the one hop involved.. this one sorta threw a wrench in the works. Maybe disaster will strike further down the chain and I'll get a real name for this thing in place. Until then..

Other than that, chickens are good, the kids are alive and well, and the wife has a migraine.. and I'm off to bed. Carry on!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Budweiser American Ale (what the..?) and a chocolate thing..

So, yeah.. I drank this thing. And I'll be honest with ya'.. I didn't hate it. I surely expected to, but I didn't. It has a faint whiff of hops in the aroma, and there's an atoms worth of hop flavor in there too.. the bitterness is well balanced as well. It also has a good caramel flavor too. As long as we're piling on praise for a Bud product, there's even carbonation! Whoo hoo! ;-) All that stuff aside, it's a bit on te thin side. If it had a bit more meat on it's bones.. you know, some malt backbone.. this might be a really good beer. Problem is, it's *so* thin, it's a big distraction for me from the large picture here.

In coffee news, I made this thing up:

It's a bit of a weird concoction I decided to tackle after talking with someone online about a Starbucks Chocolate Truffle drink they make. Essentially, it's a scoop of hot chocolate, a single shot of espresso, steamed milk on top of that to do a latte art thingy design on the top, and then some chocolate shavings (from a Hershey bar on a cheese grater..) on the top for design. Or so I thought. The shavings actually start to melt into the drink after a few seconds and contribute to the overall flavor as well. A curious thing, this. Not sure I'm going to drink a bunch of them, cause they take *forever* to make, but they're fairly tastey, and the coffee comes through quite readily.

And a parting shot.. a ridiculous picture of my dog:

Carry on!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Browar Grand Imperial Porter, and a soft shelled egg..

Had this beer with Uncle Jack last night,

..and was sorta underwhelmed. It's a porter, so I knew I had a tough win ahead of me, but it was an Imperial Porter, so I thought maybe that would help matters.. and it did, but not enough to sway me. It was a good flavor, overall, but a bit too sweet for me to really love it. That's my hangup with Porters, really.. I'm not a fan of the sweetness they usually exhibit over a Stout of the same ballpark. Porters don't usually have that Roast aspect, which assists in the bitterness perception you get while drinking them, helping to balance out matters. So, there it is.. one mans opinion.

In other news, one of my chickens, not sure which one, laid a soft shelled egg this morning. Broke in the nest box as it was ejected, appaently.. had to clean out the box, but otherwise, no harm, no fowl. ;-) NEXT!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A real, honest to goodness black & tan?

Check this out:

Holy cow! That's the first one of those I've been able to pull off, like, ever. The flavor was right, too, getting all the Rye Stout first before slowly blending into the ESB underneath. Cool. I wil probably never do this again.. I'm not a big Black & Tan drinker.. I guess I was just bored at the time. :)

Last week, I went down to Timmay's house for the big Dopple Bock Off he was having. It was  fairly private party, with just me and him attending. :) We had a few Dopplebocks, a Thomas Hooker model from his keg, a Fort Collins variety, and the AndyGator, which, as it turned out, was actually a hybrid Dopple MaiBock.. so, it was pale, not dark. Still, we held no grudge and drank it anyway.  The T.H. beer was the clear winner.. far and above, in my book. I enjoyed the Fort Collins, but it didn't have the huge plum and wicked big caramel flavor the T.H. bock did, and that's what I really enjoyed about it. The AndyGator was good as well, but you can't really compare these other two beers to this one.. just radically different styles.

I'm glad Thomas Hooker's beer won this comparo, as it's good to have a local brewery really shine.. it's good to have a great local brewery. I root for T.H. to continue to rock on..

Here's a pic of the AndyGator and Fort Collins labels..

Here's me and the Timmay enjoying the MaiBock and some cheese, and..

Speaking of cheese, here's a bit of the cheeses we had:

That's my Jalapeno cheddar there in the back left, some kind of spreadable soft blue cheese on the left front, and a smoked Gouda there in the front on the right. The Cheddar was sorta mild.. needs more time in the wax to really develop more. The smoked Gouda was nice.. the Blue wasn't bad, but  I like my Blue's firmer and a little tangier and funkier. This was a good entry Blue, though.. hit up the Timmay for further details on who makes that and where to get it.

In chicken news, today I got another three eggs from the girls. That's the second day in a row for three eggs..  think the other Red just started laying. The second Barred Rock still looks really small and pale, and there's another Red straggler, of course.. but hey, three a day is good for me. Show's they're healthy and in good spirits.