Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from Lug Wrench

With America celebrating our tribute to All Hallow's Eve today, Tom and I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Halloween.  And what better way to celebrate the ghost and ghouls out there than a pint of an old favorite: Wychwood's Hobgoblin.

And for those homebrewers out there, the Brewing Network did a great job putting together Hobgoblin clone - give it a try if your a fan.



"Meet me down at the bar! We'll drink breakfast together."
-W. C. Fields

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Garrett Oliver's Four-Course Beer Dinner

Beer and food pairing interest is growing across the United States.  Craft beer, which was once maligned when compared to wine in food pairings, is now a popular accompaniment and even ingredient in food.  Shows like The Home Brewed Chef on The Brewing Network, events like Savor, and articles in Brew Your Own magazine and Zymurgy all show this trend.  Even, the website of the Brewers Association, has an entire section on beer and food, which features a wide variety of recipes and tasting suggestions, including steps to host your own pairing event. also recently featured instructions and recipes for conducting a four-course beer dinner by Garrett Oliver.

Garrett Oliver is the brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery and a well-known expert on beer dinners.  His book, The Brewmaster's Table, is considered one of the key guides to food and beer pairing and he has even appeared on The Food Network's Iron Chef America series.  In the feature, Garret presents four dishes that "normal" people can prepare, along with recommended beer pairings.  The recipes include:

  • Linguine Carbonara Paired with a Belgian-style Dark Abbey Ale
  • Indian-spiced Crab Cakes Paired with an India Pale Ale
  • Roast Rack of Lamb Paired with a Brown Ale or Porter
  • Imperial Stout Float
The thing I like best about these recipes is that they are designed to allow you to host the dinner party.  This means that you should be able to socialize and interact with your guests, rather than slaving in the kitchen the whole time.  The recipes feature clear instructions on organization and what to do ahead of time and how to minimize work when the guests arrive.  They are well thought-out and clearly the result of Garrett's experience in the kitchen.

The other thing I like about the recipes is that they are interesting and different.  They do not feature the same tried and true beer pairings, but instead would likely expand the cooking skills of many home chefs and the palates of many participants.  While a bit exotic, they also feature ingredients that should be easily found in most parts of the country.

While I don't think I will be doing the entire dinner anytime soon, I do intend to give the Linguine Carbonara and the Imperial Stout Float sometime in the future.



Monday, October 24, 2011

Big Brew: Foreign Export Stout

Over this past weekend, members of my homebrew club (Rhode Island Fermentation Technicians) got together for a Club Big Brew.  Typically, we pick a recipe, brew up 50+ gallons, and everyone goes home with a full carboy or two.  For this most recent club brew, the club picked a recipe from Lug Wrench's past: a Foreign Export Stout.  About 18 months ago, I brewed this FES as part of a collaboration we did with the Mad Fermentationist.  The result was an excellent stout - one that I have been looking forward to rebrew.

With 13 or 14 brewers taking part, we targeted 70 gallons of wort, made the appropriate substitutions, and plugged the recipe into brewing software.  The resulting grain bill (157 lbs!) is listed below along with a few photos from the event.  With the exception of fighting through a stuck sparge, the brew went relatively smoothly.  Thanks to all those who attended and an extra thank you to the host (John C.) for letting us descend on his house and use his equipment.

The "brewhouse"

Mashing In

150+ lbs of spent grains

The Mad Fermentationist's Foreign Export Stout - RIFT's Take

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 66 gallons
Total Grain (lbs): 157
OG: 1.068
FG: ?
SRM: 31
IBU: 51.6 (target)
ABV: ?
Brewhouse Efficiency: 82%
Wort Boil Time: 60 minutes

130.0 lbs Pale Malt (2-Row)
13.0 lbs Flaked Barley
7.0 lbs Roasted Barley
4.0 lbs Chocolate Malt
3.0 lbs Black Patent Malt 

All hops are pellet hops
10.0 oz Magnum (13.0% AA) at 60 minutes
5.0 oz Willamette (5.0% AA) at 20 minutes
4.0 oz Willamette (5.0% AA) at 20 minutes

Cal Ale yeast (from a local brewery)

Brewed on 10/23/11 with RIFT club members

*   *   *



"He was a wise man who invented beer."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pizza Quest - The Big Reveal

I mentioned in a previous post that Peter Reinhart and Pizza Quest have been working on a cool project with The Bruery.  While doing a segment with Kelly Whitaker of Pizzeria Basta, in Boulder, CO, the Pizza Quest crew were turned onto The Bruery's unique and different beer.  One of the Pizza Quest producers, Brad English, lives near The Bruery and started talking with Patrick Rue.  Those conversations resulted in a challenge nicknamed The Big Reveal.

The basic premise was to reverse the typical beer and food pairing, where food is prepared to match a given beer.  Instead, Kelly Whitaker and the Pizza Quest crew challenged The Bruery to design and produce a beer based on a special pizza that they created.  The caveat being that the challenge pizza would involve some unique and different ingredients, which matches well with The Bruery's brewing philosophy.  The pizza crust was built on Italian double zero flour, pumpernickel rye flour, and crushed amber crystal malt, which pulls in the beer theme even more.  The pizza was topped with fresh burrata cheese (a blend of fresh mozzarella wrapped around creme fraiche), sweet white sardines, preserved lemon, squash blossoms, fresh arugula sprouts, and fennel salt.

In response, The Bruery created a biere de garde style ale called Birra Basta.  The malt base included pilsner, six-row, munich, biscuit, amber, and aromatic malts.  It was hoped with Columbus and Strisselspalt hops.  To match the pizza, Birra Basta included a variety of other spices and ingredients, including roasted zucchini, fennel seeds, lemon peel, and Spanish cedar.  The zucchini, perhaps the most interesting ingredient, was used in the mash, while the other ingredients were added to the fermenter.

To top it all off, The Big Reveal featured a public beer and pizza pairing event during the Great American Beer Festival, on September 30th, at the Summit Beer Garden.  The pizza was baked by Kelly Whitaker outside the restaurant on a portable wood-fired oven.  Birra Basta was served from a special keg and the tasters could compare it with the pizza.  The general perception was that the pairing worked magically, with the unusual ingredients in the beer matching with the white pizza perfectly.  Peter Reinhart summed it up:

"But here's how I experienced the flavors when I had them all together: they worked! What I mean, and I'll try to describe this without hyperbole or fake gastronomic melodrama, the beer really did change, and so did the pizza, when we had them together. The best way I can describe it is that they both took on a new degree of depth, as if the flavors of one filled in the blanks of the other and a wholly new level of completeness revealed itself."

What an excellent idea and one that we can hope will be carried out further.  Being homebrewers, we have an even greater ability to design beers to go with specific foods or meals because of our smaller batch sizes.  Give something like that a try and let us know how it turns out.

A list of Peter Reinhart's blog posts about The Big Reveal include:



Monday, October 17, 2011

Poll: What's Your Favorite German Lager?

Like all our prior blog polls, this post takes a moment to memorialize the results we received on the most recent blog poll.  The readers' responses to the question "What's your favorite German lager?" are presented below.

Total Votes: 16

Given the time of year this poll was active, its no wonder that Oktoberfest is on everyone's mind.  With Marzens being a favored style of mine in particular, the fall seasonal line ups from breweries is always a welcome site. 

What surprised me the most about the results has to be the stand out performance of the Schwarzbier.  There are very few commercial examples of the style here in the US, which leads me to the question of where this love for the german black lager comes from.  A regional breweries special tap handle?  A homebrewer's favorite recipe?

Let us know what you think of the results and if you voted, let us know the origin of why you prefer your favorite style.  And, if you are reading this, our next blog poll is up awaiting your participation.



"No matter how rich you are, you can still only drive 17 tp 18 liters of beer a day"
-Anonymous German nobleman

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Helping a First-Time Brewer

One of the great joys of this hobby is that there is a real support community to help brewers of all levels.  When I first started, a grad-student friend of mine invited me over to watch a brew day on his system and then helped me with my first brewing session.  So much information can be conveyed through watching someone work through their brewing process and by asking questions.  It goes a long way to take away the mysterious and intimidating aspects of the hobby and encourages people to take the first step.

I recently had the opportunity to "pay it forward" with a good friend of mine, Tres, who purchased a brewing kit.  He and I met at the Fermentation Trap and picked out some equipment and an English Brown Ale extract kit.  Later on, we got together at his house to brew the kit, celebrate with a few pints of beer, and enjoy each other's company.  Our wives and children are also good friends, so it was a very enjoyable afternoon.

Teaching a subject is one of the best ways to both demonstrate how much you know about a subject and determine how much you still can learn.  I find the act of explaining the brewing process, at least how I do it, and responding to questions helps me look at the steps in a new light and can lead to new ideas.  In this case, I had not done an extract brew in quite some time and had to dredge some of the steps up from memory (and the kit instructions helped as well).

If you ever have a chance to introduce someone to the hobby and share a brew session with them, I highly encourage it.

Thanks to Tres for the afternoon and to Cyndi for sending along the great pictures, some of which appear below.



Adding the steeping grains 

DME sticking to the sides of the bag 

Hops added to the boil 

Hydrometer reading of the wort 

Pitching yeast 

Love the carboy! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Columbus Day!

For those of you here in the US, Lug Wrench Brewing would like to wish you all a Happy Columbus Day.  Here in New England, we've been blessed with outstanding weather on this holiday weekend.  Hopefully you and yours have had the chance to kick back, enjoy some good weather, and quaff a great beer while you do. 

And for those of you outside the US or other locations who don't honor this holiday, we wish you a ... um ... Happy Monday.



"Riches don't make a man rich, they only make him busier."
-Christopher Columbus

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mac's Brewbars - New Zealand

New Zealand has a burgeoning craft beer industry that defies its small overall population size.  Authors like Jamil Zainasheff have been writing about New Zealand's impressive, but little known, beer scene.  Breweries like Epic and 8 Wired Brewing Company have been gaining international attention for their products.

I am fortunate to have co-workers to periodically travel to New Zealand and bring me back stories about the beer they try.  With this latest trip, they were talking about a brew pub called Mac's Brewbar that they found while looking at a stadium being used for the Rugby World Cup.

From Mac's website, it appears that the company runs a franchise of brew pubs throughout New Zealand, with eight locations on the North and South Islands.  They feature a variety of different beers, including Gold All Malt Lager, Spring Tide Lower-Carb Lager, Hop Rocker Pislner, Sassy Red Best Bitter, Black Mac Dark Beer, and Great White Cloudy Wheat Beer.  In addition to bringing back stories, my co-workers carried several Mac's bar coasters with them.  I have included pictures of a few with this post.

I really like Mac's branding style.  It ties directly to the chalk boards seen at bars and breweries across the world, featuring the various beers on tap or bottle.  The chalky block lettering is apparent on the coasters, where one side features the beer's name and the other has a cheeky and sarcastic description of the beer.  The branding carries forward to the beer labels and even on the strange ribbing found on the necks of the beer bottles.  The website features similar fonts and looks great, even if it loads slowly from the other side of the world.

Thanks to my co-workers, Craig and Stephanie, for bringing the coasters and the stories back with them.



Monday, October 3, 2011

Making Bread with Wort

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have a passion for making bread.  It is a process that is surprisingly similar to making beer and is, to me, equally satisfying.  Given the similarities in process (both use yeast, both are built from cereal grains, etc.), there must be ways of combining the two together.  I have had mixed success by making flour out of malted grain several times and working it into a bread recipe as part of the flour bill.  I have also tried to substitute beer as a portion of the water mixture in the dough composition.  This resulted in a very dense bread, where the yeast activity was likely impacted by the alcohol concentration of the beer.  While the resulting flavor was interesting, the technique seemed more suited to quick breads, where the leavening comes from chemical reactions instead of from yeast metabolism.

But I recently came across an idea on the Pizza Quest website that set my creative gears turning.  Pizza Quest is a great website that chronicles Peter Reinhart, one of my favorite bread authors, and his quest to find incredible pizza and those who make it.  The site features short webisodes that are recorded with various pizza makers and other chefs, as well as recipes, techniques, and other commentaries.  Pizza Quest has been working on a beer and pizza challenge with The Bruery that I plan to cover in another post.  That series generated a reader suggestion that said, why don't you use wort in bread?

What a fantastic idea!  It would remove the alcohol-retardation problem when finished beer is used directly in the dough.  Being a liquid, it would blend easier in dough, and if used in higher quantities, should not result in any kind of husky or grainy flavor.  I had to try it.

The next day, I set about making my favorite sourdough recipe, Norwich Sourdough, from the Wild Yeast blog.  I selected this recipe because I have made it literally dozens of times and I am familiar with how the finished bread tastes and smells, as well has how the dough responds during rise times.  I took the base recipe, and substituted the water for a mash made of malted grain, which I used a Cara-Red malt that I had in stock.  I used 15 percent by weight of malt, when compared to the water (90 grams of malt to 600 grams of water).  I ground the malt by briefly pulsing in a cleaned coffee mill.  I mixed the water and the grain together and heated the mixture to about 150 F, then let it cool to room temperature.  I then poured the mixture through a coffee filter, to separate the solids, and used that in the dough.  The grains absorbed about 140 grams of water during the heating process, so I added back normal tap water to make up for the loss.  The rest of the baking process followed the recipe as normal.

The resulting loaves were darker than usual.  The most noticeable difference was that the crust had an almost candy-coating like hardness.  It definitely took some work to get through it with the knife, but once through the outer layer, the bread crumb was a normal sourdough consistency.  Upon tasting the bread, the crust really crackled in your mouth, again like a candy-coating, but without the sweetness.  The bread flavor itself was not remarkably different, perhaps a little richer.

This is definitely something I plan to play with more.  The next attempt will probably use a darker malt, probably pale chocolate, in a lower percentage because of its more intense flavor.  I would encourage any of our baker readers to try to do the same and let us know how the bread turns out.



90 grams of Cara-Red malt used to make wort for bread 

Separating the spent grain to use the wort in the bread dough 

Resulting bread dough is darker than normal
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