at 3:27 PM
Today I got to thinking, what on earth should I brew next? Being that I am still an extreme beginner at this home brewing hobby, I should probably keep it simple. Maybe I should brew a traditional Light Ale that would be (what you would think) hard to screw up too bad? Maybe I should brew something that I have already made to see if my skills are getting any better? I mean, I have made 3 batches (15 gallons) so far and have consumed 10 gallons to date. Then I stumbled across a few Bourbon Barrel Porter home brew recipes. Could this get any better for a self proclaimed Whiskey & Beer conqueror as myself? You add bourbon and bourbon-infused oak cubes plus a little more bourbon to a stronger-than-average porter during the later part of the secondary fermentation.
"The intense aroma and flavor of toasted American oak and the sweet graininess of good bourbon meld with the bittersweet and roastiness of porter to make for a very characterful beer."
"Simulate the Bourbon cask experience without having to make 55 gallons. This British style refers in part to the strength of the beer as well as the maturation period associated with it. Vanilla, oak and bourbon notes dominate the flavor profile."
Then I thought, maybe I should get one more brew under my belt before I try this one. I will be heading down to Northern Brewer tomorrow morning to pick up another beer kit. I sure hope the weather warms up just a little to allow me to stand outside in the garage for 3 hours on Saturday. I can always break out the propane heater if needed.
Stay tuned for what gets brewed next at Lowball Brewing!
at 2:57 PM
Tuesday evening after the kids were in bed, the wife and I "attempted" to make our first batch of wine. Shortly after dinner we sat down on the couch and watched the instructional, how-to video from Midwest Supplies. Although very generic, a very good tool to show anyone considering this as a hobby just how simple this could be. No big deal, we just need to heat up a little water, sanitize everything really good and mix the juice with the water. Unlike homebrewing, no boiling or regulating temperatures are required along with a 3-4 hour time commitment. When all was said and done, it took one hour from start to finish to get the wine from the box it came in, to a 7.9 gallon primary fermenter.
Everything went rather smoothly until we carried the finished product downstairs to its temporary resting place. The only thing left to do was place the airlock into the rubber gasket on the lid and walk away. Sounds simple enough, right? Well while attempting to get the airlock in place, the black rubber gasket decided to fall off and into the unfermented wine. I instantly ran to get a newly sanitized spoon to start siring up the dark red liquid to find the missing gasket. After taking the lid off, I had a different thought. Rather than disrupt the dry yeast that had just been sprinkled on top, I would just get a new gasket and let the other one ferment with the wine. Luckily I have three primary fermenters for my homebrew, I just snatched up one from an unused lid and called it good. Very carefully placed the airlock in place and called it a night.
Fermentation began about 12 hours after placing the airlock at a very slow pace, about every 20 seconds. About 36 hours until the airlock was bubbling regularly about every 2-3 seconds. Temperature is a constant 70 degrees with an internal temperature of 69. Starting gravity was 1.076.
Labels: Coasters Winery
at 9:58 AM
This past Saturday I ventured down to Grand Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota and headed over to Northern Brewer to pick up a beer kit. I did this based on the advice of a few fellow home brewers who highly recommend Northern Brewers' kits over the "Other Guy" here in the Metro area. This was my first visit to this particular store, but it will definitely not be my last. With the help of Northern Brewers' website I had already decided what kind of beer I was going to go with for my 3rd batch of home brew...Guinness.
Dry Irish Stout Extract Kit w/ Specialty Grains was the beer I must try. As described on their website: Jet-black in the tradition of Ireland's most popular and well-known beers, this stout has a pronounced roasty, coffee-like flavor and aroma, imparted by a generous helping of roasted barley. With 17 reviews from actual home brewers and getting 5 out of 5 stars, I knew this was the first kit I must try. Being that I am still learning all of the fine and intricate details of how to go about making that perfect pint, I figured with 17 reviews all receiving 5 stars, this beer must be "impossible" to screw up. Lets see.
I started by pouring a pint of my first batch of home brew that I made, an Irish Red Ale. Once I had my priorities set I then brought three gallons of spring water up to 150 degrees, outside, in January, in Minnesota. Once the water was up to temperature I placed 1 lb of Simpsons Roasted Barley into a mesh bag and steeped for 20 minutes keeping the water below 170 degrees. After the 20 minutes were up it was time to remove the specialty grains and bring the water up to a boil.
Advantages of doing this outside on a propane turkey fryer burner are time and odor. My first batch of beer I attempted to do inside on my electric stove top. After nearly 2 hours, my water still was not at a boil and the house was filling up with a smell I particularity enjoyed, but the wife and kids thought differently. Outside over the propane torch a rapid boil was accomplished in less than 20 minutes.
Now it was time to turn off the burner and add 6 lbs of gold malt syrup. It is very important to remove the source of heat at this time otherwise you will end up with burnt wort. The malt syrup is just that, a very thick syrup with a very high sugar content that will scorch very easily. After stirring the malt extract vigorously for about 5 minutes the mixture is now called “wort”, the brewer’s term for unfermented beer. Once the wort came back to a boil, I added 2 oz Cluster hops and boiled for 60 minutes.
After the 60 minutes were up, now time was of the essence. The goal, to get the wort down to 100 degrees as quickly as possible. I accomplished this by first sanitizing a lid to place on top of the stainless steel pot and then placing the whole pot into an ice bath I made in the kitchen sink (I need to invest in a wort chiller). At this time it was time to fill up the primary fermenter with a sanitizing solution and placing everything that will come in contact with the cooled wort into the solution as well. About every 5 minutes, I took a sanitized stainless steel spoon and mixed up the wort to help the cooling process. 16 lbs of ice and 25 minutes later the wort was finally down to 98 degrees and ready to be placed into the primary. I added 2 gallons of spring water to the bucket and then carefully poured the wort into the primary and topped it off to the 5 gallon mark. Once the wort reached a temperature under 75 degrees it was time to add the yeast. I went with the liquid Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast for the first time. Every home brewer I have ever talk to would not ever use the dry yeast again as I did in my first two batches. Yeast in the primary, lid on, vodka in the airlock and placed downstairs to start fermentation.
Sunday morning I went downstairs to check on the beer to see if anything was happening. About every 5 seconds the airlock was bubbling and active fermentation had started. Now just let it sit at about 68 degrees for 7-10 days and we will move on to the next step, racking the beer.
at 1:40 PM
$140 later, the first batch of wine will be made tonight. I have been talking about making this first batch for several months now and the time has finally come. I made my way over to Midwest Supplies over the lunch hour and picked up a Vintners Reserve Vieux Chateau Du Roi (Petite Shiraz Blend) wine kit. This wine is described as a smooth, medium bodied red wine with flavors of red and black berries. Notes of spice and oak enhance its fine aromatic quality. Full-flavored, yet soft and quick to mature. I really had my heart set on the World Vineyard, Italian Pinot Grigio, but they were all out of this particular wine at the time.
Stay tuned for a full update as we make the wine tonight and throughout the next 6 weeks until we are ready to bottle the first batch.
Labels: Coasters Winery
at 12:15 PM
Friday night I decided to go out for a Juicy Lucy and a few beers. Although, not my first choice for a Juicy, it is rather convenient to home. The Buffalo Tap located in Savage, MN has been a local hang out for me for the past two plus years. They have great beer specials for Happy Hour ($1 Bud 10 oz Tap or Miller Lite Pint for $2) and self proclaimed "The home of the Best Juicy Lucy" according to the new sign hanging out front. Now onto the Juicy...
The Buffalo Tap has 10 different Juicy's to pick from ranging from the traditional "TAP" Lucy to one made of Buffalo meat with all the trimmings. Everyone's opinion of what a Juicy Lucy should be is different so why not put 10 of them on the menu? Me, I just like the basic American cheese with Raw Onions. So what did I do, I decided I would try the El Diablo Juicy Lucy w/Onion Rings. As written on the white board behind the host stand featuring the daily specials (not really sure why the have specials, as the specials are either the same price or more than the regular menu price).
The El Diablo Juicy Lucy, Fired-up with Jalapeno Bacon, topped with Pepperjack Cheese, sliced Jalapeno's, Spicy BBQ Sauce and your choice of American or Pepperjack Cheese on the inside. I obviously ordered mine with American cheese as I have never enjoyed a Lucy with any other kind. When the food arrived I could see that something was wrong. But was it just from the extra cheese that was placed on-top of the burger or could it...yes, they stuffed it with Pepperjack cheese. I say no big deal, I am not going to send it back as I do not believe in sending food back. (Ever seen the movie Road Trip? Pancakes with or without powdered sugar.) I have had pepperjack Lucy's before and they weren't terrible, they just don't get all gooey on you as the cheese tends to not melt as well as American. I started with the Onion Rings while I waited for the Juicy Lucy to cool down. Finally I had cleared enough room in my basket to pick-up the El Diablo and see what this thing was all about. I have had Juicy Lucy's at the Buffalo Tap many times before. Some good, some OK and some absolutely terrible. In fact, the very first Juicy I had here was about three years ago and I ordered the "Big" Juicy Lucy, more than 3/4 pounds of meat stuffed full with cheese. Well, mine had no cheese and when pointed out to our server, he just kinda looked at it and walked away. It was also about a year before I returned to give them another try after this experience.
I don't like to talk bad about food. The part about negative opinions on a specific meal or restaurant is just that, one persons opinion. The question I either think in my head or ask is, "Was it really that bad? I mean, you managed to eat the whole thing, it couldn't have been that bad then? Right?" With that said, I managed to eat the whole thing so it couldn't have been that bad. But, it was probably the single worst Juicy Lucy I have ever experienced in my life. The meat was so over cooked that it was like eating a hockey puck. This is a common problem with the Buffalo Tap, they ask you how you would like your burger cooked, but they only know how to cook one way, "well done" and I mean the driest, nastiest ground chuck you could possibly imagine between your lips dry. No wonder why most of the burgers offered here come with so many "extras".
One the positive side the Bud Light tap was mighty tasty. I have never had a bad beer at this fine establishment. Like I mentioned above, this is a great restaurant for some great beer specials. Self proclaimed "Home to the Worlds Greatest Juicy Lucy", I think not. Will I return here again, yes. Will I stick with the Extra Spicy Philly Cheesesteak, probably. Off to find another Juicy Lucy worth comparing to the 5-8 Club. (does one even exist?)
at 10:53 AM
Without Hops, where would this world be? We would be drinking Gruit Beer. Gruit, a narcotic herbal mixture used for bittering and flavoring that also spoils very quickly. Without the hop's preservative qualities, beer could not keep in the summer months as fermentation would be unreliable. No Hops = No Beer.
Connoisseurs of select microbrews could be in for a surprise this year, and they may not be alone. Small brewers, all over the world face the ever challenging process of tweaking their recipes or experimenting less with new brews thanks to a worldwide shortage of one key beer ingredient. Oh, and one other thing: Beer prices are going to climb. How high is anybody's guess. They have already gone up 20% over the past 12 months and will continue to rise.
What does this mean for the casual homebrewer? Grow your own Hops. Yes, I said grow your own hops. It’s much easier than you may have imagined. Well, I say that with a fine grain of salt. I should say it looks easy, but I will find out first hand this Spring when I plant my first 4 plants. Not only can Hops be used for brewing your own beer, they are a perennial bine (not vine) that produce great aroma and very nice shade to a home patio or deck.
To begin the process of growing your own hops, you must take a look at what style of beer you enjoy most. All styles utilize different breeds of hops. When you decide which beer style you enjoy most, then you can begin to trace down what kinds of hops are used in the making of this beer. Hops plants need 6-8 hours of sun a day and require a lot of water. They do not require a lot of space to grow, just a lot of height. Hops can grow up to 30 feet in one season. I am not going to go into all the details that is involved as many people have an option on how to support and grow them. Hops plants are very inexpensive averaging $5 per plant.
at 3:25 PM
WARNING: Consumption of this beer may make you…
1. Think you are whispering when you are not.
2. Dance like a Wanker.
3. Tell the same boring story over and over again.
4. Thay shings like thish.
5. Believe that ex-lovers are really dying for you to telephone them at 4 AM.
6. Wonder what the hell happened to your panties.
7. Think you have mystical Kung Fu powers.
8. Roll over in the morning and see something really scary.
9. Create the illusion that you are tougher, handsomer and smarter than some really big guy named FRANZ.
10. Believe you are invisible.
11. Think people are laughing WITH you.
12. Drunk Facebook.
You have been warned, now enjoy your Lowball.
at 11:15 AM
If you live in the Twin-Cities of Metropolitan Minnesota, you now what a Juicy Lucy  is and no further explanation is needed. If you do not know what this Juicy pile of love and affection is, you need to get out and try one for yourself.
The Juicy Lucy was invented at The 5-8 Club in South Minneapolis, though this is disputed. Matt's Bar, a short distance north of The 5-8 Club, also claims to have invented the sandwich, ("Jucy Lucy", Matt's disgraceful spelling of this legendary burger) although if you cannot spell it correctly, how can you make the claim to have invented it?
Anyone who knows me knows that the "World Famous" Juicy Lucy at the 5-8 Club is my second weakness only to cold beer. I have enjoyed Juicy Lucy's at multiple restaurants throughout Minnesota and still have many more to try as it seams everyone is jumping at the bit to get a part of what makes South Mpls. restaurants famous. The two Lucy's that I still MUST try as I have heard so much about are the Juicy Lucy at the NOOK over in Saint Paul and the Blue Door Pub, also located in Saint Paul. Is this Saint Paul's attempt to compete with Mpls in the Dive Bar Category for "Best Burger"?
As I sat at my kitchen table last night reading the paper, while enjoying a Home-brew, I came across an article about the new Target Field and home to our Minnesota Twins. The article was not about baseball, but rather what makes Americas Pastime so great, Beer and food. Maybe my perception of stadium food in Minnesota was way off, but after reading this article, I am ready to go out and purchase season tickets. Who ever this genius is behind the food at Target Field, I sure hope he can deliver on taste and quality that is expected. First off, they are going to offer "State Fair" type food. Walleye on-a-stick, pork chop on-a-stick and cheese curds. They are also going to offer local craft micro and premium brew beers from local Minnesota brewery's. What, not 3-2 anymore?
I had to read bits and pieces of this article several times as I wiped the drool from my mouth. They are going to offer what? Not one, but two different Juicy Lucy burgers at two different restaurants located in the stadium.
The First Opffering:
Hrbek's, the restaurant of former Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek, is located behind home plate on the main concourse and will be open prior to and during all home games. It will feature pub fare including the Rex Burger, a half-pound, all-beef burger stuffed with caramelized onions and pepper jack cheese on a brioche roll, and Bloomington onion rings, sweet yellow onions that are seasoned, breaded, crispy-fried and served with a tangy campfire and ranch dipping sauce.
The second offering:
The second restaurant in the park is the Town Ball Tavern, which is located behind the left-field foul pole on the Club Level. The tavern will celebrate Minnesota's strong amateur baseball tradition and will feature classic fare from the state. That includes Target Field's own Juicy Lucy, with the cheese inside the burger, and a walleye sandwich.
Nothing else needs to be said. Finally, someone is doing something right with something that has all up to this date been so wrong.
at 10:30 AM
"When salt is consumed, it activates the same part of the brain as cocaine and heroin addiction."
So I was reading an article online last week about how much sodium is consumed in the US. and all the things sodium does to your body. Why is this world so hung up on convenience? Look at New York for instance, just last week they are trying to pass laws about how much sodium is used in restaurants. This is also directly related to the trans fat outrage about one year ago.
The recommended daily amount of sodium a day is 2300 mg for a normal person. If you consume more than this (and trust me you all do) in one day, you are putting yourself at risk for hypertension, vascular and cardiac damage, and obesity in addition to high blood pressure. Salt is the single biggest preventable reason for high blood pressure. For someone like myself who has high blood pressure, the daily allowance is around 1400 mg a day. That is less than one can of tomato soup a day or about 2 sliders with cheese at the local white castle.
"The Yanomami Indiands eat less than 1,000mg of salt a day – and they don’t have hypertension. The Japanese diet is particularly high in salt, on average containing about 15,000 mg of salt a day – and that culture has the highest rates of hypertension and stroke."
Next time you are the grocery store, look at how much sodium is in the foods you eat every week. I was in shock after doing this and it is hard to find low sodium options, but they are out there.