Category Archives: Beer

West Side Trip

I bit back a Maria reference up there.

Beth and I just got back from a trip over to Oregon. We’re getting married in Salem this spring, so we took a trip over to work out some details.

I wish rosemary bloomed in Idaho. I stole a flower from a gigantic rosemary bush outside Nichol’s Nursery in Albany, OR. It tasted like (and this will come as a shock) extra-perfumey rosemary. If I could have more, I’d use them as a garnish on something nice when I wasn’t concerned about looking like a foodie douchebag. I used to think flowers were an overrated decoration(especially the $1/oz petunias you see at grocery stores), but there are a bunch of blooms out there with actual flavor. Beth grew a lot of Borage last year to bring bees to her garden- those flowers taste like cucumber. Arugula blossoms are quite pretty and peppery. I’m about to revert to the habits of my youth: if it looks interesting, put it in mouth. I haven’t done that for a while after some early missteps- my mom still tells the story about me with a thorn pinned through my tongue and the roof of my mouth.

Speaking of mouth trouble, I made a silly choice this weekend. I’ve been wanting to visit Cascade Brewing’s Raccoon Lodge for a while now- the sour beer styles they brew are supposed to be among the best in the nation. We got over there on this trip, and I tried two sours- a gose with hibiscus (speaking of flowers!) and cranberry, and a sour belgian blonde with blackberries (which was awesome). I also had the bad idea to get happy hour nachos. Imagine eating tortilla chips and then drinking something almost as sour as lemon juice. Yeah. At least the beers were tasty enough to make up for it.

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Group Brew

I spent yesterday at an event run by the Snake River Brewing Club, the homebrewing club that I’ve been a part of for several months now. We brewed around 80 gallons of strong scotch ale and split it up into smaller portions to ferment it. We’ll be getting back together in a month or so to combine the beer into a used Merlot barrel to age for several months.

My brewing system only handles 5 gallons at a time, so I cooked a pot of chili and photodocumented the brew while the guys with 10 and 15 gallon systems did the brewing. The chili was a cheaper version of my favorite recipe– I had chipotle peppers this time, and I used ground beef instead of the tastier chuck roast. One of the other guys brought a Bacon Explosion, which I was interested to try. I’ve never seen one up close before.

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Thanksgiving, Redux

Here’s a lighter take on Thanksgiving that I made a couple weeks ago. Marshmallow-topped yam casserole became roasted yams with caramelized onions; turkey gravy became celery pesto, and mashed potatoes became turnip gratin. We ate this with a bottle of Avery Fifteen, an anniversary ale with hibiscus, figs and white pepper, fermented with a strain of the wild yeast Brettanomyces. The beer complimented the meal in stellar fashion- the brett gave it a tart, wild flavor that cut the richness of the yams and gratin well, while complimenting the celery and capers in the turkey.


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Cinderella’s Porter

I’m making this beer a little later than I should, but I had to wait for the pumpkins to ripen. This year’s crop is of the Cinderella variety- the skin is deep and burnished orange, with a flattened top and bottom that look like carriage material.

I’m making the beer in two parts. The first and strongest runnings of wort from the grain will go on to become a oak-aged vanilla bourbon porter to serve at Christmastime. After I started that beer, I added a couple pounds of grain to the mash and ran off wort for a second porter. Most importantly, I added roast pumpkin puree to the mash, and spices to the boil. By Thanksgiving, I’ll have a spiced pumpkin pie porter.

Holiday Pumpkin Spice Ale

Pumpkin Ale

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Homebrewed Wheat Thins

I brew a fair bit of beer in my spare time. There are basically two ways to make your own beer- the first uses pre-prepared malted grain extract, and is about as complicated as pouring a jug of molasses into boiling water and leaving it for an hour. That’s the way that I started, and I made some satisfying beers. This summer, though, I started making beer from whole grain. The process takes longer, but I enjoy the feeling of control, and I really like the beer that I make.

One side benefit of brewing beer from grain is the large quantity of “spent grain” left over. I generally use between 10 and 15 pounds of grain every time I brew, and the brewing process only removes the sugar and a few proteins. Most of the nourishing complex carbohydrates and proteins are left behind in the husk.

There are many breweries across the country that are beginning to market “spent grain” recipes in their pubs. Many suggest that they do so to “recycle” and be eco-concious. I suspect that most are hoping to hit a double: get the benefits of good marketing that come from being perceived as environmentally friendly, and save money on flour down at the pub.

In any case, brewing results in a pile of spent grain. It’s great for composting, but it’s tasty to eat as well. There are not a lot of spent grain recipes out there, even on brewing websites, so I’ve adapted a few whole grain recipes for my own ends. This is one such recipe:
Spent grain crackers and Irish chedder

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