Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First world problems and the limitations of a beer guy!

First World Problems! More than just a hashtag on the twitter. These are the silly little things that drive us nuts! Yes, I do know that there are people starving in Africa... Well... In OUR country for that matter, and yes, I know that there are tribes living without clean water or electricity... well... that happens here too... either way, their misfortune does not make me feel any better when I'm downright frustrated!

I recently tweeted that I had picked a drink for the evening based solely on the available glassware. #FirstWorldProblem to be sure! But still, this is an issue at my house! If all of the glasses are clean, there isn't room in the cupboard for them. I have beer glasses, Wine Glasses, Rum Glasses, Scotch Glasses, and of course the plastic cups for the kids! (And me)
When it's time to have a drink, I am usually meticulous enough that I will avoid a drink if I don't have something close to the right glassware!

I will drink a beer from a wine glass, and I will drink a Daiquiri from a shaker pint, but I'll be damned if I'm going to drink a Sour Ale from a rocks glass or pour a Vodka Martini into a beer stein! Of course there are the times when I pop a bottle of Red Stripe, take 2 hard swallows and top it off with the first rum in the cabinet before hitting the couch, but that's not the point here!

When it comes to brewing, I am limited not by my imagination but by something quite intangible! Some guys are limited by space, either in the house or just lack of fermenters. I have been brewing and collecting brewing paraphernalia since I was 21... fermenter space is NOT a problem. I could probably brew every weekend for a year and not run out of carboys and buckets.  Some guys are limited by space for the final product.... I have 4 taps an unfinished basement and fridgerators dedicated to beer and at least 20 different beers chilled and awaiting a glass. So that isn't the problem either. What I don't have is a lot of time. Between flying, kids, cows, work, trying to have fun with the Mrs. or just doing NOTHING, my weekends are booked! When I do have the time, I can't get off my lazy ass to strike a match! I know... #FirstWorldProblems

As I started to complain about the lack of selection of good rum in Colorado today,  I realized that I have three different bottles of 151 rum not counting the white overproof, a few bottles of discontinued rum that will never be available again, two bottles of rum that were produced less than 150 miles from my house and bottles representing Jamaica, Barbados and St. Croix along with several others... what was it that I was going to bitch about? #FirstWorldProblems!

When I think of all of this, I realize how lucky I really am. Living in Colorado, I have a great availability of very good beer and spirits. Maybe not the tip top bottles that are available to those who cruise the islands or the hippest trendy beers spanning the nation, but an honest selection that would make 99 percent (No Pun Intended) of the country very happy!

So to all of this, I say, remember to be humble, and take stock of what you have. I'll bet your #FirstWorldProblems are not all that you have yourself believing that they are!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mead, The first of many!

Let's take a moment to discuss an often misunderstood libation!

Mead, or "Honey Wine" as it's sometimes known, is perhaps the worlds first fermented beverage. It served the Vikings and the Egyptians well, but we hardly ever see it. Most people have never even heard of it, fewer people have ever had it, and even fewer yet have ever made it. This is a crying shame!

Mead was well known in Europe, India and China for centuries, but when Marco Polo brought sugar cane back from the Spice Islands, this new cheap source of fermentables gained favor and mead fell from grace.

Making mead is as easy as making a batch of lemonade from powder, it just takes a little patience and good sanitation practices. I highly recommend this for anyone that is even marginally interested! And the bonus is, when you make it, you make what you like!

I like my mead a little different from what you can buy. First of all, I usually don't care to have it carbonated. Dry fruit mead is okay sparkling, but most of the mead I make is still.

I like spiced mead to be fairly sweet and I like to have my fruit mead fairly dry. I prefer a well made show mead, one with no other flavor than the honey, to be medium dry. It is rough to find anything on the shelf at the local bottle shop, let alone one that matches my preferences...so I make my own.

Redstone Meadery, Boulder Co.

There are quite literally hundreds of variants and they all have names. In example, a mead made with honey that is scalded to darken and caramelize the sugars is called "Bochet." Mead made with apple juice instead of water is called "Cyser," and mead made with spices is called "Metheglin." The most popular style is made with fruits and it is called "Melomel," and depending on the fruit you use even that may be known by a more specific name.

I fear no terminology, and I am NOT a mead snob. So if you offer me a "Fruit Mead" instead of a "Melomel," I will just as happily accept!

Mead takes quite a bit of time to make, although there are plenty of guys out there making mead that is quite drinkable in a very short period of time.  I am more of a RonCo type when I make mead. I "Set it and forget it!" I rarely even sample a mead in less than a year.  The exception of course is upon racking, the process of moving the mead off of the lees (Sediment) into a clean carboy. Most of the mead I make I intend to drink over the course of the next 10 years or so. Age is normally a great friend to mead.

Big Kahuna, Chilling with a Red Solo cup of mead!
It takes quite a stash to keep bottles around for that long. It is a great project and an investment in time and learning.
If you are interested in learning more about mead, there are countless resources on the Internet, but I highly suggest a book by Ken Schram called The Complete Meadmaker. It was my first mead book, and while it may be getting a bit out of date, it is like Charlie Papazian's the Joy of Homebrew,  a timeless classic!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would venture a guess that most people get to dig into a Thanksgiving day feast at some point during the four day weekend. Obviously there are those that don’t or can’t, either by choice or circumstance, but the majority of us will chow on some turkey or ham and eat enough pie to ensure hours of lethargy and naps.

I, on the other hand, will do this at least three times.

At our house, we like the leftovers almost as much, if not more than the original meal itself, so we cook a turkey and make gravy.

But wait, there is more! One of the many joys of being married are the outlaws...err.... I mean.... In-laws. If you are married, you have them, and if you have them, you’re going to spend some time with them!

Everyone has an opinion about their in-laws, some good, some bad, but none as optimistic as my outlook.

You see, your attitude and life view have a profound effect on your enjoyment of any situation.

As far as I am concerned, the term in-law is just Latin for “Turkey sans dishes!”

A few of my favorite family memories center around Thanksgiving.

One in 1994. We had planned a vacation without regard to the holiday which left us in Key West, Fla. on Thanksgiving day. Being a tourist town, nothing was closed down and the weather was perfect. In an effort to do something special to commemorate the day, we ate at Benihana’s, the Japanese steak house. (Funny that we just ate at one in Denver a week ago)

This is about as far from traditional turkey dinner as I can imagine, but I learned that it does not matter what you eat or which traditions you abandon, it is the people that you choose to spend your time with that make the holiday special.

The next memory is so fresh I can still taste it! (Yes that was my attempt at a pun!)
We were having dinner at my sister’s house in Colorado Springs.  The big city is still a marvel to a country kid like me.  When I forget things like flour or chicken stock on a holiday, there is no store to run to. You either borrow from a kind neighbor or do without. But in the city, you have access to everything all the time, and I can throw a baseball and hit the supermarket from my sister’s house!

So when we discovered that there was not a spot of flour in the house to thicken the gravy, what do you think we did? Walk to the store for a bag of flour? Check with any of the 2,500 neighbors within walking distance? NOPE! We used Belgian waffle mix to thicken the gravy!

Sweet and starchy don’t even begin to describe the flavor profile of that pot of turkey drippings, but it looked good and I ate it anyway.  Thank God that it is the people that you spend the time with that make the moment special.

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and a wonderful Holiday Season!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teppanyaki, Sushi, Sake and Beer

I will spare you the details that led me to forget my camera when I left the motel room. Suffice it to say that while we had been running in three different directions, the camera got a relaxing night in! 

Unfortunately that means the only photos I have for this post came from my worn out Droid X.  Lesson learned: Take the camera with you!

You don't get this at Taco Bell!
Normally when we go to town, we eat somewhere nice.. Well at least nothing sub Denny's. But just as normally, when the kids are around, they entice us to eat Taco Bell! It's low cost and they are just al rotten as if we spend $35 on their diner.

Alas... Some things are worth more than money and experience is what makes life worth living. This evening, we are experiencing the masterful chef styling of a  Teppanyaki at Benihana’s in Denver.

Example 1 of the experience was the look in my daughter's eye when Carlos, our Teppanyaki chef started cooking on the grill right in front of us! Example 2 was the look on my son's face when he nearly caught a hunk of chicken, masterfully flung at him, in the mouth!

While it’s generally accepted rule that location is crucial to a successful restaurant, this one disproves that theory! Benihana’s is nestled in a mall parking lot between a construction fence and a dark corner. I guess that the true recipe for a good restaurant is atmosphere and good food!

Always willing to try something new, I opted for the Japanese beer called Sapporo. First brewed in Japan in 1876 by A German-trained brewer named Seibei Nakagawa, this light golden lager proved a good accompaniment for the light fresh flavors coming off of the grill before us!

When you order Sushi, order Sake! It just works!
The Sapporo looked much like a Coors, but conspicuously missing the metallic corn flavor that I so often get from the light lagers who sponsor sporting events. Who knew? Ditch the rice in your beer by drinking one from Japan!

I also ordered a flight of Sake. I don’t know why! I don’t like Sake! I keep thinking that some day I will happen upon one that will open my eye to the koji fermented rice slurry... But I don’t ever seem to.
The Benihana roll

 I do have to admit that the sake was better when used to rinse down some of the sushi, and in fact was quite enjoyable for the task. The roll I ordered was called the Benihana roll, and included several types of fish, and had a nice vein of avocado running through it’s entire length. The creamy avocado really freshened up the admittedly gamey fish and made the whole thing work very well.

The antics of the chef entertained us for nearly an hour. Tossing food and tools here and there, throwing things at fellow chefs and catching shrimp tails in his hat, all while preparing beef that more than satisfied my group of carnivorous diners! Shrimp and lobster that should not be missed and a chicken fried rice that was worth the price of admission!

I understand that the Teppanyaki style of cooking is not readily available to most consumers, but I’ll bet if you look hard enough you can find one somewhere close enough to put on your “To-Do” list!

If you get the chance, pull up a seat and watch for flying fish....parts!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekend Shopping

This weekend I am spending a few days in Denver with the family.

We have a pretty full schedule, but I am hoping to make it to one or two of the bigger liquer stores and knock a few items of my shopping list.

Of course it is time for Christmas shopping, so if I see anything that would make a great gift I will be picking that up.

My #1 Item on the list for the weekend is Celebration ale by Sierra Nevada. This is one of my all time favorite seasonal brews. It is always crisp and refreshing but more than that, I am, and have been stashing boxes of it for the last several years.

While not a traditional candidate for a cellar beer, it is one that I have chosen to build a vertical of. It is just as educational to see how an American Pale (or light IPA Whatever you want to call it) ages.

This beer really seems to age better than you would expect. The hop aroma of course fades but there is sufficient malt background to support the bitterness and it becomes very interesting!

Another item on my list is Denizen Rum. Both Carl at Coast Lines and Tan Lines and Mike at Rum Connection have been blogging about this great rum. Bahama Bob added this rum to his Rum Lab and came up with some great cocktails, so I must find myself a bottle. Thanks to these guys this rum already feels like an old friend!

If you have any special beers that are on your shopping list I'd love to hear what you're after!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mixing up some Beer Cocktails

Beer cocktails are a wonderful way to add some spice to your taps! The basic and quintessential beer cocktail that most everyone has either had or at least heard of is equal parts of stout and pale ale.

A few weeks ago I accidentally discovered a great little beer cocktail, although I did it Columbus style. That is to say that I found something that thousands of people already knew about. I was thinking about people drinking red beer with tomato juice in it and I decided to spice it up a bit with some Bloody Mary mix. Then I decided that a little vodka would help smooth and round the flavor profile. Turns out it’s called a Michelada.

 With that, I decided to collect up a few recipes to have in my back pocket. Following the video are a few of my favorites that I found on the good ‘ol Internet.

Lunch Box - Also called the Cincinnati Lunch Box.  This is a fruity cocktail that will satisfy anyone with an affinity for the “Boat Drink.”
Fill a shaker pint 3/4 up with Hefeweizen and top it off with orange juice, then add a shot of amaretto liqueur. Garnish with an orange wheel and cherry.
Monaco -  Mix equal parts carbonated lemonade and light lager, and  a bit of grenadine.
Broadway- 1 part lager 1 part cola (This is called a “Black Bart” if you use stout in stead of lager.)
Raging Bull-  2 parts lager 2 parts Red Bull 1 part tequila (Careful with this!)
Wheat & Mint (From Club 50)- 15 mint leaves 1 1/2 oz. Gin 1 oz. of lime juice or juice of 1 lime 1 oz. of simple syrup Dash of orange bitters 2 oz. wheat beer. Orange slice and a mint sprig for garnish

Have fun mixing and matching!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mothership Wit for the winter

There are a lot of things that prevent us from drinking good beer. Don't let peer pressure or the "Social Norm" push you into drinking... or NOT drinking what you like!

Thanks for stopping in, I'll see ya on Thursday... If not before!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Good People Revisited... Already

On Thursday I mentioned that I think Beer People Are Good People!

Today I want to talk about that a little more.

I have written several times in my real life about how I dress, because I am somewhat of an outcast in our community. I wear short pants most of the time, even when it's snowing, I wear Aloha shirts about 50 percent of the time and I usually don't wear anything that qualifies as a shoe. In my world, it's not bad having the buzz of the old guys at the coffee shop talking about you. But one thing is for sure, when it comes to your product... You better bring it!

Unfortunately, many "Non Beer" types will likely dismiss many a brewer because of their outward appearance. Brewers tend to look more like an outlaw biker gang than savvy business types, but that is often just what brewers are and when it comes to their products, they definitely "BRING IT!"

New Belgium is a Colorado brewery with an Eco-conscious business plan
Many breweries, most notably New Belgium in Ft. Collins are turning to "green" technology. They recycle water, glass and aluminum. They send their spent grains to local ranchers that feed the grains... which is a travesty in my opinion! Spent grains should go to a bakery and fresh bread should be delivered to my house daily! Solar panels decorate the roof of the brewery and an in-house water treatment facility ensures that the brewery gets the most from every drop of H2O!

All of this is great because it helps serve and protect the environment. A worthy effort to be sure, and an issue that is paramount to many of their customers. But just as importantly to me, they are helping to control costs and keeping many of the expenses in-house! A wise business decision that helps to ensure that I will be able to keep enjoying LaFolie and Hoptober for years to come!

Keep up the good work brewers! You truly are "Good People!"


Friday, November 11, 2011

Tinkering with gadgets

Happy 11-11-11!

I think you all know how I feel about gadgets. I LOVE THEM!

Flying has only served to increase the breadth of my gadget addiction to include video to allow me to share the magic with friends and family!  This video was shot entirely with a GoPro Hero camera. While Colorado isn't exactly lush this time of year, it has it's beauty.

I hope you all enjoy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beer People Are Good People

Given that I tend to be somewhat "backwoods" and usually do not like to hang out with crowds of people... especially people that I do not know, I find it refreshing that I get along with beer people so well.

With nothing in common but the beer in front of us, we can talk for hours! We won't need to talk about beer for very long before the conversation turns to some found topic in which we both share a passion.

In my experience, beer people share a lot of common interests! But more than that, beer people share a common sense of decency and tend to be really good people.

Brewers, are of course, beer people! They too tend to be an above average group of folks. Proof of that was written in my book when I began looking for a beer sponsor for a charity event.  I will say that the breweries I've dealt with have been fantastic so far!

I expected to be greeted with a professional dismissal and end up having a hard time getting my foot in the door to talk to anyone. I hate asking people to sponsor events because as a business owner, I can tell you that every time you turn around someone has their hand out for money! But two of the breweries I've been dealing with have been 100% excellent! Of course I feel like our charity is an above average event, but they didn't know that when I made the initial contact.

I don't think I need to tell you who I'm working with until they are 100% committed, but they are both producing very high quality Craft Beer and I'm looking forward to working with both of them.

Tonight, I'll be enjoying a Milk Stout in my "Right Hand" and I'll let everyone know that while I'm not a big sports fan, I do very much enjoy sports with wicker cesta "basket" and balls covered in goatskin!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Drink it the way you like it!

For what it's worth, I'm including myself in the term "Craft Beer Purist" so don't give me any crap about not caring about the yin and the yang of craft beer!

I have recently noticed that there is a major difference in attitude between craft beer and my other favorite libations!

Mainly... Craft Beer apparently doesn't play well with others!

As you all well know, I am a fan of the ancient drink of the gods. Mead is a favorite of mine, both to make and drink. Making it is much like stirring up a batch of Kool Aid, but I find it relaxing, rewarding and just plane fun.

Many of the bottles of mead in my cellar either have sachets of spice tied to the neck or recipes on the label instructing you on different ways to serve their nectar! Have you ever seen that on a beer bottle? I'll bet not! Brewers and Craft Beer people tend to advise serving in a specific glass at a specific temperature. No adventure, no flexability. Keep it the way the brewmaster intended it to be!

Rum, like mead, is from the gods... just... well, it's from the fat party god that wore Hawaiian shirts and could play the ukulele like a sombitch!

Rum plays well with others! Rum and Coke may have been the first proof you saw of that when you were what? 21 of course! None of us mixed Rum with Coke when we were 14!

Regardless of how old you were when you figured it out, Rum mixes with everything or nothing! I LOVE good rum "Neat"! My "Rum Nerd" friends tell me a few ice cubes and some lime or orange will really open up the flavor profile, and they are right. But sometimes I just want it the way it is!
But Craft Beer seems like "The way it is" is the only way it wants to be!

I understand that Craft Beer "Purists" want to experience their beer for what it is. There is something very zen like about getting to know your beer. The ins and outs of the malt, the hop profile, the way the body and aroma play such a huge role in the overall experience. I "Get" that! I really do! That is, in part, why I love to homebrew! When you make a beer from scratch, you know it like the back of your hand. But what is next?

For some, it is EXTREME! Extra malt, insane amounts of hops, alcohol levels approaching that of a cheap bottle of schnapps. Whatever you can find to mix it up and keep it interesting.

So, I say, Let's mix it up a bit with the beer!

I have a pale ale on tap right now that is really not very exciting! It's good. It doesn't have any major flaws, it's a bit too dark to be an honest "Pale" but hell... It's beer!

When I realized that I was severely limiting myself by my own "purist" standards, I decided to take a new twist on an old Red-Neck classic!

If you've never been to a drinking establishment with pitchers of tomato juice on the bar, you've never been to hillbilly country.

This is where I grew up, but I don't know where or why the idea started, I'm just glad it did. Just a little tomato juice dumped into your glass of BMC (Bud, Miller or Coors) makes it a bit more palatable.

Not to be outdone by the local glug and chug, I pulled out the bottle of Bloody Mary Mix and added some to my boring pale ale!

Guess What? IT'S GOOD!

Eventually I decided that a little Vodka added to the mix really evens out the flavor and texture issues, and a Fizzy Bloody Mary is enough to bring a smile to my face.

The mixing of beer into cocktails is certainly not new. In fact, there are a lot of good "Beer Cocktail" recipes out there, but I feel like the Craft Beer world has been missing out by isolating itself into pure and true drinking methods.

I can only imagine the wonderful concoctions that we would have if our nations best palates had been working on cocktails using the funky Saison or super citrus IPAs for all of these years. The malt character has long been a tradition on fish and fries when it comes in it's vinegar form, why not in a mixed drink?

I'm not the craftiest person, nor do I have the most educated palate in the beer biz. I do know what I like and don't like, and I'll be glad to share that opinion with you.

I know that I like drinking Craft Beer from the proper glass that I've hand washed and polished and ensured it the optimum temperature for that particular style of beer. I also know that I like Rum, Coffee, Tomato Juice, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey and any number of other adult type party starters along with Rum. What I don't like is having my flavors jammed into a little box like Chinese carryout and being told not to mix, match or intertwine the things that I like! Nor do I like being frowned upon by other Craft Beer Evangelists for doing so and encouraging other to do the same!

I say "Mix it up folks!"


The adventure never stops

The adventure never stops
with the Buck Reilly series