Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thrash Metal Pork Rillettes

Here's another fun recipe for cooking with beer. If you've never had rillettes before I highly recommend giving them a shot. It's essentially pork shoulder cooked confit (in rendered pork fat), that is then cooled and shredded apart, at which point you can mix in minced vegetables or dried fruits. Back in May I did a beer dinner with Jester King out of Austin. This was the appetizer, and was quite good.

The rillettes were enhanced by cooking the pork in fat along with some of their Thrash Metal Farmhouse Ale, a Belgian-style strong pale ale. The depth of flavor that the beer helped develop was quite nice, it added some nice fruitiness to the dish along with a great balance from the alcohol. Once the rillettes were made I pressed them into mini terrines with foie gras.

We served with with some wonton crackers (just wonton skins baked on a cookie sheet with a touch of cooking spray), montechevre cheese and some zante currants soaked in their Black Metal Farmhouse Imperial Stout. The flavors of the currants with the stout is quite a good match, the dark rich dried fruit taste from the currants pair up nicely with the roasted and chocolate flavors in the beer. Get that in a bite with the rillettes and you have a match made in heaven.

Thrash Metal Pork Rillettes:

4 lbs. Boneless Pork Shoulder
2 lbs. rendered pure white pork fat (or lard will do the trick in a pinch)
2 tbls. Tellicherry Peppercorns
5 whole garlic cloves
1/2 red onion - roughly chopped
1 cup Belgian Strong Pale Ale

                                                                                        2 tbs. minced onion
                                                                                        1 tbs. minced garlic
                                                                                        salt and pepper

Take the first seven ingredients and put them in a dutch oven, make sure that the melted fat and beer is covering the pork. If it's not add a little more of each so that the pork shoulder is completely submerged. Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven at 225 for 4 - 6 hours, or until the pork is very soft and tender, and can easily be shredded with two forks. Allow pork to cool. Remove pork from fat, but do not discard the fat, and shred apart with two forks. Add the minced onion and garlic and gently stir to combine. Place in a small jar, or terrine, take some of the cooled rendered fat and use to seal the top.Once sealed these will keep for an extended period of time as the fat is a natural preservative for the meat. The addition of foie gras in the terrine adds a bit of gaminess and is quite good. Serve with crackers or crusty bread and cornichons.

Black Metal Currants:

1 cup dried Zante Currants
2 cups Imperial Stout

Combine and allow to soak over night.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to pair beer with food.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before... I don't really like to talk about myself all that much on here... but I'm a chef. In a lot of ways that helps me out as a homebrewer. I'm less concerned with following strict recipes and style guidelines, and more interested in developing a flavor profile that I enjoy. I also really love pairing beer with food. While I love Garrett Oliver's Brewmasters Table, and think that it has some great suggested pairings, along with great explanations of styles with examples of styles, it doesn't really lay the foundation for how to pair beer with food... Why should you pair pork belly with a Belgian Trippel? Why shouldn't you pair a sour American Wild Ale with spicy seafood? 

Glad you asked... allow me to explain.

The rules of pairing beer with food are actually pretty similar to pairing wine with food. The fun part though is that beer offers such a broader range. 

1. Like cancels like.

What this essentially means is that like flavors don't enhance each other. In fact it's the exact opposite. Like components between a beer and a dish will tone each other down, which then allows you to taste more of the other flavors in the beer and dish. The dish bellow is an open faced smoked salmon "BLT". The sauce on top is an aioli made with Jester King Noble King. That was paired with the Jester King Farmhouse Wytchmaker Rye IPA. The hoppy flavors from the beer paired with the hoppy flavors from aioli didn't enhance each other, rather they don't each other down. In turn you could taste more of the rustic rye and malt character in the beer.

2. How to cut the fat.

For me anyways, eating a fatty and rich dish can be a bit tiresome after a while. Fat has a way of accumulating on the palate and needs to be cleared. This can be accomplished a few ways. First hop bitterness actually works similar to acidity in wine. The astringency of a really bitter IPA can really help clear fat off of your palate. This can also be accomplished with acidity from a sour beer, or a beer with high alcohol. The following is a picture of duck confit (actually cooked in pork and bacon fat) over a cannellini bean and olive oil puree with sage. That was paired with the Jester King/Mikkeller Beer Geek Rodeo. If you're not familiar with it it's the Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (Imperial Stout) with chipotle chiles. The high alcohol really cut through the richness of the duck, plus the smokiness in the beer from the chipotle and the smokiness from the bacon toned each other down... which then increased the chocolate and roast characters of the beer.

3. Ease the heat.

I don't have a picture handy to illustrate this next one, but like a lot of richness... a lot of spice can get exhausting. Let's say you have some spicy kung-pao shrimp and it's getting to be too much the last thing you want to reach for is a bitter/hoppy beer like an IPA or pale ale. The hop bitterness will actually magnify the heat. Instead reach for a sweeter beer, particularly your sweeter fruit beers work well in this regard like Magic Hat #9. For darker, richer meats that are spicy I recommend reaching for something like a milk stout.

For the sake of not being exhausting I'll end it here, there's plenty more on pairing beer with food, but these few basics will make your next beer dinner a lot more fun!

Noble King Beer Aioli

This is a really fun sauce that has a broad range of application. Amazing on fish or chicken, but can also dress a salad or be on a sandwich. The recipe is actually a pretty basic aioli, just with a nice hoppy beer added in place of the water and some of the lemon juice. A few notes on this though... make sure you're using a good, real, Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil preferably one with a distinct fruity character and minimal bitterness (olive oils are not all created equally and quality matters... for more info on this read some of Tom Mueller's info on olive oil.) Also please pay attention to the order in which the ingredients are added, if you don't do it just right your aioli will not emulsify.


4 cloves garlic
1 tbs. Dijon Mustard
2 egg yolks
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Beer with good hop character but not too aggressive bitterness (Jester King Noble King Hoppy)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Coarse Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper To Taste


In the work bowl of your food processor mince the garlic and add a small amount of salt to help break apart the garlic and soften it up. Add the egg yolks and dijon mustard and puree for 30 seconds. This helps to incorporate some air into the aioli which will aid in the consistency of the finished sauce. Add half of the olive oil very slowly with the food processor running. Add the lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the beer, pulse together. With the food processor running slowly add the olive oil and remaining beer, alternating between the two every few seconds. If the aioli is too thin just add more oil and keep the food processor running until it thickens up. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Homebrew Recipe: Das Funken Weisse - Quick Sour Wheat Beer

Sorry to the four people who read this for the lack of posting over the last month. It's been a pretty crazy month. I went to Italy for a week in May and then there's work.... either way here's what I've been up to.

Back in mid April I brewed a sour wheat beer. Like most of my grists it was painfully simple, half Weyermann Pilsner and half American White Wheat. I did a small mash hop addition with some Willamette and a pretty low mash temp. Here's the fun part though, this thing was sour and ready to drink in a month (from the keg mind you). I started by pitching lactobacillus first and let it ride for 24 hours. Then I went in with a vial of WLP670 (American Farmhouse) and a smack pack of 3068. At one month it was dry, fruity, a touch funky and perfectly soured.

This could be bad info (I'm not a scientist) but from what I've read lactobacillus does poorly in the presence of alcohol, hence my pitching the lacto first. I kept it reasonably warm (76F) while it was all lacto, then about four hours before pitching the rest of my yeast I cooled it down to 68F. I suppose you could compare this beer somewhat to a Berliner Weisse in the sense that it's tart and sour and half wheat. But there's some other stuff happening too, a bit of spice and banana from the 3068, and some subtle brett character from the WLP670. Not to mention I threw two ounces of Citra hops into the keg. The result? A moderate strength, sour, funky, grapefruity and great beer.

Now granted I did make a great sour beer quickly, but I did keg it. I highly doubt the beer was completely done working, if you plan on bottling this you would probably want to give it a few months to ride out the last few gravity points.

Das Funken Weisse

OG - 1.046
Brewhouse Efficiency - 75%
IBUs - 6.8
Mash Type - Single Infusion
Mash Temp - 148F

Malts and Fermentables

4lbs. Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner Malt
4lbs. American White Wheat


Willamette 5.5%AAU Mash hop - .5oz. - 60 minutes 
Citra 10.5%AAU - Keg Hop - 2.0oz

Yeast and critters

Whitelabs WLP670 American Farmhouse
Whitelabs Lactobacillus Delbrueckii
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan

I'll post a full tasting of this soon. But if you're looking to homebrew a sour beer quickly you may try this and see how it works out for you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Un Poquito Wylde Tasting

Now that my kegerator is fully operational again, and this keg is fully carbed, I can finally get around to tasting the micro saison I made with my local wild yeast. If you remember the grist was simple, half Vienna malt and half white wheat malt for an OG of 1.032.

For such a simple and small beer this thing has a lot going on. I think it's really cool to make a beer that is completely unique to your area. Unfortunately that's a hard thing to do here in South Texas where mold runs rampant most of the year. I probably tried harvesting yeast 5 or 6 times before I got this last round to actually work without any sort of infectious mold. All in all the flavors of the yeast are relatively mild. Brett character mostly. If I decide to reuse the yeast (which I did wash and save in a growler) I expect some more lacto/pedio character to develop.

Appearance is a ruddy straw color. From the tap a one finger pristine white head forms. The head sticks around quite a bit, that's thanks to the wheat.The head is a little bit alive, with rocky chunks of foam forming and dissipating. Beer is quite cloudy, yeast was not very flocculant. Even with a week of cold crashing, I may decide to hit it with some finings..

The aroma is interesting to say the least. A bit of crackery malt, and a touch of Czech Saaz pokes through, then just awash from the yeast. Solid Brett character, pineapple and other non-descript tropical fruits first, followed by danky bretty must and funk.

The taste follows suit right along with the nose. A bit of Czech saaz character makes itself known up front then gets washed away with Brett character. Tropical notes of pineapple and mango dominate the palate followed by a slight bit of musty Brett funk. A light bit of lactic sourness hits the back of the palate. Finishes dry, but that's too be expected.

The mouthfeel is surprisingly full for such a small beer. The large amount of wheat really helped with that, but there's also a certain silkiness to it that I believe to be coming from the yeast... a lot like what you would get from a saison yeast. I carbed it only to 2.5 volumes to keep it from being astringent, but it's not quite lively enough. So I think I'll up the pressure for a couple of days to see how that helps.

Overall it's a great beer, that's nice and refreshing as it's getting hot out. I think I'm going to try to let it live in the kegerator for a month before I completely finish it. I'd like a bit more acidity to develop. This yeast is interesting and could play well for a larger beer.

Edit 4/26: Decided to throw an ounce of Czech Saaz into the keg. I'm loving the character of the beer so far, but would really like some more hop character.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kent Goldings Amber Tasting

I've been meaning to get around to typing up this tasting for a while now. My brother and I brewed this back in January and I've been drinking it pretty regularly ever since. In fact my half of it is nearly gone. This beer is by no means perfect, nor does it really fit to the style of your traditional American Amber. For one it's pretty modest in the alcohol content (around 5%) and it doesn't have the same caramel like sweetness (at least not as much as your typical American Amber does). But the biggest differentiation is the hop profile. I find most American Amber Ales to often times cross the line with American IPAs, but typically with more malty sweetness. Instead of going with your typical American citrusy hops I went with some nice soft Kent Goldings. I love the soft floral/fruity character that they add to the beer along with extremely smooth bitterness.

Overall I like this beer quite a bit, it's easy to drink and uncomplicated. The body is not watery at all, but I wish it was a touch more full. It's kind of brinking on being somewhat lager like in how crisp it is... not that it's a bad thing... but not what I was going for.

I'm not going to go into a full fledged tasting notes review on this, because this beer doesn't really call for one. But I will give you the gist of it.

It pours a nice amber with a dense head. Smells of bready malt and classic English hops (floral, a touch woodsy and fruity). The taste is smooth and uncomplicated. Easy to drink and refreshing, and a low enough ABV to not get into too much trouble with. The malt character is a bit bready with a touch of toffee and caramel. The hop bitterness is there, but not assertive, and the hop character takes the back seat. Finishes dry. The mouthfeel is crisp and full, carbed it to 2.5 volumes. Overall a nice beer... not exactly what I was shooting for, but may be something I brew again in the future to tweak a bit.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gavroche Bier de Garde - Review

Commercial beer reviews aren't the norm for this blog. And why should they be? Any Tom, Dick or Harry can post something on Beer Advocate. But I find that the information on there is only useful when you're specifically looking for it. If I'm stuck between purchasing two different beers and can't make up my mind... sure I'll look them up on my phone to see the score, but I rarely read something that points me in the direction to try something specifically.

One of the very cool things about my job (department manager for a large Texas based retailer) is that I sometimes get my hands on products before they come to market in Texas. This beer that I'm about to review is one of those.

The main reason I'm going to review this is because I was floored at how great this beer was. To be honest, Biere de Garde is a style that I have very limited experience with. I've had the Flying Dog Garde Dog (not that great) and the Jenlain Ambree (not a bad beer) and that's it for the style. Speaking of the style everything I've read says the style is very loose and not all that specific, so I had no idea what to expect going into it.

This is the Brasserie St. Sylvestre's Gavroche. The bottle calls it a "French Red Ale", but really an amber biere de garde.

Appearance - Into an oversized red wine glass it pours a deep rudy amber with a two finger head that sticks around for a few minutes then dissipates into a thin lacy head that sticks around to the end of the glass.

Aroma - The first thing I get is sherry vinegar. Not in an assaulting or offensive way, it's actually quite restrained, but unmistakable. The sherry blends into notes of dried cherries and a flash of black pepper. It ends with a faint crackery maltiness and vanilla aroma.

Taste - Delicate malt sweetness with bits of caramel and vanilla that quickly fades into dryness. A flash of tartness with sherry vinegar, cherries and pepper mid palate. It ends with a small, but firm hop bitterness. The most amazing thing is that this beer is 8.5% ABV and tastes nothing like it. The beer is so wonderfully smooth that you could easily (like I did) end up a bit tipsy by the end of the 750ml bottle.

Mouthfeel - Smooth and delicate with a spritsy carbonation. The mouthfeel is not heavy at all, but still full and lively.

Overall - Everything about this beer speaks of restraint. The flavors are complex and all over the place, but so tight and controlled that everything has it's place and doesn't fatigue the palate at all. Deceptively smooth and refreshing but interesting enough to keep you thinking about all of the flavors until the end of the bottle.

Biere de Garde is not a style I've tried to brew before, but after drinking this I just may have to.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wild Yeast Micro-Saison

To continue with both my session beer kick and my funky brewing project this week I decided to brew with some local wild yeast that I harvested back in January. I wanted to brew something that would display the yeast quality well without too many other competing flavors. That's why I went with a very low ABV saison. I'm posting about this because for one I think it's really cool to gather your own yeast, but also because there's not really a lot of info available. The pic above is from when I propped it up. You can see the yeast cake on the bottom. The plastic ontop. Is because all of my airlocks were already in use.

I've tried harvesting wild yeast before but all I would get was mold and/or something that just smelled rank. Here in Texas the mold is pretty high so its not the best environment for catching wild yeast. What made this attempt different was that for one it was on one of the few cold nights we see in San Antonio, I've read that during colder weather the bugs are more at bay. I also made sure to wait for a night when the weather report listed the mold count as low/none.

I whipped up a weak dme sollution of 1.030(ish) and split it into two seperate mason jars. I covered them with a bit of cheesecloth to keep flies out and left them out overnight. One went out on my front porch and another on my back porch. Once brought in I covered them with plastic. I ignored it for a while, then before I knew it it had been a week. Checked it and... nada. Nothing had happened. After another 5 days one finally fermented with some nice little yeast rafts floating on top. Two days later the second followed suit. I decided to prop them up together with some late runnings from my lambic. I shook well, gave it nutrient etc... and nada. I decided to leave it alone and ended up forgetting about it. Two weeks had passed and I went to throw it out and sure enough there were yeast rafts on top and a cake on the bottom. I crash chilled it and left it. Then two nights ago I decanted it and threw in another round of starter wort, this time it took off in 12 hours.

When I decanted I took a sample. The smell was wonderful, very fruity with notes of lemongrass and peach plus a light spice. There was also a light sourness to the aroma and a bit of funk. The mouthfeel was quite silky and full. So perfect for a saison.

The brewday was very easy with a very small and simple grainbill. I went with a no sparge method to help accentuate the malt profile. The grainbill was simple, half Vienna half malted wheat. I chose both of those malts to help with the body/malt impression of the beer. The high percentage of wheat should make the mouthfeel reasonably full and the vienna malt should add a bit of breadiness to it. For hops I went with classic Czech Saaz, their spiciness should play well with the characters that I was picking up from the yeast. I only did a single 15 minute addition of the hops, depending on where this beer goes I may end up adding a dry hop addition.

Mash profile: Medium dry 151
OG: 1.032
IBUs: 7.4

Mash ingredients
3lbs. Vienna malt
3lbs. White wheat

1oz. Czech Saaz 4.1% AA 15 minutes.

Yeast: Wild caught yeast from 78247 area code.

Quick update: Despite the long lag time from when I propped this up it took off like a rocket today with onlya six hour lag time.