Friday, April 22, 2011

Belgian Table Bier - Pre-tasting

I just got around to bottling this one. It finished out at 1.011. Which puts the ABV at 4.8%. I had about one bomber's worth left when I ran completely out of bottles. Being one not to want to waste beer, I decided to do a tasting on it. But before we get into that here's some info on the importance of carbonation in tasting beer.

Did you know that humans cannot actually smell liquid? Rather we smell the gas coming off of the liquid. Think about it. Have you ever opened your fermenter at high krausen and tried to take a big whiff? I have, and it's intense. And then have you opened a fermenter to smell it once activity has died down and the yeast is dropping out of suspension? It can be hard to smell much of anything.

So why is all of this important? Because 85% of taste is actually smell. I'm sure we've all seen (or done it ourselves) people swirling wine. They're doing that to release gas so that they can smell the wine better and therefore taste it better.

Now with us beer nerds we don't need to swirl. We have a torrent of CO2 coming out of the beer carrying beautiful flavors and aroma a long with it. The reason I mention all of this is because this will be an incomplete tasting as I don't have any c02 to help me out. So give me a couple weeks... but here we go... also since it's uncarbed I'm not even bothering with mouthfeel.

Belgian Table Bier

Appearance - A nice medium brown. When held up to the light the highlights are an amberish color. Despite not being carbed there is still a tiny bit of CO2 escaping to form a tight ring around the top.

Aroma - After a vigorous swirl...... The first thing is green apple. Followed immediately with hints of toasted bread then chocolate. There's a bit of spice followed by a great whiff of the brewer's gold hops. If you've never used them they're fantastic. Earthy and a touch spicy with bits of black currant.

Taste - Even not carbonated this beer has a lot going on. At first I get a touch of roasted quality. It's followed with apple and spice. At the back there's a combination of earthy/black currant/chocolate. All with an assertive, but very smooth bitterness (thank you first wort hops).

Overall - I'm looking forward to drinking this beer fully carbed. For a table beer there is a lot going on.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nelson Sauvin Saison - Second Tasting

I keep meaning to get to a formal tasting of this mild, but I can't stop drinking this saison. In fact I only have 10 bombers and a handful of 12oz. bottles left. So I figured I'd better do another tasting.
Plus the hop character is quickly dropping out, and this beer is somewhat hop focused.

Appearance - Pours beautiful rocky head of tight bottles that just doesn't quit. After about five minutes it drops into a nice ring of lace. The beautiful golden color made me dub this beer "Lapin d'Or" which is French for "Golden Rabbit".

Aroma - The intensity of those Nelson Sauvin hops has died down considerably. The aromas of over ripe pineapples and passion fruit is still there, but not nearly as assertive. More spice comes through, as does some nice notes of lemon peel.

Taste - There's still that great impression of sweetness from the pils malt up front that's quickly washed out by the high carbonation. In the middle there's a lot of the same flavors as are in the aroma. The lemon peel character is definitely more assertive in the palate than I thought it would be, but not unpleasant at all. There's some great spice and those nice tropical fruit flavors as well.

Mouthfeel - Still what I expected it to be. The high carbonation makes the mouthfeel full, and the 3711 leaves some great silkiness. And of course the finish is long and dry, only more accentuated by the high carbonation.

Overall - This beer has really developed nicely. I think it's safe to say that it is now at it's prime. I don't want to hang on to it much longer as the hop profile will drop out too much. This is a very well balanced beer that's great for the summer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pizza Dough

Brewing has been a shade lax lately as I haven't had much free time. The dark mild I bottled recently is quite good, and I'll have notes for that soon. The Belgian Table beer is cold crashing as we speak, I intend to bottle it tomorrow.

But not all things fermented with yeast have to be beer. Aside from making tasty brews I also happen to be a pretty awesome cook. One of the things I love to make at home in particular is pizza. It's delicious, relatively simple to make and pretty inexpensive. However the thing that most home cooks get wrong is the pizza dough. A lot of people expect to make good homemade pizza from dough in a can or that Boboli premade stuff.... but it's just not possible. I've spent a lot of time working on making pizza dough and I've found that I don't have an exact "recipe" for it. Rather it's a process and something you have to have the right feel for.

So here's how it goes.

At least 8 hours before you want to make pizza (I prefer the night before) we have to make a starter.

I start with about a cup of warm water and a tablespoon of yeast. Stir them together and let it proof. Then add some flour. I don't know exactly how much, I just add flour until it looks like thin pancake batter. Then add a small pinch of sugar. Set this aside for at least 8 hours in a warm place. Or better yet overnight.

After it's set the starter will look like this.

The gluten in the flour will set and the starter will be a bit thicker. The next step is to proof another tablespoon of yeast in another cup of warm water, with another pinch of sugar.

No there are no grains going into the dough, I had just received an order from AHBS and hadn't put everything away yet. Once the yeast has proofed (about 10 minutes) add it into the starter.
Next I add in around two cups of bread flour and run it together in my stand mixer until everything is incorporated then add a healthy pinch of salt. Then add more flour in 1/2 cup at a time until the dough forms a ball. Set the stand mixer to low and let it run for 5 minutes. At this point the dough may or may not become too sticky. In this case it did and this is what it looks like.

As you can see the dough is sticking to the sides pretty heavily and the ball is not smooth. So I added about another 1/2 cup of flour and let it run until it becomes really smooth. Then let it knead on low for 5 minutes. Rest the dough for 5 minutes. Then knead for another 5 minutes.

I roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick. I personally prefer it pretty thin, but this is how my wife prefers it. As far as what to cook it on I use a pizza pan with holes in it. The pizza cooks more evenly.
Put the dough on the pan then sauce. For my homemade sauce I use a can of tomato puree, a little garlic and some fresh basil and oregano. Don't over sauce it, otherwise it will be soggy, just a nice smooth layer.

I put the toppings over the sauce instead of on the cheese, this keeps them from drying out. Today it's fresh spinach and roasted chicken. Cheese can be your choice. I personally like aged provolone, but my wife really likes mozzarella. You don't want to drown it in cheese, just a good even light sprinkle. Then I finish it with a few fresh basil leaves on top.

The real trick to cooking the pizza right is to do it hot and fast. When you go to a great pizza place that's making pizza in stone ovens they're cooking it HOT. Usually upwards of 800 degrees. Now my oven doesn't go that hot, but it can do 550. So don't be afraid to crank your oven up as high as it will go. The high heat lightly chars the crust, and gets it crispy on the outside and gets the cheese slightly charred as well.

Bake the pizza on the bottom rack. It usually takes me around 8 - 10 minutes.

If your at a loss on what to put on your pizza my all time favorite is pepperoni and peperoncinis. Skip the pepperoni in a non-refrigerated bag and hit up your local grocer's deli counter. Ask them to slice it as thin as possible. Trust me it's worth it.

Another great combo is salami, kalamata olives and ricotta cheese. For a great meat free option make some oven roasted tomatoes and add goat cheese and arugula.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Belgian Table Beer - Brew Date: 3/29/11

So "Threat Level Midnight" has been put on hold for a few more days. The only reason being that I needed to make a huge starter for such a massive batch. So instead of that I decided to make a Belgian Table Beer; and use the yeast cake from that to pitch the stout onto. The recipe is pretty simple. It's mostly Belgian Pils with a few pounds of wheat. I added a small amount of Special B. for color, along with some 60L Crystal and then just a dash of chocolate malt.

The hops are only Brewer's Gold as FWH addition and then a flameout addition. I'm shooting for a beer with good drinkability, not huge alcohol, a pleasant hop aroma with a strong yeast profile. It's fermented with Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes.


60 minute mash at 151 degrees

5lbs. Belgian Pils
3lbs. White Wheat Malt
8oz. American 60L Crystal Malt
4oz. Special B. Malt
2oz. Chocolate Malt

1oz. Brewer's Gold Hops 8%AA FWH
1oz. Brewers Gold Hops 8%AA Flameout

3522 Belgian Ardennes Yeast