Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pizza and Beer

Tonight is pizza night. Homemade dough, homemade sauce, homemade cheese. Doesn't get any better than that.

While we wait for the dough to rise, we try some more Maine brews from the recent road trip:

Casco Bay Brown Ale: Chocolatey and nutty in aroma and flavor. No hop aroma or flavor. Just the right amount of bitterness in the finish. A tiny, tiny bit of diacetyl - not at all unpleasant. A real easy drinker. I'll look to pick up some more of this when the weather is a bit more "brown ale".

Brown Hound Brown Ale (Freeport Brewing Company): A bit hoppier, this one, though still a malt balanced beer with chocolate flavors. Hop character is a neutral - not typical American hops. If I had to guess, I'd go with Northern Brewer. A bit too much carbonation and finishes a bit too dry for my taste in a brown ale. Still a beer worth drinking.

I drank both of these from my new favorite glass. This past weekend I picked up an Aventinus glass at the always impressive Nurnberger Bierhaus on Staten Island. Really sweet wheat beers like Aventinus are not exactly my cup of tea (or beer, as it were), but this glass is right up my alley. The bowl at the top really holds aromas in nicely. And plus it just looks cool as hell.

Also, forgot to mention that last night I tried an import that we brought back from Maine. Eisenbahn Escura from Brazil. Unfortunately I don't think I can give this one a proper review as it was fairly oxidized. The underlying beer seemed to have too much of the roasted character of a porter or stout, not what I'm looking for in a dark lager. I tasted it alongside my Munich Dunkel... I won.

Bowery Whole Foods is beer crazy!

Took a twirl around the Bowery Whole Foods this afternoon as I am wont to do on my lunch. I don't recall if they were doing this when they opened or if this is something that has happened gradually, but beer is all up in that store. A Delerium Tremens display by the pomme frites station. Brooklyn East India IPA by the antipasti. Magic Hat #9 situated interestingly enough right between the candy and the flowers. Those are just three examples of at least a dozen displays throuhgout the store, all this in addition to their Beer Room*.

The Bowery Whole Foods is the only one that I get the chance to check out regularly, so if anybody has seen this trend happening at other locations I'd be interested to know. I wonder if pushing craft and imported beer is some corporate initiative or if it's specific to this location. Leave me some comments.

*The author of this blog does not endorse buying beer at the Bowery Whole Foods Beer Room, as he supports the "little guy" and likes to stick it to the man. Therefore he recommends that you buy down the street at New Beer where the selection is better, even though the owner/manager guy consistently accuses him of being some spy for Union Beer Distributors or Whole Foods.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Took another hack at making a batch of mozzarella tonight. Here's the recipe:

1 gallon organic pasteurized whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. citric acid hydrated in 1/2 cup filtered water
1/8 tsp. lipase powder hydrated in 1/4 cup filtered water for 20 minutes
1/2 rennet tablet hydrated in 1/4 cup filtered water
Cheese salt as needed

Heated milk to 55˚F in a stainless steel stock pot and stirred in citric acid and lipase. Raised to 88˚F and stirred in rennet. Here's where things got tricky...

After about three or four minutes I opened the pot to take a temperature reading. The curd was already forming in the middle of the pot, so I stuck the thermometer in and got about 94˚. Closed the pot. Checked again in about five minutes. Still about 94-95˚. Something was up. I took the temperature of the whey around the sides of the pot and got almost 120˚. I panicked, since it's only supposed to go up to 100-105. The curd was already looking pretty good, so I decided to start draining it from the pot. Totally fell apart on me. Made a mess. So I dumped back into the pot and let the whole thing sit for another 20 minutes.

I was able to get the curd out of the pot then, but it was still very loose. Formed into four balls. Heated them in the whey at approximately 175˚, kneaded, repeated. Took a few tries as the curds were still very loose. After about three passes the remaining whey had drained pretty well and I was able to stretch them a bit. I had to form them like meatballs at first. After another three or four passes able to stretch them, I salted them, formed them into balls, and chilled them in ice water.

I ate one at room temperature with some sliced red onion, farm fresh Jersey tomato (thank you Hoboken farmer's market), and some balsamic and oil. Not bad. Could use a touch less salt next time.

I think we'll go for one more shot at the mozz before taking on cheddar.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yeast Starter

Tonight is amateur biologist night. I've got 1.8 liters of 10.2 brix starter wort (with 1/2 tsp. yeast nutrient) a-boilin' on the stove. I'll cool it down, pitch a Wyeast smack pack (Belgian Abbey Yeast II) into it, and set it on the homemade stir plate for a couple days to build up enough yeast for my Dubbel homebrew. I'm not a big Belgian beer guy, but figure I need to do this to expand my horizons. Not sure whether I should keg it or try to bottle condition it. Any opinions, leave them below.

Tonight 'R' and I shared some of the Maine cheese that we picked up on our latest trip to Portland. One was a cheddar made with veggie rennet that was very bitter and made more enjoyable by a melba toast and some garlic and onion jam. The other was a very nice pecorino romano type, quite tasty all on its own. See, we don't know exactly who made these cheeses and what they call them as we bought them a few weeks ago and they weren't labeled in their packages. So, remove them from the fridge after forgetting about them for a little while and, voila - what exactly are we eating?

Sampled these with some Maine beers:

Black Bear Pail Ale: Nice citrusy American hop aroma. Very fruity, estery flavor, significant bitterness. Interesting blend of American hops and what would seem to be a fruity English yeast strain.

Sebago Runabout Red: Malty all around, the kind of rich caramel aroma you look for in an American Red. Definitely not very hoppy. Dry finish. Not distinctive, very drinkable.

Also, I finished the night with the very frustrating homebrewed barleywine. Long story short, I brewed a barleywine several months ago. It's not carbonating fully, despite additional healthy yeast added to the bottles. It's pretty good, but just not quite there. Starting to doubt that it ever will get there...

You love my new beer blog

So here I am. Homebrew geek, hoity-toity beer snob, culinarily inquisitive troublemaker, upstanding resident of Jersey City, NJ. And here's my blog. I'll use this space to carry on about all of the above, as well as the occasional nugget on the Giants, Mets, or the Sweet Science.

This week we'll be making some mozzarella from scratch and brewing a Belgian Dubbel. Details to follow. Sound good?

You know what they say. Whether you like it or whether you don't like it, learn to love it.