Make Your Own Pumpkin Keg

October 24, 2012 3 comments

Easy DIY Pumpkin keg pours whatever you put in it, like your favorite pumpkin beer. Or try root beer, butter beer (Harry Potter cookbook) or apple cider for the kiddies! (photo by http://www.celebrations.com)

What better way to serve a pumpkin beer – and a host of other fall beers and beverages – than in your own homemade pumpkin keg.  No fancy brewing equipment or extreme sanitation methods required…I promise!

Celebrations.com came up with this great tutorial for creating your Halloween party masterpiece.


This idea is not limited to just pumpkins.  I can’t wait to try it next summer using a watermelon.  Fill with your favorite watermelon lager, summer beer or beverage.

Serve your favorite summer beer or beverage in a watermelon keg!                                    (photo courtesy of http://www.celebrations.com)

Visit Celebrations.com for the written instructions and for other great party ideas.

Happy Halloween!  

Cheers Beers

Brew Your Own Hard Cider

September 8, 2012 4 comments

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Fall is a few weeks away and I have a fun and easy brewing project that’s perfect for this time of year.  It requires 3 ingredients, and about 15 minutes to mix and prep for fermentation.  In just 2 weeks, you’ll have delicious homemade hard cider to share with your family and friends.

Some important notes before you begin:

  1. Use apple cider with NO preservatives.  Preservatives will kill the yeast.
  2. If apple juice is the only ingredient, then you are good go.  Cloudy or unfiltered is good, and the fresher the better since it may contain wild yeast that will add to the flavor of your finished product.
  3. Yeast can be purchased at your local homebrew store or online from homebrew sites like Maryland Homebrew or Northern Brewer.
  4. This recipe makes a 5 gallon batch.  You can make smaller batches – use 1 cup of sugar per 1 gallon of cider.  However, you will need to adjust the amount of yeast required.
  5. Alcohol content will range from 5-7 ABVs.  Likely closer to 7 ABVs.  For big kiddies only!
    F…
  6. For best results, consider investing in some standard brewing equipment, especially if you plan to make this recipe again and again.  A standard carboy, a rubber stopper, an airlock (to keep oxygen out), a funnel, and a bottle of santizer.  All of these things can be purchased at your favorite homebrew store.
    ……
  7. Lastly, as with beer brewing, sanitation is of prime importance.  All equipment, including bottles or carboy and anything that touches the inside of the fermenting container should be sterilized or sanitized to ensure no unwanted bacteria mucks up your cider.  You can do this by adding an ounce of sanitizing liquid to a bucket and to the carboy and filling it with cold water.  Then soak all equipment several minutes (3-5) or spray it on with a spray bottle.  You can also boil or put in dish washer immediately beforehand to sterilize.  This step alone can make all the difference between success and disaster.

Homebrewed Hard Cider

Ingredients

  • 5 gallons apple cider, no preservatives – room temperature
  • 5 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 vial yeast – room temperature
    Champagne yeast is good for drier cider, or use a British Ale Yeast for sweeter cider.

Equipment

  • 1 5-gallon carboy, or 5 gallon container with airtight lid.  Sanitize or sterilize well before use!
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  • 1 large funnel (santized!)
  • 1 airtight stopper for carboy, or lids or caps for other containers (santized!)
  • 1 airlock (if using carboy) (sanitized!)
  • 1 cup measuring cup (santized!)

Instructions

  • Insert funnel into top of carboy.
  • Pour in 5 cups of sugar (add sugar before cider so it doesn’t stick in the funnel).
  • Pour in 1 gallon of cider.
  • Remove the funnel, lift the carboy, and swish it around really good to dissolve the sugar, set it down for a minute, then lift and swish again to ensure sugar is dissolved.
  • Add remaining 4 gallons of cider.
  • Rock the carboy to swish and mix the liquid.
  • Shake yeast well and add contents to cider.
  • Rock the carboy to swish and mix yeast with the cider and also to add lots of air into the liquid.  Do this for at least 1 minute to ensure all is well incorporated.
  • Add stopper and airlock (with water added, per instructions) to top of carboy.
  • Move carboy to a dark and cool location with consistent temperature, like a basement or crawl space.  Leave it for 2 weeks.
  • Check regularly to ensure the yeast are active and that gas is not building up too much in the carboy.  This could cause a bit of an explosion if left unattended.

Finished cider can be kegged and force carbonated, or bottled with a bit of sugar to naturally carbonate the cider.  Or drink it uncarbonated.

No matter how you drink it, it will be delicious and it will be brewed by you!

I’ll check back in two weeks with an update.  In the meantime, have you made hard cider before?  Tell us how it turned out and let us know if you have any advice.  If this if your first time, come back and let us know how your cider turned out.   And of course, send questions and comments.

There are also some great videos on YouTube (Check out HomeBrewRecipes) for more info and ideas.

Cheers beers!

“Lucky Dogs” Get Private Tour of Flying Dog Brewery

August 10, 2012 2 comments

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A few posts back I had written about the Hubster’s wins in our local Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition.  First place won the chance to have their beer professionally brewed at the Barley & Hops brewpub.  But SECOND place (aka. the Hubster) won a private tour with 10 select beer buddies at the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.

We have since cashed in on that prize, and he now has his sights set on winning second place again NEXT year!  We had a rare and fantastic opportunity to spend half a day on a personal guided tour with two of Flying Dog’s top brewing experts.  For almost 5 hours, we had access to the brewery, professional brewing information, and of course Flying Dog beers.

Breakfast of Champions

The tour started off with a brewer meet and greet and liquid breakfast in Flying Dog’s tap room.  We became fast friends with our two tour guides – the two Bens.   Ben C. came from the banking industry in PA and worked his way through the ranks to become one of Flying Dog’s top brewers.  Ben S. is FD’s science guy, tasting coordinator, quality control lead and scrabble guru.  He has the awesome responsibility of ensuring that Flying Dog’s beers are always top quality.  I can personally assure you they are both doing excellent work!

We also tried a very unique beer called Keith’s Gose.  Unique because it is a sour beer brewed with Old Bay seasoning, intended to pair with steamed crabs.  I guarantee you’ve never tasted a beer like this before.  The only thing missing were the crabs.

The “Have it Your Way” Tour

It was our tour, our way, whatever we wanted to see, ask, or taste.  We went outside, back inside, past the grains, around the brew tanks, down to the experimental brewing operations, back up to the fermenters, stopped for a refill (fresh Raging Bitch Belgian IPA straight from the tank…ahhhahh), into the boiler room, over to quality control, across to bottling, on to kegging, upstairs to storage, past the hot room, into the hop cooler, back over to bottling, and finishing in the tap room for a potty break and refills.  Shew!  The homebrewers were in heaven, soaking in the beer data, tips tricks, stories, and snagging some recipe ideas.  The two Bens seemed happy to share their knowledge with an enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable group.

Behind the Scenes Tidbits

They can recycle their yeast up to 15 or 16 times, depending on the beer.  And each generation spawns better and better beer.

There’s a hot room used to store beer at garage temps.  Ben S. has to taste these beers to determine the shelf life and durability of any given 6-pack after it’s been sitting in the garage all summer.  It’s a tough job, but at the end of the day, it’s free beer!

Artwork is EVERYWHERE in that brewery.  But the best artwork is on the labels.  All label art is designed by Ralph Steadman.  But the brewery art and murals are painted by local artists who have studied Steadman’s style.  Their reflective work appears in the entrance hallway leading to the brewery and in numerous locations throughout the brewery.

Who Spiked the Beer???

After potty breaks and refills, the two Bens led us into a conference room and Ben C. poured 6 beer samples in  labeled cups.  These beers were intentionally spiked with contaminants that produce common off-flavors in beer.  The point is, in order to produce good beer, it is equally important to know how beer should and should NOT taste.  It should NOT taste like creamed corn, green apple, butter, or circus peanuts (banana – unless its a hefeweizen).  All good flavors for jelly bellies, but not so much for beer.

Some large brewers intentionally produce these flavors because they appeal to certain tastes.  For instance, creamed corn is a flavor produced by DMS that actually appeals to a wide audience, and which you will find prevalent in some select and very well known commercial brews.

All Good Things Come to an End

We ended on a huge high note as Ben S. pulled out some specialty beverages from the secret stash, including side by side comparisons of their current and vintage Horn Dog Barleywine; their special Secret Stash Harvest Ale; vintage Gonzo Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (my personal favorite); The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (stellar!); and side by side tastings of the almost released Fever Chocolate IPA, as it was supposed to taste vs. the production version.  Both versions of The Fever were great beers, but the chocolate flavors dropped out of the final packaged version, which resulted in a very tasty non-chocolate IPA. The original version is absolutely delicious and completely different – a full hoppy IPA with a smooth blend of chocolate flavor that totally works.

By the end of it all, we had two new beer buds in the two Bens.  We found our way to the gift shop, purchased current and vintage beverages and lots of swag, then hugged it out and made our way safely home.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the two Ben’s.  We can’t thank you enough for your gracious hospitality and generous sharing of beer knowledge.

Your Chance to Tour Flying Dog Brewery

Visit Flying Dog’s website to sign up for a tour or attend one of their offbeat events.  It’s a great time to hang out with friends, sample some stellar brews, and learn how beer is made by one of America’s finest breweries.

Cheers Beers!

Firkin Fest Closes Out Frederick Beer Week

May 26, 2012 2 comments

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Last Saturday, Frederick Beer Week came to a close. I can’t think of a better way to end an exciting week of nonstop beer activity than with an easy, fun day on a hop farm.

You may recall my post last year about the Frederick Beer Festival at StillPoint Hop Farm. This year was every bit as much fun. All the great Maryland breweries were represented, but this year, the festival featured a different twist. The beers were tapped from firkins – and so this year’s festival was dubbed Firkin Fest!

Amazing Maryland Beers were served by Barley and Hops, Brewer’s Alley, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Evolution, DuClaw, and Brewer’s Art.   Some unique brews included belgian beers brewed with currants and peppercorns; some great IPAs – including last year’s Battle of the Bubbles competition winner, which was expertly brewed by Larry Pomerantz at Barley and Hops; Oatmeal Stouts; refreshing light lagers; german style bocks and dunkers; and more.  And then there was the homebrew tent, hosted by Frederick’s Original Ale Makers. Lucky attendees sampled from over 20 different styles of homebrew throughout the day.

The festival also brought back all of the great attractions from last year, only bigger and better with a larger and wider variety of vendors, more great folk style music, the ever-popular Hayride to Hoppiness, and hoola hoops!

Imagine plopping down on a hillside with a quality Maryland beer, on a beautiful day, in a gorgeous country setting, listening to live music and watching the little ones (and a few not so little ones) dance around with hoola hoops. It’s easy to see why Firkin Fest has become a fast local favorite for Frederick beer fans!

So once again we bid farewell to Frederick Beer Week – til next year!   In the meantime, plan your next visit to the Mid-Atlantic around some of our great breweries and pubs.  You won’t be disappointed.  Maryland has indeed become a great state for beer!

Cheers beers!

Phantom Brewer Takes “Battle of the Bubbles” by Storm

May 24, 2012 8 comments

Ok, well maybe he’s not a phantom, but my hubster certainly came from out of no where and took this year’s Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition by storm!   Battle of the Bubbles is a local competition started last year, and continued this year as part of Frederick Beer Week.

I’m bragging you say?  You bet I am!

88 beers were entered in 21 different categories.  The hubster entered four of his homebrews – a Belgian IPA, a Southern English Brown, a Hellesbock and a Winterbock (my personal favorite).

Results were as follows…

  • Belgian IPA – 2nd place all around, 1st place in its category,
  • Southern English Brown – 1st place in its category
  • Hellesbock –  3rd place in its category
  • Winterbock – 2nd place in its category.

All went to the final round, with his Belgian IPA taking 2nd place all around.

We thought he’d come home with a few medals of honor, but when he collected his winnings, the stash included four huge ribbons; gift cards from local restaurants, Northern Brewer and White Labs (yeast); beer stickers; t-shirt; a tap handle; and a VIP tour of Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick for up to 10 people (don’t think I won’t be blogging about that!).

Holy cow!  We were two giddy kids sitting in the car, laughing and dumbfounded by all the goodies he’d won.

Rumor has it, my hubster is “the one to watch out for” next year.  That’s the best prize of all!

Cheers beers everyone!  

Cheers Beers’ First Beer Dinner

May 15, 2012 2 comments

What better time to experience our first ever beer dinner than during Frederick Beer Week at our favorite hometown brewpub – Barley and Hops.  The Barley and Hops Spring Beer Tasting and Dinner not only featured their stellar house brews, but the event and the menu were all organized by head brewer and culinary creator Larry Pomerantz.  Each item on the menu, shown below, was designed to pair with one of Larry’s exceptional beers.

If you find yourself in Frederick, Maryland, stop by Barley and Hops for a quality pint or two and a great menu!  http://www.barleyandhops.net.

This was Barley and Hops’ premiere beer dinner  – hopefully the first of many to come (we’ve heard rumors that various themed beer dinners may be held quarterly!).  They seated 20 or more of us at a long family style table.  When beer and food are involved, it doesn’t take long for new friendships to form. We were all chatting and laughing and oohing and ahhing over the meal items as Larry explained his thought process behind the pairings and sought our reactions to tastes and flavor combinations.

Dinner is Served

We were so absorbed in the dinner that we missed most of our photo moments. Take my word for it…the cheese course was delicious!

Celery Heart Salad with Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp served with Larry’s fabulous Sugerloaf Saison and a Saison Vinaigrette.

Stout ice cream…a great way to top off any meal!

1st Course

A cheese course consisting of local goat cheeses that included a soft tangy baby swiss paired with his flavorful sweet and malty Highway to Helles;  a tangy cheddar that brought out delicious notes in the Tuscarora Red Ale; a spicy tangy jalapeño cheddar paired with the Hoptopsy ESB; and a magnificent soft zesty gouda paired with the Annapolis Rocks Pale.

2nd Course

A unique celery heart salad served with bacon wrapped shrimp, topped with a zesty saison mustard dressing, and paired with the Sugarloaf Saison.  The Saison is amazing by itself, but this course brought out the tangy citrus flavors in the beer.

3rd Course

A fork tender Cocoa and Ancho Chili Crusted Pork Tenderloin paired with his 80 Schilling Scotch Ale.  Wow, lots of smoky and chocolate flavors from the beer.  I would never have thought of matching a Scotch Ale with southwest flavors, but boy did it work.

4th Course

Stout Ice Cream with chocolate sauce – I keep telling you all that beer ice cream rocks!  By the end of this course, 20 people practically had their faces planted in their bowls trying to salvage every last bit.

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A Few Pairing Tips 

  • When pairing foods, match stronger flavored foods with stronger flavored beers….and visa versa.  Lighter foods with lighter flavored beers.
  • Hoppy beers pair well with hot and spicy foods.
  • Malty beers pair well with grilled and smoky foods

But the most important tip of all is slow down, stop guzzling, and pay more attention to how your beer and your food complement one another.  You might find that your meal is even more interesting and enjoyable.

Beer dinners are happening all over, so check out your local brewpubs and beer bars and find one near you.  They’re tasty, they’re fun, and you’ll learn how to get the most from two of life’s greatest pleasures – beer and food!

Bon Appetite and Cheers Beers!

Frederick Beer Week is Back!

May 10, 2012 9 comments

For more information about Frederick Beer Week, visit www. FrederickBeer.com.

It’s that time again!  May 12-19, Frederick, Maryland is all about beer (as it should be) as our fare city celebrates our 2nd Annual Frederick Beer Week.

If you’re not familiar with Frederick, we are home to:

Last year’s Frederick Beer Week started this annual event off with a boom, and this year’s events prove to be bigger and better with two beer festivals, beer dinners, beer happy hours, brewery tours, great music (some of it about beer), the Battle of the Bubbles 2 home brew competition, and so much more.  Check out what’s going on….

2012 FREDERICK BEER WEEK EVENTS

Saturday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

So if you’re if you’re in the Frederick area this coming week (we’re just a 30 minute drive from DC and Baltimore), come join us for some great beer and tons of fun for big kids and for the little kiddies too.   We’ll see you there!

Cheers beers!

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