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Archive for the ‘Off the Beaten Beer Path’ Category

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

Phantom Brewer Takes “Battle of the Bubbles” by Storm

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!  

Why Americans Celebrate St. Paddy

….

I was chatting last week with a British co-worker who recently moved to Philadelphia from England.  He was amused that St Patrick’s Day parades were being held an entire week before the actual holiday. “I’m surprised that people here get so excited about a religious Irish holiday,” he laughed.

I suppose Americans have zapped the religion right out of St. Paddy’s Day.  In fact, I wonder how many celebrators (especially the non-Irish ones) even know who St. Patrick was and what he signifies?  He is a saint after all — the patron saint of Ireland.  He was born British, kidnapped and enslaved in Ireland at 16.  He heard voices (like Joan of Arc) telling him to high tail it out of there, so he escaped, found religion, returned to Ireland and introduced Christianity to its people; and he used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the trinity (father, son and holy ghost).  Somewhere in the mix he supposedly drove all the snakes out of Ireland – no idea where that part came from, but the Irish do enjoy their legends, and a saint should have some sort of super power, don’t you think?

It was the Irish Americans who gave the holiday its first parade…and so the party has spread around the world.  Leave it to Americans to turn a Roman Catholic holiday into a monster drink fest.  I confess, neither the hubster or I are Irish, but today we will wear green, drink green and eat Irish (corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot).  Why?  Because, it’s what we do on St. Patrick’s Day – no religion or irish descent required, and everyone is welcome.  So bottoms up, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cheers Beers!

Beer and Cookies for Santa

December 24, 2011 4 comments

Wow, Christmas is almost here! Hard to believe. And if you’ve been tracking Santa’s trek around the world, you’ll know that by the time he gets here to the US, he’ll be needing a beer real bad.  So when the little kiddies set out their milk and cookies, don’t be afraid to add a little bribery on behalf of the big kids.  After all, Santa is a beer lover too!  Seriously, you don’t think he got that belly eating too much jelly, do ya?

So sleep tight my friends, and if the beer is really good, perhaps Santa will show his appreciation by leaving some quality holiday beverages under your beer tree on Christmas morning.

Hoppy holidays and best wishes for lots of wonderful new beer ventures in 2012!

Cheers beers!

Cease Fire and Drink a Beer

December 8, 2011 8 comments

 
I came across this Dear Abby post and felt the need to make a few edits…

 

 
Much better!  Such a simple and effective concept…like the “go in another room, shut the door and count to 10” trick when the kiddies drive you to the extreme.  A malty hoppy beverage that acts as a mild sedative is just the ticket – versus a sugary caffeinated candy bar that lasts maybe 30 seconds, isn’t nearly as satisfying, has just as many calories and will have you both climbing the walls and clawing each other (not in a good way) from the sugar high.
 

Imagine this…heated discussion begins to brew.  You both look at each other…hold the phone, grab two glasses, crack open a quality craft brewsky, split between glasses (make sure it’s even or that might start a whole different discussion), clink glasses, take a big swig, savor it, and what happens next?   Ok, we’ll keep it G-rated, but you get my point.  Let the clawing begin!
 
Cheers beers!

The Craft Beer Snowman from Flying Dog Brewery

November 28, 2011 2 comments

One of my all time favorite beer commercials never even made it to television.  The Flying Dog Brewery  (right here in Frederick, Maryland) received this promo commercial last year as part of an interview from director Tim Martin.  He got the job!

Happy Winter and Cheers beers!

Specialty Beer Brings Home the Blue

September 25, 2011 5 comments

After his first taste of competition at Frederick Beer Week this past spring, the Hubster decided to enter two of his brews into the Frederick County Fair.  Mind you, the Frederick County Fair sounds like small potatoes, but Frederick actually has a well established homebrew community, and our Frederick’s Original Ale Maker’s (FOAM)  homebrew club includes a large membership and some highly regarded beer judges and brewers.  So the entries for this event were numerous and competitive, ranging in all types and styles of beer.

I can attest that the Hubster makes some darn good brews, and for this round, he entered his fresh hopped IPA in the IPA category (the largest with 24 entries), and his pumpkin ale in the specialty beer category (second largest with 20 entries).  Results were posted late Sunday eve and we awoke to victory – a first place win in the specialty beer category with his pumpkin ale!   Very exciting!  And let me tell you, award winning beer tastes so much sweeter.

 

Cheers Beers!

Old Fashioned Homegrown Hop Pickin’

The hops here at our small Hoppy Times hop farm and home brewery have finally reached their third season – the season when bumper crops are expected to roll in.  And so they have.

Last year we were a bit concerned because Fred, our oversized ground critter, Fredwina and six baby Freds all lived under the shed and enjoyed snacking on the bottom leaves of the hop vines. This year, they opted for my cucumber plants instead, so unfortunately we will be without pickles this year, but the centennial and cascade hops have been left to flourish for this year’s labor day IPA.  Woo hoo!

Hop vines grow up, out, into my azalea bush, and through the shed.

The hubster engineered a great contraption that allows the vines to grow high against the shed,
and it unlatches and lowers for easy picking.

Our little hop of horrors is hungry today!

Let the good old fashioned hop pickin’ begin!

A hopback is a hop filter that fits between the kettle and the wort chiller. Only whole cone hops (vs hop pellets) can be used in a hopback.  The hot wort flows straight from the brew kettle and through the fresh hops, then into the wort chiller where the hop flavor is locked into the beer.

The hops are dried before use, so we spread them into a single layer across window screens.
Then we’ll vacuum seal the hops and freeze them for brew day.

Hope you enjoyed the Hoppy Times hop farm tour.  We’ll let you know how that Labor Day IPA turns out!

Cheers beers!

The Forefathers of Homebrewing

In honor of the 4th of July, I thought I’d do a little research and throw out some tidbits about our forefathers and their love of beer….

Thomas Jefferson – a Forefather of Homebrewing

According to The Jefferson Monticello website…

“At Monticello, beer [1] was a “table liquor” served during dinner, and Jefferson’s earliest designs for his plantation included spaces for brewing and the storage of beer.”

Bottles used at Monticello to bottle beer – made of clay and glass.

“In the early years of their marriage Jefferson’s wife Martha brewed fifteen-gallon batches of small beer (which has a relatively low alcoholic content) nearly every two weeks. Perhaps with a view toward expanding production, Jefferson’s early plans for Monticello’s offices (the rooms where household services were carried out) came to include both a brewing room and a beer cellar.”

Jefferson took to growing his own hops and malting his own grain.  “Once the malt had been ground, brewing needed to commence immediately. In the fall, Jefferson brewed three sixty-gallon casks of ale in succession.”

“As word spread of the brewing operations at Monticello, Jefferson’s neighbors began requesting his ale recipe, or asking to have their servants trained in beer making at Monticello. ”

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation collaborated with Virginia’s Starr Hill Brewing Company to create the Monticello Reserve Ale.  Tastings were served at Monticello this past President’s Day.  As described on Starr Hill’s website – “Monticello Reserve Ale is inspired by what was produced and consumed regularly at Monticello.  It is made from a combination of wheat and corn, lightly hopped. ”

George Washington’s Beer Recipe

As written by Max Reed, The Gawker, May 4, 2011 11:48 PM

George Washington’s beer, made from a recipe he wrote in his Notebook as a Virginia Colonel.

New York Public Library holds the recipe as part of its collection, and to celebrate the centennial of its Steven A. Schwartzman building, has commissioned the Shmaltz Brewing Company (which makes He’brew and Coney Island Lager) to recreate it. ”

Sam Adams – Namesake in Beer

According to Wikipedia…

“The brand name of Samuel Adams (often abbreviated to Sam Adams, even in advertisements), was chosen in honor of Samuel Adams, an American patriot famous for his role in the American Revolution and Boston Tea Party. According to tradition, he was also a brewer.[3]?

Ben Franklin – Hate to Love Relationship with Beer

From Gregg Smith’s article “Brewing in Colonial America” on BeerHistory.com

“The quintessential colonist Benjamin Franklin described his earliest job in a print shop with frequent reference to ale. As a young apprentice, tending to the needs of the journeymen was one of his foremost duties. A right to take a portion of one’s wages in ale was another custom these displaced Englishmen brought with them. Franklin’s diary repeatedly mentions the times his work was interrupted as he was dispatched to fetch rations of ale. Although this job resulted in his early disdain for the beverage he soon developed a fondness. Even John Adams, first United States ambassador to the court of St.James was a beer drinker.”


Colonial Life Revolved Around Beer

From Gregg Smith’s article “Brewing in Colonial America” on BeerHistory.com

“Early colonists of the North American continent had a fairly simple life. The typical immigrant from England had only three things on their mind: where to get food, how to secure shelter, and when would they get their next beer.”

“Nearly every citizen of the day knew that drinking water could make you deathly ill. Ale drinkers were somehow spared this affliction and therefore most people soon substituted a frequent imbibing of ale over the dreaded curse of water.”

“Most parties landing on American soil would bring with them the equipment and raw materials to begin immediate production of ale.”

“Ale and beer was a major dietary staple in the colonies. Literally everyone partook. It was the common item which spanned generations, from cradle to grave everyone drank beer. Infantswere fed beer and it was especially recommended for nursing mothers. Farmers, laborers, merchants, lawyers, and craftsman all drank beer. It was a common thread in all their lives and this democratic beverage would even play a role of mid-wife in the formation of government.”

“It was not uncommon for drinking to begin even before breakfast and it continued with every meal throughout the day.”

“This homebrewing even had its effect on colonial architecture. Most households added a small brew room onto their living quarters. ”


Beer Quotes from Our Forefathers

  • “Beer , if drank with moderation, softens the tempter, cheers the spirit, and promotes good health.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Benjamin Franklin
  • “I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night” –Benjamin Franklin
  • “Let no man thirst for good beer.” – Sam Adams
  • In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. –Benjamin Franklin
  • “There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.”-Benjamin Franklin


Happy 4th of July!  Cheer Beers!

Thoughts on Brewpubs and the Unspoken Rule

You wouldn’t ask for Folgers in a coffeehouse, you wouldn’t expect Five Guys to serve big macs, and you probably wouldn’t scoff at a wine bar that doesn’t serve Riunite (in fact, most people would react quite the opposite). So why are brewpubs expected to sell mass-produced commercial beers?  Not all brewpubs do sell these beers, but the expectation is still a sort of unspoken rule that pertains to beer serving establishments in general.

I suppose a lot of people equate brewpubs to beer bars.  But brewpubs are unique in that brewing beer is their specialty, their differentiator, the heart of their business.  So they should be exempt from that rule, right?  You’d think so, but it really is amazing how embedded certain brands are in our beer culture – and not just American.  I’ve seen people get downright angry if their beers aren’t available, even at brewpubs.

I’m not judging those who prefer the commercial brews.  We like what we like and we shouldn’t have to apologize for it.  And I’m definitely not judging brewpubs for selling those beers.  It’s a business, and brewpubs do have the option to sell or not to sell, and to charge just as much for those beers as for their in house brews, if not more.  I suppose that in itself should be lesson enough to the finicky beer-drinkers who eat at brewpubs but snub the house brews in favor of commercial beers (ok, that might sound a little judgmental).  It’s an easy way to make money and keep the customers happy.  The pressure is evident, and I know that in our semi-rural suburban region, it doesn’t matter how many house or craft brews are available, if a bar (any bar) doesn’t serve at least one of the major brands, then they’re gonna lose business.  Hey, if that’s what it takes to keep a good brewpub going strong for the rest of us, then give’em their beer.  However, I would think its gotta be a sticky pet peeve for most brewers.  Just my opinion.

Responding to the Inevitable Request

Of course it never hurts to ask, fair enough.  I’ve witnessed several ways that brewpubs handle the request for commercial brands…

  1. Sure thing, whatever you want, no questions asked.  The larger chain-type brewpubs often serve commercial brews in addition to their own – no muss, no fuss, no questions asked, the customer gets what they want.
  2. You can have it on one condition.  Give ours a little taste first, and if you don’t like it, then we’ll give you your commercial beer.  This approach encourages non-craft beer drinkers to acknowledge that they are in fact in a brewpub.  And out of sheer respect to the brewer and the establishment, at least give the lightest house brew on tap a fair shot.  Hey, like it or not, its free beer!
  3. We only serve house beers, but our XYZ beer is the closest match to your request.  This “take it or leave it” approach is a sure sign of an independent, confident brewpub whose regulars appreciate the good stuff and come back for it often, and whose head brewer (I’m assuming) probably takes immense pleasure in giving the big three a big bird.


Respect the Brewer, Respect the  Beer

I am not a beer snob – truly, I don’t know enough, nor am I serious enough to be a snob.  But I have tremendous respect for brewers and the passion and commitment they have for their craft.  And virtually every brewpub I’ve ever been in produces one or more lighter beers that speak to a wider audience.  You say you like beer?  Then branch out a little.  Ask for some samples.  Give the house beers a fair shot.  You might even find a new regular, in which case, good for you!  Welcome to the brave new world of craft beer.

Cheers beers!




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