As mentioned in the Intro, the primary job of a brewer is to create a fermentable liquid called wort. This involves converting some of the complex starches found in grain to simple sugars, then extracting those sugars into a solution so that yeast can metabolize them and create alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a number of other aromatic and flavourful compounds.
This post is about making wort. It includes info on water, barley, malt, grinding, mashing, lautering, and sparging.
Water. Water is important. Beer is, after all, mostly water. So are we. Historically the water source at a brewery informed the style of beer that they made. Places with alkaline water found that using acidic, heavily roasted malts … Continue reading.
I consider apple cider to be a generous gift from nature: with a small amount of work you can secure enough alcohol to last a year. There are thousands of well-established apple trees in Edmonton. At this point in time most of the owners can’t or don’t want to use all the fruit, and by volunteering with OFRE or just knocking on doors you have easy access. Once you have secured apples, if you crush and press them, they will, of their own accord, turn into cider. No need to add sugar, or acid, or yeast, or anything. It’s amazing.
Beer is quite the opposite. Brewing is so complicated, and relies so heavily on human intervention, it’s difficult to imagine … Continue reading.
How to Incorporate the Eggs. There are several different ways to put the “egg” into “eggnog.” For a few years I used this method:
- whisk egg yolks with some sugar until pale and foamy
- whisk egg whites with some sugar until soft peaks form
- fold the two egg foams together and stir into milk and cream
- add rum and nutmeg
The problem with this method, first of all, is that if it sits for even five minutes, the eggy foams separate from the milk and cream. I wouldn’t mind a bit of head on the nog, but the foams make up about 90% of the volume. Even during the brief moments in which all the ingredients are properly incorporated, … Continue reading.
I know I already posted today, but I wanted to quickly tell you about some cutting-edge developments in the composition and aging of the 2012 fruitcake.
Hazelnuts lose their spot to almonds. For three years now my fruitcake has been poundcake flavoured with orange zest, garnished with glacé Evans cherries, candied Navel orange peel, and roasted hazelnuts. The cherries are the star. They bring loads of flavour, acidity to balance the buttery luxury of the cake, plus they’re from Lisa’s dad’s backyard.
Working with Evans cherries over the past couple years, we’ve noticed that their aroma has a distinct note of almond extract. For some reason this aroma is especially evident in the single-varietal rumpots we’ve made. This … Continue reading.
It’s been almost two years since I combined some Onoway honey with crushed, frozen u-pick raspberries and added a bit of yeast to the mix. (The photo at left shows a label reading “Rasp. Melomel 2009”. That’s a mistake in my cellar bookkeeping: it’s definitely from 2010.) This raspberry mead was one of the first fermented drinks I made that wasn’t based on a kit of grape must or malt wort.
I had no idea what I was doing.
I was using a recipe from The Winemaker’s Recipe Handbook by Raymond Massaccesi, a book that I have not used since. Most of the recipes in the book are a syrup of water and refined sugar, flavoured with fresh fruit, pH-adjusted … Continue reading.
There are two drinks that we go through in unholy quantities this time of year. The first without question is rum, as it is used in all kinds of preserves, baking, and cocktails. The second is Irish cream, consumed on its own, or diluted with a bit of milk or coffee.
For years my standby has been Bailey’s, but this year I decided to make my own.
Irish cream is comprised of cream, sugar, and Irish whiskey, usually but not always flavoured with coffee. It is around 20% alcohol by volume, and has a rich, viscous mouthfeel. It’s basically an Irish coffee with the ingredients in different proportions.
If you plan on consuming Irish cream in coffee, there’s probably not … Continue reading.
Yard of flannel is hot ale, laced with rum and spices, and thickened with egg.
Though there’s a surprising number of beer and cocktail blogs that have tried out old recipes of yard of flannel, there’s very little information on the history of this drink available online.
I’ve found no documented link between these two drinks, but yard of flannel is nearly identical in recipe and preparation to an old Scots cocktail called het pint (literally “hot pint”). The only difference is that the Scots version typically uses whiskey instead of rum.
Het pint was once an important part of Scottish celebrations, especially Hogmanay, the Scots New Year. In the 17th and 18th centuries, public houses made het pint on … Continue reading.
I was surprised to learn that Austria has a strong, distinct coffee culture. I probably shouldn’t have been, as the adoption of exotic goods like cane sugar and coffee beans was the hallmark of European imperialists, and Austria, as the granddaddy of European imperial powers until the First World War, has been roasting, grinding, brewing, and drinking coffee for centuries.
The story of how coffee came to Austria was told to me several times during my stay. In 1683, the Ottoman army, led by the Grand Vizier, besieged Vienna. A Polish soldier named Jerzy dressed in Turkish garb and left the city to contact Duke Charles of Lorraine and ask for assistance. Jerzy snuck back into the city, bringing a … Continue reading.
Earlier in the month we pressed our apples into cider. The juice that ran from the press was sweet and tart, with a full, milky mouthfeel, and a subtle siltiness that I think was from the skins and seeds of the fruit. It had a cloudy, oxidated colour and was a pleasing drink in all of its many facets.
As with grapes, there is an abundance of natural yeast living on the skins of apples, and when you crush the fruit and mix the skins with the juices, the yeast has easy access to sugar. I’m always surprised by the efficacy and consistency of this natural fermentation. Basically the cider can sit in your basement for a week, … Continue reading.
While on the AMS Great Alberta mushroom foray near Hinton, we came across some large patches of Labrador tea.
Labrador tea is a little evergreen shrub. It was once commonly brewed by the natives and used in countless medicinal applications. It was also part of some of the traditional gruit mixtures of northern Europe. (For an explanation of gruit, and why it could be important to our provincial brewing identity, please see Alberta Beer: A Thought Experiment.)
The principle flavour is minty evergreen. I swear when I bruise the fresh leaves I also get a sweet melon aroma, but I haven’t been able to convince others of this, nor have I been able to coax that flavour into solution. … Continue reading.