Christmas and New Years have come and gone. The gyms are filled with people struggling through their yearly work-out. The stores can’t keep enough kale, quinoa, or other so-called “Superfoods” on the shelves to satisfy the trendiest dieters.
I’m not really one to make New Year’s resolutions. January really isn’t different from any other month, and shouldn’t be the only time we set goals. That being said, I do have one project I’m looking forward to working on over the next year.
I’ll be babysitting a friend’s brewing equipment over the next year, which gives me an opportunity to venture into the world of home brewing. As with any goal, it’s a good idea to start small, and work up to where you want to be.
The first batch will be an easy one from a kit. And maybe adding a bit of personality with some dry hopping or flavorful adjuncts.
Step two will be more complex, brewing from malt itself. Any suggestions for techniques and potential flavours will be welcome, from fellow brewers and beer enthusiasts alike.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to make and eat cookies (even eggnog-flavoured ones) year round (not just in December). The following is one of my favorites – a successful experiment from last year.
Rum N’ Eggnog Sugar Cookies
⅔ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. rum or rum flavoring
2 tbsp. eggnog
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
Cream butter, sugar and rum together.
Add egg and eggnog; beat thoroughly.
Sift together remaining dry ingredients.
Gradually blend dry ingredients into creamed mixture.
Divide dough in half and cover or wrap in plastic.
Chill at least one hour before rolling out.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to ⅛” thickness.
Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.
Carefully transfer to cookie sheet and bake at 350°F (325°F convection) for 8-10 minutes.
Let cookies cool before removing from pan.
Makes about 36 cookies
Got any tips or tricks for a newcomer to the world of home brewing? Suggestions for a first or second beer style to try? Clever names for new brews? I’d like to hear about it – comment below or get in touch on twitter @theempirestrikesbock
I really like ginger. Like, a lot. I’ve added it to pretty much every meal I’ve cooked this week. Which you’d think would make me an afficionado of ginger beers – not without some exceptions. Today I’ll primarily discuss the alcoholic varieties, with a few exceptions.
I can handle the occasional Crabbie’s, but I usually tap out after half a glass – I just can’t handle the high sugar content. This is my usual complaint with ginger beers – either they are too sweet or the ginger flavour isn’t “kick-in-the-face” sharp enough. The contrast to this is Fallentimber’s Ginger Mead – it’s refreshing and surprisingly dry, considering the prominent honey flavor, though it is without the other spices that we associate with a “ginger beer”. Learn more about Fallentimber’s meads here.
My current favorite though, is Old Tom. No, not your crazy neighbor that wears ten different hats at the same time. Nor the cat that wanders your neighborhood yowling for lady-cat affection. Originally labelled as Ginger Tom, Old Tom is a traditional ale mixed with a ginger beer – the best of both worlds. This way you get the flavors of a lemony, herbal ginger beer cut with a crisp traditional ale.
The Phillips brewing company also makes a legitimate beer with (that bears little to no resemblence to the aforementioned varieties). This one is a legitimate beer brewed with ginger. Much like the thinly sliced pink pickled ginger, this stuff is great with sushi. Not a fan of that pink stuff? This might not be the beer for you.
Are mixed drinks more your style? Traditionally served in a copper mug, a Moscow Mule is made with ginger beer, lime, and vodka. Headframe Spirits out of Butte serves up their own version, the Montucky Mule, with their signature Neversweat Bourbon and Cock and Bull Ginger Beer. Not in the area? Fentiman’s Ginger Beer makes an excellent mix for any of the above spirits.
Korean cuisine is rife with ginger and strong, spicy flavors. This recipe literally translates to “mixed rice and vegetables” – creative, I know. But incredibly tasty. Keep in mind this is a non-Korean girl’s boozy attempt at Korean food, and it should not be considered authentic in any way. FYI, Gochujang is a spicy fermented bean paste that is pretty indespensible in this recipe. It’s pretty easy to find at any Asian Grocery store if you know what the container looks like – they’ll probably have this kind there (see image left). If not, good luck reading Korean!
Bi Bim Bap with Ginger Beer Sauce
1/2 cup ginger beer
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 lb steak, thinly sliced
Sesame Steamed Bok Choy
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp mirin
4 serving portions of steamed rice
Ginger Beer-bim-bap sauce
3 Tbsp gochujang
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup ginger beer
1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds
1 tsp vinegar – I used apple vinegar
1 tsp minced ginger
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add steak; toss to coat. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
Combine sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin in a wok and heat over medium. Add bok choy and stir gently. Add 2 tbsp water (or ginger beer, if you have a bit extra). Cover and steam until dark green.
Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add one-quarter of beef and cook, turning once, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat in 3 batches with remaining oil and beef.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce.
Divide rice among bowls. Assemble steamed bok choy and beef overtop of rice, along with additional vegetables.
Right before serving, fry one egg (over-easy) for each portion. Top each bowl with a fried egg and serve with bi bim bap sauce.
Brooks, AB is not the first place I’d think to spend a summer vacation. But every year in early August, the entire city (or at least the cool citizens) get dressed up and go to feast and joust at the Brooks Medieval Faire. Think of it as their version of the Calgary Stampede. Except set in the 1400s. But no jousting tournament is complete without a horn of mead. Enter the Fallentimber Meadery from Water Valley, AB.
I’d never been much of a mead drinker in the past. I had always expected something made of honey to be overly sweet and cloying. After meeting up with Nathan Ryan and Cole Boyd from the meadery, I now understand that there’s a mead for every taste.
“My Dad’s been a beekeeper for almost 40 years now,” said Nathan Ryan of the family-owned and operated business. “Growing up around that, we didn’t have a ton to do with it. I was allergic to bees, so there was no way I could be involved.” With a brewing background though, the Ryan family was bound to expand their scope. “Under the Cottage Winery license we were able to open the meadery, doing small-batch production.” The doors of Fallentimber Meadery opened in 2010. Current production is about 1800 litres at a time – not a terribly small production, but still a home-grown organization.
I soon learned how versatile honey could be – not only can it be made into mead (which in ABV terms is more alike to a wine), or in the case of the hopped mead, more like a beer. “The Hopped Mead comes with a bit of a story, ” Nathan began. “We had been making our still mead for a while, but since we had a brewing background we decided to do a Braggot. This is a drink that’s about 50% malt and 50% honey, and kind of a grey area for legislation. When we started talking to AGLC in 2013, we had already bought a lot of brewing equipment. they were going through a review of legislation and ended up rejecting our application. This was the same review that got rid of the minimum requirements to breweries – while this was good for microbreweries, it made us the ‘exception to the rule.'”
Rather than wait and waste the equipment, Nathan and his brother decided to use the equipment and “act” as if they were making a beer. Thus, the Hopped Mead was born. They’ve since seen the policy change to allow for the Braggot to be made, but the Hopped Mead has already become a signature product. The sweetness hits you right at the beginning, and quickly mellows into a rich, earthy hop flavour. It’s definitely worth a try for any hop-head.
Like the hopped mead, the Ginger Mead is also brewed with more of a beer-focus and a fraction of the sweetness of your “typical” ginger beer. “Drinking a pint of 14% mead is tricky in the afternoon. We wanted something you could have a pint of – the ginger mead is ultimately our ideal patio drink.” The honey flavour is subtle upon first sip, but the sharp ginger flavour is the star of the show.
Centred upon a rustic quonset, the Falltentimber Meadery is becoming one of Alberta’s forefront destinations for beer and wine-lovers alike. Much like the wineries of Kelowna, the Fallentimber Meadery is a place to visit and enjoy the scenery with a beverage. “We would like more people to come visit the meadery. We’ve got the place on Google maps. I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a nice middle of nowhere.”
Want to learn more about mead? Fallentimber Meadery will be at the Calgary Oktoberfest near the end of September. The following weekend, October 3rd, will be their 5th Anniversary party at the apiary complete with live music, dinner, dancing, an informative K-Country show, and vikings. Yes, vikings. Tickets are currently on sale at their website.
Honey is a common ingredient in many sauces for meat. Mead is therefore the only logical next level ingredient.
Chicken Thighs with Ginger Garlic Mead Sauce
12 chicken thighs or wings
3/4 cup ginger mead (or ginger beer)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger (one 2″ cube)
4 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until cooked through, about 35 to 45 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine the ginger mead, brown sugar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and Worcestershire in a saucepan. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/2 cup water. Pour into saucepan and whisk rapidly until combined. Cook over medium heat until liquid begins to thicken.
Transfer the chicken to a baking dish once cooked through. Pour sauce over the chicken to coat.
Return chicken to oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and sticky, about 15 to 20 minutes.Serves 4 hungry knights or vikings.
Whisky* fascinates me – it’s produced by many cultures across the world. There’s bourbon in the Southern United States, Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky* and of course scotch. While some might argue the differences are largely geographic, there are some distinct differences in ingredients and distilling procedures. This phenomenon is especially true in the context of Scotch whisky – even within a region, the flavours often differ so much that they can hardly be considered the same thing.
Take the Singleton of Glen Ord, on the edge of the region known as the “Black Isle”. The packaging might look familiar to Canadian scotch-drinkers – the label is almost identical to the Singleton of Dufftown, save the change in name. This one is exported solely to Asia, and is a smooth and balanced single malt. I was however quite disappointed to learn that Glen Ord did not peat their malt, though they have in the past. “Peated” means the malted barley has been dried over a peat fire, adding a distinctive smoky flavour to the resulting whisky that endures all stages of distillation and maturation. This however, makes the resulting product strikingly different from other varieties.
Glen Ord matures half of the whisky is aged in bourbon casks, the other half in sherry casks. The two are blended at the end. It should be noted that the volume of whisky will decrease during ageing by about 2% per year, but can be higher in warmer, drier continents. This fraction of alcohol which evaporates from the casks during maturation is known as the “Angel’s Share”. Scotch must be aged a minimum of three years in the barrel, though most producers choose to age longer.
My only complaint with modern distillery tours is the lack of interaction. Yes you have a knowledgeable tour guide and have the opportunity to taste the wares, but you can’t get very close to the equipment in any stage past the mash. Neither are you allowed to take pictures due to the high concentration of volatiles in the air. This is consistent with most other operational distilleries.
Not so at Dallas Dhu, a historical distillery dating back to the Victorian era located South-east of Forres in the Speyside region. This one we stumbled upon by accident while we were searching for Randolph’s Leap. Not only were we able to get up nice and close to the equipment, we were able to document our findings in photographs. Another stark contrast between the two distilleries is the difference in technologies used. While Dallas Dhu installed various mannequins around the premises to illustrate how tasks were done by hand, these procedures are automated in most distilleries today.
The Dallas Dhu was operational between 1899 and 1983, and is named for the Gaelic words for “Black Water Valley”. Currently, the property is owned by Scotland’s Historic Buildings and Monument Directorate. Historic Scotland has operated the property since its establishment in 1992. Here we were able to climb up into the two-storey tower where malt was stored, peer into the mash tun where sugars were fermented, and stand next to the pear-shaped wash still where the beer-like concoction was once transformed into a fiery spirit.
We finished the tour sipping a scotch and watching a cheesy video listening to the ghost of Roderick Dhu impart his wisdom like a whisky-bottle genie. What were we drinking if the distillery hasn’t been operational for over 30 years, you might ask? Not the vintage Dallas Dhu – a bottle of the 1982 vintage will cost you a minimum of 200 pounds (which, realistically, isn’t terrible in the world of scotch). This one was the Roderick Dhu blended whisky, which incorporates a small amount (a teaspoon, perhaps?) of the original Dallas Dhu to create a pale, easy-drinking yet gently peated whisky palatable to most. While not my favorite dram of the itinerary, it was a unique addition to our whisky-tasting experience.
*Notice how I spelled this word without an “e”? Both spellings of the word itself has celtic origins, but the word “whisky” is used in Scotland and Canada. “Whiskey” refers to a similar libation in other locations such as Ireland and the United States.