Rack City

IMG_20160302_192707The second day of brewing usually involves racking the beer. Or at least it should.

“Racking” is the process of transferring wort (unfermented beer) from one vessel to another. Most often this is from the primary fermentor, where you initially pitched the yeast, into a second vessel that will become known as the secondary fermentor. A glass carboy is one of the best vessels to use for this, as it will be impermeable to oxygen (therefore ensuring your beer stays fresh). While glass carboys are quite heavy, especially when filled with wort, they are extremely sturdy and still quite easy to clean.

But what is the point of all this?

Many beer kits will recommend that you skip secondary fermentation altogether, opting to bottle your beer straight out of the primary. However, there are a few distinct benefits of racking your beer before you bottle.

The main reason most home brewers choose to rack their beer is to remove the beer from the yeast-cake at the bottom. The longer the beer sits on a bed of dead yeast, the more likely autolysis – self-destruct, loosely translated. Imagine you’re stuck in a big glass jar with all of your friends, a few of whom have already died of starvation and other causes. Once all your food is gone, you too might consider…well, think Marten Hartwell‘s harrowing tale. Other desperate historical figures have done the same. I think that’s enough detail for now. Sleep well, fellow home brewers!

IMG_20160221_191058
Before and after. No testimonial necessary.

Autolysis produces dead yeast cells and yeast metabolites, which can produce off flavours in your beer. Likewise, racking straight from primary may transfer a lot of sediment into the bottle. While a little sediment is OK, nobody wants a chunky beer. Nor do they need to eat more yeast corpses and poop (or “metabolites”, if you prefer) than are necessary. Many brewers are comfortable leaving a beer on the yeast-cake for 3-6 weeks, but I would prefer to be a bit more cautious and get it off of there after two.

Other benefits of racking include giving beer time to mature and mellow out. Kind of like your party-crazed friends from college. And like most college graduates, some beer styles need more time to mature than others.

What You Need:

  • Racking Cane
  • Siphon
  • Carboy or other secondary fermentation vessel
  • Airlock
  • Hydrometer

 

Step 1. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.

Does this sound familiar? It should.

Sanitize EVERYTHING you use. AGAIN.

Any time you transfer beer from one vessel to another, you increase the risk of contamination from outside sources. If you’re not sure if an item you’re using will touch the beer? Sanitize it anyway, and save yourself the heartbreak of throwing out an entire batch of spoiled beer. You can never be too cautious in this regard.

Step 2. Set-up

IMG_20160221_161258.jpg
Because it ain’t good for much else.

After your equipment has dried a bit, set up your equipment with the primary fermentor above the carboy, which will become the secondary fermentor. Always let gravity help, if it can. Towards the end of the racking process, you can also prop the primary up with a large book to tip it sideways to get the maximum amount of wort out of the vessel.

Don’t throw out your phone-book – while obsolete for every other reason, they are especially useful for this task.

Step 3. Siphoning

Make sure the tubing of the siphon is coiled at the bottom underneath the liquid to prevent splashing. The more you splash the beer around, the more oxygen it’s exposed to. The more oxygen the beer is exposed to, the more oxidation will occur. This can cause stale, cardboard-like flavours to form in your carefully crafted beer – not something you want.

After this part is done, you’ll be left with a big, yummy yeast-cake that is REALLY fun to clean out. Just ask my partner-in-crime how much he enjoyed that task.

Step 4. Air-lock

IMG_20160221_161645
The end product.

Lock out all the extra oxygen with an airlock. Place the “plug” of the airlock in the top of the carboy, and pour enough water up the side to seal it air-tight.

 

Step 5. And We Wait

More waiting? Yes, the boring part keeps coming back. After racking, you can leave the beer in the secondary fermentor for a minimum of 14 days before you bottle.

Now, you might be thinking: “is that all this girl has done over the past month? Transfer a bunch of liquid in a jar to another jar? That doesn’t seem too difficult.” And it isn’t, especially when you have an extra set of hands to help.

I did also have a chance to cook a pretty awesome turkey.

IMG_20160313_133325
I like to rub mine down with smoked paprika and orange zest. And baste it with beer, obviously.

 

Turkey dinner, like pumpkin-flavoured everything, is something that seems to only be consumed at certain holidays. People don’t seem to realize that they can, in fact, eat it at other times throughout the year.

Naturally, I made a poutine out of the leftovers. See below for details.

Turkey Dinner Poutine

with Beer Gravy and Cranberry Witbier sauce

 

IMG_20160315_175725
Next level leftovers.

Beer Gravy

2 tbsp butter or turkey drippings

2 tbsp flour

1 ¼ cups chicken broth

¾ cup beer

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp finely ground black pepper

Cranberry Witbier Sauce

12 ounce bag of cranberries (3 cups)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup wheat beer

1/2 cup water

1 tbsp. orange zest (optional)

 

Turkey Stuffing

Sliced turkey

French fries (I often just use oven fries)

1/2 pound fresh cheese curds

  1. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter and flour. Whisk to form a roux.
  2. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes for a dark roux.
  3. Gradually add beef broth and beer, whisking thoroughly to combine.
  4. Season with Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  5. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove gravy from heat when completely thickened and keep warm.
  7. Combine the ingredients for the cranberry sauce in a medium sized saucepan. Over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the beer and water, stirring gently until the sauce begins to simmer.
  8. Remove the cranberry sauce from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool and thicken.
  9. To assemble the poutine, place a spoonful of stuffing in each bowl or plate. Top the stuffing with a mound of fries and top with cheese curds.
  10. Spoon gravy over fries, cheese, and stuffing to serve. Garnish with a spoonful of cranberry sauce and stuffing on each side.

 

References

  1. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/racking
  2. http://www.northernbrewer.com/connect/2011/08/glass-vs-plastic-fermentors/
  3. https://beerandbrewing.com/VW4F_ysAAKAAgOPa/article/population-density-a-yeast-wrangling-update

 

World of Wort-craft

After talking about home brewing for a year or so (okay, a few years) it’s finally time to put my money where my mouth and liver are.

Heart set on purchasing a kit, I tromped on down to my local brewing store Prairie Vintner’s & Brewers, who were critical in helping me understand the different types of brewing kits. Like any astute padawan learning a new skill, I built an analogy around the concepts to improve my understanding. This is what I took away from the conversation.

There are a few different difficulty stages in home brewing. Let’s call them “levels.”

pacman_game

 

Level 1

Like any good video game, home brewing will make you think you’re moderately good at something to rope you into a complicated universe.

easybake-oven_2432879b
Apparently they do.

This is as easy as home brewing gets – other home brewers may refer to this as the Easy Bake Oven (EBO) of beer making. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I made some badass nachos 20-some years ago in my EBO. Do they even make those things anymore?
The beer kit contains 15L of unfermented barley juice (a.k.a. “wort”) that’s already been bittered and flavored. All you need to do is pour it into a carboy and add the yeast. This is probably where I should have started, were I entirely new to the home brewing game. But then again, I stood around and watched while a buddy of mine made a batch from scratch, so I like to think I’m a step above the typical beginner*. I don’t really do anything the easy way. Let’s skip ahead to level 2.

*I’m probably not.

brew-house-banner

If this is where you’d like to start, Brewhouse and Northern Brewer make a variety of beer styles to suit any home brewing virgin.

 

waluigi
This villain looks like your best friend. Except that he’s purple!

Level 2

Level 2 isn’t too much different than level 1. It builds on your previous successes, and might add in a boss with a few extra horns or something. Maybe it flies. Who knows!

In this type of beer kit, you’re usually provided a packet of yeast and a tin of malt extract that has the hop flavors pre-added. The only other ingredient you’ll need here is a kilo of corn sugar (or “dextrose” if you want to sound smart), though some equip you with this as well. And let’s not forget the all-purpose sanitizer – because no one wants to drink a can of fizzy band-aid flavored water.

IMG_20160128_200000
$25 HME + $5 dextrose = 23 litres of beer

All you have to do for these kits is boil up the hopped malt extract (HME) with some water and corn sugar. Once it’s cooled, toss in the yeast and let ‘er ferment. Expect more detailed instructions once I’m struggling through these steps on my own.

This is the level that I chose to start – mostly because I’m a penny-pinching skinflint. A tin of HME will cost you about $25, even in Canada’s crappy economy, and will make 60-70 bottles of beer. The level 1 kits will cost $50-80 dollars.

 

Level 3

world-of-warcraft
Keep grinding (not that kind of grinding).

Maybe you’re bored of using the kits, but aren’t quite ready for the big league. Not to fear – there’s still plenty you can do with a kit before jumping in the deep end.

Consider this the “mini games” section of your video game. Maybe you tried to beat the big boss and failed miserably. Maybe you’re afraid of failure. Now’s the time improve your skills and confidence before trying again.

Use this time to experiment. Keep using your malt extracts, but maybe add in a few grain adjuncts. Dry hop your beer with some cascade, or start playing with oak. Do what you want, I’m not your Mom.

pr10_wethop_buried
Or just sit in a vat full of hops and contemplate the meaning of life. That’s cool too.

Level 4

Time to face that lvl. 50 Paladin, yo! Now you have the skills to extract the yummy malt flavor from the grains yourself. This tends to be cheaper than using HME, and you also have more creative control. Plus you have substantially greater bragging rights.

I imagine the internet has a few recipes. Or if you’re from a generation that still uses paper books (like myself) check out your local library! I’m quite impressed with the innovative blends in Brooklyn BrewShop’s the Beer Making Book by Erica Shea and Stephen Valand.

Is that it? Have you beat the game? I doubt it.

1401274512428
Expansion Packs

Unless you’re quite confident you have created the most wonderful beer imaginable, there’s always room for improvement. Even if you have, consider the following:

  • Have you crafted your own signature recipe?
  • Can you keep up with the latest beer trends? I certainly can’t.
  • Have you made a caramel latte flavored beer yet (like Calgary’s Last Best)? That actually tastes good?
  • Do you grow your own hops?
  • Have you tried roasting your own malt?
  • Have you started your own brewery? If so, please send me some beer so that I can give you rave reviews. Or give you some “constructive feedback.”
  • Does your aforementioned brewery also incorporate a pub?
  • The list goes on.

 

If you said no to any of the above questions, your brewing journey is far from over. You can do better.

 

References

Passion for the Pint. http://passionforthepint.com/what-are-the-different-types-of-home-brewing/

 

Beer Wars – The Schwarz Awakens

Christmas is coming early this year, for myself and millions of other Star Wars fans. With the advent of the Force Awakens on the horizon, it’s also time to re-watch all the movies.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably still watch the prequels, in spite of their shortcomings. But in order to survive such an ordeal, you’re going to need some beer. Use the following suggestions to guide your pairings. Personally I recommend watching the original trilogy first – these you do actually want to remember. The others…not so much.

Episode IV. A New Hope

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

I recommend watching this movie with an ice cold pilsner or a blonde lager. Or anything that resembles the first beer you ever drank.

If your prior drink of choice was the raspberry-flavored vodka you smuggled into the movie theatre in soda bottles, your first taste of beer was a significant milestone in terms of drinking habits. For me, this is that little green can with the bunnies on it. It tastes good in a reminiscent way. But now that you’re a big kid, you know that there’s a world of other possibilities.

Episode V. The Empire Strikes Back

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” – Darth Vader

Episode V with it’s adventure and unexpected plot twists is best paired with a sweet and sophisticated dubbel. Try one of the many from Belgium’s Trappist Breweries – sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Episode V is regarded by many as the best movie of the six. Likewise Westvleteren holds a similar position in the beer world, if you can get your hands on a bottle. Even your less beer-savvy friends will find something they like about it.


Episode VI. Return of the Jedi

Darth Sidious in his younger days? The resemblance is uncanny.

“Only at the end do you realize the power of the Dark Side.” – Emporer Palpatine

Find thee a British bitter ale, like Hobgoblin from Wychwood Brewery. Something with a rich malty sweetness that ties it all together and then leaves you with a bittersweet taste in your mouth.

Why? Because the original trilogy is now over, and you’re going to have to wait 16 years for another Star Wars movie.


Episode I. The Phantom Menace

“It’s a trap!” – Admiral Ackbar

A character with minimal spoken lines and a double-sided lightsaber was the best part of this movie.

Episode I is like a cheap vacation in Mexico. You’re really REALLY excited for it. But as soon as you step off the plane, you realize it’s hurricane season. And you still have a three hour bus-ride to the resort.

To drown your disappointment, you buy a beer from the first beer-cart you see. Corona. Ick.

Sure, it looks appetizing enough until you realize it’s been left in a half-empty ice bucket for eight hours. Now it’s Luke-warm (see what I did there) and the clear bottle has let in enough light to make it kind of skunky-tasting. The good news? You can cover that taste up with some lime juice. And you can drink lots of it. The more you drink, the less noticeable is the taste of utter disappointment…and the less you’ll remember this miserable excuse for a movie.

Episode II. Attack of the Clones

“A jedi craves not these things.” – Yoda

“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.” Is this supposed to be romantic?

If this movie were an alcoholic beverage, it would be a cooler. Or some saccharin over-sweetened fruity alco-pop garbage like Mango Mongozo.

Sure there’s some alcohol in there and a handful of relatively cool battle scenes. And maybe it was a classy lambic-style brew to begin with – they might have thrown in an interesting back-story. But it isn’t beer any longer. Now it’s an over-produced love story between Whine-ikin’s raging hormones and whatever teenager has the stomach to drink this swill.

And if you drink too much of it, the hangover will knock you into the next year.

What are we talking about anymore? Oh yeah. Star Wars.


Episode III. Revenge of the Sith

“You do have your moments. Not many, but you have them.” – Princess Leia

Finalize the final moments of this sad trilogy with a Double IPA, or better yet a triple. Personally, I think Stone something from Stone Brewing Company would suit the mood. Ruination IPA 2.0 or the RuinTen Triple IPA would do the trick – high aclohol and heavy hop flavour.


The sheer force of the hops in this beverage will torch your tastebuds and cleanse your palate of all the uncomfortable flavours of the past decade. And maybe offer some semblance of redemption for the last 4 ½+ hours you wasted watching Episodes I and II. You might also be saying “I’ll never drink that again.” But deep down, you know that’s a lie.

Now go watch the original trilogy another five times.

Episode VII.

“There is another…” –  Yoda

Words cannot adequately describe my excitement.

Some new-age craft beer with a new ingredient you’ve never tried before. Coffee. Chamomile. Pizza. Whatever. You’re a little excited, a little terrified. You don’t know what to expect. But, no matter how bad it is, it’s STILL going to be better than episodes I through III.

I was pleasantly surprised by this Stargazer Chamomile Wheat from Canuck Empire. Let’s hope, for the sake of the franchise, that the movie is equally as satisfying.

Got opinions? Agree/disagree with my beer-nalysis of Star Wars? Comment below, and tell me what you”ll be drinking for your marathon.

Ginger Beer

DSC08724I 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.

RobinsonsOldTomGinger
http://www.beersofeurope.co.uk/

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.
CNB-original-label

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.

20100601_gochujung2
Image sourced from Serious Eats

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

Marinated Beef

  • 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

  • Bok Choy
  • 2 tsp sesame oilIMG_20150924_204238
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp mirin

Other Ingredients

  • Matchstick carrots
  • Pickled radish
  • 4 serving portions of steamed rice
  • 4 eggs

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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce.
  5. Divide rice among bowls. Assemble steamed bok choy and beef overtop of rice, along with additional vegetables.
  6. 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.

Serves 4

References

Recipe adapted from: http://mykoreankitchen.com/2013/07/12/bibimbap-korean-mixed-rice-with-meat-and-assorted-vegetables/

http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/robinsons-old-tom-with-ginger–ginger-tom-bottle/91576/

Bean Me Up, Scotty

DDC-Peche-MortelCoffee notes are pretty common in any beer brewed with chocolate malt (itypically stouts and porters), while some go so far as to brew with actual coffee beans. Take Péché Mortel from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel out of Montreal. French for “mortal sin”, this Imperial Stout has almost a molasses-like consistency with rich espresso tones and an impressive 9.5% ABV.

Likewise, Rogue’s Mocha Porter combines a slight earthiness to a coffee and chocolate flavor, though comparatively lighter in body and alcohol content. In spirit of the enigmatic revolutionary on the label, this beer is brewed with the appropriately-named Rebel™ & Liberty™ Hops grown by their own Rogue Farms. Other noteworthy labels include Stir Stick Stout from Winnipeg’s Half Pint’s Brewing, and the Coffee Porter from Mill Street Brewery.

rogue-mocha-porterThrow back to 2007 and my very first job. I called myself the ever-pretentious term “barista”, though I really just made coffee for a living. My “favourite” customers were the ones would come through the drive through asking for their lattes steamed to 180°, burning the milk just so their drink would stay warm an extra five minutes.

Humans aren’t usually able to detect the difference between 179° and 180° Fahrenheit, though I’m sure there are some exceptions. Unfortunately, marshmallows can. Which is where a candy thermometer comes in handy. Measuring a specific temperature is a bit more objective than “when it’s done”. I’m sure it’s possible to make these without one, but you’re leaving a lot more up to chance.

Not everyone thinks about where marshmallows come from, do they? Are they concocted in a lab from unpronounceable chemicals? Harvested from some alien plant matter? A Marshmallow plant does exist, but tastes nothing like the sweet gooey mess we know best. The reality is that someone in a factory (or a kitchen) had to make them from sugar and bovine hooves (i.e. gelatin). Yes it’s true – marshmallows are not vegan, nor even vegetarian. But they do contain simple, easy-to-pronounce ingredients (not that this makes them healthy in any way).

beam

The following recipe I made with a lovely espresso milk stout from Fuggles and Warlock Craftworks called Bean Me Up. Full production out of their Richmond, BC location doesn’t open up until Fall 2015, but I have exceedingly high expectations. Mainly due to their“Geek Culture” branding with references to video gaming, and pop culture. Plus there’s this video they made for their brewery announcement (see below).

Mocha Stout-mallows

IMG_20150803_203314

Equipment:

  • 9 x 9″ glass pan or casserole dish
  • Stand or hand-held mixer
  • Candy thermometer
Prepping the pan:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Vegetable oil
Marshmallows:
  • 3/4 cup stout beer, divided
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 3 envelopes of Knox gelatin (or 7 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil (for the pan)
  1. Before you begin, prepare the pan the marshmallows will set in. Sift together powdered sugar, corn starch and cocoa powder onto a large plate. Next, grease a 9 x 9″ glass casserole dish or pan with vegetable oil. Add a teaspoon or two of the cocoa powder/sugar mixture to the casserole dish, ensuring the sides of the pan are coated as well. Set aside.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup of the stout with the instant espresso granules. Whisk until granules are dissolved. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator to cool. Make sure it is COMPLETELY cool, or all is lost.
  3. Pour the cooled coffee into the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or you can use a large bowl and a hand-mixer). Carefully sprinkle gelatin over the cooled coffee mixture and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/4 cup of stout. Attach the candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Turn the heat up to moderately high heat and bring the mixture to a hard boil and cook for 1 minute, until the candy thermometer reaches 240⁰ F.
  6. Lower the whisk attachment and turn it on low. Carefully add the boiling liquid to the gelatin mixture. Turn the mixer to high and beat for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture has doubled in volume and holds stiff peaks.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish or baking pan, smoothing out the top until it’s evenly disbursed. The marshmallow fluff will have a consistency of hot mozzarella cheese that stretches to infinity – try your very best not to touch it with your hands or you may have regrets.
  8. Dust the top with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder/sugar mixture. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 4 hours or overnight to set.
  9. Take a knife and run it around the edges of the casserole dish or pan. Invert the marshmallow sheet onto a large cutting board.
  10. Using a sharp knife, cut the marshmallows into 1-inch cubes. Store the marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

IMG_20150804_224710

Don’t forget to toast them.

Scone with the Wind

Pyramid-Apricot-Ale-22-oz-Label
Image sourced from Beerpulse.com

Apricot-flavored ales are not a new thing. While not the first fruit beers to exist, they are perhaps the first to become popular in a Canadian market. Most are just fruity enough to be refreshing, but not so cloyingly sweet as to be labeled a “girly-beer”. Edmonton folk may be unlikely to try another kind, loyal to their Alley Kat’s signature Aprikat. Which is understandable to a former Edmontonian, yet unfortunate as there are others deserving equal attention.

Case in point, the Apricot Ale from Pyramid Brewery in Seattle, brewed with nugget hops and a 1:1 ratio of barley and wheat. Did I mention this one won a gold medal in the Fruit, Vegetable Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival®?

IMG_0223

APRICOTOPUS-500-WEB

More recently, I stumbled upon Sweet Heat by Burnside Brewing Company. This one happens to be an apricot ale with apricots and peppers. Name something from Portland that isn’t weird. This one I found especially sour, with an intensely spicy (and slightly painful) finish that coats back of the tongue. I liked it. Others were less fond.

Others include the Apricot Wheat from St. Ambroise out of Montreal and Apricotopus from Parallel 49. The name itself makes this beer deserving of a try.

Bake the following scones with one of the latter brews. Maybe even pour some in the batter. And pronounce them correctly – the title of this article may assist you with that particular task.

IMG_0230

Apricot Ale Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (about 4 1/2 ounces)

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup apricot or wheat beer

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add apricots and 1 tablespoon orange peel and stir to mix.
  3. Slowly pour in whipping cream and beer. Stir just until dough forms.
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together.
  5. With your hands coated in flour, form dough into 10-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges. Transfer wedges to large baking sheet, spacing evenly.
  6. Brush scones with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  7. Bake scones until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly.
  8. Serve scones warm or at room temperature. With an apricot beer. Or tea if it’s still before 10:00AM.

Makes 12 scones

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

Speyside Craft Brewery

For readers less-familiar with my recent activities, I haSpeysign1ve recently spent two weeks travelling through Scotland. Today I’d like to tell you about one of our greatest accidents of the excursion. After all, you can’t have an adventure without a mishap or two.

Speyside is one of, if not my absolute, favorite regions of Scotland. Not only do you have the highest concentration of Scotch distilleries, but each town you visit has its own character and charm.

My partner-in-crime and I had planned to visit the Highland Games at Gordon Castle in Fochabers on our last day in the highlands. Not only did we (and by we, I mean he) have to drive through 20 roundabouts on the left-hand side of the road, but we were sidetracked along the way.

I’m very easily distracted. Especially by beer. “Look! A brewery!” I exclaim as we pass through the town of Forres, begging my chauffeur to go investigate.

beerbus
Image courtesy Speyside Craft Brewery.
Seb_kegs
Image courtesy Speyside Craft Brewery.

A man stood outside the door on his phone, his yellow pants matching the door and the trim of the building.We slowly drive up to the door and notice the “closed sign”. As we start to drive away, the man in the yellow pants waves at us to stay. We roll down our window to hear him say, “Hey, do you guys want to come have a look around?” He hangs up his phone and unlocks the door.

The man later introduced himself as Seb, and gave us an impromptu tour of the brewery. In only its second year of operation, the Speyside Craft Brewery is becoming a local gem in Scotland’s burgeoning craft beer scene. We were just a few weeks late to attend the second of their beer festivals, complete with music and food. Seb offered us a taste of their newest seasonal, and sent us on our way with some brewery swag.

11412243_10153005624317198_5857374416714350487_n
My kind of souvenirs.

The name of each lager and ale is crafted with a nod to local character and legend. Even the logo with its adorning cetaceans is reminiscent of the Moray Firth where many tourists flock to catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two. We went home with a bottle of their signature IPA – the marker of a good brewery. Named after the small county between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands that the Speyside Brewery calls home, this IPA is rich and malty, not unlike another of Scotland’s beloved beverages.

The river Findhorn.
The river Findhorn.
Just a big ole' rock.
Just a big ole’ rock.

Likewise, Speyside’s signature lager, Randolph’s Leap, is named after an iconic gorge along the river Findhorn where the rock banks are closest together. Legend has it that Thomas Randolph, the new Earl of Moray, was once chasing a local clan leader that had attempted to raid his castle in Darnaway. Alistair Cumming, supposedly leapt across the gorge to ensure the freedom . I guess “Cumming’s Leap” didn’t have the same ring to it. Nevertheless, it’s quite a romantic spot to go hiking so long as you bring enough snacks to avoid your travel companion becoming hangry.

It wasn’t until later in our journey we cracked open the IPA. We had brought it along into our hike up the Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders. However, not needing a set of keys the entire time meant there was an unexpected consequence – we didn’t have the bottle opener that was usually attached to the keychain. Luckily, there were a few craggy rocks around to use as a fulcrum.

IMG_20150526_104448
It’s less comfy than it looks.

Is it somewhere I’d recommend a fellow traveller to visit, or at least seek out in a pub? Absolutely. Do I wish they exported to Canada? Absolutely.

Guess we’ll just have to go back and visit. Check out the Speyside story, learn about the region, and plan your visit at their website here.