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!

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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

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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

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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.

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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

 

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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

 

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Bridge City Business

It seems I’ll have lots to keep me busy over the next few weeks here in Lethbridge. The following are a few highlights of the brewing world I’m particularly looking forward to:

1. Coulee Brew Co. is finally opening its doors in Lethbridge. After a long wait, this city will be home to a brew pub, complete with a restaurant, meeting space, and a growler bar. I had the opportunity to attend the soft opening, and was impressed with the stunning facility, trimmed to the nines with reclaimed wood.

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Shipping pallet chic.

The menu was innovative with just enough classic dishes to satisfy the most traditional eaters. While I was disappointed that Coulee Brew’s beer was not yet ready, they do offer a few great pics from other local breweries (Tool Shed, Bench Creek). I’ll be patient. Good beer takes time.

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Duck tacos with cherry salsa and goat cheese and some beer cheese soup off of Coulee Brew Co.’s new menu.

2. Theoretically Brewing – a lesser-known (but locally acclaimed) microbrewery that somehow flew under my beer-dar and opened earlier in December. More to come on this topic.

3. And of course, the aforementioned home-brewing adventures. While I haven’t yet started brewing, I have devoted a substantial amount of time to choosing a name for the first brew (soon to be revealed). That counts, right?

I’ve also had a bit more time at home and in the kitchen. As much as I enjoy meals cooked by others, there is a certain satisfaction I get from completing a demanding recipe, especially one I can eat when I’m finished.

I tend to use truffle oil in everything I add mushrooms to. While both the black and white truffle have strong, unmistakable flavors of their own, it’s especially good with other fungus-y foods. I liken it to  – sure they’re expensive, but you really don’t need much to get the job done. If you don’t have truffle oil…that’s really too bad. There is no substitute. You can either shell out the $25 for a bottle of half-decent infused oil, or make a less-delicious version of the recipe below.

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They’re delicious, I promise.

Shepherd’s pie is made with lamb. Cottage pie is made with beef. What then, do you call a turkey dish topped with vegetables and mashed potatoes? Suggestions, please.

WARNING: The following recipe makes a great deal of food – make sure to invite a few friends and use the absolute biggest pan you have. Likewise, you could easily divide the recipe in half or prepare and serve it in individual ramekins.

Turkey Mushroom Cottage Pie

with truffle, parsnip, and beer gravy

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Obligatory decorative vegetables.

4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 medium parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup milk

4 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp. truffle oil

2 tbsp. flour

3/4 cup dark beer

2 cups diced carrots (fresh or frozen), steamed

2 cups frozen cut green peas or beans, thawed

2 pounds (900g ground turkey)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp dried sage

1 egg

1 cup Panko or breadcrumbs, divided

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Ground black pepper to taste

  1. Combine potatoes and parsnips in a large pot of boiling water. Cook tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes and parsnips and add butter and milk. Season with 2 tbsp. of the minced fresh rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Heat olive oil and minced onion in a skillet over medium heat with a pinch of salt. Once the onions begin to release moisture and turn translucent (about 5 minutes), add mushrooms and truffle oil.
  5. Whisk together beer and flour. Add to mushroom and onion mixture, stirring gently. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid begins to thicken.
  6. While the mushroom gravy begins to thicken, combine ground turkey, garlic cloves, sage, egg, 1/2 cup of Panko or breadcrumbs and remaining fresh rosemary in a large bowl. Combine well to form a thick meat-dough (almost like you were to make a meatloaf).
  7. Transfer meat mixture to a deep, greased casserole dish and press firmly into the pan.
  8. Cover meat layer with mushroom gravy, followed by steamed carrots and green beans.
  9. Finally, top casserole with potato/parsnip mixture and sprinkle remaining Panko and parmesan overtop.
  10. Bake in preheated oven until tops of mashed potatoes are lightly browned and the edges are bubbling, about 30 minutes.

 

Serves 8