Back from my trip to Michigan

July 15th, 2007 by Steve Travis

Things to do in Michigan

  1. New Holland Brewing Co, Holland, Mi.  Awesome brewery.  In fact, one of the best I’ve visited and trust me, I’ve been to a few.  There’s something about their brews that really resonate with my pallet.  I hope the start distributing outside the state soon.  Mad Hatter IPA is simply one of my all time favs.
  2. Bells Brewery – I didn’t make it out to Bells this time, but I highly recommend their beer to anyone.  The brewery is located near Kalamazoo.  Need you another reason to go?

Things not to do in Michigan

  1. Do not take your 17 month old on a 4 1/2 hour plane ride.  This is not specific to anything Michigonian, it’s just a general rule of thumb.  It takes me 4 1/2 hours to get to Michigan from SFO,  So there ya go.
  2. Don’t bother trying to convince Michiganders who are not already inclined that they have some of the best craft breweries in the country.  They just look at you funny and crack another Bud Light.

Beer Pretzels

June 25th, 2007 by Steve Travis

Here’s a recipe I found for making AWESOME German-style pretzels. It’s very easy and makes you the king (or queen) of the beer bash!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and spray the paper with a bit of PAM or other spray oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces (4 1/2 oz by weight). Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Might have a dumb blond on my hands

June 25th, 2007 by Steve Travis

I brewed up a batch of Boogieboard Blond this weekend and there were a few issues.  First, I decided to rely on my embedded kettle thermometer for the mash water.  Well I sorta forgot that since that’s only about an inch under the surface when heating up the strike water, it’s probably not going to register the proper temp… to the tune of about 10 degrees cooler than the actual temp of the water.  Needless to say I had to add almost a gallon of cold water to the mash to get it down to 154 degrees, so it was a bit thin.  Everything else went pretty much to spec, however I managed to break my hydrometer before taking a OG reading, so basically I have NO idea what’s coming out of the fermenter in a few weeks.  Mark my words – it’ll be the best brew I’ve ever made and I’ll have no way of reproducing it.  🙂

Sweet taste of success

June 19th, 2007 by Steve Travis

Kegged up my first batch of Faceplant Amber. Oh my is that tasty! I ended up at a final gravity of 1.011 down from 1.056 thus clocking in at a hair under 6% ABV, which doesn’t hurt my feelings one little bit! I may bottle a bit of this for the next homebrew competition. I just worked up a recipe for an Irish Stout I think I’ll brew up this weekend. Two for two on the new system. I’m feeling a bit cocky, so lets see if I can really screw one up. 😉

A good tip for the would-be brewer

June 14th, 2007 by Steve Travis

When you place an order or go to your homebrew shop for supplies, be sure to write down everything you need before hand.  This will eliminate getting all excited and considering sneaking out of work on a nice day to brew, only to discover you FORGOT TO ORDER THE DAMN HOPS!!! 

Grain Collecting

June 11th, 2007 by Steve Travis

Most micro breweries I’ve toured have at least 6 different selections of beer that they brew, but they often try to standardize on a few types of grain, then mix them together in different amounts to create the different beer selections. This makes economic sense, sure, but as a homebrewer, your grain requirements are so small that we have the good fortune to be able to collect many different grains to create whatever complex recipes we want. This struck me as I ordered two more type of grain today that I didn’t have in my stores in order to fill a grain bill for a new Robust Porter I’m working up. I now have, aside from my 55 lbs sack of 2-row, about 15 different types of grain that I buy in 5 lbs increments. I’ve found myself fond of using Munich, Victory, Aromatic, Biscuit, Roast (there’s a clever moniker), Chocolate, Black Patent, 40L, 60L, 75L and 120L Crystal, Flake Barley, Special B, Vienna, and CaraPils to create the different offerings I like to work up.  And that’s hardly scratching the surface of what’s available!  Now as time goes on, I’m wondering if I’ll eventually substitute some of the grains that are closer in flavor and thus begin to shrink the pool a bit, but as it stands, it’s really too interesting to fiddle with the different malts. Chances are, I’ll just keep going until I’ve brewed with them all. Too many fine combinations to be found and consumed. 🙂

Dodged a bullet

June 3rd, 2007 by Steve Travis

I pulled a pint of that Pale Ale I was worried about. It turned out fine. The second and third pints were even better! 😀 I think I’ll do an American Brown Ale this coming weekend. I’ve yet to try out the new recipe I formulated. It looks good on paper, though!

The How To Section has Arrived

May 31st, 2007 by Steve Travis

I’ve added some “how tos” to the site. I plan to add more as time goes on including building of some good gadgets such as mash tuns and keggerators in addition to tips and guides. Take a look and let me know what you think!