Around the Keg Rules for Lenten Observance

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Today is Fat Tuesday! Not only is this a day to gorge in preparation of the fasting to come, but I think it is time to review Catholic Lenten rules in our advancing society, tomorrow officially being the beginning of Lent. It is time to revamp and make-modern some of our antiquated Canon Law regarding Lent, and best of all, time to reintroduce a long-lost yet legendary Lenten rule about consumtion during fasting. Please consider observing these eight New Lenten Rules:

1) Pork does not count as meat. Pork is pork. Meat is meat. Scripture says "no meat," so no meat.

2) Fish remains "not meat."

3) Any meat consumed by accident is also "not meat." Like on a Friday when you and your buddies are at the local pub and you order a burger, forgetting what day it is. This rule is about intent. If I didn't intend to slap Jesus in the face by eating meat, then that's all that counts. So..."accidental meat" is not meat.

4) If you are on a date, and that date night happens to be on a Friday, then "Date Night Steak" is "not meat."

5) Lamb chops are "not meat." Lamb is lamb. Meat is meat. Lamb is good.

6) Depending on the chicken preparation, chicken is "not meat." Fried chicken of any form is not meat. Beer Can Chicken? Not meat. The beer strips the "meat" aspect out of the chicken.

7) Food consumed at an event or fundraiser is not meat. The Fundraiser Meatballs, for example....not meat.

8) Like our Holy and Religious monks of the Paulaner and Trappist variety, beer can be consumed during Lent IN PLACE OF a meal. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner can be replaced by beer of a Belgian Ale or German Lager (Bock/Doppelbock) variety. Remember: just like our Holy and Religious monks during their Lenten fasts.

May these eight rules lend a more positive outlook to your Lenten fasting.


Did I See Jesus in My Beer? Or was it the South Talkin'?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Once in a while, you taste something so unique, so intriguing, so different from what you normally expect that it leaves an indelible impression on your tastebuds. The first time I ate veal saltimbocca at an authentic Italian restaurant. Fish and chips in Ireland. Guinness in Ireland. The first time I ate....well, that's a bit private...

Anyway, this weekend's Michigan Winter Beer Fest was an amazing experience. 1,500 beer enthusiasts crowded under a big tent in Old Town, Lansing, and drank the offerings of 20 of Michigan's microbreweries. Pix and a separate blog entry to appear later.

Last week, in my random beer section, I posted a "prospective review" of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I guessed it'd be a 9/10. Fortunately, I was not let down.

Holy Lord, Mother of Christ in Heaven this was good God damned beer. You take the Founders breakfast stout, which is heavy on dark-roasted coffee flavors and a little toasted bread, and you then age it for a year in Burbon barrels. The result? Bliss. You know when you pour a shot of JD in your morning coffee (like I do most mornings)? That's exactly what this tastes like. It smells like hot cocoa. It tastes like an "Irish coffee." I drank. I cried a little. I hugged the head brewer. I hugged strangers. I may have even seen the face of the Savior imprinted in the thin head atop this glass of brew.

Let me set the scene. My wife and I drop our little munchkin off at the Grandparents' house. A few quick kisses goodbye, some neurotic instructions from my wife on how to take care of the rugrat (which of course Grandparents have NEVER done before), and we blew out the door. We walk in the tent, and it is already shoulder-to-shoulder. Maybe 750 people already. I knew Founders was unveiling this beer, and of course, the Founders table was all the way on the opposite side of the tent. Like Barry Sanders through a defensive line and secondary, I hauled my wife through the bustling crowd. Oh sure, we passed all the other breweries, but I was on a mission, dammit. Do not pass go. To the Founders table we jostled. With a grin and eagerly-shaking hands, I accepted my glass of the nectar. The rest is history.

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Thick black, an almost reddish, thin head topped the beer. Smelled of Hershey's Special Dark chocolate. Tatsed of espresso with a shot of burbon: that sticky sweetness of burnt oak and harsh whiskey. A little toast was present and it finished with that same exhale-after-a-shot breathiness. This beer ruled the roost at the Fest.

They have only made 200 cases of this stuff. 50 are on-hand at the brewery, and rest rest distributed in the surrounding Great Lakes States. GET SOME.


Do I have a Problem? Or is it You, for Enabling Me?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Ah yes. It's Friday. It's time for 10 beers in my fridge. Grab some pretzels and a bottle opener, it's time to tie one on.

1) Brouwerij Westmalle Tripel. This is perfect. It has replaced Duvel as perfection. This is the quintessential Tripel. You will not have a better Tripel, let alone a better beer. 12/10.

2) The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout. Dark brown, color, similar to black walnut. Creamy and smooth. Like a cafe au lait, perhaps. Some bitterness in the aftertaste to cleanse the palate and leave a clean feeling in the mouth. 7/10.

3) The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery Rabid Duck Imperial Stout. Pours a deep dark brown with a thick chocolate-colored head. Smells strong and potent, lots of dark wine and cherries, some dark-roasted malt. Tastes of espresso, dark chocolate and burgundy flavors with a slight sweetness and a very faint hoppy element. Solid beer. 8/10.

4) Great Divide Brewing Company Yeti Imperial Stout. Pours black, with a chocolate brown head. There is a heavy roastiness, strong dark roast, stong hop bitterness present as expected from the "75 IBU" claim. Smooth and very rich, a chocolate-espresso syrupy bottle of bliss. 8/10.

5) Great Divide Brewing Company Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. See above, but way more mellow, with an undertone of vanilla from the oak. Smoooooooooth. Chocolate-vanilla. Gods. 9/10.

6) Dragonmead Microbrewery Final Absolution Tripel. Hazy amber with copper hues, topped with a snapping white foam head. Smelled of cloves and...white pepper. Thick mouthfeel, very sweet. A little caramel, lots of honey. Cloves strenghten as the beer warms. Slight bubblegum in the end. Quite complex, but pales in comparison to the Westmalle Tripel above. 7/10.

7) Dragonmead Juggernaut Double Red. Dark ruby red, tan head and lacing. Syrupy, sweet candied fruit taste, raisins, molasses. Slightly grfainy, but very smooth. 7/10.

8) Brasserie de Rochefort 8 (Belgian Dark Strong Ale). Smells of rum, ripe banana and maybe pear. Silky smooth, slightly spicy at first, mellowing to something close to brown sugar and brownies. Amazing. 9/10.

9) Founders Brewing Company Frangelica Stout. Holy crap. Wow. This is a Founders-style stout (heavy on the chocolate and coffee), brewed with Frangelica. The result, a 10% abv stout that tastes like hazelnut coffee. I wept. 9/10.

10) A first! This is a PROSPECTIVE review. This weekend is the Michigan Winter Beer Festival. Founders Brewing Company is releasing their limited Kentuckey Breakfast Stout. This is their Breakfast Stout, which is alllll coffee and dark toasted bread, which has been aged for a year in Jim Beam barrels. I can't wait. It ought to impart a strong burbon twang to the coffee flavors, making it like a coffee-and-burbon, and it may add a little vanilla and bonfire aromas and flavors. I am predicting a 9/10. I will post on Monday what it actually is.

Read more... was Just a Serenade

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

This is why Kid Rock rules, even though his music and lyrics are repetitive.

I mean, four women, AND Christian-lite Rocker Scott Stapp?!? How do you talk 4 strippers and a self-professed Christian Family Man to all cram in your motor home, have group sex, and videotape it?!?

You're Kid Rock. That's how.


One Beer Too Many

Monday, February 20, 2006

So, let me get this straight: wiretapping is an absolute necessity when it comes to our National Safety, but the contract for the company that controls our ports has no real link to our security at all. Did I get that right?

The Administration goes too far yet again, and again seemingly misses the mark on what really matters for our National Security. I think they miss the mark in 2 veins of what defines "National Security."

First, the obvious. Dubai, the country that served as a main operational and financial base for the "9/11 hijackers" as well as a conduit for the smuggled nuclear components from Pakistan, now owns the British-based company that controls most of the major shipping ports of our Eastern and Southern seaboard. Michael Chertoff, the Omniscient director of the Homeland Security Dept, has stated that "We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system." So, in other words, we're willing to forgo an obvious national security risk in exchange for global trade, as if there were no other company in the world that can do this for us, which brings me to my second national security point:

Part of National Security is our ability to be self-sufficient; to support American companies, American business people and American products. Are there other companies that are either owned by Americans, or at least by one of our allies in this "War on Terror?" The company in question was, and circumstances have changed enough to question the validity of the contract and seek another. In fact, reported on CNN this morning is this snippet:

A Miami company, Continental Stevedoring & Terminals Inc., has filed suit in a Florida court challenging the deal. A subsidiary of Eller & Company Inc., Continental maintains it will become an "involuntary partner" with Dubai's government under the sale.

Indeed this Miami company is also foreign-owned, but is obviously skeptical of doing business and becoming involved with Dubai, even on paper. That says a lot for how nervous this move is making even other for-profit companies, who normally, a-la Enron, couldn't care less.

Add to the mix Congress screaming for answers and investigations on both sides on the aisle, it's time for the Administration to stop the secrecy about ewverything they do, put aside profits, and focus on what is clearly a National Security issue. Wiretaps will barely make us safer, and only make us that much closer to a police state. But who controls what comes in and out of our ports and who works there? That is truly National Security, both in jobs and in counter-terrorism.


The Beer Makes a Move

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The beer has left a ton of sediment in the primary fermenter; lots of left-over hops and grains that have settled to the bottom as well as about a 1-inch layer of yeast that had reproduced so quickly then went back into hybernation.

Joel and I moved the beer into a secondary fermenter, being careful not to aerate the beer to much; oxygen is our enemy right now as the beer ferments. This step helps to add clarity to the beer (though not too much...this is a pretty dark beer), and gets the fermenting beer off of all that sediment. The sediment could cause some "off" flavors in the beer, especially a tannin taste from the barley husks that made it through the strainer. Tannin is great for strong red wines, but not so much for beer.

I filled the airlock with vodka; the alcohol level in the vodka helps kill anything that may try to enter and play with the beer, and if some of it gets sucked through or into the beer, it's not a big deal. It's alcohol.

Here the beer will sit for a week or two. Next step is bottling.

UPDATE: I used a redeye-fixing tool to fix Joel's eyes. Instead, it made him look slightly demonic. So Joel's title changes from Chief Assistant Brewmaster to Chief Assistant Brew Demon.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

This is what beer is supposed to do, if you've done things right thus far. The yeast is eating the sugars from the several pounds of malt I used and is making beer. It's "boiling" like mad right now, and foam has worked its way down the blow-off tube and has even tunred the water in the pitcher I'm using for blow-off as dark black as the beer itself. This is some evil stuff...

So far, so good. No sign of infection, and obviously a very viable, robust yeast strain.


It Begins Again

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

With Chief Assistant Brew Master Mark having a scheduling conflict, I had to turn to Acting Chief Assistant Brewmaster Joel to assist me with my newest batch of beer.

I decided on a solid Russian Imperial Stout for this particular round. This beer is heavy and chewey, with tons of strong flavors like coffee, chocolate, dark-toasted wheat bread and molasses.

As you can see in the pictures, this beer has roughly the consistency and color of motor oil. Rest assured the taste is huge.

I used:
3 lb. Dark Malt Extract
2 lb. Amber Malt Extract
4 lb. Irish Stout Malt Extract
1 lb. Crystal malt, 60L
½ lb. Roasted Barley
½ lb. Black Patent malt
2 ½ oz. Perle hops (90 minute boil)
1 ¼ oz. Styrian Golding hops (15 minute boil)
1 ½ oz. Cascade hops (end)
4 Tablespoons of Gypsum
Irish Ale Yeast (wyeast 1084)

The Crystal, barley and Black Patent were all first cracked, then steeped at 150 degrees for a half hour. After sparging, water was added to the boiler for 1 1/2 total gallons. Just before boiling, the dark, amber and Irish malts were added. At boiling, the Perle hops were supposed to have been added, but Ie accidentally did it backwards (too much beer while brewing...); I added the Cascade first, added the Styrian after an hour and the Perle 15 minutes later. Oops...shouldn't do much to the taste, but will give it a bigger hop aroma.

After cooling the wort to 70 degrees, we added 3 1/2 more gallons of water to the fermenter, and poured in the wort. The filter became clogged a few times with goo from the wort (this stuff was THICK), but we made it all in. We pitched the yeast...and now the biological magic begins.

A huge thanks again to ACABM Joel for spending 5 1/2 hours on a Monday night with me. More updates to come as it ferments violently. Since this beer is so strong, t will actually ferment/bottle condition for about 4 months; however, it won't even be in bottles for another 3 or 4 weeks yet.


This Week's Beers in My Fridge

Friday, February 03, 2006

I love my fridge. It seems to keep producing awesome beers, week after week. It's a magic fridge. Really.

1) Stella Artois Euro Pale Lager. Not a grand showing for the first beer out of the gate. Light and pale, nice frothy white head. Clean smelling with grainy aromas. Vague hop bitterness with a mild sharpness. Not your typical Belgian beer (see last week), but surprisingly drinkable as an all-night sesison beer; provides more flavor than Bud or even Molson, but still a bit nuetral. 6/10.

2) Rogue Ale Brewery Shakespeare Stout. Pours pitch-black with a tan head and lacing. Creamy and thick, with sweet malt right up front...oh so inviting. Nice espresso aftertaste. I would drink this beer with dessert (or as dessert)...a rich chocolate dessert would do nicely. 8/10.

3) Stone Brewing Company Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. Dark brown, almost coppery, slight haze. Very subdued nose, so I was worried at first. After I let it warm up a bit...WOW. Stunningly smooth from aging it in oak barrels...really smooths and mellows what is normally (the non-oaked AB) a hoppy powerhose, and adds some vanilla undertones, just sort of in between all the other flavors. The hops still own the joint, but they are mellowed just perfectly by the oak. Beautiful. 9/10.

4) Founder's Brewing Company Red's Rye. My God, another amazing offering from Founders. Massive herbal, fruity esters, and grapefruit. Lots of spice. Slightly chewy mouthfeel. Incredibly creamy on the palate. Big juicy fruity flavors of apples, some pear and peach. Crisp twang from the rye. Floral hops, with resiny oils that stick. 9/10.

5) Great Lakes Brewing COmpany Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Fortunately for this beer, it does NOT follow its namesake. Black as the night the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, with a dense, rocky head and lacing to match what smashed her up. Carmel and chocolate in the nose, medium to full in body with a fat chewy malty mouth feel up front. A rich undertone of caramel fills a creamed coffee center, with a hop character that comes though and leaves a leafy / faded citrus taste. Perfect traditional porter. 9/10.

6) Brewery Castle Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier. Rich, clear amber. Pours with a creamy off-white head. Sweet, syrupy, malty nose, with heavy fruit esters (plum, raisin). Caramel/toffee, plum, raisin, grape, honey, sweet chocolate and light biscuit flavours come to the front. Alchohol bite adds a spicey note. Finishes with alcohol fumes and a light grain flavour with chocolate liquor notes. Gods, is this amazing. Brewed once a year and aged for 9 or 10 months. 9/10.

7) Dark Horse Brewing Company Double Crooked Tree IPA. Pours a glowing copper/orange color with a thick head. Slight alchohol nose with a citrus and pine scent as well. Tastes initially of pine, then caramel and melted butter. Creamy and thick, then suddenly, out of nowhere, the hoppiness of an IPA smashes through. Destroyed my tastebuds for the night with all the hops. Also, weighs-in at over 13% abv. Had to drink LaBatt. 8/10.

8) Dogfish Head Brewery Chicory Stout. More coffee-black than actual black. Every had coffee in New Orleans? They add a root called chicory to it. It makes it bitter-strong but uniquely spicey at the same time. Unlike any other spice, though I could say a hint of nutmeg. Well, take a stout, which already tastes like coffee, and then add the chicory. Aaaa-iieeee! Leze le bon temp roulez! 7/10.

9) Dragonmead Brewing Company Sir Williams ESB. Dark red color with a huge off white head and lots of lacing all around. Caramel and a little toasted malt and spicey hops...almost peppery. Biscuits and caramel up front followed by a pronounced, bitter hoppiness. Dry, yet still malty finish. 7/10.

10) Kuhnhenn Brewing Company A Few Shilling Too Many Scotch Ale. Served to me in a tulip-shaped glass from the brewery, and it came the appropriate caramel brown/burgundy. Pungent and sweet, with aged wood tones in the nose. A smooth sweetness up front, fading to a taste that reminds me of a good, oak-aged red wine. Hints of peat moss, which is appropriate, but way more plum/raisin taste. Thick, but not syrupy. 7/10.

Some day, all of this really is going to catch up with me.



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