Batch #1: Brown Sugar Oatmeal Stout

It was back in May of 2007 when I crossed paths with a college friend, Kurt Theil, via Facebook after seven absentee years. We caught up via Facebook Messaging, and he asked if I homebrewed. I said no and told him to teach me. His response:

first step of homebrewing: go to Chapters and buy homebrewing for dummies…the first thing I bought, and a great reference tool… First things first – find a local wine/beer making supply store…. there you can buy 5L carboys (jugs) (hehe….I said jugs) for brewing…

In these past five years we’ve caught up, I’ve brewed with Kurt at friends’ houses, I’ve sampled some of the best the world has to offer, and as he requested, purchased both Homebrewing for Dummies and Extreme Brewing shortly after his message.

Five years later, I finally put them to use. Equipped with two 5-gallon carboys from my last two birthdays (thanks, Kim!) I hit up Toronto Brewing for the remainder of my goods. I had perused different recipes and decided to pass on the typical first brew pale ale to attempt a stout, my favourite type of beer. And further to that, having only extract brewed with friends, took the plunge into hybrid specialty grain and extract brewing.

So the batch started with 0.75lb of roasted barley and 0.5lb of black malts, cracked, added to steeping bags, and tied into the brewpot full of water. The batch was stirred at times as it made its way to 170 degrees where it was removed from heat and I added in 3.3lbs each of dark and light dry malt extracts. I got them back on the heat, brought them to a boil, and then added an ounce each of Northern Brewer and Nugget hops. These early additions are meant to add bitterness to the brew, and are fairly traditional stout hops.

After 30 minutes of the 60-minute boil I added the aroma hops, in this case an ounce of East Kent Goldings. My cousin, Mark, had recommended them as they’re very British in their usage, and I had been oddly constructing a bit of a British oatmeal stout as it was. Good thinking. 15 minutes later it was time for 2 cups of dark brown sugar, and with 5 minutes to go a bag containing an ounce of whole leaf Cascade hops. These are not conventional for an oatmeal stout by any means, and at this stage of the boil are intended for aroma only. My hope is to offer that unique hop aroma where it’s not expected, although I’m not sure how it will come through in the end.

Once the boil was done I cooled it and prepared the British Ale yeast for use. Using a large funnel I got the wort into the carboy, pitched the yeast, added diluted water, and “rocked the baby” – a process of holding the carboy and gently shaking it like a British nanny. At this point I moved the carboy to the basement to rest for a week in the laundry tub. Or so I thought.

See, a couple hours later I checked on it and… nothing. Another couple hours afterward, still nothing.

Here’s a pic:

No fermentation. No bubbles. No anything. So I made the wise observation that, temperature wise, my basement may not be cutting it. Then it hit me, the very bathroom that has plagued me for 12 years could be the solution. See, my bathroom rests above a porch that acts as a wind tunnel. Come the winter months it turns into a fridge, highly uncomfortable for morning showers and the like. But perhaps perfect for fermenting beer?

Boy was I right. The next morning I opened the door to hear an actively bubbling beer, a giant white and tan “head”, and an airlock that had blown clear off and sprayed beer all over my shower. As I type this, four days later, it continues to bubble, granted at a much slower pace. So things appear good. Stay tuned, more to come…

Winterlicious 2012: Brownstone Bistro & Bar

So not having posted in months, and rarely discussing anything around here anymore, perhaps now is an odd time to just announce in the early parts of a food blog that having recently started a company doing digital and social media marketing for friendly companies, I’ve recently taken Creemore Springs on as a client. Good folks up there in Creemore. Part of my duties there are to manage the Facebook and Twitter accounts, and in doing so I’ve recently become aware of Brownstone Bistro & Bar in Toronto. One can excuse my lack of knowledge of them earlier as they’re unfortunately located a few storefronts from barVolo, and thus it’s understandable I’ve never made it that far up the street before. My friend, Katie, had recently expressed interest in starting a baking blog and I was leaving a meeting with my old colleagues at 58Ninety, and thus a dinner gathering seemed a great idea. An even better idea? My first experience at a Winterlicious menu.

For those from areas outside the centre of the universe, Winterlicious is an annual Toronto event where restaurants across the city feature fixed price menus for lunch and dinner at reduced prices (and often sizes). It’s apparently popular, not that I’d know, but Brownstone was taking part and it was $4 Creemore night. Decisions make themselves at times.

Appetizer

Eggplant, Compania mozzarella cheese, tomato basil sauce

We passed up Mushroom Strudel with brandy cream sauce and PEI Smoked Salmon Salad with Tropea red onion, capers, English cucumber, and balsamic to opt for Aubergine Parmigiana – Eggplant, Compania mozzarella cheese, and tomato basil sauce. It was an excellent appetizer. Perfectly cooked, spiced with a deft hand, and resting on a very nice tomato sauce.

 

Main

Savoy Spinach, parmigiano, roasted tomato sauce

Coq Au Vin and Filet of Sole in lemon caper butter sauce were inviting, but Yukon Potato Gnocchi with Savoy spinach, parmigiano, and roasted tomato sauce won out here. It was a well-sized portion with an obscenely sized garnish. I’ve only recently developed a taste, and possible fascination, with gnocchi and it’s many variations. Texture these were spot-on, with a bit of give but feeling like a dough. Taste wise they needed a salt and perhaps a bit of the spice that rested on top, but the sauce was rustic and tasty.

 

Dessert

Chocolate Sauce

I never gave a passing thought to Banana Tempura with vanilla Ice cream, paused briefly on Au Jus Pear with dusted cinnamon, and then settled on Bread Pudding in chocolate sauce. I have very little experience with bread pudding, effectively beginning and ending with a Young’s Double Chocolate Bread Pudding I made for Easter a year or so back, inspired by Chuck’s Day Off. Both of us felt a bit saddened by the sheer lack of dessert on the plate, as evidenced in the picture above. Tasted fine, but I’d have hoped for a slightly larger presentation with a better chocolate sauce. But I’m also a dessert freak, so results may vary.

All told, I enjoyed my first Winterlicious experience, and I was pleased with the service, atmosphere, and food at Brownstone Bistro & Bar in Toronto. If I wasn’t such a beer whore I’d probably have made it there earlier, and I think the future holds more than a few stops for lunch and dinner there. I just may grab my drinks a few doors down the road before I get there. :)

 

Beers 1,068 – 1,070: Stoutoberfest

In the midst of getting a company off the ground you’d think I’d have more to talk about than what beers I’ve had. No. No, I don’t. All the serious business is taking off over at rickjessup.com, so that leaves the emptying of the cellar as the primary focus over here. I’m sure other things will come up. I’m realizing I need a real smartphone, though. Gotta get on that. So what brought me to illustrious #1,070?

Garrison Brewing Oktoberfest Brau: A 4.9% Märzen from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I have to go on record with a shocking revelation – I have not yet thoroughly enjoyed a Garrison product. I know people love their stuff, especially the Imperial IPA, but I just don’t. Unfortunately, this was no exception. I had enjoyed a stunning Sam Adams Octoberfest beforehand and this simply didn’t measure up. Muted flavours, lacking in the expected malts, just disappointing. I think my last hope is Martello Stout cask at Cask Days in two weeks.

Cannery Brewing Maple Stout: A 5.5% Stout from Penticton, British Columbia. Gotta love a stout whose slogan is “stout, dark and handsome.” I’d had a couple Cannery products a number of years back and found them acceptable but certainly not memorable. Still, I love the combination of maple and stout so what the heck. The aroma was solid, great maple base coming from an artificial maple flavouring they add. That same product issues a great maple flavour a step above the common flavours one expects from “maple.” The big victory here is the huge body, smooth and silky mouthfeel. It’s like drinking a lamb. Not really.

Black Creek Stout: A 5.0% Stout from Toronto, Ontario. I still haven’t made it out to see this brewery, a replica of a historic brewery located at Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto. Every GTA kid remembers the field trips to Pioneer Village, what with the bonnets and butter churning. Turns out they now churn out some solid, old-fashioned, traditional beers. They don’t go crazy, just delivering solidly brewed basics. This roasty, dry stout is no exception.

Oh, and speaking of Cask Days – I got my ticket. I’ll be hitting the 12-5 session, and I hope to see some of you there. Flag me down if you’re going to join me!

Beers 1,065 – 1,067: Ye Olde Funnel Blower

It seems one peril of Toronto’s new craft beer fascination is that products that were once easy to come by during seasonal releases have become decidedly less so. I think every release for the past year or so has seen at least one inviting product – usually one of my beloved stouts or porters – horded and off the shelves before I can make my way south to a real LCBO. This time around it was Box Steam Funnel Blower that seemed poised to escape my grasp. I had a lunch with some old friends in Mississauga and hit up the website to find a few items noted as being available at Orion Gate. Sure enough, there it was. So anticipated was it that I bought two, along with the Ayinger Celebrator noted below, and an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier – the smoked meat beer, for the uninitiated.

So there’s a look at the rest of this week’s beers:

Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck Bacchus: A 4.5% Flanders Red Ale from Belgium, obviously attractive in that it was entirely wrapped in sexy paper. This is not a style of beer I’ve developed a taste for as of yet, unfortunately. I understand it’s well thought of and well made, and I did drink the entire thing. It’s almost cloyingly sweet, and as is often the case, warmed to something more enjoyable than what came out of the fridge.

Ayinger Celebrator: A 6.7% Doppelbock from Germany, extremely well rated, and something I was excited to try. I wasn’t disappointed. You can see the pour was quite dark, and it was so flavourful and thick my brain didn’t want to believe it was a lager. The further through this journey I get the more I find myself enjoying bocks, and specifically doppelbocks. This guy is probably my favourite doppelbock yet, up there beside Paulaner’s.

Box Steam Funnel Blower: A 4.5% Vanilla Porter from the United Kingdom, and what appeared to be the catch of the autumn released based around the craft beer community discussion. I was.. underwhelmed. Granted, the pour burst forth with vanilla, and the aftertaste is something to behold. But the beer itself was light, quite bubbly and lacking in any sort of depth. It was almost watery.

So that’s 1,065 through 1,067. I need to pick up a Cask Days ticket, no doubt those few hours will rocket through this list for me. And I’m hopefully close to a Night of Stouts with some friends where I can rid my cellar of some pretty remarkable darks.

Beers 1,060 – 1,064: Including the Phantom Addition

It was a packed long weekend, I might get into a few of the other details, but since most of the interest around here nowadays is in what I drink let’s have at it:

The Ghosttown was one of the weirdest beers I’ve ever had. It would seem cost prohibitive to add absinthe to a beer but that’s certainly what I tasted. It wasn’t a thick or heavy stout, running somewhere closer to a dark brown ale with odd flavouring than a stout. The Goliath was a traditional English Bitter, well done but not worthy of adulation and praise by any means. The Vobiscum Triple was tasty enough, and hid its 9% well, but I’ve had far, far better triples in my time. I still hold good memories of their Blanche, though.

Ah, King Goblin. So if you know much about beer you’ve probably tried Hobgoblin, unless you were scared off by the “lagerboy” insults of the label. King Goblin takes the 5.2% Hobgoblin and waits until there’s a full moon (for serious), then removes the pale malts and adds some Sovereign and Cascade hops to the Styrian and Fuggles to create a stronger tasting, darker 6.6% brew that bears some similarities, but is really more than “stronger Hobgoblin.” I loved it. I’m always amazed at Wychwood’s ability to churn out full-flavoured, strong ales that also refresh. It’s tough to do.

So where’d beer 1,060 come from? Research. I was updating Facebook Timeline on the weekend with my old vacations, sorting through old blog posts here, and found an entry indicating I had enjoyed a Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat years ago. Who knew? It’s on the list.