Monday, December 17, 2012

Naughty, Nice Or Just Plain Thirsty?

Introducing our latest homebrew endeavor - Naughty or Nice Holiday Cider. After discovering some fantastic, very sessionable English style craft ciders this past year we were interested to tackle the feat ourselves. With the Midwest, and Michigan in particular having unfortunately sparse apple crops this year, finding fresh apple cider without preservatives proved to be quite a challenge.

After stalking many Chicago farmers markets we finally found success during a visit to VerHages Fruit Farm and Cider Mill in Kalamazoo, MI. Fresh cider was being pressed on site. It was fascinating to watch just how natural and simple the process still remains.

Our recipe included: 4 gallons of unpasteurized fresh apple cider4 cups sugar (dissolved in 1 gallon cider heated to 165)12oz fresh cranberries (flash boiled in 1 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup water for 5 minutes to pop the skins and help release sugar)Nutmeg Ale Yeast versus Champagne yeast (which I was not a fan of as it seems to bring the flavor closer to wine than cider in my opinion). An Ale yeast would potentially bring more flavor and also work harder on all of those fermentable sugars projecting a ABV of 7-8%, nearly double your typical cider.Campden tabs (1 per gallon)The cider fermented for a week and was filtered into secondary to discard of the cranberries. Some additional nutmeg as well as clarifier were added. After three weeks in a secondary fermenation the cider was unbelievably clear but the flavor had become substantially dry and tart. We decided to back sweeten, which also served as a primer for bottling with 1 can of 100% apple juice concentrate which worked quite well to balance out the tartness.(OG: 1.050/FG: 1.000) 

Any further questions on specifics, feel free to reach out and ask. Managing the sugar and controlling the residual sweetness was definitely more challenging than expected and resources were much more limited than with beer recipe forums and books. I learned the most by asking fellow brewers and experimenting throughout the process.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mistletoe Lounge Holiday Podcasts

The holidays have arrived... and so much to be thankful for. Once again its time to release my widely received Mistletoe Lounge collection - funky fresh electro-lounge holiday remixes to mix up those holiday parties and get you dancing under the mistletoe! Wishing you all peace, joy & much love this holiday season and in the new year.

Mistletoe Lounge V.1 Tracklist:The Christmas Waltz (Awayteam Remix) - Nancy Wilson
Santa Clause Is Coming To Town - BIlly Paul Willliams & Nicole Henry
We Three Kings - Josh One ft. Cool John Ferguson
Still Still Still - Kaskade
O Christmas Tree - King Kooba
Christmas Eve - Members Only
Sleigh Ride (Ralph Myerz Remix) - Ferrante & Teicher
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Stuhr Remix) - Kay Starr
It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Shrift Mix) - Andy Williams
Let It Snow! (Suedojazz Remix) - Lena Horne
Snowflakes Falling (Movement 1) - JT Donaldson
The First Noel In An Unknown Galaxy - GB
Happy Holidays (Beef Wellington Remix) - Bing Crosby
Charlie Brown Cut Up - Colossus
Jingle Bells Hop - Sharpshooters
Download here (left click on link): Mistletoe Lounge V1

Mistletoe Lounge V.2 Tracklist:

Everybody's Waiting For The Man With The Bag (Thunderball Remix) - Kay Starr
Metrorail Thru Space - Cut Chemist
Psycho Jingle Funk - Rithma
Baby, It's Cold Outside (Mulato Beat Remix) - Louis Armstrong & Velma Middleton
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Q-Burns Abstract Message Mix) - Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers
Christmas Bells (Northern Eletrix Remix) - Patty Page
I'll Be Home For Christmas (Ohmega Watts Remix) - Charles Brown
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Away Team Remix) - Lou Rawls
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? - STUHR ft. Patti LaBelle
The Merriest (Thunderball Remix) - June Christy
Rudolph Shuffle - Billy May
Jingle Bells (Rise Ashen's Reindeer Dub) - Duke Ellington
The Christmas Song (Patrick Krouchian Remix) - Rosemary Clooney
Carol Of The Bells - MystiQuintet
Download here: Mistletoe Lounge V2

Mistletoe Lounge V.3 Tracklist:

Let's Go Dance Again - East Coast Boogiemen
Green Sheik of Araby - Greens Keepers
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Remix) - Woody Herman
The Christmas Song (MK Open Fire Mix) - Mel Tormé
Bubbles In The Wine - Dex Dubious
Cheek To Cheek (Club Mix) - Billy Eckstine & Sarah Vaughan
Kiss Me Twice - Parov Stelar
Merry Christmas Polka (Remix) - The Andrews Sisters
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Remix) - Frank Sinatra
Party Hard - Little Isidore
It Snowed - Meaghan Smith
The First Noel (Attaboy House Party Mix) - Bing Crosby
Jingle Bells (Dan The Automator Remix) -  Dean Martin
Winter Wonderland (Rise Ashen's Brazilian Beach Mix) - Johnny  Mercer

Download here: Mistletoe Lounge V3

The Beer Geek's Christmas List

Upcycled Notebooks - This is my favorite thing I've found this year! The Roaming Pint sells 3 packs of notebooks made from used 6-pack beer carriers. You can choose from an assortment of Regional breweries or send in your own cartons for a custom design order. Perfect for taking beer notes and making lists at home or on the go - it's the perfect size. ($10-12) 

The Pop Chart Lab Beer Poster - Signed and numbered by the artist this comprehensive collection of over 89 varieties of beer including glassware is a beer geek’s dream. ($32)

Custom Bottle Caps - For the serious homebrewer, packaging is an important aspect. Bottlemark sells a large variety of bottle cap designs or allows you to upload your OWN designs. They sell Gift Certificates as well - $10 gets you 55 caps (5 gallon batch).

Build A 6-Pack - at Bottles & Cans. Chicago’s newest craft beer, wine and spirits store, located right in the heart of North Center has an unbelievable selection. The build your own aspect makes for a fun gift for any beer enthusiast ($12-20)

Brew Classes at Brew Camp - Offering classes spanning from the basics to the more intermediate you will leave feeling enlightened and full of beer knowledge. ($10-20)

BeerSmith 2.0. - This inexpensive homebrewing software is a helpful tool for those looking to branch out and start building and tracking recipes. ($27)

Beer Geek T-shirts - from Ladies, Men, font collectors, lobster lovers - there are plenty of geek-shirts to go around! ($15-20) 

Bottle Opener iPhone Case - This durable phone case has a built-in stainless steel bottle opener. Nerdy - yes. Practical - pretty much! Made by Be A Headcase, but best price is on ($13)

BeerAdvocate Magazine - Always well written and designed - my favorite of the beer magazines because of the in depth culture and hometown style features. ($14.99)

Beer Knowledge - Staple reference guides for tasters and brewers alike. (

Tasting Beer (Randy Mosher), $12
Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation (Jamil Zainasheff), $12
Hop Variety Handbook (Dan Woodske), $10
Brewing Classic Styles (Jamil Zainasheff/John Palmer), $12

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Return of Punkim Ale!

Last fall's Punkim Ale was probably one of my favorite beers I've brewed. I'll admit that I'm always ready for summer to end so that the more robust seasonal beers can start replacing the over abundance of hoppy IPAs. Since I'm always looking to improve on my recipes and techniques I did some additional research and taste testing to see how I could make Punkim Ale 2.0 even better. I felt as though I was able to achieve the right blend of "conservative spicing" but I was craving a bit more malt in the body. I used Zainasheff & Palmer's "Brewing Classic Styles" Pumpkin Ale as a guide, with some slight variations to the specialty malts. This recipe had much more caramel malts and less bittering hops than my last recipe. Their spice combination was spot on, but I added it in three different stages of fermentation rather than solely at the end of the boil as I had in the past.

This time around I was enamored with the idea of creating a glow-in-the-dark label. Who drinks beer in the dark you may ask? I have no idea, but it sounded flippin cool. I simplified the label design from last year a bit to open up more white space for the florescent paint to adhere to. I also sprayed the beer caps (prior to bottling) with many light coats of the paint as well. There was however, a flaw to the plan - the fluorescent paint requires significant light exposure to keep the glowing capability "charged"... and as you may know light exposure is not a friend to bottled beer. The initial label did have a nice little glow but as time went on it faded out.

Upon talking with a friend I learned that quinine (the bittering agent found in tonic water) naturally glows under black light. I wonder if anyone has tried adding quinine in primary fermentation to attempt making a glow-in-the-dark beer or what affect that would have on the flavor?

Punkim Ale 2.0 making its debute at the company Halloween party!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Tale of A Hauntingly Dark Ale

Inspired by the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this rich brown ale dubbed [The Quagmire of] Secrets & Murder was brewed on a dark October night.

Pushing the boundaries of the American Brown Ale style it pours a deep brown color with a creamy tan head. Notes of nuts and toffee on the nose are followed by a sweet, dark molasses flavor and medium body. The sweetness is nicely balanced by the earthy, smokey characteristics of the Chinook hops.

Aged for a month in secondary fermentation with a homemade walnut extract brings a slight pepperiness to the finish.

The label was brought to life with the dynamic representation of a large walnut tree, deep rooted with years of secrets. The label was printed on recycled craft paper, like pages ripped from a storybook.

Enjoy if you dare!

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