Thursday, April 28, 2011

3 Easy Ways to Cook with Beer

In my last post, I lamented the fact that my last beer didn't come out right. It wasn't so "not right" that I couldn't drink it, but I wouldn't inflict it on others. It dawned on me however that even the worst beer can usually be used in a recipe (as long as the defects are minor.) That slight twang in the finish of my failed fermentation could perhaps be delicious under the right circumstances. Unlike a normal gourmet post, this is more of a rescue operation. With that in mind, here's my 3 favorite beer salvage recipes in order of most funky beer tolerable to least funky beer preferred:

1. Cedar Plank Smoked Salmon with Zucchini and Yellow Squash

This recipe is a super simple summer staple (seriously.) You can use some pretty funky beer here since it won't actually contact the food and may or may not contact your mouth (during cooking only.)

A while back I bought a package of cedar grilling planks. They suggest soaking them in wine or vinegar to keep them moist on the grill (so they smoke instead of erupting into flames.) Not wanting to waste perfectly cheap wine on a plank, I decided to soak it in beer instead. Having a very high sugar content, the beer added a very pleasant and sweet smokey smell to everything in the grill (along with the plank, of course.)

To make this recipe, you just soak the board in your skunked beer of choice for a couple hours, cut up 3 limes into 1/4 inch rounds and arrange them on the top of the board. Place a salmon filet (or any other fish) skin side down on the limes. Salt and pepper the salmon then coat liberally with olive oil. Do the same for any number of halved yellow squash and zucchini but cook them directly on the grill's surface. Since this is the abridged version of the recipe, just cook it until the veggies are soft and the salmon is flaky (turning the veggies then flipping them once.)

2. Beer Braised Sausages

You need slightly less horrible beer for this recipe since it actually contacts your food, but the type doesn't matter much. To start, buy a few large sausages of your choosing (can be frozen.) Brown them in a skillet then put them in a covered baking dish. Add any beer you have lying around so that they are almost covered and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. You can't really overcook this, but if the sausages start to break apart they're probably done.

Cover this much when raw
I made this last week using two Indian Chicken Mango sausages and two super hot Pork Chorizo sausages. The beer imparts a nice flavor; I'd just stay away from anything with spices or excessive sweetness. Budweiser or corona would work just fine here (and you can also throw a bud with some hotdogs in the slow cooker for the same effect.)

3. Chili with Beer

This is the closest thing to gourmet in this post but you could still cook it over a fire in the desert. Use your favorite chili recipe here but instead of adding an undrained can of tomatoes or any other cooking liquid, use an equal part of beer (plus drained tomatoes.) Pale ale seems to work best here, but stouts or lager work just fine. The beer imparts a subtle bitter flavor but will definitely help make that chili extra special (and clear out a terrible but untainted beer in the process.) Since chili is generally consumed with a light and refreshing beer try and pair it with whatever was used in the recipe. Corona works well here.

I haven't found my favorite chili recipe yet, or I'd put it up. If you have one to share or a favorite beer recipe of your own, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Check out "Now You're Cooking!" for more ideas on how to cook with beer!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another Winner! Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale beereview by Brendan Brown

Hooray! Another winner that will receive a Newcastle t-shirt! Without further a-dooo, here's Brendan's review!

Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale
This beer comes from a place better known for its ginormous waves, picturesque scenery, and live volcanoes. But it first caught my eye at Publix, known for its large meat selection, fluorescent lights, and clean up on aisle 6. The Kona Brewery is located on the big island (Hawaii) and makes this solid pale ale for a reasonable price. The beer pores a copper to caramel color with a nice mix of hops and malt. It’s not going to blow you away as if you were living in Pompeii in the first century, but it has a medium body that will serve you well. It can be slightly sweet but not overwhelming. So the next time you are cruising down the pizza and beer aisle or heading toward the beach on the western shores of the Big Island (hopefully the latter), pick up some Kona Fire Rock.

Thanks Brendan! Leave him a comment below! See how easy it is? If you were inspired by this review, feel free to send one of your own in to If it's up to snuff we just might have a Newcastle T-Shirt to throw your way!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We Have a Winner! Lagunita Wilco Tango Foxtrot Review by Paul Nelson

We've been blathering about this T-Shirt contest for the last couple months. The time has finally come to reveal the winner! Without any further ado, here's a review from Paul Nelson!

Lagunita Wilco Tango Foxtrot

A Malty, Robust , Jobless Recovery Ale

I've written back on my home blog (Yeastbound and Downabout how I inexplicably avoid certain breweries when I'm at my local bottle shop. Lagunitas was one of these breweries. The only explanation I can possibly come up is that I unconsciously associated it with Mexican beer, of which I'm not a huge fan.
Anyway, on an unseasonably warm day, I walked into my local bottle shop looking for an IPA. After a winter of Barley Wines and Stouts, I was really looking forward to something hoppy and bright. I ended up picking up a six pack of Lagunitas Maximus. I was hooked. Later I picked up a six pack of Little Sumpin' Sumpin' ale, which is an amazing, highly hopped wheat beer. Perfect for a warm, sunny day.
Well, as I was checking out bombers to pick out for this review, I lingered in the Lagunitas area and say the Wilco Tango Foxtrot (if you know your military letter call signs, you know this translates to WTF). So, clever name: check. The subtitle is making a joke about the economy and economic policy; the part of me that remembers that I have political science degree swooned. I was sold.
Lagunitas' description?
This Beer was Supposed to Follow Up the 2009 Correction Ale with the Name ‘2010 Recovery Ale’, And Here in 2011 it STILL Doesn’t Look Like We’ll Be There Anytime Soon. Wonderin & wonderin’..... WTF?

ABV: 7.83%
Tell me again why it took me so long to try Lagunitas?

Tasting Notes

Appearance: The beer pours a dark but remarkably clear, coppery red with a one finger, off white head that dissipated quickly to a thin layer on top that laces gently down the glass.
Aroma: The aroma is very hop forward. This stupid cold is sort of hampering my ability to get subtleties (thanks Chicago!), but it seems more piney and floral rather than the citrus and grapefruit I find in many heavily hopped, West coast ales. There's just a hint of the roastiness underneath hops, but very faint.
Taste: The taste starts out with an intense resiny and piney hop bitterness. Amazingly, the roasted malt that peaked out in the aroma manages to come through after that bitterness and provide a respite. After the malt there's a coating feeling from the alcohol that leaves a bit of bitterness and some heat. It's more obviously sequential than what I'm used to. The waves of flavor are amazingly discrete.
Mouthfeel: There isn't a lot of carbonation, but it is just perfect for this beer. I think the best way to describe it is smooth. The beer has a medium body, but it's so silky.  This goes down a bit easy for a beer that's almost 8%.
Overall: A lot of times, I get a little turned off by "Hopped Up [style that is generally not hoppy]*." A lot of times it seems like the balance is off or the essential character of the original style is lost. Brown ales seem sort of malleable enough that this works, and they kept that caramel, roastiness that I look for in browns. This is a good beer. Pick it up before the economy gets too good.
*The current trend seems to be to take an APA or IPA and fermenting it with a belgian yeast.

Thanks again Paul! Leave him a comment below and definitely check out his blog (Yeastbound and Down.) If you were inspired by this review, feel free to send one of your own in to If it's up to snuff we just might have a Newcastle T-Shirt to throw your way!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Palo Santo, a Love Story

Gene's taking care of some personal business so I thought I'd use his slot to try something a little different. Beer labels are used mainly as a selling tool but also have to cram a lot of information into a very small space (unless you're Old Guardian, but that's ridiculous.) I enjoyed a bottle of Palo Santo so much one night, I thought I'd write it a love letter. Since this is out of my usual stylistic comfort zone, I'm sure the grammar police will have some issues with it. Have another donut and chill, grammar police. This is what I think should have been on the label:

Ode to Dogfish Head Palo Santo

This beer is darker than dark. It has a film like black-strap molasses and a silky tan colored head. The smell is like perfectly done caramel pop-corn with very small hints of strawberry. It stirs memories of an ice cream parlor on the hottest day of summer. Like a luxiourous black forest cake, it eminates tantilizing richness that's almost too intense to endure, but impossible to deny. Perfectly balanced and decadent, this brown ale deserves a category all to itself.

The promise of scent is not betrayed by the flavor therein. This beer is thick and sticky and raw, but just below the surface are uncounted coplexities and refinement. The amount of sheer sensation contained in a single sip can overwhelm even the most assiduous. Put simply: It's like a silk hankerchief covering the engine block of a '63 Mustang.

Smoke, Fruit, Caramel and  Vanilla, with a slight hopiness ensure that this beer is one you won't soon forget. At 12% ABV, it's not going to forget you either. Forget your nandy-pandy sissy beers, Dogfish Head once again proves themselves brewing artisans of the highest calibur through this masterpiece, Palo Santo.

We should resume our regularly scheduled program next week. I'll be running the best entry (by Paul from from our T-Shirt giveaway on Wednesday.

The deadline is almost here, so all you procrastinators out there have one final chance to send a review to ! As always, leave any comments, complaints, rants, Viagra links, or Chinese stock advice in the comments below!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The 5 Pitfalls of Home Cooking

I've recently realized that my latest batch of home-brew is terrible but that I have nice friends. I don't really expect everything to turn out great but this was my first outright failure. Why did it take me so long to come to this realization? I didn't host a real dinner party until last weekend and I didn't offer my beer to anybody. I realized deep inside that it wasn't going to speak well of my brewing skills or my hosting prowess. Because of the 5 fallicies of home cooking (and brewing) my batch is unservable (but not undrinkable.)

On to the list!

#5. The chefs hat isn't hiding an enormous brian in there, but rather an enormous ego.
    It takes a bit of arrogance to truely believe that every batch of beer you make is going to turn out to be amazing. With only a 25% failure rate I think I'm still ahead of the curve for a relative newbie. It still stings to know that my large time investment has resulted in something only slightly less revolting than Chelada (the primary flavor of which is clam juice -- from clams.)
#4. No matter how bad you think that weird taste is, in reality it's five times worse.

    Attitude can be a huge transformational force in a person's life. If you have a positive attitude about something you've created you're going to forgive a lot more faults that might scream in the face of others. I noticed a slight sourness in my batch that (I thought) mellowed out a little bit over time, but I think it just worked its way into my heart. The most telling and least harsh judgement comes from the fact that nobody ever asked me for a second bottle or said anything nice about this one. Go figure.

#3. You'll never be able to figure out exactly what went wrong but the guessing will drive you crazy.

    Having lent my mass spectrometer to a friend, I have no way to really tell what flavonoids, esthers, alcohols, oils, or other crap has gotten into my batch. For all I know, this beer is supposed to taste like a teabag. I suspect that the bottom of the grain bag got too hot (since I cooked it on my electric stove) and released tannins into the beer. That sounds a lot nicer than some of the other things I can think of, so we'll leave it at that.

#2. You can't bear to throw it out if you yourself can eat it.

  This has the effect of preventing me from getting started on my next batch for several reasons:

  •  The beer is palatable as long as you're me.
  •  I only have one set of bottles, so I need to make room before starting on my next batch.
  • The undesirable taste of crushing failure has sort of curbed my appetite for this particular beer.

  Taken together I have a beer that's too precious to throw away and not good enough to drink. Sort of a catch-22. After this post, I doubt my wife will even help me finish it.
#1. You've built up anticipation and now can't deliver.

  People know I brew beer and some of them knew about this batch. Since my track record was previously three for three they had reason to expect similar success. Luckily, my friends understand that it doesn't always work out. I dodged a bullet by not promising any beer to anybody before it was done. Don't count your chickens and all that. The most important thing to realize though is that the person with the most anticipation is yourself. If you surround yourself with good people there's really nothing to feel bad about!

What's the silver lining? While it's totally unrelated, the "Poodle Nazi" you may remember from a few posts back just got arrested for having sex with a 15 year old boy prostitute. I never liked that guy and thought some mean and nasty things about his poodle, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine he was a sex offender. Maybe I'll be able to brew outside this time around!

Have any dinner party stories? Home brew gone awry? Post in the comments below!

Monday, April 11, 2011

So you decided to keg... PART 2!

Last week I went over some of the major items to building your own kegerator. Lets do a quick recap and dive right into this. Last week I mentioned you will need:

1) A chest freezer
2) A temperature controller
3) A CO2 tank (with CO2) & a regulator

That's all the expensive stuff, we're getting cheaper as we go along. I'm assuming you already have a corny keg full of beer so the next step to purchase is...

Step 4! Disconnects and tubing.

Corny kegs are actually leftovers from the era of soda distribution where the soda syrup was distributed in 5 gallon kegs. When the big companies switched from these kegs to the "bag-in-a-box," our market was flooded with these 5 gallon soda kegs, AKA Cornelius Kegs, or "Corny" Kegs. These kegs come in two flavors, ball-lock and pin-lock. The only difference it makes is the type of disconnect you get for the top of the keg. Ball-lock disconnects are much like a quick disconnect on an air compressor or garden hose, and are much more common. Pin-lock posts have little pins sticking out the side which you press and twist your disconnect onto. You need two disconnects for each keg, one for the gas port and one for the liquid port. These run you about 5 bucks a piece. You'll also need tubing for these disconnects. The gas tubing will be different from the liquid tubing. The gas tubing you'll get will have a mesh embedded in the tube so as to hold the pressure from the CO2. The liquid tubing is cheaper and is really the same stuff you've been using to siphon your beer.

Step 5... dispensing.

I could probably go into a completely separate posting or two on different methods of dispensing your beer. Like I said before however, we're going budget on this one. A picnic faucet will run you under 5 bucks. These faucets will bring you back to the days of your college keggers, because that's about all they are. It's the old fashioned plastic fits-in-your-hand beer dispenser. But unlike back then, now you don't have to pump!

And finally step 6. Miscellaneous stuff.

If you really went budget you got everything mentioned above with barbed fittings. This means you just slip the tube over the fitting and it fill maintain a somewhat decent connection. But you'll also need a handful of hose clamps, the kind you tighten with a screwdriver. You'll need two per length of hose, so by my count, for a single keg system you'll need 4 hose clamps. These are about 25 cents a piece. Anything you thread (CO2 regulator connections primarily) you'll need teflon tape for, and don't be shy with it. Teflon tape will also run you under a dollar. And finally keg lube! I didn't know it existed before my build either. This stuff, contrary to it's name, is sticky nasty stuff that you smear all over your keg seals to ensure the seals are nice and tight. Don't use it on anything other than seals though. Please.

There you have it! Slap it all together and you have yourself your very own kegerator! Depending on the size of freezer you got, you can fit anywhere from 2 to 6 to 12 kegs in it! Enjoy! For quick reference lets go down the prices one last time...

1) Chest Freezer $140
2)  CO2 Tank $120 + Regulator $70
3) Temperature Controller $70
4) Disconnects $10 + Tubing $15
5) Picnic Faucet $5
6) Lube $4, Clamps $1, Teflon Tap $1

Grand total: $366

Not bad. Especially since it holds more kegs than those one's you buy in the store. It isn't a centerpiece but it does it's job. And now you have a story to blog about.

Questions? Comments? Post! And if you haven't written you beereview yet, the deadline is April 22nd! Go and get your free shirt!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Beerevire: Stone - Old Guardian - Belgo

2011 has been a very odd year. Changing world economies, ecological disasters and not being divisible by two are only some of those reasons. In commemoration of the last on that list Stone has an odd year release of their old standby, Old Guardian. Gene Reviewed the vanilla Old Guardian about a year ago, but apparently 2010 wasn't odd enough for the special version: Belgo.

Let me start by saying that just like its namesake Belgo also has so much text on the back of the bottle you'd think a bible page was glued there. Text that small in a gold on brown color scheme sort of make my eyes glaze over but if even one person has to read this it probably has to be me. Here's the cliff's notes in case you get a bottle of this. It reads like a cantankerous old man wrote about (in this order):
  1. Europeans not appreciating how good their beer is.
  2. A private party.
  3. How long this label is going to be.
  4. Nothing
  5. The flight home from Belgium.
  6. Stats about this beer.
  7. (I'm paraphrasing this one) How much time you just wasted reading this.
Even my seven points were agonizingly long. The redeeming factor here is that the beer is truly excellent. On to the review!

Stone  - Old Guardian - Belgo

This beer is a barley wine style ale which is not that common. It's known for being very malty and high ABV. At 12% this beer is pretty much more wine than ale (the original Old Guardian was 11.4%). It pours a rich honey color without much head retention. It has a very hoppy and sweet smell which is somewhat similar to Duvel.

The initial taste is sweet and crisp with distinct notes of citrus. This passes pretty quickly and leaves a very hoppy aftertaste that lingers for a very long time. The hoppy qualities are similar Stone's Smoked Porter (another favorite of mine.) With the sweetness you really can't taste the alcohol.

The easiest way to describe this beer (aside from "beer") is that it's like biting into an orange slice but not stopping at the peel. It's sweet and fruity then bitter as you hit the pith. 

Overall, I love this beer. It's definitely only for people who "like hops" but it's a fine example of a Belgian style being incorporated into an American brewer's lineup. This is a sipping beer that probably should be enjoyed by itself, and enjoy it you will. It's a limited release (I actually bought the last one) but you can probably still find it if you hurry.

Have you tried this beer or the regular old guardian? What'd you think? Leave us a comment below! Also, it's not too late to win yourself a T-Shirt, don't be shy! We have several to give away so your chances are good but the deadline is almost here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

So you decided to keg...

But now you have to chill those bad larrys. Sure, you could put them in your fridge. However, unless you're single, or your wife doesn't mind giving up easily 1/3 of her fridge space to a giant stainless time capsule, you're going to need a kegerator. This is going to be your one stop guide to building your very own, honest to goodness, home brew (or commercial if you want) dispensing machine. And brownie points to you for not displacing your SO's Thanksgiving Turkey.

STEP 1!!! The vessel.

The kegerator we're going to build today is what is technically known as the Keezer. The keezer is a kegerator, but converted out of a chest freezer. This is only one variation on the common kegerator, so just because we say it here doesn't mean you have to limit yourself. The sky (or the bounds of common refrigeration products) is the limit! When shopping for your chest freezer, make sure it's big enough to fit what you want. The simplest setup is to put a keg and the CO2 container inside the freezer, do you have enough room? What if you want to expand? You can get a cheap chest freezer at Lowes which will fit 2 kegs and a 5 lbs tank for about 140 bucks. Before I forget, don't buy one that has a temperature controller on it if you can, you're going to be bypassing that later on.

A note on craigslist chest freezers. Refrigeration is a delicate system. A tiny hole in your copper tubing and before you know it you aren't cooling crap. Around Orlando, chest freezers run about 100 bucks on craiglist big and small. In my opinion splurge the extra 40 bucks and get one you know hasn't been rocked in a California earthquake.

Steeeeeep 2! Gas.

I'll say right now we're going to go bare bones for today's how-to. Budget is paramount here. At the same time, thinking long term is always important. You'll need to supply gas to your beer. CO2 tanks aren't cheap. A 5 lb tank will run you about 90 bucks. A 10 lb one will run you about $125. Obviously the big tank will supply twice the amount of kegs your 5 lb will (provided you dont have any leaks). A 10 lbs CO2 tank will dispense on average 35, 5 gallon corny kegs (which doesn't include carbonating or bottling, etc.). The savings comes into getting it filled. For whatever reason, a 5 lbs tank will run you about 16 bucks to fill, where a 10 lbs tank will run you $18. Why? Dunno. But it pays for itself in about 3 fills.

You'll also need a regulator. There's two types (basic types), a single gauge regulator, and a dual gauge regulator. The difference is that the dual gauge will warn you when you are just about to run out of gas. It won't tell you when you have a half a tank, because it will read full until you are almost out. Oh well. I recommend getting the dual gauge regulator. I wouldn't want to be the host of the party and have my tank run out. The regulator will run you 70 bucks (which is about $15 more than the single gauge).

STEP 3! Control.

Your chest freezer is programmed to do one thing, even if it has a temperature controller on it, freeze stuff. You don't want frozen beer. Well unless you're freeze distilling. That's another story. You need a temperature controller. A temperature controller does just that, control the temperature inside your beer dispensing device. This is the last expensive item that you'll be purchasing on this list. At $70, the unit may seem a little steep, but the one made by Johnson Controls is a quality piece of equipment. Installation is easy. Plug it into the wall, plug your freezer into it, dangle the probe in your freezer, set your freezer to it's coldest setting, and adjust your controller to whatever temperature you want.It works because your freezer will always sense that it's too warm, but the controller will cut power to it when it's probe is satisfied. Voila! Perfectly zen temperature for distributing beer.

Next week we'll do the cheap stuff! And before you know it you'll be distributing fresh draught beer at home! Questions? Comments? Post below! And for the love of god, if you haven't submitted your beereview yet for your chance to win your FREE T-SHIRT (and your chances are pretty decent right now), go drink and write! Then send it to!!