Monday, March 29, 2010

Boulevard Beer Pairings

As you probably know, Boulevard has been partnering up with several local chefs & restaurants over the past year or so to provide some pretty fabulous beer pairings. In case you haven't been to one yet, I highly recommend you go. I went to my first one last summer at Extra Virgin and it was incredible. My favorite pairing was the fig tart and Sixth Glass ice cream with Sixth Glass (dessert - of course!).

It took me a while to make it to another one, but we did take the opportunity to go to their Brewmaster's Luncheon featuring J Gilbert's. I wrote about it over on a while back and am rehashing it here for a few reasons:
  1. I keep meaning to re-print (re-post?) it here
  2. I haven't posted in ages
  3. Another dinner is coming up, this time with Blue Grotto, and it promises to be another delicious event. 
Without much further ado, here's my experience from February's beer luncheon. The next one is on April 23rd.


Boulevard Brewery  has started up their Brewmaster Luncheons again, kicking off 2010’s series last week with a meal prepared by J Gilbert’s. My husband, John, and I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend this one – our first since they started the events.

Attendees gathered in the tasting room around 11:30, where we signed in and were greeted by a few Boulevard employees. A tour of the brewery commenced shortly after 11:30, leaving any latecomers to find our group tucked between transfer pipes and stacked bags of ingredients. While the group watched an introductory video on beer ingredients and production, I wandered around our little area to capture some pictures of typical brewhouse surroundings. Like many breweries, Boulevard adds hop aroma and bitterness with both whole hop flowers and pellets (crushed flowers compressed into little bits looking much like rabbit food). I also noticed several sacks of brown sugar, which are presumably used for a Belgian-style Smokestack beer.

From there, we settled into the barrel room where some smokestack beer laid aging in whiskey barrels. Brewmaster Steven Pauwels joined us there, offering us glasses of Collaboration #1 while discussing the genesis of the Imperial Pilsner. The beer had been poured from draft, which is a treat only available at the brewery.

After marinating in the earthy, wooden goodness of the barrel room, we then moved on to gather under the fermentation tanks to watch a video on yeast and the process of turning sugary wort into beer. Again, my attention to the video waned and I wandered about, taking note of all the dials, controls, clamps, and other hardware in our surroundings. I’ve been on nearly two dozen brewery tours now, and the ones I enjoy the most are those that describe the marvels and factoids of the brewery’s gadgetry. While standing under the fermentation tanks, we learned that they hold about 600 barrels of beer, which is 1200 kegs or nearly 150,000 pints of beer. We also learned that Boulevard has a centrifuge that removes particles from most of their beer – then walked right past it without further mention. 1 for 2 isn’t bad.

It was then on to the packaging line, where we watched Single Wide IPA go from being poured into unlabeled bottles all the way to ending up in the box. While the video about bottling played, I became completely mesmerized by the rotating bottle filler, the winding paths of the bottling line, and the organized alignment of the bottle boxes. My stomach was complaining, though, and I couldn’t wait to get to the food!

Right after watching the bottling video, we were seated in the banquet hall in the new building; first to the table was a fantastic scallop and fennel dish paired with Boulevard Pilsner. The pilsner was a perfect match with the seared scallops, as its high carbonation and light, hoppy flavor cleaned the palate after every bite. It’s worth mentioning that the scallops were properly cooked – lightly seasoned and not overdone in the slightest.

The main entrée was a sage potato gratin with blackened beef filet and mushrooms sautéed in Boulevard Wheat, paired with the Irish Red. I thought the flavor of the beef was overwhelmed by the seasonings, but I find that somewhat common with “blackened” foods. The toasted malt and moderate hop bitterness of the Irish Red took on the seasoning well, however, and I thought the pairing was well-matched despite my opinion of the steak.

Finally, we were presented with dessert:  an amazing bread pudding with Rye-on-Rye blueberry chutney, paired with Boulevard’s Dubbel. The Dubbel is a recipe they are still modifying and testing, but I found it to be quite drinkable. It had a fantastic fruited-malt flavor, with just a hint of spice. Pauwels stopped by around the time we were finishing off our bread pudding and explained that his affinity for star anise led to its inclusion in the Dubbel. It was a nice touch, adding a bit of an earthy balance to the molasses flavor in the beer.  As for the dessert, I never would have thought to pair Rye-on-Rye with blueberries, but it was a perfect blend of flavor. In hindsight, it makes sense since blueberries and spice go so well together. Surely, a rye-on-blueberry cobbler is in my future. (Or perhaps a barrel-aged rye-blueberry braggot? Oh my.)

Overall, I found the luncheon to be well worth the trek to Southwest Boulevard in the middle of the day. Though I’d rather have the Boulevard tour guides – not videos – provide us with all of the brewery information and history, that’s not really much of a complaint as it is a preference. The staff were all friendly, the food was fantastic, and the beer was delicious as always. I certainly enjoyed the experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone considering signing up.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Dirty Side of Homebrewing

If you've ever made a batch of beer, especially all-grain, you know that a large percentage of it is cleaning. Carboy, mashtun, boil kettle, tubing, kegs, bottles... it's never-ending.

Carboys (fermenters) are especially annoying to clean, because once the kreuzen drops, the scum dries around the upper inside of the top. Awesome.Soaking them overnight with a solution of Oxy-Clean and hot water typically works to get all the scum out. PBW works better. But they still require a bit of elbow grease. And kegs? Crevices abound in those things, not to mention the threads and fittings; they're a pain to clean. I spent 4 hours one Saturday cleaning kegs. This is a hobby?

John happened upon a homemade keg/carboy cleaner a few months ago and tasked me with gathering the parts. Now when it comes to plumbing and PVC parts, I'm about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. But with some plans, pictures, and a really helpful Home Depot guy, I got almost all the parts I needed. (I got the rest on a 2nd trip.)

Here was the inspiration. And these were the final plans we came up with (click on the image to make it larger):

When you build this, you'll likely need to cut the long pipe that goes into the keg or carboy. Put it all together without the glue, measure the needed length of pipe, then cut & drill holes. I drilled holes on all four "sides" of the round pipe; the holes are aligned on opposing sides, but are staggered from adjacent holes. John picked up a sump pump from eBay and the entire thing goes in an Ale Pail with 5 gallons of hot water and 2 ounces of PBW. We let this run for 15-20 minutes per keg/carboy. The heat from the pump keeps the water nice & hot through several washings.

You'll be using the lid with the pail as well, but you'll need to cut the lid with a central opening that has two notches for the keg disconnects to go through. You'll also need to cut a little notch on the side for the two electrical cables from the sump pump. The diameter of the hole should be big enough for the water to run through, but small enough for the top of a keg to sit on .

You might have to play around with the width of the disconnect notches; ours are about 1" wide and 1.5" long.

Here's the whole thing put together, with the bucket added to the background for scale (and a lovely shower curtain & liner for your viewing enjoyment). The purple stuff you see there is PVC cement primer.

We put this in our shower stall in the downstairs bathroom while it runs so that if anything should go horribly wrong, at least there's a drain.

Here's the cross fitting, where we've secured threaded fittings into two ends (the other two ends go to the elbows), then screwed threaded barbed fittings onto the ends. The beer lines are then secured with worm clamps to the barbed fittings, and we have a gas & beer disconnect secured to the ends of each.

When we wash a keg, the disconnects are secured to the proper post (in/out) and cleaning solution is then dispensed through the dip tube and gas tube. This ensures cleaning solution is being sprayed on the bottom of the keg.

When washing a carboy, simply set a carboy dryer on top of the lid (the little legs actually grab the ridges on the lid perfectly), then place the carboy inside. The long pipe should extend to about 1-2 inches from the bottom of the carboy.

This picture also shows how the electrical cables fit through that notch on the side of the lid. The shower curtain also makes a re-appearance.

The only problem we seem to have with this is that water collects at the bottom (or is it the top?) of the carboy because the 3/4" pipe takes up quite a bit of real estate in the neck of the carboy. Water enters the carboy faster than it's leaving it, causing the carboy to slowly fill with a few inches of water.  We had so much water hanging out in a carboy one time that the sump pump shut off. I thought the pump had broken; turns out I just didn't read directions.

To remedy this, we'll buy a 3/4" to 1/2" reducer and a 1/2" pipe. This will also allow us to wash our glass carboys which have a very small neck opening.

If you want to make one of these and have any questions, shoot me an email. Happy cleaning!

Edited:  I've uploaded more pictures of this to Flickr

Friday, March 5, 2010

Baking in the Dark

Like KC Beer Blog and Show-Me Beer, this blog received a complimentary bottle of Boulevard's Dark Truth and a little box of Christopher Elbow chocolates. While I can promise you the chocolates are good and well-paired with the stout, do you really need a third blog telling you such? I didn't think so.

I was unable to pick up my bottle until today because of work and personal obligations the past several days, so I decided not to rehash what's already been said and bore you to tears. So what did I do with Dark Truth?

I baked it.

I've been looking forward to this beer ever since I heard about it. Behind Saison-Brett, the Imperial Stout is my 2nd-favorite Smokestack beer. I was curious what this one would taste like - so many grains, Belgian yeast, no barrel-aging... So I tasted it. And I was surprised at the amount of roasty bitterness there was in the beer, but in a good way. This stout screams to be paired with chocolate. Or caramel. Or chocolate-covered cherries. But again, I wanted to do something different.

On my drive home today, I wondered how banana bread and vanilla ice cream might go with the stout. Dark Truth calls for a special banana bread, one with chocolate & toasted pecans to complement the roasty, molasses flavor of the stout. I chose milk chocolate chips simply because I love them and thought they would contrast well with the roasted malt presence in the stout. And they absolutely did!

(I'd put some pictures of the batter & the bottle here, but I accidentally overwrote them when I copied the new pictures to my computer. Oops.) This was a special treat tonight that I'm very happy to share with you. Here's the recipe for the banana bread (based on Michael Ruhlman's recipe in Ratio):

8oz flour
4oz sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
6 oz Dark Truth
2 eggs
1 stick butter
1 cup mashed bananas
1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350F.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix the butter, eggs, and bananas until pretty well combined. Pour in the Dark Truth and mix slowly. Add the pecans and chocolate chips, and stir until just mixed.

Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for an hour (until knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean). Remove from oven & set on a cooling rack. Let cool in pan for at least 1/2 hour. Remove from pan and cool to room temperature.

Slice, serve with a glass of Dark Truth, some Shatto ice cream, and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

KS > MO?

Quick note. Not only did KS start getting beers from the venerable Hoppin' Frog brewery out of Ohio, but they also have beers from Ballast Point out of San Diego. How did KS beat MO to getting a notable San Diego brewery distributed? How did Ballast Point come to the metro without anyone making a big deal about it?

Also, Lukas in KS has LOTS of Rye on Rye, if you are in to that sort of thing and they are refrigerating all of their IPAs (very nice touch, although I wish they would refrigerate all the beer).